Friday, July 6, 2012

Big Family Secret: Dunkers

Still considering myself a newbie to this genealogy stuff, and am imagining that will continue for years. I constantly feel as though I'm simply stumbling from thing to thing even though I do make lists that outline my research goals. But often as not, in following a line of inquiry there's a bit that demands my attention as though it's calling my name. Look here, it shouts. So I do. Then stumbling I go into a fact that shines a completely new light on a tiny branch of the family tree. Suddenly I feel that I understand what happened to the ancestors in a completely different way! Things start to make sense.

And so it was with the Samuel Albert House situation. This blog post is a continuation of one you'll find below, entitled "Big Family Secrets." Here's the link, if you want to catch up:

Got thinking about the Biggerstaff family, especially after making contact with Cousin William through Messages. Noticed that we share our 2nd GGF, SA House. He has a nice big tree in Members Public Trees and I messaged him about the SA House info he had there and the Biggerstaff line. He shared some web sites and other stuff.

As you seen in the previous post, Samuel Albert was illegitimate and every indication is that Isaac Biggerstaff was his father. But why didn't he marry Rebecca House, Samuel Albert's mother? Cousin William's info kept me thinking.

Can't even tell you how I got there but I found a web site about the Tarvin Family, and many thanks to them! Here's the link: As you see, it's beautifully done and a wealth of information even if none of our people are Tarvins!

There are two links on the main page that caught my eye. First is the PDF of the book, "Allegheny Passage: Dunkards on the Cacapon." The description reads: "We have received permission to scan and re-publish a key reference work on the history of the Brethren religion in the western area of Maryland and Virginia. The chapter that contains references to Rev. George Tarvin's family is posted here online."

I looked at the PDF and found about a full page on the Biggerstaff family as well as mention of the Longstreth family, both Church members. William and Samuel are mentioned by name, William being Isaacs's GF and Samuel his father. It also mentioned William's will, with which I was recently familiar due to the good graces of Cousin William.

As you might note from the previous post, Isaac Biggerstaff married a Longstreth girl instead of Rebecca House, mother of Samuel Albert. Mystery solved: he was expected to marry within his faith. I copy the following from a wonderfully lucid presentation by Rev. George Tarvin in 1988 at a Tarvin family reunion.

Here's the link:  I have taken the liberty to quote at length here and hope that it does not offend. It's of such importance that I can't help myself... and I'm forever grateful to the Tarvin Family for this text! The bolded portions have been added by me to emphasize the importance of marrying within the faith.

To more fully understand our ancestor, a person must first look at the history and doctrine of the Dunker Church. The German Baptist Brethren, called Dunkers, grew out of the Pietist movement of Germany in the late 17th century. The Church of the Brethren was officially organized at Schwartzenau in 1708 by Alexander Mack, a miller. There were eight original members baptized by triple immersion (hence the name Dunker) in the Elbe River. Their belief was to live as close to Bible teachings as possible. They found themselves a persecuted people and by 1719 the first group came by ship to Pennsylvania to seek a refuge where they could worship as they pleased. This first group settled in Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. In 1729, Alexander Mack led the remainder of his group from their native Germany to America.
During these early years, several Brethren communities were founded in southeast Pennsylvania and two in Maryland. The Dunkers were progressive farmers and tried to live simply, hence they were invariably included among the so-called "plain people" of Pennsylvania. They were often on the frontier, locating in the mountains of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and later extending south to the Carolinas and Tennessee and west to Virginia and Ohio.
The Dunkers were one of the historic peace churches. Most Dunkers have been conscientious objectors to military service. On the frontier, this went as far as not carrying guns and being friends with the Indians.
Some of the distinguishing beliefs of the Brethren were (1) baptism by triple immersion, previously mentioned as the reason for being called Dunkers; (2) full communion service including a meal and a footwashing service; (3) "Fellowship of Believers" which in the early days meant marriage primarily within the membership of the church; and (4) simplicity, meaning to dress plainly and to avoid any extravagance in spending. There was no official church creed and the main emphasis was on living as close to the teachings of the New Testament as possible. It was said, "A Dunker's word is as good as his bond."
Their beliefs which set them apart, and especially their emphasis on marrying within the faith, led to a close-knit group with a tremendous number of intermarriages among the few well-known family names.

Now I'm adding score points to the theory that Issac might have married Rebecca had they been of the same faith.

Photo of the day from my Archive:

Elizabeth Longstreth Biggerstaff's stone,
Cherry Orchard Cemetery,
Magnolia (or what's left of it) WVa,
She was Isaac's wife.

No comments:

Post a Comment