Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Riverside Cemetery, New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada

Earlier this month, Ellen and I attended the Merner Family reunion, held in Seaforth, Ontario. You can read more about the reunion and our participation by clicking here.

After having researched Ellen's family history for several years, there are certain places that I just feel compelled to visit. Perhaps it's because I have entered the same village or town name into my genealogy database or maybe it's an intriguing family event that I hope a visit might allow me to feel like I am experiencing the event in its proper context.

Riverside Cemetery is one of those places. For many years, as I have 'found' more of Ellen's Merner ancestors, typically they have been buried in New Hamburg's Riverside Cemetery. Even many of those ancestors who had moved away from the New Hamburg community, were returned to their ancestral town for burial.

The trip to the reunion location took us right through New Hamburg so I couldn't resist the temptation to locate the cemetery and try to find the graves of Ellen's ancestors whom I have come to know so well.

Riverside Cemetery is located in the south end of the town, away from the business section located north of the highway. It is a large, well maintained cemetery which, with some pre-trip Google map planning and a GPS unit, was very easy to find. Unfortunately, we visited on a Sunday so there was no office staff available to provide directions on where to locate the graves I wanted to find. Even though it was possibly the hottest day of the year, I was okay with that as I am like a 'kid in a candy store' when it comes to walking around an ancestral cemetery searching for family members; and, I found Merners, lots and lots of Merners.

It is important to note, if you are planning a trip to this cemetery, that the east side of the cemetery is also known as Holy Family Cemetery; the eastern part serving as the Roman Catholic section. Although the Merner family as well as the other main branches of Ellen's family tree were predominantly Methodists or Lutherans, there were many Roman Catholic Merner family members. The graves of these family members were eventually located in the eastern Holy Family section.

Below is a photo of Ellen at the grave of her 3X great-grandparents, Jacob Emanuel Merner (Muerner) and his wife Susannah Schluchter. Jacob died in 1869 and Susannah in 1875. Their gravestone is well worn and the inscription is not in English but their names, dates of birth and death, as well as their ages at death are clearly legible.

Perhaps the most touching family gravestone was found at the graves of Jacob Ernst and his wife Clarissa Merner. Jacob and Clarissa are buried together in Riverside Cemetery along with their son Walter who died in 1901 of appendicitis at the age of just 14. Below is a photo of the statute erected as a memorial to Walter. The base of the memorial statue is inscribed "Our Darling Boy."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Earl Burchatzki's Hole-in-One History

Recently, I was in New Hamburg, Ontario and specifically I was visiting Riverside Cemetery. 

While I have seen photos of Riverside Cemetery through websites such as Find-A-Grave, this was my first time visiting and searching for the gravestones of Ellen's ancestors who had lived and died in the area.

While wandering through the cemetery (on one of the hottest days of the year!), I came across the gravestone for Earl W. Burchatzki and his wife Grace A. Irvine. Neither Earl nor Grace have any family connection to Ellen or I but their gravestone gave more information about them than most. In addition to providing Earl and Grace's years of birth and death, their gravestone provided their date of marriage - September 29, 1945, likely I'm assuming soon after Earl returned home from military service in World War 2.

Okay, maybe that's not so remarkable in and of itself but the inscription on the reverse side of the gravestone shows the pride and love Earl (again I'm assuming) had for the love of golf. 

On the reverse side of the gravestone, neatly chiseled and preserved for future generations to see are the dates and lengths of the two holes on which Earl achieved a hole-in-one at the Foxwood Golf Course in nearby Baden, Ontario.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Merner Family Reunion - July 14, 2013

For several decades, a Merner family reunion has been held in southwest Ontario. Typically, about 50 descendants of Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter, gather to catch up on family news, spend fun time together, and share a meal. A few years ago, on the reunion's 50th anniversary, between 200 - 300 Merner descendants attended. This year, the reunion gathering was held on Sunday, July 14th in Seaforth, Ontario. Ironically, Ellen and I have been to the town of Seaforth previously on a genealogy quest as her direct maternal family line, the Latimer family settled in Seaforth following their immigration from Ireland. The Merner family is one of Ellen's paternal ancestral lines.

One set of my wife Ellen's 3X great grandparents are Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter. The descendants of Jacob and Susannah Merner have been documented in Ruth Merner Connell's book on the Merner family genealogyAs I mentioned in previous posts, Ellen's family was not documented in the book because, well, simply put, whomever in her family might have been contacted by Ruth Connell in the early 1970's didn't reply to the inquiry.

Fortunately that changed this year. One of the reunion organizers, Marg (Merner) Nicholson decided to search out some information about Senator Samuel Merner, one of Jacob and Susannah's children. Ellen is descended from Samuel's sister Anna Merner, whereas most of the reunion participants are descended from a younger brother, Gottlieb Merner. As a result of her information search, Marg found my blog post about Samuel and his connection to Ellen. Emails were subsequently exchanged between Marg and I and the invitation to the family reunion was extended and accepted. 

The reunion was held at the Seaforth Golf and Country Club where family members were able to enjoy a round of golf together while their children participated in various games at a nearby park. The event was capped off with a barbecue dinner. Below is a photo of Ellen (centre) with her new found cousins and family reunion organizers Liz Bartliff (left) and Marg Nicholson (right).

What a great experience to find and meet so many family members who warmly welcomed their long 'lost' cousin!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Finally! My Journey Through Ruth Connell's Merner Genealogy Is Complete

Back in mid-April, I happened upon a book compiled by the late Ruth Merner Connell on the Merner family genealogy. Ruth's effort to produce the book must have been enormous. 

The book, published in 1976, is about 600 pages long, all hand typed (no computer word processing software available in those days) and includes old family photos and an index of the 2000 Merner family members that Ruth was able to document.

Ruth Merner Connell is my wife Ellen's third cousin, once removed. Their common ancestors are Ellen's 3X great grandparents, Jacob Emanuel Merner and Susanna Schluchter. It is these common ancestors that Ruth Merner Connell used as the focal point of her family research, essentially setting out to identify and document all of the descendants of Jacob and Susanna.

Ruth did not enjoy modern social media opportunities, no Facebook page, no Tweets, and no email. She completed her project through 'snail' mail and numerous trips to cemeteries and archives.

When I found Ruth's book, I undertook to enter the information she had compiled into my genealogy software database. Now, some two and one half months later, I have finished the task. Entering all of the information into my database is not without risks. It's a bit like copying someone's public family tree, like those found and much maligned, on the site. I not only entered Ruth's genealogy information but ran the risk of entering all of her mistakes and fact errors as well.

In order to mitigate this very real risk, I checked her facts as I entered the information by taking advantage of using online databases and record collections. Certainly I found some errors in dates, for example a birth or death date being incorrect by a day, but for the most part Ruth's information is accurate. She received the information she published directly from the family members that she was documenting. Ruth also cited her sources although certainly not in the citation form that would be preferred today. On each page Ruth listed where she obtained her information; from family members, family bibles, cemetery records, etc.

As a result of completing my task of entering the Merner family information, my database has swollen to 15,763 people in 5105 families. And, perhaps most importantly, I have entered the source of the information for each and every fact that was entered. I have uploaded this updated family tree to as a public member tree.

The sad note on the Merner genealogy that Ruth published is that on page 272 of her book, Ruth lists Ellen's great great grandparents, Anna Merner and Jacob Staebler. There is also a note from Ruth on the page: "No contact has been made on this family." The result is that Ellen's family is not included in the book beyond the information about her great great grandparents.

This may be remedied though as there are efforts underway to update Ruth's book. I hope to do my part in assisting in those efforts in any way that I can or may be asked.