Thursday, May 19, 2016

Medina County History Day Tour

Coming this Sunday: the first ever Medina County History Day Tour!

A chance to visit sixteen different historical societies all in one day! Many of the county's historical societies have collaborated to host this unique opportunity. Many of these museums are open only a limited number of times per year. Check out their Facebook page: Historical Societies of Medina

Get your history geek on! Visit the museums

A map of the stops

A brief description of each of the stops

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The Grim Reaper

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes - Benjamin Franklin

None of us get out of this life alive. - Elbert Hubbard

Only the good die young.  - Billie Joel

Death is an unfortunate byproduct of having lived.  - Kathy Petras

Yes. Death is a fact of life. It is also one of the pieces of information that we, as genealogists, track down on our relatives and ancestors. And for all of its certainty, the details surrounding a death can be elusive.

These are the sources that we commonly use when searching for information on someone's death.

1. Vital records - have only existed in the U.S. for the last 100-150 years
2. Cemetery records - only as good as the stone they are written in. Early settlers in Ohio often used sandstone for tombstones. With acid rain, they are quickly deteriorating.
3. Church Records - can go back hundreds of years. Or not exist at all.
4. Obituaries - reserved only for the well to do until about 125 years ago. Access depends on  preservation of the newspaper.
5. Wills & estate records - if a will goes through probate, someone has died.
6. Land records - property has to be dispersed after a death
7. Pension records - benefits stop after death, and they often will mention if the soldier has had more than one wife.
8. Mass or memorial cards - given out at the funeral home.

Most basic genealogy books or classes will cover each of these resources in more detail.

929.1072 HER
929.1 CAR

But when someone dies, we lose access to an incredible archive of colorful and fascinating information. Every time someone dies, we lose their stories, their histories, their memories, and everything they knew of their family. This is the reason that genealogy teachers urge their students to interview their living relatives as soon as possible, starting with the oldest first.


Every genealogist I have talked to has a story about having lost the opportunity to reclaim and document the luscious details of someone's life. We always think, "I have time to do that later."

But the truth is, we don't know how much time anyone has.

Not Aunt Bonnie.
Not Uncle John.
Not me.
Not you.

One of our jobs, as genealogists, is to recapture those details in documents left behind. So we scour old newspapers for articles on births, marriage and deaths, but also for the bowling scores of Uncle Jack, the school play that cousin Dick was in, and the banquet that Aunt Blanche organized. We dig out old yearbooks for the photos and clubs that Uncle Charlie was in in high school.

1952 Martel High School Yearbook
Uncle Charlie is second from left in top row.
Cousin Dick Axline
Marion Star 23 March 1963 p. 7

This spring has been particularly difficult for my family and friends.
We have lost four matriarchs of our families.

In Loving Memory of

        Mary Ann DiSalvo PETRAS 1923-2016*
        Ruth Ann Sisson MASON  1940-2016
        Phyllis L. Knudsen DUTA 1932-2016
        Dixie Lee Mason FIRSTENBERGER 1938-2016

*Only one was interviewed for her life story. Mary DiSalvo PETRAS was a "Rosie - the - Riveter" during WWII. She worked in several defense industries and wrote to many service men. Her brother Joe took a picture of her in two piece bathing suit that she could include in her letters. Her strict Sicilian parents were unaware of her activities. Her brothers would sneak her out of the house so she could go on dates.

P.S. My colleague at the Lodi Branch had this to add:

I read your blog and couldn't agree more (gave my mom a history book to fill out when my children were born). Anyhow, here in Lodi we have tried getting people to use our recording studio to record family history with little success, so if you ever have anyone who wants to interview family members and get a recording please send them our way. 

So head on over to the Lodi Library with your relatives and record their histories!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference

Logo from the 2016 Ohio Genealogical Conference

The Annual Ohio Genealogical Society Conference was this past weekend, April 28-30 at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. The agenda was packed full of wonderful genealogical opportunities, offering 86 different sessions. As there were 5 time slots a day, meaning the most you could attend was 15 sessions, it was hard to pick out which ones to attend.

The Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) is the largest state genealogical society with 95 chapters and over 6000 members. The conference had attendees and speakers from all over the U.S. If you are working on genealogy in Ohio, or have Ohio ancestors, you should really consider joining. Their website offers wonderful databases that are only open to members. But more than that, they offer wonderful learning and sharing opportunities.

I could only attend for one day, and with some consideration, picked out the 5 sessions to attend. Since this year's conference was held in the southwest part of Ohio, I didn't expect to see many familiar people. I don't have family or ancestral roots in the area. But a few familiar faces did pop up.

First, there was Margaret Cheney, current president of OGS and past president of both the Medina County and Lorain County Chapters. She gave me some tips on my application for the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio.
Tom Neel, director of the OGS Library in Bellville was there, staffing the exhibit table for OGS, as well as presenting  a couple of the sessions.

Cheryl Abernathy, Deb Knox and Mrs. Blaha from the Wayne County Chapter also had a display table. As Medina County shares her southern border with Wayne County, we often call on each other for research help for citizens that lived near, and often crossed the county line.  It was nice to see their cheerful faces.

So the sessions I  attended were:

1. 'Cuz We're Cousins: Autosomal DNA Tests by Debra Renard - this was a comprehensive look at DNA tests: the peculiarities of the different companies; the meaning of centimorgans, alleles & the acronyms IBS, IBD, IBP, IBC; what do those estimates of ethnic make-up really mean; and the range what percentage of shared DNA you can expect from different degrees of relatives. She got pretty technical at the end with triangulation and downloading the results as an Excel spreadsheet and merging with the matches to see just where the DNA matches occur.

Drew's book - due out in July
2.  Organizing Your Genealogy Files and Correspondence by Drew Smith - Drew is an established & well respected speaker for OGS and is one of the "guys" from the Genealogy Guys Podcast. I was hoping to learn how to tame the paper dragon that accompanies the genealogy hobby. But one of the first things Drew did was confess about the multiple giant Rubbermaid tubs in HIS house of his "waiting to be filed" papers! So it is an issue that ALL genealogists struggle with.  I did learn about a computer file naming technique that I hope to implement. And like me, Drew is not a fan of the color-coded hanging file system.

3.  Turn Tablets & Smartphones into Genealogy Powerhouses by Lisa Louise Cooke - Lisa was a fun presenter with a lot of energy. Her talk was about the many shortcuts and apps that help your mobile device work as well as your desktop computer for doing research. I can't wait to try them out on my iPad and my new Samsung phone!

4.  Crowdsourcing Your Brick Walls by Drew Smith - crowdsourcing is a new term for what genealogists have been doing for decades: networking with other genealogists to help find the answers to our "problem" ancestors. Besides the listservs, message boards, and forums, we now have communities/groups on social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+ communities. Drew spend a fair amount of time covering how to frame your query to get the maximum responses. Choosing an informative subject line, directing your query to the right group, include the alternate spellings, tell where you have already looked, be precise about what you are looking for, limit long "signatures" and what to do once the problem is solved, are all important in getting the best responses.

Confession: I wanted to go to Sunny Morton's session on "Lies, Errors and Bias-- Oh my! Consider your Sources" but couldn't locate the room. Perhaps it was cancelled. So the last session of the day for me was:

5. Analysis and Correlation: Two Keys to Sound Conclusions by Chris Staats -  Chris is also a well-known speaker for OGS. Chris used a personal case study to walk us through solving a
genealogical quandary when you have little direct or primary evidence and what you do have contains conflicting information. You start by analyzing every detail of the information you already have. Then you create a timeline or spreadsheet to compare the information. He had to condense his research to fit into the presentation time slot and he admitted that we might not agree with his conclusions. And I didn't. But it is very possible that there was information he had to omit that would have changed my mind. I was also pleased to realize that I have been using the techniques he described in my own research.

The syllabus for the conference was 330 pages long and it includes outlines from all the sessions. A copy is included in the conference price.

A banquet on Friday evening was held for all members who were being inducted into the lineage societies, First Families of Ohio, and the Society for Civil War Families of Ohio. Around 100 people attended. Most were being inducted into the First Families of Ohio. To qualify, they had fill out an application and present solid, documented proof that an ancestor had settled in Ohio prior to 1820. Many family members were being inducted together, fathers/daughters, mothers/daughters, sisters and one whole family that included dad/mom/4 teenage children.

I was inducted into the Society for Civil War Families of Ohio. This was for proving my ancestor, William Preston Williams served in the Union Army as part of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry. The medal and ribbon presented to me, pleased me much more than I had anticipated. A very kind lady helped me pin it on when I got back to my table. Certainly, there was a feeling of accomplishment. But maybe my ex-military days were surfacing?

I think it is pretty cool looking! What do you think?

Certificate and medal with ribbon for the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ancestry Library Edition

Hello! It's me again, Lisa Rienerth, Kathy' co-worker.  I just presented this topic at our Genealogy Lock-In and Kathy thought it would be a good idea to cover it on her blog...and I agreed!

How many times have you been doing online genealogy research and one of the links you were hoping would lead to your ancestor's birth record led you to and you needed a subscription to view it? Frustrating...I know.

I have an alternative to the free 14 day trial! The Medina County District Library (MCDL) has access to the Ancestry Library Edition (A.L.E.) database which is only available if you are in the library, but many of the records which are on the subscription are available through Ancestry Library Edition and it's FREE!

Let me show you how to get to this database if you are in one of the MCDL branches. If you are using one of our computers you will automatically open up to our home page. If you are using your laptop, you will need to put in our web address:

On the left hand side of the page you will see a list of "Quick Links". In that list click on Online Resources & Databases. 

This will take you to another page where you will scroll down to the bottom until you see the Medina Library's databases and a tab marked "History & Genealogy". If you click on this tab it will show you a list of databases with Ancestry Library Edition listed first.  Click on this and you will be taken to Ancestry Library Edition.

The first thing you will see is the lovely historical photos and the title of what type of records you can search.

However, you can also use the tool bar at the top. If you click on the "SEARCH" tab, you will see a drop-down menu which also lists the different topics you can search.

I like using the drop-down menu because this search provides more information. For example, if you click on "Census and Voters List" you will be able to search a wider variety of census records then you would if you clicked on the photo box of the couple that says "Search Census". These census records will only be from the U.S.

If you want to search all of the records A.L.E. has all at once, then click on "SEARCH" and then "ALL CATEGORIES".

There is a  SEARCH box where you click on "Show more options" to see the advance search box.
Advance Search Box

 Scroll down the page to see how you can narrow your search by a specific country, state or area.

On the right hand side you will see a listing of the Special Collections which are available on A.L.E.

The SEARCH box is pretty self-explanatory. You put in as much or as little information you have and hit SEARCH. I like to start out with just a little information, such as, Name, birth place & gender. Some people like to start by putting as much information they know and then narrow it down if the information they are looking for doesn't come up. Either way is fine!

When you hit search a list of the records will come up that your search prompted.

On the left hand-side of the page there is a list of Search Filters which can help you narrow down your search.

When doing this search you may even bring up a Family Tree that has been put on A.L.E. by a member.

WARNING: Do not accept the information as complete truth! Look for sources and I mean sources other than another person's family tree. You can use this information as a stepping stone for further research not as a replacement for research.

Another warning is on the HOME page it states "Receive Records at Home" and "Send Your Find Home". Please know that if you do not have a subscription to, you will NOT be able to view the records you email yourself from A.L.E. What happens is that it sends you a link, which when you click on it, it will only open up if you have a subscription at home.

If you are looking for a specific type of record you can click on SEARCH and then the type of records  you would like to search.


For example: if you want to only research Census Records & Voter's List, click on this and it will take you to the Search Page.


You will see a SEARCH BOX....



The layout of this page is the same for all of the source collections.

Take the time to check out all the categories and read the collection Information. There is a lot of important and interesting information. For example, if you click on U.S. Federal Census Collection under NARROW BY CATEGORY, it will list all the different types of U.S. Census records and if you click on the different ones it will give you a brief history and some search tips.

After filling out the Search Box, click on search and a list of records that best match your data input will be shown.

Scroll over View Record on the left of the person's name and it will give you a synopsis of the record and below this a source citation and more information on the source.

 Click View Record and a digital image of the record will download for you to see.

This viewer has great search aids. If you are looking at a census record and need to scroll down the record, the heading titles will follow the page so you will know what information should be in that column.

 If you scroll from left to right, a left hand scroll will follow with your ancestor's name so you don't forget which line is his/hers.

The tools on the right hand side of the viewer are as follows:

The open box will put the screen in full screen mode.

 The arrow will list  information on the person.

 The Hammer and Wrench icon is for settings, such as, Printing, rotating, inverting, etc. The

Plus and Minus will enlarge or reduce the image.

The other categories: Birth, Marriage, Death; Military and Immigration; and Travel, all have similar tool aids when viewing the record.

The tool bar at the top also shows the topic MESSAGE BOARDS. You can use this to help find others who are researching the same topic or surname. It is helpful if you have run into a brick wall with your research, because sometimes you can get in touch with who has either faced this problem or is researching the same surname.

There is also the LEARNING CENTER where you will find search aids, maps & Wikis on all types of genealogical information.

You can also download and print blank charts & forms to help organize your research.

Remember, you must be in the library to access this database and if you have any questions about searching on this site, you can always ask any one of us at the Reference Desk to help you! The information you can find on Ancestry Library Edition is worth the trip!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time is running out to sign up!

There are still a few spots open for the Lock-In!

(Click on the Lock-In link toward the bottom of the page.)

The April Genealogy Lock-In is scheduled for the 22nd, Friday, from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

If you have never been to one of the Library's lock-ins, let me explain. The Lock-Ins are an after-regular-library-hours genealogy program where we bring in special speakers and spend the night talking about and researching genealogy. The Medina Library co-hosts them with the Medina County Genealogical Society, twice a year, once in April and once in September.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     This April, we are pleased to be offering a session on Researching your Polish Ancestry. Ben Kman of the Polish Genealogical Society of Cleveland will be our speaker. This is part of the Library's efforts to provide training on Eastern European roots, which Lisa and I do not have a lot of experience in. We know there is a need for it from the questions we get at the Reference Desk and during our sessions as the Genealogist is In! This presentation will run from 7-8 p.m. 
After a brief intermission to re-energize with some of the light refreshments provided by the Library, we resume at 9 with a second educational session.

This April, Lisa will be talking about Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), the library subscription database that is the sister site to Ancestry. com  ALE is very similar to the commercial database with some of the personalized options not available. And it is FREE from inside any of the Medina County District Library branches.

You do not have to stay the whole 4 hours.You do not have to come to the educational sessions.  You do have to be present to claim your door prize. You could spend the whole evening doing genealogy research using library computers and databases. Genealogical  society members and library staff will be on hand to help you. 

April Genealogy Lock-In

22 April - Friday
6:30-10:30 p.m.

You can sign up to attend it here: 


Door prizes, provided by the Library and the Medina County Genealogical
Society are awarded during the intermission. You must be present to win.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

NEW Medina County History Book

Established author and historian, Joann King, is launching her new book this Thursday April 7th, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Medina Library.

Medina County Coming of Age 1810 – 1900

A long-awaited NEW history book on Medina County that chronicles its earliest history. Uncovering new stories and including previously ignored segments of Medina's history, i.e. women and minorities. Joann will present her research, her findings and discuss the book at the event.

Guests should come to the Quiet Reading Room on the second floor of the Medina Library, located at 210 S. Broadway Street, from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm for the open house style event.

King is past president and curator of the  Medina County Historical Society. This is her third book about Medina County. She has also written:
  • “Building a Firm Foundation. Medina County Architecture 1811 – 1900”
  • “Letha E. House: From Foundling to Philanthropist”.

If you have not read her earlier books, you will enjoy her smooth easy reading style. As I have often told her, "Your history books read like fiction, they are so entertaining."

Remember: April 7 5- 8 p.m. Quiet Reading Room on the second floor of the Medina Library.
No registration required.

See you there!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An Adventure in Researching Birth Records

At the beginning of the year, I mentioned that one of my goals for 2016 was to work on my MASON family surname. And one of the first items on my "to-do" list for the MASONS research was to organize the information. This is a great way to discover what information is missing.

After organizing my files, I quickly discovered that a LOT of documentation was missing for some of my closest relatives. The birth, marriage & death dates were listed. But no documentation. This was because I couldn't afford the price of obtaining the documents for collateral lines, cousins, aunts and uncles. Until more recently.

No, I did not get a huge raise at the library, win the lottery, or inherit a fortune. It is just that a lot more information is more available. Ancestry Library Edition and helped fill in some of the gaps. But some of the information was too recent to be available online, for privacy reasons. Specifically, I was looking for the birth certificates for my mother's siblings; two brothers and one sister.

Luckily, here in Ohio you can obtain birth certificates for anyone born in Ohio after 1908 from your local health department. A certified copy costs $22. But, if you don't need a certified copy, and I didn't, you can request to see the certificate and then take a picture of it!

Example of a certified birth certificate.
Example of an "uncertified" Ohio birth certificate.
Look at all the information that is left off the certified copy!

So armed with their three names, dates of birth, places of birth and their parents names, I headed over to the Medina County Health Department on Ledgewood Drive (right next to WalMart).

Medina County Health Department, 4800 Ledgewood Drive, Medina.

The clerks in the Vital Statistics division of the Health Department are always very friendly and helpful. When you fill out the paperwork to request to see the copy of a birth certificate, write "For Genealogical Purposes" across the top. The clerks then know to not make a certified copy, but to just print it out. In Medina, they stamp "View Only" across the copy.

However, they could only find one of the birth certificates. The one for my Mom's younger brother, Charlie. They couldn't find the certificates for John Jr. nor Dixie. After their mother died, Dixie had been adopted by a family named Roberts. The clerk said I would have to know the adoptive mother's name to find her certificate. But John?  Why wasn't his certificate showing?

In certain places and times, compliance with the law to register births wasn't consistently followed. But during the 1930's compliance in Ohio was pretty complete, even in the cases of home births. Both my mother and Uncle Charlie had been born at home.

Elated at having at least one of the certificates, I went home to review my files to see if there was a piece of information missing that might help locate Uncle John's birth certificate. In all of the siblings' files was a printout from Ancestry Library Edition for the Ohio birth indexes. Uncle John's printout listed a file number. I checked Uncle Charlie's printout with the picture of the certificate and noticed the certificate number and file number were nearly identical!

Now armed with the certificate number, I made another trip to the Health Department. BINGO! They easily found Uncle John's certificate. Perplexed as to why it did not show up during the first search, the clerk looked in the index and found that he was indexed under the name Raymond Sherwood Mason, instead of John Sherwood Mason, Jr.!  Bizarre!

If not for the persistence of the clerk and myself, and using multiple sources, we wouldn't have found it!

Oh, and the clerk promised to fix the index.