Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Medina County History Fair at the Medina Library

Calling all Medina County History geeks!

On Saturday, January 27th seventeen different Medina County historical and genealogical societies will be hosting tables at the Medina Library for the 3rd annual:

Get a peek at all the unique, quirky, interesting and historical artifacts and trivia about Medina County from 17, count em', that's seventeen different groups. (Bet you have never heard of some of them!)

For the city of Medina, the focus this year will be on Medina's Bicentennial. Meet with Roger Smalley and get a preview of all the great events that are planned for Medina's 200th Birthday.

Or stop by the table for the Northeast Ohio Railway group and see some of the equipment that was employed on the area's railroads.

Meander over to the Medina County Historical Society and see what items Tom Hilburg has brought to share. Do you know what each was used for?

Remember, Saturday, 27 January from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

See you there!

(Yes, the Library will host a table that tells how we can help you with your research!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gretna Green

Recently I was reading the newsletter from the Trumbull County Genealogical Society (thank you Theresa Brown!) and discovered an article on "Marriage Mill" towns.
As "responsible adults", blacksmiths conducted marriage ceremonies
in Gretna Green.  It is still a popular  custom to get 
married "over the anvil" 

According to Merriam-Webster, a
marriage mill is "a place where it is possible to marry with a minimum of formality or delay"

Historically, Gretna Green in Scotland was supposed to be the first and the most famous of the "Marriage Mill" towns.  It is believed that it started with Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1754 which made the marriage laws of England and Wales more restrictive than the laws of Scotland. In Scotland, males as young as 14 and girls as young as 12 could get married without their parents' consent.  They just needed to declare their intentions in front of a responsible adult. So, it allowed for anyone to conduct the ceremony as long as there were two witnesses.

The United States has its share of "marriage mill" towns too, though none as famous as Gretna Green. Greenup, Kentucky, right across the Ohio river where my father's family lived was a very popular marriage destination for Ohio elopers. And I have heard from various genealogical resources, that Ashtabula once was popular.

One of the many wedding chapels in Las Vegas. This one specializes in
weddings officiated by Elvis Presley

Basically, any town on the border with a state that had more restrictive marriage laws could become a "Gretna Green." Some locations played up their reputations offering package deals that would include meals, flowers, rings and in some cases, a motel room.

The article went on to list these marriage mill towns:
Arizona  - Yuma
Arkansas - Marion, Crittenden County
Idaho - Coeur d'Alene
Indiana  - Angola, Crown Point, Jeffersonville
Iowa  - Nashua in Chickasaw County
Kansas  - Belleview, Johnson County
Kentucky - Greenup
Maryland - Chesterton, Elklton, Rockville, Garrett, Hartford, Howard, Kent
Minnesota - Moorhead in Clay County, Waukegan in Lake County, Winona County
Missouri - Liberty, St. Charles
Mississippi - DeSoto
Nevada - Washoe County
New Mexico - Curry County
New York -  Harrison County
 Ohio - Bowling Green in Wood County
Okahoma -  Love County (maybe just for the name?)
Virginia -  Alexandria, Fairfax, Arlington
Washington-  Clarke and Skamania Counties
West Virginia -  Wellsburg, Brooke County (though I have found a number of West Virginia relatives who went upriver to Gallia County, Ohio to get married)

So if you are having difficulty finding a marriage record for your research, consider that hey may have headed towards a "marriage mill" town...

Map of Marriage Mill Towns

Map of Marriage Mill Towns from FamilySearch's Wiki

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's All Relative

It’s All Relative Adventures Up and Down the World Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically. I had not read any of Jacobs’ other books, but this promised to be a lighthearted look at genealogy and it did not disappoint. Jacobs is NOT a genealogist and doesn’t pretend to be. What he is is an author who becomes obsessed about a particular idea and then he writes about it. He became obsessed with the idea that we are ALL basically cousins after discovering the web site and its goal of hosting a World Family Tree that will prove that we are all related on some level. (A global version of 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon.)

Author, A.J. Jacobs.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. 

Jacobs hope is that by proving that we are all related, that the individuals of the world will treat each other better. A noble if somewhat optimistic hope. (It presumes that we all treat our families nicely.) Toward that recognition, he wanted to host the world’s biggest family reunion in New York. He gets sponsors and co-hosts and enlists celebrities to participate, hoping to surpass the current Guinness World Record holders, the Lilly family of West Virginia. (I wonder if they are related to my Lilly’s??)

Each chapter counts down the progress towards the reunion, The Global Family Reunion. While the book is lighthearted and very entertaining, you don’t want to read it as any kind of genealogy how-to. It isn’t that, although the 15 page Appendix does cover the basic how-to’s. But amidst all the chuckles and smiles, Jacobs included some profound and thought provoking insights. Here are the ones that struck me:
  1. Being a genealogist is “a bit like a creepy voyeur.” (p.27) I have been accused of this on more than one occasion by my relatives.
  2. While Bruce Feiler’s book The Secrets of Happy Families extols the benefits of children knowing their family history, the MOST beneficial stories are the ones that show that the family has had hard times, but made it through because they “stuck together as a family” (p. 50)
  3. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of Cosmos had to say this about about tracing one’s ancestors: "My philosophy of root-finding may be unorthodox. I just don’t care. And that’s not a passive, but active absence of caring. In the tree of life, any two people in the world share a common ancestor -- depending only on how far back you look. So the line we draw to establish family and heritage is entirely arbitrary. When I wonder what I am capable of achieving, I don’t look to family lineage, I look to all human beings. That’s the genetic relationship that matters to me. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Gandhi and MLK, the bravery of Joan of Arc, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Teresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be - because I am human. Couldn’t care less if I were a descendant of kings or paupers, saints or sinners, the valorous or cowardly. My life is what I make of it." (p. 163)  I get this. We make decisions for ourselves that profoundly affect our lives. But I also believe that patterns and traits do get passed down from our families. And knowing what these are or were, helps us to better prepare ourselves for challenges Or as Oprah said, knowing what her slave ancestors endured made her better able to take on obstacles in her own life. 
  4.  And on the next page, Jacobs talks that while he sees Tyson’s point of view that we should view all of humanity’s achievements as inspirational, because after all we are all related, he goes on to say that he is “drawn to my own specific line of ancestors” believing that this is a common trait. And “It’s motivated me to research history that I otherwise might have ignored. It’s allowed me to feel more connected to the rest of the world.” (p. 164)
  5. Native American idea of 7 generations. Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Oren Lyons explains this concept: “We are looking ahead… to make sure … every decision we make relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come…” (pp. .165-166)
  6. Talking about the genealogy TV shows and in answer to the shows critics about the unrealistic expectations viewers get from the shows, Jacobs says “They spark interest in our geeky pastime. They inspire people to trace their own pasts. That’s my hope for my paradoxical quest as well… That the celebrity angle will hook my distant cousins on family history, but that they’ll soon realize their non-famous ancestors are just as fascinating.” (p. 222)
  7. On feminism and the unequal interest in female ancestors, Judy Russell (aka The Legal Genealogist) is quoted as saying, “If the Dutch had won North America instead of the British, women would be a lot better off. The seventeenth century Dutch were far more liberal than the English, The Dutch allowed women to own land, open businesses --- everything except vote. There were actually two kinds of marriage, one where they retained their rights and on where they forfeited them” And Jacobs continues, “(By they way, the phrase “going Dutch” is not related to Dutch marital feminism, though it should be.” (p. 232)
  8. “Family Heuristic” - the idea that evolution has trained humans to treat family members better in order to preserve the common DNA. Jacobs believes that if you think everyone is your cousin, you should want to treat them ALL better. Perhaps this is the secret to the survival of the human race. (p.236)
I highly recommend this title to fans of Jacobs' other books, genealogists who can laugh at themselves, and anyone who wants a laugh. Pick up the book to find out about the Global Family Reunion.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year Traditions

As genealogists,we should be documenting all sorts of family traditions, including your New Year's Celebration traditions.

The top four traditions are ones my family follows. Which of these does your family do?
  • Eat pork on New Year's Day - because pigs root forward and are a symbol of prosperity. Turns out this tradition, and the following one, come from my German ancestors.
  • Eating sauerkraut or cabbage on New Year's Day.
  • Making a loud noise at midnight - this can be firing off fireworks, guns, or more recently, blowing a horn.
  • Watching the ball drop at Time's Square. New York City started this tradition in 1907 and now it is televised throughout the country.
  • Singing of Auld Lang Syne - covered in this blog POST.
  • Watching the Rose Bowl Parade.
  • Watching the various football games.
  • Attend a HUGE New Year's Eve party where everyone gets drunk and...
  • Kisses someone.
  • Corned beef and cabbage on New Year's Day.
  • Eating fish on New Years Eve - my Sicilian relatives used to do this one.
  • Hoppin John, a dish featuring black-eyed peas a
    popular New Year's tradition in the American South.
    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
  • Eating black-eyed peas, popular in the American south.
  • In some Latin American countries, the color of your undergarments influence your new year. Red will bring love and romance, white leads to peace and harmony, green will ensure health and well being, and gold brings wealth.
  • Setting off fireworks, comes to us from China, the birthplace of fireworks.
  • In the Philippines, circles represent prosperity, so many people will wear polka dots and jangle the round coins in their pockets.
  • In Japan, the Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times to expel 108 types of human weaknesses.
  • In Swiss  homes, dollops of whipped cream or ice cream are dropped on the floor to symbolize the richness in the new year.
  • Become introspective about how the last year went and make resolutions for the new year.
  • In Spain, eat 12 grapes to ensure 12 months of good luck.
  • Ryoanji, temple bell, Kyoto City, Japan
    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • In Denmark, old plates and glasses are smashed against the doors of friends and relatives houses.

Please share your unique New Year's traditions in the comments section below...

"New Year's traditions explained" USA Today, published 25 Dec 2013.
"New Year Traditions from Around the World" by Victoria Doudera, Old Farmer's Almanac.
"Auld Lang Syne and other New Year's Customs" by Borgna Brunner, Two Blonds Blog, published December 27, 2007. 
"World's Strangest New Year Traditions" Travel and Leisure, published November 15, 2013.
"New Year's Eve (Silvester)"  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Whatever holiday you celebrate this season, enjoy your time with family!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What To Buy Your Favorite Genealogist This Holiday Season!

The holidays are upon us once again! Are you having trouble finding that perfect gift for your favorite genealogist? Or are you considering beginning your own research and want to give your friends and family members some gift ideas? Well, I have done a little research and found a few items you might want to purchase.

DNA tests!

The topic of the nightly news and so many commercials! I received a DNA test last year for Christmas and I have to say, it was pretty cool. This time of year many of the companies are selling the tests at a lowered holiday price. However, beware there are some subtle differences in the tests offered, so make sure you do a little research.
You can check out the website, Smarter Hobby. They did some tests and here are their results:

If you do not know the difference between YDNA and mtDNA or know the meaning of "autosomal", you might want to visit the Smarter Hobby site:  It does a good job defining these terms and giving a more in depth report on each of the company's tests. 


Here are some great books which will either help a person get started or help with ongoing research:

Tips & for the Family Historian – by Elizabeth Shown Mills (this book is recommended by Kathy)

"Whether you are a researcher in need of inspiration, or a speaker or writer in search of a zinger to punctuate your thoughts."


The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy 4th Edition  – by Val D Greenwood 

 It teaches the basics of doing genealogy research and where to find the necessary records. This is helpful for a new genealogists, because it shows not all records are available online.

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide: How to Find, Record, and Preserve Your Ancestors' Graves by Joy Neighbors

The title is self-explanatory. It is a great addition to a genealogists library. Sometimes it is the only resource for birth and death dates.

Evidence Explained:  Citing History Sources from Cyberspace 3rd Edition Revised – by Elizabeth Shown Mills

This is an exceptional gift and any genealogist would love to get it! This book helps cite all different types of sources, which is necessary to validate research. 

Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher  - by Drew Smith

Does your researcher (or you) have piles of paper and research everywhere!? This book will help organize all of the information collected and show you different ways to keep the resources and data safe and easily accessible.

The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook by Thomas MacEntee

This book is for someone who has been researching and collecting information for a few years and has hit a "brick wall".  The author has an outline you can follow which helps you organize and rethink the resources you have already found. It will help in jump starting your research. 


Many genealogist would like a software program to help them organize research and resources.  I  found a website which gives a Top Ten Review of the different software programs available. I like this site because you can also visit the software company's website to view and explore the different programs. The site is called "Top Ten Reviews" and it reviews all types of technology and software. You can check it out with this link:


Scanners are for the genealogist who travels to courthouses and archives, but doesn't want to spend an arm and a leg on copies or their phone doesn't take very good photographs. 

Epson WorkForce DS-30 Portable Document & Image Scanner

The above scanner or a scanner similar to this, is a little pricey. Somewhere around $120. This device will scan larger documents (8 1/2 x 14) and photos.  Once the item is scanned it can be sent to an email or online cloud service. It has correction tools that can edit the images, auto-size documents, enhance text quality and correct image skew. It is lightweight and can be taken anywhere.

VuPoint Magic Wand Wireless Portable Scanner

The VuPoint Magic Wand scanner (or one like it) is also handy to have. You slide the "wand" over the document or page you want to scan. It saves the image on a memory card and then you can download the image to your computer or device. It is small and light and easy to take with you anywhere. I have one and I take it so I can scan documents and resources without damaging them. I do recommend practicing before you use it for research. You want your images to be clear and if you don't slide the wand just right, the images can be blurry.

Family History Kit

This is a good DIY project which you can make more personal. Buy a fun bag and fill it with items that will help a person do research. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pens & Pencils
  • Sticky notes
  • Paperclips or binder clips (you can buy these in multiple colors)
  • Binders with page dividers
  • Magnifying glass (one with a light is cool)
  • Couple of candy bars or nutritious granola bars - sometimes we lose track of time and miss lunch.

Just For Fun

If you want to buy a whimsical gift, you will find some at the Café Express website,

Here are a few ideas:


Mouse Pad

I could have listed hundreds of ideas, since I have a long list of my own, but I tried to show you some good, basic items. Have fun shopping! Happy Holidays!

A Big Thanks to Kathy Petras for allowing me to once again be a guest blogger on her wonderful blog! - Lisa Rienerth 

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017

    Kinship: It's All Relative

    My own family research was prompted in part by trying to figure out just how I was related to Aunt Gini (my Mom's First Cousin.) And part of that quest, is figuring out just what we call these relationships. Parents, brothers, sisters, grandparent relationships are pretty straight forward. But what about all those cousins and in-laws. And what about "removes"??? How do we best define those relationships?

    Because this is a question that comes up frequently when working with library/genealogy patrons, I thought we should take a look at the book that has all the answers: Kinship; It's All Relative by Jackie Smith Arnold. I have been using this resource for years and have my own copy at home.

    This second edition was published in 2012. The book is available on Amazon
     and is on the shelves in the Franklin Sylvester Room at the Medina Library.

    The book is only about 144 pages long, but packs a lot into those pages. Some of its highlights are:
    • On overview of U.S. marriage laws. How old do you have to be? How closely related you can't be. Which states accept common-law or live-in marriages.
    • Definitions of families.
    • Grandparents visitation rights table and resource list.
    • How names are passed on.
    • Medical aspects of inheritance.
    • NEW! In the back there is a chapter on same-sex marriages.
    But my favorite features are the charts that help make sense out of complicated relationships. And these are what I refer patrons to all the time.

    Do you want to know how closely you are related to someone? The following chart is called a Consanguity Chart. It specifically shows how closely you are related by blood:

    This chart shows how closely related your are. For example, you
    are just as closely related to your children as you are to your
    parents. You share 50% of your DNA with them.
    The above chart includes nieces and nephews.

    But this is the chart that I use and refer library patrons to most frequently:

    This chart helps ferret out your relationship to cousins, first cousins, second cousins once-removed etc.  I will fill it in to show you some examples. This is from my MASON family. Only the first names are given.

    From this we can tell that John Sherwood and Mag/Ruth are siblings, children of John Dana.
    Charlie and Jack are first cousins. Though Jack's biological mother was Mag, he was adopted by her sister, Ruth. Rose and Ruth are second cousins, and so forth, as shown in the chart.

    But what relationship is Charlie to Josh, or Ruth to Stella?

    To determine that, we look at Josh's direct line ancestor who is directly across from Charlie. In this example that would be Jack. That gives us the degree of cousin - First Cousins.  But Josh and Charlie are not of the same generation. We have to count how many generations apart they are to get the "removes". They are three generations apart so that makes them first cousins, three times removed.

    Can you figure out the relationship between Ruth (daughter of Jack) and Stella?

    The book also explains what happens when siblings from one family marry siblings from another family. They are double first cousins. For example, John Sherwood from the chart above married Dorothy Pauline. Her brother, Floyd, married Rosie, sister to John Sherwood. There isn't a good chart for this one in the book.

    John Sherwood sibling Rose Kathleen
         married                                 married

    Dorothy Pauline sibling → Floyd Ernest

    But I did find this one online:

    Genealogy Pages by Paul Stoneburner

    Using the example from above:

    Charlie, Dixie and Loretta are double first cousins
    and share as much DNA as siblings.
    This does NOT make them siblings, though.
    If you have a relationship not described above, check the book!


    Brand new to the Medina Library and still shelved with the NEW non-fiction is this book from Jonathan Scott, A Dictionary of Family History The Genealogists' ABC. This British publication offers insight into how British research differs from US research - starting with the lingo!

    I have already used resources listed within to gain further insight into my TAGG/HEIGHTON families. Using the index at the Northamptonshire Archives, Heritage and History, I have discovered that William TAGG was apprenticed to a brushmaker. That is the occupation William followed when he emigrate to the US. And both Jeffrey and Joseph HEIGHTON took on apprentices for their blacksmith shops!

    Anyone with British ancestry will want to check this one out!

    Wednesday, November 29, 2017

    Medina County Holiday Events

    Medina County has a long history of holiday traditions. Families from throughout the county can jump-start their holiday spirits with any of the following events:
    (This is not a comprehensive list.)

      Medina Gazette article
    • In the City of Medina, we prime our holiday sentiments with the annual Candlelight Walk. This year it took place on Nov. 17-19. The cold wet winds probably kept attendance down. 
    • Wadsworth also had an annual Candlelight Walk on November 17th. . Santa arrived in a horse drawn carriage.

    Photo by Nathan Havvener for the Medina Gazette

    • Then there is the annual Meadows Turkey Bowl, a fundraiser for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Held on Thanksgiving day, each year they have exceeded the previous year total funds raised. This year they raised $263,000.

    Photo by Halee Heronimus of the Medina Gazette.

    • At the Medina Fairgrounds there is the  Holiday Lights Drive Thru that started on November  24th and runs through December 25th. Click here for more info: HERE 
    • Castle Noel, which is open year round, always shines brightest for the Christmas Holidays. This year they have something special for children called Elf Labs.

    This year, Castle Noel has displays from Saks Fifth Avenue. Photo by Nathan Havenner of The Medina Gazette.

    • At the Ohio Station, located between Lodi and Burbank right off of I-71, kids can enjoy  Santa Express Train Rides  Click HERE for more information. 

    Polar Express Night at the
    Medina Rec Center
    If music is your thing, try attending one of these concerts:
    • And don't forget to enjoy a plethora of charming events provided at all six of the branches of the Medina County District Library. Listings on the EVENTS calendar.

    Whether you say, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza or Happy Holidays, enjoy the season!

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    Apps on Family Search

    Don't you just love it when you find out something new at one of your favorite genealogy sites!?!
    Yah, me too!

    Recently I discovered a nifty link at the bottom of the FamilySearch home page...

    See it there, circled in Red? It is an App Gallery that list a bunch of applications you can download to your computer or mobile devise that work with the FamilySearch site that lets you do all sorts of really cool stuff!

    Most of the apps are free, but some cost money. They are arranged by these categories:

    • New & Noteworth - where the latest additions are highlighted
    • Charts - for displaying your family history 
    • Games - for fun activities for yourself and your family
    • Family Tree Management - to build & organize your family tree. 
    • LDS Access - for members of the Church of Latter Day Saints
    • Photos & Stories - places to find, preserve and share with family members
    • Research Assistance - use these to get help, receive tips or take your research in a new direction.
    • Search - discover more of your relatives by searching these
    • Specialty - to perform special tasks or notifications
    • Tree Analyzing - shows you where your family tree needs some work
    The games are particularly intriguing because I think this is a wonderful gateway to getting other family members interested in and involved in their family history.

    Geneopardy has a free trial. You sign in using your free FamilySearch account username and password.  Soon, you will need an account to view records, so if you don't already have an account, now is the time to sign up.

    Obviously based on the popular Jeopardy game, you choose categories and earn points.

    You have to agree to their terms of service. The next page asks you how many generations do you want to include and then it asks for the person ID number for the deceased person's family tree that you want to use. YES, it does require you to have built a family tree on their web site.

    I entered the ID number for my Great Grandfather, William Tecumseh Sherman Johnson and tried a few of the questions. The questions require quite a bit of knowledge of the family, but I quickly racked up 1500 points.

    The questions center on basic information on each person's life: when/where they were married, their lifespans, how disparate were the ages between spouses, etc. The possible answers are multiple choice. The one really off-the-wall question that came up was "Which ancestor was born during luminism.  ???? I had to look that one up!*

    Choosing a relative closer to the current generations, should make the questions easier for everyone. But still I don't think anyone else in my family would get the answers.

    I have had a lot of fun exploring this challenging app.

    You should check out the app that most appeals to you.

    * Wikipedia definition of luminism.


    The Medina Library just received three new books for the Franklin Sylvester Room:

    Out of the Past Into the Future Brunswick United Methodist Church, Celebrating 200 Years of Service to God and Community 1817-2017
     by Mamie Grunau, Church Historian. It is a 170 page look at the people, pastors and buildings of the congregation. It will be a welcome addition to the sources on Brunswick history. (Not indexed.)

    The next item is: Medina Profile: The Tebbit's Ice Cream Company and the Tebbit Family by the Medina County Historical Society. It is 8 pages of exactly what the title says. Much of the information will be familiar to many Medina Natives.

    The last item is From an Old Album, Index and again was published by the Medina County Historical Society. While it is just an index, I am particularly interested in this work. From 1937 to 1941, the  Medina Gazette  newspaper had a feature called "From an Old Album" that printed photos from Medina jeweler and photographer, George F. High. During the run of the feature, 198 photos were printed. Anyone interested in the people and places of Medina County during this period, now you have a way of possibly finding a photo!

    While the covers may not be impressive, the info. inside
    is priceless!