The Brobst/Probst Family

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Brobst Family History
(Probster Familienforschung)

The Brobst Family is not large, nor is it famous. There are only about 800 in the nation's phone books, and only 700 on the Social Security Death Index. Brobst is the 17,423rd most popular last name (surname) in the United States! But it is certainly unique in that, in almost every case, everyone with the unusual name "Brobst" is directly related to everyone else with the name "Brobst"! We all descend from one of two Probst brothers of Swiss background who left Europe in 1732 to seek their freedom and future in America.

In addition to a variety of Probst families, we also have extensive information on the related families: Angstadt, Billman, Christ, Federolff, Follweiler, Fossellmann, Friesz, Fürst/First, Glück/Glick, Kistler, Kuntz, Schitz, Stambach, Stump, Wertman. We also have some information on the Propst families of Germany, not related to the Probsts and Brobsts.

The Swiss Family Probst

The American Brobst family traces back into the early 1500s near Bern, Switzerland, where Rudolph Probst was born in 1595. His father may have been Niklaus Probst (b. 1554), and his grandfather Hans Probst (b. 1531), although those two earlier generations are not certain. Yes, the name "Brobst" was originally "Probst". Probst is today a fairly common name in Switzerland, although not so much so in the United States. (The name "Brobst" is even less common.)

In the early 1600s, Rudolph moved to Wangen, Germany. In the mid-1600s, his only son, Barthel, floated down the Rhine to Kandel, in the German Palatinate, near the northern Alsace border of France. Barthel had a large family, one of which was Christophel (b.1661). Because living conditions there were so deplorable, three of Christophel's children came to America in 1732 on the ship "John and William"-- Philipp Jacob (b. 1692), Johann Michael (b. 1701), and Elizabetha Margaretha (Vossellmann) (b. 1703). These three were the first Probsts to come to America. They arrived in 1732, the year George Washington was born.

Others of the larger Probst family lived in northwestern Switzerland also, from Siselen in the northwest of Kanton Berne to Lutzelfluh in the northeastern part of Kanton Berne. Many of these Probsts also emigrated elsewhere in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s -- north into Germany and northwest into southern Alsace, France. Most of the Alsatian immigrants were glass-makers. Some of those, mostly farmers, who moved into southern Germany had moved further north into Saxony by the 1800s. Many of those Probsts came to America from Switzerland, Germany, and France later in the 1700s and 1800s. Over 150 of them are recorded on various ship's lists. These families are not the primary focus of the Brobst Family Historical Registry, although there is a great deal of information -- 3000 Probst names -- in our data base on those other American Probsts.

The American Family Brobst

The three children of Christophel Probst arrived in Philadelphia in October 1732, after a horrible voyage on the ship "John and William". Philipp Jacob Probst came with his French wife, C'erine (nee Christ), and their three young sons -- Jean Michael, Jean Valentine, and Jean Martin, all French citizens having been living in Alsace, France, for some years. Johann Michael Probst came unmarried from Kandel, Germany, but married Anna Maria Kerr shortly after his arrival. Their sister, Elisabetha Margaretha Probst, came from Kandel with her husband, Hans Erhardt Vossellmann. The English-speaking clerks misspelled their name phonetically, as had the ship's captain. (Why is the word "phonetic" not spelled phonetically?) They left Germany as "Probst", checked out of Rotterdam as "Props", sailed as "Proops", and cleared immigration in Philadelphia as "Brobst". No wonder people have such trouble with our name!

The Brobsts settled in the area now known as Berks and Lehigh Counties, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Many of their German friends who sailed with them settled in the same area. They fought off starvation, poverty, unfriendly weather, and even less friendly Indians. All American Brobsts descend from one of those three children of Christophel. All Brobsts are related, even though it might be only a seventh cousin-hood! The many other Probsts who came to America later in the 1700s and 1800s retained the name Probst. Are they related to the Brobsts? Yes, in some cases. In other cases, the relationship has not been yet identified, and is likely to be quite remote. Researchers are working on that. There were also German Propsts who came to America (such as Johann Michael Propst who married Anna Maria Keller in Lancaster Co, PA), but they were not of Swiss origin and not related to the Probsts. So there is Brobstology, Probstology, and Propstology! There's even Bobstology, Pobstology, and Pabstology, but they are different families.

The names "Probst" and "Propst" have similar meanings in Germanic languages. A "propst" is a lay administrator of a German Roman Catholic diocese or Lutheran synod. A "probst" is a lay administrator of a Swiss synod. The names sometimes refer to a "pryor" or an "abbot". The French term "pr�vot" and the English term "provost" derive from this same origin. All of those words come from the Latin word "praepositus". (Preposterous!)

National Brobst Family Historical Registry

The National Brobst/Probst Family Historical Registry exists to help Brobsts and Brobst descendants to find their family roots -- "Brobstology". The Registry contains data on the ancestry, history, and heritage of the Brobst Family in America, and its ancestral Probst Family in Germany, France, and Switzerland. The goal of the Registry is to collect the names and familial relationships of all Brobsts from the time of the 1730s immigration in America into the early part of the 20th century, as well as the earlier Swiss and German Probsts from which we all descend. Data on the old Probsts and Brobsts is already quite detailed and accurate. Brobstology information on more recent members of the Brobst Family is entered into the data base as it becomes available. This information is readily available to any Brobst descendant or researcher who is interested in his/her Probst/Brobst ancestry. We respect the desire for privacy for some living persons, and are quite willing to omit specific data on any living person who desires that for him/herself and his/her family members. But we would like to at least list their names in the proper order in the ancestral lineage in the Registry. And the Registry is collecting information on the family histories of Probsts and Brobsts, as well, from Switzerland, through Germany and France, and to America. If you think your ancestors must have been in a witness protection program, perhaps we have what you need!

A major project underway now is to identify the familial relationships of dozens of Brobsts who have been listed in Social Security Death Index records, newspaper accounts, county historical records, etc., but for whom we've not yet been able to identify their parents and grandparents. Art Holmes, the Registry's Curator, and Barbara Brobst Williams are working hard on this project. We're very conscious of the need to protect the privacy of living Brobsts, and details on living Brobsts are withheld when we post and update the Registry's on-line data base.

Many different volunteer Brobst/Probst Family researchers, including Bill Brobst (the former Curator of the Registry), have contributed to the vast collection of Brobstology names, dates, and places that comprise the history of the Brobst Family. The Registry is continually being updated. Brobst/Probst descendants: please submit your family lineage data to the Registry for inclusion. There are already over 42,000 names and over 14,000 families, with 7000 Brobsts, 3000 Probsts, 950 Kistlers, and bazillions of their spouses and relatives, back into the middle ages! And the entire National Brobst Family Historical Registry 42,000-name genealogical on-line data base may be found by browsing through the frequently-updated primary Brobst Registry webpage, (just click on "data base on-line"). Or go directly to the 42,000 name on-line data base, just go to the data base URL address: and type in the name of the person you're looking for. To find his/her ancestors, just go to the left side of the page and click on "Pedigree". To see a long list of his/her descendants, just click on "Ahnentafel". You can also download a GedCom file for that person; just click on GEDCOM and follow instructions.

If you would like to have ancestor or descendant trees printed up from the data base, the Registry's Curator can provide these for a small charge. They make great gifts for your children; get one for each of the kids. They come on beautiful parchment paper, ready for framing.

The Registry is not a comprehensive library or archive of all of the supporting documents and proofs usually associated with genealogical research. Those records remain with the various county and state historical and genealogical society libraries, courthouses, etc., and with the descendant families and researchers themselves. We make no attempt to duplicate all of those records and files in the Registry, although there are some wills, obituaries, land deeds, etc., in the Registry files. We are happy to guide you and refer you to other sources for that information on your Brobst ancestors.

The information in the Registry on your Brobst ancestry, updated every month or so from the Curator's master file, is available from the Registry (Curator: Arthur W. Holmes, 304 Woodridge Dr, Peninsula, OH, 44264. E-Mail: [email protected]

If you're interested in the Kistler family (because the Brobst and Kistlers were so closely related back in the 1700s and 1800s), take a look at Craig Kistler's "Kistler Family Registry" website at:

Please feel free to call, write, or E-Mail the Curator with your suggestions, additions, subtractions, questions, disputations, corrections, and recollections. And you should know that he pays for all this work out of his own pocket! He may have to charge you two-bits a page, plus postage, if there are more than a few pages. He'll use E-Mail when he can. Donations to the Registry are gratefully welcomed (really encouraged!) to defray costs of records searches, photocopying, postage, envelopes, web-page costs, etc.; thank you. If you've been able to save some money in research and travel costs because you found the information in the Registry, we'd be most grateful if you'd share some of those savings with us. We're operating on a short shoestring.

You can also get help elsewhere in sorting our your own family lines. One way is to write up a query, stating what you know and what you want to find out, and send it to the one of the several Brobst Message Boards. We have our own Brobst Registry message board (mailing list) on the web on which you can sign up and receive occasional notices of Brobst news items, reunions, interesting findings, etc. It's free! Just visit the Brobst Registry (Rootsweb) web-page, click onto "mailing list", and follow the directions. Basically, to sign up, just send an E-Mail with just a subject and no message at all, including no signature text. That's all there is to it. No charge, no obligation. Just a chance to easily pass information back and forth with other Brobst descendants. It's there for all of us to use it! This has become a very popular means of communication between Brobst researchers and relatives, passing information and questions back and forth. We'd love to see all of the Brobsts on that list so we can keep you informed of what's going on in Brobstology. It's a good place to post notices, articles, news notes, stories about current and ancestral Brobsts, national and local Brobst reunions, new genealogy findings, births, marriages, deaths, queries, finding lost Brobsts, etc. and to hear news from other Brobsts. To send a Brobst message to the address list for the Brobst Registry Message Board, just address an E-Mail to [email protected]; everyone who's signed up on the list will see it.

There are other Brobst message boards as well, maintained by the folks at Rootsweb,,, and If you have questions about your Brobst ancestry, and would like to post them to a wide audience, just go to one of the other Brobst message boards and write out your question. And they're pretty interesting reading, as well!


A detailed and pictorial history of the Probst/Brobst family and their travels and travails may be found in The Brobst Chronicles (150 pages) ($24); last revised Mar 31, 2002. Buy one for your kids and grandkids; they make great birthday or Christmas presents. The story of the various forges and grist mills built and operated by the Brobsts is told in Brobst Forges and Grist Mills (11 pages) ($5). These books were written by Bill Brobst, former Curator of the Brobst Registry, and are available by just sending him a check to his address: William A. Brobst, 6072 Currituck Rd., Kitty Hawk, NC 27949 ([email protected]). We can also refer you to other publications and sources to help you search. The first few chapters of The Brobst Chronicles are on line at the Brobst Registry Website. The "Brobst Genealogy News" was a quarterly newsletter which is no longer being published; that kind of information is now found on the main Brobst Registry website (above).

The Registry's data base contains all Brobst data from Family Tree Maker Family Tree (WFT) Archives numbers 1 through 24; we have already searched those CDs. We would love to incorporate Brobst data from FTM World Family Tree (WFT) Archives 25 and up which we do not have. We need volunteers to help submit data or assist in some other way. If you have any of those CDs, please look up the Brobsts and send on to us whatever you find.

Searchers and Researchers

Brobst descendants who are looking to identify their ancestry are welcome to send queries to the Registry (E-Mail address above). Send as much as you know about your Brobst parentage � names, spouse's names, birth/death dates/-places, at least back into the 1800s, to match with the data in the Registry which is almost complete from the 1500s through the 1800s, with some data reaching well into the 1900s. If you can reach as far back as your great-grandparents, even better for it's likely our data includes them. If you can go back at least one more generation, it is almost certain that we have your family lineage on file.

Brobst Reunions

Major Brobst Family Reunions are held annually (sort of), at various locations around the country. In 1998, there were two � one in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, the other in Enid, Oklahoma. In 1999, there was one in Iowa on Aug 8 (Mary Brobst and Betty Fox, coordinators), and another one in Scranton, Kansas on June 27 (Bill Wilbur, coordinator). Skipped 2000 and 2001. They really are a lot of fun. Lots of family history displays, photos, and genealogical information; bring your own to share. Meet new cousins. Visits to local sites of Brobst historical interest.

The next major Brobst Family Reunion in the mid-west is currently scheduled for September 7 2002, in Ohio, somewhere between Columbus and Cleveland, and possibly in "Brobstland" in Marcy, northern Ohio. James Ernest "Jim" Brobst of Columbus is coordinating the event; contact him directly at 3167 Morningside Dr.Columbus, OH 43202. Phone: 614.263.5159. E-Mail: [email protected]. For detailed information, keep an eye on the Brobst website and miscellaneous little E-Mail announcements on the Brobst message board.

In addition, there are several smaller Brobst reunions in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the summer and fall each year; they are focused on just small branches of the Brobsts, and not intended to be of national interest.

"Forever Shaking The Family Tree, Trying To Get One More Leaf Of Information!"

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This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:23:57 MST
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