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All In The Family - Part I

By: Kim E. Bevier

Over the past five years I, like other members of our family, have made an effort to research and document the lives of our ancestors. During this period I've been asked why I'm going to all that trouble. My stock answer is that I find the process interesting. The truth is much more personal.

I've imagined my way through the settlement of New Paltz and the French & Indian War. I fought alongside Jacob during the American Revolution. I've ridden Jacobus' (James') wagons into Broome County, NY and skipped stones in the Chenango River. I've trodden the lands purchased by Luther when he came to Michigan in 1836. And I've wandered among the gravestones at the National Cemetery in Richmond where he died in 1863 as a prisoner of the Confederate Army. I've sailed around the world with the Great White Fleet and my Grandfather Grover, as America came of age.

The history of the Bevier family in the New World is, literally, the history of America. But, before America what? Where is the family really from? What happened along the way? Perhaps now, because of modern technology, we are getting some of those answers. Family lore has it that our ancestors fled France into Germany during a period of Huguenot persecution and from and from there, Louis Bevier and his wife, Marie LeBlanc, sailed to the New World in 1675. But what of the family members left behind; uncles, cousins, and parents? The record was mute until this past spring when Ute Bevier and her husband, Klaus Boos, in Winden, Germany, made contact with Barbara Bevier Sacks via the internet. Barbara informed Dale BeVier with whom I had made contact several years ago while doing research. He notified me of this event in time to modify a planned trip to Europe and include a visit to Ute in Winden.

Winden is located about 40 miles south-southwest of Speyer where Louis and Marie were married, and not far from the french border. When I arrived in Speyer I called Ute and within the hour she and Klaus arrived at the hotel to pick me up. It was Saturday, the 5th of July, 1997, and when we introduced ourselves in the hotel lobby, it struck me that this was probably the first reunion between the American and German branches of the Bevier family in over three centuries! It was a short trip to Winden and their home where I met Ute's mother, son Sören and sister Heide. A short time later her second cousin/uncle Herbert and his wife Lotte arrived. As I told them of the size of the family in America they were amazed. Until Ute's contact with Barbara, they were unaware of our existence.
I asked them about the burial place of Louis Bevier in Winden (believed to be the American Louis' father). I was told that no marker remains. Sometime in the past, the stone had been recycled into building foundations and the space reused. I asked them what they knew about family immigration to Winden and was astounded by their answer.

Their family tradition was that their ancestors were Huguenots and shortly after the Thirty Years' War they, along with 12 other families, had fled Nimes, France, through Switzerland, and hence to Winden. Later they gave me a copy of Chronik von Winden, a previously published history of the village which mentions the family names. This account is now being translated and will be the subject of a future article.

It is impossible to tell you how gracious, accommodating and lovely everyone was to me. I was treated as if I were immediate family rather than a very distant cousin. Ute will continue her research from Winden. Nimes will be pursued and someday we will document our ancestral connection. The answers to "Before America What?" are beginning to reveal themselves.

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