Sunday, March 2, 2014

52 Ancestors Challenge - Gerhard Heinrich Beerman: Linen weaver or hay farmer - Or both?

We hear in the 21st century of people who leave their careers as lawyers or CEO’s to become a surfer or a missionary.  But I wonder if someone born in 1790 in the tiny town of Bergeshovede, Westfalen, might reinvent himself in that way.  Would a man be a linen weaver at age 20 and by 33 years later be a hay farmer? Or perhaps he might be both at once.     
Gerhard Heinrich Beerman was the person in question.  I wrote about this third great grandfather in a Beerman - Surname Saturday post that contains family history. (Click here to read that post and/or see the summary in the graphic below.)  Individual Summary for Gerhard Heinrich Beerman
So, why write about this Beerman ancestor again?  Well, there are these questions about Gerhard’s occupations just hanging out there. Maybe writing about him could open up more channels of information and, perhaps, get the research juices flowing. I guess you might say: “It helps to talk about it.”
Based on the church records I have from St. Kalixtus Catholic Church in Riesenbeck, Westphalia (Prussia), Gerhard Beerman was a linen weaver at age 20 and a hay farmer at age 53. His marriage record in 1811 provides the first occupation and the marriage record of his daughter in 1843 provides the second.
Oh great!  This talking/rethinking stuff is helping. Possible answers and research ideas are coming to mind already.
First, there could be a mistake in the translations that I received.  I know that the translators who assisted me at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City are very skilled.  But, a second opinion would add credence to this research conclusion.  And, that’s where an idea came to me. I could ask the helpful people at the German Genealogy Facebook page who have assisted me with translations in the past.  I’ll go ask immediately.   
Meanwhile, here are the Beerman marriage records from 1811 and 1843:
Beerman Seigbert Marriage 1811
Marriage in 1843:  Joseph Niehues and Maria Anna Beerman.
Second possible explanation that I should investigate: The person completing the St. Kalixtus Catholic Church register of marriages could have written down the incorrect information for one of Gerhard’s occupations.  How could I gather more data to help confirm these records?  Answer: I need to study the FHL microfilm of this church’s records once again to determine if there are records of additional family members or events in the life of Gerhard.    Did Gerhard and Anna have additional children whose baptisms and marriages are recorded? Is there a death record for Gerhard in these church records that could also complete his story?   Is there a register for the families in this parish that might contain related information? 
Third: Could Gerhard have actually had two occupations at once?  Maybe the church only recorded one or the other for the record, a different one on each marriage..  I’ll have to ask about that also on FB.
Update:  The German Genealogy FB group responded very quickly to my question about the two occupations listed for Gerhard Beerman. I inquired as to the translation of the church record from Riesenbeck and the probability that he would have had two occupations.  They confirm that the linen weaver and hay farmer occupations are correctly translated.
And, as you may have suspected, I received the following response about the different occupations listed:  “In some small villages, people tend to have two occupations, especially if their homestead was small and wasn't sufficient to feed them. So you can then find such combination as weaver+day laborer/ weaver+farmer, blacksmith+farmer, etc.”
After considering these answers and reading more on the topic, it’s logical that Gerhard worked at two occupations at once.  He and Anna lived in the small town of Bergeshovede in Westphalia, and he was likely making ends meet as a weaver and a small farmer.  I haven’t yet uncovered anyone in my family lines that were other than of the peasant category, as were 95% of people in Western Europe in the 19th century.  In searching for information to better explain Gerhard’s situation I came across a website that contained the following information:  “ The majority of the Western European population made their living off the land in nineteenth century and before. They worked either as farmers of their own land or as laborers for others who owned land. However, a significant number of people earned their living by performing trades or working as craftsmen. These people varied in type, skill level, and economic well-being. Many lived in cities, but most rural communities had a couple of craftsmen as well. There were many types of craftsmen including blacksmiths, tailors, weavers, shoemakers, bricklayers, clockmakers, bakers, butchers, and brewers just to name a few.” (1)
This has been great fun progressing on the Beerman history..  Gerhard must have been a hard-working man.  Now, I’m even more curious to enhance this family story.  Did he and Maria have more children? Who were his parents and did they live in Bergeshovede also?  Sounds like I’ll be searching that microfilm soon.    
Thanks for reading Indiana Ties.
You may be interested in the following:
Beerman Descendants Report
Beerman Family
1. Understanding Your Western European Ancestors:Daily Life: Class and Occupations .
Copyright © Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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