Thursday, May 19, 2016

Medina County History Day Tour

Coming this Sunday: the first ever Medina County History Day Tour!

A chance to visit sixteen different historical societies all in one day! Many of the county's historical societies have collaborated to host this unique opportunity. Many of these museums are open only a limited number of times per year. Check out their Facebook page: Historical Societies of Medina

Get your history geek on! Visit the museums

A map of the stops

A brief description of each of the stops

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The Grim Reaper

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes - Benjamin Franklin

None of us get out of this life alive. - Elbert Hubbard

Only the good die young.  - Billie Joel

Death is an unfortunate byproduct of having lived.  - Kathy Petras

Yes. Death is a fact of life. It is also one of the pieces of information that we, as genealogists, track down on our relatives and ancestors. And for all of its certainty, the details surrounding a death can be elusive.

These are the sources that we commonly use when searching for information on someone's death.

1. Vital records - have only existed in the U.S. for the last 100-150 years
2. Cemetery records - only as good as the stone they are written in. Early settlers in Ohio often used sandstone for tombstones. With acid rain, they are quickly deteriorating.
3. Church Records - can go back hundreds of years. Or not exist at all.
4. Obituaries - reserved only for the well to do until about 125 years ago. Access depends on  preservation of the newspaper.
5. Wills & estate records - if a will goes through probate, someone has died.
6. Land records - property has to be dispersed after a death
7. Pension records - benefits stop after death, and they often will mention if the soldier has had more than one wife.
8. Mass or memorial cards - given out at the funeral home.

Most basic genealogy books or classes will cover each of these resources in more detail.

929.1072 HER
929.1 CAR

But when someone dies, we lose access to an incredible archive of colorful and fascinating information. Every time someone dies, we lose their stories, their histories, their memories, and everything they knew of their family. This is the reason that genealogy teachers urge their students to interview their living relatives as soon as possible, starting with the oldest first.


Every genealogist I have talked to has a story about having lost the opportunity to reclaim and document the luscious details of someone's life. We always think, "I have time to do that later."

But the truth is, we don't know how much time anyone has.

Not Aunt Bonnie.
Not Uncle John.
Not me.
Not you.

One of our jobs, as genealogists, is to recapture those details in documents left behind. So we scour old newspapers for articles on births, marriage and deaths, but also for the bowling scores of Uncle Jack, the school play that cousin Dick was in, and the banquet that Aunt Blanche organized. We dig out old yearbooks for the photos and clubs that Uncle Charlie was in in high school.

1952 Martel High School Yearbook
Uncle Charlie is second from left in top row.
Cousin Dick Axline
Marion Star 23 March 1963 p. 7

This spring has been particularly difficult for my family and friends.
We have lost four matriarchs of our families.

In Loving Memory of

        Mary Ann DiSalvo PETRAS 1923-2016*
        Ruth Ann Sisson MASON  1940-2016
        Phyllis L. Knudsen DUTA 1932-2016
        Dixie Lee Mason FIRSTENBERGER 1938-2016

*Only one was interviewed for her life story. Mary DiSalvo PETRAS was a "Rosie - the - Riveter" during WWII. She worked in several defense industries and wrote to many service men. Her brother Joe took a picture of her in two piece bathing suit that she could include in her letters. Her strict Sicilian parents were unaware of her activities. Her brothers would sneak her out of the house so she could go on dates.

P.S. My colleague at the Lodi Branch had this to add:

I read your blog and couldn't agree more (gave my mom a history book to fill out when my children were born). Anyhow, here in Lodi we have tried getting people to use our recording studio to record family history with little success, so if you ever have anyone who wants to interview family members and get a recording please send them our way. 

So head on over to the Lodi Library with your relatives and record their histories!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference

Logo from the 2016 Ohio Genealogical Conference

The Annual Ohio Genealogical Society Conference was this past weekend, April 28-30 at Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. The agenda was packed full of wonderful genealogical opportunities, offering 86 different sessions. As there were 5 time slots a day, meaning the most you could attend was 15 sessions, it was hard to pick out which ones to attend.

The Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) is the largest state genealogical society with 95 chapters and over 6000 members. The conference had attendees and speakers from all over the U.S. If you are working on genealogy in Ohio, or have Ohio ancestors, you should really consider joining. Their website offers wonderful databases that are only open to members. But more than that, they offer wonderful learning and sharing opportunities.

I could only attend for one day, and with some consideration, picked out the 5 sessions to attend. Since this year's conference was held in the southwest part of Ohio, I didn't expect to see many familiar people. I don't have family or ancestral roots in the area. But a few familiar faces did pop up.

First, there was Margaret Cheney, current president of OGS and past president of both the Medina County and Lorain County Chapters. She gave me some tips on my application for the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio.
Tom Neel, director of the OGS Library in Bellville was there, staffing the exhibit table for OGS, as well as presenting  a couple of the sessions.

Cheryl Abernathy, Deb Knox and Mrs. Blaha from the Wayne County Chapter also had a display table. As Medina County shares her southern border with Wayne County, we often call on each other for research help for citizens that lived near, and often crossed the county line.  It was nice to see their cheerful faces.

So the sessions I  attended were:

1. 'Cuz We're Cousins: Autosomal DNA Tests by Debra Renard - this was a comprehensive look at DNA tests: the peculiarities of the different companies; the meaning of centimorgans, alleles & the acronyms IBS, IBD, IBP, IBC; what do those estimates of ethnic make-up really mean; and the range what percentage of shared DNA you can expect from different degrees of relatives. She got pretty technical at the end with triangulation and downloading the results as an Excel spreadsheet and merging with the matches to see just where the DNA matches occur.

Drew's book - due out in July
2.  Organizing Your Genealogy Files and Correspondence by Drew Smith - Drew is an established & well respected speaker for OGS and is one of the "guys" from the Genealogy Guys Podcast. I was hoping to learn how to tame the paper dragon that accompanies the genealogy hobby. But one of the first things Drew did was confess about the multiple giant Rubbermaid tubs in HIS house of his "waiting to be filed" papers! So it is an issue that ALL genealogists struggle with.  I did learn about a computer file naming technique that I hope to implement. And like me, Drew is not a fan of the color-coded hanging file system.

3.  Turn Tablets & Smartphones into Genealogy Powerhouses by Lisa Louise Cooke - Lisa was a fun presenter with a lot of energy. Her talk was about the many shortcuts and apps that help your mobile device work as well as your desktop computer for doing research. I can't wait to try them out on my iPad and my new Samsung phone!

4.  Crowdsourcing Your Brick Walls by Drew Smith - crowdsourcing is a new term for what genealogists have been doing for decades: networking with other genealogists to help find the answers to our "problem" ancestors. Besides the listservs, message boards, and forums, we now have communities/groups on social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+ communities. Drew spend a fair amount of time covering how to frame your query to get the maximum responses. Choosing an informative subject line, directing your query to the right group, include the alternate spellings, tell where you have already looked, be precise about what you are looking for, limit long "signatures" and what to do once the problem is solved, are all important in getting the best responses.

Confession: I wanted to go to Sunny Morton's session on "Lies, Errors and Bias-- Oh my! Consider your Sources" but couldn't locate the room. Perhaps it was cancelled. So the last session of the day for me was:

5. Analysis and Correlation: Two Keys to Sound Conclusions by Chris Staats -  Chris is also a well-known speaker for OGS. Chris used a personal case study to walk us through solving a
genealogical quandary when you have little direct or primary evidence and what you do have contains conflicting information. You start by analyzing every detail of the information you already have. Then you create a timeline or spreadsheet to compare the information. He had to condense his research to fit into the presentation time slot and he admitted that we might not agree with his conclusions. And I didn't. But it is very possible that there was information he had to omit that would have changed my mind. I was also pleased to realize that I have been using the techniques he described in my own research.

The syllabus for the conference was 330 pages long and it includes outlines from all the sessions. A copy is included in the conference price.

A banquet on Friday evening was held for all members who were being inducted into the lineage societies, First Families of Ohio, and the Society for Civil War Families of Ohio. Around 100 people attended. Most were being inducted into the First Families of Ohio. To qualify, they had fill out an application and present solid, documented proof that an ancestor had settled in Ohio prior to 1820. Many family members were being inducted together, fathers/daughters, mothers/daughters, sisters and one whole family that included dad/mom/4 teenage children.

I was inducted into the Society for Civil War Families of Ohio. This was for proving my ancestor, William Preston Williams served in the Union Army as part of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry. The medal and ribbon presented to me, pleased me much more than I had anticipated. A very kind lady helped me pin it on when I got back to my table. Certainly, there was a feeling of accomplishment. But maybe my ex-military days were surfacing?

I think it is pretty cool looking! What do you think?

Certificate and medal with ribbon for the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio