Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Book of Murner, Muerner, and Merner

Take away all of the current databases and you are left with the archives, cemeteries, registry offices, courthouses and unknown family members that Ruth Merner Connell had available to her when she decided, in 1971, to explore her Merner ancestry. Ruth is pictured below with her husband Robert Connell in a screen shot captured from her book.

Six years after she began 'climbing her family tree, Ruth produced, and self-published with the financial assistance of a Merner cousin, the almost 600 page book, Murner, Muerner, Merner: genealogy and related branches. The book, now out of print is available to be viewed as images on a page by page basis through Ancestry as well in several library special collections and genealogy society holdings.

Ruth Merner Connell used Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susanna Schluchter, Ellen's 3X great grandparents, as her starting point for research. As Ruth, whose exact cousin connection to Ellen I have not yet determined, soon discovered, Merner family members were to be found all across North America, Europe, Africa, and even in Japan.

Ruth chose Jacob Emanuel Merner as her starting point as he was the first Merner to arrive in North America. She worked backwards from Jacob and Susanna using the Family History Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints along with letters written to records office in different villages and towns in Switzerland. She even made regular contact with the Consulate of Switzerland in Cleveland, Ohio, not far from where she lived.

The records she found allowed her to trace her Merner ancestry back to Gwer Murner, born in 1545. Ruth was able to locate and identify records showing the eleven children of Jacob and Susanna who lived to adulthood and the ninety-three grandchildren they produced for their parents. New Hamburg in Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada became the central location from which the Merner family branches would fan out.

Ruth kept at it and found living Merner relatives through what had to have been onerous amounts of letter writing, receiving over time additional information about the lives of Merner descendants, usually derived from family bibles. Strangely, Ellen's connection to her Merner great-grandparents is not documented in the book as, unfortunately not all branches of the family responded to Ruth's letters requesting assistance with her project.

All of this was completed without a computer and was eventually, organized and published for the benefit of someone like me who came upon a connection to the Merner family, through marriage, and who unlike Ruth, can enjoy the fruits of her labour quickly through online resources providing me with information for my computerized genealogy database.

I began researching my family history about five years after Ruth's book was published. There were no computers and online was where you hung the clothes to dry. It was really tough work, not the least of which was figuring out how various archives organized and stored the records you wanted to review. You had to spend time learning the filing system before you could even hope to actually look at a microfilm reel of records. I wasn't very successful and so I am all that more amazed at the success that Ruth had and even more appreciative of her efforts.

Sadly, Ruth passed away at the much too young age of 57 in 1983. A true genealogist and a gift to future Merner researchers like me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

OMG! Not Another Politician In The Family Tree

My family was politically active. We voted. Regularly. Never missed an opportunity to exercise our franchise. We always took the responsibility, and the privilege, of being able to cast a ballot very seriously. 

We campaigned for candidates. I spent many hours dropping off campaign literature before I was even old enough to vote. My father, in particular, often lead campaigns for candidates with whom he was close. We were never candidates. We just managed the political campaigns for those who sought elected office.

Ellen's family, on the other hand, is full of elected officials both in Canada and the United States. One of her great grandfathers was the Mayor of Livermore, California. Several of her cousins were the Mayor of Berlin, later Kitchener, Ontario. Her cousins have been Members of Parliament at both the provincial and federal levels, and a second great uncle was a Canadian Senator. Recently, I found another politician 'hanging' in her family tree - Jonathan Joseph Merner (pictured below from his official Parliament of Canada biography).

Jonathan, Ellen's first cousin, three times removed, was born  in Blake, Huron County, Ontario, then Canada West,  and raised on the family farm. His father, Gottlieb Merner, was a younger brother to Sen. Samuel Merner and had immigrated with his family to British North America around 1837 or 1838 from his native Switzerland. When Jonathan was quite young, his family moved to the village of Hay in Huron County, Ontario where Jonathan attended school. Eventually, Jonathan struck out on his own, finding employment with Mr. D. D. Steinbach, a general merchant in Zurich, Ontario. His experience with Steinbach enabled Jonathan to open his own successful mercantile shop, which would come to include a large evaporator and apple jam factory. 

On September 21, 1911, Jonathan was elected to represent the federal riding of Huron South in the Parliament of Canada as a member of the Conservative Party. He represented the people of his riding in southwestern rural Ontario for the next ten years, losing his Parliamentary seat in the December 1921 election.

Jonathan died of an embolus during pancreatic surgery at the Hotel Dieu hospital in Windsor. Ontario on February 25, 1929. His death registration lists his occupation at the time of his death as Retired Builder.

Interestingly, Jonathan's biography on the Parliament of Canada website lists his date of death as February 26, 1929. For the government being off by one day might be close enough; for a genealogist, it's wrong.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Marriage of Rev. Louis Henry Wagner and Miss Mary Staebler

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner maintained a diary as have many young men and women. Louis wrote in his diary faithfully as a teenager but large gaps in time occur in Louis' diary writing during his adult years. Nonetheless, his diaries, as I have previously posted, can add rich detail to the Wagner family's history.

When Louis (pictured to the right) married Mary Staebler in May of 1884, he apparently was not in a writing mood. There is a gap between March 3, 1878 and January 1, 1887. Fortunately, the local newspaper filled in a part of this gap by providing a brief article about the wedding. Below is my transcription of the article that appeared in the Berlin (Ontario) Daily News, the predecessor of the current Waterloo Region Record newspaper. 


Another of our excellent young ladies has become united in the holy bonds of matrimony to the man of her choice. Miss Mary Staebler, daughter of Mr. Jacob Staebler, Sen., was married last, Tuesday, evening at the family residence, Weber Street, to the Rev. L. H. Wagner, of Hespeler, who, by the way, is also a Berlin boy. 

The Rev. S. L. Umbach, Presiding Elder of this District, performed the ceremony. Amongst the guests were, besides the Minister, Rev. Ch. [Christian] and Mrs. Staebler, South Cayuga; Rev. D. H. Brandt, Mr. J. M. Staebler and Son, Mr. L. J. Breithaupt, Mr. J. C. Breithaupt, Mrs. Breithaupt, Misses C. and M. Breithaupt, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Hailer, rs. Hailer, Mrs. D. Bean, Mr. and Mrs. M. Wegenast, Mr. and Mrs. L. Greybill, Miss Wegenast, Miss Sarah Anthes, Miss Mary Anthes, Misses Emma and Carrie Goetze, Mr. and Mrs. I. K. Devitt, Mr. Geo. Wegenast, Mr. D. M. Staebler, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Staebler, London; Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Staebler, Cassel, and others. 

The young couple, being very highly esteemed by large circles of friends, were the recipients of numerous and valuable presents. After the ceremony a sumptuous repast was partaken of by the guests, and at 8:40 Mr. and Mrs. Wagner took the train for the East, followed by all possible good wishes for their future happiness - in which the Daily News heartily joins."

It can be fun trying to identify the relationship of each guest to the bride and groom and, certainly Louis and Mary Wagner's wedding guest list reads a bit like a 'Who's Who' of 19th century Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario history. Most of the identified guests were cousins or friends but a few notables were present that might escape notice. "Mrs. Hailer" was the groom's grandmother, Margaret (Riehl) Hailer, the wife of Berlin pioneer (and Waterloo (Ontario) Region Hall of Fame member) Johann Jacob Hailer. Mrs. Hailer is listed next to her daughter, "Mrs. D. Bean" who was the mother of the groom, Margaret (Hailer) Wagner Bean.

Fortunately, this newspaper clipping is safely preserved in the archives at the University of Waterloo, part of the Wagner Hailer family fonds.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Merner Family Goes West

Anna Merner (name variant Muerner) was the seventh of eleven children born to Jacob Emanuel Merner and Susanna Schluchter. I married Anna's great-great granddaughter 179 years after Anna took her place in the Merner household in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland in 1824.

I don't know when Jacob and Susanna Merner brought there family to Canada but they had arrived by the time the delayed Census of 1851 covering Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was compiled in January of 1852. The family can be found in the village of New Hamburg, located in the County of Waterloo in what is now the province of Ontario. The Merners would come to be long associated as one of the leading families of this community for years to come.

While New Hamburg may have served as the family 'seat', it was also the launching pad for family members seeking adventure and prosperity in other parts of North America. For example, in 1875, Jacob and Anna's son Johan set off for the United States where he settled on a farm of his own in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

While a number of Merners ventured shorter distances to surrounding towns and villages in what is now southern Ontario, some saw the opening of Canada's west as their ticket to a better way of life. 

And so it was that Levi Merner struck out with his young family in the late 19th century. It is believed that Levi died enroute to his dream, probably in 1900 in what is now the province of Manitoba. His widow, Mary Merner however 'soldiered' on and can be found living with her children in Didsbury, Alberta in 1901. Levi and Mary Merner's descendants can still be found enjoying the beauty and richness of Canada's western provinces today.

I owe a debt of thanks to Ellen's fourth cousin Glenn Swanson for contacting me, through this blog, and providing some of the breakthrough information that assisted in deepening my knowledge and understanding of the family.