July 26, 2011

Anna Payne Ballenger - Tombstone Tuesday

MAY 3, 1864
NOV. 20, 1924
AGE 60 Y. 6 M. 17 D.

Anna Ballenger was my great-great-grandmother. Her maiden name was Payne. I’m not sure what her middle initial “M” stands for. She married James Madison Ballenger on January 19, 1881, in Delaware County, Ohio, when she was 17 years old. They had four children: Charles, Clarence, and twins Cyril and Cecil. Her tombstone in Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville, Ohio, was clearly placed by her children, all of whom were living at the time. I still have a lot to learn about Anna’s life. Her son and my great-grandfather, Charles C. Ballenger, put “Don’t know” in response to questions about her parents on her death certificate, so it’s not surprising that no family stories or photos have been passed down through our branch of the family.

James’ tombstone mirrors hers, reading “DEAR FATHER.” He died suddenly in 1913 at the age of 58, leaving Anna a widow for the next 11 years. For his obituary, along with a picture of his marker, see my previous post: James Ballenger Suddenly Stricken

July 20, 2011

Fun Family History Books for Summer Reading

With summer in full swing, it’s a good time to have a book on hand to take to the pool, the park, or on vacation. These three books make great choices, whether you need something you can pick up when time allows or relax with on a leisurely day:

1.   Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath, by John Philip Colletta
On March 4, 1873, the Ring & Co. store in Rolling Fork Landing in the Mississippi Delta mysteriously burned to the ground, claiming the lives of five people, including Joe Ring. In its aftermath, Joe’s widow and sons experienced more tragedy, and his brother George Ring withstood accusations of arson. Using evidence obtained in over 30 years of research, Colletta meticulously reconstructs the story, testing hypotheses and ultimately forming his own conclusion about what really happened. A perfect blend of mystery, history, and family lore.

2.   The Journey Takers, by Leslie Albrecht Huber
Weaving the history of her immigrant ancestors around the story of her quest to discover that history, Huber brings readers along for the journey. She vividly recounts finding her ancestors’ records and traveling to the places they lived. She effectively recreates their voyages from Germany, England, and Sweden to Utah—all set against the backdrop of her own growth from student to motherhood. Huber uses historical and social detail to imagine what her forbearers felt, looked like, and might have said, creating an interesting and engaging family history.

3.   Family, by Ian Frazier
Cleaning out his parents’ house sparks a journey of historical self-discovery for Frazier. He follows in his ancestors’ footsteps as they moved to Ohio, founded the town of Norwalk, served in the Civil War, went through temperance and Prohibition, and vacationed on the shores of Lake Erie. He sprinkles in some of his own childhood memories and contemporary impressions, effectively drawing the reader into his stories. Frazier’s deep appreciation of the everyday lives and contributions of his ancestors is evident throughout the book.

All of these books are available on Amazon.com (disclaimer: I am not an Amazon affiliate—though I’m considering becoming one—and purchased my own copies of the books. I bought Only a Few Bones from Maia’s Books, which I highly recommend.) Next on my family history reading list is Searching for Ichabod: His Eighteenth Century Diary Leads Me Home. I met the author, Julie Foster Van Camp, at the 2010 National Genealogical Society Conference, and she was delightful. What’s on your list? Do you have a favorite family history book that I haven’t mentioned here? 

July 13, 2011

Cruisin' in the 1920's - (Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Oh, to be young in the summertime and have a car! This picture, taken in the mid-1920’s, shows Harry Baxter, his sister Agnes “Nan” Baxter (in the middle), and Leatha Evans (left)—probably around the time she became Harry’s wife. Harry, an Irish immigrant, and Leatha, whose family came from Wales, were married on May 27, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. They were my husband's grandparents. I know the quality of this photo isn’t the greatest—I think it's a copy of a copy of a copy—but I’m glad to have it. Harry looks like quite the scamp, doesn’t he? And don’t you just love those 1920’s dresses? Can't help but wonder what they were up to that day!

July 10, 2011

Elevator Pitch: 31 Weeks to a Better Blog and SNGF

Tonia Kendrick, who writes Tonia’s Roots, has started a new series of posts called “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog.” Since I’m still fairly new to blogging, and trying to figure things out as I go along, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to learn, branch out, and spice things up a bit.

The first challenge is to write an “elevator pitch” for your blog—a short speech you can deliver in the span of a quick elevator ride. That doesn’t sound too hard, right? Well, for me it wasn’t that simple—I was still playing around with it when Randy Seaver made it the topic for this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. Sort of makes it a double challenge now!

So this is what I finally came up with: 
“Do you find the hunt for your ancestors fascinating? I do! A Sense of Family chronicles my journey into my family history. I enjoy sharing new discoveries, tips and research tools, memories, photos, and, above all, the stories of my ancestors. It’s amazing how far and wide they traveled before converging in Ohio, and how learning about them brings history to life. Once you get started, I bet you’ll find your ancestors fascinating, too!”

You can check out responses to the Elevator Pitch—or submit your own—on Tonia’s Roots. I look forward to seeing what other bloggers say and do with this!

Related Posts:
Are You Going to the FGS Conference?
Playing Catch Up with 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog
Fun Family History Books for Summer Reading

July 7, 2011

Weldon's Ice Cream Factory - Those Places Thursday

Weldon's, 1936, Millersport, Ohio

Weldon's Ice Cream Factory, 2010
For as long as I can remember, summertime at Buckeye Lake has meant trips to Weldon’s Ice Cream Factory in Millersport. I guess I was a toddler when I first went there, because my mom and dad both grew up going to Weldon’s themselves. It still looks much the same as it must have in the 1950’s, with painted wooden booths and an old-time jukebox, white metal counter stools and a rainbow of handwritten signs behind the counter. Walking in the screened door from the wide front porch is like taking a step back in time. And a yummy one, at that.

When I was little, it seemed like a long ride in my Grandpa Ballenger’s Chris-Craft from the cottage in Maple Bay all the way to Millersport. I wasn’t too crazy about the speed and the waves, so Grandpa would let me hold onto the bow lines draped over the windshield, like the reins of a horse. Weekend after weekend, year after year, we’d make the trip for gas at the marina and a treat at the ice cream factory (since Weldon’s has no docks of its own, buying gas at the same time is part of the deal if you go by water). Over the years the boat and its passengers have changed, but Weldon’s remains constant. Sometimes we sit on the chairs out on the porch and take our time, sipping sodas and milkshakes or trying to finish cones before they melt in the summer heat. Other times we hop back on the boat with our selections in hand—and woe to the cone eaters then!

Weldon’s celebrated its 80th anniversary last summer, and this year they’re going as strong as ever. They still make all their own ice cream right there in the factory in the back part of the old white clapboard building (I’m hard pressed to say which is my favorite, but I definitely have a soft spot for mint chocolate chip.) My kids are the fourth generation of my family to stand in front of that counter, asking for samples and placing their orders. Thanks, Weldon’s, for all the years of sweet summertime memories.

July 1, 2011

Genealogy in Bloom

This month’s Carnival of Genealogy theme is "The Seasons of Genealogy." 

Imagine, if you will, a garden—one of those lush English gardens packed with shrubs and flowers, awash in color (since I’ll never have one of those in real life, I might as well enjoy it in my imagination!). The garden, naturally, changes with the seasons. Winter, the garden sleeps; the seeds wait, then start to germinate. Spring, the shrubs blossom, flowers sprout, and new plants are added. Summer, the flowers bloom in glorious succession amid a backdrop of greenery. Fall, the colors change and late-blooming varieties flourish, while the seeds for next year’s garden drop to the ground. As fall gives way to winter, the cycle starts again.

In many ways, that garden represents the seasons of genealogy, too. In my case, the seeds planted by my grandmothers lay dormant for many years. Throughout the winter there were periods of thawing, when my interest would be piqued by something and I would ask questions. Eight or nine years ago I started a genealogy notebook with handwritten family group sheets, notes from a few interviews, and a couple of how-to articles clipped from magazines. Ever so gradually, the seeds took root. I took an online genealogy course in 2007, got some books from the library, and made a couple of exciting discoveries on Ancestry.com. By early 2008, I realized this would be a lasting passion. Spring had come to my neck of the genealogy woods.

A garden, of course, needs good soil to grow. My ancestral garden has been fertilized and cultivated with education. I devoured books and magazines, enrolled in the National Genealogical Society Home Study Course, and started attending conferences. I’ve spent one week each at IGHR at Samford University and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and completed the ProGen Study Group program. All of this has enriched the soil that forms the basis of my research and analytical skills.

The result, I hope, is a young but healthy garden. Some of my plants (ancestral lines) are already blooming, while others wait for more attention. Of course I sometimes tire of weeding, get distracted by squirrels, and make mistakes (I had to prune a branch of “former ancestors” last week), but things seem to be growing pretty well. I can identify what I’ve planted in each row, and can cite where it came from and explain why it fits there. Even though I’ve still got some bare spots, it’s satisfying to step back and look at the garden as a whole once in awhile.

So where am I, as the seasons go, in my genealogy? I figure I’m pretty close to the beginning of summer, perhaps early June, when sunshine, rain, longer days, and warmer weather converge to create good growing conditions. I can’t yet see all the colors or heights my plants might attain someday, but that’s okay. I’ll keep enriching the beds with education and experience, and do my best to be a responsible gardener. Here at the cusp of summer, it's natural to think that time and persistent research will bring each line into full flower. I hope it will be a long and fruitful season.

And fall? It’s hard to see that far ahead, but one day, if all goes well, I should have a mature garden. I hope to keep it thriving as long as possible, because fall is a season of splendor. But the time will come to prepare for another winter, so I have to keep that in mind. I can’t put off writing down the stories of the ancestors I’ve cultivated—or my own story, for that matter. Compiling my knowledge in a readable, manageable way is vital for preservation. And then, who knows? Only time will tell who will pick up the spade and start digging again, reviving the garden in some future spring.

Written for the Carnival of Genealogy 107, “Seasons of Genealogy.” Thanks to Bill West of West in New England for hosting this carnival.


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