Erne Family History

Origin of the Erne's

The name Erne is of northern Swiss origin and was spelled in various ways including Erney, Erni, Erny, Arney, Aerni, and Aerny.  Erne is not a common name in Switzerland and the source can be traced to several small villages in the Canton of Aargau region near the Rhine River, along the German border of Switzerland.    The word "Erne" has three sources: it is a short form of "arn ahd" or "arnold" ("adler" in German) which translates as "eagle" in English. Also in German there are the words "Aehre" (English "ear" = part of crop) and "Ernte" (English "harvest"), these elements are part of the Erne heraldic seen above which the Erne's in Switzerland still use. 


Kelleys Island Erne's

 The Kelley's Island Erne's direct line can be traced to the small village of Gippingen in  Canton Aargau,  Switzerland where the earliest known direct ancestor, Karl Erne , was born in 1832.  The Erne family itself can be traced much further back in the surrounding villages, to about 1610,  but  I do not have the exact line before Karl. 

During the 1850's and 1860's, rampant poverty and explosive population growth led to a huge migration of people out of the Canton-Aargau region of Switzerland to the New World, particularly the US and Argentina.  By 1860, more people had moved out of the area then had remained there.

Karl married his wife Fredolina before they left for the US.  Our family tradition holds that they married on the ship on the way before they boarded, but a copy of their travel contract  shows them already married.  Karl  was known as a yodeler as well as being able to play the Alpine horn.

In July of 1862, they sailed for the US, through the port of Le Havre, France to New York on the ship Ina Russell.  From there they settled on Kelley's Island, which is an island located on Lake Erie in the state of Ohio.  It is obvious they were following earlier Erne relatives who had previously emigrated to the area, most notably Jakob Erne (whose name was changed to Jacob Erney upon entering the US), who settled in Sandusky Ohio nine years earlier in 1853. Descendants of Jacob are numerous in the Sandusky area and they have a reunion every two years there.  It is widely believed that the Erne's of Kelley's Island and the Erney's of Sandusky are related, but exactly how is not clear.

Karl (changed to ' Carl' after arriving in US) and Fredolina were part of a larger immigration to the Lake Erie area which included many Germans and Swiss, particularly those associated with the wine business.  Kelley's Island at that time was a major wine producer and was renowned for the high quality grapes grown in the shallow soil there.  Karl was a part of this industry and was thus attracted to this island.  In 1896, Karl built a home on 308 Division Street (which still exists) on Kelleys.  He also bought a sizable piece of land off of nearby Ward Road where he farmed and also grew a vineyard.  His later descendants, particularly Molly (Erne) Yoscovitz (Karl's granddaughter) inherited this land and also farmed it.  The Yoscovitz family still owns the land to this day.  Also, there are prominent wineries still owned by Erni's in the same region of Switzerland that Karl left.

While on Kelley's Island, Carl and Fredolina Erne had four children.  One them, Charles (born in 1871),  also farmed and grew grapes, and eventually married Constance (Gusta) Bohinski around 1898.  They had an amazing twelve(!) children over 28 years.  One of their children, Raphael (Ray) Erne, born in 1916, is my grandfather. 

Ray and his brothers became fishermen with the Lay Brothers Fishing Company out of Sandusky when the Depression and Prohibition eliminated the wine industry on the Island in the 1930's.  

Ray met my grandmother, Gertrude (Gerty) Blatnik, while she was visiting the island from Cleveland one weekend in the late 1930's.   Ray and Gerty soon moved to Cleveland where Ray became a toolmaker for Cleveland Pneumatic Tool.   Late in World War Two, Ray was drafted into the Navy where he served nearly a year in the Pacific on a hospital ship.  The letters he wrote back to his wife during this time still exist.  Upon his return to Cleveland in late 1945, he was re-employed at Cleveland Pneumatic, however, they closed their doors in 1946 or 1947.  Ray then joined the Ironworkers Local #17 along with his brothers Bud and Cap.

Unfortunately, Ray's younger brother, Bernard Erne, died in WWII while serving on the carrier USS Wasp , which was sunk on Sept 16th 1942 in the Pacific by a Japanese submarine during the battle of Guadalcanal.  Bernard is marked on a WWII memorial in the park on Kelley's for his sacrifice. 

Another of Ray's brothers, Carl, designed and constructed several very unique homes on Kelley's.  They are made of the native island limestone and they still exist today, most notably the house (called "Rockmere") just west of the Kelley's Island Ferry Co. dock on  Lake Shore Drive across from the Kelley Mansion.

Ray also played AA Baseball along with his brothers Bud (the pitcher) and Cap (the catcher).  Ray played outfield.  It was quite unusual to find three brothers on the same team ("Rosenblums") who won the National Championship in 1946.  In the playoffs, Bud threw two complete nine-inning games "back to back" the same day. 

After WWII, Ray entered the steel industry where he worked on numerous projects including constructing the large Ohio turnpike bridge which spans the Cuyahoga Valley and installing the lights at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium for the very first NFL Monday Night Football game.

Ray and Gerty had seven children who grew up on the east side of Cleveland.  Their third child, Gay Marie, is my mother. 

Kelley's Island holds a very special place for the Erne family.  Several Ernes live  on the island and many more come and visit each summer.

-Mike Habersack