I pulled up my software program today and saw that it was Ralph Reed’s 102nd Birthday, and figured it was just as good as a day to share photos I took almost a month ago on the 74th anniversary of his death, when my husband and I took a trip to the Mansfield Reformatory.
The Mansfield Reformatory
The Mansfield Reformatory was just what it said, it was a facility that’s initial purpose was to reform the inmates that came to stay. They were “admitted for 18 months, and if they showed progress, they could be released after that time”. If they weren’t reformed, they could be re-sentenced for another 18 months.
At some point in time in the early 1940’s Ralph was an inmate at the Mansfield Reformatory, otherwise known as the Ohio State Reformatory. This is where he met many of the men who he attempted to rob the Reliable Steel Company with,
Though the Ohio State Reformatory never housed any executions, the Ohio History Connection has “Old Sparky” on loan. It was in this chair where Ralph sat down for the last time.
It was quite sobering when I saw the actual chair. It’s all rather sad when you think of how Ralph was only 27 years old when he was put to death.
I initially tried to go to Columbus to research in the penitentiary records at the Ohio Historical Society, but you have to make an appointment and it was out further than May 4. That will be part 3 of my story of Ralph, when I finally find out what sort of crime he did to get into the Ohio State Reformatory, and why he initially received 2 stays of execution from the Ohio Governor.
The prompt for Week 6 of Amy Johnson Crow’s writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Social Media and I have been very lucky to have discovered distant cousins in a few of the Pennsylvania groups I have joined on Facebook.
I know I have eluded to this once before but it has happened again recently in a newer group I’ve joined focusing on the town of Broad Top, Pennsylvania, which is where my grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart, was born.
Encouraged to join the group by my cousin Denny, I wasn’t sure they would even let me in at first because I never lived there, and that seemed initially to be a qualification. But luckily my honesty paid off because I noted in my comments when I answered the questions that I was working on my genealogy and just wanted to see photos of the area to get a better feel for where my ancestors lived.
Oddly enough the organizer is a Horton and I’m sure that I’m related to them in some way.
The post I found about 2 months ago referenced my Blair side of the family. A picture of Clyde Vinton Blair, aka “Shinny” was posted as he ran a store in Six Mile Run. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was related to the person who posted the photo (we are 4th cousins) and we ended up chatting and friending each other. It’s not like we were looking for one another, it just happened by my commenting on her post.
Some of the best parts of groups like these are just reading the memories that a photo or just a person’s name will bring back to the other members. I’m sure if I hung out on Instagram more often I would have similar experiences.
If you’ve never taken the time to join a group from where your relatives are from I suggest doing so. Social media is a valuable tool when working on your family history, you never know what a person may post that may answer a question you have, or even who may have the answer to a question you post.
For week 2 of the genealogical writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the prompt is favorite photo. One of my favorites (as this is a theme every year it’s fortunate we have so many photos to love) is a photo of my dad. He received a camera for Christmas in 1956 and according to the note on the back from my grandma (Anna Maria Morgart), he was taking a picture and it “exploded” and accidentally took a picture of himself. I like to joke it’s the world’s first selfie.
In the past year, John Andrew Akers has popped up on Thrulines as a potential father for one of my favorite brick walls, Suzanna Akers. I have even had John Andrew Akers written down on a piece of paper and looked into him a few times myself but never felt I had enough information to officially list him as my 4th-great-grandfather (I really try to be quite thorough when working on my tree and not just plop people down).
Anyhow, I’ve opted to take the time to do some in-depth research to try to come to some sort of conclusion about whether John Andrew Akers is truly the father of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Suzanna Akers.
What is Thrulines?
For those of you who are not familiar with AncestryDNA, I will enlighten you on what Thrulines is. Thrulines is a DNA tool that uses both your DNA matches and the family trees of your matches to create a view of who your ancestors may be.
A key point of Thrulines is that it is only as accurate as your matches trees.
See how important that statement above is? I bolded it because it’s the piece of the puzzle that many don’t realize. If your distant relative has just plopped information down that they have taken randomly from hints or other peoples trees, their family tree may not be accurate, which would then lead to a false identity on Thrulines.
This is why I am going to do an examination of John Andrew Akers, so I can discover if he is in fact Susanna’s dad. For some reason I don’t recall finding a census for him that would have a female of the correct age for him and that is why I wasn’t willing to think he was my guy. Or maybe he did and other trees that I saw had females listed for the age leaving no room for Susanna. But maybe they were wrong. At the time I did not take the time to do a research plan on him. Today is a different day and I’m up for the challenge.
One last thing about Thrulines. I presently have 28 DNA matches on Thrulines claiming John Andrew Akers is my 4th-great-grandfather. We shall see.
The Research Plan
In an effort to keep myself on track, I’ve created a research plan. Here is what I have down. It’s very rough and may evolve as I go along and that’s okay. It’s 8:30am on a Wednesday and so my mind may not be as technical sounding as I should (especially when I have to head into work here in about 10 minutes). But here is my start. I created a table in Word (I took a screenshot so my nicely bolded header is not so bold). I literally have no information on John Andrew Akers so I’m starting from scratch. This could be very difficult because I know these are dealing with census records from before 1850 so I will not find a lot of good information like you do post-1850. But you have to start somewhere.
I began seeking using Thrulines to come up with a birth and death date and created a family tree on Ancestry that I made private so I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking to heart what I may or may not find. I really am not wanting to offend anyone in my search because I am having difficulty believing people who suddenly think this man is their relative. I should note one key piece of evidence with Suzanna: with as little documentation that I have on her, one fact is consistent on all the censuses I have for her – she always has a birth date of 1826. Andrew Blair’s age is all over the place, but Suzanna is consistently 1826. Here is my list of events in my Legacy Family Tree Software for Suzanna and she is listed being 24, 34, 44, and 54 for each census I have for her (1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880).
Like most everyone else when doing my family history, I opted to go backwards in time. On Ancestry there was an inventory listed as a hint that would correspond with John Akers death date of 4 January 1866. Finding this inventory leads me to believe that John Akers died intestate, so this should be easier than I thought, as I should just find the probate record because all heirs should be listed in the record if he died without a will.
And I found just that, his daughter, Lucretia, petitioned the court and all his children are listed, along with his widow.
As you can tell in the snippet of the record above, no Suzanna is not listed. And I have census records from 1870 and 1880 to prove she was still alive when John Akers passed away in January 1866. In case you are unable to read what I have shown, the name of John Akers children are: Lucretia, Ann, Matilda, Joshua B., John Thomas, and Erastus J (with John and Erastus being deceased when their father died).
The DNA Matches
It’s interesting, once I began writing this blog post (which I thought was going to take me longer than it did) I thought I was going to have this in-depth research plan all documented, never realizing the intestate probate record was the key to everything (thank you Susan Monson for your fabulous Family Tree Webinar “No Will, No Problem” which really brought the entire intestate process to light for me). Anyhow, after working on this for a day or so John Andrew Akers was no longer coming up named on my Thrulines, but as an “Unknown” person was. I didn’t know if this had anything to do with the private Akers tree I created for this project if it would have thrown confusion to my algorithm (I doubt that would do THAT much), I stand corrected, I deleted the tree a few hours ago and he is back on my Thrulines. At least I now know without a doubt that John Andrew Akers is NOT my 4th-great-grandfather.
As for the DNA match, as I looked more closely, most of the matches I had for John Andrew Akers were the same matches that I have for Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers, all but 1, and he is also a match with my Morgart-Ritchey line so he could actually be related to these Akers where I am not.
The Finished Research Plan
As a genealogist who always wants to do things correctly I can honestly say I’m so glad I took the few minutes (because it really only took a couple of minutes) to type up this research plan in Word using tables. It really helped me stay focused on the objectives I was seeking. And a few times when I began to make things more difficult for myself in my head (as I am often my own worse enemy) this research plan really helped me stay calm and carry on (to steal a quote from a very popular meme).
I have many more Akers to go through to try and figure out who Suzanna’s parents are. One day I’ll find them.
Do you know who I’m going to discuss with this topic? If you guessed my Grandma Blair then you’d be right!
Anna Maria Morgart loved to can vegetables and she pickled beets and eggs! One of my Grandma’s jobs when I was little was getting up in the wee hours of the morning (well, probably 6 am but when I was 8 that seemed so incredibly early). She would walk over to her friend’s, Mrs. Juhas’ house (she was the mother of my dad’s good friend growing up), who had a huge garden, and they would weed that garden. As payment, Grandma got her pick of green beans (this is how stories are fabricated I’m sure – I just knew she canned lots of green beans and there is no way the little garden in the back of her house produced what we ate the rest of the year). I also use the word “job” loosely as I am pretty sure she was just paid with produce. For her it was a labor of love.
But for now, I continue. My Grandma would make homemade jelly out of grapes and strawberries, made probably 100 Mason Jars or more of green beans every year. She made pickled beets (I’ve been yearning for some as of late and I have tried what the store has, and they are okay, but they don’t have quite the same punch as what my Grandma made.
The green beans were my favorite. I don’t think I had a can of green beans from the store until the late-1990’s as we always had plenty of the jars that she canned each year. My sister remembers her also freezing corn, canning tomatoes (they were the base for so many yummy homemade soups), pickles (mainly bread and butter, but a few dill) and peppers (this I remembered as well).
With the leftover juice from her pickled beets, she would make pickled eggs. I don’t recall enjoying these too well, but I have an aversion to yolks. The only eggs I like are scrambled. My mom claims this was all in my head, as a child she would tell me she took the yolks out of the soft-boiled eggs, and I’d eat it. I didn’t like them, but she told me she took them out, so I trusted her, how was I to know she was lying (because you know, lying is bad, but she never saw my point. Anyhow, I still only eat scrambled eggs though I like whites only of fried eggs – and I use to love the Egg White Delight McDonald’s had on their menu until they took it off their menu. Sigh.).
Grandma would keep the food for herself, but she’d give away just as many, if not more. It’s like I said, I never had a green bean from the store until 1997 to 1998. My Grandma was diagnosed with macular degeneration, so she was unable to do some of the things she did for years, like working in the garden and canning. My mom attempted to buy green beans from a local produce place and can one year, but I think it was more than she wanted to take on.
I never thought to take a photo of canned goods when I was little so I found this photo on the Library of Congress website. Mullen, Patrick B. Florence Cheek with quilts and canned food, Traphill, North Carolina. United States Traphill Wilkes County North Carolina, 1978. Traphill, North Carolina, None , 8. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/afc1982009_pm_015/.
Did your relatives can? Share with me the yummy veggies that you experienced!
This seems to happen a lot the past two years; I get all excited because it’s Family History Month and then I don’t seem to get any of my own family history done due to so many other activities in the real world. These past two years has been with my son who is in the Marching Band. I am so proud of him, yet, at the same time I wish I had more time for my wonderful hobby.
I have started focusing on my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, Eliza Horton, and trying to focus on who her parents are as even past genealogists who have authored books seem to have no idea where she fits into the family, but she took care of her grandfather in his final years so she has to be related somehow!
But here is a wish that you were able to have success as we near the end of this wonderful month. I hope you were able to work on your tree and that perhaps you were able to take a class or two as well!
I previously wrote a post on joining a genealogical society. The one I have joined that I get the most out of is my membership to NGS, or the National Genealogical Society. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, NGS has been around for 119 years. In the past few years, they have combined with the Federation of Genealogical Societies, where they assist local genealogical societies as a part of their mission
If you feel you want to join NGS, click here to go to their membership page. As part of your subscription, you receive the NGS Magazine that is filled with an abundance of great articles and often relays information about the upcoming NGS Conference, stories about the area where it is taking place, and food for thought on types of documents where you might find your ancestors living or working.
The other periodical you receive is the National Genealogical Quarterly, which presents members cases about how they have proved they are related to their people. It’s always informative as it could give you an idea on how to go about your own brick wall in your own family tree.
There is also a monthly email which provide you with articles pertaining to methodology and news dealing with genealogy.
Were you aware that there are classes you can take if you have a membership to the National Genealogical Society? You can, and some are FREE! (Yes, it’s my favorite word again). Others do have a fee, but those are for more advanced learning or in regard to a specific topic. (If you do not want to join some of these courses are offered at a higher price to non-members).
I am presently working my way through the Foundations 101 course offered by NGS on the basics of genealogy. There are 5 modules detailing Getting Started, Home Sources, Family Stories, Traditions, and Interviews, Names & Establishing Identities, and lastly the Research Plan. Once completed I will move on to Foundations 201. You can purchase these classes individually or bundled together.
The National Genealogical Society has published a number of books to help researchers find the members of their family tree. From beginner books such as “Paths to Your Past, An Introductory to Finding Your Ancestors” to books that deal with advanced topics like “Genetic Genealogy in Practice” or “Mastering Genealogical Proof” or “Genealogy and the Law”, NGS offers a variety of educational books to help you succeed with your research.
Forum is a newer feature to the NGS website. It is an interactive community for individual members, society, library, archive, and museum delegates, while they also have another area pertaining for NGS committees and workgroups. In order to use Forum there is an entire page of faqs detailing your username and password, how to update/create a profile, how to make contacts and connections, and how to join and subscribe to communities.
It is highly stressed that Forum is to be a safe place for members. And you must be an NGS member to participate. They have different communities relating to the NGS Conference, methodology and best practices, another specifically for Family History Month, and lastly one for societies and organizations. Once you join a community you can receive email’s relating to the current material in updates as it happens or a daily digest.
Each year the National Genealogical Society has a conference that is hosted by a different area of the country. Since I’ve been a member of NGS their conference has been in St. Charles, Missouri, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sacramento, California, and next year will be in Richmond, Virginia.
Each conference has a theme and respected speakers who share their knowledge with diverse programming. With the merger of NGS and the Federation of Genealogical Societies they now have a dedicated day to SLAM (Societies, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) and how to grow and maintain these essential organizations.
In recent years NGS has had both in-person and virtual offerings for their conference, and an “on demand” package can be purchased to view classes at your leisure once the conference has ended.
As you can see the National Genealogical Society has a lot to offer individuals and organizations in their pursuit of their ancestry. If you have never checked out the website, I encourage you to do so, as I really feel I get a great deal out of my membership each year, between the publications, the emails, and the educational opportunities that the society provides.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year – Family History Month – and with it comes so many wonderful opportunities for learning about how to find our ancestors. I remember back in October 2018 my dad found a post in our local paper about how they were having a family history day at my local Family History Center and I attended. I remember just being taken away by an entire day devoted to learning about genealogy. It was after that I decided to attend my first conference in Spring 2019, which was just an incredible experience.
Seize the month of possibilities, I kick off my learning tomorrow with a free webinar that I discovered scrolling on Facebook where the speaker tells us how becoming a member of DAR helped them research, and her relative constructed a gun for George Washington (and we all know I’ll listen to anyone talk about George). I’ve also been curious about joining a lineage society and this is a great way to learn more.
Have you signed up for any classes? Share in the comments!
Check your local library to see if they have any events going on. Mine always has a “Late Night at the Library” event each year where they give tours of the Special Collections area, and you learn all the different items available in the department that you can use to find your people. Sadly, it’s on a Friday night which coincides with my son and his marching band, so I don’t get to participate, but in two more years I will once again be there!