Johns Bible -- Mission Accomplished!
Bill Brobst July 14, 1998
From the Fall 1998 Issue, Brobst Genealogy News
Johannes Brobst and Susanna Follweiler
Five years ago, my sister Peg gave me an assignment (she's like that!) to find out who the parents were of our g'g'grandfather, Obadiah Brobst. Like I could care? But she's my big sister, and so I had to do it.
I was in Buffalo, NY, and just ready to head home to Kitty Hawk, NC when I called her on the phone. During our conversation, she reminded me of her earlier search for Obadiah. She said that as long as I had to pass right through PA on my way home, perhaps I could stop in at the Berks County Genealogical Society and spend an hour seeing what I might find about him. Being good, I agreed. And I did. Even though I wasn't the least bit interested in genealogy, and even less in Obadiah.
I had always thought that I had descended from a rock; my g'grandmother Mary Brobst told all of us that Obadiah, her father-in-law, was not a nice man, and I had assumed he had crawled out from under a rock. So I spent an hour looking for him in the Kutztown library. No luck. Four days later, I was still there, looking, hooked on genealogy, and fascinated by the history of the Probsts and Brobsts!
Our own family memories recalled that Obadiah (b 1812) had a brother John, and perhaps others named Reuben and Daniel. I found a few Reubens, a lot of Daniels, and an unbelievable number of Johns to sort through. I've spent the past five years doing that sorting. During that time, I verified that Obadiah did indeed have brothers John (b ?) and Reuben (b 1803), but found nothing on a Daniel. And I found a sister, Lydia (b 1810) who married Obadiah's brother-in-law. I found out that his grandparents were Johannes (1850) and Anna Barbara (1748, nee Stambach) Brobst, and that their son John was Obadiah's father. No info on where they were born, or who his mother was, or whether there were any other children. Well, half an answer is better than nothing. Like kissing your sister.
Late in June 1998, I stopped in Warren, Ohio, to check the Trumbull County Historical Society library. I had been there a few years earlier, since Obadiah, John, and Reuben had lived for some time in Ohio. Carol Bell, the wonderful archivist there, suggested that I might check the shelf where the old family Bible excerpts were stored. Well, Obadiah and his brothers were not known to be the Bible-reading type, but what could I lose. I took down the A-G volume, and found two Brobst entries, photocopied from the actual Bibles. One was a Henry Brobst, with whom I was familiar, although he was from a different branch of the Brobsts. And then I found a photocopy of one labeled "Johannes". Hmmm.
It showed Johannes' wife's name as Susanna Follweiler. I knew about them, although I had earlier discarded them as candidates because some of the dates didn't match, and I was pretty sure that Obadiah's mother's name was more likely to have been Lydia (Marriner) or Rebecca (Jones). The Registry had the name of John and Susanna as being the parents of Catharina Brobst, b 1805 in Lehigh Co. But since Lydia was born in Schuylkill Co, and Obadiah in Northumberland Co, the geography didn't match well, either.
The Bible was in old German printed script, and all the handwritten entries were in German, too, very difficult to read. But there was an English translation included for each of the entries. The first was for a Jacob, born in 1800 and who died a few days later. Then a John in 1801. No location of birth or baptism, though. Then came Reuben in 1803. Wait a minute. Obadiah's brother Reuben was born in 1803; something wrong here. Must be a different Reuben. One whom I had missed somehow.
I read on. Ah, there was Catharina in 1805. I relaxed and kept going. Another Jacob in 1807. Gee, I had a Jacob shown in the Registry born on that date, but didn't know who his parents were. And then a Daniel in 1808. Hmmm. A John, a Reuben, and a Daniel?. I had a strange feeling. Then came Lydia in 1810. Hey, that was Obadiah's sister! No mistake there. A warm flush came over me (no, I wasn't in the bathroom). I almost didn't want to turn the next page, for I knew Obadiah was born in 1812.
I turned the page. There was Obadiah, listed with his nickname, Obed. I was so cool, calm, and collected. I gasped, choked, and whooped, startling the other researchers. Then I yelled! Tears filled my eyes. It had been five years, and finally here was the entire family documented in their father's Bible. It was a very emotional time.
But where was the Bible itself? The photocopies had been submitted by Richard Angstadt of Warren! Gee, perhaps I could find him. Angstadt was a familiar name to me; the Registry contains a few dozen of them, some married into the Brobst family. Carol told me that he was living there in Warren, 90 years old, and a delightful person. (I didn't have much time!) She gave me his telephone number, and I called. I told him who I was, and why I was calling. Yes, he had the Bible, and he had wondered who those particular Brobsts were! But how did he get the Bible? Was he a Brobst descendant?
No. It turns out that Johannes died in 1813 in Shamokin, PA, just six months after Obadiah was born there. Johannes' widow, Susanna, remarried to Benjamin Taylor, still in Northumberland County. She had four more children with him there Anna, George, James, and Henry. So Obadiah and his siblings had another family of half-siblings. Things started to fall into place. Obadiah's daughter Susanna had mentioned in some letters about her Uncle George Taylor; we had never known who he was. And the administrator of Jacob's estate was Henry Taylor; Henry was his half-brother!
Anna Taylor married a Jacob Angstadt, grandmother of Richard Angstadt. Richard wanted to know if I'd like to see the Bible. Would I! Is grass green? He told me that he was just recovering from cataract surgery, but that he'd get his brother Ed to drive him over to the library. Ed is 88.
These two spry, alert, and totally entertaining gentlemen came be-bopping into the library shortly afterwards, carrying a box containing the Bible. The Bible was about 4" thick, well-used, and quite fragile. But I held it in my hands, and then cried some more. I told them about the Brobsts, and they told me about the Taylors and the Angstadts. I suggested to Richard that I'd be happy to provide a safe home for the Bible, since it was mostly about the Brobsts, but he said that his own family was interested in keeping it. After all, Susanna was his g'g'grandmother, too. Oh, well. At least it told me what I had been working so hard trying to find out. And I had made a true physical connection with my ancestors.
I called my sister and told her, "Mission Accomplished".
And so I spent the next few weeks sorting out the new family. I had the names of quite a few Brobsts floating around in Limbo in the data base, looking for parents. The Bible, plus some legal documents about Jacob I. Brobst helped to put that family together.
Which just goes to prove something that Elaine Schwar, a genealogist in Reading, Pennsylvania, told me, "Have patience. Never give up.
This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:18:35 MST