May 172010

When I receive my initial dataset from Dana (my 1st cousin, once removed) I had information that my g-g-grandfather (John Brenner) was born in Adelshofen, Baden (Germany), 10 February, 1836. An obituary in the German-language Rundschau indicated that John arrived in New York City on 19 October, 1854, after a perilous 36 day Atlantic crossing.  I was able to identify three ships that arrived in New York on that date, but John was not listed among the passengers of any of the three.  Doing a broader search, my son discovered a Johannes Brenner, age 18, arriving on the William Tell, 23 October, 1854.  The William Tell sailed fron LeHavre, France.  We subsequently discovered that John’s older brother, Conrad, had previously sailed to the US from port LeHavre.   One puzzle piece in place.

Dana had John’s parents listed as Frederich and Magdalena.  I was suspicious of those names, especially Magdalena.  There was A second John Brenner in Youngstown, Ohio.  This other John Brenner, a jeweler, arrived from Germany some years after our John.  This second John Brenner’s parents were Frederich and Magdalena.  I wondered if Dana had somehow got the parent set mixed up.  Dana’s records did indicate that a family Bible of a granddaughter of our John Brenner listed his father as “Frederick (?)” and no name was entered for his mother.

I was excited when a FamilySearch query for “Joh* Brenner” resulted in a record in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for a christening of Johannes Brenner in the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen on 21 February, 1836 (just 11 days after his date of birth).   The father was listed as Friederich Brenner; the mother, Johanna Venninger.  Hooray!  This seems to have put a second piece in the puzzle.

A recent spate of email contacts with Arlene, a descendant of John’s brother, Conrad, helped fill in the broader family picture.   Arlene was able to find more IGI records.   Because of her diligence, I decided to do a thorough search of the IGI through FamilySearch…    I search for “Brenner” surname in Germany.  Fortunately, all the Baden records come up first (3622 records for Brenners in Baden).  I scanned through all 3622 records, looking for anything related to Adelshofen, Heildelberg, Baden.  Here’s what Arlene and I found — listed in chronological order (not in the order they were discovered):

1)  09 November 1794 – Georg Friederich Brenner is Christened at the Evangelical Church in Stuttgart, Neckarkries, Wuerttemburg.  Father: Richard Georg Brenner    Mother:  Christiana Benedikta Buehler.    (If this is John’s father, we have added one more generation to the Brenner family tree.)   Thanks, Arlene!

(Note:  the following records are all from Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.  They are the only Brenner records from Adelshofen among the 3622 records listed in the FamilySearch query.)

2)  28 November 1815 – Margaretha Elisabetha Brennerin was married to Johann Wilhelm Echlenacter at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.   (Possibly a sister to Georg Friederich???    The “in” at the end of her surname is also present on Johanna Venninger’s name in the marriage record below.  I don’t know the significance of that.  Perhaps our Brenner family; maybe, not.)

3)  05 May 1822 – Georg Friederich Brenner is married to Johanna Catarina Venningerin at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to find any other records for Johanna Venninger/Venningerin.  I did find the christening record for Georg Ludwig Venninger – born 18 February, 1809; christened 22 February 1809.  His parents were Johannes Venninger and Elisabetha Fleckin.  These are possibly Johanna’s parents; Georg Ludwig would be a younger brother.   If true, than John Brenner would have been named for his maternal grandfather.)

4)  01 January 1825 – Christian Michael Brenner (born: 27 December 1824) is Christened at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.    Father:  Georg Friederich Brenner    Mother: Johanna Venninger  (Conrad is John’s older brother.  When John first arrived in Ohio, he stayed with Conrad in Columbiana County, just south of Youngstown.)

5)  17 September 1826 – Johanna Elisabetha Brenner (born 07 September 1826) is Christened at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.   Father:  Georg Friederich Brenner    Mother: Johanna Venninger   (An older sister of John.)

6)  26 April 1829 – Rosina Catharina Brenner (born: 10 April 1829) was Christened at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.   Father:  Georg Frederich Brenner     Mother: Johanna Venninger    (A second older sister for John.)

7)  21 February 1836 – Johannes Brenner was Christened at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.    Father:  Friederich Brenner      Mother: Johanna Venninger     (John’s birthday – 10 February, 1836, was not given in this record.    Note: John’s father is listed without “Georg.”)

8)  31 January 1850 – Elisabeth Brenner married Christian Franck at the Evangelical Church in Adelshofen, Heidelberg, Baden.   (This is most likely Johanna Elisabetha Brenner in #5, above.)

So, Friederich  and Johanna Brenner seem to have had at least 4 children – 2 sons; 2 daughters.  Both sons emigrated to the United States.  I have not found any records indicating that the parents or the daughters left Germany.

One of these days I will go to the local FHC and order the microfilm rolls that contain these records so I can see if there is any more information available.  It looks as if my son and I are going to have to get serious about planning our genealogical expedition to Germany in the next couple of years.  We now have some indicators to help shape our continuing research.

Mar 182010

Grace Ada (Brenner) Mieding (1889 – 1985) was my grandmother.

Recently, I found a transcription of her death certificate online.  Until that time, I was unaware that she had been a secretary for the railroad at one point in her life. I have not yet seen a copy of the actual certificate, just the online transcription.  Ohio death certificates use two generic categories to describe a person’s occupational background.  For Grandma, the “Industry of Decedent” lists “Railroads” and the “Occupation of Decedent” lists “Secretaries.”

Earlier this week, I was able to fill in a little more of the story.  While conducting an advanced Google search for my Grandfather, George Henry Brenner (Grace’s husband), I had the serendipity of finding three entries in the index of the Erie Railroad and Employee Magazine.  The listing that registered in my Google search was a news item about Grace’s marriage to George (29 September 1909).  Since this was an index, not a copy of a magazine issue, I saw the two additional listings for Grace Mieding.  (I probably would have missed all three of these entries if I were searching for Grace, because they had her surname spelled incorrectly, reversing the ‘i’ and e’- “Meiding.”)   The February 1909 index  simply indicated that Grace visited Cincinnati. 

The final listing was the prize.  The January 1907 issue of the magazine contained a picture of Grace, as a member of the Clerks Association in the Mahoning Division of the railroad.  At the time of the picture Grace would have been 17 years old.  The index lists her as a “Shop Clerk.”   In February 1909, she is listed as a Stenographer in the Chief Car Inspectors Division; in October 1909, Stenographer in the Joint Car Inspectors Division.

I’m not sure how much longer my Grandma worked for the railroad after her marriage, but I am pretty sure that she wasn’t employed outside the home after my Dad was born in 1912.

Mar 092010

I have always thought of County Treasurers as people who sat in offices filled with books and records, toiling away behind closed doors, out of the public eye.  Not necessarily so!  I recently found an article about my great-granduncle Judson Brenner (1862-1929), Treasurer of Mahoning County, Ohio.  The article was in the New Castle (Pennsylvania) News, Wednesday, November 17, 1927, page 13.

Safe Is Seized In Tax Crusade
    YOUNGSTOWN, O., Nov. 16. –
County Treasyrer Judson Brenner has
started a comapign to collect delin-
quent taxes by seizing personal prop-
erty.  Attaches of the treasurer’s of-
fice seized the safe in the office of
the Keesecker Land company and
took it to the treasurer’s office.
The picture that comes to mind is the Treasurer and his staff (‘Attaches’) performing an Elliot-Ness-like raid on the offices of the miscreants.  Of course, it was probably nothing quite so spectacular.  But it had to raise some hackles somewhere.  Can you see a contemporary politician acting so rashly?
I guess, however, if you are 65 (retired from a successful business career) you can afford to act in unconventional ways.   What was the aftermath of the confiscation of the safe?  I don’t know.  That will have to be researched.  I would guess that the Keesecker Land company paid their back taxes.
Mar 042010
I have two ultra-favorite pictures related to my genealogical roots.  The first is a 4 generation picture with me sitting on my great-grandfather’s knee.  From my great-grandfather’s birth to the present (2010) is 143 years.  The picture, probably taken around 1943, covers a span of just over half that time — 76 years…  my great-granddad, Lloyd Brenner (1867-1947); my dad, Donald G. Brenner (1912 – 1990); my granddad, George H. Brenner (1888 – 1955); and me (1940 –  ). 
Some have been fortunate to trace ancestors back much farther than I have.  Recently, I found a couple of online databases that, according to their data, traced my ancestry back (through Lloyd Brenner’s wife) as far as 1160 in England.  If the data is accurate and capable of being validated, I suspect it will take me many years to confirm.  

On the other hand, I have an ancestor whose roots go back more than 28 million years.  I can’t put this ancestor in a pedigree or a family group sheet, but am fortunate to have a recently taken picture.  Even though this picture of the “Sombrero Galaxy” was taken in 2003, it represents what my ancestor looked like about 28 million years ago.

The number of ancestors which are still visible in the far reaches of the universe is stunning.  Not all are as photogenic as “Sombrero;” some, however, are even more awe-inspiring. 

Why do I consider “Sombrero” an ancestor?  It’s quite simple, really.  It took billions of years for the universe to produce the nitrogen, oxygen, complex carbohydrates, mitochondrial DNA and ribosomal RNA that led to the possibility of producing 4 generations of Brenner males sitting on a sofa in a house on High Street in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1943.  I am as much a product of the greater processes of the universe’s continuing creation as I am of direct genealogical descent from particular (multiple g-)grandparents.  Unfortunately, I’m having difficulty deciding how to enter “Sombrero” in RootsMagic 4 and I am searching for some “proof” of connection that is a little closer in time to “Sombrero” than 28 billion years later.

I think this is more than just a simple brick wall.

Feb 252010

For the sheer fun of it…   for the sheer learning of it…    and for credit as part of the Winter 2010 GeneaBloggers Games…    I have used Google Maps to map out three important locations for my gg-grandfather, John Brenner.

View John Brenner’s Youngstown in a larger map

John lived at 700 High Street for most of his adult life.   He was the first Superintendent for the Mahoning Cemetery, which was later to become Oak Hill Cemetery.  Later John was in the marble business.  I am guessing that this began as selling tombstones.  Perhaps it moved beyond that. 

One serendipity in this process.  As I was looking for the address of his marble works, I found a listing for John in the 1891-2 Burke’s City Directory for Youngstown, Ohio.  His occupation was “sanitary policeman.” This was a new one for me.  A brief web search helped me understand this occupation.  Public Boards of Health were formed toward the end of the 19th (and even into the early years of the 20th) Century.  Today we would call these individuals public health inspectors.  In 1891, one of the apparent duties of a sanitary policeman was to quarantine homes where contagious diseases were present.

One description of the function of sanitary policemen

Feb 242010

I created this timeline using TimeToast.  This is the timeline for my gg-grandfather, John Brenner.  John was born in Adelshofen, Baden (now Germany) and lived most of his adult life in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio.

John Brenner emigrated to the United States on the William Tell packet ship in 1854, s
ailing from LeHavre, France. After surviving 36 stormy days at sea, John was mugged on the docks of New York harbor. Welcome to America!

Undaunted, 18 year old John, made his way (walking and picking up odd jobs) to acquaintences in Philadelphia where he was able to secure enough funds to travel to Rochester, NY. In the short time he spent in Rochester, John worked as a nurseryman – a trade that would eventually propel him into service as a cemetery manager, then a marble salesman, and finally office manager for a construction firm.

From Rochester, John moved to Columbiana County, Ohio (south of Youngstown) to join his brother Conrad who had earlier emigrated to the U.S. John did not stay long with Conrad, but moved to Youngstown, where he secured lodging with Martin and Catherine Winterbauer.  Catherine, only 6 years older than John, was his aunt. She and Martin Winterbauer was also from Adelshofen, Baden (now Germany).

John married Kate Welk from New Middletown (Columbiana County) in 1861.  For most of their married life, they lived at 700 High Street in Youngstown, Ohio.  Together they brought 15 children into the world, nine of whom survived beyond their 22nd birthdays.

John worked with John Manning in their own nursery company (Brenner & Manning) until 1865 when he was named superintendent of the Mahoning Cemetery (later to become Oak Hill Cemetery). He went into business with George Enders (selling monuments) and took over the business himself when Enders retired in 1880. Subsequently, John Brenner joined with Niedermeier & Restle, general contractors, where he served as manager of the office force until his death.

In 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln issue his call for 100 day troops, John Brenner volunteered and served in the 19th 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Company A, private). After being discharged, he subsequently volunteered and served as a corporal in the 155th OVI (Company D).   Complications from a stomach injury received during the war, exacerbated by colo-rectal cancer brought about his death in 1909.

Feb 202010

Among the family photos I was able to scan from the notebook of my 1st cousin, once removed, was this picture of my great-grandaunt, Julia Brenner (1877 – 1969) and her husband James Huffman (1874 – 1969).  The Huffmans lived in Mahoning County, Ohio.  I’m not sure whether this picture shows her as a tough non-conformist or a woman with a big sense of humor.  (It almost looks posed.)  Growing up as the twelfth of fifteen children, she probably had to possess both qualities.

Julia was quite a remarkable woman.  In 1927, she began working as the first woman truant officer for the Youngstown (Ohio) public school.  Her obituary in the Youngstown Vindicator remarked that “her willingness to help [youngsters] with their problems, real and imagined, forged a bond of respect between youth and the image of authority she represented.”

Her concern for young people (especially girls and young women) was more than just her job, it appeared to be her calling.  She helped organize the first Camp Fire Girls group on Youngstown’s South Side.  During the Great Depression she helped organize the Young Ladies’ Opportunity Club, aimed at self-betterment and she campaigned for the development of a neighborhood Playground Association.  She was active in Big Sisters and the Women’s relief Corps.  As the daughter of an immigrant, she taught Americanization classes to recent immigrants.

In her mid-70s, she was still well-known by the children in her neighborhood for her annual Easter Egg Tree.  Throughout the year, when baking she didn’t break the eggs, but blew out the contents and saved the shells.  She then dyed the egg shells a wide variety of colors and would hang them outside on a tree for all to see.


Julia Brenner Huffman was a remarkable woman…   a non-conformist, an organizer, a champion for young people (and especially young women and truants). 

Feb 122010

My g-g-grandfather, John Brenner, was born on 10 February 1836 in Adelshofen (now Eppingen), Baden. I have in my possession a copy of a handwritten transcription of what appears to be an official letter of recommendation permitting John Brenner’s emigration from Baden at age 18. I was particularly interesting in the information giving his description:  18 yrs., 5’7″, slender, long face with healthy color, brown hair, high forehead, brown eyebrows, gray eyes, medium nose, round mouth, no beard, round chin, good teeth, no other identification marks.

The copy of the transcription came from my cousin, Dana, who did most of the early work on the Brenner family line. Unfortunately, I do not have any source information regarding the transcription or its original (undoubtedly in German). Finding the original is a new research goal to add to my growing list.

Also from my cousin were copies of two obituaries of John Brenner (one in German; one in English). Since John lived in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, from about 1856 or 1857 until his death in 1909, I would surmise at the present that the obituary in German was from the Rundschau, Wm. F. Maag, Publisher and Proprietor, 16 & 18S Phelps, 30 September 1909, since the Rundschau was published every Thursday. (Another research goal: confirm publication date and that the obituary was actually from the Rundschau. From my translation of the obituary one of the most significant sentences was: β€œHe arrived in New York on October 19, 1854.” Now, all I had to do was find the name of the ship and the passenger.

A quick search on no listing for a John Brenner (both English and German variants were searched). A search of New York Times “ship landings October 1854″ and the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild provided no listing of a ship landing on 19 October 1854. However, a Google search for {ship “19 October 1854″ New York} sent me to a genealogical website listing an ancestral arrival aboard the Isaac Bell in New York on 19 October 1854. The Isaac Bell sailed from Le Havre France.

I quickly learned that Le Havre, France, was a preferred embarkation port for many from the Southern German states. I also learned that there are not good passenger lists for ships leaving from Le Harve.

While I previously searched the Castle Garden site (, my son searched the site again. We found three ships that arrived at New York on 19 October 1854 – Isaac Bell, Nelson, and Waterloo. A careful review of the passenger lists of each of the three ships did not find John Brenner We had seemingly reached a dead end. Not to be daunted, my son continued on searching the Castle Garden website. Allowing for name alterations, he searched for Jo* Br* arriving in 1854 and found one Johannes Brenner, age 18, arriving from Le Havre on the William Tell on Oct. 23.

(click on image to enlarge it)

Voila! Age matches John Brenner’s; date is close to date reported in obituary; port of departure was Le Havre. Problem solved? Not completely, but we are well on the way!