Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our Ancestors from Europe

The Main Branch of the Akron Summit County Public Library

Any time you can listen to a nationally known genealogy speaker, instructor, and author FOR FREE, you should go for it.

The Akron Summit County Public Library has presented such an event once a year, for the past six years.

This past weekend, they hosted John Philip Colletta, noted genealogist and author of several books, including:
  • They Came in Ships: a Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record
  •  Finding Your Italian Roots, a Guide for Americans and most recently  
  • Only a Few Bones, the True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath.

Author John Philip Colletta & Judy James ASCPL

This all day program was titled Our Ancestors from Europe: How to Discover Their Individual Stories. And it was incredible. He broke his talk into 4 components:
  • Passenger Arrival Records, Colonial Times to Mid-20th Century
  • Naturalization Records, Colonial Times to Mid-20th Century
  • Re-Discovering "La Famiglia;" Accessing and Using the Records of Italy
  • Discovering the REAL Stories of Your Immigrant Ancestors
The library provided a folder with John's handouts and a guide to downtown Akron's restaurants -- there aren't any near the library - bring a lunch! They also provided a place to eat your bag lunch, water, coffee, and, during the afternoon break, bite sized candy to help you through the "hump" of the afternoon. The auditorium was large, the seats comfortable. The room was kept cold (to help keep us awake?) but they warned us to dress in layers in an email that went out to everyone who signed up.

Program attendees perusing literature provided by the library & Gen. Soc.

There is no way to cover his four one-hour lectures in this blog, so I will just give you some of the highlights.

The information on the post-1820 passenger lists and naturalization records should be familiar to anyone doing research for some time. If not, there are plenty of resources in libraries and online to help you with that. I was most interested in the pre-1820 records, as that was when most of my immigrant ancestors made their way to America.

Why the 1820 demarcation? That was the year the U.S. passed a law requiring all ship's captains to turn in a list of passengers arriving from foreign ports. I have not had much success tracking down my pre-1820 immigrants. But John's lecture covered what information is needed to begin the search: the immigrant's full name, approximate year of immigration, and country of origin. Also, he said that era is well researched and many sources have been published that replace the non-existent passenger lists.

For naturalization records, he said you must check all courts of record in the area's where your ancestor lived. Some immigrants chose not to become naturalized citizens. But most did, because it conferred the right to vote and the right to hold office, among other rights. You have to know what the law was at the time your ancestor immigrated. Prior to 1790, the colonies also had laws regarding naturalization. The British Colonies had laws to cover non-British immigrants who wanted to be naturalized, for example. The "new" United States passed its first law regarding naturalization in 1790. Starting in 1906, all naturalization records had to go to the Immigration Bureau (now the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.)

After lunch, John covered using Italian records in a lecture titled "Rediscovering "La Famiglia" Accessing and Using the Records of Italy". I haven't researched the Italian side of the family, but my sister-in-law has. It was a great overview of what is and what isn't available.

The last session of the day was "Your Immigrant Ancestors How to Discover Their True Stories" which presented 3 case studies of some of John's immigrant ancestors. He showed how tracking down all the records and not "assuming" anything you can truly discover the "whys" of immigration.

Here are some of the sources recommended for Immigration & Naturalization research:
  • They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record by John Philip Colletta at your library.
  • The Castle Garden web site for New York passenger lists from 1820 to 1892. I have referred to this site a lot. But it hasn't been working the last several weeks. This covers the pre- Ellis Island period.
  • The Ellis Island web site for ancestors who came through New York City from 1892 to 1954, when it closed.
  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: a Guide by William Filby at your library.
  • The Family Search Wiki on U.S. Immigration.
  • Denizations and Naturalizations in the British Colonies in America 1607-1775 by Lloyd deWitt Bockstruck at your library.
  • Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States by Christina Schaefer at your library.
  • They Became Americans by Loretto Dennis Szucs at your library.
  • Discovering Your Immigrant and Ethnic Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service web site where you can request an index search or a copy of a document.
  • The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild web site is run by volunteers locating and transcribing ship's lists.
  • The Steve Morse web site makes searching online resources easier than the individual site's own search engines.
  • Family Search and Ancestry Library Edition, both have sections dedicated to immigration and naturalization records.

I know that I will be looking forward to next year's event!

Brochure describing the event

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Genealogy Basics Course

                                                                                                                                                                            A few weeks ago I promised to review the online genealogy course available through your library account from Gale Courses. Gale is a large provider of informational databases for libraries. Besides the genealogy course, they offer lots of classes in these categories:
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Business
  • Computer Applications
  • Design and Composition
  • Healthcare and Medical
  • Language and Arts
  • Law and Legal
  • Personal Development
  • Teaching and Education
  • Technology
  • Writing and Publishing
 To access the courses, go to the library's website: and move your mouse over the "Your Library 24/7" tab. When the drop down menu appears, choose "Online Resources" After the next page loads, scroll down to "Gale Courses" under the section for MCDL Databases.  At this point, if you are logging in from home, you will be asked for your library card number and PIN.

To take any of the classes you will need to enter your email address and a password. This allows them to keep track of where you are in the course.

The Genealogy Basics course is a six week course consisting of 12 lessons. If you don't keep up with the lessons, you are dropped from the class. I know. It happened to me earlier this year.  OOPS!

Here is the course syllabus along with a photo of the instructor:

Down the left side you can see that each lesson comes with Resources, Quizzes, Assignments and Discussion areas. They also come with a lot of supplemental material. Oh, and there is a final exam!

Overall, I would say that it is a good basic course for beginners. It covers all the important topics fairly thoroughly. The Discussion area is a good place to go with questions and comments on the material presented. More than one student presented their "brick wall" problems to the professor here. I particularly liked that you could print and/or save the course material. This allows for checking back when a question arises later.

Classes given by your local genealogical society or library would be better. But if that isn't an option and you don't want to wait, take this class.

Most of the issues I have with the course are related to outdated material. Lisa and I update our class materials every time we teach them. New resources and information are always being developed or discovered, and the classes should reflect that.

Some issues:
  • The instructor makes frequent mention of all the great info. available on CD-ROMs which aren't used very much anymore.
  • He mentions Window's 8 as being the most recent version of Windows. (WHAT, NO Windows 10?)
  • The screen shot for the FamilySearch website was from a very OLD version.
  • Videos are dated from 2011.
  • No mention of saving files to "the cloud"
  • Referral to web site Kindred Konnections, which no longer exists. (You get redirected to
  • Screen shots from very old versions of genealogy software. This might have been intentional as the instructor says there is nothing wrong with using older software.
  • Much of the information in chapter 12 on genealogy software was dated and led to bad links. In the discussion area for that chapter, it is mentioned that the chapter is being re-written.
And the final exam? Well, I missed one out of 36... 97%  Not bad, even taking into consideration that I have taught this class in the past!  LOL!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MORE New Books!!

The Medina Library is very fortunate that a number of local organizations donate items for our Franklin Sylvester Room (F/S) collection.

The Medina County Historical Society and the Medina County Genealogical Society donate frequently. The Historical Society will send us any duplicates they have, but don't need. The Genealogical Society will try to get us materials that the Library is not able to get through its normal channels.

Medina County Genealogical Society

Medina County Historical Society

And lately, we have been the benefactors of several other Medina County organizations:

The Family History Center on Windfall Road is downsizing their small library. They have offered the library any of the books we would like to add to our collection. Here is a sampling of their gifts:

Family History Center at Medina
Church of Later-Day Saints
Just some of the books donated by
the Medina Family History Center

Lisa Rienerth, co-worker and a fellow genealogist, recently did a tour of the F/S collection for the Seville Historical Society. Their members noted that the library did not have a copy of their latest publication and they promptly promised us a copy. And here it is!

Connecting the Past to the Present 1816-2016 updates the current histories we have on Seville and Guilford Township.

The Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Western Reserve Colony noticed that our books on the Mayflower Descendants needed updating and donated copies of those along with some other books on the Pilgrims and the Mayflower.

If any of these books are interesting to you, take a look at them the next time you are in the Franklin Sylvester Room.


1. Following up on my applications to lineage societies, I have just submitted my application for First Families of Ohio. If successful, it will prove that my 3X great grandparents, John WILLIAMS and Lucinda Sartain TILLMAN WILLIAMS were in Ohio prior to 1820. I am using a land record to show that William P. WILLIAMS is the son of John & Lucinda WILLIAMS.

2. This is the last week for the online Genealogy Basics course I have been taking through the Library's subscription to Gale Courses. A fuller report will be next week, but overall, it is an okay basic course. It is a bit dated and needs to be updated.  In this fast changing world it is important to keep your material current. Lisa and I update our class materials every time we teach a class.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years.

ProQuest's Digital Sanborn Maps, 1867-1970 provides digital access to more than 660,000 large-scale maps of more than 12,000 American towns and cities. Medina Library card holders have access to the maps for Ohio cities and towns only. You will not find great grandpa's farm in these maps!

ProQuest describes the collection:
"Sanborn maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. They are large-scale plans containing data that can be used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures. This includes information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Seven or eight different editions represent some areas."

Follow this path for access:→Your Library 24/7→Online Resources.

Scroll down and select tab marked “History & Genealogy” then select "Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Ohio".

From home, you will be asked for your library card number and PIN.

Using “Caledonia” as my search term the database returns 7 entries covering the little village near my family’s farm. The village maps cover the years 1901, 1912 and 1924. Using these maps we found the house where my sister now lives and verified that it was over 100 years old.

Let's look for Medina maps!

Notice the Fatal error message. I am really glad that it wasn't FATAL!
Whatever problem triggered the error message didn't seem to effect the database.
It worked fine!

As you can see a search for Medina returns about 50 maps covering the years 1885, 1892, 1897, 1902, 1911, 1923, 1932 and 1932-1940.

Let's check the intersection of Washington and Broadway:

1885, Sheet 2

You can use the last link listed under SOURCES below to find out what the abbreviation Dwy means.
The answer will be in the comments section.

Notice the building the red arrow is pointing towards? With this map, it is obvious that this building was constructed before 1885.

1902, Sheet 5

Same intersection, same building

1911, Sheet 7
Now what is at that intersection?

From this information alone, we can prove that they Sylvester Library was built between 1902 and 1911.  (From other sources, we know that the building opened in 1907.)

Can you think of ways you could use this resource in your research?


Wednesday, August 3, 2016


During the pioneer times, there were no roads, few paths, nor any other markers that would assist travelers as they made their way through the dense forests and marshy swamps of southern Medina County. If they were lucky, they had a guide to lead them through.

Occasionally, pioneers would lose their way and end up far from where they intended. (How Christopher Columbus of them!) Children could easily wander away from their parents. Sometimes, they were never seen again. Medina had just such an instance.

By the early 1820's when Abel Beach and his family moved into Wadsworth Township, the trails weren't much better. Abel brought his wife, Roxey, and three children with him, sons George, and Orlando, and daughter Sylvia, from their home in Torrington, Connecticut. Son George helped Abel build Wadsworth's first sawmill in 1824. When a bear went after the family's pigs, Roxy shot it dead.These were not faint hearted pioneers!

Sylvia had contracted scarlet fever as a child. It left her deaf and mute and also caused her to sometimes get confused easily. Accounts fluctuate as to how old Sylvia was; anywhere from 12 to 26. As her brothers were both born around 1800, it is likely that she was close to them in age, in her early twenties.

One day in March of 1823, she just disappeared from their cabin. Reports varied as to how that happened. Some reports say that she just slipped out of the cabin. Other say that she was traveling behind her mother and vanished without a trace. As soon as the family discovered that Sylvia was missing, they started the frantic search.

There had been a light snow that yielded some faint tracks, but as the snow melted those tracks faded away. The next day, a search party formed drawing on citizens from miles around. They searched for days with no luck. A week later, an even larger search party was formed with over 400 men. By now, they were no longer looking for a live Sylvia, but were hoping to bring some measure of peace to her parents by finding her body. No trace was ever found.

We will never know what happened to Sylvia. Did she fall down a coal shaft in a region that was later known for its coal mines? Did she become the victim of a ravenous wolf pack or hungry bear? Did she simply fall exhausted to the ground and freeze to death? We just don't know.

But Wadsworth has not forgotten about Sylvia. In 2014, Jeff Nicholas and Roger Havens wrote a children's book The Story of Sylvia Beach. And as part of their Bicentennial celebration, children participated in a morbid scavenger hunt "to find Sylvia Beach or her grizzly bear."

Her original tombstone in Woodlawn Cemetery in Wadsworth became unreadable so it has been replaced. The epitaph still reads: Sylvia Daughter of A & R Beach Lost in the Woods 17 April 1824 And Never Found

Photo provided by "essay" on

Wadsworth Memorial by Edward Brown, 1875.
The History of Medina County and Ohio by Baskin & Beatty, 1881.
Remembering Wadsworth from Pioneers to Streetcars by Caesar A. Carrino, 2009
"Deaf Woman's Disappearance a Big Mystery" by Mark J. Price Akron Beacon Journal, 14 March 2016, p. B-1
"Tombstone, But No Grave There" Evening Independent (Massillon, OH), 2 June 1911, p. 1.