What I've tracked through census records and the local newspaper indexes confirms the following, from a direct descendant's research:
Most if not all of the Centners in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area were descended from common ancestors, namely Christian ZENTNER and Sophia HOFFMANN. Christian was b. Mecklenburg, 1801/02. It is believed that this couple had five sons and one daughter, all who came to Chautauqua County, NY from Mecklenburg, arriving between 1853 and 1864 according to census records: John, Carl (Charles in English), Frederick, Ludwig (Lewis), Heinrich (Henry) and Friedrike Centner Kleeman (Clayman).
The original family name was Zentner, meaning hundredweight or one who is a judge in a hundred in German. John, Frederick, Henry and Louis were all naturalized under the name of Zentner. Early church records always spell the name Zentner, and when it changes in later years to Centner, reference to spouses and parents makes it clear that the family changed its name. Early deeds use three surnames: Zentner, Scentner and Centner, with the later predominating.
It is believed that the Zentner surname is Swiss, as other Zentners trace the surname to Elm near Glarus.
Hope his more general information proves useful in your search!
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