Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrating Grampa Fred's 1848 Birth-Day

My great-grandfather Fredrick K. Gerner was born on or about September 29, 1848, in Mannheim, Germany (as near as I can tell from family sources and research). He came to the U.S. at the ripe age of 4 years, though I've been unable to identify with certainty the ship on which he came and with whom. It was possibly the "Cotton Planter" but, as usual, more research is necessary. Can you imagine that voyage - 4 years old travelling on a ship across the Atlantic Ocean in 1852?!

Fred Gerner is the father of Beulah Gerner who is the mother of Lee Doyle, my father. Fred's wife is Elvira (Bartley) Gerner.

I always wondered what Fred and Elvira looked like. We didn't grow up with family stories or photographs of them. For some reason I envisioned Fred as tall with a shock of dark hair and a moustache. When I began working on our family history, I sought out some of his known descendants and found a grandson, Donald, a son of Brendice Gerner who is another daughter of Fred and Elvira. I had heard there were tintypes of Fred and Elvira and that perhaps Don had them. No, he didn't, but he had lots of other photos which he very generously gave me. This is one of them. I was very, very surprised to see Fred and Elvira.

Fred and Elvira are in the center of this photograph with 12 of their 16 children beside and behind them. (Don't you love Elvira's beautiful mound of snowy white hair?!) This was taken about 1910, possibly as early as 1908, a guess based on the clothing styles and the estimated ages of some of the children in the photograph.

I suppose you want to know who's who? I'm only going to tell you who some of the children are, and you have to guess which one is my Gramma Beulah. On the left at front is Della, one of Beulah's older sisters. On the far right is Brendice, Beulah's younger sister. Mabel, another of Beulah's older sisters, is beside Elvira. In the back row on the left are twins Alonzo and Alfonzo. They went by Lon and Fon, sometimes spelled Lawn and Fawn. I chuckle when I look at them and then at Fred. I don't know if they are teasing him or imitating him or naturally learned to stand in the stance of their father with his arms folded. All three have arms folded in the same direction. Personally, when I look at the expressions on Lon's and Fon's faces, I think they are teasing their dad just a little.

The original photograph from which this scan was made is just a hint over 2" x 4", so it's very, very small. It's also more in the tan and cream color range than the sepia to black and white range. Still, I'm very, very thrilled and grateful to have it.

Fred was born 161 years ago when photography was a new idea. Now, these many years later, not only is photography common, but we take photographs in a second (instead of having to hold a pose for a minute or more) and can do it without film or paper. I'm grateful for the technology that allows me to make copies of photographs and put them on a blog where others can look at and appreciate them. Enjoy!

P.S. If you want to know which of the females is Beulah, leave a question in the comment section.


  1. I love this photo! Lon and Fon definitely look like jokesters. Do you know how old they were in this photo?

  2. Lon and Fon were children numbers 2 and 3 in the family. They were born on 25 July 1874. If the the photograph was taken in 1908, they would have been about 33-34. Brendice, on the far right, was born on 9 October 1895, and would have been 12-13 in 1908. I think she looks a few years older than that, so perhaps 1910 is a little more accurate for the dating of the photograph. In which case Lon and Fon would have been 35-36. I sure wish someone would have written the names and dates on the back!


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