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.


  1. Hmm, that is a puzzle. Are you near a courthouse or archives library that has wills and such?

    1. I'm not but I think FamilySearch has Butler County wills. Maybe I'll find something helpful. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. The spacing of the children suggests that they all had the same mother. Have you tried to find out what church the family attended in Butler County? That would be your bets bet for finding out where in Germany they came from.

    1. I agree that the children's ages seem to align with their mother being the same person. I have a brief obituary for Christian with the name of the pastor. I'm sure it would be helpful to identify the church they attended. Thanks for the suggestions, Michael. I appreciate them.


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