Her passions for history and genealogy combine for Katharine Brown in the work of the Germanna Foundation. Bringing together the descendants of the first organized settlement of Germans in Virginia to honor their heritage and share their story with the nation and the world is an appealing goal to support in her estate plans.
"History came alive for me when I was seven years old and visited Colonial Williamsburg for the first time with my family. I was totally enthralled with life in 18th century Virginia and have been ever since." Brown earned a doctorate in history with a dissertation about colonial and revolutionary Virginia and spent her professional career in history museum administration and historic preservation teaching in the Old Dominion.
"As to genealogy, my maternal great-grandmother, Nellie Scott Chancellor Burwell, introduced me to that when I was about ten," noted Brown. "She was very proud of her husband's distinguished heritage among the English founders and leaders of colonial Virginia, but she seemed totally unaware that her own grandmother, Prudence Rector, descended from 1714 Germanna settlers John Jacob Rector and his wife Elisabeth Fishback Rector."
Brown did not learn of her Virginia German heritage for another forty years, when she was doing family history research. That awareness led her to become a member of the Germanna Foundation in 1994. She found its mission to tell the story of those early German immigrants and to preserve historic properties associated with them important. The Germanna Foundation was an organization where she believed she could make a useful contribution. She began attending the annual Reunions, and was invited to join the board of trustees in 2000.
"Because I was a museum director and taught in a small college, I am especially aware of the importance of planned giving to the fiscal health of non-profit organizations that depend upon the support of individuals," Brown stated. "But also, because I worked in the non-profit world, I have not accumulated a vast fortune to leave to my children, grandchildren and to institutions whose missions are important."
A key idea about planned giving, according to Brown, is that it is not only for the very wealthy. All members can consider including Germanna in their estate planning, whether that estate is large or small. Every planned gift--an annuity, a bequest, a life insurance policy or other--helps to strengthen the institution. Hundreds of modest planned gifts invested will grow over time into significant endowments that support the mission and enable the institution to grow.
"I would like to think that some day my great-grandchildren could stand on the site of Fort Germanna and become as enthralled with the dramatic story of those 18th century German ancestors as I was with the Colonial Williamsburg story when I was seven."