From Tragedy To Dare – The Doerr Family Connection

As I shared in my last post, I have been carefully examining the excellent work of the late Ruth Merner Connell who self-published a genealogy of Ellen’s ancestral Merner family in 1976. The book has been an excellent resource helping me to add on to the Merner family information I had already discovered. As I have entered each fact into my genealogy database from the Merner genealogy book, I am careful to ensure that nothing is entered without a source citation. 

In addition  I have been ‘auditing’ the contents of the book to ensure that the facts it presents can be verified with primary source documents, something that Ruth Connell used when available but didn’t always have easy access to. I am about half way through the book and have been impressed to find that about 98% of the facts it contains are accurate. Small errors occur likely due to typographical errors (the book is about 600 pages long and each paged was typed on one of those old-fashioned things called typewriters).

Among the stories that I have uncovered was that of Irene Nelda Merner, Ellen’s second cousin twice removed. Irene was a great granddaughter of Ellen’s 3X great grandparents Jacob Emanuel Merner (Muerner) and Susanna Schluchter. 

Irene’s father Ammon Merner was a hard working machinist/moulder who worked in the town of Waterloo, Waterloo County, Ontario where Irene was born in 1890. At the age of 26, in 1916, Irene married a young man from Berlin, now Kitchener, Ontario, named Weybourne Doerr. The newlyweds settled into married life in Kitchener and in July of 1917, their little family expanded when their first child, a son they named Carl Merner Doerr, was born.

The year 1918 however brought tragedy to the family as both Irene and her husband Weybourne died, within two days of each other, as a result of the ‘Spanish grippe’ or pandemic flu. Carl was orphaned at just fourteen months of age and would be raised by his paternal grandparents, Charles Henry Doerr and his wife Susannah Wagner.

Grandfather Charles Doerr had established and operated a small ‘grocery’ store and biscuit bakery in Berlin, Ontario. Charles brought his grandson Carl into the business and began teaching him the ways of business world. In 1941, when he was just 24 years of age, Carl was forced to take over the business when his beloved grandfather died.

Carl, Ellen’s third cousin once removed, continued to grow the business and in 1945, he changed the family and company name to Dare. The company is now one of the largest food companies in North America, known for Melba Toast, Viva Puffs, Bear Claws, Real Fruit Gummies, Wagon Wheels (one of my favourites as a kid), and a large variety of cookies. Carl’s Dare Foods company was the first to introduce the resealable tin tie bag in 1954. Not only was Carl a great entrepreneur but he also demonstrated great philanthropy through contributions to the local symphony, hospital, conservation authority and through his foundational work in establishing the University of Waterloo.

Carl Dare/Doerr was inducted into to Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2008.


Further Evidence for a Family Heirloom


Way, way back in January 2011, I wrote about a family heirloom, specifically a cane or walking stick (pictured below) that my wife was told belonged to one of her ancestors. She hoped that I might be able to identify who that ancestor was.




A year ago, I wrote about using the inscription on the cane to identify the original owner. The task was made somewhat easy as the inscription was “J.J.H.” plus the year “1876.” My wife had only one ancestor with those initials who was alive in 1876, John (Johann) Jacob Hailer, her third great grandfather. There are no family stories known to us about the reason behind the cane so we don’t know if it was a birthday gift or perhaps a Christmas present, or even if Jacob, as he was known, needed the cane to support himself when walking.

Of course, having only one ancestor, or family member for that matter with the correct initials and alive in the year inscribed does not provide conclusive evidence that John Jacob Hailer was the owner, just that he was the likely owner.

Recently, while researching another ancestor in the Wagner family, I returned to the scanned copies that I made of original documents and photographs on file at the University of Waterloo, part of the Wagner-Hailer fonds. This collection of documents was donated to the university by my wife’s uncle Gordon Wagner following the ‘completion’ of his family history research in the 1970s and 1980s.

While visiting the university, I had scanned almost all of the documents including several nineteenth century diaries. There are as a result hundreds of images from that visit and I admit that I have not yet ‘processed’ all of them. When looking to see if I happened to have a specific document related to another ancestor, I went through these images one by one, stopping when a photo of great-great-great Grandfather Hailer appeared. Obviously I had not looked carefully at the photo previously (I have a few different photos of Mr. Hailer) so I had noticed an important detail. There he was in the photo holding the very cane that I had identified as likely being his.

John Jacob Hailer died in 1882 so the time frame for the photo below (cropped from the original on file to emphasize the cane in his hand) is between 1876 and 1882. While it’s nice to have been right, finding the more compelling evidence is better!