Jun 152012

Since I began researching my 2g-grandparents, John Brenner and Catharine Welk, I have had conflicting information about the location of their marriage.  Records passed on to me indicated that they were married in 1861.  Were they marriage in Columbiana County, Ohio, or Mt. Jackson, Pennsylvania?  Columbiana County would seem to be the logical place since it was the home of Catharine’s family (they lived in New Middletown).  Mt. Jackson is 7-8 miles from New Middletown, just across the state line.  However, I have found no record in the 1860 census for Catharine’s parents.  Her brother Henry is married and living in Springfield Township, Columbiana County, in 1860.  The only Catharine Welk in the 1860 census that I could find in east central Ohio was a 19 year old “domestic” in Ravenna, Ohio — about 50 miles northwest of New Middletown.  Since my 2g-grandmother was born in 1841, she would have been 19 at the time of the 1860 census.  Could that “domestic” be my 2g-grandmother?

I have copies of the various documents in John Brenner’s pension file.  Previously I had skimmed through them, but have not yet analyzed them closely. Among those papers is a General Affidavit from Catharine Brenner, in which she declares the absence of any official records of their marriage and naming Pennsylvania, as the location.  It is clear from her affidavit that, no matter how diligent I am as a researcher, I will not be able to find any official records for their marriage.  She states:  “I was married in the State of Pennsylvania prior to the year 1885, and prior to said year 1885 no public records of marriages were kept.” Furthermore, “no such [Church Record] exists”  and “the Justice of the Peace who married me to said soldier … is now dead.”  She also states that “I do not know the names of such witness [to the marriage] nor where they can be found, if living.”

Catharine’s affidavit refers to subsequent affidavits by Henry A. Welk (her brother) and Conrad Schroeder.  Since Catharine’s affidavit asserts that she does not know the witnesses who were present when she and John were married by the Justice of the Peace, it is clear that Henry was not present.  And, since his affidavit was not present in the pension records that were turned over to me, we do not know the substance of his affidavit.

Conrad Schroeder’s affidavit consists of the following statements:   “I was well and personally acquainted with John Brenner, the above named soldier, when he was a youth and before he became of marriageable age, and knew him well to the time of his marriage to the claimant, whose maiden name was Catherine Welk; and I know that he was not married to any person prior to the marriage to the claimant.  I also know said soldier well and personally from the time of his marriage to said claimant until he died; and I knew that he lived with her from the time of his marriage to her until he died and was never divorced from her.  My acquaintance wtht him was such that had the facts been otherwise, I have every reason to believe that I would have known it.”

The 1900 census record for John and Catharine indicates that they were married for 40 years. That would indicate that they were married after 5 June 1860.  John Brenner’s obituary in Rundschau (the German language newspaper in Youngstown) listed his marriage date as 1 October 1861.  Catharine’s obituary (English) 5 1/2 years later also lists he marriage date as 1 October 1861. If October 1st is taken as the correct date for their marriage, then they were married in either 1860 (census) or 1861 (two obituaries).  Since we do not know who the informants were for either the census or the obituaries, the year of their marriage must be listed as either 1860 or 1861.

So, it would seem that Catharine Welk and John Brenner eloped across the state line into Pennsylvania (most likely, Mt. Jackson) to be married by a Justice of the Peace.  No friends or family seem to have accompanied them.  It was likely that they were married on the 1st of October in 1860 or 1861.

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