The Impact of a Snapshot

Over the weekend, I was doing a little research into my family name.  My Aunt Dorothy collected a fair amount of Beem family genealogy and shared it with me.  I know that my own brand of the family tree has been in America for quite a while. The story goes that one of my ancestors (George Beem) was an aide to General Washington in the Revolutionary War.  I'm skeptical.  Just imagine how many people claim to have ancestors connecting with Washington.  However, it does seem to flow down a bit:

  • George Beem fathered Benjamin Beem in 1790
  • Benjamin fathers George Washington Beem
  • G.W. fathered Seth P.
  • Seth fathered Stanley Robbin
  • S.R. fathered Stanley Robert
  • I'm next.

Although I haven't really established the connection yet, I believe that George Beem at the top of the list is a descendent of Michael Beem who immigrated from Germany.  It's easy to understand how some of these old records can disappear over time, but I'm more impressed by how often you can find a historical record that's been kept for centuries.

What does this have to do with photography? I found something that possibly takes my family history in a different direction.  It's the story of two children who died in the Holocaust at Auschwitz.

Abraham and Eva Beem

Abraham en Eva Beem

Abraham and Eva lived in The Netherlands, children of parents who were active in the Jewish community.  Their parents, Hartog & Rosetta Beem went into hiding and sent their children to Christian friends to live under assumed names.  It worked for a couple of years until they were betrayed.  The Germans paid rewards to people who turned in Jews.  One night, police came to arrest the children and their foster parents.  They claimed they weren't Jewish, so the police forced young Abraham to undress and his penis gave them away.

Abraham and Eva were murdered in Auschwitz on 6 March, 1944.

Their story, like so many others during the war, is tragic and heartbreaking. I've always had an interest in history and have read numerous reports just like this one. The difference is that I've always read them before as an outsider, looking in at someone else's story. For the first time, I've come across a Holocaust story that very likely has a connection to my own family.  Had it just been a story with the name “Beem”, I would've been intrigued.  The part that drives this home is the photograph.

I look at these two children and I instantly see family features.  The book my Aunt Dorothy sent is full of family photos and it's not hard to pick out the folks with a Beem family gene compared to their other loved ones in the images.  It's no different than looking in the mirror and seeing parts of my father in the reflection.  We're an unmistakable lot.

Eva Beem

Eva Beem c. 1942

I wouldn't have this connection had it not been for the photographs. Yes, our common family name tells me that there's likely a connection, but actually seeing someone with those family features drives the story home for me.

Our family photographs, even snapshots, may have impact on someone else in the future. I'm in a very different line of the family, but the images make me feel close to people who were long past before I was ever born.

It also raises some questions for my own history. For one thing, I've never heard any mention of our family being Jewish. It makes me wonder if there was a split before part of the family moved to America, or if the difference came from other issues.

I may not be able to prove the link in our families.  As I mentioned, I'm having a hard time establishing the link to Michael Beem, which would seem necessary to establish a line down to the Dutch Beem family. On the other hand, I don't feel that I have to prove it in writing now.  The photograph tells me everything I need to know that the connection is real.

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16 comments

  • Shamu July 26, 2010   Reply →

    Ah HA!

    We will be going to eat at a deli the next time you visit.

  • Shamu July 26, 2010   Reply →

    Ah HA!

    You realize what this means, no? The next time you visit, we eat lunch at a delicatessen.

  • Tommy August 11, 2010   Reply →

    Great article, William! Found your site through carlosmiller.com

    I got into photography when my son was born in 2004, primarily to document his infancy and childood.

    I don’t have too many photographs of my childood, and I certainly don’t have many photos when it comes to my father who came from Germany, and my mother who came from Cuba.

    I am a first-generation American, being born here in Miami. When my son was born, I decided to begin what I hope will be well documented family photography through the generations. I made sure to mention my intent in my diary for my son to follow, hopefully.

    All my digital photos are saved optically and externally. I just need to find a good, long-term photo archive site with plenty of space.

    • William August 11, 2010   Reply →

      Tommy,

      Sounds like an outstanding project for the history of your family. Just imagine how it may affect later generations of your descendants.

      • jesse james tester May 18, 2016   Reply →

        this is a rely creepy to imagine

  • Jon Beem February 15, 2011   Reply →

    Hey I stumbled on your page as I was doing a little research on my last name which I happen to share with you. I found it funny that you mentioned the Beem gene because I think I know what your talking about (ie. Big round faces, etc.,) Anyway, I was wondering if you have done any further research into the Beem family and if you have I would love to hear what you have found.

    • William February 15, 2011   Reply →

      Hi, Jon.

      I may have something to share. My aunt Dorothy compiled a bit of her research into the family name into a binder for me a few years ago. It isn’t online, but we can find a way to share and fill in pieces of the puzzle for each other. Thanks for stopping by.

      William

  • Alexia Beem February 15, 2011   Reply →

    I’m exactly like Jon I was researchinq my last name. I’m really wondering if we are all related somehow.. Someone give me answers please.. Thanks

    • Webmaster February 15, 2011   Reply →

      There’s a good possibility that we are related, since I haven’t run across many folks with the Beem name. Do you have anyone named Seth, Roger or George Beem in your family history? Another avenue for you is to look for the Beem name on Ancestry.com. It isn’t very active, but there are some other possibilities you may want to explore there.

  • Matthew Beem March 15, 2011   Reply →

    Hello, another Beem here, I was just looking around to find all people with the Beem last name in hopes of Compiling a complete family tree and stumbled upon this site. Its rather late at night at this point so I will keep this short. I was born in Indiana and my grandparents are Bruce S Beem and Edna Mae Beem. Bruce (grandpa) had 3 children my Father, and my 2 Uncles Donald Ray Beem and David J Beem. He also had 2 Brothers and a sister who I only know ones name, a Herman Beem. Grandpas parents where Claude and Hattie Sisil Beem. If any of these names ring a bell or if you have any parts of our family tree please e-mail me at matt47274@yahoo.com and include “BEEM” in caps in the subject line so that I will not miss it in my inbox. Thanks in advance for any help! Best wishes to all Beems! Matt

  • Katelin Barcia, nicolette morrone June 3, 2011   Reply →

    i found this site looking for research on Eva Beem for a history project. Their story is very touching, we found your website very helpful thank you so much. And we are happy that you could find out more about your family tree.

  • Scott Baxter May 31, 2012   Reply →

    A very interesting entry with such a tragic component. Ever since I’ve become a dad, it makes me extremely uncomfortable to hear of bad things (whether accidental or intentional) befalling children. I instantly see my own little boys in my head and think of how bereft I would feel without them — and the incredibly sad thought of potential ever unfulfilled. I’ve heard it said that “there’s nothing sadder than the words ‘It might have been …’.”

    On another note, I find the idea of researching family history both fascinating and alien at the same time. I’m an adopted child, and while I regard my adoptive parents and associated close family as my “real” family, I don’t feel the same connection with previous generations down that line that most people probably would. I have no idea who my birth parents are or were, and even if I did, I don’t know if I’d feel a connection to THEIR ancestors either. But of my two little boys, the younger one is my biological child, and I cannot deny that there is something — a bond of blood — that is hard to quantify but nonetheless real. I look at him and see my face in his, and that is such a novel idea for me. In some ways I feel like he and I share something particularly special, as if I had been living my whole life as an island in a sea of strangers and now, finally, after more than 40 years, there is someone else there with me. None of this should be taken to suggest I love him more than his brother, who was already a year old when I met his mother, or my own family. As I say, it is hard to quantify, but I cannot deny it is real.

    Scott

  • Kourtnee Beem October 11, 2012   Reply →

    I find this very interesting as many others have stated I came across while looking up my last name. I don’t know very much about my grandfathers side of the family and would really like to know more. I understand what you mean by the resemblance all beems that I have ever seen look the same. I wonder if we have any similar relatives.

  • JOEL NOVAK January 8, 2014   Reply →

    I AM NOT A BEEM. RATHER, I LEARNED OF ABRAHAM AND EVA’S FATE WHEN VISITING THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM IN JERUSALEM, SEVERAL YEARS AGO. I HAVE KEPT HIS PHOTO IN A FRAME WITH THOSE OF MY THREE GRANDCHILDREN; AND, I MAKE CONTRIBITIONS EACH YEAR IN THEIR MEMORY. THIS YEAR I WAS CONTACTED AND ASKED IF I WISHED TO HAVE A NOTE SENT TO ABRAHAM AND EVA BEEM’S FAMILY AND I TOLD THEM THIS STORY. TODAY, I CAME ACROSS WILLIAM’S POST AND ALL OF YOUR REPLIES. I CONSIDER THAT THE BEEM FAMILY HAS NOW BEEN NOTIFIED. I HOPE THAT YOU WILL TELL THEIR STORY TO FUTURE BEEM GENERATIONS AND THAT TOGETHER WE WILL KEEP THEIR MEMORIES ALIVE – AT LEAST UNTILTHEIR FATE NEVER AGAIN BEFALLS ANY CHILD.

  • Sean beem August 10, 2017   Reply →

    Found this and if you go on ancestry and look for been family try my dad Brian beem gave me access to a while back and have done extensive research so look for been family tree with my name. I am sure we are all related

  • Sean beem May 29, 2018   Reply →

    If anyone needs to reach me you can do so at sean_beem@yahoo.com for info on potential beems I have a George and a Roger beem. As for any specific info on the history of our name I have that too feel free to ask email me. I would like to do a complete beem family tree and include all the branches of other beem families and tie them together

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