#52Ancestors: John Philip Harless, 1738 German Palatine Immigrant to America

My 26th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.


Headstone erected posthumously for John Philip Harless and wife Margaret Price.

My 26th ancestor is my husband’s 7th great grandfather John Philip Harless (1716-1772). John Philip is our first Harless ancestor to immigrate to America, specifically, to the American colonies. John Philip Harless is of course the American spelling and pronunciation of his name. Some documents spell his first name “Johan” and his last name “Harlas”, “Harlash”, “Harlos”, “Harlosh”, “Horlas”, and “Horlash”. Sometimes he is referred to as “Philip”, instead of John Philip or Johan Philip.

Harless is the husband of Anna Margaretha “Margaret” PREISS [Price], the grandfather of Ferdinand HARLESS (1755-1853)the 2nd great grandfather of Miles (Myles) Washington HARLESS (1826-1891), the 3rd great grandfather of Leonard Jackson HARLESS (1858-1946), and the 5th great grandfather of Jean Alice HARLESS (1912-2011).

John Philip was born in 1716 in Germersheim, a town in the present day southern German state of Rhindeland-Palatinate. He married Anna Margaretha “Margaret” Preiss (1718-1784) — whom I profiled earlier in my first #52Ancestors post — on 17 February 1738 in Offenbach, Germany. 

The new couple celebrated their honeymoon on board the ship the Winter Galley, in the last wave of the Palatine migration. It appears that they boarded the Winter Galley in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with a stop in Deal, England, which is near Dover.

View John Philip Harless : Old World in a larger map

Harless, his wife, and a handful of other family members (no children yet), arrived at the Port of Philadelphia on 5 September 1738, and Harless took the required oath of allegiance (to the British king!) that same day.

Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke compiled, transcribed, and published (in 1934) the available Palatine immigration ships’ lists for Philadelphia arrivals from 1727-1808. Our John Philip Harless is included, in three different types of lists produced from the Winter Galley. Volume 1 of the Strassburger and Hinke publication includes type transcribed lists. But Volume 2 includes copies of the actual signatures!

Transcribed list in the Strassburger and Beaver publication, V 1, page 199.
“[List 52 A] A List of all the mens names and ages from sixteen years and upwards Passengers on b y Winter Gally, Edward Paynter, Commander. [Qualified September 5, 1738.]”
252 passengers total. 139 Palatines who took the oath. 113 women and children.
(Misspellings and punctuations copied from text.)
Transcribed list in the Strassburger and Beaver publication, V 1, page 201.
“[List 52 B] Palatines imported in the Ship the Winter Galley, Edward Paynter, Com, from Rotterdam, but last from Deal. Qualified 5th Sept, 1738.”
(Misspellings and punctuations copied from text.)
Transcribed list in the Strassburger and Beaver publication, V 1, page 203.
“[List 52 C] At the Court House of Philadelphia, September 5th, 1738.
Anthony Palmer, Clement Plumsted, Ralph Asheton, Wiliam Allen, Esq.
The Palatinates whose Names are underwritten, imported in the Ship the Winter Galley, Edward Paynter, M, a Rotterdam, did this day take and subscribe the Oaths to the Government.”
(Misspellings and punctuations copied from text.)
On the photocopied signatures included in the Strassburger and Beaver publications, I had a very difficult time trying to identify the signature of Johan “John” Philip Harless. I knew it had to be included, because I find a ton of family historians claiming this publication displays the Harless signature (of course, they could all be wrong!). It doesn’t help that so many of these Palatine immigrants have names starting with “Johann”. It’s like looking for a Jose on my side of the family! So, after an hour of my vision going cross-eyed from staring at these signatures, I enlisted the help of an <ahem> expert — my husband Jeff, who studied German way back in high school.
Jeff felt confident in identifying his ancestor’s signature pretty quickly. That last name didn’t look anything like Harless to me. But as Jeff pointed out, the first letter of the surname looks just like the “h” that appears in Johan and Philip. He also explained to me how the German double S consonant is written and pronounced, like a capital B (note the end of the surname, which would jive with Harless). The middle name, to me, looks like it ends with a “b” instead of a “p”, making it more like Philib instead of Philip. But as the Palatine Project points out, “Fileb” was a common old world German spelling for the name Philip. So, are we 100% positive we have identified the correct signature for Jeff’s ancestor John Philip Harless? No. But, it is a confident guess. Hopefully I will be able to verify it against other documents he signed while living in the Colonies. If some other Harless historian can verify or refute this signature, please contact me.
Signature fascimile list in the Strassburger and Beaver publication, V 2, page 207.
[List 52 B] Palatines imported in the Ship the Winter Galley, Edward Paynter, Com, from Rotterdam, but last from Deal. Qualified 5th Sept, 1738.
(Misspellings and punctuations copied from text.)

I will blog more about the family and their descendants. But, if you are impatient, the U.S. era of their family history has been extensively covered in the Pritchard publication noted below, which is available to read for free on HathiTrust

Sources Used

Pritchard, J. L. R. (1962). Harless genealogy, John Philip and Anna Margaretha (Preiss) Harless;pioneers in western Virginia and some of their descendents, ([2d ed.].). Cupertino? Calif.]. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89066181694

Strassburger, R. B., & Hinke, W. J. (1934). Pennsylvania German pioneers;a publication of the original lists of arrivals in the port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, (Vols. 1-3, Vol. 1). Norristown,. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.49015000086612

Strassburger, R. B., & Hinke, W. J. (1934). Pennsylvania German pioneers;a publication of the original lists of arrivals in the port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, (Vols. 1-3, Vol. 2). Norristown,. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.49015002215748

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0 thoughts on “#52Ancestors: John Philip Harless, 1738 German Palatine Immigrant to America”

  1. I also descend from Johan Philip through Ferdinand. Thanks for the article–I have enjoyed several folks’ 52 ancestors work over this past year, and thanks for doing it too. As for the location of Margaret’s birth and marriage, I believe you have the wrong Offenbach…the one indicated on the map is Offenbach am Main, while the Preiss family were from Offenbach an der Queich. If you zoom in on the Google map you have posted, you’ll find Offenbach about midway between Germersheim and Landau to the west. They were practically neighbors!

    1. Colleen Greene

      Thanks, David! I’ve corrected that. Makes more sense geographically, too. I’m not at all familiar with German geography or place names.

    2. Bonnie Lee Lewis

      Im the great grandaughter of Nancy Jane Harless who descended from Johan Philip Harless..I sang at a church in Offenbach in 73 not knowing about him at that time and traveled diwn the Rhine. Im searching for the particular castle he may have worked from re: palatinate or been to…

  2. I too am descended from Phillip and Margaretha and I appreciate the work you have done posting this information on the internet. One of my aunt’s researched this line 50 years ago and I know she would have loved to have found this information so easily way back then.
    You may be correct about the signature, however, I think the one two spaces above your arrow on the left looks more like Phillip’s name to me. It appears to read Philip Halass “H”,”his mark”. If this is indeed our Phillip then he apparently could not write and simply made his mark next to his name as written by a clerk. Has anyone seen other documents with his signature or mark? Anyway, I’m not being critical, just offering another opinion. If I should run across any documents with his signature or mark I will post that information here also. Thanks, E. D. King

    1. Colleen Greene

      Hi E.D.,

      Thanks! In taking another look at that document, you may be right. At the time I initially reviewed it and wrote this post, I was not too familiar with reading handwritten manifests. I too will have to look for other records that might have his signature or mark.

  3. (Johann) Phillip Harless is also my ancestor. I still have that surname and am surprised how fast and far his Childreb Travelled and Procreated.Even up until the 1990s my family stayed within 100 miles or so of Whre he is buried.

  4. Hi, my great great grandfather James Otey Scott was married to Mary Elizabeth Harless. Is he part of this family. My great grandmother was Beulah Esther Scott, I have vague memories of her here in WV, but she moved to CA.
    Thank you
    Tim White

  5. Hi, this was great to find. My ancestors are Johann Michel Preisch and his wife Margaretha, the sister of John Philip Harless. Johann is listed on the Winter Galley four above Harless. Michael Price (as Johann was known) ,Harless and several others went on to found St. Peter’s Church in 1750. The church is gone, but there is a marble monument at the original site. St. Michaels Lutheran Church is there today. The monument list the following names; Richard Heaven, Philip Harless, Adam Harman, Jacob Harman, Valentine Harman, Jacob Harnberger, Israel Laurton, Samuel Pepper, Augustine Price, Daniel Price, Michael Price, Jacob Shell and Adam Wall. This
    According to our family research The Harless and Price families did a great deal together in the founding a America.

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