The Hoffman Family: 200 Years in America

Shepherdstown, West Virginia is located in the Shenandoah Valley on the banks of the Potomac River. The land rolls gently in all directions and, as our visit was in late spring, everything was incredibly green.

The town itself is small (population less than 2,000) and very charming. Most of the buildings lining the main street are two-story brick or stone with an occasional wooden structure crowded in. IMG_3504They feature lovely wood trim, with details carved or painted, and appeared very well-maintained.

Our B&B anchored one end of the commercial district, and provided us easy access to the shops and restaurants in town, not to mention the cemeteries (Lutheran across the street from Reformed) which anchored the far end of town.


W. German St., Shepherdstown's main drag
W. German St., Shepherdstown’s main drag. We strolled around enjoying the lovely architecture, some old stone churches, and several views of Town Run, the burbling stream that ran directly through the town.


We had time to do some sight-seeing of the area for one full day, timing my visit to the archive to occur on our last morning before heading off to Annapolis. In addition to exploring the town (that didn’t take long) and visiting a portion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park just across the river, we visited the Christ Reformed Church graveyards and found a number of family headstones from the early 1800s. Some were so worn and eroded that it was difficult to read the names or dates. The stones made of granite had held up better and were easier to read. I was excited to be hot on the trail of my Hoffman ancestors, but really did not know what to expect from the archive. I tried to keep my hopes in check.


We arrived at the museum and archive promptly the next morning and were introduced to a young man who was finishing up an internship there, having just graduated from Shepherd University. He told me he had found a document on the Hoffmans and it was housed in the university library, so we walked the few blocks from the museum to the campus together.


The document he had unearthed was manually-typed, about 70 pages in length, bound with a cardboard cover. On the cover was a typed label which read: The Hoffman Family. Two Hundred Years in America. By Lloyd K. Hoffman.


Two hundred years of Hoffman history all laid out in one document. It was more than I had ever hoped. In addition to the American history, the author provided some European history of the Hoffmans and the Newcomers—these two families came to America within a decade of each other, initially settled in Pennsylvania, and intermarried—including their previous movements and reasons for emigrating. All my questions answered! Once again I have benefitted from the research of a distant cousin. The document appears to be the original. It has never been digitized so the only place to see it was right there at Shepherd University.


I was allowed to scan it, which I did using the Scanner Pro app on my iPhone. I couldn’t wait to transfer it to my computer in order to read it. When I did, I found it absolutely fascinating. From pre-reformation politics in France, Italy and Germany to the Pennsylvania Dutch to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, my ancestors had been very caught up in major historical events. Once again history began to come alive for me as I saw the bright thread of my ancestors running through it.