Having published a significant number of local heritage books and having created several internet WebSites — there has been an increasing number of "Webnics" who make contact in seeking local family information.
A great wealth of information is constantly being fed through the airwaves by millions of people, who contribute to building databases that are spread throughout this planet Earth.
This generates infinitesimal tidbits of data that assists in "filling in the blanks" and aids in deriving conclusions about stories and personalities written about. The frequency of email queries is always increasing from those seeking information for genealogical quests. There are also many attorneys who use this method to track down missing erata.
Recently, an email from 35-year-old Michael Müller, a writer with “Der Neue Tag” newspaper and employed with “B3" TV station in Bavaria, Germany was received. Michael explained that having devoted eight years in developing his Family Tree, he had a blank spot regarding an American GI who had spent post World War II military time, from 1945 to 1949, in Fulda, Germany. He understood that this GI’s, name was John Berrigan and lived in Pass Christian, Mississippi, having been born circa 1907.
After searching through my extensive database looking for Barrigan or Berrigan without success, my first follow up was with the morning coffee group at the local Shell Station. With no luck there, the next obvious stop was to Billy Bourdin’s plumbing shop. In luck, not only was John Berrigan, Billy Bourdin’s uncle’s step-son, but Billy retrieved a clipping from his newspaper file on John “Skeet” Berrigan’s death. And by chance, Larry Yarborough, making his usual drop-by, remembered “Skeet” as one of the local town drunks.
Larry related that as a young boy, Skeet was an older man who worked as a roofer's helper before going into the military. A story Skeet had told about himself was that when staying in Detroit, Michigan, and always drunk, he visited a welfare office where the folks were most happy to pay his bus ticket back to Pass Christian with a bag of groceries tossed in. Another story was when Skeet tried to receive benefits from the Veterans Hospital in Biloxi, he was refused for not having his V.A. documents. Eventually, he was admitted to the Veterans Hospital at Gulfport where he was placed in the Mental Ward, but he left when he was obligated to take Machine Shop classes. Skeet said he didn't want to learn anything that might cause him to have to work.
Billy Bourdin’s news clipping revealed that John Berrigan was born in New Orleans in 1909, and died as a result of having set the City Hall Jailhouse on fire in 1959.
These unpleasant items of information were imported via email to Michael Müller and in his reply, he provided further enlightenment. Michael’s grandmother regarded John Berrigan as a gentleman with a kind spirit who provided aid and solace to the German family.
As the story unfolds, Michael’s grand-aunt, Bärbel Albert, was married to a high-ranking officer in the regular German Army who saw duty in Poland, France and Russia. After the German Wehrmacht lost the battle near Stalingrad, Russia, he was reported Missing-In-Action. While living alone during the last days of the Third Reich in 1945, she met John Berrigan with whom a romance developed that resulted in the birth of a daughter. Not only was John Berrigan in love with his German frau, but being so proud of his young daughter that he named her Nora after his mother. In a letter to Michael’s grandmother, Bärbel related that “he dresses his baby like a princess.”
He loved his daughter so much that he frequently went AWOL in order to see her. Even though Bärbel suspected that her husband was dead, she could not become a war bride without documented proof. —And she could not leave for the United States when John Berrigan’s tour of duty ended in 1949. It was not until seven years later, in1956, that the single mother Bärbel was officially notified of her husband’s demise in Russia during a 1943 battle. By that time, John “Skeet” Berrigan had fallen into the disgraces of debauchery, perhaps over the loss and longing for his woman and his child. — And while jailed for drunkenness, he burned the jail-house cell situated below the old City Hall at Market Street.