Wednesday, August 9, 2017

School Days

School is starting up again in Medina in just a few short weeks. Now is a good time for a look back at some of the old school buildings of Medina County...

These post cards were given to the Medina Library by Jean Cooper, a long-time teacher in the Medina City Schools.

The Lincoln High School, built in 1872. It used to sit where Broadway and Smith Roads meet in Medina.
The building was torn down circa 1950 to make way for an expansion of the Garfield school.

This post card is also identified as the High School, but the door and windows do not match.
This is most likely the Disciple Church. Perhaps it is the High School in the background?
The first "primary" school in Medina City. It stood where the County Administration Building now stands.

The Garfield School was built in 1912. . It is now an elementary school. The old High School Building can be seen in the background.

Built in 1924 to replace the old high school, this building now serves as the Medina County Administration Building.

Once the new high school was built in 1924, the old Lincoln High School then housed the primary grades and the Garfield School held the "upper grades" perhaps what we would call the middle school grades?

Another view of the school that is now the Administration Building. 

The next new high school built for Medina students was the current Claggett Middle School Building. It opened in 1956.

Now Claggett Middle School, this building opened in 1956 as the new Medina High School.

An early Wadsworth High School

Hopefully you have enjoyed this tour of old Medina school buildings.

If you would like more information, please consult these resources:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sophia Huntington Parker - Pythian Sisters Home

Last month the Pythian Sisters home was demolished. 

Demolition of the former Pythian Sisters Home on North Huntington.
Medina County Gazette 6 July 2017.

The building existed for over 100 years. Below is a history.

Sophia Huntington Parker

As you can see from her photo, Sophia Huntington Parker was a formidable woman.

She was born around 1840, daughter of Peter HUNTINGTON (1808-1889) and Jane (SIMMONS) HUNTINGTON (1809-1878). She was one of five siblings:
  • Jane 1836-1869
  • Levi 1838-1838
  • Sophia 1840-1903
  • Lucretia 1844-1872
  • Eliza M. 1847-1874

Otis Thompson 1867-1898
Medina Gazette 8 Sep. 1898 p. 4.
You will notice from the above list, that by the time Sophia's mother died in 1878, Sophia was the only survivor of her parent's children. Not only did Sophia take over the care of the house and her father, she became the mother to her sister Jane's two boys, Edward Thompson (1863-1886) and Otis Thompson (1867-1898).                                                                                          Jane had married P.H. Thompson, who was an itinerant optometrist. Edward died at the ate of 24 in the Newburg Hospital outside of Cleveland. Otis volunteered to serve in the Army during the Spanish American War. He survived Cuba, only to die of malaria and dysentery upon his return at Long Island, New York.

Sophia's father, Peter,  had bought 96 acres of farmland on the northwest edge of the city of Medina in 1834. Huntington Street is undoubtedly named after the family and the farm.

Sophia married William Parker when she was 44 years old, a spinster according to the times. I wonder if it was a contentious marriage because in her father's will, he gave her the use and income of his estate, "as long as she remained the wife of William Parker or lives with him as his wife, but if she should cease to live with him as his wife or he should decease before she does then I give her said estate absolutely and unconditionally."

Medina County Ohio Wills, Court of Common Pleas, Vol G, 1887-1890, page 408.

Or perhaps Peter just didn't want William Parker to profit from his marriage to Sophia. In any case, William Parker died in 1899.

When Sophia died in December of 1903, it was discovered that her own will was quite long and detailed, covering 17 pages of "closely written pages." The newspaper claimed that she would have made a fine lawyer. It's recap of her will covered six full columns! Item 8 provided for the organization of an "Old Ladies' Home" which would be names "The Sophia Huntington Parker Home."

Medina Sentinel 25 December 1903,page 1.
The time limit almost ran out on the proviso of the will, but eventually the Pythian Sisters stepped in and organized the home.

In 1914, the cornerstone was laid.

And in 1918, they held the grand opening with over 2000 people coming for the festivities and to gawk.

It was quite the show place and citizens of Medina would bring out-of-town visitors by just to look at the grand building.

Here, the home is featured on a post card

   The Pythian Sisters  held their annual meetings at the home for years.

Around 30 women made the home their home in their final years. As it was a Pythian Sisters home, the women were members of the group and would have to turn over all their worldly possessions to gain entrance. 

Originally, the surrounding farmland and cows made the home self-sustaining. Eventually, that stopped. Over the years, additions and improvements were made.

In 1978, the home was the first stop on Medina's Fall Foliage Tour.

Medina County Gazette 10 October 1978.

Eventually, the home also accepted elderly men within its walls.

I remember when library staff would offer programs at the home. 

The doors of the home closed permanently in 2000. 

In 2008, the building was auctioned off for $715,000. There was talk of offices going into the space but that never happened.  A church used the building for a few years. In 2011, Medina City Council debated buying it.  And in 2013 it was used in the filming of the horror movie Fear Clinic.

But that all came to an end this month when the walls came tumbling down.

      Lindsay Smith, Eric Rapenchuk, “Pythian Sisters,” Discover Medina, accessed July 20, 2017,
Historical Highlights of Medina
History of Medina County and Ohio
Medina County Gazette
Medina County Sentinel

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

DNA with Blaine Bettinger

Blaine Bettinger has released a new book on DNA testing for genealogy titled Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy  It is available to borrow from the Medina Libraries. Find it on the shelves at 929.1072 BET.

It is an excellent book for those of us who have had our DNA tested for genealogical purposes.

Amy Johnson Crow, Certified Genealogist,
presenter and author, her e-book
31 Days to Better Genealogy is available on

Amy Johnson Crow interviewed Blaine for her web site and posted it HERE.

Some of the highlights of Blaine's interview are:

  1. Take ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt. Look at the continents that your ancestor came from.
  2. Dig into the DNA matches concentrating on the closest matches first (the most shared CM, which stands for centimorgans).
  3. A centimorgan is a way of measuring shared DNA. Don't bother with matches that share less than 20 CM. It is too hard to prove a connection.
  4. There are three main testing companies:
    1.  Ancestry - has an extremely large database. Because of its advertising campaign, they have a lot of novice genealogists testing.
    2. Family Tree DNA - this is the test used by hard-core genealogists.
    3. 23andMe - has a very large database, but most were tested for medical purposes.
  5. DNA testing WILL NEVER REPLACE traditional genealogy research.
  6. Contact your matches. Some of them will be able to help you build your tree.
Check out Blaine's book and his blog,  The Genetic Genealogist.

Blaine Bettinger

I used this chart from page 8 of Blaine's book to determine that our family tradition probably was false. We were repeatedly told, by multiple sources, that my great great grandmother Emily ARTIS SWAIN (shown as EAS on the chart) was 3/4 Cherokee. I have had my DNA tested as have three of my siblings. The results are 99-100% European. From the chart below, we should have inherited some DNA from Emily (and we did!) but it doesn't show any Native American ancestry.

Genetic Genealogy Chart

This Genetic Genealogy chart shows (in the light green) shows the DNA you inherit from your ancestors. Notice that as you go back to the fourth generation and further back, some of your ancestors will not contribute any DNA to you.

I have added the initials showing my paternal grandfather's line. While my siblings and I have NOT inherited 100% of our DNA from Emily ARTIS SWAIN, we all have inherited some DNA from her - about 2%. If she were 3/4 Native American, it probably would have shown in at least one of us. 

This is not 100% proof positive that there is no Native American ancestry, because the DNA we inherited from her just might not include the Native American markers, but it does make it a lot less likely. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fruits of Genealogy

A recent article in Internet Genealogy magazine was titled "Forbidden Fruits" which will be discussed more later. But it made me realize that we often equate the results of our family history research in the terms of "fruit".

We call the items we discover the fruits of our labor. We search long and hard and when we finally find the desired bit of history, it is every bit as satisfying as biting into a fresh piece of juicy, ripe fruit.

Birth and marriage records that you probably have at home.
These are low-hanging fruits.
Then there are the low hanging fruits. That is the information that is easy to find such as information you already have at home or, census and vital records discovered on easy to access online databases such as or Ancestry Library Edition.

Lastly, are the Forbidden Fruits, the topic of the April/May 2017 issue of Internet GENEALOGY. Sue Lisk, the author of the article, uses the term Forbidden Fruit to discuss the information you find in  other people's published family trees. Some of the fruits of these trees can be diseased, withered or rotten on one side.

She cautions us to to resist adding other people's family trees to our own without evaluating them carefully. She lists six items to look for in assessing someone else's tree:
  1. Is it a healthy tree?
    1. What is the size of the tree? Is it too large? If it has tens of thousand names the researcher probably has not worked on each name individually and carefully. If it is too small, the researcher is probably just getting started and may not have any new information for you.
    2. Do they include the sources of their facts? Information without documentation is pure fiction.
    3. Is the data entered carefully and consistently? Are there lots of misspellings or dates that don't make sense? Like a woman giving birth at either a very young or a very old age.
  2. Study the structure of the tree. 
    1. Does it follow a direct descent from your common ancestor, or is it from a lineal line? Lineal lines might have access to documents that did not get passed on in your line.
    2. Again, do they list the sources of  the material? Verify the data in original sources.
    3. Information on still living individuals should be marked "Private".
  3. Lookout for "grafts". People sometimes insert portions of other people's trees into their own,  intending to come back later and research them more fully. You can recognize grafts by these traits:
    1. They do not list any sources.
    2. They reach beyond the scope of the rest of the tree. If one line is much more fully developed than the rest, it is a graft!
  4. Odd growths on the tree. Often, you will find the same information posted on many people's trees, including the mistakes! When you see this, it means that people have copied someone else's tree into their own.
  5. Examine the crown. Most commonly, the further back you research, the harder it becomes, and necessarily, you have fewer records. Some of the branches won't be as well filled out. If a family tree has LOTS of information going further back, AND the information leads to a famous ancestor or royalty, examine the tree carefully. Check out all connections for yourself.
  6. Watch for falling branches. Other people's trees may contain small mistakes. But because the rest of the tree is well researched and well sourced, you may incorporate the mistakes into your own tree. Check ALL of the information carefully.

Read the complete article and other interesting topics in the magazine. Available at the Medina Library. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hudson Library and Historical Society

Hudson Library and Historical Society
96 Library Street, Hudson, OH
The Hudson Library and Historical Society has a fine genealogy and local history collection that I have wanted to visit for a long time. As they had several non-circulating items on Kanawha County, West Virginia that were suitable for my MASON family research I finally went this past week.

Their "new" 54,000 square foot building opened in 2005. They are a combined library and historical society and so they have historical artifacts beautifully displayed throughout the building.

An antique rocking horse displayed on top of book shelves, high
out of reach of curious youngsters
A quilt depicting the history of Hudson, Ohio
Antique parasols 

Their local history and genealogy room is on the second floor in the back of the adult fiction and non fiction area. It has its own entrance:

Entrance to the Archives Room

There is a staff desk where you will sign in and read their guidelines for the room. You may be asked to leave large bags in the lockers.

The Archives is always staffed. 
Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of your visit. They will give you a quick overview of the archives. The staff are friendly and helpful.

Do your homework before going. Have a list of which items you want to use. INCLUDE THE CALL NUMBER!

The stacks where most of the histories are shelved.
The study tables are large, and well lit.

Study tables and additional collections.
Around the study tables are special collections:
  • John Brown Collection
  • County Histories
  • Military materials
  • New books - yes, I found some new titles for Medina's collection!!
The copier only costs 10 cents a page. BRING CHANGE.

The Archives also has a microfilm and digitization corner.

Typical microfilm area.
A station for converting VHS & DVD into digital files.

All in all, I looked at 17 different items for my personal research.

All of the West Virginia items resulted in NEGATIVE results -- meaning I did not find anything useful. Sigh...

But the library also had a number of Maryland and Delaware items that I checked for the surnames of my ancestors from those states.

Voila! I found an entry for William SWAIN in the book Marylanders to Ohio and Indiana by Henry C. Paden. It stated that William served in the War of 1812, which I did not know. It gave his land bounty warrant number and listed his surviving children at the time of his death in 1852 in Ohio.


So, check the online catalog and see if a trip to the Hudson Library and Historical Society is in your future!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


A.I.Root pictured on a promotional
brochure for Root Candles.

Named for its founder, A. I. Root has been in been in business for 148 years. Prior to going into the beekeeping business, Root had a successful jewelry store on the Public Square in Medina.

Medina Gazette 22 July 1870 ad for Root's Jewelry business.
But in August of 1865, A.I. Root became fascinated by a swarm of bees. He  purchased the swarm and began studying bee culture. At that time, whenever honey was collected, it destroyed the hive. By 1869, Root had invented a method for harvesting the honey leaving the hive intact. He incorporated his bee supply manufacturing facilities.

Shortly after, he published a bee journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture, now just named Bee Culture. In the 1870's he first published ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, the bible of beekeeping. It is now in its 42nd edition.

Masthead for Gleanings in Bee Culture
Bee Culture remains the beekeeper's                                                                           The ultimate beekeeper's
   magazine nationwide.                                                                                         encyclopedia. 

A bee smoker introduced by A. I. Root in the 1870's.

For years, the Root company pioneered beekeeping. They kept bees and were leading producers of honey, causing Medina to be nicknamed "Sweetest Town on Earth."

In 1878, Root sold his jewelry business and purchased the old Medina Fairgrounds on West Liberty Street. That is still the company headquarters.

View of Root Company with the hives, circa 1920's

In May of 1890, The Gazette reported that the Root factory was entirely lighted by electricity.

Another view of the factory.

After World War I, the Root company got out of the honey business and was strictly a bee supply company for a few years. Then a chance encounter with a priest on a tennis court led the company in another direction. The Priest complained that it was very difficult to get an "honest" candle for the church altars,   The church required a certain percentage of beeswax in their candles. In 1931, Root company started making religious candles.

The company expanded and had factories in San Antonio, TX and Council Bluff, IA. In the 1970's  the Texas plant, then the Iowa plant moved into making decorative candles. By 1980, the Medina plant transitioned to the decorative and fragrance candles. On certain days, you can tell by the scent in the air which fragrance the company is manufacturing that day.

Promotion from the 1970's

  • Root provides the candles that illuminate the path at Antietam National Battlefield every year.
  • Over half of all the candles that Root produces go to churches.
  • It is still a privately owned company and the profits are divided among the Root family members.
  • Employed 180 people in 2001; 160 in 2010, 100 people in 2017.
  • They have over $8 million in sales, yearly.
  • Brad Root is the sixth in the Root family to head the company. 
The Root Presidents

Root Company History

Ohio Secretary of State, Root Company Business Filings

Medina Gazette,  17 Dec. 2008.

"Candle Factory Keeps Medina Busy as Bees", Plain Dealer,  22 July, 2001, page B-1.

"From Bees to Candles", Western Reserve Magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1982, pp.38-41

"Root Abuzz with Tour Plans" by Katie Byard, Akron Beacon Journal, 6 July 2010, page A-1

"Root Candle Has Kept a Light in the Window for Generations, Providing for Church and Home" by Leon Bibb WEWS. Twitter, 7 March 2014.

ReferenceUSA database accessed through the Medina County District Library on 23 Jun 2017.

Historical Highlights of Medina, Eleanor Schapiro, editor, 1966.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Family History Microfilm Program Being Discontinued

The popular microfilm lending program from the Family History Center is being discontinued as of September 1st, 2017. You can still order microfilm until August 31st.

Why is it being discontinued?

  • Because they say microfilm technology is obsolete. Despite numerous studies that say microfilm, when handled appropriately and stored correctly, can last as long as 500 years. Digital technology lasts only as long as it doesn't become obsolete.  Technology changes quickly. Do any of you remember the old paper punch cards? How many of you still have 5 inch floppy disks in your home? Or 3 1/4 inch disks? CDs or DVDs? Or is it all on a USB drive or in the Cloud?

  • Because the company has made tremendous progress in digitizing the microfilm. And they should have the rest of their microfilm digitized by the end of 2020.

But what if the film you want has not yet been digitized? Or if it is only available to view from within a Family History Center? (Which Lisa and I have noticed happening more and more frequently.)

I suggest ordering now any films you have been holding off requesting. Or wait until 2020...

To read their full announcement follow this link:
Family History Microfilm Lending Discontinued

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Adoption Records

Adoption records can easily be some of the most emotionally charged records that genealogists hunt for. Searching for them can be quite tricky.

In the U.S., before 1850, when Massachusetts passed the first adoption legislation, there weren't any official adoption procedures. The laws vary from state to state about access to the records, with some states not allowing any access. Also, the laws have evolved over time. Here is a helpful timeline:

  • 1851, Massachusetts was the first state to pass legislation for the adoption process. Prior to this, check in the records for guardianship, apprenticeship and indenture records. Most likely, no legal documentation exists.
  • 1917 Minnesota is the first state to make the records confidential - open to the adoptee and the birth parents, but closed to everyone else.
  • Starting in the 1940's, states made the records secret; not even open to the adoptee or birth parents. An amended birth certificate was issued.
  • More recently, states are moving to opening up records, particularly for medical purposes,  if everyone involved agrees to it & registers on a database.

These would be the type of records to search for:
  • Adoption petitions and orders
  • Agency records
  • Bastardy bonds
  • Birth certificate
  • Census records enumerating institutions
  • Church records including baptisms
  • Guardianships
  • Hospital and medical records
  • Legislative records
  • Name changes
  • Newspapers
  • Orphanage records
  • Overseers of the Poor records
  • Probate records
The American Adoption Congress supports adult access to adoption records. Here is their state-by-state breakdown of access to adoption records:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adoption information on their Child Welfare Gateway. They have a 60 page PDF file that has more detailed information about adoption records. Here are the two pages that cover Ohio:

These, and other resources are listed below:

     Access to Adoption Records - PDF file - A state by state listing

Find My Past - Adoption Research

The Legal Genealogist - Chasing Adoption Records

The Source: a Guidebook to American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs

These two books cover the women and children placed out from the New York City area from 1911 to 1972. They were not necessarily orphans, but were neglected or their parents couldn't care for them:

Orphan Train Riders A Brief History of the Orphan Train Era by Tom Riley

Orphan Train Riders :  Entrance Records from the American Female Guardian Society's Home for the Friendless in New York by Tom Riley