March 31, 2011

Ohio Genealogy in The Columbus Dispatch

The Columbus Dispatch featured an article on the front page of the "Life & Arts" section today (March 31) about the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference, which runs through April 2. Columnist Jeffrey Sheban interviewed David E. Rencher, chief genealogical officer of FamilySearch and keynote speaker for the conference, about the rising interest in genealogy. It's a great article in a major metropolitan daily paper, and wonderful publicity for the hard-working staff and volunteers of OGS. You can read the online edition here. Rencher's address headlines the conference first thing tomorrow morning.

March 28, 2011

A Guide to Columbus for OGS Conference Goers

I thought it might be helpful to give a little overview of some of the opportunities for research, dining, and sightseeing in Columbus for those attending the upcoming Ohio Genealogical Society conference, March 31-April 2. It's only a few days away now! My mini-guide is based solely on personal experience as a resident and does not reflect any commercial affiliations. Here goes:
Looking to do a little family history research while you’re in town? Great! All of the following will welcome you:
Columbus Metropolitan Library—The Genealogy, History, and Travel Department on the third floor is rapidly evolving into a major research center for genealogists. Within the last several years, CML has become the repository for the holdings of the following collections: The State Library of Ohio, the Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ohio Huguenot Society, the Joy Wade Mouton British Collection, the National Palatines to America Society (German immigration), and the Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society. CML has resources on all 88 Ohio counties, most if not all states, military history, immigration, city directories, periodicals, Central Ohio newspapers, and more. It also holds the prison records of Camp Chase (on microfilm). The knowledgeable and helpful staff can help you find what you need on the shelves. You can learn more about the department's resources and access the library's online catalog here. Location: 96 S. Front St., Columbus 43215; phone (614) 645-2275. Attached parking garage. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 9 am-9 pm; Fri. & Sat. 9 am-6 pm; Sun. 1-5 pm. In addition, the library is hosting a special “Genealogy Lock-In” on Friday, April 1st from 6:30 pm-9:00 pm (with free parking) in conjunction with the OGS conference.

The Ohio Historical Society Archives/Library—This is the official repository of state records, including Ohio death records 1909-1954 and all census records. County probate, land, court, naturalization, and vital records are available for many counties (check the OHS Archives online catalog for coverage of a particular county). State military rosters and muster rolls (especially strong for Civil War), as well as other military records and veterans’ grave registry, can be found here. Other collection highlights include Ohio land grant entry records 1796-1876, prison records, and an extensive microfilm collection of historic newspapers throughout Ohio, including small communities. Location: 1982 Velma Ave., Columbus 43211 (17th Avenue exit off I-71); phone (614) 297-2510. Ample free parking; no charge to visit archives, but registration for library card required at first visit. Hours: Thurs. 10 am-7 pm, Fri. & Sat. 10 am-5 pm (closed Sun.-Wed.).

State Library of Ohio—This facility holds Congressional records, agricultural reports, USGS maps, military rosters from the Spanish-American War through Vietnam, State of Ohio government documents (laws, decrees, proceedings, etc.), U.S. patents, and other original records. You can access the State Library's online catalog here. Location: 74 E. 1st Ave., Suite 100, Columbus 43221; phone (614) 644-7061. Free parking. Registration for library card required at first visit. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 am-5pm.
The Hyatt on Capitol Square, where the OGS conference is being held, is home to two restaurants--casual Darby’s and upscale The Plaza. Since City Center Mall has been torn down, there are limited dining options within walking distance. For lunch, I'd recommend walking north on High Street (past the Statehouse) a couple of blocks. There you'll find Spenelli's Deli, Cafe Napolitana, and other choices. For dinner, a similar walk down Third St. will bring you to Mitchell's Steakhouse.

Those looking to venture out by car might consider nearby German Village and the Brewery District, home of the original Max & Erma’s, the authentic Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, and, for fine dining, Lindey’s, G. Michael's Bistro, and Barcelona. See the German Village “Shop, Dine, & Stroll” webpage for more information. For all restaurants, if you have a group of three or more, it might be a good idea to call for a reservation or call-ahead seating. Be aware that on-street parking is the norm throughout the downtown area, though some establishments offer valet parking.

Alternately, the Short North area on N. High St. features a plethora of trendy restaurants, bars, boutiques, and art galleries. Restaurant choices include Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, Rigsby’s Kitchen, Marcella’s Ristorante, Martini Modern Italian, and more. See the Short North dining guide for a full listing. The Elevator, located between downtown and the Short North, features a microbrewery (tours by appointment) in addition to a full menu. Clustered around Nationwide Arena, the Arena District offers still more choices, including Buca di Beppo, Gordon Biersch Brewery, and BD’s Mongolian Barbeque, among others. Since the Columbus Blue Jackets have a home game on Friday, April 1st, you may want to avoid the area that evening (unless you have tickets to the game!).

There’s a lot to see and do in Central Ohio if your schedule permits before or after the conference. The following are just a few suggestions. For a more complete list of attractions and historical sites, see Experience Columbus or's “Columbus and Central Ohio Tourism Attractions." The closest attraction is the Ohio Statehouse, completed in 1861, which sits across the street from the conference hotel. You can pop in for a quick look or free audio tour anytime Mon.-Fri. 7 am-6 pm and Sat.-Sun. 11 am-5 pm. Guided tours are also available.

Museum buffs can pick from the award-winning Center for Science and Industry (COSI), the Columbus Museum of Art, or the Ohio Historical Center Museum. Franklin Park Conservatory, a warm and welcoming spot year-round, is a photographer’s dream. Military history enthusiasts might want to head east to Mott’s Military Museum in Groveport. The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, located about 30 minutes north of downtown, makes a nice destination on a spring day. Shoppers can head east to Easton Town Center, or north to Polaris Fashion Place. Or take some time just to stroll around the shops along Third Street in German Village or High Street in the Short North. Whatever your interests, if you have the time, it’s not hard to find something to do in Columbus.

I hope these suggestions, for what they're worth, will prove helpful to those heading to the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference. If you have any questions or comments, or just want to say you're coming, post them below or email me at  Hope to see you soon at OGS!

March 26, 2011

Join the fun at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

There’s less than a week left until the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference, coming up March 31-April 2 in Columbus. I’m so excited that it’s being held in my hometown! The conference will feature many well-known national and regional speakers, as well as some promising newcomers. Lisa Louise Cook, Richard Michael Doherty, Drew Smith, J. Mark Lowe, Leslie Albrecht Huber, Tacy A. Shoemaker Lewis, Jana Sloan Broglin and Diane VanSkiver Gagel will present workshops on Thursday afternoon. An Advanced Genealogy Discussion Group is also offered. The Thursday sessions are priced a la carte, and at $15 for two hours, I think they’re a terrific bargain.

The not-to-be-missed keynote address on Friday morning is “Digital Projects and Programs of FamilySearch” by David E. Rencher. On Friday and Saturday, each one-hour session offers a choice of six different lectures on a wide array of topics. If only I could be in two (or three or four) places at the same time! I’m torn between lectures being presented by Craig Scott, Michael J. Leclerc, Amy Johnson Crow, D. Joshua Taylor, Paula Stuart-Warren, John Humphrey, Amanda Epperson, Elaine Kuhn, Julie Miller, all the Thursday presenters, and many others. Not to mention that the exhibit hall, if it’s anything like previous years, will be packed with booths and tables full of great products and interesting people to talk to. What fun!

If you haven’t yet registered for the conference, there’s still time. You can register online at the OGS website, or simply walk in. Single-day registration is available. The conference is being held at the elegant Hyatt on Capitol Square, 75 E. State St., across from the Statehouse in downtown Columbus.

In my next post, I plan to offer some tips on research facilities, dining, shopping, and sightseeing in Columbus for OGS conference-goers. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. Hope to see you soon in Columbus!

March 22, 2011

Passing It On: One Lovely Blog Award

Thanks again to Cheryl Palmer of Heritage Happens for giving me the One Lovely Blog Award! The conditions of the award ask for those who receive it to:
1. Accept the award and post it on your blog along with the name and blog link of the person who gave it to you
2. Pass along the award to 15 other blogs you’ve recently discovered
3. Contact the bloggers you’ve chosen to let them know about the award

The 15 blogs that I’m sending the One Lovely Blog award to are (in no particular order):

Thanks to these and the many other great bloggers whose posts enlighten, instruct, touch,  and entertain me every day!

March 17, 2011

One Lovely Blog and an Irish Blessing

Cheryl Palmer of Heritage Happens recently honored A Sense of Family with the One Lovely Blog Award. Thank you, Cheryl! It’s a thrill to be recognized by a blogger whose writing I enjoy so much. Cheryl has a great voice and brings a lot of insight into her posts. If you’re not already a regular reader of Heritage Happens, I highly encourage you to check it out.

In a future post, I’ll do my part to pass the award on to 15 more bloggers, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I want to send out this Irish blessing in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t have any Irish ancestors that I know of, but my husband does, stretching back many generations on his maternal side. They came from County Down and County Antrim, from Bangor, Belfast, Larne, and Islandmagee. I admit I’ve become a bit entranced by Islandmagee, a rugged peninsula on the northeast coast of Ireland where my husband’s great-grandmother, Annie Carmichael Flack, was born. If I win’s “True Irish Roots Sweepstakes,” you can bet I’m going to go there!

And so, a little Irish wish to all who read this:

                             May your pockets be heavy
                        And your heart be light,
                        May good luck pursue you
                        Each morning and night.

March 1, 2011

Memories of an Ordinary Woman

Wilma Steele Herrel, my grandmother, was just an ordinary woman. She wasn’t widely known, didn’t break any great barriers, and never achieved something that might be considered particularly exceptional. She was a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; a church volunteer, a community member, a card player, and a friend. You might have seen her at the grocery store or the church rummage sale and looked right past her. But only if you didn’t know her, because if you did, you'd stop and chat, and your day would be all the happier for it.
Wilma & Fred Herrel, Nov. 23, 1935

Wilma was born in 1916 to Homer and Emma (Schiebel) Steele. She grew up in an assortment of rented houses—14 of them, by her own count—on the southeast side of Columbus, Ohio. She never forgot the day her eight-year-old little brother, Billy, died in a fire that he and a friend accidentally set in their basement. She did well in school, consistently placing on the Honor Roll, and graduated from South High. In November 1935, she and her sweetheart, Fred Herrel, eloped to Circleville and got married on the day of the OSU-Michigan game. She loved to tell how the pastor, listening to the game on the radio, quickly squeezed the ceremony in during halftime. They were both lifelong Buckeye fans after that.

But starting a new life together during the Depression, at 19 years old, couldn’t have been easy. Wilma went to comptometer school and was hired by White Castle, making $18 a week. She worked hard, excited to be earning a paycheck, and was the first local girl promoted to bookkeeper. Fred got a job as an aircraft assembler with Curtiss-Douglas. They saved all the money they could to put a down payment on a little house on the south side of the city. Several years later, Wilma quit her job three months before her first baby was born. Two more little ones followed.

For the next 25 years and beyond, she cooked all their meals. She made her own pickles, noodles, and pies. She took countless potluck dishes to church and social events. Her kitchen always smelled like hamburgers frying or cookies baking. She never had a big dining room table, or a dining room at all, as far as I know. Long after their move to Millersport in the 1960’s, we still ate at the same laminate-topped kitchen table she raised her family on.

Wilma was handy with a needle. She sewed her family’s clothes, did the mending, crocheted afghans, and made all sorts of decorative and (mostly) useful knick-knacks. Cross-stitching, knitting, quilting, you name it—she always had a project going. Her hands were never idle. Nor was her mind. She loved a good game of Scrabble, cards, dominoes, or (my personal favorite) Rack-o. She kept crossword puzzle and word search books tucked into the davenport, where her poodle liked to sleep.

I used to spend a week every summer at their house on the towpath of Buckeye Lake, going to Vacation Bible School at First Community Church. I slept on the pull-out sofa in the second bedroom, where I kept a box of treasured paper dolls stashed in the closet. One summer, when I had outgrown Bible School, Grandma showed me an old book. It had her name and birthday in it. I was entranced. For the rest of the week, while she cooked and cleaned and answered my questions, I poured over The History of the Roush Family in America. I even made a list of my ancestors going back six generations (which I still have, though I realize now I muddled up one of them). And so the seeds that would eventually grow into a passion for genealogy were planted.

Wilma was proud to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Even though I had to provide all new documentation when I submitted my own application decades later, she paved the way for me. She worked the Millersport Lions Club booth at the Sweet Corn Festival every year. She enjoyed having family visit, playing cards with friends, and traveling. She and Fred were married for 66 years before death separated them, two months apart, in 2002.

My grandmother was just an ordinary woman who cared for her family, kept her household running, and volunteered her time and talents. Her name will never appear in a history book. But I can’t help feeling that ordinary women like her are the unsung heroes of American life. And that each one, in her own way, is so very special. Thank you, Grandma, for being you.

Written for the 103rd Carnival of Genealogy, “Women’s History,” hosted by Jasia of Creative Gene. All rights reserved by Shelley Bishop, 2011.

The History of the Roush Family in America, Volume 1, was written by Lester Leroy Roush and published by the Shenandoah Publishing House (Strasburg, Virginia) in 1928. 


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