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Monday, June 9, 2014

Breakthrough

Once in awhile a juicy piece pops up out of nowhere and suddenly things come into focus and fit together. That happened over the weekend.
My Burkholder immigrant ancestor was a widow who arrived in Philadelphia on October 1, 1754. For many years she had mistakenly been identified as Elizabeth, wife of Christian Burkholder Sr. In the 1990s documents surfaced in Switzerland which proved that was incorrect. Her name was Barbara and her husband was Ulrich Burkholder. We knew she was born about 1705 but did not know her maiden name or parents.
A census taken in 1730 showed Ulrich Burkholder living on the mountain above LaHeutte, Switzerland, with his 73 year-old mother and a housemaid, Barbara Schenk, from Rothenbach, Switzerland. Could this be the Barbara Ulrich married? The age given for her in 1730 did not match the age of Ulrich's wife Barbara in the 1745 census. Based on all the other evidence, I believe the age given for her in 1730 was incorrect. It certainly wouldn't be the first time the census taker made a mistake!
Over the weekend this birth record from Rothenbach popped up in my email, forwarded from a researcher in Switzerland.
For those of you who can't read German script, it says Barbara Schenk was born in Rothenbach (in the Emmental) on Jan. 1, 1705. Her parents were Ulrich and Elizabeth (Stucki) Schenk.
The following also came in the same email:
 
There is one other source that happens to shed some additional light on the Ulrich Burkhalter story. In the R√∂thenbach Gemeindearchiv, there is a six-volume handwritten chronicle called the Schenk-Chronik  (the name is according to the authors, father and son Schenk) written in 1754.
In volume 2 (pp.2-23) there is some family history notes about the Schenk family. There it is said that a Barbara Schenk, daughter of Ueli Schenk and Elsbeth Stucki, grew up on the Fambach farm and married an Anabaptist Ueli Burkhalter. The couple had six children (three boys and three girls), they lived in the "W√§lschland" (Swiss German word for French-speaking territories in the neighborhood), where Ulrich died. The chronicle says that Barbara Schenk left with their children in April 1754 for America - and that this was "some years after her husbands death".
The records in Switzerland show Barbara Burkhalter among those who were leaving the country in 1754. The emigrants had to pay a "leaving tax" but a notation with Barbara's name says she "had nothing" and could not pay a leaving tax.
 Barbara Burkholder and her six children (three boys and three girls) immigrated on the ship Phoenix with a group of other Swiss Mennonites. They brought with them a letter from the Mennonites in Switzerland, dated April 19, 1754, listing the names of those the church had given money to pay their passage. The money was to be repaid to the deacons in America. The original letter is preserved at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
One of the names on the list of those who received financial help is Barbara Schenk. Deacon Joseph Wenger's record book (which is also at the historical society) shows Barbara Schenk and her children made payments from 1756-1760 when it was paid in full.

 
I have had a copy of that page of the record book for some time but had no idea who Barbara Schenk was. Now, suddenly, all the pieces fit together. It was not unusual for a woman to be identified by her maiden name in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some places she is Barbara Burkholder and others Barbara Schenk
Not only do we know her maiden name now but we also know the names of her parents. I never knew I had a Stucki ancestor.
Hmmm, now who were Barbara Schenk's Stucki grandparents? It's a vicious cycle!

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