Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Albright Brethren

A few months ago I inherited much of my grandmother's family history articles (pictures, documents, letters, etc.). The information supplied within the various things was plentiful and fascinating. One thing of particular interest to me were the letters of my great-great-grandfather, John Berger. All we had ever known about him was that he was a minister from Indiana who came out to California around 1890. The letters shed light on, among other things, his work as a pastor. John was the son of German immigrants and probably grew up speaking German. He served as a chaplain for the Union army during the Civil War and did missionary work in Germany with his wife and their two young children. While there more children were born to them and their eldest died some time around then. When the family came back to Indiana in the 1880s, they had more children, including my ancestor, and this is also when John's letters begin. He writes about being a member of the Albright Brethren which, as it turns out, was a religious organization which preached in German. Many of John's letters are from him to his wife from various places in the Midwest that he travelled to to preach. I was intrigued by this "Albright Brethren" and looked it up online and was fascinated to discover its unique history. The other day, I stumbled across Ancestry's 1890 Census Substitute and on a whim searched for John in the California directories in the hope of finding out where the family came in California and when. I knew that Susanna (John's wife) and their children ended up in the Oakland area and had always assumed that that was the first place they went to in California. Well, after searching for a pastor John Berger throughout the Bay Area and getting no luck, I broadened the search to include all of California and sure enough there he was in, of all places, Los Angeles! Listings for him in 1888 and 1890 have him working for the German Evangelical Association (which is what the Albright Brethren became!). It was very exciting and interesting mainly because I had never come across any family ever living in southern California before now. It was also exciting because I was able to give John and Susanna's youngest child a birthplace (before then we only knew that she was born in 1890 in California). After making this find I went over to google and typed in the address John gave in the directories and the words German Evangelical Association and lo and behold if I didn't get a hit! John would die in 1891 and while I can't say if he died in Oakland or Los Angeles, I now have a better idea of why he came to California and the family's original destination. And to think, I would have never found any of this if I hadn't followed up on that mysterious Albright Brethren!

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