The date is set for the 62nd Annual Merner Family Reunion! The reunion is being held again this year at the Seaforth (Ontario) Golf and Country Club on Sunday, July 13th beginning at 1:00 p.m. and includes nine holes of golf for those interested or family games at a nearby park for the non-golfers. The reunion is capped off by a social hour with a cash bar and a family barbecue. Cost for the dinner is $15 (Cdn) per adult and $7.50 per child 5 and under.
The reunion is organized by Ellen’s cousins Marg Nicholson and Liz Bartliff, whom like Ellen are descended from Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter. Ellen and I attended the reunion last year and had a great time. Of course, it was also great to meet so many previously unknown cousins.
Cousins Liz Bartliff, Ellen (Wagner) Hadden, and Marg Nicholson at the 61st Annual Merner Family Reunion in 2013
If you are connected to the Merner family, not too busy, and want to enjoy a great afternoon with great people, whether you golf or not, I encourage you to make the trip into southwestern Ontario for this family reunion. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to reserve a spot at the reunion.
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 genealogy. As 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!
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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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.
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.