My First Family History Ancestors: Great Uncle Mervin & Aunt Hallie
by Trent Smith
(New Albany, Indiana, USA)
Uncle Mervin & Aunt Hallie's Marriage Application
"As I prepared the research, I would often feel Aunt Hallie sitting next to me. Grandpa Bernie told me a funny story about calling her house one day...
One spring day, I happened to stop by the clerk's office at church over a question about a tithing slip. The clerk, who was also our ward family history consultant coordinator, pulled me in, sat me down, and away we went. I had already set up accounts in Ancestry and FamilySearch, but I still felt like I didn't know what I was doing. I longed for the day when someone would teach me how. This clerk, now a good friend by the name of Van Celaya, worked his way quickly through my FamilySearch tree to my great Uncle Mervin.
Finishing the Research on Uncle Mervin & Aunt Hallie
Uncle Mervin didn't seem to have a wife or any children. Van showed me how to search the Pennsylvania census records. We found a marriage record showing the name of his bride to be Hallie M. Rehrig. I was overwhelmed with the great joy I found in having Van help me find my great Aunt Hallie!
Looking For Aunt Hallie's Mother
I found a Pennsylvania death record that connected me to Aunt Hallie's father, Fred Rehrig. A lot of work had been done on his family, but no one had found her mother yet.
Hallie's mother, Zenobia Wagner, proved to be a challenge. Her mother died when Zenobia was only a year old, and it took some doing to find her, living with her Aunt, her name having been mispelled in the census.
I performed every search I could think of on FamilySearch and Ancestry, but to no avail. I ended up having to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to see if they could help me with some of this more difficult Pennsylvania genealogy.
Between help from them and my sister-and-law, I was able to find Zenobia, listed as "Zonobia", living with her Aunt Minnie in Washington, Pennsylvania, in the 1910 federal census.
Her aunt was a Reppert, and the Anthony family married into them. Through my continued research efforts, my Reppert and Anthony people all became dear friends to me.
A "Wonderful Character"
Talking to Grandpa Bernie about his Aunt Hallie was fun. He called her a “wonderful character” and told a story about calling their house in Pennsylvania one day. She spoke very brusquely,
“Mervin and I are into it at the moment; he can't come to the phone!”
She hung up in his face. Uncle Mervin called a short time later and explained the situation. The conflict had been resolved; no harm done!
Feeling Connected to Them
As I prepared the research, I would often feel Aunt Hallie sitting next to me. She seemed to me like a witty sort of lady. “Workin' on me again, are ya? You just keep right on doin' what you're doing!” she'd say.
My first time going to the printer, I felt Aunt Hallie and Uncle Mervin and the Repperts and Anthonys standing around me, watching anxiously for their names to come out of the printer.
Life-Changing First Experience with Pennsylvania Genealogy
During this first experience, I learned how very closely had previously come to getting some good research done. Not wanting to mess things up, I hadn't been willing to experiment and poke around in FamilySearch to figure things out. It took Van Celaya pulling me into his office and teaching me to get me past that barrier into my first experience with it. I made my first mistakes and realized how very easy it can be to make them.
Since that first experience doing Pennsylvania genealogy, I have felt something keeping me going, driving me to keep working late into the night. Once you get started on family history research, it can be really hard to put it down!