Editor's note:The following is excerpted from the exhaustive book "The Bordner and Burtner Families and their Bortner Ancestors in America," by the late Howard W. Bortner, who writes:

This work is dedicated, as a memorial, to the entire family, living and dead and yet to be born, including wives and husbands from other families.

Howard W. Bordner
Washington, D. C.
September 1, 1967

Balthaser Bortner

The immigrant, and his family

Balthaser Bortner arrived in Philadelphia with his family in 1732 on the ship "Adventure," From Rotterdam, Holland.

They had probably started from their home in the Upper Rhine River Valley in the previous Spring. The voyage down the Rhine by barge took five or six weeks; the ocean voyage was longer

And there were delays in waiting for a ship at Rotterdam, and after taking the ship there was a stopover at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.

Such voyages involved much suffering - - bad food and water, overcrowding, coldness, wetness, stench, and much sickness and disease. Some died. Survivors had to be strong and healthy as well as courageous.

Balthaser Bortner signed the Oath of Allegiance in September, 1732. To see the list of all the heads of "Adventure" families, click here .

Fortunately there is an authentic record in the Pennsylvania Archives of how Balthaser Bortner spelled his name - - the Oath of Allegiance taken on September 23, 1732 by all of the family heads of the passengers on the ship, "Adventure." On the following page is a reproduction of page 74 from Volume 2 of "Pennsylvania German Pioneer," by Strassburger and Hinke, published by The Pennsylvania German Society, showing facsimile signatures from the original Oath of allegiance. Of course, these signatures are written in German script of the period.

All of the 145 passengers on the "Adventure" were called "Palatines" in the minutes of the Provincial Council, which recorded this qualification of the ship's passengers for entry into the Colony. Only citizen~ of the Palatinate were properly called "Palatines," but that term was applied in Pennsylvania at that time to all German-speaking immigrants. While the Bortners, like the great majority of German immigrants of that time, probably came from the Palatinate, they may have come, as some did, from one of the other German States in the Upper Rhine Valley -- Hesse, Alsace, Baden, Wurttemburg, Bavaria, or Switzerland. Besides our general information on the sources of German immigration at that time, we know the following specific facts about the Bortners:

  • Apparently the Bortners spoke High German, because the recorded wills of early Bortners were written in High German. This means that they did not come from one of the Low Countries or Northern German States.

  • The early Bortners were members of both the German Reformed and Lutheran churches.

    This coat of arms was granted to a Hans Bortner in 1454. To see a much larger version, click here.

  • There is a record in the Berlin Museum of a coat-of-arms authorized in 1454 by the German Emperor in Neustadt to be displayed by one Hans Bortner and hia sons, Hans and Paul, presumably for valor in battle. Whether Hans Bortner was an ancestor of Balser Bortner, we do not know, but the family name was the same. Neustadt was in the Palatinate at that time.

In addition to such facts as we have, Dr. Fritz Braun recently told one of the members of the Bordner family that he thought the Bortners probably came from the Palatinate. Dr. Braun is Director of the Heimatstelle Pfalz in Kaiserlautern, which is understood to be a historical museum of the Palatinate.

Why did this Bortner family come to America? Doubtless they came like other Germans came from the Rhineland in large numbers at that time, to be free men, to escape tyranny and oppression, to escape the ruins and horrors of frequent wars, to avoid religious discrimination, and above all, to enjoy all of the fruits of their own labor. They were doubtless peasants in the old country and the position of peasants bad only slightly improved since the Middle Ages.

From their standpoint, the political and religious climate of William Penn's Colony, as well as its natural soil and climate, were better than in any other American Colony. And Penn's agents had long advertised among and solicited German protestants to come to his Colony. These sturdy farmers were among the best in Europe. They were desirable immigrants, as well as ripe for plucking away from their homeland.

Perhaps Balser Bortner, like many of his contemporaries, became a "Redemptioner" (or indentured servant) after his arrival in Philadelphia, in order to pay for the passage of his family. Such a period of voluntary servitude might have lasted as long as four or five years. In any event, the family was doubtless together on a farm during that period.

In the year 1738 there is a record of baptism of a daughter, Maria Elisabetha, by the Reverend John Casper Stoever, in the Little Tulpehocken (Christ) Church (Evangelical Lutheran). This church, founded in 1734, then housed in a log structure, was in the Tulpehocken Settlement, located in the Northeastern part of Lancaster County. Later in 1752 most of that area became the Western part of the newly-created Berks County. Today this church is located 1.5 miles southwest of the Village of Bernville in Jefferson Township, Berks County.

There is no record that Balser Bortner purchased land for a farm from the Proprietors, who were then the sons of William Penn. It is possible that he settled as a squatter, as many did, on land in the Tulpehocken Settlement owned by the Proprietors, and that he cleared the land of trees and built a log cabin for a home. However, it is also possible that Balser and his family actually lived on one of the two farms covered by early Warrants from the Proprietors -- one in the name of his son, Jacob, in Earle Township; the other in the name of his son, Peter, in Heidelberg Township.

Balser Bortner died relatively young in 1747 or 1748. When Balser's wife died is unknown, but it is suspected that she died about the same time.

It is believed that Balser Bortner and his family were the only ones having that family name to enter the Pennsylvania Colony. A majority of their descendants have carried changed spellings of the family name -- "Bordner" and "Burtner" -- the former being greatest in number.

There is no known record of immigrants by the name of either "Bortner," "Bordner," or "Burtner" entering the original Colonies or the United States until the mid-nineteenth century.

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