Origins of the Bedillion/Petillon Family

by Gary T. Horlacher(1), 1998

A Family on the Move

During the mid-18th century, an estimated 65,000 immigrants arrived in America from German speaking countries(2). Between 1727-1775, 36,000 German speaking foreigners arrived in Pennsylvania alone(3).

Interest in tracing the origins of these families began in the late-19th century as genealogy first became a hobby. In the last two decades, several general works have been published identifying the origins of a large number of these families that settled together in America or left from neighboring towns in Germany(4).

Although articles have previously been published here for mainstream German emigrants(5), many of those following this same migration route had not been native Germans more than a couple generations. For these families, the trip from Germany to America was just another chapter in an ongoing journey across two continents.

The story of searching one such family, the Bedillon family, uncovered a history of a family through five countries and four languages. It was a history not uncommon in the origin of the Pennsylvania Dutch families. This article gives the details of the research strategies used and a historical background showing forces that led this family to emigration.

The quest to find the origins of the Bedillion family began in Ohio County, West Virginia with Elizabeth Bedillian (sic) who married William Wylie there in 1844(6). As it was not obvious who the parents of Elizabeth Bedillion were, a general study was made to gather as much information on the Bedillion family as possible from all available sources.

This preliminary research identified a B.Dillon family that had settled in Ohio. In the 1840 census of Zane Township, Logan County, Ohio, there were six B.Dillon families listed(7): A. B.Dillon, Thomas B.Dillon, Isaac B.Dillon, Benjamin B.Dillon, Samuel B.Dillon, and David B.Dillon. Likewise additional variations of this name were found in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland including the following: Bedillon, BeDillion, Berdillen, Bedulion, Bettleon, Bettlin, Beltin, Betlegan, Bedlion, Bedallon, Betillion, Bettillion, Bedittlion, Betitton, Peatalon, Patelon, Betleon, Bedallon, Betilion, Bidelyoung, etc.

Gathering up leads from census, probate, church, and land records for families with these various spellings in these several states, some patterns began to emerge. Two branches of the Bedillion families were identified: descendants of Abraham Bedillon of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania and descendants of Philipp Bedillon of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.


The B.Dillon family of Logan County, Ohio belonged to this branch of the family. Abraham Bedillon came to Philadelphia October 7, 1751 on the ship Janet(8), last from Rotterdam. He and his wife Margaretha had nine children, the first born being before the left Germany:

  1. Catharina Bedillion b 23 Feb 1751, died young.
  2. Magdalena Bedillion b 1753. She md 6 Oct 1772 John Redebach in Phildelphia and had 2 children in Germantown.
  3. Elisabeth Bedillion chr 14 Dec 1755 Germantown, Philadelphia, PA.
  4. Abraham Bedillion b 14 Aug 1758 Germantown, Philadelphia, PA, died young
  5. Isaac Bedillion b 14 Aug 1758 Germantown. He md 1) 16 Mar 1781 Magdalena Dunn and 2) 1 Apr 1788 Ursula Hurff. His descendants settled first in Glouchester County, New Jersey and later moved to Logan County, Ohio. They include the B.Dillon family mentioned previously.
  6. Margareth Bedillion b 24 Feb 1760 Germantown.
  7. Anna Catharina Bedillion b 29 Jan 1763 Philadelphia. She md 10 May 1781 Isaac Jones in Philadelphia.
  8. Jacob Bedillion b 29 Jan 1763 Philadelphia.
  9. Abraham Bedillion b 6 Dec 1768 Germantown. 

Although this family originally settled in Philadelphia County and the children were christened in Philadelphia (St. Michael's Church) and in Germantown, descendants of this family moved to Gloucester County, New Jersey; Logan County, Ohio; and further west.


The other Bedillion family in early America records appears to be descended of Johann Philipp Bedillion who came to Philadelphia on the ship Snow Ketty(9) on October 16, 1752. He appears to have come over as a young single man. Not long after his arrival he was married to Anna Barbara (maiden name unknown). They had nine children in Pennsylvania:

  1. Johann Philip Bedillion chr 1 Sep 1755 Hill Reformed Church in Annville Township, Lebanon County, PA.
  2. Abraham Bedillion b abt 1757, died 18 Jul 1827. He md abt 1782/1784 Elizabeth Weirick [d 24 Mar 1838]. They moved west to Washington County, Pennsylvania where they had several children.
  3. Barbara Bedillion b abt 1759. She md 20 Apr 1779 Johannes Palm in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
  4. Peter Bedillion b abt 1760, d 1793/1800.
  5. Anna Christina Bedillion md abt 1779 Henry Shaffner. They resided in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania and had eight children there.
  6. Elizabeth Bedillion md abt 1795 Jacob Ellinger. They had 3 children in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
  7. Catharina Bedillion md 1) abt 1790 George Sider, 2) Mr. Stiger. She resided in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
  8. Rachel Bedillion
  9. Isaac Bedillion b 1770, md Mary. They had a son John Bedillion.

Philipp Bedillon was a resident of Londonderry Township, which was first part of Lancaster County, then became part of Dauphin County, and finally became part of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. His son Abraham and other descendants moved west to Washington County, Pennsylvania; Ohio County, West Virginia; and Belmont and Washington Counties in Ohio.


In order to identify the origin of this family in Germany, a study of the passenger list Janet in 1751 showed that 25 passengers were from villages in the Palatinate region of Germany: 5 from Freckenfeld, 5 from Eiterbach, 3 from Winden, 3 from Hochstadt, and one from Minden(10). Studying passenger list of the Snow Ketty in 1752, again 25 passengers were from this area: 1 from Annweiler, 18 from Edenkoben, 2 from Freckenfeld, 1 from Roth near Landau, 3 from Minfeld, and 2 from Bergzabern.(11)

Freckenfeld was a common town of origin on both of these lists. One of the immigrants on the ship in 1751 was Georg Jacob Schirmer from Winden. Abraham Bedillion was later listed as a christening sponsor for children of a Peter Schirmer in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) also had listings for the Bedillion family in the town of Winden and nearby towns of Barbelroth and Billigheim.

Searching the German records of the 17th and 18th century of this entire region, the Bedillion family was identified and the ancestry of Abraham and Philipp Bedillion was compiled. They were in fact from the town of Winden in the Palatinate region of Germany. As has been identified in the American sources, German sources also listed the spelling of the name variously. Most commonly, however, seemed to be the spellings: Petillion, Ptillion, and Petillon.

By compiling these sources, it was determined that Abraham and Johann Philipp were sons of Isaac Petillion of Winden. Isaac Petillion b 20 Sep 1685 Winden, married 15 Nov 1718 Maria Elisabeth Vantier [b 12 Jan 1698 Winden, d 11 Nov 1783 Winden] in Winden(12). They had 9 children:

  1. Susanna Petillion b 2 Jul 1719 Winden. She had an illegitimate son: Johann Jacob Petillion b 9 Sep 1748 Winden.
  2. Abraham Petillion chr 22 Jun 1721 Winden. He md 12 Oct 1750 Maria Margaretha Rütter in Winden. They had a daughter Catharina b 23 Feb 1751 in Winden. They emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1751 and settled in Philadelphia County [see above].
  3. Jacob Petillion chr Sep 1723 Winden
  4. Johannes Petillion chr 24 Feb 1726, d 23 Jan 1743 Winden.
  5. Maria Elisabetha Petillion chr Sep 1728, d 8 Aug 1738 Winden.
  6. Johann Philipp Petillion b 18 Dec 1730, d 1801/1802. He went to Pennsylvania in 1752 and settled in the Lebanon County area [see above].
  7. Maria Johanna Petillion b 26 Apr 1733 Winden.
  8. Isaac Petillion b 11 Jun 1734 Winden, d 16 Aug 1762 Winden.
  9. Peter Petillion b 26 May 1741 Winden. He md 20 Sep 1763 Maria Elisabetha LeBlace (Laplos) in Winden. Their descendants remained in the Winden, Germany region.

At least two sons in this family went to America while the parents and others of the family remained in Germany.


The father of Isaac Petillon was Jacob Petillon, who was also listed in the early records as Jacque Petillon. From the records of Barbelroth and Winden Parishes(13), the following family was compiled for Jacob Petillon:

Jacob (Jacque) Petillon was born about 1653 and died before 1715 in winden, age 62 years old. He married Maria Herland, daughter of Jean Herland and Margarita La Ratte. They had 5 children:

  1. Andreas Petillon born about 1680, buried 16 Sep 1749 Winden, md Anna Delhay.
  2. Abraham Petillon born about 2 Apr 1682, buried 11 Dec 1739 Winden, md 9 Sep 1716 Maria Schoena Gomber in Winden.
  3. Isaac Petillon born 20 Sep 1685 Winden.
  4. Jacob Petillon b 11 Sep 1687 Winden, buried 8 Sep 1753 Winden, md 23 Nov 1717 Anna Catharina Wuest in Winden.
  5. Esther Petillon b abt 1690 Winden. She md 26 Feb 1718 Jean (Johann) de Ras (Terrase) in Winden.

The Petillion family was not originally a German family. By the 1750's the family had already been in Germany three generations and must have felt at home with German language and customs, however, by researching in the German records before the 1720's, the French influence becomes more and more obvious. For example, Jacob Petillion is referred to often as Jacque Petillon. His wife was listed as the daughter of Jean Herlan and Margarita La Ratte and his daughter married a Jean de Ras, all French sounding names.

Before 1713, the records of Winden Parish were kept together with those from Barbelroth Parish. During the 30-Years War, this entire region had been devastated. As the church books of Barbelroth extend back to before the War, an idea of the type of destruction and depopulation of this region can be seen from looking at these records(14). At the beginning of the war there were 30-40 children baptized each year. The numbers then steadily decreased from 1627 on, showing only 2-3 baptisms a year between 1643-1646. Two of these years (1647-1648) there were no baptisms at all. There was simply no-one left. Only one person was said to have been alive in Winden during the years 1632-1641.(15) Because of this, the parish there [Winden] was disbanded and remained united with Barbelroth until 1704. Although Barbelroth Parish included several villages at this time, for almost two decades, only four to six baptisms took place each year. Foreign names also occur more and more frequently then.

Duke Karl Ludwig of the Palatinate ruled part of this region from the end of the 30-Years War. Also Duke Friedrich of the Pfalz-Zweibrücken District of Bergzabern ruled from 1640-1661 and his successor was Duke Friedrich Ludwig who ruled 1661-1681. These rulers were faced with stretches of land that had once been blessed and densely populated, which were now in an awful state. Towns were deserted and formerly wealthy villages and markets were extremely run-down, almost desolate. The small part of the population that was still there, barely two percent of what it had been, were poverty-stricken and ragged because of the war and plundering.(16)

These rulers endeavored to induce new settlers to this region with many promises and incentives. They first tried to entice those who had left their homes to return. They then turned to settlers in other regions of Württemberg, Switzerland, Hessen, and France to settle here. Many people heard the call and came to this region. Among those in the region of Barbelroth and Winden, a majority were the French Walloons. These were Protestant refugees who fled northern France in the late-16th century and early 17th century. They first flooded the regions of Belgium and Holland, and then as territories opened and offers were extended, they emigrated on to England, Germany, Switzerland, and America.

The Petillion family was among those following this migration route. They fled France in the late-16th century and early 17th century. From there they went to Middelburg, Holland prior to 1642.

The father of Jacob or Jacque Petillon was named Andre Petillon. He was born about 1620 and died in Winden September 17, 1692. His first wife, Marie Mashue, he married in Middelburg in the Netherlands on March 10, 1648(17). He married a second wife, Sara Sy in Mannheim on January 24, 1677(18). Between his two wives he had six children:

  1. Nicolas Petillon born about 1651
  2. Jacque Petillon born about 1653.
  3. Abraham Petillon born 8 Feb 1656 in Mannheim(19).
  4. Marie Petillon born 22 Feb 1660 in Mannheim(20).
  5. Elisabeth Petillon born about 1678. She md 25 Jan 1696 Charle De La Haye in Barbelroth(21).
  6. Susanna Petillon born about 1680. She md 8 Dec 1700 Abraham De La Haye in Barbelroth(22).

Andre Petillon took his family from Middelburg to Mannheim, Germany about 1655. When further persecution and wars hit Mannheim from the French troops, the Petillon family decided to take up offers made by the aforesaid Dukes in the Palatinate region of Germany where they settled at Winden. After the French wars of the 1670's and 1680's were over, this area began to prosper again!

After three generations of this family had passed in Germany, their settlement was quite successful and the economic climate was good. Why then would two sons in this family leave Germany and go to faraway America?

The reasons they chose to leave Germany were similar to why they left eastern Pennsylvania for the frontier lands. The areas that had once offered cheap land were now more heavily populated. Prices had gone up and there were fewer opportunities than further west. Likewise in Germany in the late 17th century, this area had great opportunities for those willing to settle there and build it up again.

By the mid-18th century, the population in this region had greatly increased. Bigger families and few wars or plagues led to much competition for jobs. Taxes were heavy. Opportunities for another weaver in a town with four or five weavers was not good. To many it appeared impossible to raise above poverty and improve their lot in life. At this same time, promises of free land and wonderful conditions in the New World sounded very enticing. Like their ancestors three generations before, they had a chance to improve their lot in life and pass on an inheritance to their children.

Although perhaps more extreme, the reasons these people left Germany were not all that different than their descendants had for moving west.


Establishing the origins of the Petillon family in France was next to impossible as the records were destroyed when these families fled the region of Northern France. Yet clues in the records of Mannheim and Middleburg identified the region of Estaires, Sailly, Lavantie, and Fleurbaix, which was then called "pays de la leu". These towns are in the present-day departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais, known as the regions of Flanders and Artois. This region had several protestant congregations established in 1566(23), which were later disbanded and prohibited.

In the town of Fleurbaix, the marriage records from 1567-1675 show several members of the Petillon family there(24). Within this region is a small village by the name Pètillon. It was apparently from this village that the family took its name. The town name was derived from the verb "petiller" which in Old French meant boiling with anger, furious, or very agitated.

Identifying the father of Andre Petillon for certain is not possible, however it is probable that he was a brother to others mentioned in Middleburg records of the early and mid-1600's: Henri Petillon (1642), Antoine Petillon (1647), Paul Petillon (1662)(25). This Henry Petillon was listed as a son of Jacque Petillon of Estaires. This Jacque Petillon would have been born about 1596 and have been the earliest probable direct ancestor that could be identified with any certainty.

Although originally fleeing France in the early 17th century for religious reasons, subsequent moves from Holland to Germany, from Germany to Pennsylvania, and from Pennsylvania westward, all came through opportunities for bettering their lot in life.

The story of the Bedillion-Petillon family's move through five countries and three languages in the 17th and 18th centuries is not atypical. In researching Palatinate emigrants to Pennsylvania, it appears frequently to be the case that the emigrants who left were from those regions of Germany that were re-settled after the French-German wars of the 17th century. Locating these families in Germany is only part of the story. By delving deeper into the European sources, one finds that they were originally from Switzerland, France, Southern Germany (Württemberg), or elsewhere. The story of their adventurous trip to America is really only another chapter in the ongoing story of the travels our ancestors undertook to improve their lots in life.


Melanie Nolan has done a lot of research on the refugee families that settled in Friedrichstal, Germany about 1700. She is a descendant of Jacques Gorenflo, a leader in the colony there, and is related to just about every one of the 15 original families of the village. Those interested in any of these families might be interested in contacting her.



1. Gary T. Horlacher was commissioned to research the Bedillion family by Kenneth Craft of Norcross, Georgia. Other researchers whose work on this family was used in this article include Bill Kincaid, Esther Marsh, Ronald L. Daarah, John T. Humphrey, and Annette K. Burgert.

2. Strassburger, Ralph Beaver and William John Hinke. Pennsylvania German Pioneers. Picton Press: Camden, Maine, 1992. P.v.

3. Brink, Andreas. Die deutsch Auswanderungswelle in die britischen Kolonien Nordamerikas um die Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts. Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart, 1993. P.14.

4. Annette K. Burgert has published several books on 18th century emigrants from various German regions: Eighteenth Century Emigrants from Northern Alsace to America (1992), Eighteenth Century Emigrants from German Speaking Lands to North Ameirca, Vol. 16, Germans from Northern Kraichgau (1983), Vol. 19 Germans from the Western Palatinate (1985), and together with Hank Jones, Westerwald to America (1989). Hank Jones published a study of the Germans who settled together in New York in 1709/1710, The Palatine Families of New York (1985). Werner Hacker published books indexing emigration records of Germans from various regions of Germany including: Auswanderung aus Baden und dem Breisgau (1980),Kurpfälzische Auswanderer vom Unteren Neckar (1984), Auswanderung aus Rheinpfalz und Saarland im 18. Jahrhundert. More recently Burguette Burkett has published a volume, Emigration from Baden-Durlach in the 18th Century (1996). Wilford W. Whitaker and Gary T. Horlacher have published a study of the origins of the German families who settled in New England in the 18th century: Broad Bay Roots (1998).

5. National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Turner, Shirley J. Jacob Knobel (1682-1731) of the Palatinate, New York, and Berks County, Pennsylvania, Sep 1891, Vol. 69, No.3. Andersen, Patricia Abelard, Jacob Fluck of Middletown, Frederick County, Maryland and His Flook and Fluke Descendants, Sep 1984, Vol. 72, No.3. Strasser, Theresa Coyne, Jacob Rieser of Cumru, Berks County, Pennsylvania (1726-1793), and His Descendants. Hinchliff, Helen, Michael Mumper of Pennsylvania: Reconstructing the Origins and Circumstances of an Immigrant Ancestor, Mar 1989, Vol. 77, No.1.

6. Ohio County, West Viriginia County Clerk. Marriages 1790-1971. Marriage License book Vol. 2, p.108; FHL #0863796.

7. Copy of a manuscript on the Bedillon family by Esther Marsh, without a title or date.

8. Strassburger & Hinke. Vol. 1, p. 474.

9. Ibid. P.496.

10. Letter from Annette K. Burgert to Kenneth Craft dated November 8, 1994. Don Yoder's book, Pennsylvania German Immigrants, 1709-1786 (1980) [FHL 974.8 F2pg] includes references to Abraham Sontag and Jacob Schuster being from Edenkoben. Annette K. Burgert's book, Eighteenth century emigrants from the northern Alsace to America (1992), included references to Johann Daniel Mutschler of Langensoultzbach. Her book, Eighteenth Century emigrants from German Sepaking Lands to North America, Vol. 16, Germans from the Northern Kraichgau region referred to Christoph Süss from Eschelbach. In Carl Boyer III's book, Ship Passengr Lists Pennsylvania and Delaware (1641-1825) [FHL 973 W3sb], the origins of Jacob Haen of Minfeld and Johann Jacob Decker of Weissenstein were identified.

11. ibid. Don Yoder's book included the following families that were on this ship: Jacob Hauswird of Winden, Catharina Kesler, Abraham Koenig (from Hoffen), Philip Enes (from Kleeburg-Hoffen), Jacob Walter, Johann Georg Sprecher, Jacob Sprecher, and Jacob Koening, hte last four being from Württemberg. Annette Burgert's book on the Northern Alsace region included references to Koenig and Enes as well as Jacob Gallmann (from Hatten), Jacob Hahm (from Diedendorf/Fleisheim), Philip Jacob Humbert and Joh. Friedrich Humbert (from Hatten), Theobald Stark (from Uhrweiler), and Jacob Weimer (from Hunspach and Hoffen). Boyer's book included references to Casper Georg Adam and Georg Leonhardt Beckenbach of Eiterbach and Ehrihardt Thuerwaechter of Frankenfeld.

12. Barbelroth Parish Records, 1596-1740, FHL #0193777; and Winden Parish Records, 1713-1798, FHL #0193232.

13. ibid.

14. ibid.

15. Gümbel, Theodor. "The Foreign Colony in Billigheim and the Surrounding Area". Geschichtsblätter des Deutschen Hugenotten-Vereins. Heinrichshofensche Buchhandlung: Magdeburg, 1894.

16. Ibid.

17. Leiden Walloon Collection. FHL #0199906.

18. Mannheim French Reformed Parish Records; Mds 1652-1819; FHL #1192139, item 9.

19. ibid. Christenings Vol. 1 1651-1672, p.18

20. ibid.

21. Barbelroth Reformed Parish Register; FHL #0193777.

22. Ibid.

23. Mours, Samuel. Les Églises Réformées en France. Librairie Protestante: Paris, 1958.

24. Dalenne, Bernard. "Contrats de mariage passés devant Maîtres Daniel Quyjue, Jean Defache et Pierre Delesalle, notaires à Fleurbaix, 1567-1675".Travaus et Etudes Genealogiques. [FHL 944.26 D25t no. 40-45.

25. Leiden Walloon Collection. FHL #0199906. 


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