The Ancestry of Charles Berdeaux Griner
Written by: Anne Sturm
When I was a little girl, I knew very little about my maternal great grandfather Charles Berdeaux Griner’s ancestry, the maternal grandfather of my late mother Nancy Marie Ognan, and her brother (my uncle) Richard Charles Ognan. When i was growing up my mother Nancy would talk to me about her favorite grandfather to which I never understood why she trying so hard not to ‘forget’ him. I guess in a way she wanted me to get to know him as well and that she was trying to make sure that her memories of her grandfather will be pass down through the generation, never to be forgotten but unfortunately.. I didn’t think it was a big deal.. I just figured my mother would be around for a long time, but sadly that wasn’t the case.. My mother pass away when i was 17 just 3 month prior to my 18th birthday. and of course i felt lost without her, but over time i soon find myself wondering and questioning WHY is it that my mom made a big deal about my great grandfather??, and due to the fact is that I already knew that my mother has finally pass down the “emotional bond” that she had once shared with her grandfather that i now inherited from her a bond with my maternal great grandfather, the guy whom I never met, The guy who was my mom favorite grandfather.
My maternal great grandfather pass away when my mother was 11 years old. I knew deep down my mother never got over it.. Can you blame her?.. of course not.. I couldn’t shake it off either and why should I blame her? I also too had a strong bond with my maternal grandmother Mabel, so I understood where she came from.
My late mother Nancy, for years has been trying for years to break down the GRINER brick wall.. at that time when she was researching her family, I cared, but didn’t care enough to even bother to ask her question about him.. I was a kid.. again why should I? so i automatically assume that my great grand father, was born here in Albany, New York and that he is of Irish descendant and that was it. and I thought well i’ll ask my mother about him later.. Well.. sadly that moment never came .. she was already gone.
Years later, after my mom passing the older I get, the strong ‘emotional bond’ that i have with a great grandfather, becomes stronger as if it was more like a spiritual bonding between the great grandfather to his great granddaughter.. is it possible? I believe so..
It wasn’t until years later i decided to answer that annoying emotional or rather spiritual nagging quest to go and ‘find him’. At that moment in time that is where my interest in Genealogy has started.., but to be honest even as a kid.. i thought genealogy was cool.. My mother used to work for the Albany County Hall of Records.. and my stepfather interest in American and World History perks my interest a little higher, but didn’t compelled me to start my genealogy journey until after my trip to the British Isles back in April of 2001.
When I got back from the British Isles.. I decided to start digging into my great grandfather’s family history, so I started with the information on his headstone located at St. Anges Cemetery in Menands, New York.
I knew even as a child my great grandfather had brought in WWI, so i needed to find his military records and his death certificate. First i started with the Albany City Hall Vital Statistics Office in Albany, NY.. they didn’t have the record at first I thought that they weren’t looking good enough or they were just lazy and didn’t want to find it.. So I explained to the people thats it important that i obtain that record (not really) .. I started explaining that my great grandfather served in WWI. and then a light had finally popped up in one of the staff’s head and suggested that I go to the VA Hospital and see if they have the copy of his death certificate. So I then went to the VA Hospital and asked them where i go about obtaining a copy of the death record? and it turned out that the VA has its own Vital Statistics Office. (i dunno why tho), but they do.. anyway I found out that they hold records of veterans who died at the VA Hospital. and I thought oh well that would make my future researches a lot easier now to know where to look for when it comes to locating records.. I filled out a form to request a copy of the death certificate, not knowing if they have a copy of it and paid my fee for it.. then i crossed my fingers, hoping that they would have a copy.. A few weeks later the VA, called me and asked me to come down to pick up the record, so i went down there in a matter of seconds cause I couldn’t wait any longer .. a lady asked me what is my relation to him and I explained that he is my maternal great grandfather then i had to go in details with my family history.. (annoying I know) so she then finally give it to me.. of course i didn’t waste anytime looking at the record.
When I first read the record, I was surprise to find out a few things about him that he wasn’t a native of Albany and he that he remarried again to a lady name Kathryn Francis Griner.. I never even heard of her, I knew that his first wife was my great grandmother was Anna McAllister.. My mother never even brought her up.. I thought that was weird.. so I later called my mom’s brother Rick and I asked him if he heard of Kathryn Griner? and he said yes.. that would be his 2nd wife.. then of course I complained why nobody told me any of this and he said that it wasn’t something worth mentioning.. i was like oh? then i proceed to ask him.. if grandpa Charlie, had anymore kids and he said no only your grandmother.. then i sighed a relief.. and then thanks him and hung up..
My next step was to contact the NYS Archives here in Albany, NY to see if I could locate his military records, the researcher that assisted me in my research had called me after a week and she said that she can only fine one good copy of his military record.
When I to got the copy of his military record, through the mail from the researcher at the NYS Archives. it gives me more clues to where my great grandfather was born, Charles was born in Belleville, Illinois. and i starting to put the pieces together and took the information from his death certificate with the information from his military records and I was starting to have a lot more information now in my hand.. but at that time i decided to take a break and I soon realized that I did not have a copy of his marriage record to my maternal great grandmother Anna McAllister.. and it took me YEARS to find it, then out of the blue.. I found the marriage record at the NYS Archives and then ordered the records that was kept I believe at the Albany County Hall of Records where my late mother used to work.
When i finally found my maternal great grandparent’s marriage record, I have then decided to start researching again on my great grandfather’s family history and my next step was to go on Ancestry.com for the 1890’s Illinois state census and I could not find a listing for my great grandfather’s parents Louis Griner and his wife Emily (nee Berdeaux) I knew then I had finally hit the brick wall, probably in the same spot where my mother had trouble with.. it was definitely a brick wall that was nearly impossiable.. to break. so i had to stop right there. I was not in a good mood. I wanted so bad to be one who broke the wall.. Well it wasn’t until years later again with more records becoming available online, one day i have decided to leave a message on the Ancestry.com message board. and one woman name Carol who came across my message and decided to assist me in my research cause she found out in her research there was an Ida Griner who was born in Belliville, but lived in Missouri. This Ida Griner turned out that she was married to one of Carol’s cousin George Gasser Sr. and asked me if Ida is a relation to my great grandfather.. of course at that time I didn’t know if she, but told her that I know that my great grandfather had a brother named Alfred Terrance Griner was but it perked my interest again to try and research grandpa Charlie line again.. So what i did I went back on Ancestry.com not expecting to find anything.. then one day an idea was to see if i can locate his brother Alfred and or his “sister” Ida Griner in a census records and load and behold.. I finally found them in the 1910’s Illinois state census records, Emily on that census went by name as Emilie Lougeay (don’t ask me why her last name is different, i still don’t know why that is..)
When I emailed Carol to let her know that I found an Ida in the 1910’s census with my great grandfather Charlie with his mother Emily she have decided to see if she could find Emily Griner’s death certificate (the city of Belleville, Illinois and St Louis, Missouri are basically just next door to each other) and she found her death certificate online..
When I first read her death certificate it stated that she is widowed and that her husband is listed as Louis Griner. I knew that this is the correct person, but finding Louis is like playing a game called “Where’s Waldo”, but at the same time I learn something new and that is her parents are Fredricka Kempff and Charles Berdeaux, that is also a clue to the names that will help me find Louis Griner.. (hint a marriage record) in which i’m praying that one day i find that darn thing.. come on grandpa Louis quit playing ‘where Waldo’ this isn’t funny.. i say to myself.. then an idea pop up in my head if that if my 2nd great grandmother Emily Griner died in 1929 I could try to find her obituary.. Sooner or later I finally found it..
When I first saw her obituary i first noticed that that she is buried at Walnut Hill Cemetery. So i went online and and looked for that cemetery in Belleville, Illinois with that name and I called them up and asked them to a request look up for me and the first thing I asked if there was a Louis Griner buried here, and the lady says yes, Louis E. Griner died on October 29th 1895.. and FINALLY there a clue and it made alot of sense why i couldn’t find Louis Griner in any of the state and federal census.. his first son, Alfred T. Griner was born in 1886.. followed by my great grandfather Charles Griner born in 1889 and then his last child and sister of my great grandfather born on October 1st 1891. that means that my great grandfather was 6 years old, when his father had died. No wonder why i couldn’t find Louis Griner.
I was so glad to find more evidence about Louis Griner, but at the same time it is still a roadblock for me to get pass him to find out who who was his parents were. it was until about a year later I tried my luck again and this time i decided to take all of the clues of names including Emily Berdeaux, Louis Griner’s wife and her parents Charles Berdeaux and his wife Fredericka Kempff and I went on FamilySearch.org and I played around with the spelling of their first and last names and then one day, finally something showed up on their database and i was thrilled and did a happy dance.. and yelled YES!! YES!! and of course I cried a little.. cause it was finally coming to light after years of yelling and even cursing and feeling so frustrated and wanting to quit doing genealogy for good.. cause i kept saying.. what the freaking point here?.. you’ll never going find it.. but matter of fact, after my mother for years tried looking for him and my well my grandmother just simply not wanting to be bothered by it.. I was the ONE who finally cracked the GRINER wall… sadly i couldn’t share the news with either my mother or my maternal grandmother, but that ok.. they are both looking down at me smiling at me from heaven..
After doing the happy cheering i collected myself and calmed down and then i went on Ancestry.com did a public tree search for a Eli or Ely Griner and it took me a while to guess who was his wife name, and I had to think of a female name with an RC? and after a while the only name I could think of is Rachel? so I tried searching for an Eli Griner and a Rachel Luden and only one tree came back it was Jennie Griner’s tree and she had names of the of the people I was looking for as a Eli Griner and Rachel Loder.. I was so glad to finally her tree so I contacted her and exchanged a few emails explaining my genealogy story of the Griner then she decided to order and take an AncestryDNA test.. I already took mine about a year earlier.. then a few weeks later, her DNA results came back and it showed a dna match within 4th- 6th cousin range, we were both thrilled about and she then told me that she pulled out the Griner Genealogy book that was published by another cousin of mine, named Beverly G. McNally. ( she died in 2010 I believed) and Jennie told me that she found my 3x great grandparents Eli Griner and Rachel Loder and they were from Cumberland County, NJ and that Eli Griner’s parents were John Griner and Eleanor Garrison and they were also from Cumberland County, NJ.. but i still wonder why my 2nd great grandfather wasn’t in any of the earlier census like 1870’s we both had no idea why, but Jennie had mention that since since my 2nd great grandfather was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is about an hour drive from Cumberland County, New Jersey.. it made sense.. and our DNA matched.. she and I share the same 4th great grandparents John Griner and Eleanor Garrison, then I proceed to ask her if she knew who were Eleanor Garrison parents were and she said Cornelius Garrison and Anna Tullis. I thought interesting but i still wanted more tangible proof of Louis’ s parents on paper to see if Ancestry DNA was worth it along with the Griner genealogy book, done by Beverly McNally. My next step i did was i called the historical society in Philadelphia, and asked them if they can look up a person along with the birth year and they automatically told me that Pennsylvania didn’t start officially issuing birth certificate until after 1910.. I thought 1910!!!! No way… I was bummed out, but after i explained my Griner history, they suggested that I contacted a historical society in Belleville, Illinois to see what they have.. again i was bummed out but I thank them and hung up.. my next step was to do google search for a historical society in Belleville, Illinois and only one results came back and it was a County of St. Clair Historical Society.. I thought well here go nothing.. i emailed them providing them with Louis Griner’s Information and asked them to assist me in locating in either finding his marriage and death certificate, then i sent them an email.
A few days later I got a respond from the historical society with great news.. they found the file number for both Louis Griner’s death and marriage record and told me to contact the vital statistic office and give me their phone number. I called them next and explained my situation and they told me that there is a form online for me to fill out along with the payment fee for the records look up and sure enough in a few weeks a big fat orange envelope came.. i was so happy, but i was also really nervous at the same time cause i wanted so bad too see if Louis Griner’s parents were listed there as Eli Griner and Rachel Loder and to my surprise it turned out that they are indeed Louis parents and that AncestryDNA and Beverly McNally’s research was right on cue.. Not only that i now have a paper trail, to take me even further but I found Louis’s biological families and new cousins who iI never thought in a million years that i would ever connect with them. I emailed Jennie and told her and she was thrilled.
I had Louis Griner’s marriage and death official records re-filed with the state of Illinois because it was not in their system (on the computer). the original records was stored in the back room of the vital statistic office in Belliville in a protection chamber.