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: http://mcdl.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=150&Itemid=98

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. http://www.archives.com/blog/miscellaneous/online-family-history-trends-1.html

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.