From Hoyt Bernard “Bernie” Heller, 1914 – 1955, to Conrad Heller, Brandenburg, Germany, estimated birth 1434 – 1494.
My sister Bobbie and I grew up with very limited knowledge of our Heller family line mostly located in east – central Pennsylvania. This was by design of our well-meaning mother Jeanne Bernstein Heller Polinsky who worried that we might feel comfortable to marry outside of our Jewish faith if we knew Albert E. Heller, our grandfather, had been born a Christian, in his case, a Lutheran.
Picture of Barbara “Bobbie” Polinsky, age 18, and brother Arnold Heller, age 13, Newark, NJ.
Albert Heller converted to Judaism at age twenty-four to marry our grandmother, Frieda Belford, who immigrated from Minsk, Belarus at age five in 1898. In 1891, Albert, born in Appenzell, Pennsylvania, just outside of East Stroudsburg, migrated to Newark in search of work. He met Frieda, fell in love with her, and married in 1913. They had two boys, Hoyt Bernard, born in 1914, and Ralph, born two years later.
Our mother, born Jeannette December 12, 1913, married our father Bernie in June of 1935 – they honeymooned in Spring Lake. This photo was taken at grandparents Samuel and Sadie Bernstein’s Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary in 1954 – they were thirty-nine. Samuel, born in 1875, immigrated from Austria in 1895 and brought his wife Sadie and two children over three years later.
Our family does not possess a photo of grandfather Albert, nor have we ever seen one of the man who died in 1929 at age thirty-eight. Albert managed a traveling carnival, grew lonely during time away from home so Frieda often joined him on the road.
Bernie and Ralph were frequently placed with relatives – the 1920 census lists Bernie as a boarder with his grandparents Ferdinand and Mary Heller in Appenzell – he was six years old at the time. He is about ten years old in the following picture, the only one we have of him as a child.
Bernie Heller, (above photo), about age ten. List of eight generations (above columns) of Hellers in USA starting with Johan Simon Heller’s arrival in 1738 with his father Johan Christopher Simon and four brothers. Isaac Heller, born in 1752 in colonial Pennsylvania, is our family line’s first child born in America.
I was astonished while researching this history of our lineage from the lack of documentation of our mother and father’s life experiences in this country. I found very few birth, marriage or general census records for two urban people who lived in the Twentieth Century.
I’ve learned that sourcing public information records provides limited information – searching existing family trees proved far more productive in discovering matches. For example, our father’s life is recorded in a death certificate (March 29, 1955, Irvington, NJ), an erroneous reference in the 1910 census that he was born four years before actual birth day, a reference to him in the 1940 census as a brother-in-law of my mother’s grandparents living at 367 Peshine Avenue in Newark.
In the Bernstein household of 1940, occupants listed include Samuel Bernstein, age 63, Sadie Bernstein, age 60, Morris Bernstein, age 26, son-in-law Hoyt Heller, age 26, daughter Jeanne Heller, age 26. Morris, two years older than his sister Jeanne is probably 28 at the time; also, Bernie and Jeanne lived a block away and not with her parents.
Our mother’s recorded life is far surprisingly scarcer than our father for she lived almost twice as long. In contrast, the public records of Bobbie and I, though limited, are almost voluminous compared to our parents.
Source: MyHeritage.com: Examine above document. Notice our grandmother’s name is misspelled; Belfar instead of Belford – it is also misspelled as such for Albert Heller’s burial form in 1929. Was Belfar shortened from a longer name at Ellis Island, perhaps Belfarsky and changed to Belford? Or coincidentally twice misspelled?
Frieda Belford Heller, our grandmother, 1893 – 1991 or 1892 – 1987.
Note too that Arnold Heller, born in 1946, is listed but not Bobbie Heller who was born in 1940. Furthermore, I typed in Jeanne Bernstein’s birth and death dates – they had not been previously recorded. The following 1920 census document shows Bernie Heller living with his grandparents in Appenzell.
Photo circa 1944 of Bernie Heller (R), brother Ralph Heller (L) two years younger, and Bobbie Heller, age 4.
In the US Census of 1910, Albert Heller is listed as living in Jackson, Monroe, Pennsylvania and 19 years old. His father Ferdinand, mother Mary and five siblings are also listed.
Albert Heller’s death certificate.
Right of main driveway, 5th section from South Orange Avenue.
The above photo is of either Mary Heller, 1862 – 1957, wife of Albert, Bernie’s grandmother, or it is of Frieda Belford Heller’s mother, name unknown despite aggressive searches. The austere clothing and facial expression suggests Mary Heller; Grammys’ mom is written on back of the photo. Grammy is the name Bobbie and I called our grandmother growing up so you be the judge.
Source: Family Search Family Trees – My Heritage: Ferdinand Heller.
Source: Billion Graves.
James B. Heller
Jacob Heller, Pennsylvania / US Census, 1870
Jacob Heller’s wife is Mary Heller, born Brewer, 1809 – 1885. The match is with their son James B. Heller and his son Ferdinand Heller. Jacob, later in life, migrated to Sulphur Springs, Crawford Co., Ohio and was buried there.
John Heller, 1778 – 1847
Spouses – Susannah Bordner, Catherina Bitterman, Anna Marie Paul; father of Isaac.
Susannah Bordner is the spouse of John Heller.
Isaac Heller, 1752, son and eighteenth child of Johan “John” Simon Heller, the son of Johan Christopher Heller, is the first Heller child of our family line born in America. Isaac’s birth date’s listing ranges from 1742 to 1752. I believe the latter date for John Simon moved into Northampton / Monroe / Jackson in 1742. Hellertown was established in 1750; Penn Argyll in 1765.
Isaac Heller’s birth date listed of 1751 shows Pheddersheim, Germany as the family’s origin. From MyHeritage.com; web site of Byrum Tudor; time line of Isaac Heller’s life beginning in 1751.
Johan “John” Simon Heller is the immigrant ancestor that established the family in the “new world”. He married five women that birthed him twenty-six children.
Source: Genie World Tree
At age twenty-five, I learned of grandfather Albert’s conversion; at age fifty-eight I made a pilgrimage to Hellertown to research our origins in the public library and learned of Christopher Heller and his five sons that established the town and surrounding locations. For thirteen years I sensed this was our family’s roots in America but could not prove it until this genealogical search.
Johan Christopher Heller, and his son Johan Simon, are the DNA that chartered our family heritage in America; indeed, the Heller family settled much of east-central Pennsylvania, literally from the northern stretches beyond Philadelphia to the Pocono Mountains in the far northeastern corner; also the lands west of Philadelphia that became the Amish country. Christopher and Simon are literally two of the many “fathers of our country”.
Marriage: Anna Loysa “Lowii” Heller (born Dietz), Saucon Twnshp, Northhampton, PA, 1726 -1768
Marriage: Anna Margharetha Heller (born Anthony), 1745 – 1769
Marriage: Christina Heller (born Bossard), 1769 – 1822
Marriage: Barbara Heller (born Knect), 1762, born 1723 – ?
Marriage: Mest Heller (born Dieter Heller)
Given the prodigious number of children born, the medical conditions of time, number of twin births, it is assumed that some wives and a number of children died in child birth or soon afterwards.
Wife Rebecca Heller, 1805 – ?
Anna Louisa “Lowii” Heller
It appears that Johan Simon Heller began having children with a younger woman, Rebecca Heller. Born in 1726, Lowii died at Wind Gap, Northampton, Pennsylvania married to Johannes George Heller. Isaac Heller is apparently Johan Simon’s eighteenth child – glad that he did not stop at seventeen.
Johan Christopher Heller, 1688 – 1778
Christening: March 24, 1706, Reformed Church (Evangelical Lutheran), Pfeddersheim, Germany, Rhineland – Palatinate.
Marriage: Veronica Heller (born Lavall), Feb. 18, 1716; Budesheim, Bitburg-Prum, Rhineland-Platz, Germany
Arrival: 1738, Philadelphia, PA
Marriage: Tohickon, Bucks Co., PA, 1844
Residence: 1750 – Hamilton, Northampton, PA, founded Hellertown in Lower Saucon Valley and lived there until his death in 1778 at age 90 and where he is buried.
Michael Heller for unknown reasons is not included. Michael was influential in developing the first trading post and farm in Lower Saucon Valley and Hellertown.
The next phase of this genealogy is to trace the family line back through Europe starting with Johan Christopher Heller’s parents. Although the family appears to have immigrated from Pheddersheim in the 17th Century, family members in the 16th Century appear to be moving from the German speaking part of Switzerland, particularly Zurich and environs to the present German state of Hesse.
The search will conclude with Conrad Heller, estimated birth 1434 – 1494, residing in Brandenburg, Germany just outside of modern day Berlin. Brandenburg is a kind of colonial Williamsburg showcasing Frederick the Great and other leading Prussian monarchs. One wonders what measures of civil instability, war, religious intolerance, or other disaster caused the migrations.
It is believed that the search for religious tolerance and cheap farmland drew hundreds of thousands of Germans – including our family – across the ocean to Pennsylvania, a green land with rolling hills and climate similar to Germany. They came, sacrificed, prospered, and we benefit to this very day.
Hans Jacob Heller, 1662 – 1727
Hans was born in Pheddersheim, Rhein, Hessen, Germany and married Anna Sara Heller (born Stricker) in 1687. She died in 1689 in Pheddersheim. Source for below diagram: Davenport web site; Howard Brimmer, manager.
Anna Gotteiba Heller (born Sclintwein) 1644 – 1682
Anna was born, lived, and died in Pheddersheim, Pfalz, Hessen, Germany.
Source: My Heritage Family Trees
Conrad Heller, 1615 – 1640
Residence: Weyl Bei Rafz, Zurich, Switzerland.
Marriage: Maria Magdalena Heller (born Angst) circa 1635
It appears that the family during the life of Conrad Heller migrated from the Zurich area to the Worms – Pheddersheim area in Germany. Neither Switzerland nor Germany existed as countries yet; monarchies, principalities, small entitled states were the rule. The nation-state concept had formed in Spain, England, France, Netherlands, but not in the German language regions.
Conrad is also listed as residing in the Wil, Zurich area. Conrad Heller’s parents appear to be Marx Heller, 1597 – 1671, and Veronica Neukom, 1601 – 1667 with no marriage event happening.
Bernard Heller, 1619 – ?
Residence: Wil Bei Rafz, Zurich, Switzerland
Fridli Heller, 1580 – 1665
One wonders if Fridli Heller – instead of Marx Heller – is Conrad Heller’s father.
Hans Heller, 1563 – 1615
Conrad apparently is listed here as Lorenz Robert Heller’s son. Source: Geni World Tree
Lorenz Robert Heller, 1549 – 1600
Residence: Grobgartach, Heilbronn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.
Conrad Oder Lorenz Hiller
Source: David Rumsey, Manager, last updated November 5, 2017
Birth date: Between 1499 and 1500
Birthplace: Brandenburg, Germany
Death: After 1540
Immediate family: Father of Lorenz Heller
Birth date: Estimated between 1434 and 1494
Immediate family: Conrad Oder Lorenz Heller, birth – 1499 / 1500
A forthcoming DNA Ancestry Test may shed more light on our journey into our past heritage.
Photo of sister Barbara “Bobbie” Heller Polinsky and husband Arnold Polinsky.
Photo of Arnold Heller with late wife Sue Auerbach Heller (1950 – 2009) and son Sasha Bart Heller taken at 50th birthday party, February 26, 1996.