Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dandelion Drive

No, this blog is not about my front yard. (Though we are using fewer weed killers because
dandelions are among the first blossoms that bees visit every spring. Did you know that?)

On May 21st., the second annual Medina County History tour will be taking place. Last year's tour tried to fit in as many of the historical societies who wanted to participate. This year the council wanted to focus on a section of Medina County, like how the Fall Foliage Tour does.

And the focus will be on the city of Medina.

And the map:

And for more details check out their  - Facebook page

On the 20th, the Lodi Railroad Museum is having a work day to spruce up the museum. If you are interested in helping out contact:
Lodi Railroad Museum
By Phone:
Joanne Slorgie - (330) 948-2482
Paul Bayus - (330) 887-5325

It is a great weekend for historians in Medina!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


On Medina's northwest side is a nice park, Ray Mellert Park.  On North Huntington, it has been then for as long as we have lived in Medina, the late 1980's. Only recently did I begin to wonder who was Ray Mellert and why did Medina name a park after him?

Ray Mellert was a life-long Medina resident, born to George & Edith Mellert in 1919. He graduated from Medina High School in 1936.

Ray Mellert's Senior picture from the 1936 Medina High School Yearbook
From his nickname and his quote from the caption, and several other incidents listed in the yearbooks, Ray was a well-liked, happy fellow who enjoyed a good escapade.

U.S.S. Wyoming from 1944-45 (Wikipedia)
Ray joined the U.S. Navy even before World War II broke out. He served all his time aboard the U.S. S. Wyoming, a training ship based out of Chesapeake MD. The Wyoming was built as a battleship for WWI, but had been re-purposed as a training facility for anti-aircraft gunners. He was a supply officer.

After he returned from the service, Ray joined his dad at Free Oil. George Mellert was a founding member of the enterprise, and Ray took over the reins of the company in 1957 when his father died.

Medina Gazette 25 May 1956 p. 4.

Ray was a big supporter of youth sports and was instrumental in keeping youth baseball alive in Medina. He also supported wrestling, basketball and music programs at the high school. He didn't just write a check, he rolled up his sleeves and pitched in wherever it was needed.

He was a stellar boss. Several employees stated they "never worked for a better man." He insisted that all company outings include families, with wives and children taking part.

Ray also was very active in the community joining these civic groups:
Al Koran Shrine
  • 32 degree Masons of Cleveland
  • Medina Methodist Church
  • Medina Chamber of Commerce
  • F & A.M. Mason Lodge
  • Baseball Federation & Hot Stove Leagues of Medina
  • Medina Booster Club

Before & after pictures of Medina

When the Community Design Committee took issue with all the garish signs that populated downtown Medina in the 60's and 70's, Ray decided to take action. He tore down the offensive sign and put one up that fit the bill.

Medina Gazette 25 Feb 1971 p. 2
In the early 1970's, the city of Medina bought 15 acres of land from the Pythian Sisters for a new park on the city's northwest side. They applied for a Federal grant and hired a grant coordinator and architects.

Ray Mellert died suddenly in March of 1974, just weeks before the opening of the park.

Medina Gazette 18 Mar., 1974, p.1

Medina City council voted to name the park after him.

Medina Gazette, 31 May 1975 , p.1

When the park opened it had:
  • Two tennis courts
  • A handball court
  • A picnic pavilion
  • Playground equipment
  • Basketball court
  • Two ball fields
  • A large brick restroom
The park has since had its ups and downs, sometimes being associated with criminal activity.

But it has also been a setting for positive activity.

The above plaque recognizes the efforts of two neighborhood volunteers who strive for positive influence and mentoring.

So, now you know!

Oh, and I have just been reminded that the Ray Mellert Park is the site of a Pokemon Go Gym!

Medina High School Yearbook, 1936, from Ancestry Library Edition
Medina County Gazette
US Navy History

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ohio Genealogical Conference 2017

The Ohio Genealogical Conference was 26-29 April at the Kalahari Resort outside of Sandusky, Ohio. While it is too late for you to attend this year's conference, there is always next year!

This is an incredible opportunity for genealogists to augment or refresh their research skills. The conference always includes nationally renowned speakers on a vast array of topics.

I attended one day of the three day event on Friday, the 28th. There are six sessions each day and the biggest problem is that there are so many really great programs, that it is nearly impossible to choose which one to go to. But choose we must.

Pictures and recordings are not allowed during the session but I did steal a couple of fuzzy opening screen shots.

1. The first session of the day started at 8 a.m.. Since I was attending for only a single day, that meant leaving Medina very early in the morning. I arrived at 7:45 and got my registration packet and made it with time to spare to listen to Peggy Clemens Lauritzen's presentation on West Virginia genealogy.
The statues in the corridors were adorable.

Peggy stressed the importance of knowing the historical timeline for Virginia and West Virginia's history. She also emphasized the importance of knowing the migration trails, so you can better understand WHY your ancestors moved into an area. She recommended the Wiki at to learn more about migration trails. That is available HERE. The third topic that Peggy spoke about was knowing the ethnic background of your ancestors. The English, Germans and Scots-Irish tended to settle in separate areas and followed different customs.

                ENGLISH               SCOTS-IRISH           GERMAN
Settled -  E. Shenandoah         W. Shenandoah             E. Shenandoah 
Religion - Anglican/Baptist     Presbyterians                Lutheran/Protestant
Built first - Church                     Tavern                          Barn   

Finally, Peggy talked about two important online resources when researching West Virginia ancestors:
West Virginia Archives and History

2. Chris Staats is  a well known speaker in the Ohio genealogy sphere, so I was really looking forward to his presentation on Blogging. He specifically covered blogging with WordPress. I don't use WordPress, so it was very informative to me. It seems like an easy and versatile software to use.

He was specifically talking about blogging on your family history. You can use a blog to get help with a research problem or to post about a solution to a problem. Some of the blogs that he recommends are Lisa Also's and Randy Seaver. He also mentioned several other  tricks, such as using for making graphics and using a chart generator from Kid Zone.

3.  The next session I attended was about tracking your ancestors who liked to move around a lot. Titled "Tracking Your Spinning Ancestors Without Getting Dizzy" by Tina Lyons.

Sometimes, your ancestors weren't really moving from place to place, but the county's, state's or country's borders changed around them. The research techniques to solve the issue is the same in either case.

4. This was my favorite session of the day! Using Social Media for genealogy. Amie Browser Tennant was an energetic and entertaining speaker. When you have hit a snag in your research, consider turning to social media for FREE HELP when the resources you need are too far away or you just don't know what is out there.

She covered Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

On Facebook, she recommends using the FB groups for the state or county where you're researching and for Special Interest Groups (SIG) like for DNA and genealogy. I immediately tried this on my smart phone and found a group for one of my surnames in southern Ohio, the TAGGs.

Twitter is text based and she recommended following relevant people, experts and groups. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, so you quickly learn to be concise. I may tiptoe into these waters over the next several months.

Pinterest is driven by pictures whose captions are hyperlinks to more information. By "pining" the ones you like, Pinterest "learns" to feed you more of the same.

She would be a perfect speaker for here in Medina!

5. OneNote software comes with the Microsoft Office Suite. Kelli Bergheimer covered its features. Basically, OneNote is:

  • A Digital Notebook
  • Structured place for random notes & ideas
  • An area for collections
She prefers OneNote to Evernote because  your files are always under  your control. Evernote stores your information on the "cloud" which I think makes it more accessible.

If your favorite history book has been digitized and is available as a downloadable PDF, you can save it to OneNote and access it anywhere you can access your OneNote folders.

For genealogical purposes you can:
  • Track your DNA matches
  • Take notes
  • Keep track of cousins
  • Have folders for each surname where you store your research.
  • Save your lists of IDs and passwords for all your different digital accounts.
  • Can be password protected.

Adorable hippos
6.  Dr. Michael Lacopo covered researching your ancestors in Pennsylvania. He started by emphasizing following the Genealogical Proof Standard. He covered all the different resources:

  • Check out the Family Search Wiki on Pennsylvania
  • Church records, unlike other records, your ancestors didn't have to have money to go to church.
  • Tax Records - for anyone who lived in Pennsylvania after 1750
  • Court Records
    • Court of Common Pleas
    • Court of Quarter Sessions
    • Court of Oyer & Terminer
  • Business Records
  • ArchiveGrid - the new endeavor from the folks at WorldCat that describes and directs you to historical collections in archives around the world.

All in all, it was a very educational, exciting and exhausting day!

That evening, I was inducted into the First Families of Ohio lineage society.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

H.G. Blake

Harrison Gray Otis Blake
Who was H.G. Blake and why is there a Medina Elementary School named after him?

Harrison Gray Otis Blake was born 17 March 1818 in Newfane, Vermont. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Salem, Washington County, New York.

On 19 December 1821, his father, Harrison Gray Blake, and mother, Lucy (Goodell) decided to visit family in Vermont. They took their youngest child, a 14 month old little girl named Rebecca with them.

Before crossing the Green Mountains into Vermont, they queried a local landlord and was told the way was snow covered but good for travel and that they should be able to make the trip in 3 hours.

After traveling for about 3 miles, they found that the snow deepened to 3 feet. Not long after that, their horse became tired and they disconnected the sleigh, and putting Mrs. Blake and the baby on the horse, continued onward. Finally, the horse refused to budge and they decided to try to find shelter on foot. They didn't make it very far before the cold and frostbite halted them. By now it was quite dark.

A search party was sent out the next day looking for someone else that was delayed on the road. Mr. Blake was found first and helped to shelter. The rescue party went back for Mrs. Blake and the baby who were found a mere 100 yards from where Mr. Blake was found.

Lucy Blake's tombstone from

Mrs. Blake had wrapped the baby in her cloak. The baby was snug among her blankets and her parents' cloaks.  Lucy Blake died shortly after being found. Mr. Blake lost all the toes on his left foot. He survived and lived for many years after, not dying until 1868, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Their story became known as the Stratton Mountain Tragedy and was turned into a ballad:

The Snow Storm, a poem penned by Seba Smith

Cold swept the mountains high, 
Dreary was the pathless wild.
 Amid the cheerless hours of night 
A mother wandered with her child. 
As through the drifts of snow she pressed 
The babe was sleeping neath her breast. 
Bitter blew the chilly wind. 
Darker hours of night came on. 
Deeper grew the drifts of snow, 
Her limbs were chilled, her strength was gone. 
“O God,” she cried in accents wild, 
“If I must perish, save my child.” 
She took the mantle from her breast 
And bared her bosom to the storm. 
As round the child she wrapped the vest, 
She smiled to think that it was warm. 
One cold kiss, one tear she shed 
And sank upon the snowy bed. 
A traveler passing by next morn 
Saw her neath the snowy veil. 
The frost of death was in her eye 
Her cheek was hard, cold and pale. 
He took the robe from off the child. 
The babe looked up and sweetly smiled.

Rebecca Blake, the baby who "sweetly smiled" and her father, Harrison Gray Blake.

The baby, Rebecca, was raised by her grandparents in Marlboro, Vermont.

The Blakes' had left two of their children home that day, Lucy and Harrison G.O Blake.

Mr. Blake became crippled by the ordeal and other people raised his children. Harrison G.O. Blake  was taken in by Jesse Rhoades. Lucy married and lived in Marlboro the rest of her days.

Harrison Jr. traveled west with the Rhoades family in 1830 when they moved to Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio.

H.G., as he was called, went to public school and that is where he met his future wife, Elizabeth Bell.

In 1840, the young couple married. His father-in-law, James Bell, probably helped H.G. succeed over the next few years. He went from being a clerk in a mercantile house to owning the store. In his spare time, he studied law and became a lawyer in 1847.

He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives as a Whig in 1846 and 1847.  In 1848 he was elected to the Ohio Senate and temporarily became its Speaker. He served in the Senate until 1855 when he returned to Medina.

In the 1850 Census, H.G is listed as a Merchant with real estate worth $8,000. Not too shabby for a man who was a store clerk just 10  years before!

In 1853, he became the first editor of the newly named Medina County Gazette. 

 The family moved into the Greek Revival home that still stands at the corner of East Washington and Jefferson Streets.

The Blake Home on the southeast corner of East Washington
and Jefferson Streets in Medina.

H.G. was a strong abolitionist and his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In later years his daughters reminisced about being kept home from school whenever fugitive slaves were hiding in the barn or house.

Plaque on the Blake Home denoting that it was a stop on the
Underground Railroad before the Civil War.
In 1857, he founded the Old Phoenix Bank, Medina's hometown bank until 1995.

In 1859, Blake was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was known as a strong speaker and spoke ardently against slavery or compromise with the southern states.

In June of 1860, he spoke about a resolution he had put before Congress to introduce a bill "giving freedom to every human being and interdicting slavery, wherever Congress has the constitutional power to legislate on the subject." Full text HERE. The speech was considered quite daring and "incendiary" at the time.

In the 1860 census, H.G. listed himself as an attorney and his real estate was worth $11,000.

One of his most celebrated speeches was titled "Freedom Takes No Step Backwards" and was delivered on 19 February 1861 in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this speech, H.G. came out strongly against any compromise that maintained slavery. The full text can be read HERE.

In April of 1861, Confederate forced fired on Fort Sumter and the Civil War commenced.

In 1863, Harrison Blake registered for the draft even though as a member of Congress he would have been exempt.

1863 Draft Registration for Medina and Wayne Counties
Line 14 of the Draft Registration showing Harrison G. Blake's name

Lieutenant Colonel H. G. Blake
In February of 1864, Abraham Lincoln called for 200,000 more soldiers. H.G. Blake busily enrolled volunteers in the Ninth Independent Battery.  When they reported for duty they became the 166th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with Lieutenant Colonel H.G. Blake at the head. They did not experience battle, but guarded Union property in Virginia.

After the war, veterans united in fellowship and formed chapters. The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR. Medina's chapter was named in honor of H.G. Blake

In the 1870 census, his real estate was worth $9,000, maybe in part because of an economic depression. But perhaps also by then he had set up his daughter's households after their marriages in 1863 and 1866. (Daughter Elizabeth and husband, R.M. McDowell, built the McDowell house that sits at the far west end of Washington Street in 1890.)

In 1870, the downtown area of Medina experienced a devastating fire. H. G. led the drive to rebuild, this time, in brick! One of the first to rebuild was the Phoenix Block, home of the Old Phoenix Bank for many years.

The Phoenix Block on the Medina Square
when First Merit Bank

H.G. was mayor of Medina from 1870-1872.

By 1875, there was much talk about H.G. running for governor, but he refused his friends support.

In April of 1876, Harrison Gray Otis Blake died of pneumonia. His obituary in the Medina Gazette is lost to us, as no newspaper survives from most of that year. But this snippet survives from the Sandusky Register:

The Sandusky Register 18 April 1876, page 1.

In 2001, on the 134 anniversary of his death, the newest Medina elementary school was named in his honor.

H.G. Blake Elementary School in Montville Township

History of Medina County and Ohio (1881)

Medina County Coming of Age 1810-1900 by Joann G. King, 2016.

Historical Highlights of Medina (1966)


Freedom Takes No Step Backwards

History of Stratton Vermont

Equality of Rights in theTerritories 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mortality Schedules

What are mortality schedules?

Mortality schedules list people who died during the previous 12 months. Mortality schedules were taken along with population schedules during the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, and in six states (Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota) in 1885. (Family Search Wiki)

And for people researching their ancestors, mortality schedules can be an alternative to official death records which didn't exist for much of the 1800's in many parts of the U.S. Generally, New England states started registering births and deaths much earlier, as early as 1780. Southern and Western states didn't require state registration until much later. Some as late as the early 20th century. Ohio didn't require deaths to be registered until 1867.

Listings for Ohio are not comprehensive:

  • 1850 - Only the counties Hamilton through Wayne Counties
  • 1860 - All of the Ohio counties
  • 1870 - NO Ohio Counties
  • 1880 - Adams through Geauga Counties
  • 1885 - NO Ohio Counties

What information can be found in the mortality schedules?

It varies depending on which schedule you are searching. 

It is always important to remember why the records were originally created. In the case of death records or the mortality schedules they were created to obtain a picture of the spread of epidemics and the overall health of the communities. The information collected reflects this focus.

1850 Schedule asked this information:
  • Name
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Free or Slave
  • Married or Widowed
  • Place of birth
  • Month in which died
  • Profession, Occupation or Trade
  • Disease or cause of death
  • Number of days ill
1850 Mortality Schedule for Spencer Township, Medina County, Ohio. As with all written records, interpreting the handwriting can be difficult. Does that look like Urrin Frimier to you? Only 2 years old, he died of dysentery,
a disease caused by unsanitary bathroom habits.

1880 Schedule:
  • Name
  • Age at last birthday 
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Marital status: Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced
  • Birthplace of this person
  • Father's birthplace
  • Mother's birthplace
  • Profession, Occupation or Trade
  • Disease or cause of death
  • How long a resident of this county?
  • Where contracted the disease if not at this place
  • Name of attending physician
1880 Mortality Schedule for Guyan Township, Gallia County, Ohio. John WILLIAMS (second line down) is my 3X great grandfather and he died at the age of 84. He was the oldest person listed on this page. The average age was 14 years old.

Mortality schedules are available on Ancestry and Ancestry Library Edition, available at the library. From the Ancestry home page, go under the Census Search and then use U.S Federal Census. Under "Included Data Collections" the mortality schedule is near the bottom of that list.

Family Search has the 1850 mortality schedules HERE. And the 1872 Canadian mortality schedules is also at Family Search HERE

And a quick reminder that this Friday, the Medina Library is hosting a Genealogy Lock-In. There are still spots available. See below for more information. And if you are interested in signing up, click on this LINK.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Library Funding

Despite what you might have read or heard, libraries are needed now more than ever!

1. Everything is NOT online.
2. Not everyone has online access and not everyone has a smart phone.
3. In economic hard times, use of the library becomes critical (Read this article on the importance of LIBRARIES from the last economic depression)
4.  A LOT of people need help finding information and using the latest technology. Where do those people go?

To the library.

Want some proof?

Take a look of some statistics for the Medina County District Library system for 2016:
  • 711,966 people visited the Medina Libraries. Obviously, some of these were repeat visitors!
  • Over 9,000 children played the Summer Reading Game.
  • 4,908 public meetings were held at the libraries, with 101,059 people attending those meetings.
  • 3,066 passports were issued. Did you know that you could apply for your passport at the Medina, Brunswick and Lodi libraries?
  • 2,700,042 items were checked out. Look at that statistic again. That is over 2 MILLION! Nearly 15% of those items were digital media like digital books, music, magazines, and videos.
  • 336,547 logins were tallied on library computers. The library is the ONLY place you access the internet if you don't have a home computer AND and internet provider or a smart phone.
  • The libraries offered 2,942 programs on topics ranging from lap-sit story times, basic computer skills to robotics. 107,620 people attended those programs!

So libraries are as important, pertinent and even more necessary than ever. Right!!?

Why bring this up?

On May 2nd, the Medina County District Library system has an operating levy renewal on the ballot that accounts for nearly 60% of our operating budget. 60%. Over half. A lot. A WHOLE lot.

The levy money (property taxes) is represented by the teal arc in the pie chart below.

2016 budget statistics on the Library's revenue

This money pays for staffing the libraries, running & repairing six separate buildings & a bookmobile, programs, AND materials (i.e. the books, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, e-media, etc)

The last operating levy was passed in 2007 and has lasted for 10 years. But now it is up for renewal. Without the renewal, the libraries would look very bleak:

Without that money, the picture is very incomplete.

60% fewer materials, 60% fewer open library hours, 60% fewer programs and 60% fewer staff.

The library is also requesting a small increase; an additional .25 mill, which is the equivalent of about $8.75, or the cost of a paperback book.

Learn more about the library levy HERE and remember the library on May 2nd.

In other library funding news:

  1. Ohio Governor Kasich has proposed rollbacks in library funding while at the same time saying libraries should be "continuous learning centers" which libraries already are:  Columbus Dispatch article  
  2. President Trump has proposed doing away with Federal library funding  (Institute of Museum and Library Services): ALA News ReleaseThis money pays for the Ohio Library for the Blind and many of the most used databases, such as Ancestry Library Edition, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and the EbscoHost databases.
We will have to monitor those proposals.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Genealogy Lock-In


Lisa and I are NOT being punished, yet...

The spring Genealogy Lock-In will be Friday, April 21st from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Click HERE to sign up.

This spring we are going back to the basics with "Starting your Quest". Discover all the information you already have in your home or in your head.

Then you will learn how to organize your research." Family history research generates a lot of paperwork and files. With Lisa's help you will be able to find any of your information in the blink of an eye!

Then Kathy will guide you through how to locate birth, marriage and death records to further your research in "Vital Records"

If you are not "new" to genealogy, join us to refresh your skills and learn about the latest techniques.


Share this program with someone you know who wants to get started and doesn't know how.

As always, light refreshments will be served and there will be DOOR PRIZES!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Historic Homes of Medina

The John Smart House, home to the Medina County Historical Society

The Medina Library has some wonderful resources for researching your home's history, particularly if it is an older home in the downtown Medina area.

First, there is the Historical Home Research brochure, that is available on the library's web site and HERE and I blogged about it HERE.

Then there is Bob Hyde's wonderful web site that was in The Medina Gazette last week - READ THE ARTICLE  HERE.   I blogged about that HERE. (Bob has changed the name of the site since I posted about it.)

But you know that not everything is available online, right? Right?

In 1979,  MCRPC registered a number of area homes on the Ohio Historic Inventory. It is a one volume binder with indexing by address and the home's name. Houses had to NOT had significant rennovations to qualify and the information is limited.

 A sample sheet from the Ohio Historic Inventory:


For the last 30+ years, the Medina Library has collected newspaper articles on local history topics. One of those topics is historic homes in Medina County, with much of the focus being Medina City. These articles are now compiled in two volume (soon to be four) binders in the Franklin Sylvester Room.

The articles are indexed by address and the name of the house. 85 different homes are covered including:
  • Burnham House which currently houses The Corkscrew Saloon
  • The Farmer's Exchange which is currently closed. Developers are looking at options.
  • The Gingerbread House in Weymouth
  • Hershey's Barbershop off the Square in Medina
  • The King-Phillips-Deibel House on North Broadway in Medina. This house was moved from its location on the southeast corner of the Square to North Broadway so the Franklin Sylvester Library could be built.
  • Lustron Homes - post WWII pre-fab houses built aroun 1948.
  • McDowell-Phillips House at the end of Washington Street in Medina
  • Octagon House
  • Quonset Hut
  • John Smart House
  • Victorian Village
  • York School

The "Blue" Phillips house was one of the homes that were
part of Victorian Village on East Washington. The homes are
all gone now, removed for the Medina Library Expansion
The Phillips house was dismantled and moved across
 country to the San Francisco are and rebuilt.

The Gingerbread House in Weymouth.
It is often the focus of historic home tours
 in Weymmouth
The King-Deibel-Phillips House on North Broadway. It was
moved from the corner of East Washington and South Broadway
for the construction of the original 1907 Library building.
McDowell-Phillips house at the end of Washington Street
in Medina. 

Information is as simple as a single article about an Historic Home Tour or many articles covering multiple decades. 

Is your historic home included?

Maybe. Maybe not. Visit the Franklin Sylvester Room at the Medina Library and browse through the binders

But the library will welcome copies of any information you have gathered to be added to our files!

Flyer from Akron Summit County Public Library

Akron Summit County Library is offering a wonderful program "Church and State: Genealogy Research in Religious and Government Records" on April lst. If you have never attended one of Akron's all-day program, I can highly recommend them. I would go to this one, but I have a conflicting engagement. I.E. - I have to work that day! Sign up information is HERE.