Bieber/Beaver Project


Following is a summary of what I would like to see done with I.M. Beaver's "History and Genealogy of the BIEBER-BEAVER FAMILY", Reading, Pa., 1939 (981 pages). About 1000 copies printed and only 500 bound according to Gary Beaver. (Grandson of book's printer).

William P Bieber
San Francisco, California


The book is an extensive listing of descendants of several family groups that emigrated to eastern counties of Pennsylvania from Lower Alsace, the Palatinate, and other nearby areas of then Germany from about 1730. These were primarily German speaking Protestants (Lutheran, Mennonite etc.) fleeing the religious persecutions and economic privations of their homeland. Descendant generations migrated to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois. Many in Virginia are also listed. Other 'Beaver's - the anglicized form of 'Bieber' - came independently from Ireland/England and may not be related to this grouping. I have had particular difficulty establishing any connection with many 'Beaver' lineages from Virginia passed to me thru on line-contacts.

This publication contains an exhaustive list or tabulation of Bieber/Beaver descendants compiled after 20 years of effort. I. M. Beaver researched public records and solicited personal information by mail. He warns the reader of the possibility of inaccuracies because of the disparate sources. I have found some of them (errors) thru communication with a few descendants. The number of surviving copies of this book is unknown. So far, about 12 of my on-line contacts have one in their possession. I know of several in institutional hands.

Comment: Further historical research by John Bieber seems to have altered some of the book's early lineage. He has constructed an outstanding Website which explains his findings. These observations seem credible. However, genealogy puzzle solving can hinge on the interpretation of a single assumption or fragment of data. I have living contacts among descendants of some of these contradictions (John Bieber vs. IM Beaver) that might be resolved by DNA testing (which includes myself). However, at $1K-$2K per test we're not likely to advance a solution anytime soon. From online contacts I have become aware that there were 19th century immigrants to the United States with the Bieber surname. Some have named Germany and even Alsace as their points of origin. It is beyond my capacity to actively expand this project further to include them. However any major collection of names from this group that are contributed can be appended as a separate file.


Phase I.

Scanning every page of the book to (1) print a working copy and archiving same on computer disc and (2) using OCR software converting it into a word processor file.

Comment: This phase is completed. There remain some OCR errors in text which I have been trying to weed out. Original Bieber/Beaver book contained many 'typos'. Gary Beaver can best describe what obstacles a linotype operator faced circa 1939. Unfortunately, original notes of author have been discarded. Book's format and fonts are not easily retained in my digital conversion.

Entire book can now be e-mailed. Send request to or

Phase II.

Hand entering all the lineages from the book into a GEDCOM (or GED [Genealogy Data Communications]) compatible program file. GEDCOM was designed to create digitized universal standard of family relationships. I have chosen PAF (Mac Version 2.3.1) published by Mormons in Salt Lake. It is inexpensive ($35) and has gotten great reviews from Mac users.

Comment: I am within two months of finishing this phase. I hoped to be finished 6 mos ago. GEDCOM (a cross-platform universal standard) has several versions. The current one is '5.5'. My PAF (Personal Ancestral File) software is GEDCOM 5.3. Other similar software that I know of are 'Family Tree Maker' (Broderbund) and 'Reunion'. Backward compatibility of this information standard will probably be maintained. The rewriting/updating of text versions of genealogy information is now cumbersome and impractical for large files.

Phase III.

Make an active effort to find newer descendants since the book's publication (i.e. those born after ~1935) and add that information (by hand) to the above GEDCOM files. GATHERING NEWER INFORMATION ABOUT DISTANT ANCESTORS IS NOT THE FOCUS OF THIS PROJECT!

Discovery of modern descendants will require continued on-line postings, mailings, phone calls etc. Hard to know when or where to cut this off, but I have allowed 3 to 4 years. This search will gather only basic demographic information to establish precise identity and family lineage. Personal information such as street address and phone number will be excluded from the final output. (Most major archiving services would exclude this anyway.)

Comment: The more working on this aspect the better. My number of on line Bieber/Beaver contacts from lineages mentioned in the book after one year* of only casual effort has been positive but not spectacular. Problem is - people interested in this type of endeavor are mostly 60+ in age who are not much into computers or on-line communication. The few younger ones I have found have heavy work and family responsibilities and could not contribute much personal time. May have to fall back on the Rev. I.M. Beaver method of compiling the data - personal letters, searching records etc. (sort of like hand-to-hand combat). There are about 1500 to 2000 listings in phonebooks for BIEBER and about 3 times that many for BEAVER, if the website Switchboard is to be believed. I might be willing to support one mass mailing to BIEBER, but doing the same for BEAVER and other major name groups listed in the book would be beyond my time and financial resources. As an offshoot to this phase one could add more ancestors of non BIEBER/BEAVER spouses which the book doesn't try to do very much.

*I can now make the observation, after two plus years of effort, that contributions from new on-line contacts are variable. Most new contacts from this Bieber/Beaver lineage are enthusiastic about helping out, for which I am grateful. A few others disappear after the first request for information. John Bieber has suggested a common website, or information depository, for those interested.

We live in a more paranoid society than IM Beaver, whose respondents gave all their personal data including addresses etc. They (his contributors) were willing to be indentified as part of this heritage! For those that contribute new data I am willing to return my final compilation by CDROM (private publication) or similar. It's a matter of commitment and trust.

Phase IV.

Sending the compiled data (GEDCOM) file to some (and all) major organization for permanent archiving. My vote is (at least) for the Family History Center in Salt Lake City.

Comment: I have personally visited the Family History Center in Salt Lake and was profoundly impressed with their commitment to gathering, storing, and making available this information for future generations. Other suggestions I have received include the Library of Congress and World Family Tree (run as an offshoot of Broderbund Software Co.). I don't know much about the Library of Congress, but should have time to get details. As to Broderbund, their effort is laudable. Newer players are also emerging but will they be around 100+ years from now? The Family History Center supported by the LDS church is in a class by itself. If I were to try to reconstruct my lineage one hundred years from now, I would start with their records.

There are also many societies etc, esp from Pa., Pa. Dutch etc., that might accept it for safekeeping, but none have the stature or accessibility for genealogy researchers that the LDS group does. Ultimately one could send many copies to anyone who will take them, but the rules of the acceptor should be kept in mind as data is organized.

NOTE: Recently the Family History Center went online. I had done a search through their older CDROMS (dated 1992 and 1993) and found only about 25% of names using a trial sample from the book. After visiting this new site I now find about 90% of names of those born before about 1895 have been entered by a researcher using the Bieber/Beaver Book and submitted in 1997. A very enterprising individual and I have duplicated efforts to some extent. However the data entered there (In the 'Ancestral File' section) is without correction of some errors contained in the book. I will make corrections as well as additions supplied by those who wish to contribute their information.

Final Comment. This is the last window in time that the survivors mentioned in the book will have to contribute to the update of the monumental effort by Rev. I.M. Beaver. I am sure that he would be the first to tell us that the best source of family information is a living person. We are fortunate to have the additional tools of computers and mass on line communication that he did not. One hundred years from now, many of our descendants will want to know who WE were!

William P. Bieber
San Francisco, California

December 27, 1996 ... Revised May 29, 1999
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