|Homestead in Brodbecks, PA |
of Jesse and Agnes Berkheimer
One day while volunteering in our local research library, a lady asked me for help in trying to understand her German ancestors. Her relatives claimed that they were Irish. She was so patient and eventually we found that her German ancestors couldn't sail to America when they wanted to and were offered land to stay in Ireland, thus the German-Irish connection. Proof in hand, she couldn't wait to share this at the next family reunion!
I knew little about my mother's paternal ancestors, and found bits and pieces about her parents, their divorce, and that I have a step grandmother. Nothing exciting, just a loose end on the family tree. Another find was an article from the Berkheimer family file which revealed that my great, great, great grandfather, Andrew Berkheimer, had a brother, Henry, who had bought a farm shortly after becoming married in the early 1800s in Washington Township, Pennsylvania. Together with his wife Elizabeth, they raised a family and operated a widely known wool mill. Today it is a working farm (sorry but I couldn't find a photograph of this farm, just driving driving directions) listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. This find won't land me on NBC's show "Who Do You Think You Are?" but to know that a piece of their history is important enough to be registered and still a working farm is pretty cool.
Over a year ago, I began my family research, and didn't know that I would become so obsessed with history. A quote from Henry Wiencek sums it up for me.
"Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile - there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for."