York Town Square

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York County fraktur expert inventories local art: ‘I make house calls’

June Lloyd wrote the book on a form of fraktur used to illustrate York County, Pa., birth and baptismal certificates in the 1700s and 1800s. A sample is found on the her book’s cover. “Faith and Family” is available at the York County Heritage Trust. Background posts: PS Harrisburg grad school: ‘Set my feet even more firmly on the path into the world of Fraktur’ and The Four YorkBloggers write and Nature had its way with short-lived York Furnace Bridge in southeastern York County

Former York County Heritage Trust Archivist June Lloyd is looking for folks who have early American birth and baptismal certificates.
She compiling a database of these works of fraktur, known as taufscheine.
June told an audience at the Heritage Trust’s Second Saturday program over the weekend that she has records of 1,500 such certificates and regularly adds to that total as she learns of them.
The following is a sampling of the points she made on this Pennsylvania Dutch (German) practice of commissioning such art to mark these important passages:

– The practice was particularly prominent in the German areas of York County versus, for example, Lancaster. Lutheran and German Reformed people were the predominant groups among York County’s German church people in the 1700s and 1800s. They practiced infant baptism as compared to many Anabaptist Germans – Brethren, Amish or Mennonites – east of the who baptized youths or adults East of the Susquehanna.
– The art on the certificates followed themes of angels, hearts, flowers and parrot-like birds. In the heyday of this art, parrots could be found in York County but were hunted to extinction because of their penchant for crops and fruit. Some certificates even showed mermaids, although the reason for this is not known.
– Many existing certificates are creased because they were often stored in Bibles. Sometimes, they were affixed to the inside of chests. They were not originally framed, and improper matting and framing today without acid-free material can cause deteroriation.
– Some taufcheine artists were school teachers. Daniel Peterman was the most prolific with about 70 in June Lloyd’s database. Surprisingly, only two to four by the hand of noted York artist Lewis Miller have been discovered. The custom was not as widely practiced in populated areas. Most taufcheine has been found in the heavily German areas of York’s central valley. It seemed to be most popular among country folks and even in certain families.

June said she keeps the identities of holders of these valuable certificates confidential. If holders cannot meet her at the York County Heritage Trust (www.yorkheritage.org), she’ll examine and inventory the certificates in their homes.
“I make house calls,” she said.

To see scores of posts on the Pennsylvania Dutch and York County, read June Lloyd’s Universal York blog.