Some years ago, I downloaded the research thatProf. William Harbaugh did regarding the origins of the Harbaughs/Herbachs in Germany.Professor Harbaugh had determined that they came from the Pfalz (Palatinate) region around Kaiserslautern, but before that, there was some question as to whether they had come from Switzerland via the Netherlands.Yet, there apparently were no records of Herbachs in Switzerland from around the time the good professor researched back in the 1960s.
(See here for Professor Harbaugh's research:http://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/History/WHH%20on%20Harbaugh%20History,%202000.pdfhttp://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/History/WHH%20on%20Harbaugh%20History,%202000.pdf
As it happened, my husband and I had the opportunity, because of a project he was working on, to live for about ten months in the tri-border area of Germany, about a 15 minute walk from the border of the Netherlands (the Geilenkirchen area, specifically a small town called Süsterseel).We decided, when our son came to visit, to travel south to Kaiserslautern and to Otterberg, where it seems the Herbachs had registered their childrens' births at the German Reformed Church, to see for ourselves the very place where the Harbaugh ancestors resided.I printed out Professor Harbaugh's research and other writings about the Harbaughs, which filled our time well in the four-hour drive to the Pfalz area.My son, a Poli-Sci major, found it all highly interesting and inspiring.:-)
When we arrived in Otterberg in early October of last year, we were disappointed to find only a small building that indicated it was a German Reformed school, but it seemed there was no such church, only a very old and beautiful Catholic Cistercian church that dated from around the 1100s.We decided to go in there anyway.Being church-goers (Methodists), we noticed an odd thing: some of the pews featured kneelers as per Catholic services, but some had no kneelers at all.Very strange!
We decided to go to the historical information office, but unfortunately it was closed.However, I boldly went from bookstore to bakery and asked in very bad and broken German if anyone knew where the German Reformed (Evangelische) church was.The bakery clerk indicated that it was the old Cistercian church.But, I said, it's a Catholic church!She said yes, both Catholic and Protestant services were held there.For how long, I asked?She shrugged.Before she was born, she said.I figured that had to be at least since the 1970s.
I did pick up a brochure from the church (in English), and later in Kaiserslautern had occasion to read it.It mentioned that in the late 1500s, the local Pfalzgraf (the local nobleman) invited Reformed Church refugees from the Spanish Netherlands to settle there, and from that time to the early 1700s the church was shared on and off by both Protestants and Catholics, with the church being shared fairly equally between the two groups in the early 1700s.Considering the various wars between the Catholics and Protestants in Europe from the 1500s to the 1700s, this was HIGHLY unusual!
However, in the 1700s, the Pfalzgraf who took over the region was Catholic, and I have a feeling that this may have been one of the things that prompted Yost and his family to emigrate to America, although of course the extreme cold (and fear of war) that kept threatening the area were no doubt big factors, too.After the horrors of forced conversion in Spanish-occupied Netherlands, it could very well be that having a Catholic Pfalzgraf made the Herbachs rather nervous.
The church's brochure specifically mentioned the Limburg area of the Netherlands, as the place where the Evangelische (Protestant) refugees came from.I recalled--both from my own research into France of the Sun King era as well as the Napoleonic era--that the Duchy of Limberg covered areas of Germany as well (although things do get a bit confusing because the Duchy of Brabant borders also crossed Limberg lines occasionally). In fact, the town of Süsterseel in which we lived was a part of the Netherlands until around 1960 or so, when it was given back to the Germans (who lost it after WWII).That area down to around Aachen (known in French as Aix la Chapelle) and Cologne had once been part of Limberg/Brabant.Indeed, another German town to the east of ours--Gangelt--had once been part of the Spanish Netherlands in the 1500s.
On a hunch that people's last names were often taken from the town or village from which they originated, I did a Google map search for a town called Herbach in and around the Limberg province of the Netherlands.I came up with nothing.However, because I also knew that our portion of Germany had also been a part of the Duchy of Limberg, I did a search for Herbach in Germany and...Bingo!
South of Ubach-Palenberg only about 20 minutes from where we lived is a tiny rural village by the name of Herbach, which is part of the municipality of Herzogenrath.In Peter Herbach's time and before, it would have been squarely in the Spanish Netherlands and the Duchy of Limberg.The people in this area speak a dialect of German that has very strong Dutch influences, and sounds a bit more guttural than standard Prussian-influenced German.
Here is the village of Herbach in current-day Germany via Google Maps:
Unfortunately, my husband's project was cut short because of NATO budget cuts, so we had to leave before we did any further investigation.We did manage, however, in one of the most ice-ridden portions of December of 2010, to make it down to Herbach village for about half an hour before we deemed it too icy and dangerous to continue.
Herbach is situated in a hilly area of the Aachen province, quite different from the flat area of Süsterseel in Heinsberg Kreins where we lived.It's similar in terrain to the town of Otterberg.We managed to make it down one icy road to where we saw a very old and large ruined building, partly made of brick and partly of wood.The wooden portion was constructed using hammered pegs, rather than metal nails, very much like the barn next to our house in Süsterseel, which our landlord told us was more than 200 years old.
I would say that the ruined building we saw was about the size of what would serve as a very fine upper-middle class country house in that era.Herbach village is not a new development, as many of the houses there were made of brick and laid in a way that is also characteristic of houses built over 200 years ago.For comparison, we saw the same construction in Castle Hoensbroek in the Netherlands, in the 1600s portion of that castle.Of course, that wooden peg construction was used into the 1700s as well, so that's nothing definitive regarding specific dates.
All this, of course, is partly my speculation.I have no documents pointing to Herbach village as the origin of Peter Herbach.It may still be possible for the Herbachs to have come from Switzerland, and then decided, when coming to the Pfalz (Palatinate) region, to take the name of their home in the Limberg region as their last name.
But that's puzzling to me: why take the name of a village in which your family stayed for a relatively short time, and not one that's from your ancestral home in Switzerland?It seems more likely that a family would take their name from the town they've been in for generations, and thus more likely that the Herbachs came from the Spanish Netherlands, not Switzerland.
Professor Harbaugh's research stopped at the one Netherlands suggestion from his German academic associate that he (the German associate) had found a link to the Netherlands.Unfortunately, he was not able to find out more, as his German friend died soon after.
I think, I really think, that this is what Professor Harbaugh's friend was wanting to tell him before he died about the Netherlands origins of the Harbaughs.In 2000, when Professor Harbaugh was writing down his research, there was no Google maps.There was little chance that anyone perusing a paper German map could find that tiny village of Herbach near Ubach Palenberg.It would have been very difficult to locate that village back in 2000 or before.
I will say that our trip to Otterberg was enlightening in more ways than one:the landscape, the trees, the terrain are almost exactly like that of Harbaugh Valley in Maryland/Pennsylvania.Otterberg sits in a valley between high hills, richly dense with deciduous trees whose leaves glowed red and yellow-gold in the autumn afternoon light.The outcroppings of rock here and there are almost exactly like those you'd see among the hills around Harbaugh Valley, with brooks trickling between them and thick bushes and trees dappling the light that streams through their leaves.I would not be surprised if Yost ("Jost" in German/Dutch) and his family in his search for a new home looked on that Maryland/Pennsylvania valley and thought they could create again what they had left behind.
Anyway, I thought you all might be interested in our experiences in Germany vis a vis our search for our Herbach origins.I hope this helps add to the Harbaugh family research other than sheer entertainment, but it was, at least for us, interesting to think about and see.