Sunday, August 31, 2014

Information Relating to Christian Gerner's Death - Church Record Sunday, 52 Ancestors

Rev. Charles F. Althouse of St. Peter's Reformed Church in Fairview, Butler County, Pennsylvania, was the pastor who performed the funeral service for my great-great-grandfather, Christian Gerner.  What a thrill to find information about my ancestor recorded by the pastor.

Christian Gerner died on Thursday, February 16, 1899.  His funeral was 3 days later, on Sunday, the 19th of February.

This is the record Rev. Althouse kept:

Funeral Date        February 19, 1899
Name                   Christian Gerner
Text                     Rev 14:13
Age                      79-1-15 (y-m-d)
Fee                       $3
Cause of Death     Pneumonia
Cemetery              Fairview

(Full page view of record book at right.)

This information suggests that Christian was born on January 1, 1820.  It's possible that he was.  It's equally possible that January 1 was an easy date to claim when a definite date was not known.  All census records available suggest that 1820 was the year of his birth.

The text from his funeral, Revelations 14:13, reads,
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
If Christian wasn't really prepared for death, at least the minister thought he was.

I found this church record on Pennsylvania and New Jersey Town and Church Records at

I don't mean to be greedy, but now I wish the minister had saved the text of his remarks, too!  They may have given me more insight into the life my g-g-grandfather led.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mixed/Misidentified Church Records on Ancestry - Church Record Sunday

The Durham Reformed Church, Durham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania on's Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 contain more geographic locations than Durham.  I found several Butler County, Penna, ancestors buried in the records.  Here are some details about this particular collection.

Image 145
The Durham collection contains 278 images, a little over half of which are from Durham churches.  But beginning at image 144 you will find a minister's record book with information from other parishes, too.  I assume that because the minister ended his service in Durham, Pennsylvania, his record book remained in that parish with those records.  Hence, its appearance with the Durham Reformed Church records on Ancestry.

Rev. Charles F. Althouse was the pastor at St. Peter's Reformed Church in Fairview, Butler County, Pennsylvania, from February 15, 1897 to June 30, 1902.  It is his record book you will see beginning at image 144.

Pastorates of Rev. Charles F. Althouse
Image 146
Bless his heart, Rev. Althouse was a record-keeper extraordinaire.  His journal begins (at image 146/page 1 of his record book) with the pastorates where he served and the dates of service.

1   Edinburg, Ill. charge - Edinburg and Buckhart -   Sept 15 1894 Dec 1, 1896
2.  Fairview, Pa. Charge - Baldwin and Chicora -      Feb 15, 1897 June 30 1902
3.  McKeesport, Pa.  1st McKeesport                        July 1 1902 - Jan 1 1904
4.  Saxton, Pa. Charge  Saxton and Hopewell.          Mar 1 1904 - Dec 15 1907
5   Christ   Allentown, Pa.                                         Dec 15 1907 Oct 15 1917
6   Phoenixville       Supply from Feb 15/18 -            June 1, 1918 - Apr 16 1922
7   New Williams         "       "   Mar - Oct
8   Durham Charge                                                     Oct 1 1923 - Aug 15 1939

Knowing the dates of when and where he served will help when looking at the recorded names and dates on the journal pages:  in the lists of baptisms, marriages, funerals, etc., he made no indication where one parish's records end and the next begin.

Below is an "index" to the images of  Rev. Althouse's record book on  Image 144 is the beginning of his record book.  Each image shows two pages each of which is numbered separately.  For example, image 147 includes pages 2 and 3.

Image 146
Image 146 / inside front cover
   Pastorates Page 1.
   Church Officers Page 2.
   Communion Seasons 12.
   Baptisms.  22.
   Marriages.  92.
   Funerals.  114.
   New Members.  162.
   Sermons.  250.
   Annual Reports   598

Images 147-149 / record book pages 2-7
   Church officers' names with residence city/town, office, and dates served

Image 150 / record book pages 12-19
   Communion Seasons (dates)

Images 154-178 / record book pages 22-69
   Baptisms (more than 700) (with date, name, age (y-m-d), parents' names)

Images 179-186 / record book pages 92-106
   Marriages (includes date, name of groom, license number, fee, name of bride, place)

Images 187- 202 / record book pages 114 -141
   Funerals (497) (includes date, name, text, age (y-m-d), fee, cause of death, cemetery)

Images 203-222 / record book pages 162-198
   New members (includes date, name)

Images 223-277 / record book pages 250-357
   Sermons (sometimes 2/day & 5-6/week) (includes date, place, scripture reference)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I've written this post because finding my own Butler County ancestors in Bucks County records at Ancestry was confusing.  (This post would have helped when I first began but I don't know if I would have found it.)  This information clarifies this resource and will help me if I want to search the record book for other funerals, marriages, and/or baptisms.  I know has the names indexed but a researcher may overlook them, especially if the surname is a very common one.  Perhaps this information will be useful to someone else but if not, I know I'll refer back to it.  (I wish there were a place on Ancestry at Durham Reformed Church where I could link to this post so it could be helpful to others.)

Now if only Rev. Abner Dale kept a record book and it were available online, I would be thrilled.  I'm sure it would include baptism and marriage records for two families of ancestors.


Copyright © 2014 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...