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Buecher / Bücher Ancestors in Germany

by Jonathan Scott Beacher

In 2018 I hired a genealogist in Germany to find our Buecher aka Bücher ancestors who immigrated in 1751. His report is a very large PDF file and I will send you a copy if you email me at searchtrees@gmail.com with a note as to how you might be related.

The Beecher/Bücher Y-DNA research project which I began in 2003 at FamilyTreeDNA.com has tested over 225 males and proven that almost everyone in born from 1700 to 1900 in Pennsylvania with surnames Beecher, Beicher, Biecher, Bicher, Beacher, Beeker, Beher, Buecher aka Bücher are one family, which we will refer to as “Beecher Etc.” Our Y-DNA project also has tested almost every Bucher (without the umlaut) immigrant’s family line and found none are related to our Bücher family, and surprisingly we discovered there are 13 unrelated Bucher family lines. So, we know to be careful not to assume Bucher is the same as Bücher in American records.

Our Beecher Etc. family descends from two German-speaking immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia on 23 Sep 1751 on the ship Neptune which departed from Rotterdam:

  • Johann Engel Bücher, who died about 1778 in Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He is also recorded in American records as Engelbrecht which in German means “bright angel.”
  • Johann Heinrich Bücher, who died about 1795 in Germany Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania

When immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, they were brought before a court to take an oath of allegiance to renounce their old homeland, and signed their names.

These signatures are written in old German script, which is why an “h” appears more like today’s “f”. Note the umlaut, two dots, above the u.

Our goal has been to learn where in Europe our two Büchers were born.

Learning that is difficult because the birth dates of Engel and Henrich cannot be discovered from records in America because their tombstones have not survived, nor have any church burial records or obituaries for them.

Searching for records in Europe, we found the most promising discovery in the Evangelische Kirche in Burbach, a village church in Siegen-Wittgenstein district within Westphalia, today’s Nordrhein-Westfalen. Map.

Many Buecher families are recorded in Burbach’s protestant (evangelischen) church records in the 1700s and earlier, and among them are these:

  • Parents Johannes Buecher and Elisabeth Catharin
  • Son: Johann Engelbert Buecher, christened 6 Dec 1722
  • Son: Johann Heinrich Buecher, christened 15 Jun 1732

In the same church we found other records for an elder Johann Engel Buecher, Hans Peter Buecher, Johannes Wilhelm Buecher. These same given names, Engel, Peter, William, Henry, are repeated over many generations. This is especially interesting because in America, the children and grandchildren of Engel and Heinrich Buecher are given those same names. It is common for German families to use the same naming for children over time to honor their past ancestors. In addition to using names from the father’s ancestors, the mother’s ancestors can also be honored.

Since we cannot discover evidence in America regarding birth dates for Engel and Heinrich, there were only a few ways to prove the Pennsylvania Buechers were or were not from Burbach:

  1. Find death records, or records after 1751, in Germany for the Burbach Buechers to prove they never came to America.
  2. Find Emigration records in Europe stating the Burbach Buechers went to America in 1751.
  3. Construct the family trees descending from the Burbach Buechers to the present day to identify living male Buechers in Germany. We can then contact them by postal mail, email, Facebook, phone etc. and invite them at our expense to take part in our Y-DNA test, to learn if they match the many males already tested in America.
  4. Find emigration records showing a Burbach descendant Buecher male came to America later in the 1800s, and Y-DNA test an American descendant of that branch of the Buecher family.

In 2018, we hired a professional German genealogist to travel to Siegen where the Burbach records are kept. 

About the Surname in America

A few church records in the 1700s in America record the family surname as Buecher or Bucher (usually no umlaut). The birth of Henry’s son, Samuel, was recorded on a fractur, a Pennsylvania German tradition of creating a framed artwork to celebrate a birth, that was passed down for hundreds of years to a descendant, who reports it reads: “Samuel Büger son of Heinrich and Catharun Büger, December 14, 1766.” On the back is a handwritten note in pen: “Samuel Beecher d. Mon @ 1PM.” While the owner read Büger, he may not have realized it actually is Bücher because in 1700s handwritten German a ch looks like a g.

In Henry’s American descendants, all of the 2nd generation used surname Beecher, except one branch that migrated in the late 1700s from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and use Beeker surname. (Y-DNA confirms the Beekers share a common male ancestor with the Beechers in the 1700s.) On Henry’s will and land deeds he is Henry Beher, but he signed the will Henry Buecker.

In Engel’s American descendants, the 2nd generation most often used surname Bicher, which is still used by some today and pronounced like “Beecher”. Other Bichers in Engel’s line later adopted spellings Biecher, Beicher, Beacher, Beecher, and Beechert.

A Peter Bicher immigrated 3 years after Henry and Engel, on 30 Sep 1754 on the ship Edinburgh, and likely a relative of Engel and Heinrich. Both Engel and Henry had a son named Peter.

Engel and Henry are most often found in German Reformed Church records, but they and their sons are sometimes found in Lutheran records in America. In Pennsylvania in the 1700s and into the 1800s, it was common for one church building to be shared by both a Reformed and Lutheran congregation.

We first find records for Engel and Henry in 1758 in the Muddy Creek Church in Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is the township named on Engel’s will. We suspect Engel is buried here, because some of his descendants are, and next to their tombstones within the Bicher plot there are many unmarked graves that have no surviving tombstones. 

Henry is likely buried in the Christ Reformed Church cemetery in Littlestown, Adams County, Pennsylvania, but no tombstone exists.

Both Engel and Henry were shoemakers (cordwainers).

Everything known in America about Peter, Engel, and Henry is recorded on our personal website with their family trees, event timeline, and research citations. We are not certain of their relationship, but since Engel and Henry had children born in the 1755-70 period that fact, and the Y-DNA tests, suggests they are brothers. We would expect them to be born 1735 and earlier. We have found no church records of the birth of Peter’s children in America to compare, nor have we Y-DNA tested a known descendant of Peter. It is possible one is the father of the others, or they could be three brothers.

Engel Bücher: See Engel’s Family Tree

Henry Beecher: See Henry’s Family Tree
See Henry’s Deeds, Will, etc.

Peter Bicher See Peter’s Family Tree

On their pages is the complete list of passengers who immigrated with them. On 23 Sep 1751 on the ship Neptune with Engel and Heinrich Bücher is recorded two surnames of interest:

Johann Ludwig Klein – he may be a member of the same Klein family which founded the town where Henry Beecher died circa 1795. “Kleina Stedtle” today is translated and known as Littlestown, Pennsylvania and Peter Klein, who founded the town, is buried with a Ludwig Klein in the Christ Reformed Church cemetery where we believe Henry Beecher also was buried.

In the church record book in Burbach, we note there are many Klein baptisms occurring at the same time as the Buecher baptisms, including some with given names Ludwig and Peter. However, this may be a coincidence, since Klein genealogists report that Peter Klein was born in Konken, the Saarland, Germany on August 27, 1724 and baptized in the Reformed Church of that place on November 11, 1724. He was the son of Johann Ludwig and Joanna Elizabetba Klein. See Peter Klein in Littlestown

Jacob Frey also immigrated on the ship Neptune with Engel and Henry. The Frey family is prominent in the Muddy Creek Reformed Church that Engel attended. In 1759, Engel was sponsor for the baptism of Jacob Frey’s daughter, suggesting that the families may be related by marriage. We have not found Frey records in Burbach.

Our Prior Research for Burbach

We viewed the Burbach Evangelischen church records in 2013 by renting microfilms from FamilySearch.org. The films are images of the original church record books written in old German script.

We have an online Google Photos album of some of the pages from the Evangelische Kirche Burbach for Buecher baptisms. They can be viewed with this link:

See Bücher Baptisms

The FamilySearch.org record describing the Burbach films is found at this link:
Burbach Kirchenbuch, 1548-1889
Evangelische Kirche Burbach

The record states these Burbach church records were originally microfilmed at:
Evangelical Church of Westphalia (Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen)
Altstädter Kirchpl. 5, 33602 Bielefeld, Germany
Google Map

Instead of renting microfilms mailed to researchers as in the past, FamilySearch.org is now digitizing all microfilms so they can be viewed via the Internet freely at any nearby Family History Center at a Church of the Latter Day Saints, and in some cases on your own PC if copyright restrictions permit.

Their film record for Burbach shows columns for Film # (the old microfilm) and DGS (the new # for the digital version). At far right are icons: a film reel if there was a microfilm, and a camera icon when the digital version is now viewable online. The Burbach films as of February, 2018 cannot be viewed at present. All films should be digitized and online by 2020.

Fortunately, some of the Burbach records have been indexed into the record search at FamilySearch.org. The record search has a field where you can enter a film # and search only that film. Microfilm 597048 is the one with the Burbach baptisms for Engelbert and Henry Buecher and it has been indexed, so you can see the baptisms for Buecher on that film with the following link (providing you are logged into a free account you have created at FamilySearch.org):

Buecher Baptisms on FamilySeaerch.org

Death, Emigration, Birth Records

If death records for the Engel and Henry born in Burbach can be located in Germany you can prove they did not come to America.

Uncovering emigration records in Germany, or passenger records in Rotterdam from which the ship Neptune sailed, could also show that the Burbach Büchers did go to America in 1751.

Finding a descendant of the Burbach Büchers who came to America in the 1800s or later could lead us to find a living male Bücher in America we can Y-DNA test.

Locating proof of Peter Bicher/Bücher’s birth on 8 Apr 1730 would also confirm the origin of Engel and Heinrich Bücher.

The Bücher/Beecher Y-DNA Project

Our main goal is to hire a German genealogist to locate living descendants of the Burbach Bücher family, so that we might contact them by postal mail, email, Facebook, etc. to invite them to take a free Y-DNA test.

Y-DNA of course traces the father’s father’s father’s line and can prove two males shared a common male Bücher ancestor, even hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Jonathan Scott Beacher began the Y-DNA project in 2003 with the leading USA firm, FamilyTreeDNA.com, and our project page is here:

See Y-DNA Project

Our research results page has identified many different families, each represented below a color band on this chart:

See Y-DNA Results

The group that we suspect the Burbach Büchers may match is colored Green and called “I-M253 – Beecher Bücher in PA + Beeker in NC”

One reason we began using Y-DNA is there were many Bucher (without the umlaut) ancestors in 1700s Pennsylvania living close to our own Bücher/Beecher ancestors, and it was believed they must be related. To prove that, for every Bucher immigrant who came to America, we built the family tree down to the present day descendants, contacted them, and sent them free Y-DNA kits which our project paid for.

We were surprised to learn that no Bucher family matches our Bücher family, so the umlaut is very significant, and that there were actually 14 unique Bucher (no umlaut) lines that came to America, many of which earlier genealogists had mistakenly assumed were one and the same family.

We were also surprised to learn that almost everyone with surnames Beecher, Beicher, Biecher, Bicher, Beeker, Beacher, Beechert, etc. were actually one large family and closely related by a common male ancestor in the 1700s.

Our research has also proven the Pennsylvania Beechers are not related to the other major Beecher line in America, that of a John Beecher who died in 1635 as part of the English party that founded New Haven, Connecticut. He came from Kent, England, and we have sent Y-DNA tests to England to test Beechers there to prove the connection. It was always believe John Beecher was an Englishman, but the Y-DNA tests have also match another German Bücher line that sent other immigrants to America, so that line also has German origins.

A summary of our research can be found on Jonathan Beacher’s personal website here…

Beecher Research

And for Bucher with no umlaut…

Bucher Research

We had hoped Bücher males living in Germany would join our project, and many years ago we added our family trees to Gedbas hoping to locate other Bücher surname researchers, but have had little success. We hope a professional genealogist can help achieve our goals.

Bücher/Beecher Y-DNA is I-M253

The Haplogroup of our Bücher/Beecher family males is I-M253, which is known to be the Y-DNA of the Vikings and therefore is most often found in males near the Baltic Sea cost, and is predominantly found in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, north Germany, Holland, northern France, and England. I-M253 is believed to originate 3470 to 5070 years ago from a male in Denmark.

Bücher Families Today in Germany

On the website http://www.gen-evolu.de/ we can map the distribution of Bücher surname in the 1998 telephone book and we see they are concentrated near Burbach on the following map:

Expanding Our Y-DNA Project into Germany

To expand our project into Germany, we seek to pay for and send Y-DNA test kits from FamilyTreeDNA.com to German males with surname Bücher/Buecher.

Ideally, we will pay a genealogist in Germany to build the family tree down to the present from the Burbach Bücher ancestors, confirming the tree with research evidence, and put us in touch with one or more living males from this line. We would eventually test at least 2 males in two very different branches of the Burbach family who share a common male Bücher in the 1800s or earlier.

Taking the Y-DNA test is very simple:

  1. The participant will provide his name, mailing address, email and phone so we can purchase a test kit to be sent to him.
  2. The test kit arrives in the mail directly from the FamilyTreeDNA.com lab
  3. The male uses a small brush in the kit to gather saliva from his mouth, put the brush into a test vial, and mails the kit back to the laboratory.
  4. After receiving the kit, the male will follow the instructions provided with it to establish his own account at FamilyTreeDNA.com to manage his test. His kit will be pre-enrolled in our Bucher/Beecher project so we can also monitor if he matches anyone in our group.
  5. There are no additional charges he must pay in the future, and he will forever be notified by email by FamilyTreeDNA.com for life each time he matches any other male, whether in our Beecher/Bücher family in America or anywhere else.
  6. The initial test kit we will send is a 37-marker Y-DNA test, but in the event the male matches our Beecher/Bücher family we will immediately upgrade at our expense the test to a 67 or 1111 marker test — the lab can do that using the original sample that was sent so a 2nd test isn’t necessary. We will not expect any German males to pay for anything.
  7. As a benefit, the male with be given the family history research we paid our German genealogist to gather, so he knows his Bücher heritage.