Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Succession of Deaths in the Family - Sympathy Saturday

By all accounts Elvira Gerner was a strong woman.  She was the capable farmer's wife; the area midwife; the person neighbors called upon to prepare bodies for burial; and the mother of 16 children, all born alive and at home.  Strength was her character. 

February 1899 Obituary of Christian Gerner from Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, February 23, 1899
I have no recorded or verbal history of her and her husband Fred's relationship with Fred's father, Christian Gerner.  When answering questions as informant for her husband's death certificate, Elvira left blank the spaces for the names of her father- and mother-in-law.  Does that indicate grief or sorrow causing absent-mindedness or a lack of knowledge?  If a lack of knowledge, then surely Fred and Elvira's family were not close to his father.  But we don't know either way.

And yet experienced Elvira may have been the person called upon in February, 1899, to prepare Christian for burial.  In fact, compassionate Elvira may have been the person at Christian's side as he struggled through and succumbed to pneumonia.

Christian was 79 when he died on February 18, 1899.  Death certificates had yet to be created so there's no way of knowing when the pneumonia began or how long a doctor had attended him.  Sacramento's The Daily Union of July 19, 1899, page 4, gives this information about congestive pneumonia.  "It is very apt to occur as the culminating difficulty of some long sickness, carrying off a great many old people and feeble people who have been invalids for some time.  In this disease the lungs seem to fill up and the weak vital forces are unable to throw off the accumulations."  Considering his age it is possible Christian could have had congestive pneumonia, but it's only conjecture.

As the oldest male in the family, Fred may have been the executor of Christian's estate but no will has surfaced to give indication of how Christian chose to govern his affairs after his death.  Neither do we know who notified the rest of the family and how if they weren't already at Christian's side.  To my knowledge, no details survive.

We have no way of knowing how long it was before the estate was settled and life returned to some semblance of normal for 46-year-old Elvira and her family:  there were 11 children living at home during this time.  Their ages ranged from 2 years to 25 years.  She and Fred were living in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, no doubt close to the home where Christian died.

Obituary of Rebecca (Smith) Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, January 4, 1900
And then 10 months later came another death in the family.  This time is was Elvira's own mother, Rebecca (Smith) Bartley.  Rebecca died of stomach cancer on December 29, 1899, at the age of 80, leaving behind Dixon, her husband of over 60 years.  The months before her death must have been busy ones for Elvira.  Elvira's sister, Jane, lived at home but surely Elvira spent time helping both of her parents, especially tending to her mother during her illness.  Again, we have no idea how long cancer had ravaged Rebecca's body.  Perhaps her passing was a sweet  release from pain and suffering.

Death Notice of Jane Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, February 8, 1900
Less than two months later, on February 6, 1900, both Elvira and her father had cause to mourn another loss:  that of sister and daughter, Jane.  Jane had been the daughter who lived at home, the one who took care of her mother, Rebecca; the one who continued to take care of her aging father, Dixon.  Jane was just 52 when she succumbed to pneumonia.

For Elvira?  To lose two close family members in two months must have been heartbreaking.  Though she had a young family who needed her care and attention she surely mourned the losses.  As for Dixon?  Just four days after his daughter's death, on February 10, 1900, he wrote, or possibly rewrote, his will.    

Death was not finished with the Bartley household.  

Death Notice of Dixon Bartley in Butler Citizen
Butler Citizen, April 26, 1900
On April 23, 1900, Elvira's father, Dixon, passed away.  It was just a little over two months after his daughter Jane's death in February, and less than four month since his wife's death on December 29.  Cancer and old age were cited as the causes of death.

Even when we know death is imminent due to advanced age or illness; no matter how firm one's foundation of faith, we grieve the loss of loved-ones.  Losing three immediate family members in four months must certainly have filled Elvira with deep sorrow.  But from what we know she had a strong faith.  She also had a family with young children who needed her.  Elvira carried on. 

My sympathies to Elvira.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Character and the Cornstalk - Friday Funny

There is no doubt in my mind that Henry Meinzen was a character.  The kind of character who does unusual, even slightly odd, things.  The guy you love because he's sweetly, funnily, or endearingly different.  He earns the status of character for several reasons. 

Henry is the guy who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 29 in 1866, then four years later, at the age of 32, had the audacity to claim a 17-year-old immigrant from England as his bride.  (The marriage lasted until her death 50 years later.)

Henry tickled the funny bones of his young grandchildren causing laughter and giggles at bedtime.  The noise brought their mother to silence them but just moments later they erupted again in joyful glee at Henry's humor. 

Henry grew plants, a common enough activity for men of his generation.  What's uncommon is the size of some of the plants and what he did with them.  Perhaps Henry was a show-off and wanted to broadcast the success of his gardening skills.  Maybe he was just full of himself.  Or his intent could have been to share the surprise, wonder, and joy of his out-sized plants.  Here are two examples.  You decide.

In October, 1898, Henry harvested a 6-pound white radish.  Did he take it home to eat it or did he sell it?  No.  He took it to the the office of the local newspaper where they put it on display in their window then published a notice about it the newspaper to call attention to it.  Henry must have been tickled pink.  Or was he just pleased that others could enjoy this extravagance of nature, too?

A year later, in September, 1899, the prize of Henry's garden was a cornstalk.  Not just
any cornstalk, mind you.  This cornstalk, at twelve feet, 4 inches, was nearly two and half times taller than Henry.  He had to look nearly to the sky see its tassle.  Think him transporting it from the farm to town then toting it into the Herald-Star office.  I imagine Henry felt surprise and wonder at the size of his corn plants.

That "Another." at the top of the note about the cornstalk causes me to wonder how often Henry took bounty from his garden to show off at the Herald-Star office.  Will I find "One More" or "A Third" brief note about a heart-shaped beet, a 3-legged carrot, or some other wonder from Henry's garden?  If he grew it and took it to the newspaper office and a note about it was published, I hope I find it.

These two notes from the newspaper were tiny paragraphs in fine print in the midst of long columns of other tiny notes.  I doubt I would ever have found them without the aid of OCR.  But here they are, found and shared.  I hope they either give you a chuckle of amusement or cause you to shake your head in wonder at a man who showed off his unusual produce.

As for me, I'm still chuckling at the character who is my great-grandfather, Henry Meinzen.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Browse the U.S. Census on FamilySearch - Tuesday's Tip

I recently read a blogger's lament:  I wish I could browse the U. S. Census on FamilySearch.  You can browse (some) U. S. Census records on FamilySearch.  Here's how.

These instructions begin with the assumption that you know how to find the list of  census records on FamilySearch.  They also assume that you're searching for a specific surname in a specific county and state.  If you don't have a surname in mind and just want to get to a particular locality, use any common surname such as Smith or Jones or Miller to begin. 

1) Choose the census year.

2) Type in the surname but omit the first name.  Add the location (county and state) in the Residence Place box.  You don't need any other information if you want to browse.

3) ▼ Click on the blue "Search" box.

4) When the results appear click on the name of an individual.  It doesn't matter which name:  any name will do if your intention is to browse.

5) Click "View the document" in the box to the right.
Important Note:  If the message in the box tells you that this is an image, you won't be able to browse those census images in FamilySearch.

6) When the census image appears, you'll notice that above the black bar are clickable links in blue letters.  Click the county. 

7) The E.D. districts will appear for the county.  Click whichever Enumeration District you'd like to view.   

8) The images for the E.D. will appear beginning with image 1.  You can move from page to page by clicking the arrow to the right of the number box above the black bar.

9) If you want to look at a different county in the same state, click on the state (located above the black bar).     A list of counties will appear.  Click the name of county you'd like to browse. 

10)  After you've reached the county click on the E.D. you'd like to browse.

You can also choose a different state by clicking on "United States Census, [year]" above the black bar.

If you want to change census years you'll need to go back to FamilySearch's list of U.S. census records.

Important Note:  The option to browse is available only for census records that are provided from FamilySearch.  Records shared from and available on FamilySearch are not browsable.  Browsing may not be available on all U.S. Census Records.  (I didn't test them all.)


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mineral Ridge Classmates, 1925-1926 - Friday's Faces from the Past

Fifth Grade students of Mineral Ridge School, Weathersfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio, are smack in the middle of the Roaring Twenties and unaware of the ravages of the Great Depression that would arrive only a few years later.

At right is my mom, Audrey Meinzen, age 10.  She looks angry or at least very serious.  Perhaps she was standing between two girls who weren't close friends or in front of a boy/boys who teased her.  Or maybe some misfortune had come her way just before the photo was taken.  The two dark strips on her dress appear to be the long ribbons of the bow tied at her neckline. 

Every girl in the class wears her hair cut in the popular "bob."  On the other hand, their dresses are as varied as their faces.  Though the 1920s was a time of economic boom for America in general, I suspect that the families in little Mineral Ridge continued to live frugally.  Many of the girls' dresses look home-sewn to me, certainly a money-saving effort at that time (unlike now when it's less expensive to buy a dress than make one). 

The boys wear shirts with ties, vests, sweaters, and/or jackets.  In the front row, most are still wearing short pants with long stockings.  The boys in short pants are probably a little jealous of the boys in long pants (if my father's feeling about short pants was anything like those of these boys).  I wonder if the boys on either end in the front row purposefully stuck out their tongues or it was just a chance lick of the lips and click of the shutter.

My mother never identified her classmates in this photo.  How would one ever know who these children are unless their descendants found this photo and recognized them?  I have a list of those who graduated with my mother but it's no help in putting names and faces together.

I'll just enjoy looking at the faces of these children and imagine what their lives might have been like.  You can click the photo to enlarge it and get a closer look.

Thanks for stopping by.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Church Records for Your FAN Club - Tuesday's Tip

When you find an ancestor's name in church records . . .

. . . be sure to examine as many records as possible in the collection because you will surely find your ancestor's friends and neighbors (and probably some relatives) recorded too.  (Think of a church as a mini-FAN* club.)  Church communities can be as strong as geographical communities and regularly bring friends, family, and neighbors together.

*FAN = Friends And Neighbors


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Cameo Brooch

My mother had a small collection of cameos:  two pendants, a set of earrings, and a brooch.  I always admired the creamy carvings with their peach backgrounds.  Mom -- the private one who revealed little about her past -- never mentioned the history of any of them.  They could have been gifts, heirlooms,  purchases, or....  When Mom passed away I assumed I would never know more about them.

Then I found my parents' marriage announcement with my Mom's other papers.  It reads,

                     Mineral Ridge Girl Marries

(Special to The Vindicator)

     Mineral Ridge, Sept. 16.--Miss Audrey Meinzen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Meinzen, and Lee Doyle of Niles, were married at 7:30 p. m. Thursday in the Methodist Church.  Rev. Robert L. Clemmons read the service.
     The bride wore a gown of blue velvet with a cameo brooch, the gift of the bridegroom.  She carried an arm bouquet of pink roses.  Her matron of honor, Mrs. Earl Tuxford of Niles, was attired in wine crepe and carried fall flowers.  Mr. Tuxford served as best man.
     Mrs. Isabelle Woodward sang "I Love You Truly" and "O Promise Me" and Mrs. Phoebe Johnson played the traditional wedding marches.
     Following the ceremony a reception was held at the home of the bride's parents.
     Mrs. Doyle was graduated from Mineral Ridge High school, class of 1933, and from Warren Nurses' Training school in 1937.  She will continue her work for the present.  Mr. Doyle is associated with the Niles Rolling Mill.
     Following a short honeymoon the newly weds will live at 20 N. Chestnut Ave., Niles.

"The bride wore a gown of blue velvet with a cameo brooch, the gift of the bridegroom."  As far as I know, Mom had only one cameo brooch, the one shown at right.  I feel confident to say that this was my father's wedding gift to my mother.

They were married on this date, September 15, in 1938.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

The Pets I Loved - Book of Me

about 1953
My first one-on-one experience with animals was probably when I was about three and my parents took us to see newly-born Boxer puppies.  Not long after that a little female came to live with us.  My parents, or perhaps my brother or sister, gave her the name Lady. 

I don't remember much of her puppyhood but she grew to be a good friend and companion by the time she reached adulthood.  My father carefully trained her to know the perimeter of our yard, where to "do her business," to walk gently on a leash, and to obey some basic commands.

Our neighborhood was relatively small and there was little traffic on the side streets.  Lady was given free rein to move about our unfenced yard as she pleased.  My parents let her out in the morning while they ate breakfast and when she was ready to come back in she barked at the door.  On rainy or snowy days my mom insisted that she sit on a rug or newspaper just inside the back door until her feet were dry.

Occasionally Lady came back inside after breakfast with breath smelling as if she'd been eating garlic.  Mom didn't cook with garlic and Lady had no access to local garbage cans, most of which had secured lids.  No one could figure out where she might have eaten garlic.  A few weeks later my father was talking to one of our relatives who lived near the opposite end of our street.  He told my dad that he sure enjoyed Lady's morning visits.  He invited her in and she was a very well-behaved visitor.  Of course my father was surprised because he hadn't realized Lady had wandered from the yard.  Further discussion revealed that Lady stopped by the homes of several other families each morning, too, and Dad discovered that last night's dinner at these different homes was incentive for her morning excursions. 

Lady was a gentle dog but she was also a good watch dog.  I remember once being in the back yard with my mom while she was hanging laundry.  There were two lines of sheets blocking the view to the driveway and front yard plus another line or two of clothes waving in the wind.  Suddenly Lady barked and charged.  I was alarmed but my mom quickly went through the rows of sheets to find that a salesman had come into the yard unannounced.  Lady warned but did not bite.

about 1954
She had an easy-going, sweet temperament and was fun to play with.  We sometimes played tug with a rope, chased each other around the yard, or walked to the post office together.  She obviously liked to investigate, though I don't know what she was hoping to find in the clothespin basket, at right.

In later years we would sometimes find Lady lying in front of the back porch door with the cat curled up between her legs.  If we awoke her and called her attention to the situation, she would often act very embarrassed.

Lady lived to be about 18.  My father was particularly heartbroken at her loss but, of course, the rest of us had sorrowful hearts, too. 

There were also a series of cats in our family, some of which I dressed in doll clothes and pushed around in a baby buggy.  How my 4- or 5-year-old self managed to put clothes on a cat I'll never know.  Maybe they were just passive cats.

Put, 1967
The cat I most remember is Put.  My brother-in-law worked at a farm and offered to catch one of the farm kittens for me.  At the barn doors I watched the kittens for a few minutes.  All of them were wild and watchful, afraid of us.  When I saw the tiny, grey, wooly one I knew she (or he) was the one I wanted.  She was elusive and fast but my brother-in-law was persistent and faster.  When he finally handed her to me she announced, with a hiss and a scratch, that she wanted nothing to do with me.  I patiently taught her that she had no reason to fear me and that I would provide her with delicious food.  It didn't take long to tame her.  She became a sweet friend. 

There were other animals in my childhood -- cows on my uncle's farm; my grandmother's dogs; my cousin's bird; a friend's pony -- but none were as dear to me as Lady and Put.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  (See list at


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dixon Bartley - Church Record Sunday

When I found Rev. Charles Althouse's church record book on Ancestry buried in the records of Durham Reformed Church of Bucks County, Pennsylvania (even though my ancestors in these records lived and died in Butler County, Pennsylvania), I felt like I hit pay dirt.  I was thrilled to find the information about several ancestors all on the same page.  I already knew the burial locations but there was new information:  their exact ages in years/months/days; their causes of death; and the scripture text for the funeral sermons. 

Dixon Bartley is one of my paternal great-great-grandfathers.  He died where he lived most of his life, in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Dixon's information is on the very last line of these two pages, above.

Rev. Althouse recorded the following information for Dixon:

Date of Funeral:   April 23, 1900
Name:                  Dixon Bartley
Scripture text:     Job 5:26
Age:                     94 years, 6 months, 13 days
Cause of death:    cancer and old age
Cemetery:            Bear Creek

The closest birth information I had for Dixon was "about 1806."  Using the age at death in this record Dixon's calculated birth date is October 9, 1805.

The text for the sermon, Job 5:26, is,
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.
It seems to state the obvious, since Dixon was 94 years old when he died, but I'm sure Rev. Althouse expanded the thought in some depth.

Thank you, Rev. Althouse, for keeping your record book.  Thank you Durham County Reformed Church for preserving the record book.  And thank you, Ancestry, for making it available.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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