About 250 years ago, a child named Johann Jacob Rierschneck was born in a tiny village in Germany. Just how he later appeared halfway around the world living the life of an American pioneer, under the entirely different name of Jacob Rasnick, ultimately becoming the patriarch of the Rasnick-Rasnake-Rasnic Family of SW Virginia, has for generations been the subject of much family interest.
Today, a dedicated group of his descendants, along with other interested individuals, have joined together to form The Jacob Rasnick Project in an effort to support research, and to share and preserve our family history. Our interests are multifaceted, and current projects include: collecting and warehousing Photos, Stories, Sketches, Newspaper Articles, Obituaries, Military Records, and other bits of Historical Data; Publishing a semi-annual Rasnick Family Newsletter; cataloging graveyard information and photographs for our Cemetery Project; organizing Family Reunion Activities; building and connecting Family Trees; validating our conventional research with our yDNA Project; videotaping interviews with our older cousins; and utilizing private and professional researchers in both Germany and the United States in our search for more clues which could help us piece together our family's past.
Our desire is to share with you what we believe to be the most accurate and up-to-date information on the Rasnick-Rasnake-Rasnic Family today, and to that end, we have created this Jacob Rasnick Project website and our brand new Rasnick Family Genealogy website. We sincerely hope that you will enjoy and benefit from our group's effort, which for us, is a labor of love. Please contact us with any errors, comments or information you may wish to share at firstname.lastname@example.org Enjoy!
In seeking our family's origins, the information that we've had to work with over the years has been minimal - a mixture of lore and tradition - without many facts to back it up. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in genealogical research. In fact, if it had not been for the work of Judge E. J. Sutherland in collecting and documenting our early history as related to the John Counts Family, it's safe to say that we'd still be very much in the dark.
Historically what we believed was that all families originating in SW Virginia who possess the name "Rasnick" - which includes the alternate spellings "Rasnake" and "Rasnic" - are directly descended from a man named Jacob Rasnick, and we believed that Jacob Rasnick was a "Hessian" Soldier. We knew that 18th and 19th century documents from Shenandoah and Russell counties in Virginia survived that listed his last name spelled in any number of ways, including "Raresnake", "Rarsnake" and "Reversnake", and so we knew that "Jacob Rasnick" was probably not his original name..... but what was it? We also knew that Jacob obviously had not returned to Germany after the Revolutionary War, but had remained here in America.....but why had he remained, and under what circumstances? Was he wounded and captured, did he desert, or had he sworn allegiance to his new country and perhaps redeemed his freedom for the price of eighty Spanish dollars? Slim beginnings for our research, indeed.
Adding to the confusion were the various stories that had been passed down through the family for generations that were accepted as truth, but as we began our research in earnest, we found that many of them just couldn't be substantiated. There were tales of how a wounded Jacob was found on the battlefield by Mollie Counts and her father, how they took him home to care for and hide him until the war was over, and how, during that time, he and Mollie fell in love and married. But using census and tax records we have been unable to place the Counts family in any areas where battles took place. We heard rumors that Jacob's family had come from almost every European region on the map, including Bavaria, Bohemia, Austria and the Ukraine, but we really had no idea where they'd come from. And of course every Rasnick alive could recite the story of how Jacob had been kidnapped by soldiers at the age of eighteen while out threshing wheat in the field, and forced against his will into service in the German Army. And how his mother had given him a German Bible to take with him as he left home, never to be seen again.
Over the years people had hypothesized and written about our origins, but it was Effie Rasnick, our family's first serious researcher since Judge Sutherland, who commenced to work in the 1970's and 1980's to try to gather clues in order to piece the puzzle together. Effie spent most of her retirement years traveling the United States and even going to Germany, gathering information in all things Rasnick. Her goal, to solve the puzzle and write a book about the Rasnick Family. She amassed a huge collection of data and photographs, which remains intact today, and for which we are extremely grateful. But in all Effie's best efforts, she was tremendously handicapped by one major obstacle - how does one go about looking to find a long dead relative for whom you don't even know his true name? Perhaps if she had had access to the computer and the endless data bases and networking available today, Effie would have lived to see the puzzle solved. But sadly this was not to be.
So now the next generation of Rasnicks continue the work, but this time, armed with the knowledge of Jacob Rasnick's true name - Johann Jacob Rierschneck - which was recently discovered by Rasnick descendant Frieda Patrick Davison and "Hessian" expert John Merz. And thanks to the clues left us by Judge Sutherland so long ago and the observations of Lynn Rasnake Thompson, we were able to obtain the document needed to prove that our ancestor, Jacob Rasnick, and the "Hessian" Soldier, Johann Rierschneck, were indeed the same man! This tremendous discovery opened up to us Jacob's military records, which listed his place of residency as Watzendorf, Germany, giving us a concrete location in which to begin again our search. Ultimately our search lead us to find that Watzendorf was a misspelling of "Waizendorf". Furthermore, Waizendorf was not the town of Jacob's birth, but rather the district where he was living at the time of his entry into the army. Records proved his place of birth to be the tiny village of Irsingen in Bavaria.
In the beginning, without question, the sole purpose of our mission was to locate our "Hessian" ancestor, and to that end, we have succeeded. But along the way, this success has expanded the scope of our project into collecting and cataloging information on all Rührschnecks found so far. Not only are we sharing this data, which has never been made available before, we are using it to track and connect the Rührschneck family in Europe with the Rasnick family in the US, and most recently, with the American Ruehrschneck and Rushneck family.
We have discovered more about our family's history than any of us thought possible, and invite you to come along with us on this exciting journey!