History has been unkind to Fritz Ebgert, the immigrant patriarch of the Apgar family in America. For more than a century, his family forgot him. Near the close of the 19 th century, Theodore Chambers, in his Old Germans of New Jersey, identified Johannes Adam Ebert, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1749, as the immigrant who fathered the first generation of 11 Apgar children in America. Circulating family legends suggested that he from Lombardy, northern Italy, or that the family originated in Germany or Holland, or even in Transylvania or Armenia.
Four score and six years after Chambers’ publication, the Apgar Family Association recognized that Johannes Adam Ebert couldn’t have fathered the eldest of the ‘first generation’ Apgars. Based upon the birth dates of children, Herbert and John Peter had to have been born in the mid-1730s. After scrutinizing immigrant ship passenger records, they conferred the distinction of family patriarchy on Johannes Peter Apgard (or Antger). JPA landed in Philadelphia in 1734, which would have enabled him to be the parent of these eldest sons in America. The assumption that JPA was ‘the man’, was expressed in “Johannes Peter Apgard and his descendants”, Vol. I (1984) and in genealogies subsequently published by the Apgar Family Association.
Fortunately, in early 2003, Fritz Ebgert was re-discovered—independently and simultaneously—by several latter day Apgar researchers, including Lynn Conley and Louanna Rich, and Mike Apgar. These discoveries consisted of material found in
Westerwald to America (1989) by Annette K. Burgert and Henry “Hank” Z. Jones and in transcripts of immigrant ship lists posted on the internet, respectively. As a result, Mike Apgar contacted Hank Jones and began to review old German church books, which had been microfilmed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
At the end of March, several Apgar researchers, including Lynn, Louanna and Mike, plus Debbie Apgar and George N. Apgar, Jr., attended a genealogical conference in Lancaster, PA. There they listened to presentations by, and spoke with, both Hank Jones and Annette Burgert. More information was obtained from both these noted authorities in follow-up correspondence. In April, Mike and Lynn discussed their new information with Apgar Family Association Historian-Emeritus Dorothy E. Apgar, confirming that there was no known evidence on JPA in NJ, or anywhere else, after his arrival in Philadelphia.
A key principle in the search for ancestors is “Study the neighbors!” This principle was emphasized by Hank Jones and Annette Burgert, and confirmed by experience in looking through family records of our Apgar ancestors in America, is that people (family, distant relatives, neighbors and friends) lived together and traveled together. Thus, the search for an individual or individual family is usually intertwined with other people. Recognizing this, means that clues relevant to solving family puzzles can often be found by examining records of the entire communities in which they lived. This approach has been helpful in developing the following story about Fritz Ebgert and the origins of the Apgar Family. Family names originating in the Westerwald, which turned up in northern Hunterdon or southern Morris Counties by the middle of the 18th century and became intertwined with the Apgars included Ahlbach (Alpaugh), Aller, Badenheimer, Boehm/Boehmer, Cramer/Kramer, Henn (Hann), Hoffman, Humrich (Emery), Jung (Young), Neitzert (Neitzer), Roerich, Schaefer, and Wagner.