Y-DNA testing has proven that the Beeker families found in Rowan and Davidson counties in North Carolina in the late 1700s are exactly related to a Beecher family that immigrated into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1751. These Pennsylvania German Beechers were often recorded as Beeker or Beaker in early Pennsylvania census records, suggesting the German pronunciation of their original German surname was hard for English census takers to understand and spell. Y-DNA tests prove that the living descendants of these immigrants today use surnames Beeker, Beher, Beecher, Beicher, Biecher, Bicher, Beacher, and Beechert.
The wills of the elders indicate the original German surname was Bücher, the umlaut — two dots — above the u resulting in the pronunciation like Beecher or Beeker. The German pronunciation made “cher” sound like “kur” and many of the Pennsylvania Beechers are found in 1700 and early 1800s records as Beeker. A Maryland Beecher branch of this family is also related by Y-DNA. DNA shows the PA/MD Beechers are not related to the Connecticut Beechers (Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) although they also descend from German Bücher ancestors.
It was not known that a branch of the Beecher family was in North Carolina as Beeker until a Beeker male in North Carolina took a Y-DNA test. He is descended from Henry Beeker Sr. who died in 1837 in Davidson County, NC, and his test matched 10 Beecher males who were earlier tested since 2003. The first Beeker tested in 2015 was descended through Henry’s son Henry Jr. who remained in North Carolina. A second Y-DNA test in 2017 descended through Henry Beeker Sr.’s son John, who moved in 1812 to Indiana, matched exactly the first Beeker test on 67 Y-DNA markers. Y-DNA is only passed from a father to his sons, so Y-DNA tests are only performed on males and test only a male’s father’s father’s father’s etc. line — the parentage of his surname. Unlike generalized autosomal tests (like the Ancestry.com DNA test) which show recent cousins, a Y-DNA test can find matches back thousands of years and identify any males who share a common male ancestor in their father’s father’s etc. line.
The Beeker Y-DNA tests state there is a 98.96% chance they shared their common male Beecher/Beeker/Bücher ancestor within 8 generations, since the mid 1700s.
Both of the male Beekers tested so far match exactly on all 67 markers the Y-DNA of a Henry Beecher who died in 1795 in Littlestown, Adams County, Pennsylvania, and John Beecher born 1757 died 1842 in Adams County, Pennsylvania, who was Henry’s son. You can click to view all of Henry Beecher’s descendants on this website.
The Henry who died in Littlestown is very likely the father of Henry Beeker who died in North Carolina, but other than the Y-DNA match we have yet to discover other records to prove this. We are searching for proof in records in Adams and York counties, Pennsylvania, and Frederick and Washington counties, Maryland, which are the areas where Henry Beeker was likely born. We are also looking for records in Rowan and Davidson counties, North Carolina, that may establish the Pennsylvania connection to the North Carolina Beekers.
Another confirmation came when Ben Beeker visited the North Carolina archives last year, to inspect the original will of Henry Beeker Sr. and noted Henry’s signature is “Bücher.”
The Y-DNA and other evidence indicates that Henry Beeker aka Beher aka Beeker who died in 1795 in Adams County, Pennsylvania is the brother or son of Engel Bücher who died in 1778 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the father of Jacob Bicher (1758-1842), John Beecher (1759-1819), Benjamin Beecher (1770-1842), Peter Bücher, Henry Bücher, and 5 other children. On 23 Sep 1751 on the Ship Neptune, Johann Engel Bücher and Johann Heinrich Bücher (Henry) immigrated in Philadelphia. (They both have first names Johann because Germans in the 1700s named children with a saint’s name, like Johann for Saint John, followed by a middle name which was the name they were known by. Hence, Johann Engel was simply Engel and Johann Heinrich was Henry. There is a lot more info on this on this site on our Pennsylvania Beecher page.
If you know a living Beeker male who wishes to take the Y-DNA test, see below, and also see our project at FamilyTreeDNA.com/groups/bucher
From Pennsylvania to North Carolina
The NC Beekers are thought to have migrated from Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley to North Carolina. The oldest known North Carolina Beeker, Henry Sr. who died in 1837, married Barbara Garner and she is reported to have been born in Pennsylvania of her parents, Philip Garner (1740-1812) and Barbara Elizabeth Winkler (abt 1744- abt 1812). Many other settlers in Rowan county are proven to be Pennsylvanians, including families who intermarry with the sons of Henry Beeker Sr.
You can click to view Henry Beeker’s family tree showing his descendants. Most remain in North Carolina, but his son John goes to Indiana, and other Beeker descendants are found primarily in South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Virginia and Maryland.
The road from Pennsylvania to North Carolina through the Shenandoah Valley crosses areas in Virginia where we believe other Beecher/Beeker ancestors may be found.
A Philip Beaker appears on the 1785 tax list near Luray, Virginia, in today’s Page county, which then was part of Shenandoah county. There were 2 people in his household.
A David Beaker appeared in the 1789 tax list in the district of William Headley in Shenandoah county.
Nearby to the east, a John Beaker Jr. was listed in the 1790 tax list in Orange county.
Unfortunately, the Virginia censuses for 1790 and 1800 were destroyed when the British army burned Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812, so we cannot confirm Beakers in this area other than tax lists.
Also, Henry Beecher who died in 1795 in Littlestown, PA, who lived circa 1765 near Frederick, Maryland, had a son Frederick identified in a PA land deed in 1795 as living in Virginia. Using Y-DNA tests, we proved he is the Frederick Beeker/Beeher who died in 1811 in Bototourt county, Virginia, to the south of the Shenandoah county Beakers. Luckily, we discovered a War of 1812 Pension application for a Samuel Beher living in Indiana that stated he was born in Bototourt, Virginia, and sent a Y-DNA test to a living Beher in Indiana who matched the Pennsylvania ancestors. View more about Frederick’s descendants, the Behers of Indiana.
Also living in Frederick, Maryland in the 1776 tax list compiled there was a William Beaker who was born about 1710. He could be the elder of all of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina clans, but our initial research on the Maryland Beakers shows the later descendants evolved to surname Baker. We are still eager to Y-DNA test a living descendant of this branch. View more about William Beaker.
Our research will be aided by finding additional male Beekers and Beakers to take a simple DNA test (send your saliva sample by mail) to help pin down which Beecher male is the ancestor of the Beekers. If you have interest kindly use the contact link above to send a message. This is not the Ancestry DNA test, which doesn’t trace the father’s father’s father’s line, but rather a special Y-DNA test given at FamilyTreeDNA.com in our Bucher/Beecher/Beeker project, so please send a message and we’ll send you the correct info.
Henry Beeker of North Carolina
Henry died at his home in between 10 Dec 1837 and Feb 1839 in Davidson County, North Carolina, which prior to 1822 was part of Rowan County. His original will is on file in the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh, and a transcription of it is in a will book file at the Davidson County courthouse, and also in his family tree on this website. Henry Beeker married Barbara Garner.
We have begun adding a complete Beeker family tree with all of Henry Beeker’s descendants to this website, except for the Indiana branch which should be complete by the end of 2020. Please send any trees you have to add so we can locate all current descendants. View Henry Beeker’s Family Tree.
If you are researching Henry Beeker’s son John Beeker who moved to Indiana, we have a large PDF research document of interest you may download.
We also have the following interactive map which shows areas where the Beekers owned land in today’s Davidson county, which until 1822 was part of Rowan county. Click to enter the map and enlarge it to full size.