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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rufus Ferris - a Medina Pioneer

Log cabin similar to the ones erected by early Medina pioneers.

Rufus was one of the earliest settlers in Medina Village. He was the land agent for Elijah Boardman, a wealthy land speculator in Connecticut (CT).  Here are the basic facts of Rufus' life:
  • Born 21 March 1780, New Milford, Litchfield County, CT, son of Zachariah Ferris & Phebe Gaylord.
  • 1790-1800 census - He is probably enumerated with his father, Zachariah in CT.
  • Married Hannah Platt on 7 May 1801 in Vermont (VT). 
  • 1810 listed in Ferrisburg, Addison County, VT. 
  • Children: (all born in VT.)
    • Harriet Ada – 1802
    • Hiram Platt – 1805
    • Cornelia M. – 1807
    • Daniel A. – 1810
    • Rufus B.D – 1813
  • 1817 had first frame barn built in Medina.
  • Original Member of St. Paul’s Parish in Medina, He was the clerk and a vestryman.
  • Was voted “overseer” of the poor along with Lathrop Seymour. Also was Fence Viewer.
  • 1818 he become Medina's first postmaster. The "post office" was his home.
  • 1820 census, he was in Medina County, Ohio.
  • 1821 Appointed Treasurer of Medina Village, continued until 1832
  • 1830 census, he was again. in Medina County, Ohio.
  • Died 7 Sep 1833, in Wooster returning from Columbus where he had taken a remedy for the cholera epidemic.
  • He is buried in the Old Town Cemetery in Medina.

Those are the facts. But they don't tell the whole story of the man that was Rufus Ferris.

In Northrup's Pioneer History of Medina County, the Ferris family's arrival is described as follows:

     "On the 11th day of June, 1816, Rufus Ferris, Esq., arrived with his family; and, having a number of hands in his employ, soon erected a shanty for their things, and did their working by the side of a fallen tree. Mrs. Ferris had to bake every day, rain or shine out of doors. He soon erected a log house, half a mile north of the Public Square in Medina. He was agent for Mr. Boardman, and his house was open and free for all who came to purchase land in the township. He, with his men, pushed forward the chopping and clearing as fast as they could, and soon had corn and wheat growing on the ground so recently an entire wilderness."

From this, we learn that although it was very rough living for the family, Rufus had the means to hire men to help clear the land. Or rather,  Elijah Boardman provided him "with abundant means for operating expenses."

During the barn raising in 1817, men came from Liverpool and Brunswick and needed stay overnight to finish the next day. Ferris, being a genial host and a fun-loving man, provided two large pails of milk-punch. Described as "sweet, but strong with whiskey", it was quite potent. It soon debilitated the men and several who "drank most freely were on their backs feeling upwards for terra firma."

After the rafter and ridge-pole were in place, "Uncle John Hickox" went up and walked the ridge-pole from one end to the other. This was quite daring in a time when there were no ambulances, x-ray machines or even doctors around. The barn was used as the first court house in Medina.

In 1820 he became a charter member of the Medina Masonic Lodge, and of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where he was the clerk.

His home became a regular stop on the stagecoach run from Cleveland to Wooster and continued in operation until 1845.

Also in 1820, Rufus wrote a letter to Boardman in Connecticut. Parts of the letter were reprinted in 1979 article in the Medina Gazette. Instead of talking about the progress being made in Medina or land sales, Rufus was complaining about the weather and his rheumatism!

Portrait of Elijah Boardman at the Metropolitan
Museum in New York.
"From the middle of June to July, it was the most gloomy time I ever saw. The south branch of the Rocky River on Smith Road ceased to run. Our fields ceased to look green and we should be at this time but a little better if it was not for the very heavy dews that fall every night....

Was you to see the position that I am this moment compelled to put myself in, in order to write to you, my friend, you would say, 'Curse the rheumatism. Let Ferris along." Here I am... stretched full length on the floor face downwards with my pen, ink and paper in my reach and thus compelled to write."

Described as " Of a genial nature and of a fairly well-to-do family" he was a "popular and much respected citizen." He "devoted himself to entertaining strangers who would be likely to buy Boardman land."

In Joann King's book, Reverend Clark described Rufus as "large for his time -- six feet tall, lean and spare." No portrait of Ferris has survived. Clark also thought Rufus had limited education but was "a man of strong intellect and a smart man, well suited for his frontier responsibilities."

Later in that book Rufus called himself a "Hickory Quaker." This means he was flexible, but strong and tough, like a hickory tree. Many of the FERRIS families were Quakers. He "wore his Quaker hat proudly." But was flexible enough to be a founding member of the Episcopalian church, St. Paul's!

His wife, Hannah, willing fed anyone who came to their door and gave them a bed for their tired heads. When the first family with women and children showed up at her door, she "spatted her hands" for joy. Clark remarked "In the name of every pioneer... I would say of this model of benevolence, Mrs. Ferris, her memory is blessed, may her rest be glorious!"

In 1825, he built a larger brick house to replace the cabin. It had ten rooms and eight fireplaces. The house still exists and is at 325 North Broadway. It has been renovated extensively and Rufus would not recognize it today.

Rufus Ferris house in 1952 as pictured in the book Building a Firm Foundation.
It had already had many renovations, including a squared roof instead of gable.
This picture would be from before its latest renovation.
The house as it stands today at 325 North Broadway. It is law offices
The historic marker next to the house.

In 1833, when cholera broke out at the Columbus penitentiary, Rufus traveled there with a remedy. On his return trip, he contracted the disease and died in Wooster.

Rufus Ferris' tombstone from the Old Town Cemetery.
No stone for Hannah, but son Hiram's stone is to the right.

I would like to know more about Rufus' life. What did he do for a living before working for Boardman? What was his relationship with Elijah Boardman? Why did Elijah chose Rufus to be his land agent?

Perhaps future research will answer these questions.

Medina County Gazette January 24, 1879, p.4
Medina County Gazette March 2, 1951, p. 2
Medina County Gazette June 24, 1968, p. 14
Medina County Gazette Nov 17, 1979

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Portrait of Elijah Boardman

Building a Firm Foundation by Susan McKiernan and Joann G. King
Historical Highlights of Medina,  Eleanor Iler Schapiro, editor.
History of Medina County and Ohio Baskin & Beatty
Medina Coming of Age 1810-1900 by Joann G. King
Memoir of the Life and Character of Mrs. Mary Anna Boardman
Pioneer History of Medina County  N. B. Northrup

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Voters' Records

In the U.S., you have to be citizen to vote. Before the 1820's you had to own property to vote. It wasn't until the 15th Amendment in 1870 that African American males could vote, and the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women in 1920. There were a few states that had given women the right to vote in local elections prior to the 19th Amendment, but those were the exceptions. Natives Americans' voting rights varied according to time period, location, and tribal status.

Voter registration records are among the most under-utilized by family historians. They aren't discussed in most basic genealogy books. They can be the hardest records to locate. Perhaps that is why they are under-utilized.

So why go to the trouble of searching for voter registrations? They can help fill in the blanks in your family's history. Information found in the records can include:
  1. Name, including middle names.
  2. Date of Birth
  3. Place of Residence
  4. Occupation
  5. Signature
  6. Further tract your ancestor's residences between census years.
  7. Find a spouse. If two adults are registered at the same location with the same surname, a familial relationship can be surmised.
  8. Place of birth. During the 1800's place of birth is listed.
  9. Find naturalization information if your ancestor wasn't born a citizen.
  10. Estimate the year of immigration.
  11. Physical description.
  12. Political affiliation. Usually, Democratic or Republican, but other parties can be listed as well.
  13. Migration - Some registrations include how long they lived in the state, county & precinct.
  14. Find other family members.
1940 California Voter Registration showing Ronald Reagan as a DEMOCRAT!
Notice that it includes his address and his occupation.

This 1954 list still shows Reagan as a Democrat, but now he is listed with his wife, Nancy.
Reagan did not become a Republican until 1962.

Where you will find voter registration lists:
  1. Some are available on and Ancestry Library Edition. That is where I discovered the Reagan listings above. California in particular has most of their lists up to 1968 online.
  2. web site or through their microfilm lending program. That is where I located several of my TAGG family members. Ohio had quadrennial censuses every 4 years from 1803-1911. Look on the site's link to the catalog of microfilm holdings.
  3. Cyndi's List: As always, Cyndi does an incredible job of locating THE best web sites. Her site includes a lot of foreign voter's lists.
  4. County court house records for the Board of Elections in the locality your ancestor's lived.
  5. Try your favorite search engine. Use the locality and "voting records" and see what turns up.
  6. A GenWeb site with links to voting and tax records: 

So the next time you hit one of those inevitable brick walls, why not try researching voter registration lists for a break through?