Tuesday’s Tip: Putting Together the Clues about Henry Horn

Henry Horn's Pension Application Affirmation and his mark.
Henry Horn’s Pension Application Affirmation and his mark. (Click to enlarge.)


[Editor’s Note: We apologize that this Tuesday post was not published on Tuesday- not sure what computer gremlins intervened. But here it is on Thursday, and now yesterday’s post will probably make more sense.]


➡ Horn Family, McMurray Family, Genealogy Research


Have a genealogical conundrum? Have lots of facts and details but not sure how they all fit together?

Tuesday’s Tip:

1. Write a list of brief notes- just the facts.

2. Look at the notes apart from all that data and details circled around your desk space or computer desktop, and with a very open mind to all the possibilities. Give your thoughts time to brew, and meld- even ‘sleep on it.’

3. Analyze the brief facts, and find any connections- or none. Knowing what is ‘NOT’ may be important too.

4. Write an Analysis Report that details how you came to your conclusions. It doesn’t have to be long, perfect, or totally accurate (yet)- it is just a record of your thought process to help in the future.

In the dark long ago of genealogical research, pre-internet, gathering information was tedious and difficult. One would read the queries posted in genealogical magazines, join local historical societies and place queries in their newsletters, then send a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelopes) so the person you were writing to with questions did not have to buy a stamp just to respond to you, nor have to figure out the handwriting for your address. One would copy by hand or make carbon copies (the origin of “CC” in your email program, for the internet generation) pedigree charts and Family Group Records to include in the letter, and then one had to wait months, even years, to see your envelope returned with hopefully useful information typed with a typewriter with dirty keys and usually with handwritten notes inserted or in the margins. The carbon paper was messy and smeared, but that was all we had until the late 60s when copy machines could be found. (Those were very smelly and left oil and/or alcohol stains on the paper, but still an improvement.)

Books, journals, and government records were, of course, available with information, but they were secreted away in all sorts of depositories one would have to travel to, and once there, with many not indexed, or not indexed well, poring over the books and old records was a challenge. Thankfully the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) had a lending library, and would ship old books from their circulating library. I eagerly awaited those big boxes of sometimes very old, falling-apart books that held so much information. The St. Louis County, Missouri, public library had an excellent genealogy section that was helpful too.

Microfilm was available for order from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and could be read in a local branch of their library.

The above information was all we had to go on to learn Henry Horn’s history. Our Tuesday Tip to write down what you know, in a brief form, and then analyze, is how we came to a hypothesis about Henry Horn and his military service, using information gleaned from the above resources.

Following is a bit of what was known about Henry Horn back in the late 60s/early 70s, even pretty much up until the 1990s and special genealogy interest mailing forums online, and then Ancestry.com. Finding Henry Horn’s pension application on microfilm in 1992 helped immensely.

1. Mary Ann Horn (1824-1891) married Henderson McMurray and had Frederick Asbury McMurray (1850-1929), one of their 13 children and an ancestor.

2. Mary Ann Horn’s father was Frederick P. Horn (1796-1867), and his father was Henry Horn (1758-1845). We could not find Henry’s parents nor record of his birth in the US, but Horn is a common name.

3. Henry Horn served in the American Revolutionary War forces, as he had a US Pension granted.

4. Henry Horn was born near Hesse-Cassel, Germany, in the year 1758, per his pension.

5. Henry Horn was just 16 when he came to America, per his pension.

6. Henry Horn enlisted at Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1777, per his pension.

7. Henry Horn participated in the Battle of Trenton, per his military marker.

8. Henry Horn married Elizabeth Pretzman (1759-1840) in 1782 in Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia.

9. Henry and Elizabeth moved to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, with their children.

10. Oftentimes, his name was listed as “Heinrich Horn” or “Henrich Horn.”


As a colonial America and American Revolution history buff, and knowing the history of the time, as I skimmed these brief facts, the lightbulb went on.

Born in Hesse-Cassel, Germany? The hated Hessians ‘mercenaries’  that supplemented British troops were recruited from there.

Born in 1758? That would make him prime age for the military and draft, age 18 in 1776.

The Battle of Trenton? The Hessians marched with General Howe’s British Redcoats and took New Jersey as a defeated George Washington and his troops retreated. The Hessians occupied the small town of Trenton, NJ, as their winter quarters, but were attacked 26 Dec. 1776 by Washington’s forces after crossing the Delaware River and the Hessians surrendered after their commander was killed.

BIG CLUE– There is no mention of the Battle of Trenton in Henry’s pension. If he had been part of Washington’s forces, wouldn’t that famous, turning-tide battle be remembered, even at his advanced age at the time of the pension?

Place of enlistment Lancaster, PA? The Hessians captured at Trenton on 26 December 1776, over 900, were taken to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as prisoners of war. So Henry Horn would have been in that place in the year 1777 if he indeed was a Hessian.

Enlisted in 1777? The prisoners at Lancaster had been enticed to enlist in General Washington’s forces. They were well-trained soldiers, and the American rebels needed all the military forces they could muster.

Hmmmm, this analysis suggests that Henry Horn could have been a Hessian- but was he? Granted, there were many Germans who had immigrated to the colonies before 1776, and there were German regiments who served Washington well. The above analysis is not quite the genealogical standard of ‘preponderance of evidence,’ but a good basis for more research- for proof.

Unfortunately, back then, there was not much available to check whether or not Heinrich Horn was on the rolls of the Hessian recruits. HETRINA, or Hessische Truppen im Amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg, Index nach Familiennamen, was not available in English, but I felt it would give the answer. Sadly, it was only available in German in Germany, and I never got a reply from my letters to archives there. The Hessians kept very good records, so that they would be paid well by the British King George for his German mercenaries, but I just could not find access to any of them at that time.

Once the mailing lists and genealogy websites began popping up on the internet, plus with correspondence with other Horn researchers, the consensus was that Henry could have come to America via one of the following scenarios:

1. He was avoiding the German draft, since he was the prime age of 16, so immigrated on his own. Germany had a history of sending their armies to other countries as mercenaries, as did other European countries.

2. He came to America with his parents when about 12, arriving at the Port of Philadelphia in 1770 on the ‘Good Ship Sally.’ The family settled in York, PA, and Henry joined the colonists when war broke out with Britain. This was the view held by one of the premier Horn researchers.

3. He came as a Hessian soldier.


The third scenario turned out to be the truth about Heinrich Horn, and we will explore more in future posts.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Early research of the author and others.

2) See also:

Military Monday: Heinrich Horn” at http://heritageramblings.net/2015/03/02/military-monday-heinrich-horn/

Tombstone Tuesday: Henry Horn” at http://heritageramblings.net/2015/02/24/tombstone-tuesday-henry-horn/

George Washington and Our Ancestors” at http://heritageramblings.net/2015/02/22/george-washington-and-our-ancestors/

It’s July 4th- Do You Know Our Revolutionary War Ancestors?” at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/07/04/its-july-4th-do-you-know-your-revolutionary-war-ancestors/

The McMurray-Payne-Benjamin- Horn Family Family Tree Page: http://heritageramblings.net/family-trees/the-mcmurray-payne-horn-family/. Scroll down to the Horn tree. Please note that the generations before Henry Horn have not yet been well researched to verify what other (good) researchers have provided.



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