The theme for Week 5 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Plowing Through” and my ancestor is my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister. One might assume he was a farmer since the theme is “plowing through” but he was a baker. He did, however, have to plow through one particularly tragic year in his life.
Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister was born on 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany to Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmaier. His father was a flour merchant, and based on the fact that the children were born in different towns throughout Bavaria (Asbach, Vohburg, Abensberg) I assume that he was a traveling merchant. Joseph had a big sister, Hilarie (called Hilaury, Lari, or Laura for short) who was three years older. Another sister was born in between but she did not survive. Joseph became the middle child when his brother Ignatz was born in 1876.
At some point during Joseph’s childhood, his father died. I have yet to find out when, but it was sometime after the youngest son’s birth 1876 and 1884, because in May of 1885 his widow is remarried and having another child. I know that the family – with or without their father Joseph – was settled in the city of Regensburg by 1879. By 1884, Joseph’s mother Ursula is married to Herman Goetz (Götz). The Bergmeister siblings gained half-brothers Herman in 1885 and Julius in 1886 as well as a half-sister Elsa (birth date not yet known).
From 1893-95, Joseph served in the Bavarian Leib Regiment, or the Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie Leib Regiment. They were headquartered in Munich at that time.
By 1897, Joseph is in the town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. It’s just an assumption, but given that his uncle lived there I presume he went there to work for his uncle. Uncle Castulus Bergmeister owned the bakery in Pfafenhofen (still in operation and run by my Bergmeister cousins) and Joseph was also a baker. In Pfaffenhofen, he met and married Maria Echerer, the daughter of a bricklayer whose family had been shoemakers in Pfaffenhofen for centuries. The couple married on November 2, 1897…just in time, for the following February – in fact on Maria’s 23rd birthday – they had their first child, a girl named Maria after her mother.
In May 1900, Joseph left Pfaffenhofen for Antwerp, Belgium where he boarded a steamship for the United States. His big sister Lari had immigrated in 1893. By 1900, she had married another German immigrant named Max Thumann. When Joseph arrived at the port of Philadelphia, Lari was there to meet him. Joseph lived with the Thumann’s for a while, but by the following year he had moved to a home of his own. In June 1901, his wife and 3-year-old daughter arrived in the U.S.
Joseph’s family started to grow considerably after that. Just nine months and two weeks after the happy couple reunited, they welcomed a son, Joseph. Two more sons followed: Max in 1905 and Julius in 1907. During these years Joseph’s family enlarged in another way as well – his brother Julius arrived in the U.S. in 1902 and Ignatz in 1904.
Unfortunately, Joseph and Maria lost two children who were born premature: a son, Charles, in 1909, and a daughter, Laura, in 1911. Earlier in 1911, Joseph’s mother died in Regensburg, and afterwards his brother Herman immigrated to Philadelphia.
One final child was born to Joseph and Marie – a daughter, Margaret, in 1913 – my grandmother! Despite the 15-year age gap between the oldest and youngest (and the 5-year age gap between the second youngest and my grandmother), the five siblings were close.
So far I’ve mentioned a few sad events in Joseph’s life such as losing his father when he was a boy and the deaths of two infant children. In addition, the year after Margaret was born, Joseph’s sister-in-law – the wife of brother Herman – died during childbirth due to a ruptured uterus. However, these tragedies are not why I chose Joseph’s story for the theme of “plowing through”. I realized that during one particular time period – from October, 1918 through November, 1919 – he had to plow through and struggle through some very sad events.
First, on 11 October 1918, Herman Goetz died of pneumonia at the age of 32. At the time, brother Julius was serving in the U.S. Army and his siblings were likely concerned about his welfare since the world was at war (he survived unscathed and died many, many years later at the age of 84).
Then, not quite four months later, on 05 February 1919, Joseph’s wife Maria died from heart disease. She was just weeks weeks away from her 44th birthday. Joseph and Maria’s oldest daughter was weeks away from turning 21 years old. Their sons were 16, 14, and 11, and my grandmother was not quite 6 years old.
The final event in the tragic year was the death of Joseph’s brother Ignatz. He died on 19 November 1919 at the age of 43 leaving behind a wife, an 11-year-old daughter, and a 10-year-old son.
Joseph had a very difficult time after his wife died, and according to his children he did not take good care of himself. He passed away from nephritis on 30 May 1927 at the age of 54. At the time of his death, he had three granddaughters, Marie (age 7) and Mabel (age 3) from his oldest daughter and Helen (age 1) from his oldest son. He would eventually have a total of 14 grandchildren (as well as 30 great-grandchildren, 48 great-great grandchildren, and…I lost count of how many in the youngest generation at the moment!).
I wish I knew more about Joseph, and my grandmother wished she knew him a little longer. But I’m glad he had the strength and grace to plow through his struggles. He leaves a legacy of “plowing through” whatever life throws at you to inspire his numerous descendants.
Just the Facts
- Name: Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister
- Ahnentafel: #10 (my great-grandfather)
- Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1843-?) and Ursula Dallmaier (1846-1911)
- Born: 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany
- Siblings: Hilarie Bergmeister Thumann (1870-1943), Maria (1871-1871), Ignatz Bergmeister (1876-1919), Herman Goetz (1885-1918), Julius Goetz (1886-1971), Elsa ?
- Married: Maria Echerer (1875-1919) on 02 Nov 1897 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany
- Immigrated: departed Antwerp on 03 May 1900 aboard the SS Aragonia; arrived in Philadelphia on 18 May 1900
- Children: Maria Bergmeister Eckert (1898-1990), Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), Max Bergmeister (1905-1974), Julius Bergmeister (1907-1963), Charles Bergmeister (1909-1909), Laura Bergmeister (1911-1911), Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski (1913-1998)
- Died: 30 May 1927 in Philadelphia, PA
- Buried: 02 Jun 1927 in Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 5: Plowing Through