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22 December 2010

The Behr-Behrend Family of Germany and the United States

The records of Malcolm Stern have been discussed in this blog on different occasions. It is a wonderful archive of family records. One of the benefits of searching the collection is finding original family trees that were submitted by families looking for his help.

One of these incredible trees belongs to the Behr-Behrend family originally from Germany. In the tree below (FHL film #1013431 item #3) we find that between the fourth and fifth generations the family changed their surname from Behr to Behrend.

In the fifth generation, the oldest child of Itzig Behr (b. 1773) and his wife Rivka is their son Bernhard (Bough "A" on bottom left part of tree). Further in the family papers is listed the family of Bernhard. That tree (shown below) identifies the 14 children of Bernhard and his wife Eliza Heine.


Of the children shown for Bernhard and his wife Eliza in a search of the 1880 United States census shows their son Adajah and his wife Matilda with their 3 children and her mother all living in Washington D.C. In that census (FHL film #1254123, shown below) we also note that Adajah is a physician by occupation.

From the records above one would easily draw the conclusion that this man had a successful life, with few cares or worries. However, while his life may very well have been that way, at one time there were other concerns about him. At one point in his life, before marriage and family he joined the Union Army in the United States Civil War. As an immigrant to America, this could not have been easy but showed a desire to serve his new country.

When he enlisted he was not yet of the majority age, so his father was required to give his permission, which he did. However he still had concerns for his son, mostly that his service in the military would not interfere with his ability to worship in the Jewish faith. To share his concerns, he contacted the one person who he thought could help, President Abraham Lincoln. Parts of that letter are below, it reads;

To His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States.
. . . I gave my consent to my son, who was yet a minor, that he should enlist in the United States army; I thought it was his duty, and I gave him my advice to fulfill his duty as a good citizen, and he has done so. At the same time I taught him also to observe the Sabbath on Saturday, when it would not hinder him from fulfilling his duty in the army. Now I do not want that he shall be dragged either to the stake or the church to observe the Sunday as a Sabbath. Your Excellency will observe in this my writing that I am not very well versed in the English language, and if there should be found a word which is not right, pardon it, and never such a word shall be construed so as if I would offend your Excellency or the people; for I love my country, the Constitution, and the Union, and I try to be always a loyal citizen.
I remain, respectfully, your most obedient servant and fellow citizen,

B. BEHREND
Narrowsburg, Sullivan Co. N.Y. Dec. 4, 1862
From Jewish-American History Foundation online site:
http://www.jewish-history.com/civilwar/shabbat.htm

We do not know if a reply was returned, but we do know of a man's love for his son, a family's love for their new country and their devotion to their faith. All of these are the hallmarks America was built upon and a great reminder of the examples our forebears left for us.

The records of this family are in the Knowles Collection - Jews of the Americas database.

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