Monday, December 1, 2014

Still Henrich

I was excited to recently learn from this post that Stark Co., Ohio land records are online and freely available.  I was quickly able to find my third great-grandfather, Henry Michael Berger and some other possible relations.

The Bergers followed the German tradition of going by their middle names, though Michael never fully dropped his first name, which was originally Henrich.  When the family arrived in the US in 1832, they all also Americanized their names.  I never thought much more about it until I saw Michael's signature when he sold his land in 1838:

Although the quality isn't great, it is pretty clear that Michael didn't alter his signature from Henrich to Henry - and he signed it in German script no less!  Michael was nearly forty when he arrived here, so it makes sense that he wouldn't update his signature.  I do wonder, though, if it changed much in the nearly forty years that he did live in the US.

This record also answers a question I had about Michael's wife, Fredericka.  In the 1860 US Census, she is marked as being unable to read or write.  I've wondered how illiterate she really was (Did it just extend to the English language?  Could she read and write German?  Could she sign her name?) and her mark here appears to clear that up.

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