Monday, August 18, 2014

Mary, Elizabeth, or Both? - Mystery Monday

I'm writing of Elizabeth or Mary Stahl, wife/wives of Christian Gerner.  Christian's wife's name is given both ways on different records.  Are they the same woman?

From U.S. Census records I've gathered the names of Christian's children (and given their approximate birth years based on the census records). 
  • Emma (~1847)
  • Frederick (~1849)
  • Isabell / Elisabeth / Lizzie (~1851)
  • Charles (~1853)
  • Christena / Christopher / Christian (~1854)
  • John (~1856)
The 1860 and 1870 census records do not identify relationship.  The 1880 census is the first census to give relationships and only the last four children were living at home and are identified as Christian's sons and daughter.

Death Certificates

Mary Stahl is named as mother on
  • Emma (Gerner) Vensel's death certificate (1846-1922)
  • Christian Gerner's death certificate (1854-1935)

Mary E. (could it be Mary Elizabeth?) is named as mother on
  • Charles Gerner's death certificate (name is Mary E. Sthal [sic]) (1851-1929)

Frederick Gerner's death certificate gives no names for either parent.  (And wouldn't you know, Fred's my direct ancestor.)

Census Records
Elizabeth/Elisabeth appears as Christian's wife (and identified as such only in the 1880 census) in
  • 1860 U.S. Census, age 37, with Christian Gardner, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • 1870 U.S. Census, age 45, with Christopher Gardner, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • 1880 U.S. Census, age 56, with Christian Garner, Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania

FamilySearch FamilyTree
The following information was added by FamilySearch with no source information given.  To my mind it confuses the situation more than clarifies it.
  • Elizabeth Stahl is named as Christian Gerner's wife and Emma Gerner's mother.

The Possibilities
  • Christian could have been married twice.  All of the children on these records were born before the family appeared on their first U.S. Census in 1860.  Mary could have died after giving birth to the youngest child in 1856 and Christian could have married Elizabeth.  
  • Could Mary and Elizabeth have been sisters?  
  • Mary/Mary E. and Elizabeth could be the same person.

I have been unable to find death records for either Mary Gerner or Elizabeth Gerner, nor a marriage record for Christian and Elizabeth.  (Christian and Mary would have been married in Germany before arriving in the U.S.)  Considering that my only records for Mary/Elizabeth are census and death certificates, anything is possible.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Butter Scotch Cookies, Country Creamed Corn - Family Recipe Friday

The phrases "made from scratch" and "homemade" came to mind when I first read these recipes.  They both call for good, plain, wholesome ingredients cooked to deliciousness.

I have no date for these recipes but when the directions for the cookies suggest putting the dough (made with eggs) in a cool place overnight, I imagine that Gramma made the cookies only in the winter because refrigerators -- and possibly ice boxes -- had not yet been invented.  Of course, her "cool place" may have been a spring house.  My modern adaptation to this recipe is putting the dough in the refrigerator overnight. 

Look at the recipe for Country Creamed Corn.  Oh, my.  Do you know many cooks modern-day cooks who would "scrape out the hearts" of every kernel of corn to make creamed corn?  My impression of homemakers in the early 1900s is that they had a heavy burden of work, done by hand, without the aid of labor-saving devices.  I wonder at such a labor-intensive recipe for a side dish.

My last thought about the creamed corn recipe is that it directs cooking the corn over a "slow fire."  Hmmm.  Either Gramma was using a wood-burning stove or the phrase was a hold-over from a time when she did.  Gramma was born in 1893 so it's entirely possible that by the time she married in 1914 she was still using a wood-burning kitchen stove.

These recipes bring to mind two movie scenes:  first, the opening scene in "Meet Me in St. Louis" where the ladies are making ketchup over a wood-burning stove; and, second, the scene in the movie "Anne of Green Gables" in which Anne finds a mouse in the pudding sauce because she forgot to put a cover over it.  How times change. 

Butter Scotch Cookies
1 cup butter
1   "   brown sugar.
3 eggs
About 5 or more cups
     of flour.
1 teaspoon cream Tarter
1      "     Baking Soda
1      "     Vanilla
1 cup English Walnuts
Cream Butter, add
sugar, then
beaten eggs.  Add
dry ingredients to
sifted together,
Vanilla, chopped
nuts.  Mix with
Spoon until stiff
enough to
knead then
work in flour
enough so as to
make in long
roll with hands
Put in a cool

Butter Scotch Cookies [continued]
place over night.
Make cookies as
thin as possible
as they raise in
the oven

Country Creamed Corn
Cut the tops of
the kernels &
scrape out the
hearts.  Put in a
saucepan & one
tablespoon butter
for each cup of
corn, 1/2 teaspoon
salt & 1/8 teaspoon
pepper.  Add just
enough milk to
make moist
& cook over a
slow fire, Stirring con-
stantly until very
hot.  Add cream to
barely cover & continue
cooking for 8 minutes.  Stir

These recipes are from the Webster's spelling tablet my grandmother Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen used to write recipes.  More of her recipes are available at Gramma's Webster's Spelling Recipe Book.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Time to Think, Places to Think - Book of Me

There are times when I must concentrate on the work at hand -- making a difficult recipe; paying bills; organizing my plan for the day; or considering which route will be the best for the day's errands.  But there are other times when my mind can focus on a particular train of thought beyond the necessities of the day -- or on no thought at all with free range to think about whatever topic wanders into my mind.

The best time for deep, reflective thought is when I have private, solitary, uninterrupted time.  Peace and quiet do wonders for my soul and my mind. 

On those rare nights that I don't fall immediately to sleep after collapsing into bed I may lie awake for a time thinking and pondering.  It begins with whatever comes to mind and evolves into more focused thought, then back to a wandering mind.  And then I (usually) drift into peaceful slumber.  There are some mornings when I'm not hurried by a commitment and may stay in bed a little longer letting thoughts overtake me, gradually focusing my mind as I choose.  The quiet evenings before falling into sleep and the relaxed, unhurried mornings after coming into wakefulness are delicious, delightful times.

While driving, or while I'm riding and the conversation dies away into quietness, I often find myself deep in thought.  It cannot be busy city traffic nor bumper-to-bumper on the interstate, but almost any other driving gives me quiet time to think.  The long freeway drives are best. 

Another favorite place to think is the shower, but only if I'm not rushing to meet deadlines.  On mornings without commitments I may stay a few minutes longer in the shower, letting my thoughts wander where they will.  They usually gravitate to living family, ancestors, and thoughtful prayer.  I sometimes surprise myself at the depth of thought that comes during a five-minute the shower, especially if I put my mind to it.

Where do you do your best thinking?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  The topic for this post was "Where do you think?"


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Sweet Little Family - Friday's Faces From the Past

I found this photo in a family album in close proximity to some Meinzen photographs.  At first glance the woman looks familiar, similar to several of my Meinzen great-aunts, but she's too young to be one of them.

My aunt seems fairly certain the adults are Dean/Deane and Bertha (Harris) Probert.  Bertha Harris's mother was Wilhelmina/Elizabeth W. (Meinzen) Harris, my grandfather's sister.  My aunt believes the little boy may be their son whom they called J.R.  She's not sure who the girls are.  In my mind there is a family resemblance between all the children and the man in the photo.

Just a little research on the internet indicates that Deane Probert became manager of The Steubenville Herald-Star in 1971.  Unfortunately, the newspaper article in The Weirton Daily Times is at where I don't have a subscription.  I'll do some more sleuthing when I have a little time.

I don't usually spend time searching my mother's cousins' families but since I have this photograph I thought it would be great if I could identify who's in it.

If some family member of this couple happens onto this blog post and can verify the adults and help me identify the children, I would be very grateful.  You can contact me at myancestorsandme @ (minus the spaces).  Thanks in advance.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

GeneaAngel - Thankful Thursday

I think of Colleen Brown Paquale of Leaves & Branches as a GeneaAngel.  She had two copies of the same book, Finding Your Family History in Northeast Ohio by Vicki Blum Vigil.  She asked if anyone wanted it and a few days later, it was in my mailbox.  Thank you for your generosity, Colleen.  I appreciate it. 

My Northeast Ohio roots border Pennsylvania beginning in the 1850s.  In fact, one of the towns where they lived was exactly on the state line.  (It's strange to imagine living in a town where one could be standing in two states at the same time.)  I hope this book may lead me to further information about them.

I find that GeneaBloggers are generally generous folks.  Evidence are blog posts in which they share their research strategies and results; comments on others' posts offering insights, search suggestions, and further understanding; and sometimes going out of their way to perform searches for other bloggers.  I'm grateful to be part of this community.

Thank you, Colleen, and thank you, GeneaBloggers.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Informant

Are you like me and wonder how the informant on a death certificate learned the information?  In particular I'm thinking of the names and birth places of parents of the deceased.  Informants are often (though not always) children of the deceased.  How did those children learn the names of their deceased grandparents?  Did they personally know them and hear it from them?  Did they hear stories from their parents?  Was the family Bible a source of knowledge of genealogy?  How?

I've been thinking about this lately because on the death certificates of all except one of Christian Gerner's children, both he and his wife are named as parents. 
  • On daughter Emma's death certificate both parents are named.  Emma's daughter, Christian's granddaughter, provided the names of both of her grandparents.  (Further research is needed to determine which daughter.) 
  • On son Fred's death certificate his father is named but not his mother.  His wife, Elvira, was the informant.  Fred and Elvira had been married close to 25 years when Fred's father died, perhaps less time when his mother died.  Fred and Elvira had been married about 50 years when Fred died and the information would have been asked.  What happened?  (Wouldn't you know, this son is my great-grandfather!)
  • On son Charles's death certificate both parents are named (though with a misspelling). The informant was his oldest son who was about 12 when his grandfather Christian died; about 40 when the information for his father's death certificate was requested.
  • On junior Christian's death certificate both parents are named.  The informant was junior Christian's son, Lawrence.  Lawrence was 9 when his grandfather died, 45 when his father died and the information would have been asked.  Yet he knew the names of both of his grandparents. 

This happens again and again in my ancestral families:  some informants who are family members know the names of the deceased's parents and some don't.  It would be interesting to learn how they gained their information.  (If this were a Wishful Wednesday post, I would include:  I wish I could go back in time to see how children learned about families, family relationships, and ancestors.)

I think there's absolutely no chance that my daughters will be unable to give the names of my parents when I die.  If they don't remember they will be recorded and written down in several places.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Behind the Scenes - A Writing Life

I am pleased that Wendy of Jollette Etc. invited me to take part in A Writing Life blog hop, created by Ellen Barone.  Thank you, Wendy.

The invitation prompted some questions:  Am I really a writer?  What makes a person a writer?  Is a writer someone whose occupation or profession is writing books and articles and is, therefore, known as an author or journalist?  Is a writer any person who puts pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and writes words, sentences, paragraphs?  Or can anyone who loves to write be called a writer? 

To be honest, I'm thrilled to imagine that I'm a writer because I love the writing process (however primitive and humble the results).  I love using words to tell a story or create an image.  I love all parts of the process, from initial idea to typing, from editing to pressing the publish button.  I often stumble, hesitate, reconsider, and return, but for me it's all part of the process I love. 

There are four questions Ellen Barone proposed to participants. 

What am I writing or working on?
Most of my focus and energy are devoted to researching and writing about my ancestors, the results of which appear here.  I write about my research process; brief biographies or overviews of the lives of ancestors; my perceptions about what their lives may have been like; and other miscellaneous posts related to family history.  I sometimes offer tips, write “musings” posts, and this year I've included posts from the Book of Me meme created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  Other topics occasionally creep in but nearly all are related in some way to my ancestors and/or family history in general.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't think I'm particularly creative or imaginative or that my writing is so distinctive that a reader would be able to attribute it to me.   In many ways I think my writing style is "generic" and common.  The only real difference between my writing and that of others is that I’m writing about my own ancestors. 

Why do I write what I do?
My choice of writing topics comes down to love of my ancestors.  I love searching for them, learning about them, and sharing their stories.  Past writing experiences include course assignments, letters, short and long journal entries, and detailed newsletter articles.  Writing about my ancestors is the most enjoyable writing I’ve done. 
How does my writing process work?
My husband thinks I’m a natural writer and that the process is effortless.  He’s oh-so-wrong!  For me, some kinds of writing take less effort and concentration than others.  For example, writing letters years ago to our parents about the antics and activities of their grandchildren was almost effortless:  brief, anecdotal paragraphs about real events don’t take much time or thought.  When I turn my attention to writing about the research process, the results of research, or biographical posts about ancestors, it’s more of a challenge (albeit satisfying and fulfilling) than a natural, easy process.

Blog posts come about in a variety of ways.  All are dependent on how inspiration hits, the subject matter at hand, the time available, and the intent of the post.
  • Sometimes an idea comes and I sit and type like crazy.  These are often spur-of-the-moment posts focused on a memory, a musing, a photograph, a brief anecdote in the life of an ancestor, or, occasionally, a comparison between modern and how an ancestor may have achieved the same outcome.
  • Other times an idea will strike when I'm not near a computer and can't type or write.  If the idea is strong enough and I have time at that moment to think about it, I may plan out what I want to say and the points I want to include, down to opening and closing thoughts.  Some of the details may be gone by the time I am finally able to sit and type but I'm usually able to recreate my thoughts in these situations.
  • There are times when the briefest thread of a thought will waft through my mind.  If I have no time to think about it I try to jot a note somewhere to jog my memory when I am finally able to get to a computer to write.
  • Longer and more detailed posts often evolve over time.  I may do some research and save links or photos to a draft.  I type my thoughts as far as they go, make notes about the next possible thoughts I may want to include (or make a brief outline), then save the draft and move on to something else while the topic for the post remains in the back of my mind as I go about other things.  Ideas will evolve mentally until there is clarity about content and I have time to write and finish the post.

I usually have a dozen or more drafts in progress at one time.  One may be just a few words as a reminder; or a photograph; others may include several points awaiting further research, further thought, or time to write.

I am a speedy typist but a slow writer.  I usually rewrite and edit as I type.  I finish a few paragraphs, review them, then I edit for clarity and grammar.  Before I continue I stop to consider how I want to phrase the next ideas or thoughts and decide how they will continue or expand the ideas I've already written.  When I think I'm finished I go back to the beginning and reread for continuity and clarity, rewriting and/or editing once (or twice, or thrice) again.  It could take an hour or more to write a five-paragraph post.  (It seems to be a truth that introverts think slowly.)  Often I will let a "finished" post sit overnight or longer and then reread and re-edit it.  During that interim my mind will mull over what I've written, adding and subtracting thoughts until the post is whole and complete.

My one absolute need to be able to write is uninterrupted, quiet time.  I turn my back on everything and concentrate until I can get the thoughts into words and the words into the computer.  Interruptions slow me considerably:  after each I need to reread what I've written to pick up the thought process where I left off and call to mind what I was going to write next.  (Thinking about it, maybe that's why five paragraphs take an hour to write.)  I think this need is why I've become such a late-night owl:  no one else is awake and the house is quiet.

Participating in this blog hop has been an interesting exercise.  I've always just written without thinking about the process.  Having given it thought, perhaps I can improve the way I write and, thereby, the results, too.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

As I noted earlier, A Writing Life blog hop was created by Ellen Barone who invited several other writers to participate who, in turn, invited more writers to participate.  You can view Wendy's post, Writer's Blog Hop, to learn who invited her to take part and then follow a backward trail from post to post.  Going forward, I've invited Shelley Bishop to join the fun.

Shelley Bishop enjoys discovering and writing about the stories of her ancestors’ lives.  Her interest in genealogy, which started with her grandmothers, grew into a passion over the years.  She has completed numerous study programs and institute courses, and feels fortunate to have found many generous mentors in the field.  Her business, Buckeye Family Trees (, specializes in researching Ohio ancestors.

Shelley shares her personal genealogy discoveries as well as tips, resources, and experiences on her blog, A Sense of Family (  She appreciates the connection with readers that blogging offers.  She is a frequent contributor to Family Tree Magazine, Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly, and Ohio Genealogy News.

Shelley and her husband live in Columbus, Ohio, and have three children.  When she can tear herself away from family history, she enjoys reading, traveling, and relaxing with friends and family.

Thanks for stopping by to read.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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