Our known family history begins with Georg Heinrich Reifel I and his wife Anna Elisabeth Hengan. Their dates gathered by Herr Roland Paul, a German archivist, are given here. From the Peppertown, Indiana, German Lutheran Church Book, I discovered that Georg Jakob Reifel (my great, great grandfather and third son of Georg Heinrich Reifel I) was born in Hördt, Germany (also located in "Reinfelz" and "Bavaria"). But I learned there were two small towns by this name - one near the Czechoslovakian border, and the other about 60 miles southwest of Heidelberg in the Palitinate. I wrote to the archivists of both towns trying to locate information about Georg Jakob Reifel and his wife Margaretha. The town of Hördt that is located near Heidelberg proved to be the birthplace of our ancestors as stated in Herr Roland Paul's 1980 letter. This town archivist sent us a good deal of information regarding Georg Jakob and Margaretha. He also sent a listing of the names and dates for Georg Jakob's brothers and sisters. The information about Georg Heinrich I and his wife Anna Elisabeth Hengan was also secured from this source.
Based on the information received, we know that Georg was 21 and Anna was 20 when their eldest son Johann Georg was born. Neither Georg nor Anna came to the United States. Georg died in 1814 at age 34, but Anna lived to be 62. We know nothing (yet) about the eldest Reifel's trade background, but we suspect he was a farmer since Hördt was a small rural town and because his son Georg Jakob and 3 grandsons later became farmers when they came to the United States. Both Georg Heinrich I and Anna were buried in Germany and probably in Hördt.
Also from Hr. Roland Paul we learn that Georg Heinrich I and Anna had six children (5 sons and 1 daughter). Only George Jakob Reifel (3rd child) and Eva Katherine Reifel (6th child) immigrated to the United States. Although George Heinrich Jr. (Generation 2) never immigrated, three of his children (Johann Georg Reifel, Phillip Michael Reifel, and Jakob Reifel) did come. From information gathered by Betty Burks, we know that Johann Georg Reifel (often called simply "George") came to the United States by way of New Orleans in 1852. George was then 21 years old. After his arrival in the US, he married Elizabeth Rapp, who had also been born in Germany. Their marriage was registered in Brookville on March 24, 1858. Betty Burks also notes that Elizabeth, his wife, came to the United States from her homeland of Germany by way of Castle Garden, New York, and that her ocean crossing took 65 days to complete. It is through George Heinrich Reifel (Generation 2), Johann Georg Reifel (Generation 3), and William "Shorty" Reifel (Generation 4) that we are related to Ben Reifel, the well-known Congressman who served in the US House of Representatives from 1961-1971.
In summary, then, these are the first known members of the Reifel family who did immigrate to the US:
1. Georg Jakob Reifel (Generation 2) - son of Georg Heinrich Reifel I.
2. Eva Katharina Reifel Mohr (Generation 2) - daughter of George Heinrich Reifel I.
[3. Post-Publication Note: It was learned that Johann Theobald Reifel (also Generation 2) - son of George Heinrich Reifel I, and his family immigrated to the US earlier.]
4. Johan George Reifel (Generation 3) - grandson of George Heinrich Reifel I and grandfather of Ben Reifel.
5. Philipp Michael Reifel (Generation 3) - grandson of George Heinrich Reifel I.
6. Jakob Reifel (Generation 3) - grandson of Georg Heinrich I.
Regarding Ben Reifel, the following is from a letter written by Betty Burks to me on January 19, 1982 about her research on our relationship to Ben Reifel:
There is a letter from John Charles Reifel to Ben Reifel (his nephew) dated October 25, 1935, stating that Elizabeth Rapp Reifel was the
grandmother of Wm. "Shorty" Riefel, Elizabeth Reifel, John Charles Reifel, Emma Riefel, and Bertha Reifel, and that she came from a small town called Ingenheim near the French border. He speaks only of the title " Grandfather" frequently, but neglected to ever write his first or second name. However, he came from a town he spelled "Hert" (sic), near Ft. Germersheim on the River Rhine. Also that he came by way of New Orleans in 1852 at the age of 21 years. I've checked the passenger lists for ships landing there, forward and backward, and cannot located a Reifel name. Perhaps he could only speak and write German and that accounts for this. There are names missing, plus many question marks in the blanks so that, of course, doesn't help either.
(My editorial note on Mrs. Burk's letter: Instead of "grandmother" it should read "mother" and instead of "grandfather" it should read "father".)
The town of "Hert" is the same "Hördt" as seen on the present day maps of Germany and on the documents from the Peppertown German Lutheran Church Book. Ft. Germersheim is the same Germersheim as seen on the map included in my research.