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Birth Certificate for Catherine Neff

1777-1785 (probably)
Origin: America, Virginia, Shenandoah County
Primary Support): 6 1/4 x 8 1/8in. (15.9 x 20.6cm) and Framed: 8 3/8 x 10 5/16 x 7/8in. (21.3 x 26.2 x 2.2cm)
Watercolor and ink on laid paper
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1985.305.1
A large heart at upper center sprouts from a two-handled vase decorated with dashes. Two large fronds, each bearing a tulip bloom at its tip, are crossed over the vase and reach up to each upper corner of the primary support. Text appears within the heart and in each lower corner. That within the heart is red and green.

Artist unidentified.

The 1-inch gilded and molded cyma recta frame is a period replacement.

Label:The style, format, and wording of this certificate suggest that it was created at the time of, or soon after, the subject's 1777 birth, thereby making it one of the earliest examples of Fraktur associated with the German-speaking people who so extensively settled Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
The heart encloses a simple statement of Catherine Neff's birth, including the information that her arrival took place "in the [zodiacal] sign of the goat." The verses at the bottom are basically pious admonitions to the child.
On March 14, 1801, Catherine Neff (1777-1872) married a third generation Swiss emigrant, Christian Kagy (1766-1834), and the couple lived near New Market, Virginia. Both Catherine and her son Daniel were buried in a small family cemetery east of New Market, along Smith's Creek. The Neff certificate was acquired from family descendants, along with a small group of other drawings and papers, including a colorful birth certificate for Catherine's son, Daniel Kagy, executed by a different artist (acc. no. 1985.305.2).
Provenance:The piece descended from the subject, Catherine Neff Kagy (1777-1842), to her son, Daniel Kagy (1818-1903); to his daughter, Mrs. Zachariah Shirley (Barbara Kagey)(1804-1839); to her son, Christian Shirley (1837-1915); to his daughter, Mrs. Nicholas Harner (Laura A. Shirley)(?-?); to her daughter, Mrs. Elon F. Linhoss (Mary A. Harner)(1903-1983); to her daughter, Mrs. Billy F. Garber (Marianne Linhoss)(b. 1927), who was AARFAM's source.
Mark(s):No watermark found.
Inscription(s):In the upper center heart in ink and watercolor is: "M. Ca==tharina/Neffin, ist auf diese welt/gebohren Anno 1777/den 1 December, vor/mittags um/eilf uhr, im/zeichen des/Steinbo=/cks". At lower left is: "Mein Kind wilt du gerne See=/lig werden, So trage nur dein/Creutz auf Erden, deinem Heyland/Jesu nach, und Leyde alles unge=/mach." In the lower right corner is: "Nim hin mein Kind das klein/geschenk, Sey meiner dabey ein=/gedenck, Forcht Gott, und folg/den Eltern dein, So wirst ein/Kind des Höchsten sein."
A translation rendered by Pastor Frederick S. Weiser in 1985 reads as follows: "M. Catharine Neffin was born into this world in the year 1777, 1st December, in the sign of the goat." "My child, if you wish to be saved [blessed], bear your cross on earth for me, after Jesus your savior, and suffer all hardship." "Take, my child, the small gift, and in doing so think of me. Fear God and follow your parents, then you will be a child of the Highest."