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Interconnectedness

Americana as Seen Through the Lives of Thousands of Cousins in Pennsylvania-German Families, with an Epicenter in Southwestern Pennsylvania, as a Symbol of Our Nation's Growth and Diversity Over Centuries

 

When the Pennsylvania-German pioneers Jacob and Maria (Nein) Minerd Sr., first came to live in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania in 1791, they could have had no way of knowing that someday their offspring would number in the tens of thousands, spread throughout the United States and overseas. His Gaumer kinfolk as well as the inter-married Younkin and Harbaugh families likewise grew enormously. Here are some of the ways these early clans collectively have played a role in building -- and defending -- their nation.

 

 

~ Threads in the Quilt of Americana ~


James and Lydia (Miner) Brown staked their land claim in Oklahoma, 1889
The "Peopling" of America - Many of our kin of the 1800s ventured west from Pennsylvania, forging into the unknown. They faced cruel hardships, hopelessness, sickness and even death. By persevering, they helped transform vast empty spaces into thriving communities.  See our special pages devoted to the Ohio Bicentennial, Central Illinois, Northwest Missouri, Kansa, and Oklahoma Land Rush. In Lasting Memory documents a staggering number of family deaths since 2000, one every 2.53 days on average.

 

Civil War veteran Robert Rankin
Public Service and Military Sacrifice - Many hundreds of cousins have served in the United States Armed Forces during wartime, in every known major conflict from the American Revolution to the Iraq War, including hundreds in the Civil War. Scores have lost their lives in the service, the supreme sacrifice so Americans can enjoy our freedoms. We continue to tally the cousins who fought in the Philippine Insurrection and Spanish American War and World War I.

 

Coke ovens upon which America's great steel empires were built
Coal, Coke and Steel - Many hundreds of cousins have toiled in the coal, coke and steel industries of our nation, including more than 30 who have died in the workplace. One union organizer met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help settle a coal strike. Several entrepreneurs have owned their own mineral and steel production companies. In 2002, a cousin was a key player in the "Nine for Nine" coal mine rescue in Somerset County, PA.

 

Eliza (Hess) Minerd and fellow teachers in Fayette County, PA

 

Public Education - A Sense of Wonder - the field of education has attracted an extraordinary number of people in our family. Over many generations, many hundreds of cousin-educators have touched thousands of lives and conveyed a sense of wonder. They have opened young minds to the vast universe of words, numbers, athletics and arts. Cousins have worked as administrators, teachers, coaches, aides, secretaries, bus drivers and custodians, from one-room country schoolhouses to our nation's most prestigious universities. 

 

Cousins have helped construct, care for, conserve and interpret Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater
Pittsburgh Regional Landmarks - Some branches have remained in Western Pennsylvania over eight to 10 generations. Many have had decades of involvement with the construction, care, conservation and/or preservation of some of the Pittsburgh's region's most beloved and important landmarks -- ranging from Fallingwater, Braddock's Grave, and National Turnpike to the Minerd Funeral Home (a Uniontown landmark) and Westmoreland Homesteads (Norvelt), built during the Great Depression with support by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to benefit coal miners' families.

 

Annette Hanshaw, the "most popular woman singer" in the 1930s
Popular Culture, Entertainment, Creativity - Cousins have entertained millions of Americans as actors, singers, TV/radio hosts and writers. One was named by the New York Times as "one of the most prolific recording singers in the late 1920's and early 30's." Another was an Illinois news editor attacked in Edgar Lee Masters' famed Spoon River Anthology. See our Online Quilt Museum, Online Museum of Creativity and Voices section with essays authored by cousins.

 

Rebecca Minerd and Gen. Custer's brother Tom, who produced a son together before Little Big Horn
Custer Connection - Mined.com tells the award-winning saga of a forgotten Ohio oilfield laborer whose father, Capt. Thomas Ward Custer, was a two-time Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War, was the brother of General George Armstrong Custer, and were among five Custers slain at Little Big Horn. This story, also published in the Research Review Magazine of the Little Big Horn Associates, received the organization's prestigious Frost Award for "Best Article."

 
Book citing the Miner name in research of mixed-race families of West Virginia and Ohio

Almost White - One branch of cousins, centered in Philippi, WV and Athens, OH, descends from a Pennsylvania German father and a Native American mother of the mid 1800s. Considered of mixed-race, these early cousins were cast out of society, neither white nor black, and faced lifetimes of discrimination, with two marrying freed slaves. Book authors, journalists and scholars have studied the group and published their findings. Four cousins appeared together on the popular PBS television show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. There have been more than 200 marriages between the mixed-race Minard-Miner and Mayle-Male clans of West Virginia and Ohio.
 
Cousins have made significant contributions in science and in space exploration
Science and Space Exploration - At least four of descendants played key roles in the U.S. space program since the 1960s -- one as an Army nurse on the splashdown recovery stations for astronauts in the Mercury program; one as an Apollo rocket engine navigation systems engineer, who received a commendation letter signed by the astronauts in the program; one as an astro-physicist in Italy who researched gamma ray bursts in deep space; and one a physicist with Switzerland-based CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Others have been scientists and researchers featured in the National Geographic and inventors who hold numerous patents.
 
Dr. Roy Sheppard Minerd,
an early physician
Medicine - Escaping from the grip of early illiteracy and the peculiarly German fear of formal education, cousins have become leaders in the medical field, including a Civil War surgeon wounded by enemy sharpshooters; a co-founder of the first Minerd Reunion in Western Pennsylvania; an Ivy League researcher in early childhood diseases. In Pittsburgh, one was a pioneer in the fields of nephrology and dialysis who once treated Liberace.
 
Harvest for farmers Lawson and Lutitia Minerd, Mill Run, PA
Farming and Agriculture - The earliest Minerd pioneers in Western Pennsylvania made their living off the land -- farming, hunting, timbering and boiling salt found in natural springs. Today, many of our cousins continue to make a living in the fields of agriculture. One cousin in Indiana is the fifth generation to reside on the family farm, dating to 1847. Others have been forest rangers and fire wardens, protecting our natural resources.

Inc. 500 award-winner Ronald Minerd and his business partner
Corporate, Business and Entrepreneurship - Cousins have held leadership roles a wide range of businesses large and small, from gasoline service stations, insurance brokerages and iron foundries to large banks and financial services firms. One cousin sold a small Chicago pharmacy to Charles Walgreen, marking the very first of a national chain. Another was an executive with an Ohio buggy maker working alongside tire manufacturer Harvey S. Firestone and World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Yet another built a technology company winning an Inc. 500 award.
 
Calvary Methodist Church, Uniontown, PA, founded by Rev. David Ewing Minerd
Religious Faith and Evangelism - Scores of our cousins have served as clergy, planting churches, pastoring congregations planting, evangelizing as overseas missionaries, educating students and preserving our religious heritage. Many church buildings constructed under the leadership of cousin-pastors still serve as houses of worship today in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and beyond.
 
Warren Miner of the Pennsylvania Railroad
Transportation - Cousins have helped design, build and serve in our nation's vast, sophisticated transportation infrastructure -- from the National Turnpike, Panama Canal and early railroads to rural road and bridge building, pioneering commercial airline flight and the Interstate Highway System. More than 25 cousins and their spouses have been killed in railroad and streetcar accidents, with scores more losing their lives in vehicular mishaps.
 
John Fridley, one of the
University of Pittsburgh's 
all-time leading rebounders
Sports - Only one known cousins has played professional sports – a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in the early 1970s.Others have performed in minor and semi-pro leagues during their heyday in the early 1900s, while others have excelled at the collegiate level, including the winningest coach in the Ohio Athletic Conference, and the University of Pittsburgh's men's basketball record-holder for rebounding. One cousin is a formergolf pro in San Diego at a prominent course which hosted PGA tournaments won by Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
 
Dr. Harold Daniel Minerd was politically active
Political Service - Many cousins have served the public through elected and appointed political leadership and government service. In Western Pennsylvania, one cousin was a a Pittsburgh City Councilman who helped lead the Steel City's 150th birthday in 1908. In California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas and Oklahoma, their roles have ranged from county treasurers, prothonotaries and directors of the poor ... and common pleas court judges ... to small town mayors, town councilmen, school board directors and tax collectors ... to federally appointed postmasters ... and to top regional political strategists and organizers.

Minerd.com and the national reunion are in the news and make news.
Cousins in Print - Cousins have been quoted and mentioned in such leading American publications as the New York Times, Time, USA Today, People, Fortune, Reader's Digest, National Geographic and Wall Street Journal. Other cousins have been editors and writers for the Miami Herald, Harvard Business Review and North American Review. Two had poems appear in a 19th century anthology alongside those of Walt Whitman and James Whitcomb Riley. One cousin was Mark Twain's personal physician, and another kept a library of rare books and manuscripts sold at auction in New York in 1924.
 
Younkin family newspaper helped fuel a national "Re-awakening" in the 1930s
Genealogy, Family Reunions and Historical Research - Minerd.com is an online repository for archives of early reunions of the Minerd-Miner, Harbaugh and Younkin families of Western Pennsylvania, the Minards of Knox County, OH and the Laugherys of Delaware. Cousins have co-founded the Ohio Genealogical Society; Churches of God Historical Society; and Abraham Lincoln Centennial Association, while others have been leaders of local historical societies and family reunions. This rich legacy has set the stage for today's themed National Minerd- Minard- Miner- Minor Reunions, held in Western Pennsylvania.

Illiterate pioneers signed their name with an "X"

 

Literacy and Name Spelling Variations - Our family knowledge is obscured by a lack of written history. One cousin said this was due to illiteracy and to “Burning of cabins, destroying records, if any were made." Many early cousins signed their name with an "X." While our name originally was the German "Meinert" or "Meinhard," it became Americanized via a gradual evolution. Today the most common variations are Minerd, Minard, Miner and Minor.  The earliest known example is in a lawsuit from 1841 in Fayette County, PA, where the clerk wrote two versions of the name:  "Henry Minor (or Minard)."

Cousin marriages were common in the 1800s and early 1900s

 

99% Factor/Kissin' Cousin Marriages - Before genetics were known, it was common for cousins to marry each other at all levels of American society. President Thomas Jefferson encouraged his daughters to marry within their own family, and they did.  The Minerds were particularly intimate with the Younkin - Harbaugh - and Mayle-Male clans during the 19th century and well into the 20th century, up to about World War II. Today less than one-half of one percent of all Minerd descendants carry a form of the family surname.

German script grave in Lehigh County, PA

 

Erosion of German Culture - Over time in America, it became increasingly unpopular to claim a German heritage, most especially during World Wars I and II. Today, few traces of the clan's German roots remain. See Our Lost German Culture - Minerd/German Migrations - and Clues to Our German Roots in the Tide Pools of the Longswamp.

Minerd.com, Jan. 2004
Minerd.com's Role in Preserving History, Lost Stories - Minerd.com has been named one of the "Top 10 Family Website in the Nation" by Family Tree Magazine, has received national awards, and been cited in more than scores of newspapers, magazine articles and books. Since its launch in May 2000, Minerd.com has been in the news and made news.

 

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