52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

“Beginnings”

The Week 1 theme of Amy Johnson Crow’s series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is “Beginnings” and all my beginnings lead to one place, Akron, Ohio.

Actually, if I wanted to be precise my beginnings would be linked to Falls Rec, the bowling alley where my parents first met. My dad was bowling one night on a league I believe for Ohio Edison and my mother tended bar. According to her, some guys wanted to introduce her to their friend, Bob, and she was excited as Bob was really good looking, but they brought my dad over instead (your laugh here to her funny tale).

I like to think it was a good thing, but then I’m a little biased.

But this meeting would never have happened had my grandparents, Leroy Blair and Anna Maria Morgart, not moved to Akron in the 1950s. The same can be said of my immigrant great-grandparents James Fairhurst and Phoebe Boone, who came to the United States from Leigh, England in 1913 (James) and 1915 (Phoebe). They originally resided in Amsterdam, Ohio but then moved to Akron by 1930. Lastly, if my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, hadn’t moved here in 1916 with her second husband, Samuel Randol with her 2 daughters, all of the pieces to my DNA make-up would not have come together.

Why Akron?

Akron, Ohio was the happening place to be in the early 1900’s. “Between 1910 and 1920 the city’s population tripled to more than 200,000” (britannica.com). This was the time when Akron became known as the Rubber Capital of the World because all three big rubber companies had their headquarters here: Firestone, General Tire, and Goodyear (Goodyear still does).

Many of my Fairhurst relatives (my great-grandfather James, and 2 of his sons, Wilfred and Edwin) all worked for the rubber companies at various times. My grandfather, Harold, worked partly in construction and partly as a golf pro.

When Samuel Randol located to Akron with his family, he worked at the Swinehart Tire & Rubber Company. Here he met the last part of my family, my great-great-grandfather, Clyde Geer (and the Geers have been settled in Akron since Summit County was formed on March 3, 1840, with Clyde’s dad, William Harrison Geer being born on April 2, 1840, just 1 month later).

Leroy Blair originally moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana as he had an apprenticeship to learn the sheet metal trade. He moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio in the early 1950s.

When I look at how all the pieces of the puzzle at one point lived all over the world, it’s amazing that my parents even met. The son of 2 English immigrants somehow met up with the daughter of an administrative professional/stenographer and a dad who we thought was one person, only to be another (the wonders of DNA) to have 5 kids, with the oldest meeting the only son of a sheet metal worker and his housekeeper wife.

Wow. Just wow. And in a bowling alley of all places.

Falls Rec

Falls Rec was torn down in the mid-1990s and where it stood is now the parking lot of a Sheraton Hotel in downtown Cuyahoga Falls (the suburb of Akron where I was raised). I remember bowling there once when I was little. I believe my sister did join a kids league (I wasn’t much of a bowler).

My grandparents bowled there, my mom worked there, I believe most of her siblings bowled or worked there as well. It held quite the memories for my family.

Photo by Stephen Fairhurst, this was one of about 4 dozen of these glasses that he had. You earned it for bowling above a 620 Series at Falls Rec in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

More About Akron

I’m lucky that Akron had it’s hey day when it did because without it, I most likely wouldn’t be here. Akron isn’t just known for the rubber companies, it has been voted an All-American City four times (1980, 1981, 1995, and 2008) and has a nationally recognized library (the Akron-Summit County Library – which has lots of great genealogy information in their Special Collections department), it’s home to the Akron Art Museum, the Akron Rubberducks (the AA minor league baseball team to the still presently called Cleveland Indians), and the home of Purell (which has been super important during this Covid-19 filled year).

The University of Akron, which is widely known for its polymer research (which goes hand in hand with the rubber companies), and an outstanding Law School. On a related note, for years their football team played in the “Rubber Bowl” which was built as a Works Progress Administration project to put people to work in the late 1930s. The football team moved to their new stadium in Downtown Akron, in the heart of the University at Infocision Stadium in 2008. It was home to more than just football games, as countless concerts took place there as well. Demolition began in 2018, but only part of it has been razed as the other parts could cause structural issues with the roadways surrounding it and Derby Downs.

This photo was in a Twitter feed from the University of Akron from 2018

Which brings me to one of the most famous events in Akron is the annual Soap Box Derby , with motorless go-carts that of specific requirements and has been held yearly since 1933. Youths compete in their hometowns and move along until they come to Akron for the national championship. Competitors and their families come from all over to participate. I remember one year when I took summer courses for my degree while attending the University of Akron, as the dorms were used for their overnight accommodations, and it blew me away when I saw just how many children and teens participated in this event in my hometown.

I remember my mom telling me when she was a teenager going to a Soap Box Derby parade and in 1963 Rock Hudson was a celebrity attending, and she was able to touch his hand as he drove by in a car and that was one of the highlights of her life, as he was one of the few actors my mother thought to be dreamy.

This photo of Rock Hudson at the Soap Box Derby in 1963 was taken from a Pinterest “pin” by Mary Ann Myers

Blimps

Going hand in hand with Akron and Goodyear, I would be remissed if I didn’t discuss the Goodyear Blimp. The blimps were originally created at the blimp hangar in the middle of Akron. I remember my mom telling me that the hanger was so big it actually would rain inside.

Well, it’s been a while since they’ve built blimps at the original hangar, as they now are built at the Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield. In 2006, my parents, sister and brother-in-law attended the launch of the Spirit of Innovation in 2006.

A digital scrapbooking layout that was done by my sister, Kellie Blair, of my mother and daughter. I just love the look of wonder in my daughter’s eyes.

Goodyear has always been a huge supporter of a variety of hobbies in our area, the Lighter Than Air Society being one of them. And it’s funny, I’ve grown up with blimps roaming the skies all my life and to this day when I hear that engine I run to see it. Though the new blimps, Wingfoot 1, 2, and 3 are all very quiet so you don’t hear them from within my house anymore.

A photo of one of the Blimps a block from my house as I sat in my car at a red light. No matter how old I get they always make me smile.

Other Popular Places

I’m sure there is a lot of Akron I have missed, but before I forget here are 2 of my favorite places: the Akron Zoo and where I use to work, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, which is the 65-room Tudor Revival home that F.A. Seiberling (co-founder of Goodyear with his brother, C.W.) and his wife Gertrude began building in 1912 and moved into in 1915. I think my favorite part of the house is how they had an architect (Charles Schneider) that designed the house and a landscape architect (Warren Manning) that made the gardens be extensions of the rooms. For example the Breakfast Room is designed in the colors of blue and yellow (Goodyear’s colors) and the garden that was around it was made up of blue and yellow flowers. It is now a historic estate that people can tour the house and grounds, along with various special events they have throughout the year.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens on 22 Dec 2018 during their Deck the Hall! program.

As for the Akron Zoo, my daughter can not get enough of it, even as a teenager and more often than not we have a membership.

My son and daughter from 2019, he tried to look as miserable as possible in most every picture we took of him that day while my daughter is as happy as can be.

Summit MetroParks

I can’t believe I almost forgot one of my favorite features of where I live – the Summit Metroparks. I’ve been told by many fellow classmates that this is the one feature of our area that is so often overlooked and the most missed once people move onto other areas of the country.

The Summit MetroParks is a non-profit organization that cares for a 16 parks compiled of 14,000 acres with a variety of things to do in them like hiking, ice skating, soccer, baseball, archery, biking, paddling, kayaking, fishing, swimming and more.

For 57 years the MetroParks has hosted the Fall Hiking Spree. It’s funny as I originally tried to complete this when I was in 10th grade. I was in Enriched Biology and the main thing that separated us from the regular class were projects that were due each grading period. The first was easy, participate in the Fall Hiking Spree. 6 Hikes was an A, 5 a B, and so on. I did 6 with my dad. We found group hikes that were led by Naturalists and advertised each week in the Akron Beacon Journal and that’s where we went, so we not only learned about the natural surroundings but any history tidbits that were involved as well. To earn your hiking stick and shield, you complete 8 hikes, and my dad and I had every intention to do them, but it’s Ohio, and the weather turned cold and wet and we never did. Fast forward 24 years and I’m 39 years old and I put earning said shield and stick on my bucket list of things to do before turning 40. I was so happy the day I earned it with my friend, Pam. I’ve continued to do the hiking spree each year since having earned 9 total shields (but there are people who have hiked every year).

The below photo is the 2020 Shield on the left and a photo of my stick from 2019. Normally they have volunteers who will put the shield on for you but with Covid this year, they did not have this service. Bets on how long it takes my husband to get the shield on? It’s already January and it’s not done.

Writing this has been very therapeutic since being a girl who has wanted to move to New York City for over half her life, I realize just how lucky I am to be born and more or less raised in this wonderful area. It is the place where I have to begin my genealogical journey as it’s where I was born, my husband and children were born here, my mom, and her mom (my dad was born in Indiana). From there I spread to Pennsylvania on every front but the Fairhurst’s, which is England.

If you are interested in taking part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge please click here for more information. Come back next week as I tackle week #2!

Genealogy

Using Linkpendium

I often watch webinars and videos, read blogs, or attend lectures and Linkpendium is always brought up as being a great resource for genealogists. But I have never used it, so today I am going to change that as we both can learn about Linkpendium together.

Linkpendium.com

When you go to www.linkpendium.com you are greeted with the above homepage, and I like how it begins by telling you what it is and how to use it.

Linkpendium is a directory of over 10-million resources to help you find surnames within the United States (but it does say “worldwide” as well). There are 3-ways for you to research your family:

  • Using the “Family Discoverer” boxes at the top of the page
    • You can select if you want to search “worldwide” or by a specific state.
  • Using the “Jump to a City” box in the yellow section at the right of the page
  • Using the “Jump to a County” box below the City in the yellow section
  • Using the “Jump to a Surname” box in the yellow section

Family Discoverer

So I decided to do a search. I am missing the 1930 Census for my grandfather, Leroy Blair, so I put his first and last name in the Family Discoverer at the top of the page and selected “Pennsylvania” for my area (he lived in 3 different states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana). Below are my results for Pennsylvania.

For 85 milliseconds I was impressed. None of the hits initially are of my Leroy Blair but I will take a peek at the MyHeritage link at the top of the page.

I repeated the same search using Indiana and Ohio.

Okay, so I didn’t find out what I was looking for in my quest for information about my grandfather but let’s see what else I am able to find using the various search bars on Linkpendium.

Jump to City

My maternal great-grandmother was born in Coudersport, Pennsylvania so put it into the “Jump to City” search, and received 525 links to pages and subpages for Potter County (Coudersport is the county seat) so all in all I’m pleased (and plan on perusing the pages to get a better idea of the area. I’m especially curious of a biography page that came up, maybe one of my ancestors will be listed).

Jump to Surname

Next I did a surname search using my grandmother’s maiden name “Morgart”. The first half of the page was focused entirely on what I typed, but the second half of the page went into other options of the name. This isn’t so bad as there are a couple of different ways my Morgart’s spelled their last name. The family cemetery is actually known as the Morgart Morgret Cemetery so I could see how alternative spellings could be handy, and give you another option to look for when doing other searches for your family name in Censuses, etc.

I’m definitely going to utilize Linkpendium for future searches. I was impressed with the amount of hits I was able to get on learning about the specific areas of where my ancestors lived, and one of my favorite aspects of doing my family tree is finding out how my relatives spent their time and actually lived their lives. I could see myself being able to find so much more information using this valuable directory.

Has Linkpendium helped you solve any family history mysteries? Let me know in the comments below!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week #2: My Favorite Photo

My favorite photo from my family history journey?  I have to pick just one?  I have so many that seeing an ancestor seems to have changed my life that picking just one seems so difficult.  Until I realize it isn’t.

The photo I chose is actually (at the present anyhow) a part of my header here on my blog.

BerthaChilders-MargaretWise-AnnaMorgartBlair-LeroyBlair-Skippy#1-1961

I’ve included it just as it was scanned off my dad’s flatbed scanner that he is allowing me to use.  This photo includes 2-great-grandmothers and my paternal grandparents.  It was taken at my grandparent’s house in Akron, Ohio in 1961.  From left to right is Bertha Childers, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, Anna Maria Morgart, and Leroy Blair.  This photo just seems to exemplify the personalities of them all and just looking at it brings a smile to my face.

Bertha Childers

I’ve heard from more than one person that Bertha (aka Mrs. Chappell, the last name of her second husband) was always mad at someone.  So seeing her cross on the end of the sofa makes me wonder which of my other relatives was she upset with? Bertha is the mother of my grandfather, Leroy Blair. I never had the chance to meet Bertha, she passed away in 1963.

Margaret “Maggie” Wise

Next up is Maggie Wise, my Grandma’s mom.  I actually have very fuzzy memories of visiting Gammy (that’s what her grandkids called her) in the nursing home when we went back to Pennsylvania to visit.  I only recall meeting her a few times, and she passed away at the age of 96 in 1987 (I was 14 at the time). She always seemed happy and I remember her playing the “mouth organ” or harmonica.

My Paternal Grandparents

I love seeing my grandparents (Anna Maria Morgart and Leroy Blair) so happy in this picture.  Now it’s hard to make out, even with the original photo in your hand, but from the note on the back of it, they are playing with a bird (not just any bird mind you, Skippy #1.  My Grandma Blair went on to name every bird she had Skippy over the years, so it’s rather cool to see the original). Not having ever met my grandfather, I never knew that much about him, and stories seemed to fall all over the place.  Seeing him having a good time with my Grandma makes me happy.

Anna Maria Morgart

My Grandma Blair was probably the best friend I will ever have.  I could talk to her about anything and she never judged, just listened, and gave me the best advice she thought I needed.  Gosh, I miss her.  She passed away almost 13 years ago but sometimes the pain seems like it was yesterday.

Leroy Blair

My grandfather, affectionately called Pappy, died when I was 2-years-old so I really don’t have any recollections of him.  My mom’s favorite story of him was how every time he came over to our house, I’d be asleep and he would say “I just want to go in a look at her” and somehow I always woke up.  I have heard from other relatives how he just loved little girls and he would have probably spoiled me rotten (not that he wasn’t fond of my dad). I wish I could have had him in my life.  He seems like he was just a good man, and in the end, isn’t that what you want from your relatives?

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.

 

Genealogy

Death Certificates

Death certificates are one of my favorite tools to find when working on my family tree.  Granted it’s always sad that your ancestor passed away, but death certificates offer so much information that when you find them it’s like hitting the family history jackpot.

Different States, Different Availability

The downside of death certificates when searching in the United States is that each state differs when they began keeping vital statistic records, and their availability for each is different as well.  I am fortunate that I live in the state of Ohio and we can go and get a birth certificate from anywhere, at any time.  There are limitations, like you have to be in the county where the person died (my grandfathers are both eluding me as one died in Jefferson County and the other in Monroe), or if the person passed away between 1908-1953 you can find them on FamilySearch but if they died between 1954-1963 you have to contact the Ohio History Center in Columbus to obtain those.  The cost is $7 plus tax but I can honestly say when I mailed in my check for the two I needed, I sent away on a Thursday and my death certificates were emailed to me the following Monday (my check hadn’t even cleared yet).

Most of my relatives are from Pennsylvania which has a much stricter policy for the release of their vital statistics.  Birth certificates are available 106 years after birth.  Death certificates are available 50 years after they die. Next year I will finally be able to get my grandmother’s birth certificate as she was born in 1914.  I will be ordering my grandfather’s at the same time as he was born in 1912.

Make sure you check with the state you are researching to find out when you are able to obtain these valuable vital statistics records and find out how much it will cost to obtain these records.  In Pennsylvania, it is presently $5 each.

Birth Certificates vs. Death Certificates

Though birth certificates are very important (when recently coming across my great-aunt’s birth certificate on Ancestry, I discovered that her father was not my great-grandfather). Death certificates give you birth dates, death dates, spouse, parent’s names, where they are buried, if they are buried, when they were buried, how they died, where they lived, where they were born.  Granted, the information is only as reliable as the informant, but it gives you something to go with as far as your person is concerned, especially if you know little about the person.

My Most Memorable Death Certificate

My most surprising death certificate I found using Ancestry Library Edition.  I am fortunate for my local library to have this, and so I would often go to my local branch and spend an hour or more at least once a week utilizing the records they had.  This is when I came across my second cousin twice removed’s death certificate.

RalphReedDeathCertificate

Discovering that one of your relatives was executed by the state of Ohio is always a little alarming.  I am sure if I ever find another (I truly hope I don’t) that I will be just as amazed.  (And I know I’ve shown this before, but some surprises you just never get over).

However, look at all the information that you can discover on the above death certificate.

  • Name: Ralph Reed
  • Birth Date: 1 Jun 1921
  • Place of Birth: Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania
  • Father: Thomas Reed
  • Mother: Margaret Phillips
  • Occupation: Baker
  • Date of Death: 4 May 1949
  • Place of Death: Columbus, Franklin, Ohio
  • Cause of Death: Electrocution by Legal Execution
  • Informant: Mrs. Margaret Reed (his mother)
  • Burial: Headrick Cemetery
  • Date of Burial: 7 May 1949

All this information is from one piece of paper. Now in Ralph’s case, we are fortunate that the informant was his mother so it was a person who had a great deal of knowledge of his life.  Many times we aren’t as lucky.  So often I find “I don’t know” or “Unknown” for a parent’s name because the children of a person aren’t always aware of their grandparent’s names, especially if they passed away before they were born.

It is highly recommended that you gather all the vital statistics that you can for each member of your family.  These include birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates.

New England States

Most states began keeping death records between 1900-1930.  If you are lucky enough to have relatives in the New England states where religion was the backbone of the community, you will be fortunate to have ledgers with birth and death dates.  When I was finally able to leave Potter County, Pennsylvania and go to Franklin/Hampshire County, Massachusetts, I was amazed at how many vital statistic records I was able to obtain for my family where they were absent in PA.

The Frontier

As settlers moved west towards the new frontier, keeping records wasn’t at the top priority.  As far as religion went, most of these areas had itinerant ministers.  These circuit riders went from community to community, performing weddings, baptisms, and possibly funerals, but the documents weren’t always filed.  This is why records throughout the mid-west are more challenging to find.

In Bedford County, Pennsylvania, where a majority of my father’s family came from, records are available in a handwritten book from 1890 to 1905.  But anything before that is a mystery, often relying on gravestones for the answers for vital records, along with census records for birth dates.

Sources for Family History

Though there are many important documents to find in genealogy, I find that death certificates are one of the more important ones.  Death certificates don’t always have the answers you are seeking for your people, but they are still valuable documents to have in your possession to obtain needed information about your ancestors.  I know I presently have a death certificate for my second great-great-uncle and it is the only hint I have of what my third great-grandmother’s name is (I’m still hoping to hunt down her fourth living child in a hope of his death certificate giving me the same name).  Both Ancestry and FamilySearch provide online images of death certificates so utilize these valuable sources, you never know what kind of interesting facts you will discover about your ancestors.