Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Fond Farewell...

This is my good friend, Liz Nelson.

My mentor, my co-worker, and my sometime co-conspirator, Elizabeth Nelson is retiring at the end of the year, after 31 years of assisting thousands of members at the Medina Library.

Many of you know her. Many of you have been helped by her. Many of you were befriended by her. Even if you didn’t know her by name, if you have visited the Medina Library you have been blessed by her presence. For Liz is one of those very special people who continually strive to make the world a better place. 

Words have failed me in trying to describe Liz. Here is a partial list of her many, many wonderful attributes:

  • Liz is consummate storyteller. To her, everything is a story. Books are stories. History is stories. Genealogy is stories. Related to that is the wonderful eulogies she does. Seriously. After one eulogy I left with the feeling "I am SO lucky I knew that person!" Perfection. I want her to do my eulogy.
  • Liz makes connections wherever she goes. Try going somewhere with Liz without her running into someone she knows. Because she knows everyone. James Garner,yes. Captain Kangaroo, yes. She and Michael Feldman bonded over Naugas. And if you don't know who Michael Feldman is, shame on you!*
It's a real thing. Yah. I don't get it either.
  • Liz is a wonderful tour guide. Try traveling through Akron with her. She knows the history and people of Akron like... well, like the back of her hand. She has lived in the Akron area almost all of her life. She and her husband Charlie are well known among the theater, music, and education crowds. She KNOWS and loves everything Akron.
  • Liz is a compassionate person. The world's indifference to suffering is physically painful to Liz. Hence she is always donating and helping with numerable charitable groups. 
  • I nicknamed her “Houdini” for her ability to find any arcane piece of information. Not because she is a magician, but because her deep knowledge of our collection and her incredible memory.
  • She is funny. Maybe not slapstick funny. But very funny.
  • She is spiritual. It goes along with being compassionate and kind. But goes deeper. Much deeper.

  • While this photo was taken for a department calendar,
    it definitely illustrates her spiritual side.

But most of all, Liz has been my friend. Just has she has befriended many of you, she befriended me. She has been a shoulder to cry on and a shoulder to lean on. She has seen me at my worst and celebrated the highs with me. She makes me be a better version of myself. And she laughs with me and sometimes she laughs at me. But more importantly, she makes me laugh at myself. And while we have vowed to stay in touch, I will deeply, deeply miss the near daily contact with her.

For Liz, I wish her happiness and peace. And the knowledge that she is appreciated and loved.

From one of her book club members:
Forever it seems you have been our mother, sister, friend, and confidential ear. You have taken us to new places and revisited the old with new vision. At Christmas you brought us hand crafted stars and there were simple paper hearts on Valentine's Day to mark that day. But there are legions of lovely people waiting to meet you on your life after MCDL. Be ready!

*Michael Feldman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Books

This week, the Franklin Sylvester Genealogy and Local History Room (F/S Room) has received several important new books, thanks to donations.

In November, The Society of Mayflower Descendants in Ohio installed a display outside the history room in honor of the Pilgrims celebrating a day of thanksgiving. I  hope you saw this display because it was splendid!

The members  noticed that our collection of books on the Mayflower Families is incomplete. We had Volumes 1-8, 12, 15-16 and 22, but are missing the rest. They are rectifying the problem by donating the missing volumes. Volumes 10-11 have arrived.

If you can trace an ancestor to someone listed in one of these books, you have a Mayflower ancestor! Congratulations!

That would make you eligible to join the Society of Mayflower Descendants. They left some of their applications behind and you can pick one up in the F/|S Room.

Or you can contact the Society directly:

Terry (Nelson) and Marcia Hart have been compiling lists of U.S. veterans buried in Medina County. They published the first volume on Revolutionary War veterans in 2009.

Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Medina County.

The second volume covering War of 1812 veterans buried in Medina County came out in 2012, in time for the bicentennial of the War.

War of 1812 Veterans buried in Medina County.

Their latest volume has just been released and again, they were generous and donated a copy to the F/S Room collection. It covers the Mexican-American War. The war was fought from 1846 to 1848. The United States won the conflict and obtained the territories of (Alta) California and New Mexico. The U.S. had already annexed Texas in 1845 and that was part of what led to the war.

Mexican-American War Soldiers buried in Medina County.

For each of the 61 soldiers listed you get a map of the location of cemetery, a picture of the tombstone, if there is one and basic information on the soldier, as shown below:

Entry for John Layton McFadden

The photos of the tombstones can be hard to read, just like the tombstones themselves.
This is a great jumping off place for anyone researching their ancestors who served in the military.

Stop by and browse these new books, after the New Year!

Happy Holidays and see you in 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Beyond the Storefronts

A web site dedicated to the history of Medina County

If you haven't already discovered it, I would like to introduce you to a new web site dedicated to the history of Medina County, Beyond the Storefronts

The site is the brain child of local historian, Robert Hyde. Bob is a life-long Medina resident and has Medina ancestors going back to the 1830's. Retired now, Bob was also the long-time president of the Medina County Genealogical Society and for many years, was the editor of their newsletter.

Bob was concerned that the history of Medina, as he knew it growing up and raising his family here, was disappearing. Wanting to preserve it and being a man of action, Bob started researching each of the buildings on Medina's Square.

He is ably assisted by Rebekah Knaggs, a student at the University of Cincinnati.

The web site is a work in progress. Not all the features are functional yet.Some of photos still need to be uploaded and some of the locations are still being researched.

Once you click on the enter button  you are taken to a new page that has some of the inspiration and history for the site. It also includes some sepia tone photos of Medina Square from around 1900.

After reading the history you will want to click on the Menu symbol in the upper right corner. Bob has broken the buildings down according to their locale in relationship to Public Square:

  • Westside of the Square
  • Southside of the Square
  • Southwest of the Square
  • Southeast of the Square
  • Eastside of the Square
  • Northside of the Square
  • Northwest of the Square
  • Northeast of the Square
The only sections with no entries yet are the Southeast and Northeast of the Square. Bob and Rebekah assure me that they are working on them!

Each occupant of a location is listed in Bold type and beneath the listing is the supporting information. If Bob has been able to find any pictures or newspaper clippings those are included.

Let's see what information is available using one of my favorite locations for an example, #2 Public Square on the Westside of the Square, 

2 Public Square is where the old Whitey's Army Navy Surplus store was and is the current location
Picture of building when Whitey's was there.
From the web site Beyond the Storefronts
of Courthouse Pizza. But the site starts with the past. The WAY past! This was the location of the first courthouse in Medina County and the reason that Court Street is so named. In 1841, a "new" courthouse was built on the opposite side of the square.  Didn't you ever wonder why none of the Medina courts are located on Court Street? Now you know!

Over the last 200 years the building has hosted these types of business:
  • Six different grocery stores
  • Three clothing stores
  • Three Five and Dime stores
  • Two Restaurants
  • Two Tin Shops
It was also once the Depot for the Electric Cars that connected Medina to Cleveland and Wooster. From 1916 to 1926, it was the Post Office for Medina. But its longest resident was Whitey's Army and Navy Store which occupied the site from 1959-2014. Whitey's was a family Christmas shopping tradition in our household. Now the delicious Courthouse Pizza occupies that spot.

As I said, the site is still a work in progress. The "Contact" link isn't working yet and what I would like to see is an index by address.

Bob himself has this to add about the site:

Thank you Kathy for the excellent introduction and instructions to my historical project of the Medina Public Square and Historic District titled "Beyond the Storefronts”.
This research project was started in 1995 and is now in near completion.  The uploading of historical data to the web-site,, is a complex operation and will continue to be a "work-in-progress" for several months.  When completed it will contain over 1500 Medina Square Proprietors and Occupants in over 100 storefront locations with over 300 photos and advertisements from 1852 to 2016. Enjoy what is currently available, but be patient!
I hope interested former or present residents that access web-site will offer to contribute additional photos and data for inclusion by contacting Robert Hyde at 330-725-4467 or
Thanks again, Kathy for your interest and help in "getting the ball rolling".

In recognition of all the contributions that Bob Hyde has made to the Medina community, The Medina County Historical Society has awarded him the Northrup Heritage Award for "genealogy and historical contributions to Medina County. "

Way to go Bob and all the Honorees!

Bob Hyde, on the left, accepting his Northrup Heritage
Award with fellow honorees, Nancy Sprowls, and Mace Hallock.

The Northrup Heritage Award is named for Nira B. Northrup
who wrote the first comprehensive history of Medina County in 1861.
It is titled The Pioneer History of Medina County.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Letha E. House

Letha's story is a true rags-to-riches tale.

Later in her life, Letha inherited money from her family. Before her death she donated money for the Medina County Parks system. At her death, she left a trust that has distributed money to worthy causes since the 1970's.

Letha was born June 12, 1880 in Ontario, Canada; her parents were John Brewster and Margaret Corrigan Brewster. Probably. We say "Probably" because we cannot find a birth record for Letha. The Canadian records are available on and on Ancestry, but there is no listing for Letha. Was it just an oversight, which happened a lot during this time period? Or was it deliberate?

 The information on her birth comes from later records. Her marriage record lists John Brewster as her father and her mother as "unknown to informant." The informant was her husband-to-be, William House. Her obituary in the July 4, 1968 Medina Gazette lists her birth date and place, but not her parents. The information for her obituary most likely would have been provided by her  cousins, who would have relied on what Letha herself had told them.

So why so much mystery?

Joann G. King wrote a very compelling and easy to read biography of Letha, Letha E. House: From Foundling to Philanthropist, that attempts to solve some of the mystery. Piecing together clues from many diverse sources, she discloses that John Brewster and Margaret Corrigan married in Cleveland, on February 14, 1880.

Marriage record of John Brewster and Margaret
Corrigan found on Ancestry Library Edition
 So already we can see a possible issue with Letha's birth. Margaret was already 5 months pregnant when the couple married in Cleveland.

And why did Margaret give birth in Canada, if she was married in Cleveland? Margaret was born in Ontario, Canada, and her parents were still living there. She had followed her brothers to Cleveland. But by 1880, her brothers were in Austria working to develop petroleum refining there. They didn't return to Cleveland until 1883.  But why wasn't she living with her husband?

After the marriage, John Brewster disappears from the scene. The issue is complicated by the fact that there were several John Brewster's living in Cleveland around this time.

In the 1870 Census there is a John Brewster in Cleveland. He was 45 years old, married and was a carpenter. In the 1880 census, the only John Brewster listed was a 10  year living with his parents.

In the Cleveland City Directories (from Ancestry Library Edition) from 1867 to 1880, there are John Brewsters who are variously listed as a: blacksmith (1867); mason (1869, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874); and a laborer (1878, 1880). 

A possible solution to his disappearance is below:

Death Record for John Brewster (second line)dated February 29, 1880,
only 2 weeks after Margaret Corrigan's marriage.
In this record, his age is given as 84, which may be a mistake
Interment Record for John Brewster. In this record his age is given as 34.
 In both records, cause of death is pericarditis, confirming that is the same man.

IF the John Brewster who married Margaret Corrigan was the mason/laborer, he could have died within two weeks of the marriage, causing Margaret to return to Canada. And IF he was her husband, did Margaret marry an already ailing man to give her daughter a name? These are unanswered questions.

But how did Letha come to live in Medina?

According to Joann's book, Margaret gave Letha up. Somehow, she was whisked away to the George Morse family in Lafayette. They  raised the baby Letha. But they did not adopt Letha and in the 1900 Census, she is listed as "Foster Daughter".

1900 Census for Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio
George Morse is listed on the previous page.
From Ancestry Library Edition.

Letha must have known she was a foster child or her father's name would not have appeared on her marriage record. But shortly after her marriage, her life would take a bizarre twist.

Remember Margaret Corrigan's brothers that she followed to Cleveland? They had become incredibly wealthy and also suffered incredible tragedies.

James Corrigan Sr., Margaret's brother and Letha's uncle, started humbly in life. But through his own hard work and business accumen he amassed a fortune in oil refining and lake shipping. But in July of 1900, just weeks before Letha married William House, James Corrigan's wife and daughter were killed in a boating accident on the lake.

Medina County Gazette
July 4, 1901

In 1901, Letha learned of her connection to the wealthy Cleveland family.

But it was 48 years later, when the wife of James Corrigan Jr., Laura Mae, died that the incredible happened. (James Corrigan Jr. had died in 1928) Letha was named as an heir to  part of the Corrigan fortune.

This excerpt from a January 24, 1948 first page article in the Plain Dealer detailing the heirs of the estate is very revealing:

Cleveland Plain Dealer 24 January 1948, p. 1
ONE SIXTEENTH EACH -  Charles F. Ripley, 15132 Euclid Avenue, East Cleveland: James R. Corrigan, 2144 Reveley Avenue, Lakewood: Mrs. Letha House of Medina: the late Johnson Corrigan of Pasadena, Cal. and Grace Parker Bassett, address not known. .... All of those to get one sixteenth each are first cousins of Corrigan, with the exception of Mrs. Bassett.

This is the most direct evidence that Letha was a Corrigan, as the relationship is not mentioned in the will.

From all accounts, Letha was a very unassuming woman. Her name doesn't appear in the local newspapers as a young woman except to mention that she was visiting friends. Even after she married, her name only appears in articles on various women's and charity groups.

Letha died in 1968 and that was when the county learned how wealthy and how generous she was. The trust she set up has benefited the citizens of Medina County ever since. The list of beneficiaries is five pages long in her biography and includes such organizations as area school districts and historical societies, and the Medina Community Design Committee.

To learn more of Letha's rags-to-riches story, order Joann King's book from the library HERE.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: The Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth

Bill Griffeth photo from his Twitter profile
Bill Griffeth is a long time financial journalist with a impressive list of cable and TV programs to his credit, including his current gig as the co-anchor of CNBC's "Closing Bell". He has also written four books, the latest being The Stranger in My Genes 

Bill caught the genealogy bug in 2003 and had previously written "By Faith Alone: One Family's Epic Journey Through 400 Years of American Protestantism". Written in 2007, that book chronicled his research and his impressive family history going back to the Salem Witch Trials, during which one of his ancestresses was accused and executed.

In 2012, his cousin and fellow family historian, Doug, urged him to take a DNA test to learn what else they could discover about their family. He was not prepared for the results.

What he uncovered turned his world upside down. It truly rocked the foundation we all rely on; the intrinsic belief that we know who we are, who our family is, and where we fit into that family.

It also made 50% of his genealogy research inmaterial.

Bill  recorded his emotional roller-coaster as he integrated this new information into his identity. And he keeps the reader absorbed throughout. It was riveting from beginning to end.

If you are looking for a good, fast-paced, genealogical & DNA read, this is the book for you. I finished it in less than one day.

Borrow it from the library here.

And if you are interested in trying DNA testing for yourself, most of the companies are having sales for the holidays right now. See Judy Russell's post HERE.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Truth: a Perspective

Years ago, my cousin Becky and I were comparing notes about my grandfather who spent time in prison for attempted manslaughter. He was Becky's step-grandpa, having married her grandma as his second or third wife. We discovered that we grew up knowing two completely different versions of the tale. As we were both toddlers at the time of the incident, we only had family stories, or hearsay, to go by.

Being the researcher, I settled down to discover the truth! And of course, anticipated that "the Truth" would support my version.

NOT my grandfather! But 2 of his 4 children
are pictured; Uncle Don is on the far left and
 Aunt Martha is on the far right. This undated 
picture was probably taken before Grandpa
 went to jail. It would't have been funny after.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections could only send me an outline of his time behind bars. The Court he was tried under never transcribed his trial and the cost of the transcription was way beyond my budget. So I turned to newspapers. And the tale I discovered there was worthy of an episode of "America's Dumbest Criminals." And it did not jibe with either Becky's or my version of the case.

That set me to wondering, just what was the truth of the matter? Certainly, Grandpa's version would have painted him in a more flattering light. Della, his then-wife and Becky's Grandma, would have had a version that downplayed her culpability in the event. And the man he shot would have had his own version. They would have all sworn they were telling the truth. And they were. At least, their version of the truth.

It was a very personal revelation for me into the nature of truth. How fluid it can be. How inconstant. I was reminded of this revelation this past Friday.

November 11th all of the branches of the Medina County District Library system closed for a staff development day. In the morning we attended different educational sessions depending on our department and in the afternoon we were allowed to choose from a large selection of topics. One of my afternoon sessions was on the nature of truth, titled "What is Truth? How People Can Live Together Sharing Different Perspectives".

The speaker was an Associate Professor at Tri-C
and an incredibly talented photographer, Daniel Levin, M.F.A.. He used his photography to illustrate that our perception of truth could be altered by different factors. He reminded us that, as a library system, we are a collector and distributor of truth. Most of his “talk” was a series of slides of his work chronicling the devastation that hurricane Katrina wreaked on the Gulf coast of Mississippi and on his travels in the Middle East. Occasionally, he would point out how the “truth” of a photo was manipulated, either by his own artistic editing, or by his own preconceived interpretations.

As genealogists, we are on a quest to discover the “truths” of our ancestors lives. But the “truths” we discover can be tainted, and we need to be aware of this. Here are some of the factors that can skew the truth:

1.Time. Over time, our perception of an event can alter. Slavery was once an accepted fact over a large part of our country. As time passed, larger and larger parts of our population grew to believe it was incredibly, terribly wrong. We went to war over it. Today, many genealogists are horrified when they discover slave owning ancestors and will try to suppress that information (Ben Affleck and Finding Your Roots). We cannot view past events using our mores and standards. They have to be viewed and interpreted within the context of the beliefs and customs of that time period.

Also, as more time passes between the event and the recording of the event, the memory of the recorder can become faulty, or inaccurate.

2. Our own cultural heritage, preconceived ideas, and prejudices. Dr. Levin showed several photos where he had taken several images from different time periods and juxtaposed them to create a new image, or new “truth” that meant something to him personally, and that he hoped would elicit an emotional response from his viewers. As genealogists, we have to guard against doing the same thing. We can't ignore an avenue of research because we don't like where it is leading us or because it challenges family lore. We can't create new “facts” to support our version of the truth, or because it makes our history more interesting.

3.Objectivity. We love our ancestors and are excited to share information about them. But it is not our job to make either heroes or villains of them. For our work to stand the test of time, we must be objective in our recounting of the facts we have discovered.

4. Perspective. The police have a saying. “When you interview five different witnesses to an event, you will get five different stories.” Each of those witnesses are telling the truth, from their perspective. Perspective can be physical, as in their vision of the event from a certain angle. Or it can be more personal, as in their relationship to either the victim or the perpetrator. Or from personal prejudice, as in a long held believe that certain groups of people always act a certain way. As genealogists, we have to be aware of the perspective of our resources (as in, the US censues were never collected for genealogical researchers, but were tabulated as a way to calculate statistics on the population for the government). We also have to examine how our own perspective has impacted our research. For example, did I ignore Lucinda Tillman Sartain WILLIAMS in my First Family Of Ohio application because I was so focused on a single ancestor, her husband, that I was blind to everyone else, or because as a society we undervalue and under report the contributions of women? I prefer to believe it was the first reason, but was it? Really?

Dan Levin reminded us:
  • That we have to use mulitple resources to find the truth, because so many resources are subjective.
  • Too many people use too few resources to determine their truth.
  • There is not always a single truth, or a single "right" answer.
Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained (p.22) has this to say about truth:

Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills
Historian Robert Winks once wrote, The past was real, but truth is relative* It is also intangible and indefinable. Unlike Justice Potter Stewart's famed definition of obscenity, we cannot say, "I'll know it when I see it."+ We won't. Historical truth is physically pliable. We begin every research project with a vision of that pot of truth awaiting us at the rainbow's end. When we reach that end, we have only a mound of dough--dough that will be manipulated, stretched, shaped, and flavored by our own experience and standards."

*The Historian as Detective; Essays on Evidence, New York, Harper Colphone Books, 1968.
+Jacobellis v. Ohio,  378  U.S. 184, 197 (1964).

P.S. Just this morning when reading the news on NewsNet5, this article caught my eye. Check it out:

Levin, Daniel, "What is Truth? How People Can Live Together Sharing Different Perspectives", 11 Nov. 2016, MCDL Staff Development Day.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Better Next Time...

Last week, I shared with you the approval of my application to the lineage society, First Families of Ohio (FFO).

In the interest showing you that even someone who has been researching their family for many years can learn something new, or can just plain make some mistakes, I want to share with you what I did not do completely, or could have done better.

Margaret Cheney was very kind in her review of my application. She wrote "This application was well presented. The applicant signed the application and put their name on each document. Source citations were used." This is expected of every application. Margaret was being kind.

She goes on to say "Kathy, this application is very good, but I think you can take it a step further."

And boy, was she right!!

First of all, I was using the 1818 Gallia County Ohio marriage record of John and Lucinda WILLIAMS to prove residency prior to 1820. But my application only submitted John WILLIAMS for FFO. I completely ignored Lucinda's claim for eligibility! I was so focused on proving John's claim, I was blind to his wife's contribution. It is mind boggling! NO EXCUSES! I messed up.

Now comes the really incredible part. Margaret researched Lucinda Tillman Sartain WILLIAMS and quickly came up with an online obituary, and the 1820 Census for Gallia County that reveals Elijah SERTIN, aged 26-45, living right next door to John WILLIAMS. This Elijah is a prime candidate to be Lucinda's father. 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Courtesy of Margaret Cheney. 

Margaret did not have to do the extra research. She  goes on to suggest that early land records, tax records and estate records might prove the relationship. And gives me until 31 December to submit the additional papers to include Elijah.

I HAVE THESE DOCUMENTS ON LUCINDA IN MY FILES! I just failed to incorporate them.

Now comes my second genealogy fail.

I had water in my basement in September. Did you know that a basement is only considered to have "flooded" if it has at least 5-6 inches of water in it?

Of course, that is where all of my genealogy research is located. Luckily, none of it was damaged. But I had to pack everything up in boxes and remove it from the basement while the insurance company repaired the damage caused by the water. Also, did you know that insurance companies will pay to repair the damage caused by water in the basement, but will not pay to repair the problem that caused the water to enter the basement?

So my genealogy research is safe, but inaccessible BECAUSE I HAVEN'T SAVED IT TO THE CLOUD!! This is a basic tenent of genealogy research. Back it up and save it in multiple places. I have several CLOUD accounts, iCloud, Google Drive, Drop Box. But that doesn't help if you don't actually upload your documents & research! DUH!

The repairs on the basement are almost complete, and access to all the research & documentation will soon follow. Then I will submitt the additional information.

If you want to see how to do it right, Margaret just posted some guidelines for applications to a Lineage Society on the Ohio Genealogical Society Blog: OGS Blog  Also, I consulted with other genealogists from the Medina County Genealogical Society for assistance.

BTW, I have tried using  early land records, tax records, and estate records to establish who John WILLIAMS parents were, but haven't been able to narrow down the multiple possibilities.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

First Families of Ohio

First Families of Ohio (FFO) is a Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) lineage society. "It is open to any member of OGS who is a direct descendant of an individual who settled in the area now encompassed by the State of Ohio by the end of 1820. Applications must first be approved by the appropriate lineage society committee and then by the Ohio Genealogical Society's Board of Trustees." 
First Families of Ohio
Ribbon and Pin

Today, I received an email from Margaret Cheney, the current President of OGS, informing me that my application had been accepted and approved for my 3X great grandparents John WILLIAMS and Lucinda Tillman (SARTAIN) WILLIAMS. I am very touched and humbled by this recognition. In fact, I am moved almost to the point of tears, even now. This emotional response has left me perplexed. Certainly, I thought my application would be accepted and that my research and my source citation would hold up to scrutiny, or I wouldn't have sent it in. So why was I so moved?

I replied to Margaret's email to thank her and told her of my reaction. This is part of her response: 

"It is a rather overwhelming experience to know that your hard work and research pays off with a form of recognition. I have had many people tell me the very same thing. You are in great company!"

So others have had similar responses. But something about this explanation just didn't ring true for me.

Later, I was sharing the news with my friend and co-worker, Lisa Rienerth. She repeated Margaret's words about recognition of my work but added "and it recognizes the contribution your ancestors made."

NOW, I get it! YES! I wanted that recognition for my ancestors! Because of what they dared and what they contributed and what they endured.

Picture of Johnson Cemetery of Gallia County, showing the
hilly country side. This cemetery is on a partially graveled,
very steep lane. Photo courtesy of Paul Clary on
They came to Ohio when it was still a wilderness. They came here seeking opportunity and cheaper land than could be bought back east. Specifically, they came to the Applachian area of Ohio in Gallia County along the Ohio River. It is still very rough country, with gravel/dirt roads and grass covered lanes. Rocky hills that are good for grazing animals, but not for producing crops. In the 1882 Hardesty's History of Gallia County, their son Elijah had this to say about those early days:
"They had to grind their own corn by hand, and had to grate and pound it to make bread; all the schools they had were supported by subscription; wild beasts were very plentiful, often destroying what little stock the farmers  had; game, such as deer, turkeys, and wild hogs was abundant." But they persevered. These days, Gallia County's biggest exports are timber and coal generated power. 

John and Lucinda had 11 children, most of whom grew to adulthood. In the 1800's, 20% or one in five babies would die before their first birthday.* They did lose two of their sons in the Civil War.

John lived to be 80+ years old, and Lucinda, 73. This at a time when the average life expectancy hovered around 40 years of age.* They survived the many epidemics that swept through the area, such as, cholera, smallpox, diphtheria, and typhoid fever. Additionally, Lucinda survived giving birth to at least 11 children at a time when childbirth resulted in death for many of her contemporaries. So they were hardy people who had a hard life. BUT THEY SURVIVED!

Not only did they survive, but they did well. By the time of John's death, he had already passed on a lot of his land to his sons and daughters, but there were still some plots and the "homestead" to be divied up to his survivors. And they donated the land that the Good Hope Baptist Church and cemetery still sits on today.

Good Hope Baptist Church
Family lore says that John Williams donated the land.

When I first visited the cemetery many years ago, John and Lucinda's original tombstones were still standing, blackened from coal soot, the inscriptions totally eaten away and unreadable. A few years ago on a return trip, the old stones were piled up under the branches of a bush and new granite stones had replaced them.

The replacement stone

Old discarded tombstones

So next April, I will attend the lineage banquet at the OGS Conference and I will accept the ribbon and pin. And I will be remembering John & Lucinda WILLIAMS. For that is what we do as genealogists - WE REMEMBER AND HONOR OUR ANCESTORS.

Next week learn how I could have done a better job with my application. (i.e. - learn from my mistakes!)


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

National Archives Virtual Fair

Let's All Go To The Fair!

Image from WikiMedia - NOT this kind of fair!

Do you sometimes feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? I DO!

I received two emails this week that told me about an event I had never heard of before. First, my co-worker and friend, James, sent me a link to the Press Release, then The Legal Genealogists'  post covered the same event. Thanks to both of you!

National Archives Press Release

Legal Genealogist's Post

The National Archives will be offering their 12th two day Virtual Genealogy Fair. For those of you who aren't familiar with the National Archives:

The National Archives holds the permanently valuable records of the Federal government. These include records of interest to genealogists, such as pension files, ship passenger lists, census and Freedmen’s Bureau materials. For information on National Archives holdings see
(From their web site.)

These are the people who hold the historical Service Records and Pension Records of our military ancestors. And they have so much more! But finding and accessing their materials isn't always easy. So I am thrilled to be able to participate in this fair. No sign ups required. If you can't view the sessions in real time, they will be available on You Tube.

These are just some of topics that will be covered:

  • Introduction to Genealogy at the National Archives
  • The Best National Archives Records Genealogists Aren’t Using
  • National Archives Innovative Online Resources and Tools to Help with Your Genealogical Research
  • You too can be a Citizen Archivist! Getting the most out of the National Archives Catalog
  • Department of State Records for Genealogical Research
  • Nonpopulation Census: Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Social Statistics
  • What’s New in the Lou: A Look at the Latest Accessions at the National Archives at St. Louis

Thursday's You Tube Link

I plan on viewing these sessions. How about you?

On another topic, have any of you encountered problems posting questions or comments on the RootsWeb mailing lists? I typically post this blog to the OH-Medina mailing list and the posting has bounced back as "undeliverable" for the last 3-4 weeks. I contacted RootsWeb support and received this answer:
"We are currently in the process of upgrading our technical infrastructure. Some processes are on hold until this upgrade is complete. This currently includes some Mailing List processes and features including the ability to send and receive postings. Once the work is finished everything should be working as normal again. Unfortunately, we do not have a timeframe as to when this work may be completed."

Hopefully, they will resolve this issue soon. If you routinely get the blog from the mailing list and don't want an interruption, you can always sign up to receive the blog directly in your email. In the upper right corner, look for "Follow by email" and a box for entering your email address.

Till next week...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

But I Found it in a Book!!!!

... or on the Internet! Or my uncle told me so!!


When I can't verify the information in a family story,
I consider it a piece of interesting fiction.

As genealogists, we all must evaluate the sources that we use ALL THE TIME.

Lisa and I struggle with this constantly as we work with library members who come to us for help with their research. We try to gently remind them that they must have reliable sources for all of their information.

Unreliable sources fall into three main categories:
  1. Oral family stories
  2. Family trees uploaded to the Internet or or
  3. Unreliable Books
We will examine each of these.

1. Family stories are tales that get passed down from generation to generation. Most of us can spout several family stories that everyone will swear are true. But unless you have documentation that proves they story, that is all it is. A story.
Wilma Mankiller - First Female
 Chief of the Cherokee Nation

  • If you have a tradition of Cherokee ancestry, find the family in one of the several special rolls that document membership in the Cherokee Nation. Or track the family to a location that the Cherokee were known to inhabit and examine all sources on the tribe in that area. 
See why you are not related to a Cherokee Princess

  •  If you have a tradition of a famous ancestor, do your research. Work backwards on your family history from the present (yourself) towards the past to see if there is a connection. Avoid the tendency to bend the facts to support your cherished belief. And NEVER start with the famous person and try to work towards yourself.

I am not saying that family stories are useless. They can be great guideposts to help you point the way for your research. But if you rely on them without documenting them, they remain fictional stories.

2. Family trees that are uploaded to the Internet, or or Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with these sources. But you have to look at them critically. They are only as good as the research capabilities of the person who uploaded them. So many people just follow the "little green leaves" on Ancestry and accept what they find there as their family.  They may be. But most likely they are not. And that kind of clicking isn't research. That is more like playing a video game than serious researching. Then they upload their trees and perpetuate the mistakes.

Look for family trees that list where they find the information and use primary resources. If they have a way to contact the person who uploaded the tree, do so. Compare notes. Ask what sources they used.

Evaluating Family Trees on
3. Books 
 I LOVE books, as you might expect from someone who works in a library. There is a clear distinction between fiction/make-believe and non-fiction/based on fact.

However, some non-fiction books have blurred that distinction. Here are a couple of examples:
  • Frederick Virkus published a 7 volume Compendium of American Genealogy in 1925. It was taken at face value for many years and is often cited in published genealogies.  But now, it has been discredited. On page 228 of The Family Tree Problem Solver, author Marsha Hoffman Rising states that the Compendium is wrong 30% of the time.  But the Medina Library still has the books on the shelves of the Franklin Sylvester Room. Why? Because it is right 70% of the time. We expect you, the serious researcher, to verify the information within its pages in other sources. Rising's book goes on to say that "computerized census indexes have an estimated 10 to 20 percent omission rate, and a 30-40 percent inaccuracy rate." 

Bad books? Yes, 30% of the time.

  • Lisa touched on these next two books in her recent POSTThe Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio and The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Lived in the State of Ohio. Mike McCann of Medina County Graves ran into this problem also and contacted the National and the State of Ohio DAR offices and got these responses:
    • From  Genevieve Shishak, Historian, NSDAR:   The volume that you mentioned–‘The Official Roster of Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio’ was not compiled by the National Society of the DAR, but under the direction of the state of Ohio, –published by direction of Frank D. Henderson, Adjutant General, and John R. Rea, Military Registrar, and compiled by Jane Dowd Dailey, DAR State Chairman of Historic Sites and Revolutionary Soldiers’ graves of Ohio, 1923-1932. Though our library has copies of these volumes, we do not have any records relating to their compilation, as this was not a NSDAR undertaking.It seems that Ohio DAR chapters collected the information contained in the volumes, in an attempt “to present an authentic and complete list of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in this state,” according to the Foreword, by Jane Dowd Dailey, who also stated the following: “The Roster is not designed as a genealogical reference book, although it may be of service in tracing pioneer ancestry.” You might wish to contact the Ohio Society of the DAR to see if they have any records relating to the compilation of this roster. 
    • Then from Laverne Ingram Piatt, OSDAR State Chairman, Lineage Research, Registrar, Jared Mansfield Chapter, DAR:“Frankly, the publication “Official Roster of Soldiers of the Revolution Buried in Ohio” is worthless. It is not accepted by National Society DAR as a valid source of evidence for service. I don’t know when it was published and I don’t know the requirements for research into the listings of the men included. Personally, I believe that a disclaimer should be pasted into the front cover of every copy of the book still in existence….. Your Fred Jones error is not the only one in the book, I’m afraid. And that’s why the book is not held in high regard.”
  • Bogus Compiled Family Histories: Halberts of Bath, OH, and Morphcor of Denver, CO, are two companies who preyed on susceptible people for years. They promised to send heirloom quality family histories. What their victims received were a few pages of generic genealogical information and a phone book listing of all the people in the country with the same last name. Halberts was forced in 1995 by the U.S. Postal to cease their false advertising. Reportedly the company moved out of state and continues operations.Morphcorp ran a similar scam and was forced by the Colorado Attorney General to change their business practices.  More information here.

What to look for in a reliable book, web site or family tree:

Reliable sources:
  • Show documentation- where did they get the information? 
  • Include complete citations so you can track their research. 
  • Use Original/Primary Sources - written at or near the time of the event by someone who had personal knowledge of the event 
  • Performs reasonably exhaustive search - see Lisa's blog from a few weeks ago Have all the records that are available been searched?
  • Completeness of Research - Is some vital information missing? Are there gaps in the timeline?
  • Analyze their conclusions. If primary source documentation isn't available, have they considered alternate scenarios? Have they scrutinized the information?
  • Resolve conflicting information from different sources. Do they use qualifiers like "probably" or "likely" to describe their conclusions that are not based on documented facts?
  • Make sense. 5 year old girls and 64 year old women do not give birth. Check to see if the information given makes logical sense. 

As always, don't miss an opportunity to learn more about this fascinating and demanding hobby. Take classes and attend conferences. There is always more to learn!

Evidence Explained: Cite History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills
Genealogical Standard of Proof

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Franklin Sylvester

Franklin Sylvester as a younger man.
From the Medina Library Collection

Franklin Sylvester


Franklin Sylvester was born on March 28, 1831 in Bristol, Ontario County, New York. His parents were Francis Sylvester (1798-1878) and Cynthia Hatch Sylvester (1812-1881). They left New York in 1833 and settled in Granger Township in Medina County.

The Sylvesters had seven children. The elder Sylvester was a wagon maker. They family scraped by, but the times were tough and there was little opportunity for much in the way of education for Franklin.

But at a very early age he learned the value of hard work. At 9, he started working for the neighboring farmers. He saved up his wages and started trading in livestock. He started with sheep and cattle and moved on to horses. At 16, he bought a team of horses and a wagon and hired  himself out as a hauling contractor. His twentieth birthday found him the owner of a farm and "one of the best judges of stock anywhere in the country." By the age of 25, he had saved up $3,000. He went into the mercantile business with R.N. Hickox at Grangerburg. He also ran an ashery* and continued to deal in livestock.

On Oct. 4, 1857, he married Eunice Reid, also of Granger Township.

He continued trading in livestock and also started dealing in real estate transactions. In 1878 he is listed as the executor of the estates of several of his neighbors. This was a real mark of respect and trust, both from his neighbors and by the magistrates that oversaw the transactions.

Sketch of the Sylvester homestead from the 1874 Combination Atlas Map
of Medina County

Map of Granger Township with Franklin Sylvester's holdings outlined in red.
From the 1874 Combination Atlas Map of Medina County

In the 1881 History of Medina County and Ohio, he is described as "a self-made man...(of) excellent judgment, a remarkable business tact, and indomitable energy and perseverance, a strict integrity in dealing and a power (which few men possess) of keeping his own counsels." It continues, "Through all his pecuniary prosperity, it is but simple justice to say he has been notably magnanimous in the use of a wealth that a propitious Providence has thrown into his hands. His donations for educational, religious and other charitable purposes have been very considerable..."

Picture from a 2001 Medina Gazette article,
showing Franklin, a dog,  his wife Eunice, an
 unidentified girl and a servant

Franklin and Eunice never had any children, but the couple enjoyed and assisted their many nieces and nephews. (16 are listed as beneficiaries in his will.) They cared for and helped several other struggling youngsters, including Etuna Heyl (also a beneficiary).

Franklin Sylvester Portrait
From Medina Library Collection
Eunice (Reid) Sylvester From
Medina Library Collection

Franklin continued to deal in cattle and real estate. He became know as a successful breeder of fine cattle, specializing in short-horns. He accumulated land until he owned 1,500 acres, of what was considered the best land in northern Ohio.

A.R. Webber claims that he inspired Franklin to make his biggest charitable donation. A la Andrew Carnegie, Franklin's name could live on when placed on the side of a library. Personally, I cannot imagine that a man with so many siblings and niblings** would be worried about the perpetuity of his name. But Franklin did believe in a good cause and had a desire to better the world.

Toward that end, he donated  the money for a dedicated library building in the county seat- The Franklin Sylvester Library. He donated $10,000 towards the building and not satisfied with the look of the roof, donated another $1,000 to have it remedied. He also provided $4,000 for the library in his will.

The Original 1907 Franklin Sylvester Library
Franklin died May 1907.

The Board of Directors of the Old Phoenix Bank were his pall bearers. Part of his obituary read: "Showing a mark of final respect to the man who had been so highly representative of all that is best in our county and who had so generously given to the welfare of Medina Village."

The Franklin Sylvester Library opened up for business on 29 September 1907. Franklin never got to see his dream realized.

Franklin Sylvester Local History & Genealogy Room

In a Medina Gazette editorial, a call went out for a life-size portrait of Franklin to be gifted from the citizens of Medina, and to hang in the library that bore his name. Perhaps the citizens stepped up to the challenge, for Franklin Sylvester's portrait in charcoal still hangs in the room that bears his name - The Franklin Sylvester Room.  

*Ashery - is a factory that converts hardwood ashes into lye, potash, or pearlash.
** Nibling - The child of one's sibling (in other words, one's niece or nephew), especially in the plural or as a gender-neutral term. 

The History of Medina County and Ohio, pub. Baskin & Battey, 1881.
The Medina County Gazette,  7 June 1907, p. 1.
The Medina County Gazette, 20 March 2001, p. C-1
1945 Letter written by A.R. Webber to Earl & Elbridge Gibbs urging the citizens of Medina to enlarge the library. (in the Medina Library's collection)
1874 Combination Atlas Map of Medina County
Franklin Sylvester's will. (copy in the Medina Library collection.)
Discover Medina