Friday, September 17, 2010

Finding Ida and Lucille, Searching for Harry

This is a rather long post detailing the successful search for my great-grandparents' daughter, Ida Gerner, and her daughter, Lucile. It also details the continuing, but as of yet unsuccessful, search for Ida's surviving spouse, Harry Hepler. (Well, he's not still surviving, since he was born in 1876. He was surviving after Ida died.) What documents will confirm that Ida's husband is the same man who married a new wife?

My first acquaintance with Lucile was several years ago when I found her in the 1910 U.S. census living with her grandparents, Fred and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, in Fairview Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. She was identified as “Luseal” with an undecipherable last name (but which was not Gerner). “Luseal” was 6 that year and had been born in Ohio.

Since one of my primary interests in family history is finding all the members of a family and gathering them back together, I wanted to know which one of Fred and Elvira’s 10 daughters was Luseal’s mother and why Luseal was living with her grandparents instead of her mother and father. I also wanted to find Luseal’s father. I don’t mean just finding their names mentioned in documents, but finding their birth, marriage, and death information, and anything else about them that I could find. A bonus to finding all members of a particular family is that sometimes what you find leads you back one more generation.

On the 1910 census, Luseal’s last name looked like it could have been “Hepfer” or “Hetler” or “Hetter” or a number of variations. There was a horizontal blot across the middle letters. But having the “He...” and the “” was a start.

I searched my Gerner family documents and pulled out a photocopy of the “Deaths” page from the family Bible of Brendice Gerner, one of Fred and Elvira’s daughters. Unfortunately, some of the writing had been over-written and was not clear on the copy, though part of it was legible. From the list, I realized that I'd met some of Fred and Elvira’s daughters, my grandmother’s sisters and my great-aunts; others I'd researched and already found further information. The daughter about whom no one in the family seemed to have much information, the daughter whose name was on the third line of the page, was the daughter whose married name was most difficult to read. Her name was written as Ida E. (or A.) Gerner H_ppler or W_ppler or K_ppler. The vowel could have been an "a" or an "e" - maybe. Little Luseal was not listed on the "Deaths" page in the Bible but I learned that Ida had died on October 9, 1905.

I wondered if Ida could be Luseal’s mother. If I combined the census name and the name in the Bible, I came up with “Heppler” or “Hepler.” It was a possibility, so I began searching for Ida and Luseal (or probably Lucille) Hepler or Heppler. I searched the Butler Area Public Library Obituary Index for both spellings and came up with nothing. Then at our local library I checked the Butler County Cemetery Inventory and found listings in volume 2 for Ida E. Gerner Heppler, 1873 - 1904, and Lucile L. Heppler, 1904 - 1911. They were buried in Bear Creek Cemetery.

It looked to me like I’d found Lucile’s mother. Because of Lucile’s birth date and her mother’s death date, I wondered if Ida had died in childbirth. And then I wondered where in Ohio Lucile had been born.

In the 1900 census I searched for Ida Heppler/Hepler and found her as a newlywed, married to Harry H. Hepler, living in Elwood City, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Ida was 27 years old, born May, 1873. That birth month and year corresponded with information on the “Births” page from Brendice’s family Bible. Ida’s husband Harry H. was a glassblower, 24 years old, born March 1876. I’d found Ida and her husband alive in 1900. What I needed to know was where they lived in Ohio when Lucile was born and what happened to Harry after Ida and Lucile died.

Since Harry was a glassblower, a highly-specialized profession requiring much training, it didn’t make sense that he’d change professions. I searched the internet to see if Ohio had any cities where glass blowing was an important industry in the early 1900s. I found several, including Steubenville, Bridgeport, Toledo, Massillon, Tiffin, and Newark. My next search was to find the counties for those cities, then search through the birth and death transcription books, hoping that I would find Lucile’s birth county. Perhaps I would find Ida’s death location. Unfortunately, I didn’t find either of them in the counties I searched.

I continued to think that Harry’s profession of glassblower might make it easier for me to find him than if, say, he were a laborer, though I haven’t discounted that he changed professions.

I have been unable to find anyone in the 1910 census who could be Harry. Perhaps the handwriting is as difficult to read and transcribe as Lucile's record in 1910. I searched the 1920 census and found Harry H. Hepler, 43 years old, born in Pennsylvania, working as a blower in an auto lens factory. His wife was Rosanna, and there were 5 daughters, ages 3 to 12 years, and a newborn son, Harry H. They were living in Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio.

If this was Ida’s Harry, he had married within about four years of her death. He was still a glassblower, and he was still living in Ohio. But what about Ida’s death place and Lucile’s birth place.

Since several months or a year had passed since I had first begun this search, I checked the BAPL Obituary Index again for both Ida and Lucile. This time I found an obituary: “Lucille H. Hepler, aged six years, daughter of Harry and Ida Hepler, died Friday morning at the home of the grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred H. [K.] Gerner of Jefferson township from typhoid fever.... Interment will be made in the Bear Creek Cemetery.” The obituary was published in the Butler Citizen on Saturday, February 3, 1912. Either the gravestone date is wrong or the transcription of the date is wrong. But here was more information putting Ida and Harry together as the parents of Lucile.

At a later date I again searched the BAPL Index and found Ida’s obituary. It reads, “Mrs. Ida Heplar [sic] died on Sunday evening at her home in Fredonia. The cause of her death was consumption. Mrs. Heplar was the eldest daughter of Fred Gerner, of Petrolia, a brother of Chas. Gerner, of Brown avenue. Some of her many friends in this city went this morning to attend her funeral. She will be buried at Petrolia this afternoon.” It was published in the Butler Eagle, Tuesday, October 11, 1904.

When Ida died, was she in the home of her parents or at home with Harry and Lucile? Why was she (and possibly her husband and daughter) in Pennsylvania instead of in Ohio? Had they moved when she became ill or after Lucile's birth? If she was at the home of her parents, did Harry stay in Ohio to work while Ida was nursed by her mother? Why wasn’t Ida's husband mentioned in the obituary? Were they divorced?

This family came to the forefront last week because I was aimlessly looking at possible sources for my family at FamilySearch. When I saw “Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962” I searched for several “missing” family members and then remembered little Lucile. And there she was! Born 27 March 1904 in Franklin, Harrison County, Ohio, to Harry Hepler and Ida Gerner. Who would have guessed Harrison County?! Now, at last, I can obtain a copy of her birth record and put her to rest.

Still Searching for Harry Hepler
I’m still searching for Harry H. Hepler. I’ve found men who could be him, but I have no documentation to make a case that it’s him. The following is what I’ve found.
1910 U. S. Census - not found
1920 U. S. Census, Lancaster 1st Precinct, Fairfield County, Ohio, E. D. 14, Sheet 7B, Washington Avenue, Lines 86-93, House #429, Dwelling #161, Family #176, 7 Jan 1920. [Partial information below.]
Hepler, Harry, head, 43 years, married, born Penna, parents born Penna, blower in Auto Lens Wks
Hepler, Rosanna, wife, 34 years, born Ohio, parents born Ohio
Hepler, Margery, daughter, 12 years
Hepler, Lillian, daughter, 11 years
Hepler, Harriet, daughter, 9 years
Hepler, Geraldine, daughter, 7 years
Hepler, Gertrude, daughter, 3 ?/12 years
Hepler, Harry H, son, 0/12 years
1930 U.S. Census - not found
Obituary for Harry H. Hepler, published in The Lancaster [County, Ohio] Eagle Gazette, 26 December 1958.
Harry H. Hepler, 82, former resident of the Lancaster and Rushville area, died of a heart condition Christmas morning in a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

For the past 10 years he had made his home in Portland, Tenn., near Nashville. A life member of the local Flint Glass Workers Union, he was formerly employed by the Lancaster Glass Co., (Lancaster Lens) and was a former member of the Lancaster Police Department.

Survivors are his wife, Margaret; one son, Harry H. Heplar, Jr., Huntsville, Ala.; six daughters, Mrs. Harold Kittrell, Mrs. Lloyd Jordan, both of Columbus; Mrs. Bernice Savage, Cleveland; Mrs. Ralph Bibler, Junction City; Mrs. James Larkin, Nashville; and Mrs. Wallace Cly, Lancaster; 20 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Friends may call Saturday afternoon and Sunday at the Sheridan Funeral Home where Rosary will be held Sunday at 8 p.m.

Funeral services will be held Monday at 9 a.m. in St. Mary Church with interment to be made in St. Mary Cemetery.
Though his birth date is not given, the year of his birth based on age and year of death corresponds to the year of birth for Ida’s husband, Harry.
On the SSDI there are 21 men with the name Harry Hepler including several with H. as a middle name. None have the birth year and month as stated on the 1900 U.S. census. There are no individuals with the name Harry Heppler.
A year or so ago I connected via email with two men who sent a descendancy chart for Harry H. Hepler in which Ida Gerner was named as the first wife and Rosanna Heim as the second. Unfortunately, there was no supporting documentation.

With regards to Harry H. and Rose Hepler, I have found a death record for Rose (Rosanna); burial information for both Harry H. and Rose; and birth records for several of the daughters of Harry and Rose (Anna). But none of these tie Ida and this particular Harry together.

Successes with this Search
Finding little Lucile's birth information was very exciting. Having a birth record in hand will be even better.

For four and a half years I've been searching for Fred Gerner's siblings. (Fred is Ida's father.) From Ida's obituary I now have his brother's name. I have wondered if Fred and Charles were brothers; I suspected it; but finding Charles named as Ida's uncle and Fred's brother in her obituary gives me encouragement to do further searches to put them together.

Things I've Learned
Some databases, such as the Butler Area Public Library Obituary Index, continue to grow. When I first searched for Ida and Lucile, they were not there. Several years later, they were. Don't stop looking at the same source online until you learn that it's definitely complete.

Finding the surviving spouse of a deceased ancestor is particularly hard!

I’m not sure what my next step should be to confirm or disprove that Harry Hepler, husband of Ida in the 1900 census, is (or isn’t) the same Harry Hepler who appears in the 1920 census with wife Rosanna and 6 children and who died in Tennessee. Rarely are previous spouses mentioned in obituaries. What document would definitely connect Harry H. Hepler to Ida Gerner after Ida's death? Perhaps an Ohio obituary from Franklin (Harrison County), the town where she lived when Lucile was born. Perhaps a marriage record for Harry H. and a new wife in which it was stated that he'd been previously married. What other options for records are there?

If you’re reading this and have suggestions about what my next step should be, I’d be grateful to hear them. If you’ve come to this blog post because you were searching for Harry Hepler or Harry H. Hepler, or are a descendant of his, I’d be grateful to hear from you. Thanks!


  1. Great searching! I think the marrage certificate to see if this is a second marriage is a good idea.

  2. Hi, I am a decendant of Harry H. Hepler I have some additional information and I am so excited to find your information. I have been searching (not agressivly- just casually) to find any information on my Great grand father. This is the only way I could find to add to your blog, not sure how to be a more active user, any suggestions?


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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