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.