Research Entry #1

Beginning My Internet Search; Overholt Family Origins

Written and Edited by Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield; c. 2-24-00

[Karen's Note: This typeface is Navy-colored. Set your printer for "Grayscale," and you'll save ink. Also, this entry is about eight pages long; print in "Book" style (front and back) to save paper.]

From the Beginning . . .

I began my Internet searches for my long, lost relatives in January 1998, and I had to tiptoe into the then-frightening world of the World Wide Web at our local branch of the Carnegie Library. I figured that was appropriate, considering the historic connection the Overholt Family had with Andrew Carnegie (i.e., his partner was Henry Clay Frick, a grandson of my great, great, great grandfather, Abraham Overholt). Considering Carnegie was Frick’s “partner in crime,” so to speak (i.e., Frick + coal + coke + Carnegie = the Overholt diaspora), why shouldn’t I begin my search for long, lost relatives via the computers in a Carnegie Library? It was easy for me to get there, for I met my son each weekday at the school bus stop, which was just across the street from the library. Matthew liked the arrangement, and he quickly picked up the habit of getting his appointed time on the computers, and I was happy he was becoming “computer literate.” In fact, it was my watching him on the computers that gave me the incentive to get involved, myself. I began asking questions of the librarians regarding genealogy and useful Internet sites, and began to map out a strategy.

First, after getting help to log onto the Web, I went to several search engines (Yahoo! was the best for me), typed in the name “Overholt,” and then printed out all the names and addresses (and miles of references to newspaper articles, scientific and medical articles, books, etc.) I could find from every state in the union. Among those addresses and references were the e-mail addresses, and I used them to contact people, spending hours on my feet, because the library had mostly carrels that required a person to stand to use the computers. I quickly found out that most of these e-mail addresses go nowhere, since people change their screen names and servers constantly. However, a few people did answer back, and I just continued from there, being alternately elated and disappointed over and over again . . . until here I am, beginning the year 2000, my third year on the Internet.

Yes, it helps to have a plan. From the beginning of this great adventure, I have known exactly what I wanted to accomplish, so, I’ve had specific goals guiding me during all this time of Internet searching. I’ve had to work hard (in my old age) to develop new skills -- to the point where I’ve managed to create several web pages dedicated to my dedication, to which I continue to be dedicated. And all this does take dedication, because it takes so very much time to get anything done properly. You will find, as I did, that it is so easy to get lost in all the genealogy-related web sites, and a lot of those sites require paid membership, which I cannot afford. However, by keeping to the rock-bottom discipline of “If-it-costs-money-then-skip-it!” a person can still learn enough to get somewhere on one’s search. And once you have your own computer station at home (which is terribly expensive!), very soon, you discover that it is costly to keep your printer stocked with ink and paper, so that you can print out your correspondence and keep proper records.

Okay, so now I’ve told how I began my Internet searches. The pure joy comes whenever someone named “Overholt” or a descendant of the Extended Overholt Family sends me an e-mail to say “hello!” and/or to say my web pages were worthwhile. For me, that is the ultimate “First Contact,” which is why I often answer back with those words as the subject heading. Most of my life, I have felt so alone (i.e., bereft of aunts, uncles and cousins and family ties), and judging from the messages sent from a lot of my respondents, I am not the only Overholt who has felt this way. Personally, I bless the World Wide Web for giving me the means to relocate my roots and my Extended Family. May you one day feel so blessed!

The next few pages will give you some of the most interesting information I have reaped so far, regarding the origins of the Overholt Family, plus something of the backgrounds of some very talented cousins. Remember, e-mail addresses change constantly, so you may have some difficulty relocating people.

Source: Jacob H. (Jack) Overholt Edited from e-mail dated July 25, 1998:

“. . . you are starting a program that has been followed by a number of Overholts in the past fifty years. My grandfather, Jacob Baum Overholt, financed an extensive search in the late twenties and early thirties, which traced the name back to the Swartzwald in Germany. The earliest user of the name was a Baron Uberholzer (umlaut over the U and the o in the name). He was, as the name implies, the keeper of the Kaiser’s forests. The name translates: Uber = Over, and holzer = forests . . . The Uberholzer name has many variations. The British clerks [in England and America] did not like the German spelling of the name, so they changed it. Overholt (meaning “over-the-woods” in English) was one variation; others were: Oberholzer, Overhold, Overholzer.

My father, Warren Harr Overholt, spent seven summers in Germany looking for our place of origin. He found a little crossroad village in the Black Forest with the name Uberholzer/Overholt, where he was told that a castle once stood, and that it was the seat of the Baron Uberholzer.

There were twenty-six “Overholts” who came to Philadelphia between 1690 and 1706; they were both male and female. In my ancestors, there were three men and two women, all in their late teens and early twenties. The story is that the Overholts were part of a rebel group of students who marched on the Kaiser’s palace demanding changes in the feudal system -- the “activists” of their day. The Overholts were all identified and proscribed for rebellion. They escaped in family groups, through Belgium into Holland, then to England. They were not welcome in England, because they were all followers of Calvin, and England at that time was Catholic, so they were given a brief time to find some other place [to live] or be returned to Germany.

William Penn was having trouble finding people for his colonies, so he took them to Philadelphia, but since the Germans were not well liked by the British, they were sent out into the country, where they made a village called Germantown. When the British saw the good land that they had cleared, they took that location away from them and moved them further into the country (wilderness areas).

Most of the Germans looked for another religion close to their own and finally became Mennonites. My five ancestors were among the founders of the Deep Run Mennonite Church, which is located at the east end of the Deep Run Road, just off Route 611, at The Harrow. There are over one hundred Overholts buried in that cemetery. My grandfather was born on the original Overholt Homestead in Bucks County. It is located at the intersection of Deep Run Road and Dirstine Road.

Many of the Overholts became teamsters and followed the Colonial Armies along The Kings Highway to Pittsburgh, then into Ohio, and on to Kansas, and finally to the West Coast. I met a family of Overholts in the San Fernando Valley (now part of the Angeles National Forests) in 1938, who told me that they had arrived in 1835, and that an Overholt had been High Sheriff for the past one hundred years.

Incidentally, my grandfather was a fifth cousin of the Overholts who owned the distillery, and he had to sign off on the sale to Seagrams,* so they could continue to use the family name. I am a retired electronics engineer and a former Army Major. I am always interested in hearing from Overholts.”

*Karen’s Note: Currently, the Jim Beam Brands Company owns the trademark and distills Old Overholt Rye Whiskey.

Source: David Scott Overholt E-mail: June 28,1998

“I am a direct descendant of Abraham Overholt of the Old Overholt Distillery. Our family tree has been traced back to a Swiss city that I believe was named Oberholtzer, although I am not positive of the name.”

Karen’s Note: There are different branches of the Overholt Family in Canada, and they may or may not be linked to the Bucks County and/or the West Overton trees.

Source: Dee Davidson E-mail: December 9, 1998

“Hi, I am also searching for Overholt -- mine in Canada, from PA -- and I also have an Abraham. My particular Overholt is ISAAC, born in PA c. 1741-1746, and he had at least one daughter, Hannah or Anna, born in PA, but she married in Canada and both died in Canada. I have the Canadian branch, and am now searching PA. I doubt if there were many [people] of this name in the same period, and we are probably branches of the same tree.”

Source: Judy Jones E-mail: November 11, 1999

“I am not so sure we are of the same Overholt line. My mother was an Overholt and was born in Canada. Have you researched any ties to Canada?”

Source: Barbara Overholt Hubbard E-mail: May 26, 1999

“I recently found this book on the Family Treemaker Genealogy Library. It is “A Genealogical Record of Jacob Beidler,” by A. J. Fretz:

You do have to subscribe to the Gen. Library, though. But an opportunity to view this very old book . . . There is a large section on the Oberholtzer/Overholt family.”

Source: Bruce Allen Overholt (cannot relocate) E-mail: June 27, 1998

“I am Bruce Allen Overholt. I am 42 years old, and grew up in Boston, MA. I came to PA through meeting my wife. My father is the late Glenn Lyle Overholt, born on 10/17/1930. He grew up in South Dakota. He settled in Boston after meeting my mother . . . I can only go back to my grandfather Audley B. Overholt, born on 8/25/1895.

The two points of history told about our Overholts was that we were related to the Overholts that owned the Baker Estate in Philadelphia. The story was that the Baker Estate was in the downtown area and was taken from the Family by some sort of Eminent Domain law. Secondly, that we are distantly related to the Overholt Whiskey. I don’t know how accurate these stories are, since I grew up not knowing my grandparents.”

Karen’s Note: Barbara Ford is the editor of the Overholser Family Association Bulletin, which is published semi-annually, and is financed solely by voluntary contributions of the members. She also put out a book, The Oberholtzer Book, which I have not yet seen, but many people have used it as a source. Her address and e-mail:

Barbara Ford, 313 Henry Lane, Wallingford, PA 19086

Barbara Ford

Source: Joe Overholt E-mail: October 2, 1998

“I am Joe Overholt of Newport, Tennessee (East Tennessee, near Smoky Mountain National Park). There are about 30 of us Overholt’s in this area. I don’t know how far back they go, but it must be before 1900, since there are several groups around here. The Overholt’s in Knoxville, who may have responded, are mostly doctors. There is Gene and Bob, who are well known doctors in Knoxville. I don’t know if they are related to our group here in Newport, but they probably are somewhere back.”

RE: The Overholt Family in Norway and a Possible North American Connection

Source: Marius Overholt E-mail: October 5, 1998

“Thank you for your two email messages about the genealogy of the Overholt family of Pennsylvania. I did not reply before, because I knew that I am not related to this family. But I suppose even negative information may be useful.

Long ago, my parents kept an empty bottle of Old Overholt’s Whiskey in the attic, and I once asked them if there was any relationship. They said no, that most Overholts in the USA are of Dutch or German origin (they were not sure which). This ties in very well with the original version of your family name being Overholtzer.

Now, I am a Norwegian, and in Norway, the family name Overholt comes from the name of a certain farm in middle Norway. In this country, many family names have their origin in the names of farms. The spelling of this farm name has changed over the centuries, one of the old versions is Oefferholt. As you can see, it is a complete coincidence that you and I share the same surname, Overholtzer and Oefferholt having independently converged on Overholt!

The only branch of the Norwegian Overholt family that I know of in the USA was founded by an uncle of my grandfather, who emigrated in 1868, and ended up in northwest North Dakota. I am sure there must be other Overholts in the USA of Norwegian ancestry, but I know no details.

Best of luck with your genealogical researches. Sincerely, Marius Overholt”

Marius Overholt, Section for Mathematics & Statistics, University of Tromso, Tromso, Norway

Source: (Samuel) Mark Overholt, MD E-mail: June 27, 1998

“I am Samuel Mark Overholt, MD -- son of Robert M. Overholt, MD -- who is the son of Bergein M. Overholt, MD. Our Overholt’s are from central Michigan. I am sure that in some form or fashion we are related. My grandfather was originally an orphan who was adopted by an Overholt. He then was schooled at Battle Creek College, where Dr. J. Harvey Kellogg ‘took a liking to him.’ He then sent my grandfather to Northwestern medical School and on to residency in Vienna, London, and Paris.

It really is an amazing story. Since then, medicine has been the profession that most of my relatives have pursued. My uncle is a famous gastroenterologist, having invented the first fiberoptic endoscope. My great uncle was Dr. Richard Overholt, a prominent thoracic surgeon from Harvard. All in all, I am extremely proud to be an Overholt, and am happy to share this little bit of info from our side of the clan.”

Karen’s Note: You will find that the Oberholtzer/Overholt Family kept naming their children after each other for generations, and about 12 or 15 biblical names are repeated in every branch. It appears they were remembering the first names of the first Overholts who came to America, memorializing them. To further identify each new generation, often the maiden name of the mother was given as a middle name. However, once Overholt branches took root “out West,” family traditions changed, along with their first names. In “modern” times, the first names continue to be more diverse, but I still find multiples of the most popular names, plus multiples of the traditional Overholt Family names. Here are some examples.

Source: William Henry (Bill) Overholt E-mail: November 23, 1998

“. . . I don’t know any Overholt relatives personally. My father did some genealogy work in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and attached* is a what I know about the Overholt (Oberholtzer) side of the family.

They apparently all came from Jacob, who arrived in PA in 1732. I have been asked in Holland if I were of Dutch extraction -- the name sounds like it, and there are some Dutch Overholts. There are also some Oberholtzers that came from the Palatinate. I did once drive through Oberholtzer, Switzerland.

There is a William H. [Overholt] who is a China expert, who has written quite a bit on the subject. I also had an interesting experience a few years ago in Madras, India. I was checking into a small hotel, where there were only a few other Americans, and it seemed that I had two reservations. The next morning, I jokingly asked the clerk if she found the other William Henry Overholt, and she said, ‘Yes, he’s standing right over there!’ He turned out to be an interior decorator from Seattle.”

* Karen's Note: Bill sent me two attachments with his Family Tree information, but I have yet to be able to decipher them on my computer -- they’re mac-binhex40, and I don’t know how to make them readable. I have never written back to get another copy -- yet.

Source: William H. Overholt [as of July ‘99] E-mail: June 18, 1998

Karen's Note: This is dated material, but still interesting. Currently (?), he works for Nomura International in Hong Kong, as “Asia Strategist.”

“William H. Overholt Managing Director, Bank Boston

William H. Overholt is Head of Asia Research at Bank Boston’s regional headquarters in Singapore.

Prior to joining Bank Boston in 1998, Dr. Overholt worked at Bankers Trust for 18 years, managing a country risk team in New York from 1980 to 1984, and then serving as regional strategist and Asia research head based in Hong Kong from 1985 to 1998. From 1971 to 1979, Dr. Overholt worked at the Hudson Institute, where he directed planning studies for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of State, National Security Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Council on International Economic Policy. He became Director of Hudson Research Services, which provided strategic planning services to corporations. . .

Dr. Overholt is the author of five books, including most recently, The Rise of China (W.W. Norton, 1993, and nine foreign editions), which won the prestigious Mainichi News/Asian Affairs Research Center Special Book Prize. The others are: Political Risk (Euromoney, 1982); and (with William Ascher) Strategic Planning and Forecasting (John Wiley, 1983). He is principal co-author of: Asia’s Nuclear Future (Westview Press, 1976) and The Future of Brazil (Westview Press, 1978). With Zbigniew Brzezinski, he founded the semi-annual Global Assessment in 1976 and edited it until 1988.

Dr. Overholt served on the Executive Committee of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong for four years and served as a Governor of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong for six years. He has been a consultant on foreign affairs and strategic planning to the Conference Board, the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, the Foreign Service Institute, Dean Witter Reynolds, A.G. Becker, and numerous corporations. He has served as political advisor to several of Asia’s major political figures, and has done consulting projects for the Korea Development Institute, Korea’s National Defense College, the Philippine Ministry of Agrarian Reform, and Thailand’s Ministry of Universities.

Dr. Overholt received his B.A. (magna, 1968) from Harvard and his Master of Philosophy (1970) and Ph.D. (1972) from Yale.”

Source: Barbara J. Overholt Hubbard E-mail: February13, 2000

Original Source: Jan Listowner [Edited -- a message]

“. . . Last week I spoke on the words my grandfather spoke as he gave up his last tenuous grasp on our family’s ancestral home and lands in LBL, ‘I will neither look back, nor be back.’ I described for you the autumn day in 1967, that marked the end of a season in a family. Today, I want to describe for you what that did in terms of being one of the major reasons why I do what I do these days on the Net, for myself and for others. And I have an idea that similar circumstances are the reasons many of you are here as well. I think more than a few of you will identify with my thoughts and motivations here.

My cousin and I loved that homeplace dearly, as many of you loved a similar place that now exists only in your minds and hearts. I frequently ‘walk’ through it, escaping todays into yesterdays and memories, willing myself to remember the touch of fabric, the coolness of hardwood floors on my bare feet, the weight of a fat white china cup in my hands, the way the afternoon sun slanted and cast shadows on the floor of a long front porch. Those memories are a comfort to me, because beyond the ‘things’ I have that were there, [memories] are all I have left of the place I knew.

I know that many of you feel the same way, and have another place you ‘walk’ to for comfort at times. But those memories I have, and you have, will be gone all too soon, leaving this world at the same [moment] that we do -- just as the memories [kept by] our grandfathers and great-grandmothers left with them. And unless [these memories] are given and passed on, it [will be] as if those things had never been, other than what ‘facts’ are left behind on scraps of paper.

This came to me in a very real way recently, when the daughter of my first cousin (who is now gone to the next world) contacted me. A young mother, the family’s heritage is beginning to be of importance to her. And she asked for my memories, [for] the memories her mother died before she could pass on, and so I have begun to write them [down] for her and to give her what I cannot leave in any tangible form, other than description. I have walked her through the family homeplace, willing her to see through my eyes, and I have introduced her to the great-grandfather she never knew, trying to give her a balanced picture of him -- the good and the bad -- making him human and breathing living flesh, for her.

For the same reason, documenting the family line in that country is also important. I want to know who the grandparents of my grandfather were, because I have no memories of him telling me about them. I know he must have treasured memories of those who lived in his time, and I know he must have treasured the stories that he heard of those who did not. Because it was important to him -- and, knowing him, I know it was -- it is also important to me. My grandfather was of another world and time, as many of your [grandfathers] were. And in that day and time, the passing on of roots came through the oral tradition. They little understood that the coming ways of this [modern] world would leave [us] little inclination or time for [the] oral passing of roots, and that unless a generation following them [would have] the wisdom to record it, all [would be] lost.

I rue that I was young when [my grandfather] sat so long, [sharing] his long tales of ‘who begat who’ and of things that had happened, [of] where they happened, and [of] those who peopled those stories. I am frustrated that I (as did his children) ‘tuned’ much of this out. It is not just a matter of ‘proving’a lineage -- it’s much, much more. It is a matter of salvaging that which was important to one I loved, and giving it to those like my cousin’s children, and my own children. [It is a matter of] passing on the things that were of importance in an endless chain of living memories. I cannot turn back the clock, and I cannot make my grandfather be here again with me, at a time in which I am ready and mature enough to listen to his stories that wound on hour after hour. But I still draw breath, and I can piece together what I can find, add to that what I do remember, and give the next generation something far more precious than the money this family never had anyway.

We no longer have our home in LBL, and even the family burial grounds (where my great grandfather, great-great grandfather, and possibly [even more family] before them are buried) have been taken from us. All we have is our history, and so you see why it is important beyond description. It is all we have left of our roots. And I suspect that many of you, if for whatever reason your ancestral lands and homeplace are gone, feel the same [way].

Please remember this when others contact you or post to a list. Their reasons may have nothing to do with wanting to join an elite organization, may have nothing to do with idle curiosity, may have nothing to do with simple scholarship and an abiding love of research. More often, I am finding, it is a situation in which family history is an anchor to hold [onto] in this fast-paced and all-too-impersonal world. It is a situation in which all the heritage or ‘home’ a family has left is their history. It is a situation in which a person regrets not finding important those things elders talked [about], at the time they talked [about] them, [but] with maturity, wants to salvage what can [be salvaged] of the memories of elders who went on before them. Your words and help are often far more important than you can possibly realize, and will cause a heart to leap, [and] bring tears to an eye in gratitude.

In other words, it is often a matter of the ‘heart,’ and any small tidbit or fact -- any direction you can find time to give -- is more meaningful than gold to that person who longs so desperately to find his or her humble link in a long chain. [So] pass it on, giving the generation to come roots and a sense of belonging in a world that is uncertain.

Just a thought, Jan

John 3:16 Future Resident, artist, scribe-in-residence, general troublemaker of the Old Genealogists Home, best kept secret in America

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