Baerbel graduated from BYU with degrees in Sociology and “Family and Local History Studies” as it was called back in the day. She is a widow and has three children of her own plus a foster son: two girls, two boys, but all grown up at ages 32 to 24. Baerbel loves to sing and has been a member of the German Chorus Harmonie for over 20 years. She served an LDS mission from 1978-1980 in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and she loves gardening.
Johnson has an incredible amount of experience in the world of genealogy. She worked in the Family History Library for 20 years as an international reference consultant. In her words, “This was a wonderful time for me because I am a people person and there I had lots of opportunities to help people directly with solving research problems and teaching them to work with various records. Because of my language background I supported research in various part of Europe, Africa, and the West Indies.” On a personal note, I have a friend who does German research and whenever she had a problem, she told me that she always “went to see Baerbel in Salt Lake because she was kind, knowledgeable, and didn’t make me feel dumb with my questions.” What a great recommendation!
Baerbel has been working under Joe Everett on the International Eastern Hemisphere Patron Services Team since 2013. She supports the family history centers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
Baerbel loves to problem solve using her “ancestor detective” mindset. In her words, “It is a wonderful feeling when you find that one clue that makes a brick wall crumble….And I enjoy gathering more than just names; really learning about an ancestor in the context of his/her social and cultural environment. It’s amazing how even after 40 years of research new sources become available that add color to the picture. For instance, just recently I browsed through a new book published by Ernie Thode, a listing of digitized German-language newspapers. This prompted me to search the Internet for newly digitized material from my home area. In the process I found two newspaper notices that showed that my great-grandfather was both mechanically inclined and creative. He received two patents: for inventing some kind of valve and for a process to make leather from cows’ stomachs.” You never know when you are going to find something wonderful!
Another thought from Baerbel in her own words, “All my grandparents were dead before I was born, so I never learned much about them growing up. But in the years since I began my family history journey I have learned some amazing things about them, and somehow feel that I know them. This connection is another special gift I get out of doing genealogy. I love to teach people how to find their ancestors and have similar wonderful experiences. Their successes make me very happy.”
Here is another interesting note; the name Baerbel is a diminutive form of Barbara, like Peggy is for Margaret. Baerbel says that “the name is common in Germany, but kind of weird here. My kids say that I’m barely bearable!” Somehow, I doubt that!
Make a plan to attend Baerbel’s classes at the FEEFHS Conference. She will be teaching Resources from German Research in formerly Eastern Areas, German Civil Registration and German Digital Libraries. It will be well worth you time and effort.