On March 23, 1643, Margaretha Lauers was born in Niedermoschel and was taken by her parents, Johannes and Catharina Lauers, to the Reformed Church in Alsenz to be baptized. The history of the Lauers family in the region dates from the birth of Jacob Lauers in 1555. His father, Arnolds, was the great-great-grandfather of Margaretha. We don't know her mother's family name, but her grandmother was a Faber and her great-grandmother was a Lorentz. Such information was commonly written in the marriage records in the church. Niedermoschel was founded in the Thirteenth Century at the location of a castle that was built about 1180. During the terrible Thirty Years War (1618-1648) all of the villages in the valley were severely damaged and up to 75 percent of their people died or fled the region.
In 1665, we know that twenty-seven year-old Johannes Meÿ was living across the mountain from his home village of Callbach in the valley of the Alsenz River, a southern tributary of the Nahe. He probably had been living in or near the village of Alsenz for a few years, during which time he met Margaretha Lauers, who was five years younger than him. Margaretha's family regularly attended services in the Reformed Church (Evangelische Kirche) in Alsenz, located only a few kilometers from their home village. This church is the likely place for us to imagine that Johannes and Margaretha first met. Their marriage on March 7, 1665 is one of the most legible early records we have of the family history.
The Alsenz church register (Kirchenbüch) has a very good index (Alphabetisches Namensregister) of the Christian ceremonies the May family participated in during their years in the village. From this register we know that the ten children of Johannes and Margaretha were baptized in the Alsenz Reformed Church over the period from 1666 to 1689. All seven of the boys found wives, but two of the three girls, Anna Maria and Anna Sara, died before reaching their third birthdays. Of particular interest to the American descendants of the Meÿ family is the May 29, 1673 birth and baptismal record of Johann Nickel Meÿ, the grandfather of John (Johannes) May (1760-1813).
By the time Johannes Meÿ reached the age of sixty he was an assistant Judge of the Alsenz region which was ruled by the Herzog (Duke)of Pfalz-Zweibrücken. A 1699 record uses the word "gerichtschöppen" to describe Johannes' judicial position. At the time of his death in 1720, he had reached a position translated as "Honorable Judge." The lifelong path to such a seat of authority involved a sequence of events, typically beginning as a clerk, studying the law, slowly advancing to become an attorney, then possibly being appointed as a Judge. Though the people were occasionally given a voice selecting local officials, the elevation to the position of a Judge was likely determined by the Herzog.
In 1688, a great European conflict called the "War of the Grand Alliance" was touched off by King Louis XIV of France. One of the many regions affected throughout the nine-year conflict - fought on four main fronts in as many distant theaters of war - was the Palatinate. Among Louis' many aspirations was the extension of the eastern frontier of France to the Rhine. He had conspired for almost two decades to fulfill his ambition to conquer and possess the Palatinate. The principal cities and numerous small villages of the Middle Rhine were soon overrun, sacked and burned. The fortress at Philippsburg was completely destroyed. Among the cities to suffer the wrath of the invaders were Worms, Speyer, Mainz, Bingen, and Kreuznach. For the Meÿ family living in Alsenz, news of the near complete destruction of nearby (Bad) Kreuznach and Bingen on the Nahe River must have been devastating.
The French troops, foraging for food, horses and winter clothing, plundered and burned the abandoned villages along the tributaries of the Nahe Valley. Unable to defend themselves, the frightened villagers had to choose between hiding in the mountains or fleeing the region. The record is silent on the plight of the Meÿs during this terrible invasion of their homeland. It is likely that Johannes Meÿ's five oldest sons, all of whom were old enough to be called to fight before the war ended, served the Elector Palatine's army in some capacity.
Hans Philip, the oldest of Johannes Meÿ's ten children, was the first to marry. During the years from 1688 to 1711, the marriages of all the surviving eight siblings were recorded in the church in Alsenz. On April 18, 1699, Johann Nickel Meÿ married Anna Catharina Beyers in her home village of Niederhausen. Facsimiles of their marriage records from the registers of both the Alsenz and the Niederhausen Reformed Churches show the names of his father, Johannes Meÿ, and her father, Christoffel. Anna Catharina's father is called an official (from the word "gerichts") of his village. He likely served in a local court in a capacity much like that of a magistrate in the British courts. In the Alsenz register, her home village is called "Niederhausen an der Nahe." When he married, Johann Nickel had begun his trade as a shoemaker. His marriage record in the register of the Niederhausen Church uses an abbreviated spelling of the word - Shu'macher. All subsequent church records of Johann Nickel and his family were recorded in the village where they lived, Niederhausen an der Nahe.