Ancestry.com has a collection of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records from 1708 to 1985. I was hopeful that I might find some of my Pennsylvania ancestors among those listed in these records. My first search was for any of my Gerner ancestors in Butler County. I was especially hopeful of finding Mary or Elizabeth Gerner, the name/s of Christian Gerner's wife/wives. I performed a surname-only search to see the broad results.
There was Christian Gerner. The death date as indexed was close enough to the one I know, but Ancestry gave the location of the record as Durham Reformed Church, Durham, Bucks County. Hmmm. I am fairly certain my Christian did not die in Bucks County. Maybe this wasn't him but I knew it would be worth my time to check and be sure either way.
When I clicked through to the record I found Christian and I saw other familiar Butler County surnames: Shakley, Steele, Hepler, Daubenspeck, Bartley. When I scrolled right I found Butler County cemeteries listed: St. John's, Fairview, Sugar Creek, and Bear Creek, among others. Surely both Bucks and Butler counties wouldn't have both the same surnames and the same cemetery names.
I decided to investigate further. As I went forward in the book I found marriages from different dates, some with surnames I didn't recognize. And it seemed that many pages were missing because the page numbers skipped forward. When I finally reached the front of the book (but not the beginning of the microfilm) I found something wonderful.
This book was more than a list of marriages and funerals of one location -- not just Durham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This book was the "Pastoral Records of Rev. Charles F. Althouse, late of Kintnersville, Penna. Complete Records Kept by him of the Eight charges he served." It included a list of pastorates where he had served and the dates when he served in each of the locations. Rev. Althouse was a meticulous record-keeper and I'm very grateful to him.
There, on the list of pastorates, was Fairview, Pennsylvania, including Baldwin and Chicora, where he served from February 15, 1897 to June 30, 1902. Yes! He served in Butler County in the area where my Gerners and Bartleys lived and at the time when several of my ancestors died.
So, the Christian Gerner in this list is indeed my Christian Gerner!
One interesting aspect of this record is that Rev. Althouse did not separate or name the pastorates as he moved from one to the other on the lists of funerals, marriages, etc. He kept an uninterrupted, ongoing list from one location to the next. The list of pastorates and dates at the front of the book is helpful in determining where the deceased individuals lived at the time of death. And, for the record, Rev. Althouse kept lists of marriages, funerals, new members' names, and sermon subjects, all by date.
It is a valuable use of my time to delve deeper when searching old journals and records books. If you find that you have ancestors in Ancestry.com's Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records don't take the location Ancestry names as gospel truth. Search further, especially if you find a name and date that support other information you have about the ancestor.
Unfortunately, I haven't found Mary/Elizabeth Gerner on these records -- at least not yet. But soon I'll share some of the information I learned about Christian and several other ancestors.
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