One of the minor lingering mysteries that I wanted to solve about my relatives was how I was related to high school classmate Suzanne Berger. When she and I first met back in eighth grade, she told me we were related, but other than we were cousins of some sort, I never knew just how.
I decided to try to contact her, so I obtained her current address, but although she still lives in Lebanon County, I found out that she hasn’t participated in any class reunions, so perhaps she doesn’t want to be bothered.
(And before anyone points out that I haven’t participated in any class reunions either, the difference is that I live thousands of miles away. Okay, well, maybe not thousands of miles, but far enough. I no longer like to drive, so that rules out automobiles. And a bus ride longer than, say, 15 minutes is torture for me. I love to visit New York City and catch a show or two, but you can count on the fingers of one hand (and have three fingers left over) how many times I’ve been there in the past ten years.)
It also occurred to me that she probably doesn’t know our precise connection anyway or she would have let me know way back when.
So I went back to the genealogical site to see if I could find a Berger branch in our family tree. I had explored the Troutman side pretty thoroughly previously without finding anything, and I remembered that Suzanne had known the name of my paternal grandmother, Edna (Moyer) Troutman, so perhaps it would be more fruitful to explore the Moyer side of the family.
The site that I was using didn’t have any Bergers connected to the Moyers, so I had to start digging into other documents that it made available, like census and marriage records. It took awhile, but after much searching and adding the new discoveries to the family tree, I hit pay dirt. There was a Berger connected to the Moyers, and not only that but his name was Charles Berger Sr and he hailed from Schaefferstown. Well, Suzanne’s brother was named Charlie, and of course the family lived in Schaefferstown.
I was pretty sure this was the link I was looking for, I just wanted something a bit more concrete. And then I found it in the obituary for Suzanne’s mother. It’s sad how many times I’ve found a connection to a former classmate in the obituary for a parent. But there it was in black and white: Suzanne was listed as a surviving daughter under her married name.
So our common ancestors are Peter Moyer (1838 – 1918) and Sarah Susanna Haas (1843 – 1922) who gave birth to George Moyer (1872 – 1953) and Alice Moyer (1864 – 1932). George was my grandmother Edna’s father, and Alice was Suzanne’s grandmother Cora’s mother. So we’re fourth generation descendants of Peter and Sarah, which makes Suzanne and me third cousins.
While I was searching through family histories, I was curious if I could find anything on Patsy Gerhart. Pattie (Patsy or Pattie, I’m not sure what her nickname was, but it was one or the other) and her parents lived in the other side of the great stone house where we lived on my grandfather’s farm, the so-called Twin Meadows Farm.
Patsy was two years older than I was and I recall that we both had tricycles (mine was red and hers was blue) that we rode around on the huge concrete porch of that stone house. Pattie and I came down with a case of tonsillitis at the same time, so we were admitted to the children’s ward of the Reading Hospital simultaneously. Around the time that I finished first grade, I think, Patsy’s family moved away, leaving the great stone house to us alone. That meant I could have my own bedroom, and what had been their living room became my playroom, so my model train could remain set up all year round.
But I no longer recalled Pattie’s parents names. Would I be able to find her? As it turned out, it wasn’t difficult, and as soon as I saw a Patricia Gerhart with parents named Arlene and Victor, I knew that was her. Yes, of course, now I remembered that her mother’s name was the same as my mother.
And not only that, but her mother’s maiden name was Moyer!
Was it possible that she was related to us via my grandmother? It would certainly explain why my grandparents had rented half the stone house to them, not that that necessarily needed any explaining, of course.
So I set to work to see if I could find a connection. This time it was easy because the site already had all the ancestors filled in. All I had to do was run the How Are We Connected tool. And did I get a shock!
Yes, we’re related, but not via my paternal grandmother Edna (Moyer) Troutman. The connection is through my maternal grandmother Tillie (Reed) Zellers!
I did not see that coming.
The common ancestors are Johnann George Haag (1712 – 1786) and Maria Apolonia Dieter (1709 – 1800). My mother and Patricia Gerhart are eighth generation descendants of those estimable gentlepeople, making them seventh cousins. And that makes Patsy and me seventh cousins once removed.
I doubt very much that anyone in either family had any idea that we were distant cousins.
When I started searching for Pattie, I had no intention of trying to contact her, as it’s quite possible she has little to no recollection of me, but after finding this, I think I will drop her a note.