Saturday, November 14, 2009

My MERTENA Conundrum: Part I - The People

I feel the need to write this post because this is one of the most unusual and toughest surnames on my family tree: MERTENA. This is my paternal grandmother's maiden name. I feel that the family has been calling to me lately. Below is my outline of what I know about the MERTENA family:

1) The only surviving MERTENA male is my dad's first cousin, unless he has any sons, but I'm not sure if he does or not. I'll have to ask my grandmother.

2) My dad's first cousin is the son of William John "Bill" MERTENA, my grandmother's older brother. He died 8 Oct 2001 in Olympia, Thurston, Washington, where he was cremated. He was born 20 Aug 1931 in Frederick, Tillman, Oklahoma, to Merlen Paris MERTENA and Hassie Cora PROFFITT. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism. He then went on to serve in Korea before beginning his journalism career with the American Press in Lake Charles, Calcasieu, Louisana. His parents had moved to Louisiana from Oklahoma while he was in college. He married Living (name kept private to respect privacy of the living) WARD in 1958 in Lake Charles. They had four daughters and one son (mentioned above). In 1963, he moved to Washington, where he retired in 1987 from the American Press.

3) My grandmother had one other brother, Joseph Henry "Tony" MERTENA. Uncle Tony was born 15 Nov 1941 in Guthrie, Logan, Oklahoma, to Merlen Paris MERTENA and Hassie Cora PROFFITT. He died 30 Jan 1998 in Lake Charles. He did not have any sons; he only had one daughter. He was employed by Citgo Oil Refinery in Sulphur for over 20 years. He is buried at Nibletts Bluff Cemetery in Vinton, Calcasieu, Louisiana.

4) My great-grandfather was Merlen Paris "Zack" MERTENA. He was born 9 Sep 1910 in Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma, to John Henry MERTENA and Blanche WELDEN. He married Hassie Cora PROFFITT 14 Feb 1931 in Mulhall at the Methodist parsonage. She was the daughter of William Harmon PROFFITT and Emmer Link BAKER. Zack worked as an operator for Conoco Oil Refinery, which moved the family from Mulhall to Ponca City, Kay, Oklahoma, and then to Sulphur, Calcasieu, Louisiana. Zack and Hassie had two sons (Bill and Tony mentioned above) and two daughters, one of whom is my grandmother. Zack died 7 May 1989 in Sulphur, Louisiana. He is buried at Mimosa Pines Cemetery in Sulphur.

5) My great-great-grandfather was John Henry "Johnny" MERTENA. He was born 11 Mar 1884 either in Franklin County, Illinois, or East St. Louis, St. Clair, Illinois, to John Henry MERTENA/MERTEENEY and Carolina Cristina "Carrie" ORTH. The family story (unconfirmed) is that John Henry the father died the day after John Henry the son was born because of some epidemic that also killed all the other children, supposedly all girls, of John Henry the father and Carrie. Carrie and John Henry the son were the only two survivors of this epidemic. What has been confirmed is that Carrie remarried to James "Leonard" COTHERN two years later on 9 Sep 1886 in Williamson County, Illinois. Carrie and Leonard moved to Oklahoma in 1889. John Henry MERTENA the son married Blanche WELDEN 25 Dec 1907 in Mulhall, Oklahoma. They had only one child, Merlen Paris "Zack" MERTENA, my great-grandfather mentioned above. John Henry MERTENA the son died 28 Jan 1956 in Sulphur, Louisiana, where he had gone to live with his son in his old age. He is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Marshall, Logan, Oklahoma.

6) John Henry MERTENA/MERTEENEY the father was born about 1854. While a resident of Jackson County, Illinois, he married Carrie ORTH 13 Aug 1876 in Williamson County, Illinois, at the home of John BROWN, Carrie's stepfather. The family story (unconfirmed) is that his parents were the immigrant ancestors. His father, whose name is unknown, was supposedly robbed on board the ship to America and thrown overboard. John Henry was born on the ship. His mother, whose name is also unknown, eventually remarried to a pharmacist and settled in southern Illinois. The family story said that her new husband's name was BROWN, but I've since confirmed that BROWN was the name of Carrie's stepfather. This does not mean John Henry's stepfather wasn't also BROWN, but I think the stories probably got crossed over the years.


  1. OMG! We're so close! I'll put some "feelers" out. My "distant cousin" with Martin info is a Brown from Williamson County, Illinois.

    Maybe the surname was Martini...just a joke! ;)

    Family Stories

  2. Caroline,
    You may think you are joking, but I think I've actually seen the name spelled that way:)! I think it was the 1880 census. My next post is going to be about the sources I've consulted so far, so I'll know for sure which record it was when I go through them.