Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Digging Deeper to Find More has a collection of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records from 1708 to 1985.  I was hopeful that I might find some of my Pennsylvania ancestors among those listed in these records.  My first search was for any of my Gerner ancestors in Butler County.  I was especially hopeful of finding Mary or Elizabeth Gerner, the name/s of Christian Gerner's wife/wives.  I performed a surname-only search to see the broad results.

There was Christian Gerner.  The death date as indexed was close enough to the one I know, but Ancestry gave the location of the record as Durham Reformed Church, Durham, Bucks County.  Hmmm.  I am fairly certain my Christian did not die in Bucks County.  Maybe this wasn't him but I knew it would be worth my time to check and be sure either way.

When I clicked through to the record I found Christian and I saw other familiar Butler County surnames:   Shakley, Steele, Hepler, Daubenspeck, Bartley.  When I scrolled right I found Butler County cemeteries listed:  St. John's, Fairview, Sugar Creek, and Bear Creek, among others.  Surely both Bucks and Butler counties wouldn't have both the same surnames and the same cemetery names.

I decided to investigate further.  As I went forward in the book I found marriages from different dates, some with surnames I didn't recognize.  And it seemed that many pages were missing because the page numbers skipped forward.  When I finally reached the front of the book (but not the beginning of the microfilm) I found something wonderful.

This book was more than a list of marriages and funerals of one location -- not just Durham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  This book was the "Pastoral Records of Rev. Charles F. Althouse, late of Kintnersville, Penna.  Complete Records Kept by him of the Eight charges he served."  It included a list of pastorates where he had served and the dates when he served in each of the locations.  Rev. Althouse was a meticulous record-keeper and I'm very grateful to him. 

There, on the list of pastorates, was Fairview, Pennsylvania, including Baldwin and Chicora, where he served from February 15, 1897 to June 30, 1902.  Yes!  He served in Butler County in the area where my Gerners and Bartleys lived and at the time when several of my ancestors died. 

So, the Christian Gerner in this list is indeed my Christian Gerner! 

One interesting aspect of this record is that Rev. Althouse did not separate or name the pastorates as he moved from one to the other on the lists of funerals, marriages, etc.  He kept an uninterrupted, ongoing list from one location to the next.  The list of pastorates and dates at the front of the book is helpful in determining where the deceased individuals lived at the time of death.  And, for the record, Rev. Althouse kept lists of marriages, funerals, new members' names, and sermon subjects, all by date.

It is a valuable use of my time to delve deeper when searching old journals and records books.  If you find that you have ancestors in's Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records don't take the location Ancestry names as gospel truth.  Search further, especially if you find a name and date that support other information you have about the ancestor.

Unfortunately, I haven't found Mary/Elizabeth Gerner on these records -- at least not yet.  But soon I'll share some of the information I learned about Christian and several other ancestors.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Two Degrees of Separation - SNGF

This is my first time participating in Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun at Genea-Musings.  (You might be able to guess why when you see that this is posted on Sunday evening, almost 24 hours late.)  But this kind of "research" -- making connections -- is irresistible to me.  My post, Overlapping Lives, touches on this topic but in a slightly different way. 

Randy's challenge:
1)  Using your ancestral lines, how far back in time can you go with two degrees of separation?  That means "you knew an ancestor, who knew another ancestor."  When was that second ancestor born?
2)  Tell us about it in a blog post of your own . . . .

I knew my father, Lee Doyle; my mother, Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle; and my grandmother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen.

My father, Lee Doyle, was born in February, 1913.   The oldest ancestors he knew are his
> paternal grandfather, William Doyle:  March 1863 - April 1941
> paternal g-grandmother, Catherine Saylor:  June 1844 - December 1928
> maternal g-grandfather, Fred Gerner:  September 1848 - March 1926

My mother, Audrey Doyle, was born in June, 1915.  She knew her
> grandfather, Henry Meinzen:  July 1837 - December 1925.

My maternal grandmother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, was born in July, 1893.   The oldest ancestors she knew are her
> paternal grandfather, Ellis Bickerstaff:  April 1840 - June 1907
> paternal g-grandmother, Susanna (Holmes) Bickerstaff:  1811/1814 - Jan 1894
> maternal g-grandfather, Jacob Bell:  1824 - Feb 1915

My most distant relative known to someone I know is my great-great-great-grandmother, Susanna (Holmes) Bickerstaff, who was born between 1811 and 1814.  From then to now is 200 years or just slightly over.

The earliest ancestor with the least steps between him and me (and known to someone I know) is my great-grandfather, Henry Meinzen, who was born in 1837.

When I think of all the stories and historical knowledge that could have been passed down from an ancestor with just one person between us, I feel so sad that it wasn't.  What an education -- and possibly a source of inspiration -- I missed when these people I know told me nothing about the ancestors they knew.

Thanks for a fun challenge, Randy.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Butter Scotch Cookies, Country Creamed Corn - Family Recipe Friday

Update of August 22, 2014

After seeing this recipe for Butter Scotch Cookies last week my daughter decided to make them.  The recipe was a great success.  The cookies were cakey, moist, and delicious.  They may be a new family favorite!

She made a few substitutions.  Because we didn't have walnuts she substituted an equal amount of butterscotch chips.  We didn't have cream of tartar, either, so she used an equal amount of vinegar.  She baked them in a 350-degree oven and checked them after 10 minutes.

Original post of August 14, 2014

The phrases "made from scratch" and "homemade" came to mind when I first read these recipes.  They both call for good, plain, wholesome ingredients cooked to deliciousness.

I have no date for these recipes but when the directions for the cookies suggest putting the dough (made with eggs) in a cool place overnight, I imagine that Gramma made the cookies only in the winter because refrigerators -- and possibly ice boxes -- had not yet been invented.  Of course, her "cool place" may have been a spring house.  My modern adaptation to this recipe is putting the dough in the refrigerator overnight. 

Look at the recipe for Country Creamed Corn.  Oh, my.  Do you know many cooks modern-day cooks who would "scrape out the hearts" of every kernel of corn to make creamed corn?  My impression of homemakers in the early 1900s is that they had a heavy burden of work, done by hand, without the aid of labor-saving devices.  I wonder at such a labor-intensive recipe for a side dish.

My last thought about the creamed corn recipe is that it directs cooking the corn over a "slow fire."  Hmmm.  Either Gramma was using a wood-burning stove or the phrase was a hold-over from a time when she did.  Gramma was born in 1893 so it's entirely possible that by the time she married in 1914 she was still using a wood-burning kitchen stove.

These recipes bring to mind two movie scenes:  first, the opening scene in "Meet Me in St. Louis" where the ladies are making ketchup over a wood-burning stove; and, second, the scene in the movie "Anne of Green Gables" in which Anne finds a mouse in the pudding sauce because she forgot to put a cover over it.  How times change. 

Butter Scotch Cookies
1 cup butter
1   "   brown sugar.
3 eggs
About 5 or more cups
     of flour.
1 teaspoon cream Tarter
1      "     Baking Soda
1      "     Vanilla
1 cup English Walnuts
Cream Butter, add
sugar, then
beaten eggs.  Add
dry ingredients to
sifted together,
Vanilla, chopped
nuts.  Mix with
Spoon until stiff
enough to
knead then
work in flour
enough so as to
make in long
roll with hands
Put in a cool

Butter Scotch Cookies [continued]
place over night.
Make cookies as
thin as possible
as they raise in
the oven

Country Creamed Corn
Cut the tops of
the kernels &
scrape out the
hearts.  Put in a
saucepan & one
tablespoon butter
for each cup of
corn, 1/2 teaspoon
salt & 1/8 teaspoon
pepper.  Add just
enough milk to
make moist
& cook over a
slow fire, Stirring con-
stantly until very
hot.  Add cream to
barely cover & continue
cooking for 8 minutes.  Stir

These recipes are from the Webster's spelling tablet my grandmother Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen used to write recipes.  More of her recipes are available at Gramma's Webster's Spelling Recipe Book.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

GeneaAngels - Thankful Thursday

GeneaAngels abound in the family history blogging world and this week I've been blessed by two of them.  I want to publicly thank Leah and Claudia for their help.

Leah A. of Leah's Family Tree read my post, A Sweet Little Family, and noticed that I was unable to obtain a news article about the probable father in the family of that post.  I had a source for the article but no access.  She had access and offered to obtain the article and mail it to me.  And, voilĂ , the next day there it was.  It confirmed an identity and provided helpful information about the family.  Thank you, Leah!

Both Claudia, of Claudia's Genealogy Blog, and I have Western Pennsylvania ancestors, but she has the benefit of living in the state and being able to attend local genealogy society meetings.  She emailed me last week to alert me to a book she saw at the previous night's meeting:  Mercer County Pennsylvania Pictorial  History 1800-2000.  She suggested I might find it helpful and, from her description, I think it may enhance my Mercer County research.  I have not yet laid hands on a copy of the book but I hope to soon.  Thank you, Claudia!

You are both kind GeneaAngels and I appreciate your help.  Thank you, Leah and Claudia.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Time to Think, Places to Think - Book of Me

There are times when I must concentrate on the work at hand -- making a difficult recipe; paying bills; organizing my plan for the day; or considering which route will be the best for the day's errands.  But there are other times when my mind can focus on a particular train of thought beyond the necessities of the day -- or on no thought at all with free range to think about whatever topic wanders into my mind.

The best time for deep, reflective thought is when I have private, solitary, uninterrupted time.  Peace and quiet do wonders for my soul and my mind. 

On those rare nights that I don't fall immediately to sleep after collapsing into bed I may lie awake for a time thinking and pondering.  It begins with whatever comes to mind and evolves into more focused thought, then back to a wandering mind.  And then I (usually) drift into peaceful slumber.  There are some mornings when I'm not hurried by a commitment and may stay in bed a little longer letting thoughts overtake me, gradually focusing my mind as I choose.  The quiet evenings before falling into sleep and the relaxed, unhurried mornings after coming into wakefulness are delicious, delightful times.

While driving, or while I'm riding and the conversation dies away into quietness, I often find myself deep in thought.  It cannot be busy city traffic nor bumper-to-bumper on the interstate, but almost any other driving gives me quiet time to think.  The long freeway drives are best. 

Another favorite place to think is the shower, but only if I'm not rushing to meet deadlines.  On mornings without commitments I may stay a few minutes longer in the shower, letting my thoughts wander where they will.  They usually gravitate to living family, ancestors, and thoughtful prayer.  I sometimes surprise myself at the depth of thought that comes during a five-minute the shower, especially if I put my mind to it.

Where do you do your best thinking?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  The topic for this post was "Where do you think?"


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Sweet Little Family - Friday's Faces From the Past

I found this photo in a family album in close proximity to some Meinzen photographs.  At first glance the woman looks familiar, similar to several of my Meinzen great-aunts, but she's too young to be one of them.

My aunt seems fairly certain the adults are Dean/Deane and Bertha (Harris) Probert.  Bertha Harris's mother was Wilhelmina/Elizabeth W. (Meinzen) Harris, my grandfather's sister.  My aunt believes the little boy may be their son whom they called J.R.  She's not sure who the girls are.  In my mind there is a family resemblance between all the children and the man in the photo.

Just a little research on the internet indicates that Deane Probert became manager of The Steubenville Herald-Star in 1971.  Unfortunately, the newspaper article in The Weirton Daily Times is at where I don't have a subscription.  I'll do some more sleuthing when I have a little time.

I don't usually spend time searching my mother's cousins' families but since I have this photograph I thought it would be great if I could identify who's in it.

If some family member of this couple happens onto this blog post and can verify the adults and help me identify the children, I would be very grateful.  You can contact me at myancestorsandme @ (minus the spaces).  Thanks in advance.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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