Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Beeks line: Johann Wilhelm Berkheimer, 1706-1745, Immigrant

I love it when I find someone in the ancestry of President Obama, who I've not yet written about.  It means that much research has already been done and I'm not likely to uncover any hidden gems.  The pros have done it for me.  Much of this information came from family websites and from people who like to research presidents.  More power to them, and thank you very much!

He seems to have gone by the name Wilhelm, so that is how I'll refer to him.  Wilhem was born in 1706 in Frankenthal, Bayern, Germany to Balthasar and Anna Margaretha (maiden name unknown ) Berkheimer.  Frankenthal was a town that was all but destroyed in the wars of the seventeenth century so it is a wonder that any records at all have survived.  (Or maybe they didn't survive, and that is why we have no specific birth date for him.)

We know that he arrived in Philadelphia with his wife, Maria Salome Hallman (Heilman or Heyllman are also spellings of the same name) four children, and a Susanna Berkheimer, who may have been a sister or cousin.  Wilhelm is listed as being 20 in 1732 but he was more likely 26 years old then, as his wife, listed as Salome, was 25.  The children were named Leonhard, Valentin, Magdalenea Louisa, and Johann Georg.  They arrived together on the "Samuel" on August 11, 1732.  It's possible that a son Henry was born in the New World, also. 

The family made their way to what is now Perkiomen Township, Montgomery County, Pa  I have a copy of a land grant for 25 acres to Wilhelm Berkheimer, which gives him 25 acres of land adjacent to the land he already owns, if I am reading this correctly.  This was dated 1742, so he owned land prior to that time.  Probably he farmed and possibly he had another occupation also.  His family would have felt right at home here because the whole valley was settled primarily by German immigrants.  There are tax records for him through 1744, but I don't yet know when they started.

1745 must have been a very rough year for both Wilhelm and Salome died that year.  Most likely they died of one of a number of diseases but it's possible there was an accident that killed them both.  It would be interesting to know the cause of death, because that would give us a glimpse into the kind of life they had.  Both were just about 40 years old when they died, which was young, and they would have left a young family, although several of the children were teen agers.  Wilhelm and presumably Salome are buried at the Old Goshenhoppen Church Cemetery in Woxall, Perkiomen Township, Montgomery County, Pa.

There is more research to be done on this family, to determine the causes of death, when they acquired land and how much, and whether they were of the Lutheran or the reformed faith.  However, we do have this much information and it's a start, and a reminder of how little we really know about our ancestors. 

The line of descent is:

Wilhelm Berkheimer-Maria Salome Hallman
Leonard Berkheimer-Maria Catherine Kerger
Magdalena Berkheimer-Samuel Goodnight
Catherine Goodnight-Jacob Dunham
Samuel Goodnight Dunham-Eliza Matilda Reese
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Homer Aldridge
Gretta Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendants