Family Origin and Deepest Root
The most distant identified ancestor of the Berger family is Johann Immet Berger. His birthplace is unknown, but we know that he lived and died in the area of Dierdorf, Germany. There he married Anna Margaretha and fathered at least seven children.
Berger family researcher Eckart Schwab found several forms for the surname of this ancestor in the church register of Dierdorf:
Immet (1680, 1682, 1687),
immet Berg (1692, 1694),
immet Berger (1685, 1687, 1697),
Immet Bergman (1684)
Tracing the Berger family back beyond Johann Immet might prove to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Herr Schwab suspects that Johann Immet emigrated to Dierdorf from an unknown location. This alone would make it difficult to dig the Berger roots any deeper. However, it is also possible that the family name was something other than Berger or Immetberger prior to Dierdorf.
Herr Schwab suggests that evidence or clues of the birth place of Johann Immet Berger might found in the following sources:
On October 8, 1844, Georg Wilhelm Berger and his son Herber arrived at Philadelphia on the Aurora. At least two other children of Georg Wilhelm came with them: Johann Christian and Anna Juliana. The signatures of Jorg Wilhelm Berger and Johann Christian Berger, who at the age of twenty was considered an adult, appear together among signatures to the oath of allegiance (list B) and to the oath of abjuration (list C) for the Aurora. Herber was under sixteen and, therefore, not required to sign.
It appears that, at that time, the family did not include a wife and mother. Herber's mother died nearly three years before the passage to America, and there is, so far, no indication that Georg Wilhelm ever remarried. However, no women whatsoever appear on the Aurora passenger lists, and women were universally "under recorded" in this period of time. It is therefore, quite possible that Georg Wilhelm did remarry, but that no record of another wife has come down to us.
In their book Westerwald to America, Annette Kunselman Burgert & Henry Z. Jones suggest that Georg Wilhelm's brother (Johann) Peter Berger also came to America, on the Samuel & Elizabeth in 1740, and perhaps settled in Pennsylvania. We are unaware of any further research to support this connection to this Berger family.
We know that the Berger family emigrated to America from Dierdorf, Germany, which is about twenty-five kilometers north of Koblenz. Prior to Dierdorf, this Berger family may have been elsewhere. Herr Schwab has found the surnames Immetberger and Immetsberger in the Pfalz and nearby Saarland areas and speculates that family could have come from this region.
In America, the family put down roots in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Herber Berger established a farm in Upper Tulpehocken Township, which remained in the family for about 200 years. The Berger name can still be found in area telephone books.
In the late 1850s or early 1860s, Rege's Berger line left Berks County. Joseph Berger moved several times before settling in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Two of the places he lived were Shamokin and Helfenstein, both in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. It was in Shamokin that his three sons - William, Charles, and Jefferson - established themselves and raised families.
Today, the descendants of Georg Wilhelm and Herber can be found throughout the United States. Rege's Berger line later came to the area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The German word "Berg" means "mountian", and a literal translation of the name "Berger" would be "mountainer'"or perhaps "mountaineer". In at least one record, Johan Immet Berger's profession is listed as "miner", and it is possible that the name Berger actually refers to that profession.
Family researcher Eckart Schwab has explained that, in some German dialects, Immetberg(er) is a variant of "in dem Berg", or "in the mountain".
The descendants of Johann Immet who remained in Germany changed their surname to Bürger or Buerger, as the family is known today in Westerwald, during the French occupation of the nineteenth century. Herr Schwab explains that the reason is that "berger" translates as "shepherd" in French, whereas "Bürger" is the equivalent of French "citoyen" or "citizen".
It is possible that the Berger name for this family might have appeared for the first time in Dierdorf. Herr Schwab suspects that Johann Immet emigrated to Dierdorf from another region, and, in those times, surnames often changed when people moved to new regions. One possibility for an earlier form of the name is Immetberger.
It is also possible that there was no family name prior to Dierdorf. Although family names were nearly universal by that time, there were some areas which were late in adopting this custom. The Pfalz and Saarland area did, however, so if Herr Schwab's hypothesis is correct Johann Immet did have a family name when he arrived in Dierdorf.
As a final note, common American references on the surname's origin
typically suggest that it derives from the German word for citizen, 'Bürger', and that Berger is simply an alternate
American/English spelling. This might be the case much of the time, but
it is not applicable to this Berger family. Unlike their similarity in
English, the words 'Berger' and 'Burger' and 'Bürger'
all have distinctly different pronunciations in German. Furthermore, the
spelling is clearly "Berger" in the signatures of the Aurora
immigrants, as written in their own hand.
Descendants of Johann Immet Berger and Anna Margaretha - 7 generations
Eckart Schwab's Homepage Herr Schwab is also a
descendant of Johan Immet Berger and lives in Duesseldorf, Germany
Genealogische Forschungsquellen im Westerwald - Family REsearch in Westerwald, Germany (in German)
Dierdorf Homepage (in German).
Our contact information here.
This page was last updated on: Sunday, September 13, 2014