Family Background Page

Most of the information we have on the origins of the family are based now in related stories and conjecture.  Nevertheless, according to some Berrier researchers, the Berrier family has its origins in a province of central France.  The province was named, according to David Berrier, for the Berri tribe of Celts who inhabited the area in pre-Roman Gaul.  The Berri were known for mining tin and it is believed that the the name "Berrier" meaning, "one who comes from Berri," was first used in about the 15th centce.

Autun was built by the Romans under Augustus Caesar about 20 BC, has a Roman wall around it, a temple of Janus, an amphitheater and a 12th century cathedral.  It was  one of four or five university towns in ancient Gaul and David Berrier says it is an interesting place to visit. I want to share some photos of Autun, taken a few years ago by David Berrier.

The Edict of Nantes of 1598 gave Huguenots (Protestants) of France freedom of religion (it is believed that our branch of the Berrier family were Protestants). The Edict was revoked in 1685, after which Louis XIV resumed the war against  against Protestants to make France a Catholic country.  Our branch of the Berrier family fled France and settled nearby in the Palatinate and the Rhineland-Pfalz provinces in what is now Germany.  Other Berriers went to several other points within Europe, including Switzerland and yet others remained in France.   It seems, based upon the lineage of Johan Immet Berger (Berrier), that our branch of the family went to SW Germany where they lived for several generations and changed their surname to "Berger," probably because of the difficulty of the German tongue to pronounce the French "Berrier".  You can obtain further Berger information, especially from the line of George Wilhelm Berger from a great website by Regi Zagrocki.

In the early to mid 1700's, the Bergers immigrated to America, coming into this country through Philadelphia, Berks County, and finally settled in and around what was then Cumberland County, now is Perry County.  It is noted on immigration records that George Wilhelm Berger, son of Johann Immet, left Dierdorf, Germany about 1700 and finally sailed to Philadelphia in 1744 along with one or more of his children, after the death of his wife, on the sailing ship Aurora.

One of George Wilhelm's sons, Johann Christian Berger, who was born January 22, 1724 in Dierdorf, Germany and died in 1774 in Berks County, Pennsylvania had a son named Johann Wilhelm Berger.  This son is confirmed in the Orphan's Court records and estate papers of Johann Christian (copies currently on file). 

We now have records that clearly show that In 1796, Johann Wilhelm Berger, the son of Johann Christian, by then known as William Berrier, paid $13 for a land survey of 90 acres in central Pennsylvania, just south of where New Germantown is now located.  He cleared 40 acres of timber and built the log cabin pictured on the Home Page.  In this small cabin William and his wife, Anna Maria Hahn, raised 10 children.

It appears that from the Berger/Berrier Family Bible (copies on file), written in German script and signed by Johan Wilhelm Berger, that the Berger surname reverted once again back to "Berrier" because children listed in the Bible carried the name "Berrier," not "Berger".

Moreover, it seems that other branches of the Berrier family probably immigrated to America and settled in other locations of the Country, like North Carolina & Kentucky.   A link to these other branches has not been found as of yet, but there must be one out there somewhere.  Some of these branches changed their surname to "Barrier" and "Barger".  Please let me know what you think!

Gerard Berrier's Letter to David Berrier talking about the origins of the Berrier family in France:

"BERRIER is a very ancient French surname from. the royal country of BERRI (or BERRY) in the center of the old kingdom of France.

I am ambassador of the Institute of the Royal House of France. (Institut de la Maison Royale de France).

This institute works to conserving the memory of the old traditions and the history in our country. My friend the Prince Henri of Bourbon-Orleans, Count of Paris, is the last descendant of the ancient kings of France and actually the chief of the Royal family.

I am professor in History, specially European medieval history.

I found some information about the BERRIER family.

In fact, BERRIER is an evident surname from the centre of France.

BERRIER is the man coming from the province of Berri.

The Berri was a very rich country during many centuries, because the Duke of Berri was always a son of the king, a very important prince of royal blood in the kingdom. It possible to find a man with the surname BERRIER, because his father, (secret), was the Duke of Berri.

Berrier become "son of Berri", the Duke, of course… We have the right to dreaming…

Actually, BERRIER is not a very common surname in France. It is possible to find people with this surname in the centre of France, the country near the cities of Bourges, Chateauroux, Poitiers, Autun and Tours in the Loire Valley. (the valley of the kings).

Some people (BERRIER) are living now in the north of France and in the kingdom of Belgium. Certainly since the epoch of Napoleon the first. I found a certain part of Berrier family having the Protestant religion and I think they goes in Germany and America because the persecutions about their religion. It is difficult to know, if you can find actually in France, some descendants from a common ancestor with you. I think it is possible, because the BERRIER family is not very wide-spread in this country.

It is possible to find another way to write our surname, for example: BERRYER. This is an ancient form to write and I have some cousins with this name. In fact the form of surnames in France are settled definitely by the law in the 19e century. You have perhaps an ancestor with BERRYER form…

Here are some information about your surname. I am going to send you another message later. I beg your pardon, because I am a poor writer in English. I prefer the language of Voltaire than the language of Shakespeare…But I am in progress, I hope so.

Regards. Gérard BERRIER"

Thanks Gerard for sharing your valuable information about the family name in France.  I wonder what our cousins think about what you have to say.  I look forward to hearing from others on this.