Friday, February 12, 2016

Harshbarger line: Other names, other places

I don't usually write about ancestors across the ocean, but I want the Harshbarger family to at least know a little about their heritage over there.  The story is that the Harshbargers are "Pennsylvania Dutch" and in a sense that is true.  They came through Holland and settled first in Pennsylvania.  I love the stories of how they settled their land and then moved on, settled and then moved, and became part of the story of America. 

But to fully appreciate the American side of the story, we need to get beyond the "Pennsylvania Dutch" label and trace the family back.  Fortunately, parts of this line, from Christian Harshbarger and particularly Barbara Rupp, his wife, can be traced back for quite a few generations beyond their 1737 arrival in Philadelphia. 

Almost all of the families I've looked at end up back in Switzerland in the late 1400's and early 1500's, although there were a few in Germany.  Surnames that are to be found in this line include Schuepbach, Moschberger, Aschbacher, Schnider, Grossenbacker, Furstenberger, Zufrich, Wyss, Waffenacht, Grossglaus, Schonholtzer, Aeberhaard, Widmer, Gruetter and Wecker, of course with allowance for different spellings. 

Most of these families were from little villages in the canton of Bern.  Wikipedia tells us a little of the history of this land.  The Canton of Bern became Protestant in the 1520's, and there were religious wars with neighboring cantons who were Catholic.  Earlier, there were wars against the Hapsburg rulers of the area, and later, in 1653, while most of these families were still in Switzerland, there was a Peasant's revolt over economic matters.  I haven't researched individuals that seem to be ancestors, but it's a safe bet that some of the families were involved in the peasant's revolt in one way or another.  It would be another 100 years, more or less, before these families emigrated to Pennsylvania, although some spent a generation or two in Germany hoping for a better life there, at least to escape the religious persecution that Switzerland practiced against the Amish and Mennonite believers.

Even from what little I know of it, the story of these people is remarkable.  It's also remarkable that there are records for some of these families that go back to as far as the late 1400's.  While we can always wish for more, this is a record and a heritage to honor, and perhaps a reason to put Switzerland on our bucket lists!