Are you descended from John Beecher (1594-1637) who died in Connecticut? SearchTrees.com helps people with surnames Beecher and similar spellings find their ancestors. This website is the a continuation of the Beecher research begun in the 1960’s by my uncle, Bruce Beacher P.hD (1919-2004) who spent 30+ years studying the origins of surname Beecher, Beacher, Beicher, Biecher, etc.
In 2003, just before Bruce died, we began a Y-DNA research project to learn which Beechers etc. were related or not. By 2013, over 125 men did a simple saliva test by mail, which costs as little as $49, to see which Beecher etc. line they were related to. Those Y-DNA results, combined with Uncle Bruce’s database of Beecher etc. records in the 1700’s to 1900’s, and the research done by two other expert Beecher researchers, William H. Beecher IV and Jim Shaw, has resulted in a better understanding of Beecher history in America, as explained below.
If you are a male Beecher, you can take a simple $49 saliva test by mail to learn which Beechers you are related to.
Beecher Surname in America
Most people in America with surname Beecher will trace their ancestry back to one of the two major family lines that arrived in America. These lines are not related because their Y-DNA is different:
- Connecticut Beechers: In 1635, arriving by ship with the English colonists that came to found New Haven, Connecticut was John Beecher, his wife Hannah, and their son Isaac Beecher. John died within a year of arriving, but Isaac survived and from him descend most of the Beechers found in New England, who migrated throughout America in later years. This family includes the famous abolitionist preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, and the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Connecticut Beecher’s Y-DNA haplogroup is type R1b (in particular R1b1a2). R1b is the most common Y-DNA haplogroup in Western Europe and therefore common to immigrants who founded America. It occurs in about 40% of men in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Britain, and Holland and even higher in Spain and France.
- Pennsylvania Beechers: In the 1700’s German-speaking immigrants arrived by ship in Philadelphia, seeking the promise of religious freedom, whose descendants mostly have surnames Beecher with some others adopting spellings Beicher, Biecher, Beacher, and Bicher. We have a separate web page explaining Pennsylvania Beecher Family History. Their Y-DNA haplogroup I1, more specifically I-M253. I1 was spread by the Vikings as they conquered the Baltic and North Sea coasts. As many as 33% of men in Denmark and Sweden are I1, and about 15% of men in England, the Netherlands, and Germany.
In addition to these two major Beecher family lines, we have discovered through Y-DNA testing and genealogy research several other unrelated Beecher lines in America, and we continue to identify more as additional men with Beecher etc. surnames participate in the Y-DNA research.
Both the Connecticut and Pennsylvania Beechers have the Beecher surname originating from a German surname, Bücher, as explained below.
John Beecher (1594-1637) in Connecticut
John Beecher was born 28 Mar 1594 in Kent, England. In 1620, he married a widow, Ann Potter, whose husband William died the previous year. William Potter and Ann (nee Langford) married 6 October 1607 and birthed four children. Ann, also known as Hannah, and her second husband, John Beecher, had two children. Their journey to America is described in the 1937 book by Lyman Beecher Stowe, “Saints, Sinners, and the Beechers” on pages 17-19 as follows:
“John, Hannah and Issac were the first of the Beechers in America. They came to this country from Kent, England, in 1637, with the company led by the Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton who had been Ambassador to Denmark and Deputy-Governor of India. This company crossed the ocean on the ship “Hector”. The ship after a two months voyage, dropped anchor in Boston harbor 26 June 1637, seventeen years after the “Mayflower” had landed the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. The company consisted of fifty men and two hundred women and children. But they found they had come in the midst of a quarrel, about religion. Not wishing to buy into a quarrel, they decided to seek another area to settle in. They sent out a reconnoitering party under the leadership of Theophilus Eaton, which hit upon an old Indian village of Quinnipiack on Long Island Sound, the site of the present city of New Haven. Here they built a rude hut and left an unfortunate group of seven men to hold the post for the winter, and prepare for the arrival of the remainder of the company in the spring. John Beecher was one of the seven. He failed to survive the rigors of his first New England winter because he and his companions had such inadequate protection. When Hannah Beecher and Issac arrived in the spring, she found her husband already buried in a unmarked grave. One hundred and twelve years later, in 1750, when David Beecher was a boy of twelve, workmen who were digging a cellar for a house at the corner of George and Meadow streets in New Haven came upon human bones which were believed to be those of John Beecher. Since Hannah Beecher was the only midwife among them, she was given her husband’s allotment of land upon which she and her son settled.”
Controversy over Isaac Beecher’s Father
Some researchers in the past mistakenly uncovered “evidence” that Isaac Beecher was actually not the son of John Beecher, but rather sired another of his mother’s husbands. Y-DNA testing has now proven this false. In our project, we have tested both American descendants of Isaac Beecher and an English Beecher living today in Kent, England, and the Y-DNA matches. You can rest assured that Isaac Beecher is indeed a Beecher.
Isaac Beecher’s family tree, with all his known descendants for 11 generations, has been researched and published by William H. Beecher IV and Beecher descendant Jim Shaw. Click the button to see their family tree on the free website at Rootsweb. If you have additional Beecher info to add to this tree, please email Jim Shaw at the address shown on Rootsweb.
The Ancestors of John Beecher (1594-1637)
For many years, genealogists naturally assumed John Beecher in Connecticut was of English origin since he was born in Kent, England. To prove the connection between the Connecticut Beechers and the Kent Beechers, in 2004 we located a living Beecher in Kent, England and asked him to participate in our Y-DNA research. His DNA matched an expert American Beecher ancestor, William H. Beecher IV, who also participated in the Y-DNA testing and was known to be a descendant of John Beecher (1594-1635).
But then the Y-DNA research revealed a surprise. The “English” Beechers we tested were matching the Y-DNA of males whose German ancestors were recorded in records as surname Bücher and Bucher. Bücher is also the surname found in 1700’s records for the Pennsylvania Beechers, even though the Pennsylvania and Connecticut Beecher lines are unrelated by Y-DNA. The umlaut — the two dots above the u — result in a pronunciation that in German can sound like beh-shur.
Bücher is the German word for “books” and in hundreds of years earlier also meant the paper books were made from, which was manufactured from beech trees. Büche means “beech.” A bücher was also an occupation, a woodsman who cut beech trees for paper making or later someone who made books. In the 1400s and earlier, before surnames were even used by people, a person was often known by their occupation or the place they lived. John the bücher eventually became John Bücher and then Anglicized into John Beecher in England and America.
Connecticut Beecher Y-DNA Relatives
American Beechers descending from John Beecher (1594-1637) have matched Y-DNA with a number of German-speaking immigrant families that came to America, so, at some point in the past they shared a common male ancestor, probably in Germany in the 1500’s or 1600’s. The likely scenario is that John Beecher’s father or grandfather immigrated from Germany to England. As we continue to find more Beecher males to test we eventually could pin down the village in Germany where John Beecher’s ancestors came from.
The most current findings are published at our Bucher/Beecher Y-DNA project results page, where you must scroll down to the green family group labeled R-002 Beecher to see the listing of others who share John Beecher’s Y-DNA signature pattern.
Some of those matching the Kent, England Beechers are:
Johann Ulrich Bucher: born in 1686 in Michelbach, Germany. View Tree Ulrich immigrated at Philadelphia on the ship Pink Plaisance, 21 Sep 1732. He moved south to Frederick County, Virginia, where he died in 1750. Most of his descendants adopted their Americanized surname as Booker.
Abraham Bougher b.1763 Bucks Co. PA and his relative Jacob Booher, b.1790 Bucks Co. PA d.1870 Larue Co. KY
Casper Booher b.1758 Germany d.1831 Huntingdon Co. PA
John Wesley Bucher b.1802 PA d.1868 Hancok Co. WV