It's time to meet another one of our Wonderful WikiTreers! This week's member is Beverly Benfer.
Beverly became a Wiki Genealogist in November of 2014. She's active as a Sourcerer and Data Doctor and loves adding profiles to WikiTree's Roll of Honor.
What are some of the surnames you are researching?
I originally focused primarily on my Benfer, Noll, Rine, and Reed familes – my grandparents’ paternal lines. I enjoy getting sidetracked on a maternal line as well, such as the Geise and Gemberling families. The Gemberlings were the source of one of the biggest surprises when I discovered through descendency research that I am related to at least nine of my 172 high school classmates plus one of our teachers! Needless to say they were even more surprised when I gave them the family tree at a recent class reunion.
What are some of the locations you are researching?
Most of my time is spent in Pennsylvania records because both of my parents’ extended families settled here in the 1700s and most remained here until the present day. They all emigrated from areas that are now in Germany. Yikes! Reading that old German script is a challenge!
When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?
When the DAR asked my father to speak at the rededication of the burial site of a Revolutionary War soldier, we thought it was because Dad was chaplain and commander of the local American Legion. They said that was a bonus, but they asked him because he was a descendant of that soldier. It was a total surprise for our entire family! I wanted to know more.
Who's your favorite ancestor and why?
Even though my immigrant Benfer emigrated in 1766, I feel like I know him personally. Johann Georg Benfer was the 10th child of a forester, with not much of a future in his homeland. He took a leap of faith and came to Pennsylvania from what is now Germany. In addition to serving in the Revolutionary War, he settled in the wilderness of what is now Central Pennsylvania when it was primarily forest and Indians. He raised 12 kids while he created a farm from nothing. And I’ve learned more than just the statistics. In the online archives for England’s National Maritime Museum, I found a painting of the ship George sailed on. My brother and I recently discovered his farm, which is still working and using the original log cabin that he built in 1776. I found stories, such as surviving an Indian attack that killed both of his brothers-in-law and later making friends with the Indians, even playing with them. He was a strong, courageous man with boundless determination who created a future for himself and his family that would have been impossible in Germany.
Tell us about a brick wall you hope to bust through.
One of my hopes and biggest frustrations is to learn who my paternal great-grandfather was.
Great-grandma Benfer was pregnant at age 16, giving birth to my grandfather. She died two weeks after his birth and a month before her 17th birthday. We have found no records or even family stories to indicate who the father might have been. We are hoping DNA may eventually help us learn at least a surname line.
What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?
I spent most of my career in various aspects of education from teaching home economics in public schools to producing educational videos to directing a distance education program in higher education. I still love working with technology to support education. I have a passion for rehabilitating rescued dogs. My other interests include various crafts, nutrition, fitness, and gardening. History was not something that I enjoyed until the genealogy bug bit me and I could see how historical events impacted my own family.
[Interview continues in comments.]