This month’s fascinating family find was a pure stroke of luck! Back in the early days of my family history research, I was on the trail of the Johannes Whitmer family. I’ve written about them more than once in past blog posts. Today’s story is not very long and it involves Johannes and Catherine’s fourth child and third son, Valentine Whitmer.
While perusing volumes of Goodspeed’s county histories published in the late 1800’s, I came across a biographical story for Valentine Whitmer, who was born in 1786. I already knew a lot about the family, as they had lived in Frederick County, Maryland and migrated to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky pretty much en masse. I also knew that the family had made a stop in Botetourt County, Virginia along the way. However, the Goodspeed story about Valentine stated that he was born in Rockingham County, not in Botetourt, which I would have expected, so I had a new county to research in my quest for Whitmer knowledge.
One of my first, and best, genealogy buddies was Nancy Maxwell. We are still friends, both genealogy addicts, and keep in touch, although neither of us lives in California anymore. I knew that Nancy was familiar with Rockingham County records because one of her husband’s ancestors lived there. He was of German descent, like the Whitmers, and I was hoping upon hope that there would be church records about the Whitmer family.
I phoned Nancy to tell her about the Whitmers in Rockingham County. I asked if she knew of any German churches there. Nancy went to collect her paperwork on the Bender/Painter family, which was her husband’s line that lived there. She told me that the Friedens Church had surviving records because she had a copy of the page showing the Bender baptism, which was also in 1786. That was the only page of the records she had because it was the only record she found pertaining to the Benders.
Then Nancy said something that shocked both of us: “You’re not going to believe this, but the last entry on this page is the baptism of Valentine Whitmer, son of Johannes and Catherine Whitmer!”
This was a truly serendipitous find! Never did I suspect that Nancy would have a copy of the one page of records from Friedens Church that listed Valentine Whitmer’s baptism. You just never know where a record will turn up!