Sunday, November 15, 2009

My MERTENA Conundrum: Part II - The Sources: John Henry MERTENA (1884-1956)

This post will focus on the sources that I have consulted for John Henry MERTENA, my great-great-grandfather. As we learned from his son's delayed birth and death record, John Henry may have been born 11 Mar 1884 in Franklin County, Illinois. I can proudly say that I have actually taken Step One to solving this mystery by mailing a request to Southern Illinois University to request a copy of his birth record from their IRAD holdings. I'm crossing my fingers that the birth record exists. My next step will be to order the Franklin County birth records and index from the FHL for the time period 1861 to 1916 to look for all MERTENA/MERTEENEY births in Franklin County. I think I will wait until after the holidays to do this, since the local Family History Center is closed the week of Thanksgiving and for two or three weeks in December.

Source #1: 1900 U.S. census, Logan County, Oklahoma Territory, population schedule, Rose Hill Township, ED 143, sheet 3B, dwelling 50, family 50, James L. Cothirn household; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Nov 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1339.

Since I don't have his birth record, the earliest record I have of John Henry is his 1900 census record from Rose Hill Township in Logan County, Oklahoma. Rose Hill is southwest of Mulhall. (The 1931 marriage announcement of John Henry's son said that John Henry lived west of Mulhall). In 1900, John Henry was living with his mother and stepfather. Here is a transcription of the census record:

James L. Cothirn, head, white, male, b. Feb 1861, age 39, married, married for 14 years, b. Tennessee, f.b. Tennessee, m.b. Tennessee, farmer, can read/write/speak English, owns farm free of mortgage, no. 51 on farm schedule

Carrie Cothirn, wife, white, female, b. Mar 1861, age 39, married, married for 14 years, mother of 9 children, 4 children living, b. Illinois, f.b. Indiana, m.b. Indiana, able to read/write/speak English

Willie H. Cothirn, son, white, male, b. Dec 1892, age 7, single, b. Oklahoma, f.b. Tennessee, m.b. Illinois, attended school 2 months

Rolena Cothirn, daughter, white, female, b. Sep 1887, age 12, single, b. Kansas, f.b. Tennessee, m.b. Illinois, attended school 6 months, able to read/write/speak English

Myrtle Cothirn, daughter, white, female, b. Mar 1890, age 10, single, b. Oklahoma, f.b. Tennessee, m.b. Illinois, attended school 6 months, able to read/write/speak English

Johny Mertena, stepson, white, male, b. Mar 1884, age 16, single, b. Illinois, f.b. Tennessee, m.b. Illinois, attended school 4 months, able to read/write/speak English
This again says that John Henry was born in Mar 1884 in Illinois. This makes me a little more confident because this record is the earliest created record I've found so far that states a birth date and place for him. The source is unknown because it's not possible to know who the census taker talked to that day, but my guess is that it was Carrie, since she would have been in the best position to know John Henry's birth date and place, and this info is consistent with later records. This census record states John Henry's father's birthplace as Tennessee, but it looks to me like the census taker just copied down the same info of his half-siblings. Of course, it's entirely possible John Henry's biological father was from Tennessee as well. It says that Carrie had 9 children, four of whom were still living. I would presume the four living to be John Henry, Rolena, Myrtle, and Willie. There is the family story that she had 3 or 4 girls with her first husband who all died in childhood. Some of the five children could have been with her second husband as well. This census record also tells us that the family moved sometime before Sep 1887 from Illinois to Kansas and then moved again sometime between Sep 1887 and Mar 1890 to Oklahoma.

I just realized that I need to order a copy of the marriage record of John Henry MERTENA and Blanche WELDEN. My grandmother has a copy of a marriage record for them that is in a very large frame hanging up at her house. We believe this is a copy provided for them by the minister who performed the marriage and not an official copy. They were married 25 Dec 1907 in Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma (just one month after Oklahoma became a state). The FHL has Logan County marriages from the Judge of Probate's Office on microfilm from 1890 to 1908. I think I will order the microfilm that covers Dec 1907 when I order the Franklin County birth records.

Source #2: 1910 U.S. census, Logan County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Rose Hill Township, ED 138, sheet 7B, dwelling 131, family 135, J. Henry Mertena household; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Nov 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1260.

By the time of the 1910 census, John Henry and Blanche had been married 2 years. Their only child, my great-grandfather, wouldn't be born for another four months. It looks like John Henry hadn't ventured too far from his mother and stepfather's home, considering he was still in Rose Hill Township.

J. Henry Mertena, head, male, white, age 26, married once, married for 2 years, b. Illinois, f.b. Pennsylvania, m.b. Illinois, speaks English, farmer, works on own account, able to read/write, owns home free of mortgage, no. 21 on farm schedule

Blanche Mertena, wife, female, white, age 26, married once, married for 2 years, no children, b. Missouri, f.b. Kentucky, m.b. Kentucky, speaks English, able to read/write
Since the official census date was 15 Apr 1910, John Henry's age of 26 supports a birth date of 11 Mar 1884. His birthplace is given again as Illinois. His father's birthplace is given here as Pennsylvania. So now we have one vote for Tennessee (albeit a shaky one) and one vote for Pennsylvania. Again, we don't know the source because we don't know who gave the information to the census taker. If it was John Henry, he was probably relaying info his mother had given him about his father's birthplace.

Source #3: "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/search : accessed 16 Nov 2009), John H. Mertena, Draft Board, Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, roll 1851806.

John H. Mertena
Resident of Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma
Age 34
Born 11 Mar 1884
White
Natural-born U.S. citizen
Self-employed farmer in Mulhall
Nearest relative is Blanche Mertena of Mulhall
Medium build, medium height
Brown eyes, dark hair
Whew! Another document that confirms his birth date as 11 Mar 1884. Too bad it didn't ask him exactly where he was born.

Source #4: 1920 US Census, Logan County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Rose Hill Township, ED 68, sheet 3A, dwelling 57, family, John Mertino household; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 Nov 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1470.

John Mertino, head, rents home, male, white, age 35, married, able to read and write, b. Illinois, f.b. France, m.b. Illinois, able to speak English, farmer on a general farm, employer, no. 51 on farm schedule

Blanche Mertino, wife, female, white, age 36, married, able to read and write, b. Missouri, f.b. Kentucky, m.b. Kentucky, able to speak English

Merlen Mertino, son, male, white, age 9, single, attends school, b. Oklahoma, f.b. Illinois, m.b. Missouri, able to speak English
Great, now we have a vote for France as John Henry's father's birthplace. So, that's one shaky vote for Tennessee, a less shaky vote for Pennsylvania, and a less shaky vote for France. As the official census day is 1 Jan 1919, his age of 35 supports a birth date of 11 Mar 1884. At least this date and his birthplace as Illinois have been consistent.

Source #5: 1930 US census, Logan County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Mulhall Township, ED 23, sheet 5A, dwelling 73, family, 80, John H. Mertena household; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 Nov 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1912.

John H. Mertena, head, owns home, owns radio, lives on a farm, white, male, age 46, married, age 24 at first marriage, able to read and write, b. Illinois, f.b. Pennsylvania, m.b. Illinois, able to speak English, farmer, works on own account, not a veteran, no. 72 on farm schedule

Blanche Mertena,
wife, white, female, age 46, married, age 24 at first marriage, able to read and write, b. Missouri, f.b. Kentucky, m.b. Kentucky, speaks English

Merlen P. Mertena, son, white, male, age 19, single, able to read and write, b. Oklahoma, f.b. Illinois, m.b. Missouri, speaks English, general farmer, wage earner, not a veteran
Now there are two votes for Pennsylvania for John Henry's father's birthplace. Again, his age is consistent with a birth date of 11 Mar 1884, and his birthplace is consistent as Illinois.

Source #6:
Louisiana State Department of Health, death certificate [no number given], John Henry Mertena (1956); Vital Records Registry, New Orleans.

Last Name of Deceased: Mertena
First Name: John
Second Name: Henry
Date of Death: 28 Jan 1956
Hour of Death: 10:30 PM
Sex: Male
Race: White
Marital Status: Married
Spouse Name: Blanche Weldon
Age of Spouse: 72
Date of Birth of Deceased: 11 Mar 1884
Age of Deceased: 71 y, 10 m, 19 d
Birthplace: East St. Louis, Illinois
Occupation: Farmer
Industry: Cattle & Ranch
Ever in US Armed Forces: No
Place of Death: Maplewood, Calcasieu, Louisiana
Length of Stay: 3 months
Street Address: 102 Beech St.
Usual Residence: Same as above
Father's Name: J.H. Mertena
Birthplace: France
Mother's Name: Carey Orth
Birthplace: Penn
Informant: Mrs. John Henry Mertena
Cause of Death: Circulatory Collapse (4 hours) due to Bronchogenic carcinoma (4 years)
Date of Burial: 01 Feb 1956
Place of Burial: Odd Fellows Cemetery, Marshall, Oklahoma
A new possibility for the birthplace of John Henry: East St. Louis, Illinois. East St. Louis is in St. Clair County in southern Illinois and is slightly northwest of Franklin County. This is the first time we've seen his father's name: J.H. MERTENA. Again, his father's birthplace is given as France, as it was in the 1920 census. The informant was John Henry's wife, Blanche.

Source #7: "J.H. Mertena Dies Saturday," obituary, Lake Charles (Louisiana) American Press, 30 Jan 1956, p. 12, col. 3.

SULPHUR -- John Henry Mertena, 71, died at 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the home of his son, 102 East Beech road, Maplewood.

A resident of Mulhall, Okla., for 35 years, he had been visiting his son, Merlen P. Mertena, the past three months. The body was sent by the Hixson funeral home of Sulphur Sunday afternoon to the Smith funeral home in Guthrie, Okla.

Services will be Thursday at Mulhall and burial will be in the Odd Fellows cemetery in Marshall, Okla.

Survivors include his wife, Blanche; one son, Merlen P. Mertena; four grandchildren; one great-grandchild; one brother, W.H. Cothern of Mulhall, Okla.; and two sisters, Mrs. Edgar Norris of Crescent, Okla., and Mrs. Henry Tate of Lokeba, Okla.

Mr. Mertena was born in East St. Louis, Ill., A farmer and cattleman, he had lived in central Oklahoma since 1889.
The date of 1889 is consistent with the dates suggested by the 1900 census for the family's move date into Oklahoma. I digress here from the task at hand, but this obituary reminds me of a story my grandmother told me about her grandfather, John Henry. She said that he had come to Louisiana because he was very sick with cancer, and my great-grandfather was his only child, so he had no other children to help take care of him. Even though he was very sick, he loved to watch Groucho Marx on television. When Marx was on television, he would get up out of the bed and come to the living room to watch it. He would always ask to hold my dad when he got up to watch Groucho Marx. My dad is the great-grandchild listed in the obituary. He was only 6 months old when John Henry died. My grandmother and my dad were living with my great-grandparents at the time because my grandfather was in the Navy. That must have been interesting having four generations under one roof, if only for three months.

All records seem to be pretty consistent about a birth date of 11 Mar 1884.

Here's a tally for the birthplace of John Henry MERTENA:


Illinois - 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 census

Franklin County, IL - delayed birth record of son, Merlen Paris MERTENA (1944)
death record of son, Merlen Paris MERTENA (1989)

East St. Louis, St. Clair County, IL - death record of John Henry MERTENA (1956)
obituary of John Henry MERTENA (1956)

Here's a tally of the results for the birthplace of John Henry's father:

Tennessee - 1900 census (may be the birthplace of stepfather instead of father)
Pennsylvania - 1910 census, 1930 census
France - 1920 census, death record of John Henry MERTENA (1956)

Here's a tally of the results for the name of John Henry's father:

J.H. MERTENA - death record of John Henry MERTENA (1956)

My next post will focus on the records I've found so far for John Henry's mother, Carrie ORTH.

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