Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Elsie Bennett Wilson

Elsie Bennett Wilson

Elsie Bennett was born in the 1890’s in Medina to THE Bennett family. You know the ones that Bennett Lumber was named after.  Coming from a family of doers and achievers, Elsie did not let her gender hold her back in a day when women were considered “the weaker sex”.  She attended Mather College in Cleveland. She actively campaigned for women’s right to vote, believing it was important to maintain her dignity and femininity while doing so. She was a popular speaker on the Suffragette circuit. After passage of the 19th Amendment, she joined the League of Women Voters and became active in the Republican Party.  She served as a delegate to the 1932 Republican National Convention.

In 1925, she became a member of the board of trustees for the Franklin Sylvester Library and served until 1975. For those who aren’t “in the know”, the Franklin Sylvester Library is now known as the Medina Library. When the library expanded in 1975, the new addition was known as the Elsie Bennett Wilson Wing.  Her portrait hung in that wing until the library underwent renovation and expansion in 2006.

She also was a member of the Ohio Library Trustees Association and served as the group’s president from 1939 to 1947. In 1947 she was appointed to the State Library Board and served on that board until 1968. She was the first Hall of Fame Trustee inductee honored by the Ohio Library Council in 1970 and she has been inducted into the Medina City Schools Hall of Fame. She passed away in 1975.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sadie Green

Sadie Green – the Person


     Sadie Green was a pioneer woman in many ways.  When other women her age were getting married, having children and keeping house, Sadie decided to pursue a career in nursing.  When World War I broke out, Sadie Green was among the nurses who reported for duty as a Reserve Army Nurse and nursed soldiers back to health in England and France.  
      After the war, Sadie became Medina County’s third health nurse and she served in that capacity until 1935.  She is often mistakenly cited as Medina's First Health nurse, but there were two before her: Miss Constance Hanna, also a World War I nurse, served from May of 1920 through June of 1922, and Miss Musse served from December of 1922 until Sadie Green took over in November of 1924. As the County Health Nurse, Sadie checked the school children for tonsillitis, bad teeth and lice.  She would drive ill children home from school and even found foster homes for children that needed them.  She would visit area jails and nurse inmates. 
    For all of her pioneering accomplishments, Sadie was not a woman’s libber.  She once said, “I remember when women got the vote.  They were going to clean up politics and all they did was dirty up themselves.”
   After leaving the Medina County Health Department, Sadie worked at hospitals in Akron and Columbus before “retiring” to the Veteran’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.  There she continued to take care of “her boys” and painted. Sadie died in 1986 at the age of 101.

P.S. Sorry there wasn't a post last week. I was wrestling with bronchitis. I finally have it pinned to the mat...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Women's Clubs

March is Women's History Month and we are going to look at some specialized resources for researching our female ancestors, starting with Women's Clubs.

Women had been meeting in groups in churches from the earliest moments our country’s history.  But it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the women’s club movement as a non-secular entity really expanded.  
The Civil War forced women to become involved outside the home.  Women had to take care of the home front, manage the farms, run the shops, roll bandages, care for the wounded, raise money for uniforms and supplies, and other patriotic activities.  Indeed, it was a woman’s duty to participate in these activities.  Once the war was over, women wanted to continue meeting and improving their communities and their minds, as they had during the war.  
But men were not so accommodating.  Women interested in pursuing literary or educational opportunities often were discouraged. Women were not welcomed in most colleges and universities.
When Jennie June, editor of Demorest’s Illustrated Monthly (a women’s fashion magazine that carried household hints) attempted to attend a Press Club dinner in honor of Charles Dickens, she was discouraged by the men of the club.  Even after Horace Greeley refused to preside over the dinner unless the ladies were allowed in, the best the club would offer is to let some of the women attend if they sat behind a curtain!

Perhaps the first women’s group, the Sorosis Club, was formed in New York City in 1868 as a direct result of this snubbing.  The club’s purpose was “to teach women to think for themselves and get their opinions first hand, not so much because it is their right as because it is their duty.” The club objective was “to promote agreeable and useful relations among women of literary and artistic tastes…entirely independent of sectionalism or partisanship.”
The women’s club movement gained momentum as word spread through family contacts and visits.  As the movement became more popular, newspaper editorials vilified the women as self-indulgent and neglectful of their domestic responsibilities for meeting for an hour once a month outside the home.
Because men’s club rooms and public meeting places were not available to the women, they met in each other’s homes.  This necessitated that the groups remained small, 10-12 women at the most. While the groups were known by many different names, what they had in common was the kinds of activities they participated in: self improvement through educational programs, service to the community, and activities related to women’s work.  Often these goals were couched in the notion that better educated mothers made for better educated and more responsible future citizens. 
Not to be overlooked was the social component in these clubs.  They afforded women who often worked in isolation in the home or on the family farms an opportunity to meet and socialize with other women with similar interests. 
Some groups used guest speakers to fill their programs.  But most clubs insisted that the members research and present their own programs.  This practice improved their members’ skills as speakers and educators.  For many women, their participation in a women’s club was their only experience in public speaking.  Occasionally, a group would designate a teacher or librarian to critique each speaker’s performance. This was not a popular practice! 
Eva Johnson

Miss Johnson was the librarian at the Medina Library from 1887 to 1927.  This made her a natural choice to be the club’s “critic.”  It was the critic’s job to point out any errors in facts or pronunciation in a member’s presentation of a topic.  It was often an unpopular position to hold.  Miss Johnson died after a car accident in 1940 at the age of  86.  She was a member of the Medina Sorosis as well as the Medina Co-Workers Club.  Mrs. Lila Thayer, also of the Club, was her sister.

The clubs took their missions very seriously.  Women could not bring their sewing or knitting to club meetings.  The time was to be exclusively devoted to listening, learning and talking.  Members were not allowed to miss their turn as speaker without a doctor’s note!  But the domestic home front was not to be neglected.  Many clubs only met from September through June, so the women could be home during the summer school recess. One local club fined their members $2 if they served dinner late on club meeting days!
Afternoon Club from 2 May 1969 Medina Gazette

In 1898, the Afternoon Club of Medina  was formed.  It is believed to be the oldest woman’s club in the county.  Just a year later, 1899, the Medina Coterie was formed.  Both of these clubs are still active and thriving.

The Montville Co-Workers Women’s Club was one of thousands of such clubs across the country.  Formed in 1922, it started with 24 members.  The Montville Club paid dues to County and State organizations. Although the records do not name these regional groups the state group was likely the Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs and the county group was called the County Federation of Farm Women’s Clubs.  In 1965, the Montville Club ceased to exist due to “lack of interest.” 

Montville Co-Workers Club, a Farm-women's Club of Medina County, Ohio lists all the members of the club throughout its existence, in whose home they met and what the monthly programs were about.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wilda Bell Howard

Wilda Bell Howard 
Wilda Bell Howard was a remarkable woman who contributed much to the City of Medina, the Second Baptist Church, and Medina's Black community.

Learn more about this incredible woman by clicking on the following links:

A Medina Post YouTube video:

Her listing on that includes her obituary:

A Medina Gazette article with many charming photographs:

Do you have any memories of Wilda Bell that you would like to share?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Genealogist is NOT In!

There will not be a genealogist in on Tuesday February 24th because of staff meetings at another location. Check back with us in March!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Julia Williams

Julia Williams
Circa 1846-1937

The Works Progress Administration did many incredible things to provide work during the Great Depression. One of the projects was to document the lives of the African Americans who were born into slavery. On 10th of June 1937, Forest Lees interviewed Julia Williams who lived in Wadsworth.

Julia (MACK) Williams was born into slavery around 1846 near Richmond, Virginia. After the Civil War and Emancipation, Julia reunited with the rest of her family. She married Richard Williams in the south around 1868.

In 1876, the Wadsworth area experienced a series of coal  mine strikes. To break the strike, the owners imported hundreds of African Americans from Virginia. Among them was Richard Williams. When the miners discovered what the owners had done, they threatened retaliation on the strike breakers. The mine owners built blockades and dormitories for the imported workers. Some of the workers, fearing for their lives, returned to the south. Others, like Richard, sent for their families and put down roots in the area.

The Williams family were founding members of the First Baptist Church in Wadsworth.* The census tells us that neither Richard of Julia could read or write. They had a large family. Richard worked in the mines for many years before becoming a laborer for the Wadsworth Streets Department. He died 19 February 1915.

It was fortunate that the WPA workers interviewed Julia, as she died just six months later:

Medina County Gazette  3 December 1937 page 6.

Julia tells about her life as a slave in this interview:,+Julia)) 

*Wadsworth Center to City Eleanor Iler Schapiro, editor. 1938.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Joseph Reno

As a rule, it can be difficult to trace the lives of African Americans in the 19th Century. But there are exceptions. Here is one from Medina's History:

Joseph Reno
Joseph Reno was born in Champaign County, Ohio circa 1812 to Francis & Rachel (Magee) Reno. He married Anna King in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio on 11 Aug. 1830 and moved to Medina by 1840.

In the 1840 census for Medina, Ohio, Joseph Reno's household includes 2 Black people: a male, 24-35 years old, most likely Joseph and one female, aged 10-24 years old, probably Anna.

In the 1850 Census, Joseph is entered as a Mulatto; age 36, born in Ohio; Occupation, barber; personal property valued at $1600; Rhoda, aged 34; born in Ohio; race not indicated, and Abram Reno, aged 27, listed as mulatto; barber; $800 in personal property.

In the May 22, 1855 Medina County Gazette: "J.H. Maxell and Alex McClure have purchased the space next to the Exchange Buildings formerly occupied by Jo. Reno, and intend to erect a splendid store, three stories high, immediately."

For the 1860 census in Medina County, Joseph is listed as 45 years old (no race indicated). He is a barber, with property valued at $1500. "Roda" is age 43.

Joseph's mother, Rachel (Magee) Reno, died in Medina on 22 May 1864 at his home.

In the History of Medina County and Ohio (1881) on page 248:
      "At another time a larceny had been committed in Medina, and Joseph Reno, a colored man, had ferreted out the thief and arrested him, and fearing that he might not be allowed to testify on account of his color, so induced the criminal to confess in the presence of a white witness as to effect his conviction. Reno was offered as a witness and the State offered to show he was more than half white, but Judge Dean would not hear any such proof and decided that, by "inspection" Reno was a "negro" and refused to allow him to testify. At that time, by the laws of Ohio "negroes and mulattoes" were not competent witnesses where a white man was a party."

In a March 1870 Gazette -- "Joe" Reno an old colored man at the American House, known to all the world and the rest of mankind as just the best fellow in the world to have around a hotel, and whose jovial countenance is never invisible, though under a cloud, celebrated the adoption of the 15th Amendment by taking a trip to Cleveland, stopping with his old friend Terrell of the Forest City House. We trust he had a pleasant visit."   Terrell was a previous manager of the American House.

And just a month later, also in the Gazette:
"At the election in this village last Monday, Mr. Joseph Reno - everybody knows "Joe" - cast his first vote. Sixty years old, and a taxpayer for may years, he now comes into the exercise of a right which all men are bound to respect. It is needless to say that Joseph voted a straight Republican ticket."  During this time period, the Republican party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, was considered favorably by the African American Community.

For the 1870 Medina County Census, Joseph was listed as a Mulatto, but now his occupation was listed as "Domestic Servant". In the house with him, is Hannah, aged 40 with Personal Property worth $4380. Also listed is May, aged 15, Mulatto, Mandy age 9, Mulatto and Elena, age 1, Mulatto. 

The relationship between Joseph and the people he lived with is never defined. His wife, Anna, never shows up by name in the census records with him. Joseph Reno is not listed in the index for marriage or divorce records for this time period.

The next time we see Joseph's name in the newspaper is 28 June 1872:

Erastus Hitchcock and another youth were firing a pistol across from the American House. Joseph confronted the young men about their reckless behavior as they were disturbing the peace and upsetting a sick child. They refused. Joseph then struck Hitchcock with a broom handle that he used as a cane. Erastus fired at Joe, but missed. But the second shot didn't miss.

Joseph was able to dictate his statement, before he died:

In a time period when minorities and women were largely ignored in the local press, The Medina Gazette dedicated 4 paragraphs to Joe's obituary on July 5th:

We are still searching for where Joseph Reno was buried.

1875 Medina Gazette: "Erastus Hitchcock, who was sentenced to the Penitentiary for six years for shooting Joe REno, was pardoned last week."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, we will be focusing on African American Genealogy Sources and Medina County African Americans of Note.

The following resources are offering free access to these African American genealogical sources for the month of February:
Black History Collection - Free Access

Fold3 is offering free access to:

  • "Colored" Troop Service Records
  • Court Slave Records
  • Amistad Records
  • Slave Registry
  • Anti-Slavery Records
Ohio Memory

The Ohio History Connection is offering free access to their Siebert Collection:
For those who don't know, Prof. Wilbur H. Siebert spent a large portion of his life documenting the Underground Railroad system in Ohio and was the foremost expert on the subject.

Mapping The Freedmen's Bureau

Mapping the Freedmens Bureau gives advice on how to search the Freedmens Bureau for information on African Americans in the years right after the Civil War.

Ancestry has launched an African American Research Center and access is free for this month:

Just a reminder that you don't have to have African American ancestry to benefit from these records, Aboltionists, UGRR stops and bankers names also show up in these records.

Happy Researching!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sleigh Ride Follow-Up

On Dec. 16th, I posted about the Great Sleigh Ride of 1856, in which Medina County was declared the winner  and won a banner. Years later, the banner "disappeared." Some additional information has been discovered about the fate of the banner.

A 1964 Daily Leader Post article said that the banner was turned over to Summit County Board of Agriculture at the Centennial 4th of July Celebration in 1876. That story does not give a reason why Medina surrendered the flag to Summit County. However, a history of the Medina County Fair, tells a slightly different story.

In 1878, the Medina Fair moved from a smaller site to its present location between Lafayette and Smith Roads in Medina. One of the prizes given out at the fair that year was the Sleigh Banner, which was to go to the county that could bring the largest delegation to the Medina Fair. Summit County won and their Board of Agriculture took home the banner.

Summit County Fair Board, the descendant organization of the Summit County Board of Agriculture, is looking for anyone who knows what happened to the banner. Have you seen it??

A very entertaining account of the sleigh riding competitions of the winter of 1855-56, can be found on pages 75-85 of Those Were The Days by Charles Asa Post. Published in 1935, the main text is about the sleigh races that were routinely held on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland from the 1870s through 1910. But this one chapter is about the earlier competition.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Genealogy Television

The last 5 years has produced a boon in genealogy television shows.

Lisa Kudrow brought the British show  (WDYTYA) to the U.S. in 2010 and even after changing networks, that show is still going strong. I do love this show and its emphasis on documentation. I have issues with its heavy reliance on using, one of the sponsors of the shows. Also, jet-setting off to Europe to do research isn't available to most of us, and really isn't necessary to research your immigrant ancestors.  That scenario could be intimidating to a new genealogist. WDYTYA? will start airing new episodes on February 24th.

Another British import, Genealogy Roadshow, building on the popularity of Antiques Roadshow, as well as WDYTYA? and Finding Your Roots,  first went on the air in 2013. They try to cover a number of guests in a short period of time. I often feel there is more to the story that I am missing. It airs on Tuesday nights and is in the middle of its 2015 episodes.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., after hosting the HUGELY popular African American Lives and Faces of America, started hosting  Finding Your Roots in 2012. I love the scholarly air Professor Gates brings to the show. Also, the show doesn't try to pretend that the guest is doing any of the research themselves. And he brings genealogy DNA into the search.  It airs September- November.

All of these shows touch and educate me with every episode and I try not to miss a single one!

But not all genealogy shows find their audience. Thanks to streaming TV, and DVDs these now defunct shows are still available:

The Canadian show, Ancestors in the Attic only lasted its initial season in 2007. Flavored more like tabloid TV than a serious show, it promises to dig up the family secrets, find the dirt, and reveal if your ancestors were sinners or saints, royals or rogues. If you want to get a sample of the cheesy host, YouTube the episode on Sheila Nageira Pike.   I can see why it didn't last.

HBO's Family Tree, starring Chris Dowd, premiered and tanked in 2013. Being a fan of Chris Dowd, I had high hopes for Family Tree and ordered in the DVD set. Billed as a "mockumentary" the show was a parody of the other popular genealogy shows, particularly WDYTYA? It wasn't quite as funny as I hoped and I can only recommend it if you are a fan of Dowd.

Episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your Roots, African American Lives, and Faces of America are available through the library.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Genealogy as Investigation

I have often thought that genealogy research has a lot in common with crime investigation. In both occupations, the "investigator" is searching for clues to the whereabouts and actions of people. In the case of genealogy research, most of the people are long dead and the records can be mislaid or destroyed. But many of the same principles apply.

Barry J. Ewell, in his 10 Jan. 2015 newsletter, is comparing Sherlock Holme's investigative techniques to genealogy research. Check it out below:

And as a genealogist do you also like reading mysteries, watching crime dramas, and solving puzzles?? I do! List some of your favorite investigative activities below:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Genealogy New Year's Resolutions

With the New Year comes the opportunity for a fresh start. Hence the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions. I hereby resolve to..... lose weight, save more money, be nicer to XYZ, or whatever.

It can also be a time to make genealogy resolutions, or goals. If you define a particular goal, you are much more likely to obtain it, or at least make progress towards attaining it.

My New Year's Genealogy Resolution for 2014 was to apply to a Lineage Society. Although, I have been dong genealogy research for over 35 years, I had never really entertained the thought of applying to a lineage society. I felt that it was a gimmick to allow snobs to brag about their illustrious ancestors.

But then, a dear friend, Pat Morgan, explained that it is really about having your genealogy research examined and judged by your peers. While I often have shared my research with relatives (whether they wanted me to or not!), I hadn't really shared my work with my genealogy peers.

I decided which society to apply to, The Society of Civil War Families of Gallia County, and which ancestor, William Preston Williams. I chose this ancestor, because he is just one step away from qualifying me for  First Families of Gallia County. I printed up the online application and started pulling together the pertinent records. Surprisingly, there were some basic records that I didn't have, like my own marriage record. I had the certificate that the minister filed out and handed to us, but not the legal record. And some copies of records needed to be replaced because the original copy was too faded to be used. I also contacted others who had already applied so that I could use their applications as guidelines.

And then I stalled... I haven't really worked on it in months. Other obligations and interests intervened. A very common phenomenon in genealogy research. It happens to me quite often.  The files are still there. I just need to organize them, cite my sources, fill out the application  and send it in.

So my New Year's resolution for 2015, is to finish the Lineage Society Application. And to forgive myself for not getting it done in 2014...

What is your  resolution??

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...

..Jingle All the Way!
Oh, What Fun,
It is to Ride,
In a one-horse
Open Sleigh!!

No one rides in sleighs anymore, one-horse or otherwise, unless they are at some Winter Carnival or Festival.  But 158 years ago, everyone traveled by sleighs during the winter months, the slick, metal runners cutting through the snow. And the winter of 1855-56 was a very snowy, protracted winter.

More than a little bored, the residents of northeast Ohio turned to friendly competition to stir up a little excitement. The idea was that the township or county who arrived at a given destination with the MOST four-horse teams was the winner. And the prize? A muslin banner featuring a rustic man thumbing his nose and the words "You Can't Come It" on it. The prize was passed back and forth during February and March of 1856, with various winners through-out. On March 14, 462 sleighs converged on Richfield. Summit County was the winner with 171 teams. They took home the banner.

A few days later, Medina County sent out a challenge. "Beat us if you can!" And on March 18th, 182 Medina teams pulled into Akron, capturing the banner. That very day, the weather turned and there were no more sleighing days.
Western Reserve Magazine Nov-Dec 1980, p.25

Medina kept the banner. Some say that over time, the banner was lost or destroyed. But going through the library's clippings file revealed a very different ending for the banner. Purportedly, the banner was brought out for local festivities, including the Centennial Celebration on 4th of July 1876. After that it disappeared. But a January 29, 1964 article in the Daily Leader Post says that during that 4th of July celebration, the banner was presented to the Summit County Board of Agriculture "for safekeeping."

So, did they keep it safe? Is it still in their possession in Akron?? I have contacted the Summit County Fair Board to see if they have any record of the banner. Stay tuned for further developments...

Monday, December 8, 2014


Genealogists love to use newspaper obituaries to further their genealogical research. Obituaries help verify date and place of death. And if you are really lucky, it will tell the details of a person's life that otherwise have to be gleaned from many different sources. Besides death information, obituaries can list date and place of birth, parents and siblings names, spouses and children's names, occupation, hobbies and organization membership. On the flip side of that coin is the obituary that simply states "Mrs. John Smith died last Tuesday."

The Medina County District Library’s obituary index is an ongoing project to index the obituaries and death notices appearing in the Medina County Gazette and the Medina Sentinel.   Library volunteers have started indexing the Sentinel death notices also, but they have a long way to go.

The Obituary Index covers obituaries, death notices and probate notices that have appeared in the Medina County Gazette since the 1850’s.  Not every individual who died in Medina County has an obituary in the Gazette or Sentinel. Some families preferred to have the death notices listed in other publications. And when the Gazette started charging for printing obituaries, some families decided not to incur that expense.  And prior to the 1870’s, any kind of death notice was unusual and reserved for only the most prominent citizens of the county. Children, women and minorities are under-represented in the early newspapers. 

In the past, library users traveled from across the country to consult the obituary index, hoping to locate their ancestors. Now that the index is computerized and available on the library web site, requests for copies of the obituaries come in from around the world. Most often, library members consult the index to locate death dates of their ancestors for genealogical purposes.  However, it is also used by attorneys for the purpose of settling estates and historians for research purposes.

The index is available online at:

There have been some unusual death notices in the Gazette:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Not His Father's Son

Not My Father’s Son 

Alan Cummings, Broadway, movie/TV star, and host of Masterpiece Theatre, describes the emotional roller coaster he experiences as the staff of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? explores his family’s roots at the same time as his estranged, abusive and probably crazy father reveals that Alan is not his son. Alan remembers his abusive childhood and his escape from his father as a teenager as well as his warm, affectionate relationship with his mother, Mary Darling, and his brother Tom. Alan’s father is dying of cancer and is afraid the TV show will reveal the secret he planned to take to the grave with him. This is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the show or of Alan.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Just the facts, ma'am...

Genealogy is all about uncovering facts about individuals. We don't often talk about statistics. But today we will.

In 1995 a study revealed that genealogy research is the number two search on the Internet, right after pornography. Which, as Cyndi Howell once pointed out, makes sense because you can't have genealogy without involving sex (although I am not convinced that an interest in pornography actually represents an interest in reproduction...)

Genealogy demographics tells us that the typical genealogist is female and over the age of 50.  And we see this at the Library' Reference Desk, in genealogy classes, genealogy conferences and at the Genealogy Lock-Ins.

There are a number of theories as to why this is: more discretionary spending money; wanting to leave behind a lasting legacy; or my personal theory, that women like to network with other people. 

Twice this week I have been reminded that these statistics just represent the Average genealogist, but do not represent every genealogist. Both interactions involved long-time library users who had quietly being doing genealogy research for some time without asking for help. One was an older gentleman of 60+ and the second was a younger man, 30-40 age range. The youngest library member who identified himself as a genealogist was a 14 year library volunteer. None of these library users fit the typical genealogist demographic. I will try to remember that for the future.

My own journey into genealogy started on my wedding day, as I was introducing my brand new husband to my relatives in the receiving line. I was trying to explain how I was related to my Aunt Gini, who was not a sister to either of my parents or my grandparents. So just how was I related to her? Trying to sort out my relationship to my living relatives grew into searching for my dead relatives, as it often does. 

And how did your genealogy quest begin??

P.S. "Aunt" Gini is my Mom's first cousin on her mother's side.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"An Inside Look at Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr."

The above titled article appears in the Fall 2014 issue of American Ancestors, a genealogy magazine published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) on pages 24-29. The president of NEHGS, Brenton Simons, interviewed Henry Louis Gates, Jr, the creator and host of the very popular Finding Your Roots television program. The whole article is very illuminating and a worthwhile read.

One section in particular encapsulates what genealogy research has done for me. Simons asks "What does the viewer draw from these discoveries?" And Dr. Gates replies "The point of these stories is that your family tree personalizes American history in a way that textbooks never could. There's no way any of these individuals could look at any aspect of the history that I've just explained their ancestors were involved in, in the same way again."

The library's copy of American Ancestors can be found in the Franklin Sylvester Room for anyone who wants to read the complete article.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgivings Past

How Americans celebrate Thanksgiving has changed A LOT over the years. From the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts with the Pilgrims sitting down to eat with the Wampanoag to today's parade watching, football cheering, food orgy, and Christmas shopping kick-off.

How Medina has celebrated Thanksgiving has also changed over the years as these following newspaper clippings from The Medina Gazette illustrate:

From 1870, a very low key celebration:

Charity was still alive and well in 1937:

 This article was right next to one that listed at whose homes different Medina residents were eating their turkeys.

As was feasting....

Check out those prices!!

By 1955, all types of businesses had started to find ways to cash in on the holiday...
And anticipate the Christmas shopping season:

However you chose to celebrate, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and yours!!

Monday, November 24, 2014


Here at the library, we notice a lull in genealogy researching from mid-November through the New Year as the genealogists are just as busy with the holidays as anyone else. And then there will be a rush mid-January, because of new leads to follow up on from conversations around the dinner table discussing family stories. We all know that the conversations will take place, but how many of us are prepared??  Prepared?? What do I mean by that??

The conversations around the dinner table or during football half-times are really informal genealogy interviews. And we should prepare for them as such. Create a quick genealogy kit that includes pencils/pens, notebook, blank ancestry & family group sheets, paper clips, your camera or smartphone and a list of questions that you want answered. And to get the ball rolling, think about bringing some old family photos to jog people’s memories.

So this holiday season, when you are packing up the pies, hams and turkeys, also remember to pack your quick genealogy kit. Then you will ready when great Uncle Bob starts regaling everyone with stories from his time in Korea.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancestry's Commercials

Have you noticed that has changed their advertisement?? Remember how their commercial used to say "You don't have to know what you're looking for. You just have to look."? Well, that just enraged many, many professional genealogists & librarians. YES! You do have to know what you're looking for or you will end up with a very fractured, inaccurate family history! So many us of groaned and moaned for several years. I don't know if Ancestry heard our complaints or it was just time for a new commercial, but their ads have changed.

Now they proclaim that their leaf, that shows up to lead to possible new links, is "called a hint." This is much better! See the link:!client/ancestry-com

But if you have ever been to Gettysburg, you know that this re-enactment in their commercial is inaccurate on many levels. First of all, the ad shows a relatively flat landscape and Gettysburg has rolling hills. The place was packed the day of Lincoln's speech. And there are no concretely proved pictures of Lincoln giving his address.

There is one very blurry photo that pictures a very tall man surrounded by throngs of people, most of whom are other men. Lincoln is suppossed to be the bare headed man in the middle. And it could be. But the picture is so blurry that it could be any tall man. To me, that man's face is fuller than any other depiction I have ever seen of Lincoln. This picture is at the Smithsonian and is attributed to Photograph: Mathew B Brady/Bettmann/Corbis

Also, the scenario with the photographer is bogus. I haven't researched it myself, but others have:

After all this complaining it is only fair to state that I do not hate Ancestry.  It is one of my favorite genealogy databases and I use the Library Edition nearly every day at work and for my personal research.

Some people may see the criticisms as harsh and too bogged down in details. But genealogy research is all about the details. And if you are the #1 genealogy company in the world you better get them right!