Jan 16, 2008

The Surname that Snuck In.

Those of you who know me well, probably don't know this, but I sort of have this obsessive inclination toward genealogy. I've always been interested in my family lineage, there is no hiding that. My father's parents died when he was just a child, and I used to ask my father questions about his family. Questions he rarely had answers to. My uncle did researching on that side of the family -- as a Mormon, it was uniquely his duty. My mother's side was less interesting in my mind for some reason and I never bothered to ask questions. I just assumed that it would come to me; anything is possible in the Internet age, right? But grandpa died last year, and I started to regret the distance that existed between my family members.

I started compiling a family tree on Ancestry.com. I managed through a variety of venues to begin mapping my family, with some of the details being certifiable and others being hard to confirm. I put away the family tree, having found nothing of true interest in my mind aside from the typical family begins in Europe, travels to U.S., becomes American tale. Then, for some reason, a few nights ago I picked back up the family tree. I'd hit blocks on my mom's side of the family when it came to her father. I'd traced her mother's side back to some Quakers in New York, well documented on a variety of websites devoted to Quaker history. But her father's side had me dumbstruck. On a whim, I googled one of the names I had. And there it was -- bingo!

I managed to trace her father's side all the way back to France in the 1600s to a French Secretary of State, and his neice -- a great, great, great something or other grandmother to me -- named Philadelphia DuBois, who married a Huguenot and then moved to the U.S., becoming one of the big Colonial families out in Virginia. They met up with the Claibornes and there were plantations and military service and influence. A relative of mine was quite close with Andrew Jackson as it turns out. It was fascinating. But that was the paternal side. I'd hit a block on the maternal side of my grandfather and could not find anything about this woman named Ella Weilbacher. I knew it was exceedingly German, and that was it.

So my mom contacted my Aunt, who had her daughter look in the family bible. There it was. A father's name and the mother's name -- Mary Bergman. Bergman? Yes, that's a Jewish surname. It's German-Jewish, but Jewish none the less. Jews, Jews galore. I started frantically trying to search for some relations for a Mary C. Weilbacher, nee Bergman. But could find nothing.

Now, I don't want to sound insane here. I didn't start searching simply to find a Jewish relative, but every time I sat down and found a name that was remotely "Jewish" or "Hebrew," I got excited. This is why when I discovered all the Abrahams and other Biblical names in my family, I got excited. Then I discovered they were Quakers. Go figure! But this surname, it might be my connection. My aunt is supposed to take out the bible again tonight and do some transcribing for me, so I'm hoping she can find out Mary Bergman's parents' names. Amen.

I don't NEED the connection. I know this. You know this. We know this. But still, wouldn't that be absolutely funny?

Anyhow, back to watching Jewish Americans on PBS, which is pretty stellar. I love Mandy Patinkin, and he's ALL OVER this special.

Shalom, friends, and be well.


Schvach said...

Keep digging lady, you'll find the connection. And don't worry about it, you have a Jewish neshamah, that's obvious. Ever since I saw the movie version of Leon Uris' Exodus I've been intrigued with Jewish genealogy. In that flick, the bigoted Col.Caldwell refers to his commanding officer by saying, 'If you give a good shake to his family tree you'll find a Jew up there'. Not a very nice comment by Caldwell, but I viewed it as encouraging. BTW, my father and his family are German; my mother and her family are Austrian, and in all our genealogical searches, we haven't found any non-Jews. Given the history of Jews in the German speaking lands, and our history of religious conversion, I'm sure that your search will land the wanted enchilada. And not to worry, where Judaism is concerned, you're legit.

Saralein said...

Well, worse comes to worse, you can just convince yourself that at least one person was a crypto-Jew. I'm sure that's not really satisfactory... oh well.

Anonymous said...

So you had a Bergman on your side. My maiden name was Bergman. We have Germans all the way back to the 1700's here in America. I was always curious as to whether or not we have Jewish blood. I sincerely hope so. My father when he was young and not bald had black curly hair and I always said, I think we must have Jewish blood. So you think this may be so?

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Hey there! Well, one source says that the Hebrew Barukh often turned into Berg or Bergman. And it can also be found on the list here: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Jewish_surnames

So ... from what I can tell, it definitely IS a Jewish surname. But it's a pretty generic Eastern European surname, so that's where the difficulty arises.

My Bergmans were back in the motherland, and I've hit a dead end, so I can't find out whether the Bergman I've discovered perhaps had parents with additional Jewish surnames or not. Someday I'll make it back to the old country and search the archives ...


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