Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween — Bah Pumpkin!

The thing is I'm not fond of holidays. By not fond, I mean I really don't like them. And of all the holidays that I really don't like, Halloween tops the list. Okay, before anybody decides I should be strung up to the nearest scarecrow post for such a heretical utterance, you should know that I was an extremely awkward, shy child. It was excruciatingly painful for me to go up to a stranger's door and shout “Trick or Treat” even if the payoff was candy.

Just as painful was admitting to anyone that I felt this way. So every year I dreaded the end of October and the annual obligation to dress up in costume, pretend enjoyment and the ritual eating of those orange, yellow and white corn candies that even today, the smell of which makes me nauseous. I know — strange kid, strange adult.

In my defense, I will say that I GET that everyone else loves this holiday. And I am happy to report that none of my children suffers from this odd non-holiday malady. When my youngest son, age 2, finally figured out that if you went up to the door and held out your bag, you get CANDY, I was excited about his excitement.

All of this is my way of letting you know that I don't have any cool Halloween stories of my own to share. However, by coincidence, this month's Carnival of Genealogy has for its topic “Halloween and the Supernatural.” The carnival is a group of Genealogy bloggers who write on a given topic. This edition of the Carnival is being hosted by Jasia at her blog, “Creative Gene.” To read the 20 or so different blogs related to this edition of the Carnival go to

Until Next Time — Have a Happy (or if you like, Haunted) Halloween

Note this post first published online, October 31, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Death Certificates — Sources of Primary & Secondary Information

Since we were talking about death certificates the other day, it seems like a good time to talk about the type of information you can get from a death certificate. For those of you who can view pictures posted with my blogs, I am posting a copy of Edwin J. McQuillin's death certificate. I downloaded this record from the Missouri Archives Web site. Edwin happens to be my first cousin, three times removed (hmm, sounds like a topic for another post).

A death certificate is a funky little document, in that it can be considered a primary source for some pieces of information and a secondary source for others. A primary source is a document, photocopy, photograph, or written account of an event recorded at the time the event took place or shortly thereafter by a witness to the event. Edwin's death certificate would be a primary source for the following information:

1. Full Name
2. Sex
3. Race or Color
4. Marital Status
5. Occupation
6. Place of Death
7. Date of Death
8. Cause of Death
9. Place of Burial
10. Date of Burial

Because this information was taken shortly after Edwin's death (two days later), it is reasonable to assume the information is accurate. Although a written mistake, a slip of the tongue or a miscommunication could cause an error, in most cases this information is correct.

Secondary sources are those that are not primary sources. In other words, the information given was many months, years or decades after the event. So a death certificate is a secondary source for the following:

1. Date of Birth
2. Age
3. Place of Birth
4. Father's name
5. Father's place of birth
6. Mother's name
7. Mother's place of birth

Secondary information is only as reliable as the person giving the information. In this case, Ada McQuillin is the informant. Ada was Edwin's youngest daughter who was still living at home at the time of his death. A marriage record, census records, and a common pleas court case confirm much of Ada's information. Which brings me to the most important point — it is essential to look at multiple records when reconstructing an individual's life.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Certificate of Death: Edwin J. McQuillin, Filed 10 Apr 1913. State of Missouri, Dept. of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Reg. Dist. 400, File No. 13431. Digital Record, Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, Missouri.

Note this post first published online, October 31, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, October 29, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure — Death Certificates Update


In my September 8 post titled, “For Your Viewing Pleasure” (, I listed four states that had death certificate records available online. Add the state of Georgia to that list. On Georgia's archive Web site, you may now search, view and save death certificates dated 1919 to 1927. There are also some death certificates available on the Web site from 1914 to 1918. The Web address for the Georgia death certificates is


The Ohio Historical Society's Web site now offers a link to online ordering of Ohio Death Certificates spanning the years 1909 to 1953. (See
Only those deaths occurring from 1913 through 1944 are indexed and available online, but you may request a death certificate for 1909 to 1912 and 1945 to 1953 as long as you provide all of the following:

1. First Name
2. Last Name
3. Year of Death

AND at least one of the following pieces of information:

1. Month and Day of Death
2. County
3. Certificate #

If they cannot find a close match to the information you have included they will “provide a copy of the original index page showing the names surrounding the name you provided. Your fee covers the cost of this search.”

The cost of online ordering for each death certificate is $7 plus 6.75% sales tax for Ohio residents.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 29, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pushing Daisies — A Show that Uses Genealogy as a Plot Point!

There are a number of things I would love to comment about but don't. Without some tie into genealogy, family history or even family I bite my tongue, sit on my typing fingers and remain silent. That's why I was delighted to see one of the new fall TV shows use genealogy as a plot point.

Last Wednesday on ABC's “Pushing Daisies” a confederate sword from a Southern Chinese gentleman played a role in the convoluted tale. They even did a flash back to 1863 when Fambing Woo, the great-great-great-grandfather of Wilford Woodard, accidentally becomes a Confederate War Hero taking on the family name of Woodard.

A genealogical plot point is not the norm in network TV. But then the whole concept for “Pushing Daisies” is not the norm. Quirky is the most apt description of the show, and I have a hunch the writers never sat at the cool kids table — heck they probably weren't allowed anywhere near it.

The premise is based on the idea that the hero, Ned, has acquired the ability to bring the dead back to life, once. A second touch by Ned, and they are consigned back to, well, death — forever. If Ned does not touch them a second time within one minute, someone else dies instead.

To complicate matters, a shady detective, Emerson has glommed onto Ned's talents and has blackmailed him into partnering with Emerson to solve murder cases. Easy work when the dead person, brought back to life, tells what happened.

Chuck, whose real name is Charlotte, and who as a young girl captured Ned's heart, is murdered in the show's pilot. When Ned brought her back to life, he couldn't bring himself to touch her again and have her die permanently. Therefore, he and Chuck can never touch and the director of the funeral home, a grave stealing scoundrel, dies instead.

If you have followed all of that, pat yourself on the back.

Chi McBride, who plays the semi-shady detective, Emerson Cod is priceless in the role. He can deliver a sarcastic one-liner with the best of them. His discussion with Ned (Lee Pace) about how to pull up a bandage:

Emerson: “I'm rippin' off the bandage.”

Ned: “I'm not a ripper. I pull up the corner, a little at a time, then I run it under warm water. And pull it up some more. It's a process.”

Emerson: “Better to rip.”

Or Chuck's (Anna Friel) worrying, “Do you think dying has made me morbid?”
A show with snappy dialogue, a genealogical plot point, references to Winnie the Pooh, an Asian American with a soft southern accent, a sword fight — well what more could you ask for in an hour?

Now is where I normally would be encouraging you to tune into this little novelty tonight at 8, but I'm not going to do that. This is an odd little show that takes an offbeat sense of humor (quirky and I are best friends), a suspension of disbelief, and a taste for tongue in cheek It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

Instead, I am giving notice to family and friends that Wednesdays from 8 to 9 I won't be answering my phone. I will be cuddled up on my couch, chuckling to myself, hoping enough people are watching to keep the show around for a while.

Until Next Time!

Note this post first published online, October 24, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seneca County Cemeteries

In yesterday's post, I mentioned my visit to some of Seneca County's cemeteries this past weekend. If you have relatives or ancestors who lived in Seneca County, you will certainly want to visit Kristina Kuhn Krumm's Seneca County graves Web site, She started the project in 2001, and thanks to the aid of many volunteers, it has grown to its present size.

It also offers a search engine that you can use to locate where your ancestor was buried in Seneca County.

The nicest part for me — she has included maps taken from the book, “Seneca County Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions” (Tiffin, OH: Seneca County Genealogical Society, 1987). Each township has a map showing where each Cemetery is located. This turned out to be a lucky thing for me, because, while I was familiar with two of the cemeteries that Lois and Dawn wished to visit, a third, Bethel-South Bend Cemetery (see picture above) was one I had never visited.

Bethel-South Bend is located near McCutchenville, and is not an area that I know. The signpost for Township Road 54 was no where to be seen, so unfortunately, I missed my turn, but thanks to the able map reading of Lois, my co-pilot for the day, we were able to get ourselves oriented and find the cemetery.

Kris also maintains a homepage with additional Seneca County information, including Township plat maps of 1874. She also has a link to other cemetery sites she has put on the Web including those in Crawford County, Wyandot County and some in Sandusky County. Kris's homepage is

Thanks Kris!

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 23, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fulfilling A Grandmother's Wish

I spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon with two charming cousins and their husbands wandering through some of Seneca County's cemeteries. Lois and Dawn, like me, descend from Joseph and Magdalena Good (the couple I talked about in my Ague Fever post). Their grandmother had always wanted to find and visit the grave of her great-grandmother Rosetta Good.

Rosetta, the daughter of Joseph's son John Good and his wife Sarah Baker Good, died of typhoid fever in 1869, along with a younger brother Joseph and a sister Sarah Florence. Their common gravestone sits in Liberty Center's Cemetery that is located on State Route 635 just south of Bettsville.

Rosetta left behind a 9-month-old son, John Heckman Jr. Apparently, the grandmothers of little John both wanted to raise him. A story handed down in the family of Lois and Dawn told of John's paternal grandmother sending a wagon down from Michigan, plucking him right off the school grounds and spiriting him back to Branch County, Michigan, where he would grow up.

I'm not sure of the accuracy of the story because John is clearly listed in the 1870 census in Michigan living with his grandmother. However, a court case involving the settlement of his great-grandfather's estate in 1874 does open the door for the possibility that John was living in Ohio at the beginning of the case, but was in Michigan by its resolution. (John has a 1/49 claim to the estate.) It may well be that young John had been passed back in forth between Ohio and Michigan more than once before he ended up in Branch County permanently.

John's descendants knew that he had been born in Seneca County near Tiffin, but they had no idea where his mother, Julia Rosetta Good Heckman, had been buried. To complicate matters further, she is listed in the cemetery as Julia R. Good. This is how she is also listed in the 1870 mortality records, but in the Seneca County Probate Record, she is Rosetta Heckman, which makes the mind dance with all kinds of speculation.

In any case, though their grandmother was never able to make the trip, her granddaughters fulfilled her wish, paying a visit to Rosetta's grave. It was nice to play a small part in helping them complete their grandmother's wish.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 22, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Little Husbandly Concern

My husband has known for a month or longer that this Sunday I will be meeting with Internet Cousins and showing them some cemeteries in Seneca County. Yesterday, he decided that he m-a-y-b-e should express concern about me meeting up with four total strangers who could or could not, for all he knows, have nefarious (nefarious is my word of the week) reasons for driving from Michigan and Indiana to see a few graves.

This little bit of concern didn't originate from his own brain. It took my daughter, who TRULY loves me, to poke the thought into his head. Even at that, his grilling me about the upcoming Sunday events didn't transpire until a full 24 hours later.

“Have you ever met these people?” my suddenly concerned spouse asked.


“But they're related to you, right?” he said, being comforted somehow by some tenacious familial link. (Hello, honey, you've met my relatives. Do you really think they are the barometer of SANE?)

“Ostensibly, two of them are.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” And here is where my husband gets his good husband seal of approval award. Because he knows, and I know, that the very last thing that my husband wants to do this Sunday is to go grave hopping with strangers. Strangers who, along with his wife, will be yammering about dead relatives.

Good grief, NASCAR is racing Sunday, and my husband's devotion to NASCAR is about one notch above my devotion to genealogy. In other words, the man loves his NASCAR. Besides, time has not yet dulled the memory of our little Labor Day fiasco.

But I also know, as does he, the moment he says the words, “Do you want me to come with you?” that he means exactly that. If I want him to be there with me on Sunday, he will do it.

Which is why, sweetheart, when you make that totally inane comment, “I don't know how you can stand to live with me” I always look at you as if you were crazed. This is exactly why I can stand to live with you, bucko — that and you give a really good foot rub.

So it will be just me meeting with the Michigan and Indiana folks on Sunday. Who knows, maybe I will get an interesting post out of the deal. And my husband will get to watch his race in blissful peace and HAVE THE HOUSE TO HIMSELF.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

P.S. — For any relatives reading this post, it goes without saying I was talking about OTHER relatives when I made that sanity crack.

Note this post first published online, October 19, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Forum Diving — Searching the Census

Dawn, one of our forum regulars (can you have forum regulars for such a small forum?) received as a gift the Family Tree Maker Program. I'm not sure which version she was given but it came with a FREE YEAR OF ANCESTRY.COM. Okay scoff if you want about this being some nefarious plot to enslave her by the big bad corporate giant of genealogy subscription services, but I for one am completely jealous — in a quasi sort of I'm happy for you Dawn kind of way.

It sounds from her posts that she is already making good use of her time. One of my favorite things about Ancestry is their every name index for all the census years. In my opinion, there are two kinds of people in the world — those who come close to swooning with joy at the words, EVERY NAME INDEX, and those who don't. I'm a do.

One of Dawn's family lines is Maenle. She searched high and low for them in the census. Fortunately, she knew where they should be living and finally found them with the last name indexed and written as Manley. Dawn made the observation that either the head of household or the census taker couldn't spell. Either case could be true.

Prior to the twentieth century, many people could neither read nor write. On the other hand, census takers would sometimes forget to ask for a proper spelling, and would spell a last name phonetically or assume a more common spelling.

Sometimes, the head of household wasn't home, and they interviewed a wife or child. Even if their husbands were literate, the wives might not be — a lot depended on the society in which they had been raised.

Other times a neighbor might end up giving the census taker the information about the family, when the family members themselves were unavailable. You can imagine how many problems that could create.

An additional problem, even when you have something as wonderful as an index available, is that the writing on the census isn't always legible or the quality of the microfilm isn't the best. That means the person responsible for creating the index had to give it their best guess — so you wind up with Jacobus indexed as Jacobs, Smathers indexed as Smothers, King indexed as Ring etc.

Jana Lloyd, in her article “Leonis or Lewis? Some Quick Tips for Finding Your Ancestors in the Census” addresses these very issues. You can find the article at Pay particular attention to the GETTING AROUND THE ERRORS part of the article.

“Top 10 Search Tips for Census Success” by Kimberly Powell at is also helpful. In addition to issues that I've already raised, she talks about the use in the census of nicknames, looking for neighbors when you can't find your target family, and of taking advantage of the every name index by looking for siblings or children when you can't find that elusive head of household.

If you are having problems finding your ancestors in the census records, these are two articles well worth your time.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 18 , 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Genealogy Quick Notes — Internet & Genealogy Class and Forum Diving


Some things I learn by reading. Some things I learn by listening to someone's explanation. Some things I learn by a hands-on approach of doing them. But I find, for me, the best way to learn something new is when I use all three senses — sight, sound and touch. Attending the Internet Genealogy class at the Hayes Presidential Center Library this Saturday, October 20 will allow you the opportunity to do all three. The class is from 9:30 to 11:30 and is taught by Head Librarian, Becky Hill. It is an overview of genealogical Web sites useful to the family genealogist. The cost of the class — free! Call (419) 332-2081 for more information.

FORUM DIVINGI don't know how many of you are reading the comments in the Desktop Genealogist forum, but right now, there are eleven different threads going on. I thought it might be a good idea to shine a spotlight onto some of the topics being addressed and the questions being asked. Until I can come up with something better I will be calling these posts FORUM DIVING.

If you are new to genealogy, you might be surprised to learn that as a whole, family genealogists are a very helpful bunch. I'm always amazed at the lengths individuals will go to aid another. I've seen that trait in many of the posts that people have left on the forum. I'm hoping that this is something that will continue.

I am encouraging you to fill in any blanks that I might leave when I put in my two cents. I also hope that if you feel that I am dead wrong about something, you will add YOUR two cents. The cool thing about genealogy is that while it can be an individual “sport,” it can also be a group endeavor. I hope we learn something from each other — kind of a group picking of the brain. Okay, that didn't come out the way I wanted, but you get the general idea.

Tomorrow, I hope to post the first of these forum diving topics.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging

Note this post first published online, October 17, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Use the Social Security Death Index

Yesterday I wrote about the Social Security Death Index. Today I want to show you some ways you can access the information. I'm using Rootsweb's Social Security Death Index as the example (


In the basic search, you have the following fields:

Let's look for the Social Security record for Owen K. Lynch, my grandmother's brother. I fill in LYNCH for last name, OWEN for first name and K for middle initial. I don't have Owen's Social Security number so I leave that blank. Then I submit the information. I get one hit, but I know from a family bible entry that Great Uncle Owen was born June 16, 1883. I also know he died in Texas. This Owen K Lynch was born in 1911 and his last residence was Bronx, New York. Obviously, this isn't the correct Owen K. Lynch.

Next, I try putting in just the last name — LYNCH, and submit the information again. Wow, that gives me 40, 728 hits — no way can I sort through that amount of information.

Let's give it one more try with the basic search. This time I put in LYNCH for
last name and OWEN for first name and submit. Now I get 24 hits — a more
manageable list.

I'm looking for someone whose last residence was Texas and who was born in
June 1883 (there's always a possibility that the actual birth date might not match).

On the second page of hits, I find him. Owen Lynch, birth date June 16, 1883, death date November 1970, last residence was Kerrville Texas (which now that I see it, I remember that Kerrville is a place where the Lynch's lived) and a surprise, his SSN was issued in Missouri. This tells me that at some point, Owen lived in Missouri. Interesting — this is something I will want to follow up.

Moral of this search: Searching is a lot like the story of the three bears — you can input too much information or too little information — it's important to put in just enough information to find the individual you are looking for.


To get to the advanced search click on the button that says, Advanced Search, located next to the Clear button.

The fields on you can search on this screen are the following:

In the 1900 Census, my grandfather's family is listed. He has three sisters, the youngest of whom is listed as Nina Dorcas Hoy, age 1, birth month November, birth year 1898. (The 1900 census is the only federal census that has been released that includes the birth month and year, making it the first census I check whenever possible.)

I want to try to find Nina's married name so that I may add her and her husband to my family tree.

I fill in the first name NINA, the month of birth NOVEMBER, and the year of birth 1898 and I am going to put the state her SSN was issued as OHIO. One match — a Nina Tanner, birth date — November 27, 1898; date of death — December 1980, Last Residence — Winter Haven, Florida, Issued SSN — Ohio.

This could be her. My next step is to go to the Hayes Presidential Center Obituary Index ( to see if a Nina Tanner is listed. I find a listing for Nina Tanner with a December 1980 obituary listed in the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune. The obituary is in the Tiffin Seneca Public Library and I can either order the obituary to see if I have the right individual or I can visit the library myself and read the obituary free of charge.

Of course, there is no guarantee that you will find the individual you are looking for when you are doing one of these types of inquiries. But I have had enough success to keep this as an option. In this case, I have found the correct Nina. Her obituary lists her husband as John Tanner. And so, another piece of my family puzzle snaps into its proper place.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 16, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, October 15, 2007

Genealogy Tip — The Social Security Death Index

Want to have access to Social Security's Death Master File and have it updated quarterly? No sweat. You can get the complete file and quarterly updates with an annual subscription courtesy of the folks at National Technical Information Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The cheapest method is to get your information on DVD or CD-Rom. If you live in the U.S., Canada or Mexico it will cost you $6,900. For those wishing a subscription with a quarterly update living anywhere else on the planet the price is bumped up to $13,800.

Think that's a little too pricey? And just what kind of information does this master file contain that would make a family historian interested? Well, it's a list of over 80 million deceased individuals who have been reported to the Social Security Administration. It may have some or all of the following:

1. Decedent's name
2. Decedent's Social Security number
3. Decedent's date of birth
4. Decedent's date of death
5. State where Social Security Number of the Decedent was originally issued
6. Decedent's Last Residence or zip code of last residence
7. Zip code where Decedent's lump sum payment was sent

Sound like information that a genealogist might want to tap into? Well, no worry, there are several genealogical Web sites that have this information and get it updated on a regular basis. My favorite one to use is the Social Security Death Index on Rootsweb's Web site: There are two reasons that the Rootsweb Web site is my favorite. First, it's free to use and no registration is required. Second, the index features a basic search and an advanced search, which I find very useful.

Social Security records were not computerized until 1962, so the majority of deceased individuals listed are from that point forward. Some reasons that you might not find a deceased individual in the index include:

1. The death wasn't reported to Social Security
2. The individual didn't have a Social Security number.
3. Human error — it could be yours or the person who originally input the information into the file. (For example, the last name Vescelus may have been input Vescelas. Or you may have input incorrect information in your search.)
4. The decedent's benefits are still being paid to a spouse or child.

Besides looking up a specific individual, I can sometimes use the index to find siblings of my ancestor. In tomorrow's post, I will give an example of how I might use the Social Security Death Index to find a sibling of my grandfather and how I can use the index to find my grandmother's brother.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 15, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ohio and World War II

Between December 1, 1941 and December 31, 1946, over 16.1 million personnel served in the U.S armed forces. Of that number, approximately 893,000 came from the Buckeye state and served their country during World War II.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 World War II veterans die each day in this country. To keep their stories from dying with them, the PBS stations in Ohio, in conjunction with the Ohio Humanities Council, have banded together to form the Ohio War Stories Program.

Veterans and civilians who lived through the war years are encouraged to contribute pictures, videos or write a blog about their wartime experiences. You must register to submit material, but registration is not necessary to view the contributions made to the Web site,

Some examples of stories already submitted:

1. Wendy Cochrane in a video called, “About My Parents,” shares the story of how her British mother and her American father met while her father served in England.

2. Read about Mildred Gillars (Axis Sally) and her Ohio background in the post, “Ohio's Connection with Axis Sally.”

3. There were four German P.O.W. camps in the state of Ohio during the War. Scott Trostel writes about these in “Ohio's German P.O.W. Camps.”

4. In the video, “George H. Snyder, Jr.: P.O.W,” George talks about his time spent as a P.O.W. in Europe and his first day in battle.

5. Bill Ruth's video talks about the sites he witnessed in liberating a German concentration camp in a video called, “Bill Ruth, Dachau Witness.”

6. “Saipan Fear” is the image of a Japanese postcard depicting Pearl Harbor and the blog that accompanies that image.

7. In “The Day That Changed Everything” by Alberta L. Montgomery, she writes her story as a young wife experiencing the news of Pearl Harbor.

8. Christopher Purdy submitted a series of letters written by his father while he served in the US Army. The title of his post is “War letters.”

These and other stories can be found at The Ohio War Stories Web site at

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 12, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, October 11, 2007

For National Family History Month — One Definition of Family

For someone who professes a great interest in family history, I have dragged my heels on mentioning the fact that October has been designated as National Family History Month. As I mentally planned this post, I intended to link you to some terrific ideas on how to celebrate the month.

Instead, I find myself squirming about writing on the subject. Preferring instead to put the laptop down, and go foraging for something to eat, or something interesting to read. Or, when I finally make myself sit with laptop in hand, I suddenly feel the need to find spoilers for “Grey's Anatomy,” or a good recipe for crock-pot Chile or googling about any errant thought that flitters through my brain — anything but actually writing this post.

The sticking point for me is I'm suddenly self-conscious about the definition of family. If human beings conducted their lives in a nice orderly fashion, and if we all lived to be ninety the concept of family would be easy. But we don't. We sometimes die in automobile accidents, or get cancer, or we find the love of our life isn't, or we somehow derail a perfectly good life for liquor or drugs or lust. I'm not making judgments; I'm stating that human beings lead messy lives. And these messy lives have consequences, one of which is that the definition of family gets bruised and muddied.

Is a favored uncle by marriage who died more than 40 years ago, still part of my family? Is the Aunt of my youth, no longer married to my biological Uncle still my Aunt?

The grade school project of making a family tree seems innocent and straight forward, unless you happen to be an adopted child, or a foster child, or child of a blended family. What tree does that child make? What genealogical chain does he follow? What family history should she celebrate?

Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, author of “The Family of Adoption,” talks instead of a family tree, a family orchard that includes as many trees as necessary for an individual's identity. The concept allows for both biology and reality, for inclusion of nature and nurture. In my family, it allows the man who adopted my grandfather when he was 10, and whose last name I carried until I married, to be recognized and honored in our family orchard.

It allows my orchard to include four beautiful grandchildren for whom I am not grandmother by blood, but rather grandmother by heart. It is a concept I embrace.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 11, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Before there was West Nile Virus there was Ague Fever

Note: My great-great-great-grandparents, Joseph and Magdalena Good, came from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Liberty Township in Seneca County in the early summer of 1831. They purchased 160 acres of land just outside of what would later become the village of Bettsville. Ague Fever (rhymes with Nixon's disgraced VP, Agnew) or Malaria as we call it today, was a disease common to all those who lived in the area known as The Black Swamp. Anopheles quadrimaculatus, the species of mosquito that carries the disease, is one of approximately sixty species of mosquito that still inhabits this region today. (The Anopheles quadrimaculatus does not carry the West Nile Virus.)

The Good family wagon would have lumbered along, through the growing town of Tiffin, on its way to “their” land in Liberty Township. They may have noticed grown men bundled up in heavy wool clothing and thought it odd attire for a summer day. How long before someone knowingly asked them, “Have ya got the ague fever, yet?”

Joseph, and certainly Magdalena, must have been dismayed when they saw the soggy wet land where they would start their new life. They would have seen dense thickets of trees and shrub, smelled ripe decaying vegetation. From dusk until morning, hoards of mosquitoes would buzz loudly around the family and their livestock. At least one book records the death of a small child bitten by mosquitoes in nearby Scott Township of Sandusky County. Was the Good family wise enough to keep smudge pots going at night to drive the mosquitoes away?

A female mosquito that had bitten one of the “old timers” a couple of weeks before and had ingested his blood, probably had not noticed the fever and the chills in the man. All the mosquito cared about was getting the vital protein in the blood that allowed her to lay the optimum number of eggs. She was following an age-old instinct of survival of her species. Nor would she care that the blood she ingested carried along with the needed amino acid, a protozoan that was causing the illness in the man she had bitten. Once the protozoan had remained inside the mosquito for a week, multiplying and growing, the mosquito would be transferring the parasite when she bit the next individual.

Joseph Good would have appealed to the mosquito only because, he was nearby and he had left an arm or maybe a neck exposed so that she could land, bite him, and suck out just the right amount of blood she needed. Of course, as she bit him, she would be transferring saliva into the open wound. The saliva contained a chemical that kept the wound from clotting. It also contained the protozoa that caused malaria. Joseph would have noticed the itch from the bite, the red mark on his skin, but he would not connect the symptoms that would eventually follow.

The protozoa laced saliva of the mosquito would have traveled to his liver, where it found the right conditions to grow and multiply. Sometime between 8 days and several months after the mosquito's bite, the parasites would leave the liver and enter Joseph's red blood cells. There they would grow and multiply still more, bursting the red blood cells as they grew, attacking still more red blood cells, all the while releasing toxins into Joseph's blood.

It would be at this point Joseph would start to feel ill. He would have severe chills and shakes, and would understand why a man would put on woolens on a hot summer day. Then there would be the high fever and headache, as well as an overwhelming fatigue accompanied by muscle aches, nausea and possibly diarrhea. From the destruction of his red blood cells, Joseph would become pale or possibly jaundiced. Any mosquitoes biting Joseph now would also ingest the parasite, allowing the cycle to continue.

Joseph and the rest of the settlers thought this terrible fever came from inhaling the “bad air” of The Black Swamp. The discovery that a protozoan in the blood caused the disease and that the lowly mosquito was responsible for transmission, would not be made until the late 19th century.

Though the relationship of mosquitoes to the disease would be unknown for more than another half century, the settlers did realize that there was a cycle to the disease. It would first strike during the warmth of late spring, peak with the humid hot days of summer, and taper off after the first crisp fall day.

When the disease was at its peak, “work schedules were fixed to accommodate the fits. The justice arranged the docket to avoid the sick day of the litigant; the minister made his appointments in keeping with the shakes; the housewife hurried through her morning chores, then sat down to await her visitor; and the sparking swain reckoned the ager schedule of self and intended. Neither a wedding in the family nor a birth or death would stop the shakes,” this according to the book “The Midwest Pioneer: His Ills, Cures & Doctors,” by Picard and Buley. Livestock went unattended when whole families became bedridden with the illness.

Almost as bad as the disease itself, were the cures that the local doctors prescribed for their hapless patients. Bloodletting was a common practice along with such diverse cures as opium, spider's web, the bark of a horse chestnut and even arsenic in conjunction with the bark of cinchona. (Quinine, the traditional cure, is a derivative of the bark of the cinchona tree.)

All this was part of the daily life of the Northwestern Ohio family. A reduced supply of stagnant water due to ditch laws enacted in the 1850s, created a reduction in the number of mosquitoes’ eggs. The fewer supply of mosquitoes interacting with the human hosts, disrupted the multiplication of the parasite, which put an end to malaria as a common illness for local inhabitants.

The first few decades that Joseph and Magdalena spent in Seneca County, however, would have found the family along with those of their neighbors plagued with malaria. It was just a part of daily life that had to be endured.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 10, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sandusky County Civil War Soldiers Database

Before anybody begins to accuse me of being obsessed with the topic of the Civil War, I promise this will be the last blog on the subject, at least for a while. I had forgotten one very important local source of Civil War data — the Sandusky County, Ohio, Civil War Soldiers Database housed on the Hayes Presidential Center's Web site.

According to the Web site, a Bowling Green State University student, Richard L. Manion started the project as part of his thesis research in 1989. The project was continued by the Curator of Manuscripts at the Hayes Presidential Center, Nan Card. More than 60 sources were used to complete the database.

If your family has lived in Sandusky County for at least the last 150 years, you should check out this resource. The records indicate that more than 65% of all military-aged men in Sandusky County did service for their country at some point during the Civil War.

Andrew Zink, for example, is one of the men listed from 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. From the database, we learn that he was 18 when he enlisted on March 31, 1864. He lived in Sandusky Township of Sandusky County. He enlisted as a private and was a private when he was captured June 11, 1864 in Ripley, Mississippi. He died October 21, 1864 in Andersonville prison.

To read more about the history of the database and to search for your own Civil War ancestors, go to

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 9, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, October 8, 2007

Field Trip — The Hayes Presidential Center's Civil War Encampment

Though the Civil War Encampment at the Hayes Presidential Center has been going on for 16 years, I have never attended. This year, I put the encampment on my “must do” list. My old faithful Sony digital and I went to Spiegel Grove to check things out. Sights, Sounds and Thoughts from the Encampment:

1. A” Confederate” woman from the Cleveland area spoke to me about how the unusually hot weather had sapped all the energy right out of the reenactors. Her ninth year in attendance of this event, she said normally they all kept busy in order to stay warm — but not this year.

2. A few moments spent chatting with a budding blacksmith who talked with me about learning this new trade. He had tried making soap for one season, but didn't care for that. He said the idea of blacksmithing came to him in a dream. Oh unconscious mind, what a devil you can be. He told me he enjoyed his newfound passion — even on such a hot day.

3. Two preteen girls dressed in Civil War-era attire, chatted about completing a treasure hunt — they were looking for President Hayes' birth date (or death date — eavesdropping has its limitations) and decided Hayes' tomb would be a good place to check.

4. Tents pitched everywhere. Located across the trail from Hayes' Tomb was the Union Camp while the Confederate Camp was stationed along Hayes Avenue on the western end of the Spiegel Grove grounds.

5. A curl of steam seen rising from a tin coffee boiler sitting unattended in front of one tent site. For some reason, the sight affected me — I could easily imagine the same scene over one hundred 45 years earlier. I tried capturing the feeling in a picture, but it lost something in the translation.

6. The dichotomy of seeing a woman costumed in Victorian Era dress taking a quick swig of bottled water.

7. Sutlers Row, a lengthy stretch of walk way lined with vendors' tents connected the Union and Confederate Camps. My hunch is the tent selling cold drinks saw the most action during the two-day encampment.

8. Yankee reenactors drilling in front of the Hayes home. Hmm — did I see a female reenactor among their ranks? Maybe I need new glasses. If not, good for her!

9. I overheard a conversation from a Confederate enthusiast to some bystanders concerning the real truth versus what was being taught in history books. Sigh … I wish I had walked over sooner so I would know what truth and what the history books have been incorrectly written.

10. “Fire in the Hole” yelled as a group of rebel reenactors fired their cannon. Though prepared, I jumped and lost the picture of them firing that I had planned on taking.

11. The absolute look of rapture on a young boy's face as he sat perched atop his father's shoulders. Still holding his hands over his ears, he couldn't take his eyes off the cannon, hoping the men would fire it again.

I've already decided the lantern tour of the soldier's campsites is something I want to have on my “to do list” for next year's encampment.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging

Note this post first published online, October 8, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Friday, October 5, 2007

Some Civil War Facts

In honor of this weekend's Civil War Encampment at the Hayes Presidential Center's grounds, I thought I would share a few related facts.

1. Ohio sent 313,180 to fight for the Union Cause.

2. Only New York and Pennsylvania furnished more men to the Grand Army of the Republic than Ohio.

3. More Ohioans died from disease than were killed in battle.
(19,365 died of disease and another 11,588 were killed or mortally wounded.)

4. The deadliest disease for the Union Army (with more than 44,500 deaths) was diarrhea.

5. The Union enacted a draft on March 3, 1863 for men between the ages of 18 and 45. Each state was given a quota of troops to fulfill. If the number of volunteers was sufficient to meet the quota then no one was drafted.

6. The Confederacy's first draft law was enacted on April 16, 1862, called the Conscription Act. All healthy white men between the ages of 18 and 35 for a three-year term of service.

7. In September of 1862 the age limit was raised to 45 in the Confederate States

8. In February of 1864, the Confederacy again extended the age range from 17 to 50.

9. The state where the most battles were fought was the state of Virginia, which was the site of 2,154 battles.

10. Approximately 30,000 Union soldiers died in Confederate prisons.

11. Approximately 26,000 Confederate soldiers died in Union prisons.

12. The 72 Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized in Fremont in the fall of 1861. 900 men left for Camp Chase on January 24, 1862. The following are those from the Regiment who died in Andersonville Prison.

Pvt. Alexander Almond
Sgt. William Baumgartner
Pvt. Simeon Blackman
Pvt. Michael Burns
Pvt. Patrick Donohue
Pvt. Eugene Frankenberg
Pvt. John Gullenback
1st Sgt. Daniel I. Haggerty
Cpl. Niles S. Haines
Pvt. William Hinton
Pvt. Owen Hudnell
Cpl. Edwin L. Hyde
Sgt. Sherman A. Jackson
Pvt. Robert Kelvington
Cpl. Martin S. Lochner
Pvt. George W. Lowe
Pvt. Noble Perrin
Cpl. Henry J. Potter
Pvt. John Purcell
Pvt. John H. Ross
Pvt. Conrad Sheller
Pvt. Henry Shook
Pvt. Platt Soper
Pvt. Solomon Stage
Pvt. Martin J. Staner
Cpl. Ferdinand Statler
Pvt. Warren Sturtevant
Pvt. Michael Weaver
Pvt. Luther Wentworth
Pvt. Eli Whitaker
Cpl. Andrew J. Zink

13. By 1864, Andersonville housed 33,000 prisoners. It was the fifth largest city in the South.

14. The last battle of the Civil War took place at Palmito Ranch, Texas on May 13, 1865 — a month after Lee's surrender. The Confederate side won the encounter.

Until Next Time …

Note: Facts and Statistics were taken from the following Web sites:
CJ's Civil War Home Page:
(He lists his source as Atlas Editions; Civil War Cards)
Shotgun's Home of the Civil War:
The Civil War Home Page:
PBS's The Civil War:

Note this post first published online, October 5, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Happy Birthday

For many reasons, October 4 is a date of note in my family. The most important reason being that it is my dad's birthday. Dad is half of a dynamic duo that gave my three siblings and me the best of all childhoods.

Dad and I didn't meet until I was four months old. He was serving as a supply sergeant in Japan when I was born. But he was there when all three of my younger siblings came screamin' into this world. He was the one who had to tell mom that the doctors didn't think they would be taking my baby brother home, probably the hardest thing he ever had to tell her. My mother, discharged from the hospital, had to leave her precious newborn behind and it fell to my father to go to the hospital every morning to see my brother and find out how he was doing. Dad did this every day until my brother finally came home.

As a kid, my dad would sometimes take me with him when he went golfing. It wasn't that I liked golf (heavens no), or the great outdoors, or even the fact that most of the time I could weasel an orange soda pop out of dad at the end of nine holes. No, what I liked about walking alongside him hole after hole was that I had my dad ALL TO MYSELF. Sometimes we walked silently and just enjoyed the day, and sometimes, poor dad was subjected to 50 million questions — I don't know how he ever concentrated on his game!

Besides being a golf fanatic, Dad is also an avid sports fan, and a big Ohio State supporter. He was horrified to learn that his one and only granddaughter was a Michigan enthusiast. He said of her devotion to Michigan, that it was like “being at war with Russia, and she was on the side of the Russians!” Yep, he's a real Buckeye fan and 20 some years later, my daughter still supports the Maize and Blue. Russians indeed!

My Dad called the 2000 election way before the issue of “hanging chads” was resolved. At my nephew's wedding in November of that year, my dad asked me if I had heard the news that Bush had been declared the winner in the presidential election. He said it with such earnestness that I didn't doubt him for a second. My mistake — I spent the rest of the evening talking about Bush being President Elect with everyone I entered into the most casual of conversations. It wasn't until the end of the night, that I realized my dad had pranked me. To this day, his defense is that he was just early in his forecast of what eventually happened. So what if his eldest daughter looked like an idiot.

The truth of the matter is that in my family, we joke a lot, and consequently we laugh a lot, tell stories a lot, and are noisy a lot. A newcomer has to have a strong constitution to face one of our big family gatherings. But in spite of all that or maybe because of it, we also love a lot. That's what my father and my mother taught us. As my Dad always says, “It's the little things.” So here's to you, daddy — HAPPY 76TH BIRTHDAY!

Until Next Time …

Note this post first published online, October 4, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Defective Laugh Gene

Confession time. I have a secret. When I laugh, every once in a while I will suck in air through my nose and mouth, and this rather unpleasant sound emerges. I mean really unpleasant. You know, unpleasant as in “hey, who let the pig loose in the theater” unpleasant. Technically, you might call it a snort, but ladies don't snort, right? I haven't always had this problem. I mean I don't remember any kids on the school playground pointing derisively at me while I was laughing. I'm sure I would remember something that traumatic. The thing is, I wasn't bred by snorters. Both of my parents have these nice respectable laughs (although I'm not sure the same could be said of their sense of humor, Dad!). I've tried to hide this affliction from the general public, I think pretty successfully. When I'm laughing in a public place I will laugh and think, “Don't snort.” Laugh - “Don't snort.” Laugh- “Don't snort.” What does this have to do with genealogy or family history? Well, in talking to the very nice minister who gave the service at my Aunt's funeral yesterday, he mentioned that the family had told him about my Aunt's snort and that her granddaughter, Tanya had inherited the same snort (sorry Tanya, but it was the Reverend who outted you, not me). Without missing a beat, my formerly sweet sister poked me in the ribs and said, “Hey that must be where you get it from!” Thanks sis. So now I know it's inherited. It must have just skipped a generation. Oh and the piece de resistance, my brother-in-law narced on my rib poking sister and told me she snorts too - she must be better at hiding it than I am. As it turns out, both of my sisters are secret snorters. And for all of you smug non-snorters sitting out there passing judgment, remember NEITHER of my parents are afflicted, and look what defective laughers they produced. So if you happen to be at the local cinema and you hear someone laughing and then snorting, be nice. It could be yours truly - or one of my siblings - or maybe even a cousin! Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging! Note this post first published online, October 3, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Aunt Florence

My Aunt Florence passed away last week. Born on April 30, 1917, she came into this world three weeks after the United States declared war on Germany. She died, as the United States stands enmeshed in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. For someone who had such bellicose bookends marking her life, she was a lady of great warmth and humor. Because she was the eldest of nine siblings, her knowledge of our family history was the most extensive — she had lived it first hand. In my blog, “It's All in the Detail,” I related one of her stories about her maternal grandmother, Laura Jane Feasel Lynch. She also had stories about her paternal grandparents, Samuel and Clara Jacobus Hoy. Clara, Florence said, favored the male grandchildren. On one occasion, Clara had given Florence's brother Johnny a sack of candy. In recounting the story some 80 years later, Florence remained slightly offended that Johnny had not shared one piece of this windfall with her. She also told stories of Christmas at the Hoy family farm. Tradition had a huge evergreen on the homestead being lit with candles on its branches — a most spectacular sight. Her Uncle Robert, only 10 years older than Florence and the youngest of Sam and Clara's boys, was in charge of the water bucket used to douse any errant flames that lighting the Christmas tree invariably created. Storytelling was Aunt Florence's favorite form of communication. Seeing Aunt Florence meant hearing a story that was guaranteed to make you smile, if not cause an outright belly laugh. As often as not, she was the target of her own stories, some silly thing she had done or that had happened to her. After my brother received his associate's degree, he went to Mentor and moved in with Aunt Florence as he went job hunting. I think Aunt Florence enjoyed having him to fuss over, and I know my brother enjoyed that time with her, as well as getting a chance to know his “Cleveland” cousins. His tales of Aunt Florence's cooking were mouth watering to those of us listening, and her lasagna, apparently, was the closest thing mere mortals could get to heaven. Today, Florence Laura Hoy Fry is being laid to rest. She will lie beside her beloved husband, Wilbur Chester Fry in Oakwood Cemetery. In a world of negative and strident voices, there is sadness in knowing that a voice of such warmth and laughter has been forever stilled. Until Next Time … Note this post first published online, October 2, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

Monday, October 1, 2007

Genealogy Quick Tip — Making Use of Message Boards

Shirley Langdon Wilcox is a certified genealogist who is a past president of the National Genealogical Society, a past president of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the author and co-author of a number of books (including “Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy”). Well, you get the idea; she's a very accomplished lady. She also happens to be a cousin, albeit a distant cousin of mine. We both descend from William Armstrong, an Irish Immigrant, and Leah Shupe Armstrong Coffelt.

Shirley descends from their daughter, Susan Teresa and I descend from their daughter Elizabeth Harriet. I didn't know of her illustrious genealogical background when I first wrote her an e-mail a few years back. I had found her when I had looked up the Armstrong name on Genforum ( She was both cordial and gracious and e-mailed me scanned copies of two pages from the Armstrong Family Bible. I, in turn, e-mailed her several obituaries I had found on Susan and Elizabeth's siblings.

The Internet is a great equalizer. I would never have had the nerve to contact her had I not found her on Genforum, nor would I have had the foggiest idea of how to go about it. If you haven't taken advantage of Genforum or its sister message board, the Rootsweb/Ancestry Message Board (, you might want to try it. Who knows, somebody out there may be able to help you shatter a brick wall. But remember, genealogical etiquette (not to mention the golden rule) demands that we use these encounters to share information, not demand it.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, October 1, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online