September 22, 2011

You Never Know Unless You Ask - Treasure Chest Thursday

One afternoon last year, my aunts and I were sorting through some old pictures and cards that my grandmother, Nora Eberhard Ballenger, had kept. There were some older pictures, which I gratefully scanned and copied, but a lot of newer ones too, including many of my own children which I had actually given Grandma. The day was not yielding as much “good stuff” as I had hoped.

I happened to mention to my aunt that I was looking for something that might tell me whether Nora’s father’s name was John Llewellyn or Llewellyn John Eberhard. He usually went by the latter, but it appeared in various records both ways. Someone with a better understanding of German heritage had told me that if I could find his baptismal record, it should settle the matter.

“I wonder if that’s what that is?” she mused. “What?” I asked. “Oh, it’s down the basement. It’s all rolled up. I don’t know what it is.” Well, I was curious by then. I asked if she’d look. She said she’d see if she could find it. Whatever it was.

She came up awhile later with two thin, brittle, rolled-up parchments. We gingerly unrolled one. Now, I’d never seen anything like it before, and neither of us can read a word of German, but it didn’t take long to figure out what it was. It was paydirt: his original baptismal certificate, or fraktur, in all its decorated glory. And she not only had the one for John Llewellyn (as it turns out he was named), but she had the one for his wife, Mary Madina Comfort, as well.


Nora was the eleventh out of sixteen Eberhard children. How the frakturs happened to go to her is a mystery to me. She never mentioned them, to my knowledge. And if I hadn’t wondered aloud about John’s name that day, I imagine they’d still be hiding out in my aunt’s basement. Just goes to show you. You never know unless you ask.

My aunt generously made full-size copies of the certificates for me. What you see here is the section with the baptismal information. I haven’t had it fully translated yet, but in my best attempt to read it (pardon my German), I believe it says:

Mr. David Eberhart
and his wife Catharina
who was born Eisenhart
had born to them a son on the 29th day
of January in the year 1868
This son was born in Upper Milford
Township Lehigh County, in
the state of Pennsylvania in North America and
on the 16th day of May in the year
1868 has been baptized
and given the name John Llewellen
The sponsors are:
Joel Schafer and his wife Polly

Needless to say, I went home happy that day!

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11 comments:

  1. What a joy! It does amaze me that our nearest and dearest, who presumably know how keenly interested we are in these documents and photographs, don't remember their own buried treasures. You are so right. Ask. Chat. Ask again.

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  2. How fabulous! I hope your amazement at the existence of this treasure, gives your aunt a new appreciation for it. This deserves to be framed and displayed for beauty alone.

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  3. What a great find! And how nice to have a full size copy for yourself.

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  4. Thanks, Susan, Margel, & Wendy!
    Susan, you know, it makes me wonder if I should be asking myself the same question--do I have buried treasure I've forgotten about?

    Margel, yes, I hope she's preserving the originals, now that she knows what they are :-) It's given me a whole new appreciation for this art form.

    Wendy, I'm thrilled to have the copies. Maybe one day I'll even have my own office to put them on display!

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  5. How exciting!!! It really makes me wonder about what possible treasures might be hidden in our older relatives crawl spaces!!

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  6. What a great lesson to all of us to remember to "wonder out loud" a little more often!

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  7. Thanks, Jennifer & Wendy! I agree, it makes me stop and think what kind of gems might be hiding in places I haven't even thought to look or ask about!

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  8. Fantastic...and a great lesson to all of us!

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  9. Truly at treasure. I've never seen a fractur before. They are beautiful documents. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Glad you enjoyed it, Heather! Sherri, I had never seen one in person before, only in a book. The original is quite large. I didn't even remember what they were called until I looked it up. No wonder my aunt didn't know what she had!

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  11. It must be a lot treasures hidden in our older relatives crawl spaces!!

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