Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Setting the (History) Record Straight

First draft of the Declaration
of Independence
Today, July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Wrong. Independence from Great Britain and King George III was actually declared July 2, 1776, a date John Adams said would be "the most memorable epocha in the history of America." What were you doing on July 2? Not setting off fireworks or grilling hamburgers, I'll bet. Nope, you're doing that today, which should only be remembered as the date on which the Second Continental Congress approved Thomas Jefferson's final edit of the document. On July 4, 1776, the delegates just voted; they didn't sign anything. (They hadn't signed anything on July 2, either.) The document we call the Declaration of Independence wasn't signed until one month after independence was declared--August 2. Such an important document had to be neat and clean and presentable. What was signed was a formal copy hand-written (probably) by Timothy Matlack, who was an assistant to the Secretary of Congress.
Formal copy signed August 2

Some Americans refer to this day as the "birthday" of the "United States of America". In the very literal sense, wrong again. Congress did not formally adopt our country's name until September 9, 1776. Prior to that, the commonly used name was the United Colonies.

Here's something of interest about July 4. On this day in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Respected colleagues during the revolutionary period, Adams and Jefferson had a major falling out and became political enemies during Adams' presidency. The enmity continued throughout Jefferson's presidency, but afterwards the two men renewed their friendship. That friendship lasted until their dying day, when Adams uttered his last words, "Thomas Jefferson still survives." Wrong. Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello. It was the 50th anniversary of the approval of Jefferson's final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams
October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826
Thomas Jefferson
April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Keeping Our Cool

Funeral homes distributed fans to
keep mourners cool and to advertise
The last several days have been unpleasantly hot and humid, but most of us were able to shelter in air-conditioned places.

What we take for granted didn't exist before the start of the 20th Century, although it should be of little surprise that those inventive Romans devised a way to circulate mountain water brought by the aqueduct system inside the walls of the wealthiest Romans' homes. After Rome fell, that technology was lost, and everyone sweltered in summer heat for centuries to come. There was always the hand fan, of course, a personal cooling system in use in China for 3,000 years. Room-size fans--human powered--have existed for about 1,700 years, but only (again) affordable to the wealthiest.

Before Navy engineers came up with a rudimentary system to
cool the room, hand-fanning was the only way to give the dying
President Garfield any relief from Washington's oppressive heat.
In 1837, a steam-powered fan was installed in a British textile factory. This technology was used by Navy engineers to help ease the suffering of President Garfield, as he lay dying from an assassin's bullet in Washington, D.C.'s stifling summer of 1881. A fan blew air through ice-water soaked sheets hung around the President's bed. The invention effectively lowered the room temperature by 20 degrees, but required nearly 425 lbs. of ice daily to sustain the lowered temperature.

Icebox ad showing how to store food.
The upper left of the box is where the ice block was stored*

Electric-powered fans came into existence in 1882, and in 1902, Willis Carrier (sound familiar?) invented the first modern air-conditioning system to ease the strain of hot weather on printing plant machines. It took another 23 years before anyone got the bright idea of using Willis' invention to ease the strain of hot weather on human beings, when AC got its debut in a New York City movie house. Within a decade, public buildings and work places became air-conditioned, but by 1965, only 10% of American homes had AC. Today about 86% of the homes in the United States have air-conditioning, and aren't we glad?

The iceman cometh
Besides hand-fans, our ancestors used architecture to try to stay cool in the 19th Century. Homes usually had a front porch where a person might catch a welcoming breeze, and some larger homes were built with higher ceilings that allowed more air to circulate. In the winter, ice blocks were cut from frozen ponds and stored in a special "ice house" insulated with straw. Usually this was a community facility, and in the summer, people picked up ice as needed or else the iceman cometh. When iceboxes came into wide use in the mid-1800's, a
person might tuck her clothes in the contraption for a bit of a cool-down before putting them on.

John C. Holloway's home in White Cottage
had a small but inviting front porch

In areas of concentrated population, like Zanesville, our ancestors took advantage of water fountains that were no more than large troughs. Men and boys might get some relief from summer heat by dunking their heads, but a respectable woman, sweltering in her corset, could never take such a liberty. She was probably lucky to be restrained by protocol. Cholera, typhoid and dysentery are all waterborne diseases, so dunking your head and face into a commonly used trough of water could be bad for your health.

A History of Air Conditioning
5 ways people stayed cool before air conditioning was invented
Presidential History Blog: The 3 Major Inventions of Garfield's Assassination
A History of the Electric Fan
*Illustration attribution: PD-US,

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Honoring Our Mothers

Mother's Day is an old tradition, celebrated around the world. The oldest traditions were religious in nature. The Greeks and Romans honored motherhood by honoring the mother goddesses, and early Christians honored motherhood by honoring their parish or "mother" church as part of lenten observances. Modern observances are secular and honor our mothers or our maternal ancestors. The U.S. version of Mother's Day began in 1908, the brainchild of Ann Reeves Jarvis. However, when the greeting card industry appropriated the day as a way to sell more greeting cards, the holiday's founder began to actively campaign against what she'd once campaigned vigorously for. For more about the history of Mother's Day, visit this History Channel link The History of Mother's Day

Today I honor my Muskingum County mothers:

Bertie Elnora Armstrong
abt. 1903
 My grandmother, Bertie Elnora Armstrong was born in White Cottage on November 28, 1876, and died in Roseville on July 6, 1970. She began teaching school at the age of 18, and taught for almost 10 years before she married Edward Milton McLean on August 18, 1908. She was the mother of three children: Edward Alexander McLean, James Warren McLean, and Nancy Jane McLean.

Nancy Elizabeth Holloway
abt. 1870
Grandmother's mother and my great grandmother was Nancy Elizabeth Holloway. She was born April 8, 1852 in White Cottage and died in Roseville on November 14, 1929. She married Alexander Armstrong on November 10, 1875. She was the mother of three children: Bertie Elenora Armstrong, Charles William Armstrong and Mary Xema Armstrong.

Mary Jane Scholfield
abt. 1855
My great-great grandmother, and Nancy Elizabeth's mother was Mary Jane Scholfield. She was born August 21, 1828 in Newton Township, and died in Roseville on June 16, 1913. Her family had been among the first Quakers to emigrate to America in William Penn's Great Migration. She married Charles Holloway on May 29, 1950. Mary Jane was the mother of three children: Manerva Jane Holloway, Nancy Elizabeth Holloway, and John Caspar Holloway.

Susanna Birkebile
abt 1850
My great-great-great grandmother, Susanna Birkebile was born August 29, 1796 in Manchester, Carroll County, Maryland, and died in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania about 1875. She married Joshua Wilson in Baltimore County, Maryland on August 1, 1815. The family migrated to Newton Township, around Fultonham, between 1830 and 1835. Susanna was the mother of eight children, but only the names of the four youngest are known: Elizabeth Wilson, Andrew Jackson Wilson, John Wilson, and Sarah A. Wilson. An interesting note about this photograph: Susanna is listed in various censuses as unable to read or write, yet she was photographed holding a book, a prop that was often used in portraiture to indicate the person was literate. Perhaps she learned to  read and write later in life, and maybe not, but the book shows she knew the value of being literate.
Arena Wilson
abt 1880

My great-grandmother, Arena Wilson was Susanna's grand-daughter. Arena was born near Fultonham on August 9, 1852, and died in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio on December 9, 1926. On November 11, 1868 she married Warren McLean. After Warren's death at White Cottage in 1893, Arena moved her family to Crooksville in Perry County where she owned and operated the McLean Hotel on China Street. Arena was the mother of ten children: James McLean, Orla McLean, Edward Milton McLean, Charles Andrew McLean, Rhoda May McLean, Leona McLean, Atta McLean, Maxie Jane McLean, Joseph Hadden McLean, and Wade Hampton McLean.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Evolution of a County's Line(s)

The "Ohio Country" came into America's possession in 1783 via the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War. In quick succession, steps toward settlement of the vast wilderness were taken: The Ordinance of 1785 established methods for surveying and dividing the land; the Ohio Company was formed in Massachusetts to begin selling the newly surveyed land; the Northwest Ordinance established the Northwest Territory out of which Ohio would be the first state formed; and by 1788 Ohio's first permanent white settlement was established at Marietta. Settlers who wanted to venture farther into the Ohio Country traveled from Marietta up the Muskingum River. 

Zanesville, Muskingum County's county seat, was a well-established town by 1800, when statehood for Ohio was first discussed. But in 1800, there was no Muskingum County. Ohio might have 88 counties today, but in 1800, there were only seven, and Muskingum wasn't one of them. So if you are related to some of Muskingum County's earliest settlers, their land purchases and probate records aren't going to be found in Zanesville. Instead, those records will be at Marietta, the county seat of Washington County from which Muskingum was created in 1804. In 1800, Zanesville was just a town in Washington County.

No matter what state your ancestors settled in, you'll find there have been lots of shifting around of county lines. Finding the official records requires the researcher know when and how counties were formed, and there are several resources that will be very helpful.

But first, let's just look at the creation and evolution of Muskingum County.

 The first map shows the Ohio Country counties as of 1800. Washington County is in green. The middle map shows the newly formed State of Ohio in 1804, one year after Statehood was granted, and the year that Muskingum County was formed mostly from Washington County and a small part of Fairfield County. Muskingum was a lot larger then than now, as you can see from the green area on the third map, which shows Ohio in 1818.

If you have ancestors in Tuscarawas, Coschocton, Guernsey, Morgan or Perry counties, you need to know that parts of those counties were once part of Muskingum. To locate those important genealogical records, ya gotta know the territory--how it changed, and where in those counties the ancestors lived.

Roseville is a good example of this. Some of my paternal ancestors lived Roseville. At one time they lived well within the boundaries of Muskingum County. Then along came Perry County, and Roseville found itself pretty much right on the county line. If I can't find certain records at the Muskingum County courthouse, I go to the Perry County Courthouse. But if I hadn't known about the change in the county line, I might have completely missed finding an important record.

Here are some resources useful in finding how and when county lines changed:

  • The Newberry Library Atlas of Historical county boundaries features wonderful interactive maps. You choose from a range of dates and the map shows you the counties that existed at that time. Click on a county to identify it, and to see the date of formation as well as a description of the border changes. The Newberry Library Atlas can be used for any state, but I've included the link to Ohio here                               
  • Finally, Thorndale and Dollarhide's book, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1820, remains an excellent resource for family historians. The book looks at the state of each state during each year a census was conducted there. The present-day counties are shown on each map, with the earlier county boundaries super-imposed on them, as shown in the example of Ohio in 1800 below. Most libraries, especially genealogy libraries, have a copy of this book.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

You've Got Mail

You can see from the folds on the right side, how small
Rebecca folded her letter before addressing it to "Mrs Lydia
McDonald ohio Muskingum County union Town post office"

Rebecca Scholfield Dolson wrote to her sister, Lydia Scholfield McDonald, from her new home in Clark County, Illinois in 1828. Since there were no mailboxes in which to drop her letter, Rebecca would have taken her letter to her local post office. The postmaster wrote the date on which Rebecca handed him the letter. He then sent the letter by a stagecoach (more likely a series of such coaches) dedicated to postal delivery, to the post office near Lydia's home. It would not have been delivered directly to Lydia.

 Although the Constitution adopted in 1789 provided for the establishment of a U.S. postal service, the only people to enjoy mail delivered to their address in 1828 were those who lived in one of forty cities. Mail destined for other places was sent to the local post office. If you lived in a rural area, like Lydia did, you only got mail when you had a reason to go into town.

Until 1847, when postage stamps came into general use, the recipient, not the sender, paid the postage due. We don't know how much Lydia paid to pick up Rebecca's letter. There was no uniform fee; postal costs depended on the distance a letter traveled and its size. Postage stamps came into being because the post office lost money by having the recipient pay; some couldn't and others wouldn't. It made sense for the letter to be paid for at the start of its journey.

Rebecca didn't put her letter into an envelope. They were hardly ever used in the early part of the 19th Century. The common practice was to fold the letter, seal it with wax, and write the recipient's name on the outside. When the letter was delivered to the post office, the postmaster confirmed receipt by writing the name of the post office under the address, and then he put the letter in a box for safe-keeping until Lydia, or someone in her family could claim it. Lydia got her letter, but if it had sat in the post office for some weeks, the postmaster would have placed a notice in the local newspaper telling Lydia that she had mail.

Below is a transcription of the letter Lydia received, complete with all of Rebecca's quirky spellings:

Ilinoys Clark County
Dear Sister with pleasure I embrace this opportunity to inform you that wee ar both well at present hopen these few lins will find you all in the same helth wee hav nad no Sickness Sence wee have bin here It is a very helthy place I am vary well [illegible] when I thin About you all Sum tims I think I never well See enney of you a gain But Benjamin tells me that he well fetch me to See you all in two or three year I have no hope of Seein enny of you come to See me I think if you all knode what a fine place this is you wood leve where you live wee had no neighbours when wee first come here bout now wee have a plenty wee are dooin vary well in the way of property wee have a fine stock round us and nice young orchard Set out Bout Sume times I set and think About you all and the wattre runs Mity free tha puts in mind of what unkil William used to Say a bout me tell Thomas I am Much a blige to him for comin to See me as he promised bout won thing I now if he don’t see fet to come he must Stay this is the Second lettrer I rote Since I got enny if you git this I want you to write as Soon as you Can for I want to here from you all [illegible] more if I cant git to see you I wish to be remembered to Sister ann And family and to broher Lemuel and Thomas and to aunt Elizabeth and aunt Rebecca and to poor old Mother in perticler tell ann to write me the next letter if it was posabel for you to move I think you would Dough better than you can whre you leve ther cant be no better palce for [illegible] Stock than this nothing more at present but remainin your loven Sister until Death if you cant read this letter fetch it to me and I will reade it for you
                                                                                                            June the Sixth

Rebecca Dolson                                                                      Lydia McDonald

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Photo Finish

MCCOGS' library holds more than books, maps, pedigree charts, and family histories. It also holds a number of photo collections kindly donated by Muskingum County residents and family researchers. Sadly, most of the photos are of unidentified people and places; we only know from the donor the Muskingum family name(s) associated with collection, and sometimes a specific locality, such as "Roseville". In the hope that someone might help us identify who or what is in a photo, individual photos from these collections are showcased weekly in the "Who Is It? Wednesday" feature of our Facebook page (

Recently, MCCOGS received a collection of about 100 glass plate negatives. Glass plate negatives are photographic images captured on a piece of glass about the size of a postcard--but a lot heavier!  The donor tells us the photographs were taken in and around the Chandlersville-Rix Mills area of the county, and that many, if not all, might be associated with the Mautz and allied families. They probably were taken around 1900-1915.

Dry plate negative from the collection recently donated to MCCOGS
Historically, there are two types of glass plate negatives. The first, collodion wet plate negatives, came into use in 1851. In this photo process, a thick glass plate was coated with collodion, a syrupy solution of nitrocellulose in a mixture of alcohol and ether. It was a messy process, but several high quality prints could be made from one negative. Wet plate negatives remained in use into the 1880's, despite the development of less messy, more transportable, silver gelatine (yes, that's the correct spelling!) dry plate negatives in 1873.

Silver gelatine dry plate negatives came into wide use in the 1880's, and continued so into the 1920's when they were supplanted by photographic film. However, because of the high quality image produced from photographic glass plates, astronomers continued to use them into the 1990's. A few artists still use the technology, but most companies, like Kodak, have ceased production. Digitization has rendered glass plate negative photo processing all but obsolete. 

As you can imagine, this new MCCOGS photograph collection requires special care. The plates didn't arrive in the best condition. They're very dirty, and a number of plates are stuck together, probably as a result of exposure to extreme heat. It's possible to pry to plates apart, but it will be a slow process that must be done a certain way if we're to avoid further damage to the image. Once cleaned, each glass plate will be scanned, and using a photo editor (Paint 3D), turned into a digitized black and white photograph. The negative (above) and its black and white image (below) was our test case.

After cleaning and scanning, each glass plate will be encased in its own archival-quality envelope, and placed on edge in an archival-quality box specifically designed to safely store glass plate negatives. Given the number of glass plates in the collection, this entire process will take some time, but eventually these photos will be available for viewing. We'll keep you posted.

Digitized image made from the above glass plate negative

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Grave Matter

Rhoda's married name is incorrectly recorded on
her gravestone in Crooksville Cemetery.
Photo by FAG contributor "MissT"
My great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson Wilson of White Cottage had 19 children by two wives (and possibly one mistress, but that's another story). Topping my list of 2018 genealogy to-dos is to link each of the children to Andrew, to a mother, to a spouse, and to as many of Andrew's grandchildren as possible at Find-a-Grave. Most of these individuals already have memorials created by other Find-a-Grave contributors. Establishing links requires sending an edit request to that contributor, the only person who can make changes to the memorial.

A number of Andrew's children relocated to Crooksville in Perry County as adults, and the cemetery there is filled with Andrew's off-spring. Among them is a grand-daughter, Rhoda May Wilson, who married Wilson W. Winter in 1905. The couple had twin sons, and moved to Fredericksburg in Wayne County, where Rhoda died at the age of 34 of autointoxication (toxemia resulting from something going awry in the digestive tract). Her body was returned to Crooksville for burial.

The Crooksville newspaper incorrectly
recorded Wilson's surname
Wilson W. Winter (b. 1884) isn't buried with Rhoda, or anywhere in Crooksville Cemetery, but there is a Wilson Winter (1851-1936) in the mausoleum, where several of Andrew's children are interred. A generation older than Rhoda and Wilson W., I assumed this was a relative of Wilson W., probably---since they shared somewhat unique given names---his father. Someone had incorrectly linked the mausoleum Wilson Winter to Rhoda as her spouse.

I began searching Find-A-Grave for the correct Wilson Winter (Wilson W. Winter to be precise), but found only Wilson W. Winters, buried in a Fredericksburg cemetery. His father's name was Nicholas B. Winters, and his mother was Lydia Whorey. He was linked to another spouse. I admit that I hadn't, up to this point, paid close attention to Rhoda's husband; these folks were only collateral kin. Time to do some more research if I hoped to get Rhoda properly linked to the right spouse---and to get her unlinked from the wrong Wilson Winter, that guy in the niche.

The Fredericksburg newspaper
correctly reports the surname
          At Ancestry, I found a birth record for Wilson W. Winters born in Wintersville, Jefferson County, Ohio in 1884 to Lydia Whorey and Nicholas B. Winters. And then I found the record of Rhoda's marriage to Wilson W. Winters, stating he was born in Wintersville to Nicholas and Lydia Whorey Winters. The guy in the niche to whom Rhoda had been linked at Find-a-Grave, was definitely not her husband, nor even, apparently, related to him. Adding to the name confusion were the news articles about Rhoda's untimely death. Rhoda's hometown paper called the family Winter, but the newspaper in the town where Wilson W. and Rhoda lived correctly called them Winters.

        This matter of a missing "s" at the end of a surname might not seem like a big thing at first glance, but it made quite a bit of difference. After all, someone had already linked Rhoda not only to the wrong person, but as a result, to the wrong family. Like that person, I made a common genealogical mistake by assuming, based on a unique name, a connection that didn't exist. Although I knew the Wilson Winter in the mausoleum was not Rhoda's husband, I did think he was a father-in-law. Fortunately, since Rhoda is not in my direct line, my mistake did not cause me to bark up the wrong family tree and screw up my ancestor chart. But if she had been....
The Perry County, Ohio marriage record for
Rhoda Wilson and Wilson W. Winters

        The story ends well, but not without a brief struggle with the manager of Wilson W. Winters' memorial. For the first time ever, an edit I suggested was rejected, although the manager did offer to reconsider if I could provide some evidence. After all, one look at the photo of Rhoda's gravestone, compared to Wilson's, and it appears we're talking about two separate families. A link to the marriage record at Ancestry led to my edits being accepted. Despite being buried as "Rhoda Wilson Winter", Rhoda Wilson is now linked to her rightful spouse, Wilson W. Winters, and forget about that guy in the niche.

The gravestone of Wilson W. Winters
and his second wife
Photo by FAG contributor "Names in Stone"