His goal at the time was to learn whether he was related to Christian Moerlein, the German immigrant who settled in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and opened a brewery (at first called the Elm Street Brewery, then renamed for the family) in 1853. Moerlein’s was the only Cincinnati-made beer to be exported internationally. “I used Christian Moerlein as an anchor point for my research,” Moerlein says. Then, as he puts it, “My hobby became an obsession.”
For example, when the first Moerlein reunion was held, the local newspaper covered the upcoming event. “A woman who read the article said she felt compelled to attend the reunion to see if she was related. It turned out she was, and her connection opened up the Boehner line,” Moerlein says.
This year’s Moerlein reunion, May 12-13 in Cincinnati, coincided with a special family event. “We met the same weekend that Christian Moerlein was inducted as the first member of the Beer Baron’s Hall of Fame,” says Susan Schroeder, who plans the annual gathering. Her grandfather John was Christian’s brother. All Moerleins, Boehners and other related families—comprising hundreds of surnames so far—were invited to tour historic Over-the-Rhine, where Christian Moerlein opened his brewery; Spring Grove Cemetery, where he was buried in 1897; and the modern, revamped Christian Moerlein Brewery (which includes portions of the original facility).
Genealogy on Tap
Steve Moerlein offers these tips for those seeking their own German-American relatives:
- Find a gazetteer. These geographical dictionaries will help you locate your ancestors’ towns and villages. The older the gazetteer, the better. “I used a 1928 gazetteer published by the Bavarian government,” Moerlein says, called “Ortschaften-Verzeichnis für den Freistaat Bayern.”
- Check out German genealogy websites. If you read German, visit Genealogy.net or go to GenWiki for the English version.
- Look for family in German phone books. Several phone books are available online, including Numberway and World.192.com.
- Search Facebook and Google. “Run names of your family through both of these sites and see what comes up,” Moerlein suggests.
- Locate a good online translator. Try Google Translate or Free Translation. Moerlein uses both of thse tools plus a German-English dictionary.
From the July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine