St. John's Lutheran Church
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Rain or shine!
Family Historian's Report June, 2007
by John Albert Romberger
Saturday July 28 is Reunion Day
In this year of 2007 as we again joyfully gather at the familiar St. John's E. Lutheran Church (the "Hill Church' near Berrysburg, PA., we will be commemorating the 254 anniversary of the arrival of our family in America — and also the 25th anniversary of our first "All-Family Reunion" which we held in the nearby Elizabethville Memorial Park on July 25, 1982. We hope that you are now finalizing your plans to be there with us at "Hill Church" on July 28, 2007.
Was Anna Maria Brückner, Our "Ancestral Mother," From Gaukönigshofen?
In my last report to you, dated April, 2005, I said that the home village of Anna Maria Brückner, who later married our immigrant ancestor, Bartel Rauchenberger/Rauenberger/ Raumberger/Ramberger/Romberger, etc., was probably Laudenbach bei Karlstadt. That village in the Main River Valley is a few miles downstream from Theilheim where Bartel grew up and where he was confirmed as a Roman Catholic in 1725.
More recent research, however, suggests that though she may have grown up in Laudenbach, she was probably born some miles upstream in the same valley in (or near) the village of Gaukönigshofen. Last year our Bavarian associate, Reinhard Hofer, while working in the Archives of the Bishopric of Würzburg, found a birth record of an Anna Maria Brückner who on December 25 of 1717 was born to Matthaeus Brückner, citizen of Gaukönigshofen, and his wife Ursula. This record is found on page 17 of the Baptism Book for 1717 of the Catholic Parish of Gauk6nigshofen. Our copy of a transcription and translation of that record (Latin to English) will be displayed at the Reunion.
From other Bavarian records we know that Anna Maria, after her marriage to Bartel, was referred to as a "non-Catholic", and that her father's body after he died (in about 1748) while visiting his daughter's family in Ingolstadt, was refused burial in the local cemetery because he was known to be a non-Catholic. As of yet, we know nothing of why father and daughter were known as "non-Catholics" though the daughter had been baptized as a Catholic.
The difficulties of living in an interfaith marriage in some Bavarian villages may have been a factor in the family's decision to emigrate in 1753.
Only further research can shed more light on the role of religious stress and strife, inherent in interfaith marriages, in the decision to emigrate to Pennsylvania where religious freedom was promised.
Daniel H. Romberger and the Romberger Cast Stone Company
Sue Romberger has recently made remarkable progress in reconstructing the life story of her great-grandfather, Daniel H. Romberger (1858-1935). The latter was the fourth child of Gilbert Romberger (fifth generation; 1829 – 1894) and his wife, Mary Kiehl Romberger (1834 – 1920). This couple had at least 13 children. Gilbert was a "saddler," whose main product was custom-made horse collars. He practiced his trade in Berrysburg for many years.
Gilbert's son, Daniel H. Romberger, had an interesting career, beginning in education as a teacher, and then by giving free rein to the entrepreneurial spirit, he founded his own business as a "stone merchant", probably beginning in the Harrisburg area. In 1914 he moved to Lehigh County and, with partners, established the Romberger Cast Stone Company, of which he soon became the sole owner. This company, by employing skilled craftsmen and artisans, eventually made great volumes of Romberger Cast Stone products which were used in the construction of many public buildings, bridges, and a few homes, in southeastern Pennsylvania. This business was later run by a son, Gilbert Allen, and then by a grandson, Gilbert Daniel, until it closed in 1962. Many Romberger Cast Stone benches remain in use today in public parks and cemeteries where they are familiar and friendly fixtures of the landscape.
Sue Romberger, great-granddaughter of Daniel H. Romberger, will be at our Reunion presiding over a well-planned exhibit of photographs, samples, tools, patterns, and other artifacts from the heyday of the Romberger Cast Stone Company, which is now receding into history. You may never again have an opportunity to see this collection — along with Sue to interpret. Come and be with us! See, learn, and appreciate!
A Series of Paintings Will Memorialize the Lives of Ralph T. and Carrie E. Romberger
May 29, 1897, saw the dedication of a new cemetery in the farm fields just north of Elizabethville. It was named "Maple Grove" after the maple trees that were planted along its frontage with Church Street and along some of its internal avenues. Now, 110 years later, many of the maples have succumbed to old age, but the cemetery has many fine tombstones and monuments put thereby survivors to memorialize departed lives — lest we forget!
On that same May 29, 1897, on a farm just east of nearby Pillow, a baby was born — Carrie E. Bahner. On Christmas Day of 1925, she became my mother. Now in 2007 she lies in eternal rest, along with my father and my Romberger grandparents, beneath stone memorials in that same cemetery. Slowly, I have come to realize that memorials to our ancestors need not be mere blocks of enduring stone. They can also be works of graphic art — art which can bring back life and spirit to moments from the past. Such works can- exist, as do other manifestations of spiritual creations, in many replications and in many places, even longer than carved stones on cemeteries.
With such thoughts in mind, I commissioned a series of paintings by local artist (born and raised in Pillow) Deanna Wiseman to memorialize the lives of my parents, Carrie E. Bahner Romberger (1897 – 1983) and Ralph Troutman Romberger (1900-1974).
These paintings are realistic, as they are based on photographs made in 1920 by my father depicting farm life as he knew it then — from a "hands on the plow" and "feet on the ground" perspective.
The accomplished and spiritual artistry of Deanna Wiseman applied to images brought from the past by fading photographs, is now creating new visually live and exciting memorials. The first two of these, entitled "Cultivating the Melon Patch" and "Raking Hay," are now finished and will be displayed at the Reunion. Others will follow. These paintings will exist not only as original works of art, but also
as limited edition fine-art prints. Thus the spiritual images of my parents will live on and on, continuously evoking memories of our ancestors who mostly were "people of the soil."
Artist Deanna Wiseman intends to be at our Reunion and will be willing to explain and discuss her techniques. Come and "meet the artist" — and see examples of her work.
2007 is the 25th Anniversary Year of Our First All-Family Reunion
Twenty-five years have already passed since we held our first All-Family Reunion in Elizabethville's Memorial Park on July 25, 1982. That Reunion was attended by more than 300 family members. Some were babes in arms. Some were seniors walking with canes or riding in wheelchairs, but most were people in their middle years. Time, of course, always flows on. Babes grow up quickly. Those already senior become more so — and then, too soon it seems, pass on taking with them their memories of what was, and how it was. Sadly too, the "movers and shakers" of 1982, the energetic committee workers, are now either gone or have morphed into less energetic septuagenarians or octogenarians.
While 25 years has aged all of us, it also allowed us to make remarkable progress in learning more about our ancestors — who they were, where they lived, and why they chose to leave the "old country" and come to Pennsylvania. Our family (regardless of the spelling variants) is now one of the most completely documented of all Pennsylvania-German families.
Research has told us that spelling is a poor indicator of genealogical relation, or lack of it. Rauchenberger, Rauenberger, Raumberger, Ramberger, Romberger, Rumberger, Rumbarger, are all found in the documentation of father-to-son descent. We are one family, though the family name has had many spellings over time and in various places.
If we are to continue meeting as a family and to continue nurturing our knowledge of our family history for 25 more years — and longer, we need to recruit more "young blood" and to gain an infusion of the energy of youth to supplement the experience of the old and the tired.
"Finding Our Roots in Bavaria" Will Again Be Available
This booklet, a detailed account of the many carefully planned steps which finally led to success in finding our ancestral village, and even our ancestral house, is being reprinted and will again be available for sale at the Reunion. This is a small, modestly illustrated, booklet with many names, dates, and German and English literature references. It is not a comprehensive genealogy of the whole family now running into 10 generations and thousands of people. Instead it is a "how we did it" story which is strongest on the earliest generations, just where conventional genealogy is the weakest. It includes good reproductions of three signatures of our immigrant ancestor. Several maps of the relevant area are also included.
This is a reprint edition with a few corrections. It is not an enlarged and updated edition — the latter is still off in the future. At this writing the price cannot yet be fixed because it depends heavily on the size of our print order, which in turn depends on the level of interest elicited by this notice. I anticipate a break-even price of about $14.
The Registration Cards of Those Who Attended Our 1982 Reunion Have Been Archived
Some of the cards may include valuable handwritten information about full names, vital dates, spouses, etc., of your parents, or grandparents, who attended the Reunion. If you are interested in recovering such information, written by those who knew, but are now gone, we can locate the cards and send copies to you. Though we will not now specify a dollar fee, we would certainly appreciate a contribution to our "Family Research Fund" for this service.
In memory of the many who have served but can serve no longer, it now behooves all of us to do what we can to bring into our leadership group the younger people who eventually must take the torch and carry on.
Each of us, of course, has our own list of names of those who lived, and worked, but can work no longer. It is their collective memories that we recall and celebrate as we gather again for our 2007 Reunion. Come and be with us!
Old Family Photographs Are Still Sought
We continue to seek old family pictures, to identify them, and then to make copies for archiving. Some restored photographs will be on display at the Reunion. Bring the "golden oldies" that you have. Remember that 1870 to 1930 was the "golden era" of photography. Note that photo-copies transmitted by E-mail often are not suitable for enhancement and reproduction. However, if you have a high-resolution scanner (at least 300 dpi, and better 600 dpi), you can scan your photos onto a CD or DVD and then make a copy for our family archives. If you have good old pictures, but no scanner, talk to us at the Reunion. Perhaps we can arrange to scan them and then return your originals to you.
I hope to see you at our Reunion!