Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Daughter's View of Her Father's Work - Workday Wednesday

From before the time I was born my father, Lee Doyle, worked at Copperweld Steel Company's mill in Warren, Ohio.  He began working there in 1940 or soon after, a few years before the photo at right was taken.  He'd been there about 10 years by the time I was born and longer from the time my memories begin.

Dad worked what we called "turns."  These days it's called swing shift.  He worked five days then was off two.  After the two days off, he switched turns:  from days, to afternoons, to nights.  It sounds simple and seems like he would have been able to keep a straight Monday-through-Friday schedule, but it didn't work that way.  Between some turns there was really only a day and a half off.  At the end of a round of turns (that is, after he'd worked all three) he had three or four days off.  That work schedule must have been a nightmare for my father, with no regular sleep schedule and probably little sleep when he worked night-turn with children at home during the day.  I know it was hard for my mom when it came to meal preparation.  She always served a hearty evening meal but when Dad worked afternoons, she had to serve it 5 hours earlier -- and then hold it over or reheat it for those of us who were in school.  As hard as that might have been for my mom, I think it was much worse for my father.

Working turns presented an added challenge when one realizes we were a one-car family living in a small community some distance from a city.  Mom had to carefully plan and coordinate her use of the car for any appointments, errands, and/or piano lessons.  Emergencies were out of the question.

I remember rare times that my mother asked my grandparents to borrow their car.  Still rare, but more common, were times when Mom drove Dad to work so she could have the car. 

Copperweld was located at 4000 Mahoning Avenue NW in Warren.  The drive from home to the mill was nearly 11 miles and, in those days, took 30 to 45 minutes.  It always seemed like such a trek.  We drove back roads except through a section of the city that wasn't particularly safe.  (My father kept a hammer under the seat of the car.  Never, he said, as a weapon, but should he need it for that purpose, it was there.)  The driveway from the road to the mill, left, was long, too.

It wasn't until I was eight or 10 years old that my parents bought a second car.  It made all the difference for my mom.  She was no longer limited to having a car only when Dad wasn't working.

I don't know what year Dad became a foreman but at least by the time I was 10.  He must have been pleased to know his employer thought him capable of the work and also happy to have the increased pay but I remember many days when he worked 12-hour shifts, sometimes for days on end.  Being a foreman meant that as a salaried employee his pay was the same no matter how many hours he worked.  And he was no longer a union member.  He and the men he had previously worked with were on different sides of the union line.  I remember him talking about how difficult it was to motivate the union men to do the work they were being paid to do.  I think that was frustrating for him.

Dad wore steel-toed boots to work.  It was not mandated by law until 1975 but he must have realized the importance of protecting his feet in an environment with heavy materials and equipment.  I know the mill was very large and required a lot of walking and standing with very little time, if any, to sit.  I think his feet often hurt though he never said so to me.  In addition to steel-toed boots his work clothes consisted of pants, shirt, and jacket.  He insisted on shirts with two pockets.  Mom mended and patched his work clothes until they were suited only for cleaning cloths or to be ripped into strips for rag rugs. 

When I was a child Copperweld offered tours to employees' family members.  I desperately wanted to go but was told I was too young.  When I was old enough they were no longer giving tours.  I suppose safety laws came into effect preventing non-employees from being in the work area. 

Copperweld is now being torn down, but it was in disuse for a decade.  There are a few photos of the mill at Rust Wire and at this pinterest board.

My images and knowledge of work at a steel mill come primarily from the links are below.  The adjectives that come to mind when I think of work there are hot, hard, dangerous, and that mills are monstrous large.

Dad was a life-long believer in American-made steel.  He would not buy a foreign-made car, no matter how highly it may have been rated.  American steel gave American men jobs to provide for their families.  He was still alive when Japanese- and German-made car became common and he never had a good work for buying them.

Dad retired from Copperweld Steel in the late 1970s after working there nearly 35 years.  If I could guess at his opinion about it, he'd say it was none too soon.

Copperweld closed in 2001.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - Tuesday's Tip

If you have ancestors who lived along or near the southeastern border of Ohio you may want to explore, a collection of digital images made available for public use at no cost to the viewer.

The opening page looks like this.  There is no indication that it is except that you'll see the url at the top of your screen.

The website looks minimal but its search capabilities seem strong.  You can search by topic, name, location, etc., or you can choose to search only one or several libraries's resources.  You can choose to see 20 results on a page, up to 200 (should you be lucky enough to have that many results).  There is also an option to view a book page by page.

In this digital collection you may find photos, postcards, maps, documents, county histories, city directories, obituary collections, school mementos, and artifacts. 

Participating counties include Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont, Noble, Monroe, and Washington. 

Participating libraries include
  • Caldwell Public Library (Noble County)
  • Martins Ferry Public Library (Belmont County)
  • Monroe County District Library
  • Perry County District Library
  • Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County (books and images) (Jefferson County)
  • Puskarich Public Library (Harrison County)
  • St. Clairsville Public Library (Belmont County)
  • Washington County Public Library

But don't assume that the libraries have published materials for only their counties.  Many have included materials from other counties and some for other states, especially nearby West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

This seems to be a growing collection because each time I check back there are more libraries and/or more resources.  It's also possible that other counties will begin to contribute materials, too.  If you have ancestors who lived anywhere near this area you may want to see what you can find at

The map image used above is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Appreciating My Ancestors on Ancestor Appreciation Day, 2015

Ancestor Appreciation Day is almost over but I didn't want it to pass without recognizing my appreciation of and gratitude to my ancestors.  If it weren't for them I wouldn't be here.  I'm grateful for the choices they made -- coming to America, having strength and courage to live in times that may have been difficult, but especially to choose spouses, marry, and have children.  For each couple who married and had children, I may be one of hundreds or thousands of descendants, either now or at some time in the future.

A few of my female ancestors . . . .
Left to right, top row then bottom row:  Audrey Meinzen Doyle, Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen, Mary Thompson Bickerstaff, Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen, Beulah Gerner Doyle, Elvira Bartley Gerner, Tressa Froman Doyle, and Elizabeth Laws Doyle

A few of my male ancestors . . . .
Left to right, top row then bottom row:  Lee Doyle, Gust Doyle, William Doyle, Andrew Doyle, W. C. Robert Meinzen, Henry C. Meinzen, Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, and Dixon Bartley

Thank you, dear ancestors.  Thank you.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Sad Graves - Tombstone Tuesday

Winona Elva (or Elva W.) Mendenhall Covert Gerner was wife to two different husbands.  She remarried after the death of her first husband, Everett R. Covert, and died before her second husband, Alfonzo Gerner.  I suppose it would be a hard choice to know with which husband to be buried.  Maybe she and Alfonzo discussed it and they both agreed about her burial location.

Still, I think it's sad to see Alfonzo's grave marker, standing alone, identifying him as the husband of Elva W. Covert with her buried beside her first husband.

Both photographs are from Find A Grave and are used with the permission of the photographer, Zachary Pyle.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lost in 1910 - Census Sunday

Of course Alfonzo Gerner knew where he was in 1910 so he wasn't lost, but I haven't been able find him in 1910.

I started my research on Alfonzo with his obituary.  It named his recently deceased wife, Nona Covert Gerner, and child, Ross Gerner of Bruin.  It all seemed so simple then.  But people's lives can be so complex.

Then I found Alfonzo's World War I draft registration from Newkirk, Kay County, Oklahoma, permanent address Baldwin, Pa., on which he gave his wife's name as Meta or Geta.  (I've found nothing to support a wife named Meta/Geta.  A clerical error?  More research?)

Next I sorted through his marriages (not finding Meta/Geta) but instead found
  • Nona Covert in Alfonzo's obituary.  I assumed she was his first and only wife and found that she was also known as Nona, Elva, Elva W., and Winona E. and had been previously married.
  • Hattie Slagle.  Hattie was the surprise first wife, evidenced by a marriage record on FamilySearch with a marriage date in December, 1896.  I delved into that mess and learned, from the 1900 Census and Hattie's death certificate, that Alfonzo and Hattie divorced sometime before their son, Ross Gerner, was 3.  Ross was born in February, 1897.  I was unable to find an obituary for Hattie but I doubt it would have mentioned a divorce.

Finally, I discovered Alfonzo's gravestone which notes that he was the husband of Elva W. Covert (aka Nona, Winona, etc.).  He is buried in Bear Creek Cemetery, Bruin, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

I hope to learn Alfonzo and Nona's marriage date but have been unable to find a marriage record.  I thought census records might help me narrow down a date.  These are the results of my census searches, from his earliest to his last.
  • 1880.  Alphonzo, white, male, 5 years, son, born West Virginia.  He was living with his parents, Fred and Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, in Scott District, Putnam County, West Virginia. 
  • 1900.  Afolzo [sic] F., son, white, male, born Jul 1874, 25 years, single, born West Virginia, oil pumper, can read & write, speaks English.  He was living with his parents in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  
  • 1910.  I cannot find him in 1910.
  • 1920.  Fawn, head, rents, male, white, 46 years, single, can read and write, born Pennsylvania, coal miner.  Alfonzo was living in Fairview Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.  Interestingly, just seven homes away were Elva and Evert R. Coovert [sic] with their five children.
  • 1930.  Alfonso, head, rents, male, white, 55 years, first marriage at age 53, born Virginia.  His wife was Winona, age 51, first married at age 17.
  • 1940.  A. F. Gerner, head, male, white, 65 years, married, 4 years of school, born Virginia, farmer and miner on own account.  His wife is Nona, age 62.

I find it interesting that even though Alfonzo was married in 1897 and divorced by 1900, he listed himself as single in subsequent census records.  And not only that, in 1930 he give his age at first marriage as 53.  It's possible, of course, that his wife gave the information to the census taker and knew nothing of his first marriage, at least at that time.  However, she must have known he'd been married because Alfonzo's son is named as her step-son in her obituary.

The census records I've found help me narrow a marriage date for Alfonzo and Nona to about 1928.  I hope I can find a marriage record for them.  And I'm trying to decide whether to invest more time in Geta/Meta.  Would you?  For your grandmother's brother?

But where could Alfonzo Gerner have been in 1910?  The first name variations themselves present a search challenge greater than his surname.  I had hoped that Heritage Quest would help, with its concise presentation of census records based on any number of variables for a broad or narrow name or location, but the Heritage Quest I remember no longer exists.  I'll do a little more research but I don't think it's essential to find his 1910 census record.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Is There a Difference Between How Men and Women Approach Genealogy?

When I first began working on family history I had interactions with genealogists/family historians that left me with the impression that men and women approach family history differently and may have different goals when seeking ancestors.

My impressions
  • Men are most interested in finding their direct line ancestors while largely ignoring the siblings and children of those ancestors unless finding them can lead back to and give more information about the direct line ancestor.
  • Women are interested in finding direct line ancestors while at the same time seek to discover the siblings and children of those ancestors, thereby gathering and recreating families.

If this perception is true I assumed it had something to do with what I think of as innate qualities of men (often goal-driven) and women (often nurturing).  As time has passed I've noticed that men search for collateral lines but primarily it seems to be for the purpose of aiding the direct lineage and not solely to recreate the families of ancestors.

What do you think?  Is this generally true?  Have you noticed differences in the way men and women approach genealogy and family history?  What is your experience?  If you are a guy, what is your approach?  If you are a female, what is your approach?  Or are the differences related more to the level of experience of the genealogist/family historian?

I hope you'll share your thoughts.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Farewell Old Heritage Quest Search Engine

Through my years of family history research I've had three favorite sources of finding census records:  FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Heritage Quest.  Each was indexed differently and the presentation of results was different in all three.  When I couldn't find an ancestor in one it was possible to search in another and see the ancestor in a list of results.

I especially liked Heritage Quest for its straight-forward list that included name, age, occupation, and county, all on the same line.  It was a tidy, concise list.  I didn't need to scroll through multiple pages with extraneous informaiton.

Sometimes, when I knew where the ancestor should be -- was most likely to be -- I was able to search the location for a first name, a last name, or even an age and see a list of all possible candidates.  You know how the handwriting is so individual and the transcriptions vary depending on what the indexer thinks is written.  Seeing the list of all men named Paul in a specific county could be helpful.  Seeing them all on the same screen was even better.  But no more.

Heritage Quest has become a mini-Ancestry.  Yes, I like Ancestry, but even more I liked having Heritage Quest as a third option for searches of census records.  We don't need another variation of Ancestry.  We need -- I need -- the old Heritage Quest.

I knew Ancestry and Heritage Quest began working together in March of this year but since I haven't had the need to use it I didn't realize how much its presentation of census results had changed.

Farewell, dear old Heritage Quest.  I miss you.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The WayBack Machine and a Late Anniversary

For this past Saturday's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings suggested we use The Wayback Machine to see what our blogs looked like over time.  As I was looking I realized that I hadn't written a post for this blog's anniversary so I've combined the two.  My Ancestors and Me was born on August 1, 2009.  The Wayback Machine's first record of it is in 2011.

October 19, 2011:  It took me two years to realize that visitors had to scroll side to side to read posts.  This was taken soon after I changed the width.

January 17, 2012:  This was before I removed the border across the top.  (It didn't show in the above image because cropped it out.)

November 13, 2012:  After I removed the border at the top and changed the "welcome" image and link colors.

December 12, 2013:  The Wayback Machine seems to have been trying to translate my blog into a different language.

 July 2, 2014:  After I added pages and rearranged the sidebar.

March 22, 2015:  More pages but everything else is the same.

The changes have been subtle.  My blog's header has remained the same from the very beginning.  I've never felt the need to change it but looking at these screenshots in quick succession I realize that I could make it shorter so more of each post and image would show above the fold.  My sidebar arrangement has changed through the years as I reconsider my priorities.  It took me a while to realize that new readers might want to know from the beginning (toward the top) about the writer of the blog. 

Don't you think that's enough views of this blog's header for one post?  I do!

Thanks for visiting.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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