As you begin your family tree, one item is essential: you must have a strong foundation.
What is the foundation of your family tree, you ask? That is simple. It all begins with you. And then your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, I am sure that you get my meaning. You have to have good, solid facts on yourself, your mom and dad, everything in order to have a strong tree.
Trust me, I know the lure of just adding person after person in your tree. It’s exciting as you get up higher and higher into the branches as you find a fifth-great-grandmother here, and a seventh-great-grandfather there. But if you haven’t done your due diligence down below, you know, where YOU are, and YOUR PARENTS are… you aren’t going to know for certain if your fifth-great-grandmother is really who you are related too.
I am a person who does the horrible, awful no-good type of researching because I skip around (and I have a feeling there are more people like me out there than aren’t). They say you should just work on one branch at a time. I am sure that is the smart way of doing things but there are days I want to work on my dad’s side of the family, and other days when I feel like getting my mom’s family a little more under control. It’s called variety, and I love variety (it is the spice of life, after all). Not to mention sometimes you have people on both sides of your family curious about what you are finding, and you don’t want to disappoint anyone, so I skip around and do both.
Sometimes on the same day.
But you always begin with you. And once you know about you, you can move onto your parents, and their siblings which leads to your grandparents, and their siblings, and so on. Yes, I’m the type that likes to work on the collateral people as I work my way up because you never know when you are going to find a distant aunt or cousin that may come back and help you figure out a puzzle later on (like, great-great-grandma was living with an aunt, and it wasn’t popping up in an Ancestry or FamilySearch search).
But it’s always best to find everything you can, or at least all the vital records and census records before moving up to the next direct line ancestor. This gives you a strong foundation for your genealogical research. And a strong foundation helps you build a very healthy tree.
The final week of 52 Ancestors in 52 Week’s has a heavier topic than normal (I type as I laugh as some of the themes have really made me think hard). This week’s is no exception with the prompt of “Future”.
I’m going to seize the moment and really focus on 2 lines from each side of my family. The Warner’s and Gustin’s on my Mom’s side and the Blair’s and Aker’s on my Dad’s side. I’m sure others may pop up with interest (for example, my Dunbar’s married a Warner so I could stray a bit that way), or maybe I’ll have a moment when I want to research my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, and since they are all in England, you utilize that mood when it strikes.
My genealogy future will be me going into a little more detail on my mom’s side of the family, the Warner’s to be precise. While attempting to look up some information on Thankful Chapin, who I believe to be my fifth-great-grandmother on my maternal side of the family, I realized not only do I not have the paperwork to back this up (though her years of being alive do) but I don’t have confirmation that her supposed son, Oliver Charles Warner, is a son of Joel Warner. By exploring this portion of my tree, it will help me explore other areas of this side, and since my great-great-grandmother, Mazie, was a Warner, they are extra special (because for some reason she is extra special to me, I truly feel she would have liked me).
If I am going to write more about the Warner’s I may as well learn more about Mazie’s mother, Orienta Gustin and her parents, Benjamin Gustin and Nancy Return Gault. I remember being so tickled upon finding Orienta’s photo that I want to know more about this amazing lady and her lineage as well.
Oh, it wouldn’t be a year of genealogy if I didn’t try to work on my Blair brick wall, now would it? Observing in the past weeks of various DNA matches I saw that a person who was placed in the middle of my Blair’s on FamilySearch’s one big tree is on a DNA matches tree. Though there is a possibility that the person has the wrong fellow in his tree, just in case that I am somehow related to the infamous Andrew Sloan Blair I am investigating him by putting him on an experimental, private tree. I will never know if there is some sort of distant connection until I build a tree and flesh it out. The worse thing I do is waste my time. (And honestly, I have no idea how this will all pan out).
And it’s not fair to write about the Blair’s and not bring in Susanna Akers. I so wish to know more about my third-great-grandmother on my paternal side. Just how they appear and disappear from thin air has me especially intrigued. I hope to find her. Or whatever Susanna’s last name is. I still feel the key is with their second youngest son, George Washington Blair.
Expanding My Researching
This year I plan on doing something I have never done before. Going to specific places to research, and try to utilize knowledge from groups I already belong too.
Family History Center
I am going to get the courage to go into my local Family History Center and ask for help on how to use their facility (assuming they are open – with the different Covid variants running around, this may be another pipe dream). I know that there are files for Oliver Charles Warner that I can hopefully view in the Family History Center, so this is one of the reasons why I am planning on using this wonderful place to find out what I need.
I signed up for the AmericanAncestors.org website to utilize as my mother’s family is from New England (you may recognize these names, the Warner’s, the Chapin’s – all from Massachusetts). This appears to have so much great information that I plan on utilizing it more for my research so I can better understand this area of the world and hopefully learn so much more about my relatives. As a person who absolutely loves the history involving the beginning of our country, this should be a wonderful treat me for me.
The Genealogy Center
Since I live within four hours of Fort Wayne, Indiana, I hope that I can go and visit the Genealogy Center in the Allen County Public Library over a weekend. I know I need to be ready to research what I need to find out if I go there, but it just seems like a great resource for me to go since I just live in the state next door.
Continue with my Blog
My other goal is to continue with my blog. I know I was able to increase those who follow me this past year and that is great. I like to think that means people are enjoying what I’m writing. I hope to add more history book reviews in the mix, and more how to articles, as well as the occasional prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks (I’ve still signed up for it – just may not do it every week – I’ll write when the feeling strikes or the theme is too enticing that I can’t say no).
I enjoy sharing what I know that if maybe it helps someone else with their research, all the better. And I’ve actually chatted via email/Facebook messenger with distant cousins because of my blog and that had made it that more exciting!
Continue to Learn
I love to read books about genealogy. I have various books on finding church records, the Genealogical Proof Standard, books detailing women’s lives (The Hidden Half of the Family), researching newspapers, and the like. I’m also trying to get more out of the genealogical memberships that I belong to from my local county chapter to my state and even NHS as they have all kinds of learning opportunities for free and some classes you can purchase. All of them will allow me to be the best researcher I can be.
I also want to be a better participant in the Facebook groups and on Twitter. If you aren’t a part of the Twitter genealogy scene, you are missing out. So many wonderful people in the social media world.
So that is what my genealogical future holds. All in all it’s about learning. You can never learn too much!
All my life my favorite holiday has been Christmas. My mom always preferred Thanksgiving because family would get together for simpler things: family and food, she felt with Christmas and Easter the gifts and candy were the reasons people got together. But it wasn’t just gifts that have made me love Christmas, it was the tree and all the decorations, baking cookies and that little bit of magic that all the very special ornaments and lights can bring.
As I have gone through the photographs that once belonged to my Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart) and her mother, Margaret Dora Wise, I saw photographs of Christmases past. This delighted me to no end, as it made me feel that my love of Christmas was something that is in my soul, and that I have inherited from those who came before me.
But not on just my dad’s side of the family, oh no, my maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming, loved Christmas as well. I have so many photos between Christmas day and her yearly Christmas Eve parties when she returned from living in Florida.
Though Christmas is my favorite, to me the holidays more or less begin on Thanksgiving and don’t really end until New Year’s Day. So many wonderful memories throughout the years and sometimes they all just flow together. If no other time family gets together, it’s a holiday. We get together with my husband’s family on Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. We changed it up and have gone to my cousin’s on the 4th of July (which is nice as it’s our shared uncle’s birthday, too).
All in all, holidays are just very special days, no matter how you celebrate them. It’s just extra special to share them with those you love.
It doesn’t take long for our ancestral lines to quickly multiply within our family trees. By the time I arrive at my great-great-grandparents I already have 16. I have a total of 61 surnames on my family tree, and I am sure there are just as many, if not more, unknown to me.
Sadly, there are some I know more than others. I tend to be more familiar with my paternal side than my maternal side as I didn’t do much research on my mom’s side as she always seemed to be upset with whatever information I found. Odd part was I didn’t even work on her dad’s side of the family because I know she wasn’t fond of him. But when I came home with information about my great-grandmother, I think that made her even more unhappy (as I’ve stated in past posts, like my Grandma Blair was to me, my mom was very fond of her maternal grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, and to be clear, I loved her very much as well).
My goal in the coming year is to get to flesh out some of my family more. I’ll admit working on 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks does get me writing, but I’m a full-time working girl, it doesn’t give me a lot of time to actually research. I miss that. So, I’ve signed up, but I do not anticipate writing every week (but I’m happy that even though I didn’t get it published on the week it was due, I will have gotten all 52 prompts done this year).
Below is word art of my 61 surnames (or I hope I got them all), or my known ancestral lines. So much to learn. Always learning.
When it comes to the holidays most of our food is all made from scratch, except maybe rolls, but even for a couple of years I made those homemade as well (until I realized I was getting in the way of my husband, who normally makes the turkey at Thanksgiving, or the ham at Christmas).
My job was making the cookies and the pies. So far this year that hasn’t happened as I was diagnosed as a diabetic, so where I would have started cookies a weekend or two ago, I was pushing temptation off until the end. And no cut outs this year as they are my kryptonite. I was making peanut blossoms with the cherry cordial Hershey kisses (as I am not a huge cherry fan) and was going to make Russian tea cakes for my daughter (and I’m not a huge fan of nuts).
As for pies – my daughter asked if I could make cherry pie this year for something different, I said sure because I don’t need to create temptation by making my Dutch Apple Pie anyhow, so I figured this year we could have cherry and pumpkin pie (have I mentioned I don’t like pumpkin either? Yes, I’m one of those weird, picky eaters).
But alas, we were recently diagnosed with Covid – so now none of them are being made because though I’m fortunate to have been vaccinated, I still have what feels like a bad cold (which is what I thought it was because I ALWAYS get a cold in December – countless choir concerts with laryngitis).
So here are photos of cookies and pies past – all made from scratch (well, Libby’s canned pumpkin does help with it). I know the drop sugar cookies were a recipe of my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar. The Dutch Apple pie was one my mom made, not sure if it was passed down but I know it was good (I’m not a pie person, but I love this pie). The cut-out cookies may have been from a family member, I know I switched to a Taste of Home recipe because what my mom made wasn’t coming out right anymore and the Taste of Home was so yummy (and had sour cream like the drop sugar cookies, the icing recipe is included). The peanut blossoms were from the church I went to when I grew up, Northampton United Methodist Women’s cookbook.
I will admit I may cheat in many other ways of cooking, but when it comes to desserts, they must be homemade. Store bought doesn’t cut it and hasn’t for some time. Especially with chocolate chip cookies – those must be homemade (it is my all-time favorite cookie).
Who knows, maybe I’ll get something made before Christmas is officially here, and maybe I can spare a cookie or two.
Strength is such a valuable commodity. You need both physical and emotional strength to get by in today’s world. For the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt of “strength” I’m going to discuss my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Ritchey.
Mary Ann Ritchey was born on 19 June 1851 in Rays Hill, Bedford County, Pennsylvania to Daniel Ritchey and Anna Cypher. She was the sixth of eleven children they had, with George being a well-known farmer in that end of Bedford County.
On 27 June 1872, Mary was united in marriage with George Washington Morgart in East Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Like her father, George was a farmer and had already purchased the farm when his dad, Andrew Jackson Morgart, passed away on 19 August 1870. While George worked the land, Mary Ann kept house, raising their five children: Charles Jackson (born 1873, and my great-grandfather); Edward Daniel (born 1875); Anna Rebekah (born 1878); Stella Mary (born 1886); and Altie Pearl (born 1888).
The Loss of Loved Ones
Mary Ann’s strength came on 5 May 1895 when her husband of almost 23 years died. George had not been feeling well for a bit but was able to continue to work the farm despite his issues.
Losing your husband at any age has to be devastating but Mary Ann powered through. She had it a bit easier as three of her children were grown adults. However, this was not the last of her sorrow for the year 1895. Her youngest daughter, Altie Pearl died just a few months after her father.
And within 3 years her father would pass away at the age of 88 on 19 November 1898.
My great-great-grandmother suffered a great deal of loss in a very short period of time when she lost her husband, daughter, and father within three years.
On 16 February 1898 she did what women were supposed to do and married her neighbor, Bartley Hughes, and the properties were merged. (A side note, Bartley’s mother and George Washington Morgart’s grandmother were sisters, so in a way it was keeping the property within the family).
Mary Ann Ritchey’s strength ran out on 14 August 1908 when she took her own life. Her death certificate was quoted as “Suicide by shooting in left breast with rifle – death was almost instant”.
She was laid to rest next to her first husband, George Washington Morgart at Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery. Her parents are buried there as well.
I have no proof but I always wondered if my great-great-grandmother suffered from depression after losing her husband and youngest child in less than 4 months. She had another daughter, Stella Mary that was born in 1886 and appears to have died just a year later. I have no true proof of how many total children she may have had, she did not answer that question on the 1900 census.
I should have looked ahead to see that my favorite name was also a theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks! But alas I will talk about the unsung hero of genealogy for all of us who have gotten started in the past 20 years – technology! So many things have changed for family historians since the inception of home computers and the internet (especially the internet). It literally is the single most important item that has revolutionized our fast-growing hobby.
Computers & the Internet
I am so incredibly thankful that I live in a time where I am able to do so much research here in the privacy of my own home. Computers, well, and in turn the internet, have changed how one can do their family tree. I can only imagine the long, drawn-out process writing and re-writing a tree when you found out more information about something. Now with the click of a mouse we can fix our tree if we had a wrong person, add an entire document we either downloaded or scanned from real-world finds and include with our people or insert a story we were told by another family member without losing any sleep.
Another advantage of computers is having personal software that will track your family with both pedigree charts, family group charts, and give you statistics within moments of your inquiry. No matter who you choose to use: Family Treemaker, Legacy Family Tree, or Rootsmagic, (or any of the many others, but I believe those are the big 3) it’s nice to have your own copy of your tree and not just one tied to Ancestry or MyHeritage (which have private trees) or FamilySearch (which is just the 1 big tree that millions of people can change at any minute). Each has their perks, with Family Treemaker and Rootsmagic both syncing with Ancestry so that makes it nice if you use Ancestry on a regular basis.
I chose to get my software as someone on FamilySearch placed someone in my tree that didn’t belong and it was a year or more before I realized that I could change it. I asked the lady who plopped Andrew Sloan Blair in my area of the tree to remove him, and she did not. But for a year he looked at me from my home page (it was a huge picture that stared at me every day).
The lasting perk of my software was that it was my last birthday present from my Mom. She ended up passing away unexpectedly 3 months later and so every day I use it I think of her (well, she asked me what I wanted and told me to just get it and so I did after reading the reviews about which one was the best at the moment – I think they all trade places each year).
In conjunction with the internet is social media, which is a great way to ask for help with your genealogy or share what you have learned. Each venue of social media offers a different way of appealing to your fellow family historians that go from learning tools, to asking questions, to sharing your finds.
I am so incredibly grateful for the number of educational videos that are out there on YouTube for the average person to once again view from their computers, or tablets, or heck, televisions that allow us to learn about the who, what, where, why, and how of our ancestors. Between free videos such as Elevenses with Lisa (by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems), the world of New England Research (American Ancestors), this year’s RootsTech Connect that has been letting us watching videos for free all year (you just need a FamilySearch login to view, which is also free!). I know I am missing so many – and the genealogy giants: Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find My Past, and MyHeritage (typed in alphabetical order), all have video tutorials and such as well.
I know a few of my podcasts I listen to also have YouTube alternatives if you would rather view the talk instead of listening on your phone or tablet.
Another nice option of YouTube is you can go to the subscription tab on the menu and follow along with all the latest uploads of videos from your favorite people or groups.
Facebook Genealogy Groups
I am thankful for Facebook Groups where you can ask a question and get responses from warm, caring people. I have done this several times and do my best to help others in return (though I will admit I need to do the helping more often than I do, random acts of kindness can truly help someone break down that brick wall).
If you want to find genealogy groups on Facebook, just search “genealogy” and then narrow down your selections by groups, I am sure you will find one that fits your tastes. You can find general groups, DNA groups (and I’ll state this here, only ask DNA questions in a DNA group because your general groups might delete or close the question and tell you to go to a DNA group).
You can also join groups for a specific area of the country or world that your ancestors are from. My favorite group is one based on Old Bedford County Pennsylvania where I have gotten some great assistance and advice on where to find things on my people (and what’s nice is it lends itself to all surrounding counties that were once a part of “Mother Bedford”).
You do need a Facebook account to participate, but it’s free, and if you just want to create a profile for user groups, you don’t have to friend others and post anything about yourself (well, other than what you might type about yourself or your family history in a genealogy group).
Twitter is another great arena for genealogists. I have met so many inspiring bloggers who share their expertise as I attempt to do. Again, just like those in group forums on Facebook, family historians sharing their finds through tweets are again so helpful. There is an entire community that meets up on Tuesdays for #AncestryHour, sadly it’s based in England so I am always working as their 7pm meet time is 2pm my time. One day I’ll be able to participate. (If you are ever interested you can search #ancestryhour and all the posts will show up, not sure if it will be in the correct order though).
Again, you do need a Twitter account to participate and you will have to post in order to get something out of the experience but it’s not as personal as Facebook. Also, tweets (your post on Twitter) can only be about 180 characters, but you can always add message 1 of however many you think you will need. Infographics, meme’s, or photos are not counted as part of your words so that can help get your message across in 1 post as well.
If you love pictures then Instagram is for you. Instagram is a visual social media platform that doesn’t restrict you in characters but allows you to share a photo and link to your blog to share your family history.
Family Tree Webinars
I have been a subscriber of Family Tree Webinars since 2018. It is a wonderful resource that has top notch genealogists providing programs via a PowerPoint presentation (or something similar) where they give you all kinds of great information on a specific topic. Most webinars are an hour in length and will often have a q & a segment at the end where the presenter answers questions asked by the moderator (which they get the questions from the live viewers in a chat).
Topics can include the introductory programs on how to start doing your family tree, to busting down brick walls, to teaching someone how to find information in Eastern Europe, to how to use Excel spreadsheets in your genealogy research, to what is autosomal DNA (and a 1000 more webinars that will pique your interest).
They do provide a webinar that is free for a week for everyone to view, however being a member gives you access to the syllabus that goes along with each presentation. You can purchase a subscription with a discounted rate, but renewing at such is no longer an option. Though I enjoyed getting the discount every year, I can admit it is still worth the $50 fee to join (which is why I’m guessing that they took the discount away).
Last, but not least, are the subscription sites that you can sign up for in order to create a tree and obtain documents of your people. Alphabetically here are a few I have used: American Ancestors, Ancestry, GenealogyBank, FamilySearch, Find My Past, Fold3, Heritage Quest, MyHeritage, Newspapers.com, and Newspaper Archives, just to name a few (I know there are many more out there, but these are even the ones that are touched on my local library, which has a lot of great information about genealogy and local history).
These subscription sites (you must sign up for all of them, but FamilySearch is free) are so incredibly helpful for finding information about your family. Most have library editions so even if you unable to afford all the subscriptions you can use them for free at your library (some are letting you use the library editions for free from your home since Covid-19 has been a part of our lives, you normally need a library card, definitely worth checking into).
Along with subscription sites, there are great websites you can use to help you with your genealogy.
Cities & Counties
Some county government websites will have links or emails that you can send an inquiry right to the department where you seek your information that can aid in your finding documents about your ancestors. Sometimes you can even access the records yourself by paying a small fee for the time you spend online (just make quick haste in downloading your documents, just look later).
City websites often have a history of the town on the website which may give key background information about the time when your ancestor lived there.
There are a ton of blogs out there that can provide help with your genealogy. Everyone has a different take on how they word things, and sometimes you just come across someone that explains a technique just the right way and it clicks (a great example of this for me is Amy Johnson Crow, the founder for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, she has a WANDER Method for working on genealogical problems and is more or less a simplified version of the Genealogical Proof Standard).
Another great website to help you in Cyndi’s List, which is a wonderful source of links to whatever it is you are looking for in your genealogical search. I know I need to use it more often.
It is great that technology can allow you to find so much information while you are dressed in your pajamas into the wee hours of the morning but one must remember that you don’t have access to everything, and that there is so much that you need to go find in person where your people lived.
Every day more and more records are digitized and put online but there is still so much more that is out there, just waiting for you to find it, and knock all those walls down.
The theme for week 46 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Birthdays. And I am not sure what day of the year for sure has the most birthdays, but I know off the top of my head that April 2 is high on the list for my ancestors.
I have a total of 9 birthdays that appear on 2 April, the oldest being born in 1725 (my 7th-Great-Grandmother, Martha Shattuck) and the youngest being born in 1949, my Aunt Teri (which would be the 6th-Great-Granddaughter of Martha).
Here is my list of names, how they are related to me, and how old they would have been in 2021.
Martha Shattuck – 7th-Great-Grandmother – 296
Elizabeth Naill – Wife of 4th-Great-Granduncle – 222
Eliza Horton – 3rd-Great-Grandmother – 208
William Harrison Geer – 3rd-Great-Grandfather – 181
Arabelle Morgart – 2nd-Great-Grandaunt – 165
James Stevenson – 1st Cousin Twice Removed – 112
Anna Maria Morgart – Grandmother – 107
Willis Mellott – 3rd Cousin Once Removed – 84
Terry (Teri) Fairhurst – Aunt – 72
My software program that I used to track my genealogy has a calendar maker and in the beginning of this year I contemplated printing one out to honor my relatives. I was astounded when I saw I had so many events on 2 April that my Grandma wasn’t even listed in the primary box. At the time she was the second youngest to my aunt (I’ve since added Willis Mellott).
So funny how some dates have so many whereas I am the only person on my birthday so far (which makes me feel special).
For week 45 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the theme is Stormy Weather, and I’m choosing to write about the the struggle my two paternal great-grandmothers, Bertha Childers and Margaret Dora Wise, endured when suddenly becoming widows.
When I think about rough time that my great-grandmother, Bertha Childers, must have faced when her husband, Andrew Jackson Blair, passed away on 16 November 1926.
As was written about here, my great-grandfather was killed instantly when a coal mine collapsed. But as horrible as his death was, I can only imagine what life must have been like for my great-grandmother, who was left a single mother of 4. Granted, Genevieve had just gotten married to Earl Vivian the week before Andrew passed, but Vada, Leroy, and Donald were still at home (Vada was 19, Genevieve 16, Leroy 14, and Donald 9).
I know from the 1930 census that Bertha was still a single mom of Donald, and the late 1920’s, early 1930’s was a tough time for a single mom (as it still is 90 years later).
Working for a Coal Company, more than likely Andrew and Bertha lived in a company home, he was paid with company money, where all purchases were from a company store, and when he died she probably lost everything.
I know in the late 1920’s my grandfather, Leroy, began working in the mines as well, but after having an accident in the same mine where his dad died, he found something else to do.
But I can’t imagine what life was like for my great-grandmother. Bertha had to have been devastated to lose the man she loved, her home, basically her life as she knew it. She did eventually re-marry William Chappell who was also a coal miner.
Margaret Dora Wise
Life changed for my other great-grandmother on my dad’s side of the family when on 24 July 1917 Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide leaving Margaret Dora Wise alone to care for 3-children ages 7, 6, and 3.
To my knowledge no one knows why Charles took his life. My mom had thought she had heard he was ill, but my dad heard that infidelity could have been involved (not on Charles’ part). But regardless of why, it had to be a huge shock to lose your husband, even if your situation wasn’t idyllic.
Unlike Bertha, Maggie Wise ended up getting married to Irie Earl Custer by 1920 (according to the 1920 Federal Census). Earl was a coal miner and she stayed married to him until he passed in 1949. They never had any children together.
Having younger children Maggie probably had to pick up the pieces more quickly in order to raise her kids. I know she ended up raising her children in the town of Saint Michael a stones throw from South Fork where coal mines were located (Saint Michael was built where the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club was located before the huge Johnstown Flood of 1889).
I feel Maggie had the better end of things when she married Earl Custer. My Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) always spoke quite highly of her Step-Daddy as he basically raised her (she was 3 when her dad died), and chose Earl to be my Dad’s middle name.
Both of my great-grandmother’s survived the hardships they faced, but both of their husband’s died so unexpectedly. It’s never easy to loose someone you care about, but having my own mother die out of the blue, I know how hard it can be when you don’t have the closure of saying goodbye, and even I love you one last time.
Being on a break from researching the past few weeks, when I finally looked to see what the theme for week 44 for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was I shouldn’t have been surprised it was voting (as it was election week).
And I’ll confess, I’ve never looked into finding my ancestor’s voting records, so this week’s post gave me the opportunity to do just that.
Rather than make life difficult I did what came naturally, I Googled it and the first link I clicked on was the FamilySearch Wiki and “United States Voting Records“.
I had an idea in mind which was to see if my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Warner, ever voted as she would have been a 40-year-old woman when women were given the right to vote in the state of Ohio in 1917.
However, it didn’t take me long to realize that FamilySearch did not have the voting records of Summit County. Or Pennsylvania. Or Massachusetts (all the main states where I know I have ancestors, as I quickly broadened my search when I wasn’t finding the records for Summit County).
Summit County Board of Elections
My next step was doing a search on Google for Summit County, Ohio voting records. This led me to the Summit County Board of Elections website and I began reading what their policy was on public records and voting as it appeared I could contact them for information (so much for this becoming a blog post I could do on the fly). My first question was how far back their records go, if they did not have the voting records of 100 years ago (I’m still focused on Mazie for this exercise) then they would not be able to help me.
After reading through their 14-page document I discovered it does not include how far back one can go to research the voting records. So I opted to inquire to them about what years they have. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long, I emailed them in the morning and by 5pm I had an answer – their records only go back to 2011.
So, I found myself starting over.
Family Tree Magazine
I tried to find other ways to find voter records in genealogical research. The first article I read was from Family Tree Magazine with “How to Trace Your Ancestors in Voter Records” by Diane Haddad where it explained that voter records were good resources to follow where your ancestor lived, the key was finding county lists of registered voters or discovering who paid poll taxes.
I lucked out as the author specifically highlighted Ohio, which listed years that I wasn’t needing right now, 1803-1911, but detailed that “Ohio counted men age 21 and older in various counties to determine voting districts” and can be located on Family History Library microfilm and in local genealogical society collections.
The Ancestor Hunt
The next website I checked out was new to me entitled The Ancestor Hunt, their article explained why it’s important to find your people in voter records: helps with the gaps between censuses, naturalization, middle names, you can find a spouse, nativity, physical characteristics, political party/affiliation, and migration (I just re-stated their headlines).
They also have a link for each state for free online voter records. So naturally I selected Ohio, not every county had their records online, and once again Summit County was missing.
Next came a link that led to an entire section of Ohio history research using Ancestry.com. But again, these records led to city directories, and oddly enough, files related to Florida (yes, that’s me you hear scratching my head).
Family History Daily
Next up was the Family History Daily website who had a blog entry “Voting Created Some Fascinating Genealogy Records! Here’s Where to Find Them“. This article title has me elated. It provided a nice synopsis of voting registers and how they are found alphabetically. It also noted that these records are often available after the mid-1800s, with better luck to be had in the 1900’s and these records are very limited, or not included due to many groups of people being excluded from voting.
But the most important tidbit this article offered was that these records cannot be found online for free. (This explains why I have never stumbled upon these records).
Thank you Family History Daily.
So now where can I search in Summit County to find my ancestors voting records (I am more or less curious to see which of my relatives took their civil duty seriously? I do my best to be a good citizen and get out and vote each year.
Where Are the Summit County Voter Registers?
Since I have not found anything online and have not had any luck at the Summit County Board of Elections, my next place to look is the Summit County Historical Society. Many of their documents are located at the Akron-Summit County Library in the Special Collections Division. So I will see if I can find anything there first.
By looking through the local history section of the Special Collections page, I found an Archival Collection page that has the collections of the Summit County Historical Society.
My first search I I used the keyword “vote” which gave me 46 results, most being articles on specific levies and whether they passed or failed and by how much.
One headline that made me smile was “Akron Public Library Booms During Depression: More Persons Registered for Books Than Are Eligible to Vote Here”.
Other headlines were for businesses and board votes and mergers between companies. But nothing for voter registrations.
An even bigger sigh.
I continued to look through records that were listed in pdf form that stated what files the library had on microfilm to see if voter registrations were there. Despite them having birth, estate, and other records, there were no voting records amongst the files.
I then turned to the Summit County, Ohio website to see if any files were there. If so I was looking in the wrong place. What gave me the idea was that the naturalization records are there with the Clerk of Courts section. I get that the voter registrations aren’t online, but I had hoped that one of these places would have it mentioned if they have these records within their facilities.
I will have to pick this up at another time. I may find the voter registrations by next November when this is the topic once again. I will continue to research this topic as I am very curious if any of my female relatives voted in the 1920 elections when they earned the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.