Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lost in 1910 - Census Sunday

Of course Alfonzo Gerner knew where he was in 1910 so he wasn't lost, but I haven't been able find him in 1910.

I started my research on Alfonzo with his obituary.  It named his recently deceased wife, Nona Covert Gerner, and child, Ross Gerner of Bruin.  It all seemed so simple then.  But people's lives can be so complex.

Then I found Alfonzo's World War I draft registration from Newkirk, Kay County, Oklahoma, permanent address Baldwin, Pa., on which he gave his wife's name as Meta or Geta.  (I've found nothing to support a wife named Meta/Geta.  A clerical error?  More research?)

Next I sorted through his marriages (not finding Meta/Geta) but instead found
  • Nona Covert in Alfonzo's obituary.  I assumed she was his first and only wife and found that she was also known as Nona, Elva, Elva W., and Winona E. and had been previously married.
  • Hattie Slagle.  Hattie was the surprise first wife, evidenced by a marriage record on FamilySearch with a marriage date in December, 1896.  I delved into that mess and learned, from the 1900 Census and Hattie's death certificate, that Alfonzo and Hattie divorced sometime before their son, Ross Gerner, was 3.  Ross was born in February, 1897.  I was unable to find an obituary for Hattie but I doubt it would have mentioned a divorce.

Finally, I discovered Alfonzo's gravestone which notes that he was the husband of Elva W. Covert (aka Nona, Winona, etc.).  He is buried in Bear Creek Cemetery, Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

I hope to learn Alfonzo and Nona's marriage date but have been unable to find a marriage record.  I thought census records might help me narrow down a date.  These are the results of my census searches, from his earliest to his last.
  • 1880.  Alphonzo, white, male, 5 years, son, born West Virginia.  He was living with his parents, Fred and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, in Scott District, Putnam County, West Virginia. 
  • 1900.  Afolzo [sic] F., son, white, male, born Jul 1874, 25 years, single, born West Virginia, oil pumper, can read & write, speaks English.  He was living with his parents in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  
  • 1910.  I cannot find him in 1910.
  • 1920.  Fawn, head, rents, male, white, 46 years, single, can read and write, born Pennsylvania, coal miner.  Alfonzo was living in Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Interestingly, just seven homes away were Elva and Evert R. Coovert [sic] with their five children.
  • 1930.  Alfonso, head, rents, male, white, 55 years, first marriage at age 53, born Virginia.  His wife was Winona, age 51, first married at age 17.
  • 1940.  A. F. Gerner, head, male, white, 65 years, married, 4 years of school, born Virginia, farmer and miner on own account.  His wife is Nona, age 62.

I find it interesting that even though Alfonzo was married in 1897 and divorced by 1900, he listed himself as single in subsequent census records.  And not only that, in 1930 he give his age at first marriage as 53.  It's possible, of course, that his wife gave the information to the census taker and knew nothing of his first marriage, at least at that time.  However, she must have known he'd been married because Alfonzo's son is named as her step-son in her obituary.

The census records I've found help me narrow a marriage date for Alfonzo and Nona to about 1928.  I hope I can find a marriage record for them.  And I'm trying to decide whether to invest more time in Geta/Meta.  Would you?  For your grandmother's brother?

But where could Alfonzo Gerner have been in 1910?  The first name variations themselves present a search challenge greater than his surname.  I had hoped that Heritage Quest would help, with its concise presentation of census records based on any number of variables for a broad or narrow name or location, but the Heritage Quest I remember no longer exists.  I'll do a little more research but I don't think it's essential to find his 1910 census record.


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  1. I just checked Ancestry Library edition. They indexed a man in the 1910 Census as Allonzo G Gernes but the actual name looks like Gerner. He's in Fairview township, Butler County, PA, Enumeration District 87, Sheet 13 A, Household 245.
    Wife Ada, children Aline, Minnie, Earnest.

    Hope this is him.

  2. While spending more time on your grandmother's brother might not produce anything interesting or NEW, the very fact that I CAN'T find the information would make me more determined to keep looking. Isn't that ridiculous? Anyway, I'm in that same situation right now with an entire family -- and it's my great-grandfather's brother! I cannot find him, his wife, or any of the children in 1920 or 1930 but I can find them before and after that. The last name is Davis, which should be easy enough unless someone's handwriting and an indexer's interpretation are way off.

    1. I can imagine many handwriting variations for Davis and, therefore, a variety of transcription variations. That "v" could look like an "n" or an "r." Sometimes the common names are hard because there are so many of them. Were they living in the same place in the earlier and later census records? Good luck with your search, Wendy.

      I would be persistent to search for Alfonzo if I had less information about him -- didn't know where he died, didn't know who he married, etc. I'll probably search now and then but I won't spend too much time on that one census record. For a direct line ancestor? Yes, absolutely, until I found him.


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