Monday, September 27, 2010

Fred Gerner, One of My Mystery Men

Fred Gerner married Elvira Bartley on July 24, 1872, in Sugar Creek, Venango County, Pennsylvania. He is a mystery man before that date. I have suggestions from family about his siblings and their names; about where his parents lived; about their city of origin in Germany; and about their church affiliation and burial location in Butler County, Pennsylvania. None of those suggestions have been specific (or accurate) enough to lead me to pre-1872 records of Fred.

Fred is my great-grandfather. This is the line that connects us: me -> Lee Doyle -> Beulah Mae Gerner -> Fred Gerner. Since Fred's daughter, Brendice, recorded today as his birthday - September 29, 1848 - I'm remembering and celebrating him today.

Happy Birthday, Grampa Fred! I hope you are joyfully surrounded by family today. (And if you could please send some help to find more information about your family of birth, I'd be so very grateful. Thank you.)
Below are transcriptions of census records in which I find him and his family. He and Elvira had 16 children.

1880 U.S. Census, West Virginia, Putnam County, Scott District, S.D. 1, E.D. 112, Printed Page 75, Written Page 19, lines 35-42, Dwelling #13, Family #13, 9 June 1880
Gerner, Fred, white, male, 32 years, married, farmer, [check mark in months unemployed this year], born Germany, parents born Germany
------- Elvira, white, female, 29 years, wife, married, keeping house, born Pennsylvania, parents born Pennsylvania
------- Ida A, white, female, 7 years, daughter, born Pennsylvania, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Alozo [sic], white, male, 5 years, son, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Alphonzo, white, male, 5 years, son, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Lana E, white, female, 3 years, daughter, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Edward G., white, male, 2 years, son, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Della Va, white, female, 1 year, daughter, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna

1900 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler, Parker Township, S.D. 19, E.D. 86, Printed Page 214A, Written Page 6, Lines 21-33, Dwelling #104, Family #104, 9 Jun 1900. Reference #21, GSU film 1241387, Image #0043 at
Gerner, Frederick, head, white, male, born Sep 1848, 51 years, married 28 years, born Germany, parents born Germany, [immigration information blank], farmer, can read & write, speaks English, owns farm, no mortgage, #59 of farm schedule
------- Alvira [sic], wife, white, female, born May 1854, 46 years, married 28 years, mother of 16 children, 14 living, born Penna, parents born Penna, can read & write, speaks English
------- Afolzo [sic] F., son, white, male, born Jul 1874, 25 years, single, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna, oil pumper, can read & write, speaks English
------- Edward G., son, white, male, born Jul 1877, 22 years, single, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna, oil pumper, can read & write, speaks English
------- Della V., daughter, white, female, born Feb 1879, 21 years, single, born West Virginia, can read & write, speaks English
------- Alma L., daughter, white, female, born Jan 1881, 19 years, single, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna, can read & write, speaks English
------- John N., son, white, male, born Nov 1883, 16 years, single, born West Virginia, father born Germany, mother born Penna, on farm, can read & write, speaks English
------- Bessie L., daughter, white, female, born June 1884, 15 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, in school 7 months, can read & write, speaks English
------- Mable L., daughter, white, female, born May 1886, 14 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, in school 7 months, can read & write, speaks English
------- Bula M., daughter, white, female, born Sep 1888, 11 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, in school 7 months, can read & write, speaks English
------- Warren F., son, white, male, born Jul 1890, 9 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, in school 7 months, can read & write, speaks English
------- Brendice C., daughter, white, female, born Oct 1895, 4 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna
------- Paul V., son, white, male, born Apr 1898, 2 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna

1910 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Mercer County, Fairview Township, Old Meadville Pike, E.D. 145, Sheet No. 114B, lines 77-84, 6 May 1910
Gerner, Fred, head, male, white, 61 years, married 37 years, born Germany, parents born Germany, immigrated in 1855, speaks English, farmer, can read, write, owns farm, no mortgage, 79 of farm schedule
------- Elvira, wife, female, 55 years, married 37 years, mother of 16 children, 13 still alive, born Penna, parents born Penna, no trade, can read and write
------- Leota, daughter, female, white, 25 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, milliner, millinery store, working on own account, can read and write
------- Beulah, daughter, female, white, 21 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, milliner, millinery store, working on own account, can read and write
------- Warren, son, male, white, 19 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, farming, works on own account, can read and write
------- Brendice, daughter, female, white, 14 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, can read and write, in school
------- Paul, son, male, white, 12 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, can read and write, in school
Heffer [?] Luseal, granddaughter, female, white, 6 years, single, born Ohio, parents born Pennsylvania

1920 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania, Butler County, Bruin Borough, S.D. 19, E.D. 4, Sheet 3B, Lines 68-69, Dwelling 61, Family 61, 19 January 1920
Gerner, Fred K, head, owns home free of mortgage, male, white, 71 years, married, un [in boxes for year of immigration & naturalized or alien], can read & write, born Germany, parents born Germany, speaks English, laborer, oil well
------- Elvira, wife, female, white, 65 years, can read & write, born Pennsylvania, parents born Penna, speaks English, no occupation


Those Pesky Pronouns in the County History

The way the pronouns are used in the biographical entry for Peter Saylor in A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania leaves me wondering who did what. You can see what I mean in the first paragraph of the biography, transcribed below.
PETER SAYLOR, a farmer who tills the fertile soil in West Salem township, Mercer County, was born June 5, 1859, in the township named. He is the son of Jacob Saylor, Sr., born in Baron, Germany, in 1812. He came to this country at the age of forty, with his parents, the grandfather being Daniel Saylor, who settled in old West Salem township. Both were coal miners in Germany and the grandfather was also a shoemaker. He died in 1845. Jacob Saylor, who was the father of Peter of this notice, upon his arrival here went to mining at the old coal mines known as the Joy & Rankin mines, where he remained for six years. He then leased and operated a mine on Coal Hill in 1860. This he sold to Andrew Bennett in 1862 and purchased the farm on which he lived the remainder of his life, dying about 1870. He was first married in Germany to Elizabeth Shaefer, daughter of J. Shaefer, who was a coal miner in Germany. By this marriage twelve children were born, five of whom are now living, and seven are deceased. Among them were Jacob, deceased; Fred, employed in the Bessemer Mills, at Sharon, Pennsylvania; Elizabeth, deceased; Catherine, widow of John Frohman, of West Salem township; Theresa, wife of Adam Lininger, of Greenville.
This is what I think I understand from the above paragraph, beginning with the oldest generation mentioned to the youngest:

about Daniel Saylor:
--grandfather to Peter, father to Jacob
--born in Germany
--was a coal miner and shoemaker in Germany
--died in 1845

about Jacob Saylor:
--father to Peter, son of Daniel
--born in Baron, Germany, in 1812
--came to America with his parents (Daniel + who?) when he was 40 (thus, in 1852)
--settled in West Salem Township
--was a coal miner in Germany
--mined at the old coal mines known as Joy & Rankin mines for 6 years
--leased and operated a mine on Coal Hill in 1860, then sold it to Andrew Bennett in 1862
--purchased a farm and lived there until 1870, when he died
--first wife was Elizabeth Shaefer whom he married in Germany

about Elizabeth Shaefer:
--Jacob Saylor's first wife
--daughter of J. Shaefer who was a coal miner in Germany

about Jacob and Elizabeth Shaefer Saylor
--had 12 children, 5 living, including
--Jacob, deceased
--Fred, employed at Bessemer Mills, Sharon, Penna.
--Elizabeth, deceased
--Catherine, widow of John Frohman, of West Salem Twp.
--Theresa, wife of Adam Lininger of Greenville

about Peter Saylor:
--son of Jacob, grandson of Daniel
--farmer in West Salem Township, Mercer County, Penna.
--born June 5, 1859 in West Salem Township

Subsequent paragraphs in the biography give additional information about both Jacob and Peter Saylor. It names Jacob's second wife (Mary Frohman, daughter of J. Frohman, weaver, of Sheakleyville and their 6 children), and Peter's wife and children.

Family records tell me that my g-g-grandparents are John and Catherine (Saylor) Froman. I believe that "Catherine, widow of John Frohman, of West Salem Twp." in this entry is my g-g-grandmother and her husband. If so, then this county history supplies more information than I had before I read it and offers additional names and dates for further searching.

It's those pesky pronouns that cause me to wonder if my interpretation is accurate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


My grandmother, Emma Virginia Bickerstaff Meinzen, is on the right standing with her mother and sisters. The others, from the left, are Mary Ellen (Mayme) Bickerstaff Morris; Mary Thompson Bickerstaff, her mother; and Cora Bickerstaff. Cora was born in 1911 so I would date this photo to the mid to late 1920s.

...and Age

The sisters on either side of center are reversed in this photo. My grandmother is on the left, Cora is in the center, and Mary Ellen is on the right. And, of course, their mother is gone. This photo was probably taken in the early 1950s.

There's no escaping time (other than a young death). I don't enjoy what time does to me, but I thoroughly enjoy looking at time's effects on individuals in photographs. I like to see how they change as they grow older. Sometimes one can hardly recognize older folks in younger photographs of themselves. Other times, they look almost the same. Some people seem to grow old so beautifully, outwardly and/or from the changes that happen in the heart. Some folks just get ugly (inside and/or out) as they get older. I think that my grandmother's heart became more beautiful as she aged.

Do you have photographs of ancestors at two different ages? What do you find when you compare the photos? Do you know an ancestor who became more beautiful (or not) as he/she aged?

Would you like to see other old photographs and read something about them? Go to Sepia Saturday where you will find links for others' posts.


Friday, September 24, 2010

What about Those County Histories!

Have you searched for and found ancestors in county histories?

When I first began my genealogy searches I found a county history for Butler County, Pennsylvania, in which one of my gggg-grandfathers was mentioned. It was a multiple page biography and contained lots of information for a family historian. Wow, I thought, it's almost like the family is famous!

Early in my research efforts I searched for other family surnames in county histories but I never found family except for that one instance. Considering that I have several ancestors who were somewhat well-known in their communities at the time, I wondered why they weren't included.

Fast forward to a week ago. I had recently received the Pennsylvania death certificate of my great-great-grandmother. The informant was her son and he gave her father's name. It's always exciting to find a grandparent's name. So I began searching. I searched for census records at FamilySearch and found the family I believe is his in one census (though the family should be in several more). Where else to look?

It was late and I wasn't quite ready for bed. On a whim I decided to do a google search using my g-g-grandmother's father's name. Whoa! What was that? There was his name in a Google Books link to an entry in A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The entry was for a man with the same surname. The father's name appeared partway through the biography. As I read the article, I found that my great-great-grandmother and her deceased husband were also named.

Did I hit a goldmine or not?

Well, it's too soon to say. I always hope that everything printed in books is accurate but after querying some other family historians, I've learned that the biographies in the county histories are often, probably usually, paid content. When the individual submitted his information for inclusion, he paid for it and could have printed nearly anything he chose. You would think if a person were going to write a biography and pay to have it included, he'd be particularly accurate, but that may not always have been the case. No doubt some people puffed up the information to look better on paper. Others just may not have had accurate information about the ancestors. ("Didn't Gram say her brother's name was Jack? Or was it Jake? And wasn't her maiden name Seebert? Or maybe it was Seefert?) One person reported that two ancestors who were related both submitted biographies with very different family histories. They disagreed on exactly how the ancestors lined up.

I'm taking the information from this particular county history at face value (free) and using it to continue my search until I can find other sources to substantiate relationships or contradict the information. I'll post a transcription of the entry soon, and eventually my findings.

What experiences have you had with county histories? Accurate, partially accurate, or inaccurate?

Aedan Turns Three

Such cuteness, with a twinkle in his eye and an energy I can almost feel through the computer.

Aedan is celebrating 3 today.

Happy, happy birthday, Aedan! I hope you have loads of fun today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Would I Know If Someone Else Were Searching?

Perhaps I'm slow.... because this is a fairly new thought to me.

I write and post information about ancestors on my blog.
People (sometimes) search for the ancestors whose names I post.
They contact me and a connection is made.

I don't post ancestors on my blog if I have too little or uncertain information.
People (possibly) search for the ancestors I haven't posted.
But I would never know it and they would never find my ancestor and me on this blog through a search engine.
Therefore, no connection is made.


Best to post a name with whatever information I have than not post an ancestor's name at all. Someone else may be searching for the same person.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trumbull All-County H. S. Orchestra and Chorus, December, 1932

Trumbull All-County H. S. Orchestra and Chorus
Christmas Cantata - Warren, Ohio - December 23, 1932
Charles Neil Starr - Conductor

This photograph is amazing to me. I found it (again) in my mom's box of photos and papers and decided to scan it so I could look at the details. It is nearly 78 years old. The original is about 8" x 10" and the faces are miniscule. I was pleased to be able to enlarge it, though what I found was that the faces in the foreground are very clear while those after about the fourth row of the chorus begin to look blurry. It gets harder to recognize the faces with each row. (You may have to click on the photo to enlarge it enough to see the faces.) What kind of camera would have been used to take this photo? Would it have been possible to have everyone in focus with such a large group?

Despite the blurr, I recognize at least one Mineral Ridge student in this photo: my mom, Audrey Meinzen. She is in the 3rd row from the back, 2nd from the left side of the photo. She was a senior during the 1932-33 school year. She must have felt honored to have been chosen to sing with this chorus. I remember sitting beside her occasional Sundays in church and thinking what a beautiful voice she had, so it's no suprise to me that she would have been chosen.

Look at the students in the orchestra. Don't you think many of them look older than 18? Maybe students matured earlier in 1932. It was just several years after the Great Depression began and perhaps it was necessity that they took on the responsiblities of adults earlier than our youth these days.

If there are any Mineral Ridge, Ohio, readers of this post who have ancestors who were in the Ridge in 1932, perhaps you will find a parent or grandparent in the group. Post a comment and tell me who you found.

This is my Sepia Saturday contribution for this week. Click on the highlighted Sepia Saturday to see who else posted this week.

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!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Words of Wisdom Before the Wedding

My parents, Lee Doyle and Audrey Meinzen, were married on this date in 1938. If they were still here it would have been their 72nd anniversary. They had a small wedding and no photographer, hence no wedding photograph to show you. My mother was always pleased about what she thought was a really good write-up of the wedding published in the local newspaper.

She saved all the wedding cards, many decorated with silver accent paper, and had carefully noted the gift received on each card. She also saved the following letter addressed to my dad.

Dad became half an orphan at 5 weeks of age when his mother died. His grandparents (Maw and Pap) and their oldest daughter, Emma, cared for him for the first 4 or 5 years of his life until his father remarried. This letter is from Emma's oldest daughter, Ine (short for Madelyn), who was 8 years older than my father.
2412 McCarrell St.
McKeesport, Pa.
Sept. 13, 1938

Dearest Lee!-- I should have answered your card sooner but just kept putting it off, yet, I know with your approaching marrige, I feel sure you never even thought more of my neglect. To say, I wish you only the "best of the best" in this world, is putting it in it's mildest form. I don't attending weddings or funerals "old chap," so that does away with your kind invitation. To me, one is almost as sad as the other, however different is the ceremony. I suppose you've had many views, good & bad, for marriage, but let me offer a last one & it is really first in my idea. Remember, this ceremony that you're undertaking is for two, not just one, & always keep it as such. There'll be ups & downs, don't let anyone say otherwise, but you can be a better man & woman, if you weather them to-gether, and as true as there's a "God in Heaven," [your] first way towards unhappiness is a "little lie." Always tell & face the truth Lee & don't forget that things that don't turn out right, if done in good faith, always right themselves.

You surely deserve a lovely home Lee, not a house, for any body can have a beautiful house, but it takes 2 to make a home. I feel sure that you've picked the right girl, & I only hope that you both are what we (the family) think you are. We all hope you the best there is but no matter how interested we are in you, remember, don't take your relatives to [sic] seriously on either side, but stand side by side, just you two "on your own hook."

I hope Pap is well enough to attend your wedding, yet I don't think he should go, do you? Poor old Soul! That makes five of his grandchildren he's seen married, Evie, Ru, Dorothy, you & I, so he really should be getting use to it now, at least, the idea anyway.

Maybe you and the "Mrs." can come down to pay us a visit soon. Huh? We have lots of room, so come along. You're welcome yes more than welcome, anytime.

Now about a gift old timer! Just what do you need most that would suit my purse, for it's almost flat? You let us know what is most useful & we'll try & accomodate. (An electric ice box for instance).

Must close Lee, and God knows I never wished anybody more happiness than I do you. Make your married life as clean, & honest as you have your past one, & I know you'll be doing more than O.K. Good luck Lee & God's Best to you both.

"Congratulations, from the bottom of our souls."

Ine & Boys.

Postmarked September 13, 1938 at 5:30 PM.

The letter almost sounds like it was written from an older sister. I found her words of counsel very touching and think the advice is sound 72 years later.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Catherine Saylor Froman, Certificate of Death (transcription)

Gravestone of Catherine Saylor Froman
at Oak Hill Cemetery, Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Catherine is a direct-line ancestor. My line to her: me -> my father, Lee Doyle -> Gust Doyle -> Tressa Froman Doyle -> Catherine Saylor Froman

Catherine's death certificate was a generous gift from Linda Bellerose, another Froman researcher. We are still working to clarify the connection between her ancestor and my great-grandfather, John Froman, Catherine's husband. This death certificate has extended my line one more generation with the naming of Catherine's father. Thank you, Linda.

Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, File No. 125048

Place of Death: County of Mercer
Borough of: Stoneboro

Full Name: Catherine Froman

Personal and Statistical Particulars
Sex: Female
Color or Race: White
Single, Married, Widowed or Divorced: Widowed
Wife of: John Froman
Date of Birth: June 5, 1844
Age: 84 years, 6 months, 15 days
Occupation of Deceased: Housewife
Birthplace: Germany
Name of Father: Jacob Saylor
Birthplace of Father: Germany
Maiden Name of Mother: Not known
Birthplace of Mother: [blank]
Informant: J. F. Froman
Address: Stoneboro, Pa.
Filed: Dec. 23, 1928, J. E. Ferringer, Registrar

Medical Certificate of Death
Date of Death: Dec. 20, 1929
I hereby certify that I attended deceased from: Nov. 1, 1928 to Dec. 20, 1928...
death occurred at: 3:30 a.m.
Cause of Death: Organic Heart Disease
What test confirmed diagnosis: clincial
Signed: J. E. Ferringer, Dec. 20, 1928, Stoneboro, Pa.
Place of Burial: Oak Hill
Date of Burial: Dec. 22, 1928
Undertaker: A. M. Yeager, Stoneboro

I am trying to puzzle together the situation in this family. It seems that Catherine and her daughter, Tressa Froman Doyle, had little contact with each other as adults even though they lived in the same community. Tressa's granddaughter, Tressa, did not remember ever having met Catherine. Tressa (the younger) was 7 when Catherine died. I'll probably never know the story.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Beulah Was a Milliner

On the 1910 census Beulah Mae Gerner, my grandmother, was listed with 4 other children and a grandchild living with her parents, Fred and Elvira Bartley, in Fairview Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  The census report reads like this:
Beulah, daughter, female, white, 21 years, single, born Penna, father born Germany, mother born Penna, milliner, works in millinery store, works on own account, can read and write.
A milliner!  She was a milliner!  She made, trimmed, designed, or sold hats.  Which of those did she do?  Or maybe she did all of them.  If she trimmed hats in 1910, I wonder if they looked like the ones below, found at the Digital Library of the New York Public Library.  Was there much call for such highly ornamented hats in little Fairview Township?

Beulah married a year and a half later, in December 1911, and had twins in February 1913.  Leila, one of the twins died within days.  Beulah, herself, died soon after, when she was 24, much too soon and much too young.  She left behind her husband, Gust Doyle, and 5-week-old twin, Lee, my father.  I'm sure Gust mourned Beulah's death, but I believe my father silently grieved the loss of a mother most of his life.

Happy Birthday, Gramma Beulah!  This post is to honor your memory.  I hope you have a wonderful birthday.


Copyright © 2010-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Coal Miners in My Family

Among those soot covered faces in the left photo, above, is my grandfather, Gust Doyle. He's standing in the center of the back row. It's nigh on impossible to recognize him compared to the photo on the right but I was assured by his daughter that indeed, that is Gust. Of the two photos, I believe he was younger in the #7 Mine photo.

I've never been into or observed the workings of a coal mine but in my brain float images of a dark and dangerous environment with the sounds of hammering, pounding, and explosions. I imagine dirt and grit from head to toe, and the darkness of night all day. The scrubbing that must have been required to clean one's skin upon returning above-ground surely turned it pink or red, or possibly raw! And how did they live without sunshine?!

The mines in Stoneboro and the rest of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, were sources of bituminous coal, less hard than anthracite, but no less dirty and dangerous to mine. As far as I know, none of my direct-line ancestors were in mine accidents but there are several Doyles and Fromans listed on the Pennsylvania USGW Archives of Mine Accidents who may be collateral relatives.

In searching for Stoneboro Mine #7 I was hoping for photographs. Instead, GoogleBooks provided Coal Mines by B. H. Rose, a 1910 publication which told me that Mine #7 was operated by the Mercer Iron & Coal Company. The vein was called Brookfield Bed A with a thickness of 4½ feet. It was a shaft mine where both machines and picks were used. Its daily capacity was 700 to 1000 tons. It did not record the number of employees who mined those 700-1000 tons/day. Mine #7 seems to have extracted the largest quantity of coal per day of all the local mines. It was serviced by the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad.

I asked Tressa Doyle Wilson, Gust's daughter and my father's half sister, about coal mines and the miners in our family. I knew that my dad grew up on a farm and that he had worked for a while in a coal mine, but I wanted more information. Below is what she told me about a mine on their farm property.
Most of the men in this area were coal miners. They had to walk several miles to and from work. Dad [Gust] and Pap [William Doyle, Gust's father] worked in the mines. This was the main source of income.
The coal mine your Dad [Lee] worked in was in our pasture field. In the late 1920's Dad, Pap and your Dad dug the shaft for the mine. The shaft was 35 feet deep but I don’t know the other dimensions. I’ll never know how they had the knowledge and wisdom to know there might be coal at the bottom of the shaft they were digging. They had to keep shoring the sides to keep it from caving in. Also had to build a ladder for ascending and descending. There wasn’t any heavy equipment at that time – they had to do all the digging by hand. They struck coal at 35 feet. They built a tipple and a building for the hoist what would bring the loaded coal cars up the shaft to be emptied in the bins and returned to the bottom of the shaft. Your Dad helped with all of this. [Lee was born in 1913 and would have been 15 in 1928.]
Until the coal mine was in operation our main source of income was from the milk we sold. When we started to sell coal I’m sure the income from it was almost as good as the income from the cows.
Digging a coal mine by hand would have been a huge, labor-intensive undertaking. I have a hard time imagining how it would be done, considering that I have trouble digging a 2' hole for a plant. I think digging a small mine with only a few miners would have required courage, steadiness, and extreme care to succeed.
Other coal miners among my ancestors:

Andrew Doyle, Gust's grandfather, was a miner in Northumberland, England, in the mid-1850s and '60s. He came to America to find work in 1869, when he was 32, because, wrote Tressa, "the mines in England were being mined out - making it difficult to earn a living." He settled in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. His wife and children came one year later. Andrew eventually owned a small mining store in Stoneboro.

William Doyle, Gust's father and Andrew's son, was 7 when he arrived in the U.S. It is possible that he worked in the mines in England but I believe that laws had been put into effect by then preventing children from working in the mines until they were 10 years old. He may have worked in the mines in Stoneboro as a youth. It is certain he worked in the mines as an adult.

Abel Armitage, my maternal great-grandfather, was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England in 1821. Sometime between 1851 and 1861 he began working at the Trimdon Colliery in Durham. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1863 or 1864 and worked as a coal miner in the Steubenville area of Jefferson County, Ohio. The 1870 and 1880 census records both record him as a coal miner but by 1880 he was disabled. Perhaps he was injured in a mine accident. He died sometime after 1880, though I can find no record of his death.

John Froman/Frohman is my paternal grandmother's father. He appears in the 1870 U.S. census living in West Salem Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. From what I can gather, he passed away in 1872 but I have been unable to find information about his death or an exact date of death. Until I learn more, I will wonder if he died in a coal mine accident.

It is hard for me to imagine being a coal miner or living in a coal mining community. I wonder how, after an 8- or 10- or 12-hour day in the mine, my grandfather Gust was able to do the work necessary to keep the farm going. How did he manage in the winter when the days were were short and he and missed most of the daylight hours? I'm grateful for his work ethic and that it's been passed down through several generations.

Below are some postcard photographs of coal mining in eastern Pennsylvania where anthracite was mined. (Click on any of them to see them larger.) They were uploaded to Flickr by j3net and are on her Photostream where she has additional coal mining images.


Copyright © 2010-2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My First-Born, Celebrating Another Year

It seems like just a few years ago that she was a toddler who enjoyed cuddling, playing hand games, and singing nursery rhymes. Now here she is, ending one more year as an adult and beginning the next.

I sometimes wish I could keep my daughters little and enjoy them forever. On the other hand, it's so good to see them grow into wholesome, thoughtful, and responsible adults. Natasha is all of that and more. And doesn't she just glow?!

I cherish the time I'm able to spend with you, dear Natasha. I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

If you'd like to meet my daughter, you can visit her blog at Today's Gift.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Married in 1914

William Carl Robert Meinzen and Emma Virginia Bickerstaff were married 96 years ago on September 8, 1914, in Mineral Ridge, Trumbull County, Ohio.  He was 22, she was 21.

Though I knew both of them, they weren't story tellers and since I didn't ask many questions, I don't know how they met.  Both of their fathers were carpenters and both lived in the Steubenville/Jefferson County area.  Gramma's family moved to Mineral Ridge sometime after the 1910 census.  Grampa's family stayed in Steubenville. Perhaps he followed her to the Ridge....

I have a number of formal photographs of Emma and yet I have found no wedding photographs.  These two are portraits taken at about the age they were when they married but I doubt they are wedding photographs.  It's possible that Emma's photograph was taken in the traveling clothes she wore after the wedding.  Do you think it looks like a post-wedding traveling suit?

I've searched both Trumbull County and Jefferson County newspapers for a wedding announcement but have not yet found one.  No wedding photographs, no wedding announcement makes me doubly grateful to have a copy of their wedding certificate.

Happy Anniversary, Gramma and Grampa!


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Car, Three Brothers, and the Family Outing

In my previous post I highlighed a photograph of a car with three men, two sitting on a running board and one leaning on the wheel well. I asked if anyone had an idea what make and year the car might be since that information would help me determine whether the man seat with the hat is Alonzo or Alfonzo.

Patty F. from Stories, Yarns & Tales of Olde said she thought the car looked like a 1941 Chevrolet Business Coupe and sent me the link to photographs at Classic Cars. After examining both cars in as much detail as possible, I believe they are the same make, model, and year of car.

Twins Alonzo J. Gerner and Alfonzo F. Gerner (Lon and Fon for short) were born on July 25, 1874. From what others have said, they were as identical as identical twins could be. Looking at photographs, no one seemed to be able to tell them apart even when standing together. When apart, how could anyone guess which twin was which! Except that Alonzo died on October 21, 1940, and Alfonzo lived until January 29, 1952.

If this car is a 1941 model, as I believe it is, Alfonzo is the man seated with the hat in the photo above.

The photograph to the right was taken at the same gathering as the photo of the three brothers, above. In this photo you can see several cars in the background. But most importantly, you can see the three brothers' mother, Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, seated with some of her children and their spouses surrounding her. Elvira died on February 3, 1943.

If the year of the car is accurate, these two photos were taken sometime between late spring 1941 (at the earliest) and early fall 1942, and the man in question is Alfonzo Gerner.

Thank you, Patty F., for helping me solve a small mystery. Fellow bloggers are wonderful for the cumulative knowledge they possess and so willingly share.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

After some thought, I've come back to this post to add: What do you think about the two cars? The same or not?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Three Brothers

I like the running board on this car. I like the fact that they can sit on it. I think it's too bad cars don't have running boards these days.

These men are brothers, 3 of 16 siblings born to Fred Gerner and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner.

From left to right are John, Lon or Fon, and Warren.

John was born in November, 1882, in Winfield, West Virginia. His parents were married in Butler County, Pennsylvania, but moved to WV and stayed for a number of years. They later moved back to Butler County.

Alonzo and Alfonzo (Lon and Fon for short) were twins, born in July, 1874, also in West Virginia. I believe they were identical because in the other photo I have of them, a nephew who knew them couldn't tell them apart. If I knew the year of the car, it might help tell which brother this is. Lon died in October, 1940, so if the car is a 1941 model, this would be Fon.

Warren was born in July, 1890, in Butler County, Pennsylvania. When one of his nephews sent me some photographs of Gerner family members, I remembered this photo from my mother's album. It was identified only with first names of these men. But who could miss that handsome man with the bald head, and I was able to identify these men as Gerner siblings.

Do you have a guess what year this photo was taken? I'd be grateful for estimates based on the car or the ages of the men.

Do you remember running boards on cars? Did you ever sit or ride on one? Do you have photographs of fathers or grandfathers, uncles or great-uncles posed near cars?

If you enjoyed looking at this photograph you might enjoy other Sepia Saturday posts.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Matt, Turning 14

My grand-nephew Matt turns 14 today and this is the best recent (only 6 months old) photo I have. You can see that he has a great sense of humor and lots of energy.

Happy Birthday, Matt! I hope this is your best birthday so far.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Do You Do?

When you are searching for several families or lines who live in the same geographic area, what do you do?

If you are searching transcribed birth, marriage, death, or property records, etc., at a library, or original records at some other site away from home,
-- do you search for as many of your known families as possible on the same visit, or
-- do you search only one line and return to the facility on a different day to search for other families?

Is there an efficient way to search multiple lines who lived in the same area?
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