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John Shiver vs Johan Willem Schäffer
21 March 2021

There has long been speculation that John Shiver of Kershaw County, South Carolina was the same man as Johan Willem Schäffer who landed on the ship Two Brothers in 1753 in Philadelphia. I have long doubted this, due to some input from a fellow Shiver researcher who was an expert in handwriting analysis from his work with the Army. For many years, I took his word for it. However, after recently finding additional evidence myself, I now doubt it even more. Yet this speculation is rampant in Ancestry trees online and in other places on the web, adding to the confusion.

In his book Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, vols 1 & 2, Ralph Strassberger did amazing work compiling the various lists of ships and passengers entering Pennsylvania from Germany and its environs. Volume 1 appears on Ancestry.com and is the printed version of the various lists of the various ships and can be viewed here with a subscription. The relevant pages concerning the ship Two Brothers, which qualified in Philadelphia on 28 September 1753, begin on page 563 (image 614). There are three lists for this particular ship: A, B, and C. As seen on page xliii (image 41), you can see that list A was the Captain's list (he wrote it), list B was signers of the oath of allegiance, and list C was signers of the oath of abjuration. The most important point here is that lists B and C were signed (or marked) by the passenger themselves, not someone else interpreting their name. The captain in this case apparently wrote "John Wm Shiver" and hence, many descendants have been convinced that this man is the same person as John Shiver of Kershaw County, South Carolina.

The more important and consequential of the lists (list B) has been preserved as well. This is published in volume 2 with copies of original signatures and can be seen here. Johan Willem Schäffer (14 from the bottom in the left-hand column) signed his name as such. Schäffer, NOT Shiver. The ä makes an "eh" sound, not a long "i" sound. And note that he included the umlaut in his signature. As a side note, I have other ancestors who came from Scotland named Leckie. Interestingly enough, the German scribes who wrote his name when he arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1720s apparently wrote it Läckie. As you can probably guess, eventually that umlaut was dropped and they became Lackie or Lackey. Why the captain wrote Shiver is unknown, but may have just been the unique way Johan Willem pronounced his name, or just what he thought he heard.

And while we're discussing names... Let's talk about the name Johan. Most German boys were given the name Johan as a first name and then were given a second name which was the name they were commonly called. If you look at the list of men on that one ship alone, a good number of them have the first name Johan. Many articles can be found online which discuss this, but Family Tree Magazine has an article that discusses the naming here (pause after you click on this and it should drop down to the part of the article that talks about given names—or close to it). Note that if he were to be called "John," his name would have been Johannes, not Johan. Given that, this man was likely called "Willem" or "William" in his daily life, not John. I also happen to have German ancestors and one of these was Johan Christian Buck. He was never called John, but was referred to in all records as Christian or even Christie.

Now, back to the list, and the most telling bit. You can see in list B that some of the passengers signed their names and others signed with a mark. Johan Willem Schäffer wrote his full name. In contrast, John Shiver of Kershaw County, SC appears to have always signed with a mark, which typically indicated the inability to sign one's name. If he had ever signed his name, we could have done some handwriting comparison, but the fact that he did not is an additional piece of information that needs to be considered. Given this alone, never mind German naming practices, etc., it seems highly unlikely that these two men can be the same individual.

And lastly there is culture. John Willem Schäffer was apparently German or perhaps Dutch. He was likely German-speaking and would have been more likely to be comfortable settling with others of his own language, religion, and culture. John Shiver of Kershaw County, SC seems to have planted himself squarely in a community of what were likely Scots-Irish immigrants: people who not only did not speak Johan Willem's language, but would not have followed his religion either. This, too, needs to be taken into account when hypothesizing whether or not they were the same individual.

Again, based on the information above and analysis of the evidence we have at this time, I have come to the conclusion that Johan Willem Schäffer of the Two Brothers and John Shiver of Kershaw County, South Carolina were not the same person.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss these conclusions, please contact me. Thank you!

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