Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do You Use GenWeb??

USGenWeb was created in 1996 by genealogists who wanted an online home for genealogical research and for sharing information. Each of the web sites are created and are maintained by volunteers. Since the sites are volunteer operated, their quality varies with the skills of the volunteers. Most sites include query boards, listings of local sources for records, county and state histories, online genealogy books, research tips, maps, and links to helpful internet resources. Sometimes transcribed records are available and free. The volunteers are NOT there to answer your genealogy queries. Most of them don't even live near the county that they host.

Each state, and most counties/parishes within each state have sites. By clicking on this link: you can access the link to each state's site.  For example:

From the Ohio GenWeb site,  use the clickable map to navigate to a county you wish to research. The advantage of the map is that you can see the names of the surrounding counties.

By clicking on Medina County on the map you are taken to this site:

It is a fairly nice site. It has attractive graphics that are easy to navigate. It doesn't have annoying music playing in the background. Notice that it has links for:
  • An area to post queries 
  • A place to contact people who will do lookups for you 
  • Maps 
  • Archives 
  • A search box that allows you to search the whole site (useful when you are researching an uncommon name) 
  • And links to the Ohio GenWeb and the USGenWeb sites.
These are the types of resources you would expect to find on most GenWeb sites.

One of my favorite sites is the Calhoun County, West Virginia site, run by Linda Fluharty. They have  a LOT of transcribed records on the site. And it is where I discovered the information that proved that my 2X great grandmother, Bethany HELMICK was the daughter of Abraham HELMICK and Fair Sabra CONNOLLY. She doesn't appear in the lists of their children anywhere else.

This site will always be special to me. A marriage record transcribed here proved that my 2X great grandmother,
Bethany Helmick TANNER MCCUNE, was the daughter of Abraham HELMICK and Fair Sabra CONNOLLY.

Often, you can find the GenWeb sites just by typing in the county name, the state and the word "genealogy". Beware! There are lots of commercial sites trying to mimic the GenWeb sites. If it asks you to subscribe or pay to view, it isn't GenWeb!

Many county historical or genealogical societies also have Facebook pages where you can connect with other people who are interested in the same area you are. But most of them don't have archives of transcribed records to share.

From the WorldGenWeb site you can see which countries have GenWeb sites. International participation in the project isn't nearly as comprehensive as in the U.S. But it is a good place to start your foreign research, if only to see what is and isn't available.

Do you have a favorite GenWeb site?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Well, let's hope not. But it is just February in Northeast Ohio, so anything can happen. Like the 60 degree temperatures forecast for this weekend.

But a more typical weather event would be a blizzard. Like last year...

And like almost 40 years ago when "The Big One" hit. Anyone alive at that time remembers where they were, what it was like and how it affected them.

Me? I was in base housing at Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana. Across the street from our house was a corn field. So when the wind started blowing, we got HUGE snow drifts between the houses.  The snow reached up to the electric lines and airmen traversing the drifts had to duck under the lines to walk down the street. The Air Force emergency-delivered milk and diapers to homes with small children. But it was an Air Force Base and the base mission came first. That meant as soon as the snow stopped, they had bulldozers and dump trucks hauling the snow away. The drifts were too big for the plows to handle and there wasn't any place for them to "push" the snow away to.

More about "The Big One" later...

Medina, of course, has its share of blizzards. A search for the word "blizzard" in the online version of The History of Medina County and Ohio turned up a family by the name of BLIZZARD. A search using the term "snow storm" turned up a few more relevant hits. Mostly about how some brave pioneer got stranded in the woods during the storm and survived by taking shelter in a hollow log.

With a search on the digitized version of The Medina Gazette  and  The Medina Sentinel  available on the Newspaper Archive database from the Akron Summit County Public Library and the Medina Library's own clippings files, I was able to compile this list of blizzards for Medina County:
  • Dec 31, 1863   (snow continued for 9 days, bitter cold, gale force winds) 
  • April 24, 1875                       
  • March 31- April 3, 1881 
  • Feb 1887
  • April 1901
  • Feb 1910
  • Nov 1913
  • March 1947
  • Nov 1950
  • Jan-Feb 1968
  • Feb 1977
  • Jan 1978 (The BIG ONE!)
  • Feb 1984
  • Feb 1987
  • April 1987
  • Nov 1987
  • Dec 2004
  • Feb 2006
  • Feb 2007
Strangely, The Medina Gazette newspaper didn't report of the big snows and blizzards of the 1800's. I could only find subtle news of the 1881 storm:

Someone circled the news of the storm in this April 1, 1881 edition
of the Medina Gazette

A week later, there still was no news in the Gazette. But there were two
oblique references to the recent weather in the "Local" column

The storm in 1901 was the first storm coverage in the local papers. Notice how the left edge of paper is distorted in the images below? The newspaper was microfilmed from bound copies of the paper. The distortion is where the paper is bound. 15 inches of snow fell but it drifted "higher than a horse's back". Illustrations and photos were rare in the newspapers at this time.

The Medina Gazette 25 April 1901 p. 1
In 1913, Medina had another big blizzard. Again the paper was microfilmed from bound copies of the newspaper and is quite distorted. Here is part of the 14 November Medina Gazette article:

In 1947, this amusing cartoon appeared in the March 25th edition:

Cartoon depicting Spring's arrival.

Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor!

It started snowing that very morning and three days later this was the front page picture:

The storm closed all the major highways around Medina. All the local schools were closed until the following Monday.

And in November of 1950, Medina experienced record breaking snow when 16 inches fell:

The Medina Gazette  28 November 1950, page 1.

Stranded motorists and truckers used the Medina Square as a parking lot until they could be dug out.

In a preview of what was to come in the following year, February of 1977 had some serious snow also:

President Carter declared Ohio a disaster area. 


On January  20 & 21, 1978, all of the mid-west was hit with heavy snow. Strong winds whipped the snow into incredible drifts, closing roads and stranding people in their homes.

This 20 January 1978 article from the Medina Gazette was just the beginning of the story.

Countians struggled to dig their cars out. 

A week later, the blizzard was still making the front page news;

Utility workers had been laboring around the clock to get electric and telephone service restored.

The Ohio State Government was shut down

This scene from Effingham Illinois shows how truck transportation was stalled.

Because the tanker trucks couldn't get to the dairies, milk couldn't be picked up and had to be dumped.

It wasn't just business and government affected by the storm. Lives were lost.

In 1984, the area was again hit with heavy snows:

The Medina Gazette February 1984

It was bad enough that medical personnel needed to be "shuttled" to work.

Ohio was declared an "emergency" by then governor Dick Celeste.

Alternative modes of transportation were employed. Lucky the resident who had a snowmobile!

Add caption

Of course, a blizzard isn't bad news for everyone, as this 1987 picture from The Medina Gazette  illustrates:


Share your memories of past blizzards in the comment section below:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Weymouth Preservation Society

The Weymouth Preservation Society has been active for a number of years now. They identify, collect, preserve and display historical items reflecting the unique culture of this little community. Their collection is housed in the restored 1925 Weymouth School.

In the past they have hosted historic home tours and cemetery restoration projects.

2017 is their Bicentennial Celebration year and their calendar is bursting with activities; such as:

  • Special Exhibits
  • A Spring Tea
  • Annual Plant Sale
  • Happy Birthday Weymouth Pot Luck Dinner
  • Annual Weymouth Day
  • Historic Cemetery Tour

As part of that celebration they have revamped and relaunched their web site:

The Weymouth Preservation Society

The site is very attractive and inviting.

Perhaps we will run into each other at one of their events?


This week, Family History Daily newsletter reveals how you can get thousands of genealogy related ebooks from the Amazon site: Free Kindle books  Let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Finding AMERICA!

Columbus "discovering" America. But, you know it wasn't lost, right?

No, this blog isn't about Columbus discovering America. It is about discovering my 3 X great aunt, America MASON! Whoopee!  And just like Columbus, I wasn't looking for America when I found her!

You might remember from my blog on January 12th  that America MASON was the fifth child of my 3 X great grandparents, William B. and Elizabeth R. MASON. She is also one of three that disappeared after an appearance in several census records. You will also remember that I resolved to research this family further in 2017.

On Friday the 13th (who says that is an unlucky day?) a search for Elizabeth MASON on the West Virginia Vital Records site revealed an E. MASON as the mother of a A. A. MELTEN who died 25 January 1874 in Putnam County, West Virginia. Remember, Putnam and Kanawha counties share a border and my MASON family lived right along that border for generations. The deceased father's first initial was given as "M" but from personal experience I know that an "W" is often confused for a "M" when transcribing handwritten records. A.A. MELTON's birth year was given as 1854, close enough to the Dec 1853 date I had for America's birth date to warrant a closer look.

Transcription of the death record for A.A. MELTON. Could this be the missing America MASON?
Mother's initial is E, possible for Elizabeth? Father's initial M? Is it a transcription error?

However,  the West Virginia Vital Records site was experiencing difficulties and the images were not available for display. This problem persisted for 4 days. Frustrating to say the least. Contact with their web master revealed that they were aware of the problem and their technology gurus were working on a solution.

So, what to do in the meantime? The abstract for the record gave her husband's name as "B.F. MELTEN". Since America was last listed with her family in the 1870 census, that was checked first for "B.F. MELTEN". A Benjamin F. MELTON was listed with Elizabeth MELTON's family along with 7 other supposed  family members in Putnam County. The 1870 census does not list relationships. A possible match for "B.F. MELTEN".

Benjamin F. MELTON was also listed in the 1880 Census for Kanawha County, with a wife and 2 children, the oldest of which was 3 years old. Still no conflicting information to eliminate him as a possibility as a husband for America.

But what about a marriage record for A.A. MASON and B.F. MELTON? It wasn't listed in the West Virginia Vital Records site, and while birth & death registrations can be hit or miss, marriage records seem to be better recorded. Multiple searches using different variations of their names did not help.

Time to employ an old "fall-back" search mechanism. GOOGLE! Yes, when I get stuck in my family research I will turn to Google to see if anyone else has already done the work. A search for "Benjamin MELTON" and "America MASON" did turn up a clue. Someone had posted on  that a Benjamin MELTON had married and America MASON in 1873 in OHIO! WOW! Names and time period are right. But OHIO? from all accounts this family was poor. Why travel to Ohio to get married?

A FamilySearch query did not turn anything up. But the MELTON surname was familiar. A quick check of the family group chart for William B. MASON's family reminded me that America's sister, Nancy, had married a MELTON in 1877 in GALLIA COUNTY, OHIO! Really? Could it be?

My still- packed-away genealogy research boxes had some books on the marriages in Gallia County, Ohio, as that is where my father's family had resided. Dragged out the appropriate box from the cold garage and located at the bottom was Marriage Records 1851-1900 Gallia County, Ohio compiled by Michael L. Trowbridge. It is NOT indexed by every name, but does have a surname index and there on page 103, near the bottom is a listing for the marriage of Benjamin F. MELTON  and America A. MASON on 10 April 1873.

With this information in hand, finding the original record on the FamilySearch web site was easy.

Marriage Record for Benjamin MELTON and America MASON from the FamilySearch web site

While all of this information was intriguing, it still wasn't enough to convince me that A.A. MELTON was America MASON. I needed to see the original death record.

Finally, on Tuesday the 17th, the site was fixed and I could access the record image.

PART1: Red Arrow points to death Record for A.A. MELTON. Note that she was 20 years old and died in childbirth.
Green arrow points to death record for B.A. MELTON who died on 20 July and was 6 months old. THIS is her baby.
The transcription for B.A. MELTEN says that the baby's full name was Blanche. The record below reveals that her parents are B.F. and A.A. Melton. Since America MASON and Benjamin MELTON were married in April of 1873, their daughter was born almost exactly 9 months later.

PART 2: The red arrow on the left points to A.A. MELTEN's parents.

When compared to the "W" on the line above, it is clear that that is a letter "M".  Does this mean that A.A. MELTEN isn't America, the daughter of William B. & Elizabeth MASON?

Not necessarily. The red arrows on the right reveals who the informant  was for the record, "W.F. MELTEN", "Brother." He clearly isn't the brother of A.A. MASON, so he must be B.F. MELTEN's brother. How familiar would he be with his brother's in-law's, when the marriage had only lasted 9 months? 

I believe the initial "M" for A.A.'s father is a mistake, made by her brother-in-law. For now, I believe I have solved the disappearance of America MASON. And just as I guessed,  she must have "married or died". In reality, she had done both.

Is the case completely closed? 

No. New information found in the future could cause me to look at this assumption again. But for now...

BTW: My research plan for the MASONs for 2017 has been formulated. It will require field trips to other libraries, ordering FHL microfilms and maybe a trip to West Virginia!

AND, once I returned to searching for Elizabeth MASON (America's mother), a review of the records I already had gave me a clue to her. In the 1910 Census for her son, William H. MASON, an Elizabeth LISLIE is listed as his mother-in-law. William H.'s wife was Elizabeth HARMON and her mother was Rebecca BESS. Who is this Elizabeth LISLIE? Could the census taker misinterpreted the relationship?

In the 1900 Census for her daughter, Nancy MELTON, Elizabeth LESLIE was listed as the mother-in-law to Nancy's husband, Elisha MELTON. Could this be the elusive Elizabeth MASON?

A query in FamilySearch  turned up a marriage record for Elizabeth MASON to Samuel LESLEY in 1886. They are both listed as widow(er)s and she is listed as 50 years old. In the census records her age fluctuates as much as 7 years, so this is inline with that info.  Further search revealed a death record for Elizabeth LESLIE in 1916.

If this Elizabeth MASON LESLIE is the same woman as Elizabeth MASON wife to William B. MASON, I have discovered what happened to her, and narrowed William's death date to sometime between June of 1880 when he last appeared in the census and January 1886, when his wife Elizabeth remarried.

Unfortunately, I still have not found a death date for William B., nor the marriage record between him and Elizabeth, whose maiden name is still unknown.  And THAT is why you set goals!

Now, I know you aren't all that thrilled to learn about my research into the MASON family, but what this posting illustrates is:

1. Using multiple records to prove a connection.
2. Looking critically at sources. Who provided the information? Could mistakes have been made?
3. Examining details of resources you already have for clues.
4. Willingness to re-evaluate suppositions as new information is discovered.
5. Realization that spelling of names and dates of birth are very fluid in early records.

Curious about which DNA test is right for you? 

Check out this article from Family History Daily: Which Genealogy DNA Test is the Best?  I still like what Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, says; "Test with as many companies as you can afford." That strategy gives you the greatest chance of making connections.

West Virginia Vital Records
Family History Daily
The Legal Genealogist