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!

Saturday, November 15, 2014


The Medina Library is very fortunate to have a large collection of Medina High School Yearbooks. The earliest dates to 1913. We thank the many, many people who donate them to the library! One member (you know who you are, Anne!) calls me whenever she sees Medina yearbooks at any of the antique shops. Thank you also!

A few years are missing from our collection. So if you frequent antique shops or flea markets, keep an eye out for these years: 1934, 1959, 1966, 1976, 1994, 1999.  

Think about this for a minute...

Tracking down the yearbook for your great grandparents. First, there will be a picture. Probably a photo that you have never seen before. You will discover what school activities they were involved in. Was your grandfather the class president or the class clown??  Was grandma in the dramatic club or the Honor Society? You will see their fellow students. Did any of them play a role in your grandparents lives after school? You just don't know what you will discover!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Are you a huge fan of the Finding Your Roots television show like I am?  Do you try to NEVER miss an episode? That would be me!

But I work every Tuesday night, and so I never see the episodes as they are aired. Luckily for me, and anyone else who has a standing Tuesday night commitment, PBS, who hosts the show, makes the episodes available on their website,

I am watching the current episode that aired just last night on my iPad during my breaks. And I can catch up on the ones I missed while I was on vacation. Don't you just LOVE PBS??

Monday, November 10, 2014


But not tomorrow! Tomorrow is November 11th and all of the Medina County District Libraries are closed for Staff Development Day. Once every two years the library dedicates one day to training their staff on new library developments and technology. We see fellow staff members that we never get to see and we network about system-wide issues. It is a very rewarding day!

But every other Tuesday for the past year, either Lisa Rienerth or I, has staffed the Franklin Sylvester Room from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. We answer members genealogy questions, great and small. From "My father's cousin's grandson is what relation to me?", to "Help me find my immigrant grandfather who stowed away on a boat."  Last week I worked on a version of the later question and it was a fascinating journey for both of us. The great grandfather was Greek and we did find his home town and date of naturalization. And we were thrilled!

These sessions are challenging and gratifying. For the newbies, we get an opportunity to start them on the path to a incredible journey of discovery. For the seasoned researcher, we offer a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective on their problem. For the member with a brick wall, we often refer them to resources and archives they did not know about.

But, PLEASE, don't arrive at a quarter til 4 and expect us to do miracle work for you! We're good, but we are not miracle workers!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

In Honor of Veterans' Day

In honor of Veterans Day, the Medina County Veterans Service Center is displaying military items in the cabinets outside of the Franklin Sylvester Room. These items date from World War II. It is a wonderful display and highlights many of the services the center offers to our local veterans.  Remember to thank a veteran for serving our country.

Wonder why the cigarettes???  They were included in the C Rations handed out to soldiers and sailors. Common perception at the time was that smoking cigarettes was calming in times of stress. More information can be found here:  My father, who joined the US. Navy near the end of the war always smoked Lucky Strikes. I wonder if this is the reason why. Luckily, this practice was discontinued in 1972.

The Sep/Oct 2014 issue of Family Chronicle Magazine talks about how sending cigarettes overseas to the soldiers was considered a vital part of the war effort during World War II.

I am so glad that the practice of handing cigarettes to service members was discontinued before four of my siblings and I served in the military!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jean Cooper Post Card Collection

Jean Cooper, a long time library volunteer, donated her collection of Medina Post Cards to the local history collection. Focusing strongly on post cards of Medina City Schools, the collection also depicts local landmarks and industries. Originally kept in a 3-ring binder, the collection will eventually be digitized. For now it is on display in the cabinets inside the Franklin Sylvester Room. Take a look! How many of the buildings do you recognize?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You might be a genealogist if...

How many of you are fans of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if…” comedy routine? Okay, I am probably revealing my own ancestral background. LOL! But how about adapting it for genealogy? As you might imagine, I am not the first one to think of this.  But here is my list:

You might be a genealogist if...

·           Your children fling their arms out the car window yelling “Cemetery!” every time you pass one.
·        You have a room in your house dedicated to family history files. 
    You troll Amazon listings looking for the latest genealogy books.
·        You have a poster-sized family tree chart hanging on your wall.
·        Your vacations are planned around family research trips.
·        You have had your DNA tested.
·        You have stayed up half the night looking for "just one more record!"
·        You know the two letter abbreviation for every US state.
·        You know every county in your state.
·        You know how to use 6 different types of microfilm machines.
·        You have already written your own obituary. And the obituaries of all your closest family members.
·        You know which channels, nights and times Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots  are on.
·        You cry at the end of every episode of Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots .
·        You know that genealogy is an addiction. And you don’t care!
And finally…

 Feel free to add your own!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New microfilm machines at the Medina Library


The new STImaging microfilm machines at the Medina Library

In October the Medina Library purchased two new microfilm machines. 
The library staff are still learning many of the new features but we would be thrilled to show you how to use them. The new machines use a large format screen and computer to manipulate the images. It is the software that comes with the package that does all the magic. 

Besides being able to view, print and save images, you can send the image to your drop box, Google Drive or Family Search. And the options for editing the image are incredible.

Call the library at 330-722-4257 to set up a one-on-one session to learn how to use the NEW STImaging microfilm machines!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DAR Patriot Index

Good morning!
Yesterday, a co-worker asked me where the library's  DAR Patriot Index was. It was still listed in the catalog and a member was asking for it. The co-worker, being very efficient, had already checked all the possible and improbable places looking for it. I remembered the set but couldn't remember where it was until later.

I had discarded it (and somehow not removed it from the catalog) because of various postings like this one: that said that all the records were now online at the DAR web site: and that the old printed indexes were inaccurate and had soldiers listed whose service had been disproved.

This information was relayed to our member who replied that she has had trouble with the online index not listing ancestors for whom she has proved Revolutionary War Service.

Has anyone else had problem with the online DAR Patriot Index? Should printed indexes be retained when they have been superseded by online indexes?

Weigh in with your experiences and opinions!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Librarians Seminar at OGS

Just came back from the Ohio Genealogical Society's Annual Librarians Seminar on October 17th. They had a full house of participants and a full house of presenters. A great day as always! I always come away from these seminars fired up with great new ideas to try out. THIS year I am going to find the time to implement some of them!

Tom Neel, Library Director for OGS, did a interesting presentation on Court House Records. I have already used information I learned from Tom.

Derek Davey of Toledo talked about Social Media and Libraries. He is the one who got me fired up to resurrect this blog. Let's see if we can get this site rolling! He really emphasized that we need to remember that the new genealogists are very tech savvy and we need to move beyond the brick & mortar mentality. Once we engage them virtually, we can get them in the doors!

Aaron Turner, yearbook czar for OGS, talked about Omeka software for content management. He used it to digitize the Ohio Story radio program scripts. For someone with next to no money, Omeka is a great option.

Phil Sager of Ohio History Connection and Marcus Ladd of Miami University talked about Contentdm of OCLC. It is expensive and you do it their way or you don't do it. It is very locked down. Did I mention that it is very expensive???

Michael Sabiers put in a plug for Office 365 products.

Eric Honnefer is the Document Conservator for Bowling Green State University, Center for Archival Collections. He shared important resources for archival supplies and standards. He shared anectdotes from his many years of experience  and was a very entertaining speaker.

I would ask that the organizers use a less offensive image to adorn their promotional flyer for this program next year...