Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Genealogy Gratitude

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and at our dinner table we will each share what we are grateful for from the past year. Your family may have a similar tradition.

With that in mind, I want to share what about genealogy I am grateful for:

1. First, foremost, ever most important - my Family!  As a new wife almost 40 years ago, sorting out my living family was what peaked my interest in genealogy. Both my parents were products of blended families and had step siblings and half siblings galore. Then, our parents instilled in us the habit of calling any of their relatives from their generation as "Aunt" and "Uncle" as a sign of respect. Sorting out the cousins from all the blended siblings was my first task.

Also, my family continues to support my obsession in many ways. They've traveled with me to cemeteries and ancestral lands. They have proof read the family histories. They help me scan and capture old photos. They listen to my frustration when the research isn't going well. They have helped me break through some brick walls. But most importantly, they continue to share the family stories with me. Ones that I have forgotten or happened after I left home.


2. - In 1938 the Genealogical Society of Utah began to microfilm records which contained genealogical data from around the world. Most of that microfilm is now digitized and being indexed. This makes it possible to sit at my desk in Medina and search vital rcords in Sicily. THAT is cool! Just last week I used their site to track down probate records that proved the parentage of a man born in 1819 in Perry County, Ohio. It is my preferred search site.

THANK YOU TO FAMILYSEARCH.ORG! - this site relies on volunteers who photograph the tombstones and detail the graves in cemeteries around the world. If I want a quick way to track down a death date for someone, I go here first. It isn't perfect or complete. The death usually had to happen within the last 150 years for the tombstones to be readable. Not every cemetery has been canvased and even within a cemetery, not every tombstone has been photographed. Volunteers can add obituary and family information. CAUTION: This would not be considered primary source information. Verify what you find in other documents. Sometimes, the volunteers are not willing to change information they have uploaded, even when it is proved to be wrong.


4. Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) - This the library edition of the popular commercial database, It gives me access to the best parts of the subscription database without having to pay the monthly fees. I just have to access it at the library, which is one of my favorite places to be anyway! I prefer using ALE to access census records and directories. I will look at the family trees that have been uploaded, but I have found so many errors in them that I analyze them carefully. I only use what information can be verified in other records.


5. Connecting to distant cousins.. Between online sharing, Facebook and old-fashioned letter writing for genealogy research, I have connected to cousins as far away as England and as near as 10 miles down the road. I have not yet met the British cousins, or the Tennessee, Texas or Alabama cousins, but I just ran into the Medina cousin again at the Candlelight Walk this weekend. We knew each other through another group we both belong to for two years before we discovered we are indeed, cousins. Fifth cousins once removed to be exact. Hello Sharon!



6. Newspaper research. I love the little life details you can find in newspapers. Did you know that my 3X great grandfather was considered quite the storyteller in his local GAR group (Civil War veterans' organization)? I found that out in a newspaper article! My Uncle Jack regularly appeared in the local paper due to his top bowling scores. Another newspaper article! I covered the best online newspaper resources in a previous post: Newspaper articles 

So, this busy Thanksgiving Day when you are counting all of your life blessings, include some of your genealogical gold nuggets!



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Great War

It was called the Great War and the War to End All Wars. But that was before we started numbering "The Great Wars". Now it is known as World War I. And it gave birth to Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, when at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, all the guns went silent.

Courtney Lawrence

And Medina sent its share of boys to that war, to the trenches in France, and the gas bombed fields of Europe. Courtney Lawrence was the first to fall. Medina's American Legion Post is called the Courtney Lawrence Post in his honor. A residential street in Medina is named for him. But he was just the first.

In all, almost 500 Medina boys and men went into World War I. 42 never came back.

They wrote letters back home, some of which were published in the Medina Gazette. Boys like Lawrence Dole who wrote about arriving in England, Clarence Gardner  who was in the signal corps at Wright Aviation Field, or  Franklin Clark who went to flying school in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Today, we are going to talk about one of the heroes of the war, a young 17 year old boy from Leroy, named Leland Wright. I happened across an editorial on his service, entitled "A Real Hero. Leroy Lad in Rainbow Division Fought on Six Fronts" in the June 6th 1919 Medina Gazette on page 4. The names of the battles he fought in are meaningless to me, as they probably would be to most of you. He talks about seeing hard fighting at Champagne and losing 150 men "under the fire of the fiendish Germans" Next they moved to Chateau Thierry and lost 100 more men. He was wounded here, but they were so short of men that he "endured the pain, fixed himself up and so avoid reporting for a sick or wounded call." The need was so great.

Next, at Oureq, they lost 50 men. The spent their furlough (leave or vacation) at the St. Mihiel front with "the loss of only 50 men." At the Argonne-Meuse front they lost 25 men. They then went to the Sedan front and they lost 175 men.

He relates, "Our numbers were becoming less each day and the horror of it all was but a passing thought then -- we were too busy to grieve."

Leland, or Lee, as he was sometimes known, came home and restarted his life. In the 1920 census, he is listed as still living with his parents and was a farmer. He married and started having a family. In the 1930 census he is listed as a "junk dealer" at a wrecking yard. By the time the next census came around, Leland was dead, having succumbed in March of 1940. His death notice is extremely brief and to the point "Died -- at his home in Creston, on Saturday, March 9, Lee Wright, aged 40 years."

I'd like to know what he died of at the age of 40. Was it related to the wound he received in WWI? Had he been gassed, as so many were? Was it related to post-traumatic stress, that wasn't really recognized yet? Or was it some more "natural" cause?

His tombstone is listed here; Tombstone Listing
A simple plaque marks Leland's grave

My co-worker Lisa was able to find Leland's death certificate on the FamilySearch web site by looking under his nickname, Lee Wright.

He died of a pulmonary abscess with acute pulmonary hemorrhage.
He had been treated at a Veteran's hospital which could indicate it
was related to  his service.
It was NOT tuberculosis.

Leland was not the only Wright in the area that was called up for World War I. Milton Wright, nephew of the famous Wright brothers, was drafted from the Akron area. Orville felt so strongly about his nephew not serving that he appeared in front of the draft board pleading that his nephew be exempted from serving. He is reported to have said, "If he is not exempted, I will find a place for him where he will not have to serve in a military capacity."

At first, the request for exemption succeeded on the grounds that young Milton was a married man, having married since registration day. But it caused quite a stir with "200 men and women stormed the headquarters of local draft board" in protest. After the protest the chairman of the draft board said he did not understand the action of the board and said "he would send no more married men to camp from his board until Wright has been certified for service." The decision was reversed a few days later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Medina Library's Resources on Veteran's & Military Service

In honor of Veterans Day, and because military records are some of my favorite records to research, I am highlighting the Medina Library's Resources on Military Service records.

  • Index to the Ohio Union Civil War Roster of Soldiers
  • Ohio Union Civil War Roster of Soldiers
  • Veteran's Graves in Medina County Cemeteries from the Revolutionary War to World War I
  • Medina County, Ohio 1890 Union Civil War Veterans or their Widows*

  • 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • Index to the WPA Medina County "Cemetery Plots for Veterans" Book
  • Korean War Era Casualties 1950-1958
  • Medina After the Civil War (2 vols.)
  • Medina Boys, Union Veterans the G.A.R. of Medina 1880-1890
  • Medina County Civil War Roster as Published in the 1881 Baskin & Battey History of Medina County and Ohio
  • Medina County Women of the Military (2 vols.)
  • Medina County Ohio Civil War Veterans
  • Medina in World War II
  • Reminiscences of the War (Civil War)
  • Revolutionary Soldiers' Graves, located in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Medina County
  • Veterans Buried in Medina County
    • Volume 1 - Revolutionary War
    • Volume 2 - War of 1812
  • World War II in Medina County, Ohio
  • Young American Patriots - the Youth of Ohio in WWII

  • Battery H 1st Ohio Light Artillery in Virginia 1864-1865
  • Index to the Grave Records of Servicemen of the War of 1812 State of Ohio
  • Index to Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War with Spain
  • Official Roster III Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Lived in the State of Ohio
  • Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War with Spain (and separate index)
  • Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines World War 1917-1918 (23 vols.)
  • Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War with Mexico 1846-1848
  • Ohio War of 1812 Soldiers Family Groups
  • The Revolution on the Upper Ohio 1775-1777
  • Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812
  • Veterans Hall of Fame - Ohio's Heroes of History
And when you are searching for military service information, don't forget to try the Family Search web site (free, anywhere) and Ancestry Library Edition (free from inside any of the Medina Libraries)

The Medina Library does not have any resources on foreign military service or veterans.

Part of the display that honors Cathy Owen, Medina County
Veteran of the Year!
Come up to the second floor of the library to see the full display.
Every November, I invite a military organization to put a display in the cabinets outside the Franklin Sylvester Genealogy Room.  This month, I am very proud to say that we are highlighting the Medina County Women of the Military. This group is very unique in that invites all women of any military branch to join. We have members from the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol and Air Force. They have published two books on the experiences of women who have served, and are working on the third.
If you are a woman who lives or works in Medina County and you served or are serving in the military, please consider joining. Their Facebook page is:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I learned....

The Ohio Genealogical Society Library near Bellville, Ohio
just a few miles off I-71.
Every year in October the Ohio Genealogical Society offers an all-day seminar for genealogy librarians. We get to network with other like minded library staff, tour the library facilities and most important of all, discover new genealogical techniques and resources. On October 16th Lisa and I attended the 13th Annual Genealogy Librarians Seminar. We had a very good time and learned a lot!

Here are some highlights:

Tom Neel, the OGS librarian, talked about Naturalization Records. Lisa and I have worked with
Tom Neel, Librarian at the
Ohio Genealogical Society Library
naturalization records before, but Tom's talk took us in deeper than our own research had ever required of us.  Facts:
  • Naturalization was not required, unless the immigrant wanted to vote or buy land. I suspect buying land was more of an incentive than voting.
  • Prior to 1920, most applicants were men. Their wives and children's citizenship status followed whatever he was. If a native born American woman married an "alien" immigrant, she became an alien resident. In 1920, women won the right to vote, so they had to change that law.
  • Colonial citizenship only required an "oath of allegiance" to whoever was in power, mostly like the King.
  • In 1776, all white male residents of became citizens of the new-born United States of America, if they wanted to. But for many years, only white males who owned land could vote.
  • Residency requirements changed over time:
    • Prior to 1795 you had to be a resident for 5 years.
    • Starting in 1795, you had to be a resident for 3 years.
    • In 1824, the law was changed so you had to be a resident for 2 years.
  • Different paperwork was filed:
    • First paper- declaration of intent. Many immigrants were encouraged to file these as soon as possible.
    • Second papers - Petition for naturalization - were filed in court.
    • Certificate of citizenship was issued to the immigrant and would remain in the immigrant's possession.
  • Naturalization papers could be filed in any court of law. In Ohio:
    • Prior to 1852 could be filed in the county court of common pleas or the Ohio Supreme Court.
    • In 1852, the probate courts were formed and they took over most of the applications for naturalization. These papers would be on file with the Clerk of Courts.
    • The "packets" of naturalization papers are on file at the National Archives Regional Offices. For Ohio, that is in Chicago, Illinois.

Gwen Mayer giving a Haunted
Hudson Tour. Gwen's eyes make
her look possessed.

Next, Gwen Mayer from the Hudson Library and Historical Society talked about genealogy programming at her library. She works with their genealogical society and between them they offer TWO genealogy programs a month! She had a lot of GREAT ideas that we hope to implement in the coming months. I don't want to ruin the surprise, so I won't give any details here. And alas! Our staffing levels will  not permit us to offer two programs a month...

Then, Lisa Long of the Ohio History Connection talked about Ohio's State Hospitals and 
Athens State Hospital, closed in 1993.
Known to thousands of Ohio University students as 
"The Ridges."
Developmental Centers. These are the hospitals for people with mental illnesses, epilepsy or developmental disabilities. Most of us have at least one or more ancestors who needed to be hospitalized in one of these institutions. She covered the history of the legislation that created the hospitals and that also still protects the records. Many of the hospital records have been turned over to the Ohio History Connection, but can only be released to the deceased patient's closest living relative for a $25 fee. Case files, the detailed daily record of treatment and progress, are destroyed 10 years after the patient's release from care. Some documentation of patients' lives can be found in public records, such as:
  • Death records
  • Census records showing the "inmates" living at the hospital at the time of the census.
  • County home registers.
  • The DDD census schedule taken in 1880, that lists the deaf, dumb and disabled.
  • Newspaper reports
  • Institutional cemeteries. Toledo & Athens have online listings: and 
  • County Histories
  • Ohio Laws
  • Probate records - it is up to each probate judge whether to provide access to these records. I have luckily found several for my ancestors.
The last presentation was named "Its Electric: Publicizing Your Archival Collections Using EAD FACTORy" by Amy Dawson of Cleveland Public Library. I will admit it. Amy was talking way over my head at the beginning, using jargon and acronyms that I didn't understand. But once we got some definitions, I enjoyed her talk. Basically, she was talking about how to use the open source software, EAD FACTORy to produce finding aids for your digital or archival collections.

An Edris Eckhardt Alice in Wonderland
figurine created by WPA artists, like what
the Medina Library owns.

For example, the Medina Library owns a set of Edris Eckhardt ceramic statues. But unless you talked to me, you would never know it. But with this software we could create a finding aid that would be added to the library's catalog of materials. Then anyone who searched for Edris Eckhardt in the catalog would find out that the Medina Library owns some of her work and that it is in storage. I hope that we are able to use these tools for our collection in the near future.

While you may not be a candidate for the Annual OGS Librarian's Seminar, you should be checking out what classes and programs your local genealogical society or local library is offering to enhance your genealogical research skills!

And I want to thank everyone who lets me know that the blog is appreciated and valuable. Most of you contact me via email, FB or personally. It is nice to know that you are out there! THANKS!