November 24, 2012

Instant Replay: A Big Game for the Big Day

In honor of today’s big game, in which the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the Michigan Wolverines and officially close out their 2012 season, I’ve decided to replay one of my favorite family history stories. I hope you’ll enjoy it, no matter what football team you might root for or what the big rivalry is in your town.

Fall means football season in cities across America, and in Central Ohio, football means the Ohio State Buckeyes. And in that realm, there is no greater rivalry than the OSU-Michigan game, which traditionally ends the season each November. So what happens when you throw a wedding into the mix?

The story of my grandparents' wedding begins the year before, in the fall of 1934. With the country in the throes of the Great Depression, times were tough on the south side of Columbus. Wilma Steele’s family lived in a rented house in German Village, where her father worked in a glass factory. She had recently graduated from South High School and was working as a bookkeeper for White Castle, the first chain restaurant in the nation. Years later, she would recall:

Wilma Steele, 1935
 “Your grandfather and I met in the fall of 1934. My best friend, Jerry Jenkins, arranged a blind date for me. We met her friend Neil Palsgrove and Fred Herrel at Walgreen’s on State St., next to the Ohio Theater when the boys ushered. I thought he was cute and he thought the same about me.

“We would go to my Christian Endeavor meeting at South Church of Christ, and then sometimes go square dancing at Georgesville. I would meet him after he ushered and we would go to the midnight show and then to Clyde’s Diner… I had four brothers at that time and one sister. I would get so mad because my parents let them stay up late and we would have no privacy.”

Fred Herrel also lived in German Village, where his family made wood cabinets for commercial refrigerators. He was a couple of years older than Wilma, and had also graduated from South High, although they never dated in school. He, too, was living in a house full of brothers—three of them—and working two jobs didn’t leave him much spare time.

By fall 1935, Wilma turned 19 and Freddy was 21. They had been dating for a year, and were old enough in the eyes of the law to do what they wanted. And they wanted to get married. But weddings require money and parental approval, both of which were in short supply. So on November 23, 1935, Wilma and Fred eloped to Circleville, about 25 miles away. That day happened to be the day of the OSU-Michigan game, which was being played in Ann Arbor and broadcast on Columbus area radio stations. They didn’t pick the day with the game in mind, but the two events would be forever linked for them.

Wilma remembered, “We got married at the parsonage of the Methodist church in Circleville. That day was one of the most exciting Saturdays of my life. The minister was listening to the OSU football game and shut it off only long enough for us to say ‘I DO!’”

The newlyweds had a whole city to rejoice with. The Buckeyes beat the Wolverines 38-0, thereby tying Minnesota for the 1935 Big Ten conference title.

Fred & Wilma Herrel on their wedding day

Foregoing a honeymoon, the new Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Herrel quietly returned to their jobs and their own families. They kept their marriage a secret for six months, until they could get things in order for a life together. “We bought furniture and rented an apartment at 1486 Hunter Ave., and then announced our marriage in March 1936,” Wilma recalled. “Our dream for the future was to get a home of our own.”

Wilma and Fred went on to celebrate 66 anniversaries and follow the Buckeyes through 66 more matchups against Michigan. They were devoted fans the rest of their lives, and rarely missed a game on radio or TV. But none was more exciting than the one on their big day in November 1935.

Go Bucks!
Personal history and quotations: Grandmother’s Book (New York: Dellwood Books, 1984), filled out by Wilma Steele Herrel and presented to the author, Christmas 1989.
Ohio State football history: “1935 Ohio State Buckeyes Football Team,” Wikipedia ( accessed 31 October 2011).

Originally published at A Sense of Family on November 1, 2011. Copyright 2011 Shelley Bishop.

November 22, 2012

A Day for Thanks

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for
My family, near and far,
My friends, old and new,
My health, and the health of those I love,
My home, and the food we have to eat,
My country, and the freedoms we enjoy.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for
The wonderful gift of every new day.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy Thanksgiving Day!


The Ballenger family, Thanksgiving 1974

November 18, 2012

Ohio Agricultural Schedules at the State Library of Ohio

As people moved into and across America, many of them had one primary objective: to find a piece of land where they could start a farm and make a life for their families. Personally, I’m descended from a lot of farmers. But there are all sizes and types of farms—wheat farms, vegetable farms, dairy farms, cattle ranches, and so forth. How do you find out what kind of farm your ancestor had, what he produced, how big it was, or what it was worth?

Fortunately, the U.S. government was interested in knowing that, too. Granted, their reasons were different than ours as family historians today, but their data will do just fine. From 1850 through 1880, they compiled an Agricultural Schedule along with the regular Population Schedule for each census year. These records provide a lot of interesting detail for our family stories.

Nancy of My Ancestors and Me recently wrote a wonderful blog post about the agricultural censuses. She described what they were, what questions the enumerators asked, and where you can find them. Because she did such a fine job, I suggest you hop over and read “Farmers in Your Family Between 1850 and 1880?” now. I was quite envious to hear that agricultural schedules for some states are available online. As far as I know, none of the Ohio ones are.

Here’s an example of what one page from an agricultural schedule looks like (this is Alexander Township, Athens County, Ohio, in 1860):

One of the largest collections of Ohio agricultural censuses (outside of the National Archives) is on microfilm at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus. Not all census years for all counties are there, but many are. I thought it might be helpful to give you a peek at this collection and a list of exactly what’s available. There is no name index for the Ohio agricultural censuses, so you need to know the county and the township your ancestor lived in to find him. You can get that information easily enough from the regular U.S. population census of the same year.

Ohio agricultural census State Library of Ohio

Here is a county-by-county listing of the agricultural schedules available at the State Library of Ohio:
Adams: 1850, 60, 70
Allen: 1850, 60, 70
Ashland: 1850, 60
Ashtabula: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Athens: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Auglaize: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Belmont: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Brown: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Butler: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Carroll: 1870, 80
Champaign: 1870, 80
Clark: 1880
Clermont: 1880
Clinton: none
Columbiana: none
Coshocton: none
Crawford: none
Cuyahoga: none
Darke: 1850, 60
Defiance: 1850, 60
Delaware: 1850, 60
Erie: 1850, 60
Fairfield: 1850, 60
Fayette: 1850, 60, 70
Franklin: 1850, 60, 70
Fulton: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Gallia: 1850, 60, 70
Geauga: 1850, 60, 70
Greene: 1850, 60, 70
Greene: 1850, 60, 70
Guernsey: 1850, 60, 70
Hamilton: 1850, 60, 70
Hancock: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Hardin: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Harrison: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Henry: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Highland: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Hocking: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Holmes: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Huron: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Jackson: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Jefferson: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Knox: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Lake: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Lawrence: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Licking: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Logan: 1850, 60, 70, 80
Lorain: 1850, 60, 80
Lucas: 1850, 60, 80
Madison: 1850, 60, 80
Mahoning: 1850, 60, 80
Marion: 1850, 60, 80
Medina: 1850, 60, 80
Meigs: 1850, 60, 80
Mercer: 1850, 60, 80
Miami: 1850, 60, 80
Monroe: 1850, 60, 80
Montgomery: 1850, 60, 80
Morgan: 1850, 60, 80
Morrow: 1860, 80
Muskingum: 1860, 80
Noble: 1860, 80
Ottawa: 1860, 80
Paulding: 1860, 80
Perry: 1860, 80
Pickaway: 1860, 80
Pike: 1860, 80
Portage: 1860, 80
Preble: 1860, 80
Putnam: 1860
Richland: 1860
Ross: 1850, 60
Sandusky: 1850, 60
Scioto: 1850, 60
Seneca: 1850, 70
Shelby: 1850, 70
Stark: 1850, 70
Summit: 1850, 70
Trumbull: 1850, 70
Tuscarawas: 1850, 70
Union: 1850, 70
Van Wert: 1850, 70
Vinton: 1850, 70
Warren: 1850, 70
Washington: 1850, 70, 80
Wayne: 1850, 70, 80
Williams: 1850, 70, 80
Wood: 1850, 70, 80
Wyandot: 1850, 70, 80

Whew, that’s a lot of counties, isn’t it? 

Some of the Ohio agricultural censuses are available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, which means you can order them for delivery to your nearest Family History Center. To see what they have, go to the article on “Ohio Census” at Scroll down to the Federal Non-Population Schedules, and then to the Microfilm Images category.

The State Library of Ohio is located at 274 E. First Avenue, Columbus, 43201. It’s open 8 am-5 pm Monday to Friday, although as with any archive, you should call ahead to confirm if you’re making a special trip. I hope this information helps you discover more about your farmer ancestor in Ohio! 


November 11, 2012

Dublin, Ohio, Veterans Park and Indian Run Cemetery

Dublin Veterans Park Grounds of Rememberance

A few years ago, the city of Dublin, Ohio, transformed a quiet spot behind historic Indian Run Cemetery into a Veterans Park. It features a Grounds of Remembrance honoring those who have served the United States in times of war and peace. Visitors walk down a Recognition Walk lined with dedication stones, some of which are inscribed with names of individual veterans from Revolutionary times to the present.

Dublin Veterans Park Recognition Walk

The park is a peaceful and inviting place. The young sycamore trees that have been planted will one day provide a shady canopy over the grounds. A POW/MIA memorial stone gives special pause, as does the POW/MIA flag flying overhead.

POW MIA memorial Dublin Veterans Park

An open-air pavilion provides a backdrop for both official ceremonies and private reflection. Inscribed on the wall is this lovely except from Concord Hymn, by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free—
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

Emerson's Concord Hymn Dublin Veterans Park

Indian Run Cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in Central Ohio, with the first burial dating back to 1814. Although it has been restored, a long period of prior neglect means that many stones were irreparably broken and others were lost. Stones that could not be matched with a gravesite have been set against the old dry stone border wall that surrounds the cemetery. Many members of the families that founded Dublin are buried at Indian Run. At least one Revolutionary War soldier, Nathaniel Babcock, is among them, as a modern monument attests.

Indian Run Cemetery Dublin Ohio

The design of the new memorial fits in with the historic cemetery it surrounds, with the American flag flying proudly over them both. I like the way this seems to bring history full circle.

Indian Run Cemetery Dublin Ohio

Thank you, veterans!

If you go: Access to the Dublin Veterans Park and Indian Run Cemetery is not particularly well marked. From the downtown Dublin intersection of Bridge St. (State Route 161) and High St. (Dublin Rd.), go north on High St. one block to Darby St. Turn left as if going to the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Cars should continue past the library and veer right to park in the Indian Run lot. For more information, see:

Previous Veteran’s Day posts:

November 9, 2012

Tribute to a Faithful Companion

Few days in a family’s life are as exciting as the day you bring a new puppy into the household. So it was for us in July 1998, when a little golden ball of fluff came to live with us. We named her Gracie. With her came new bowls, a new collar, new leash, new toys—and a new routine to our days.

Gracie quickly got used to family life. She became an expert at scratching up our floors, barking at dogs walking by and deer venturing into the yard, and gobbling up food left carelessly unattended on the coffee table. She assumed the job of greeting everyone who came to the door with unbridled enthusiasm. (I often told repairmen, “She thinks you came over just to see her.”) And she readily tolerated anything the kids and their friends wanted her to do. Being pushed around in a stroller? Wearing clothes out of the dress-up box? Happy to oblige. 

True to her retriever roots, Gracie loved the water. She would happily fetch a stick or ball we threw into the lake for her until we tired of the game. If we were lying peacefully on rafts, she wanted to be right there beside us, splashing away and trying to climb on. She may not have been the most graceful swimmer, but she certainly was the most eager.

But Gracie’s favorite time of year was winter. It was never too cold or too snowy for her. She loved to dig and roll in the snow, and the fact that she tracked half of it into the house with her didn’t bother her in the least.

Over the years, Gracie’s face turned whiter and her pace slowed. On walks, she’d start out at her usual near-run, tugging on her leash, but by the end she’d be dragging behind. As the kids grew up and left for college, one by one, she spent more time sleeping in her favorite spots. She became my constant companion, following me from room to room like a 70-pound shadow. Then, this summer, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the inevitable end drew near.

Gracie was a member of our family for 13 years. She never seemed to notice that she was a little furrier than the rest of us. Although pets don’t show up in our family trees, they hold an undisputed place in our family histories, and in our hearts.


November 4, 2012

Why I Recommend the NGS Home Study Course

If you’re weighing your options for genealogy education, you might be considering the National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogy Home Study Course. I finished the course in September 2011, and recently wrote about it for The In-Depth Genealogist newsletter. You can read the article, “Learn American Genealogy with the NGS Home Study Course,” to learn about what topics are covered. Today I’d like to share a little bit more detail about my personal experiences with the course, and hopefully answer some questions you might have about it.

To recap, the Home Study Course (HSC) is a 16-lesson program that explores all the essential types of American records, along with the principles of genealogical research, evidence analysis, and citation. It comes on a series of three CDs that are compatible with both PC and Mac systems. The National Genealogical Society does a good job of answering some questions about it on their FAQ page. But I recall having a few more when I was considering it.

What is the approximate level of this course?
I would classify the HSC as an intermediate-level course. It’s great for someone who has already done some family history research, explored resources online and at the local library, read books about finding ancestors, used a microfilm machine, and worked with a genealogy software program. I think beginners may find themselves in over their heads, and would be happier with the shorter, more basic course, Family History Skills, that is free with the cost of membership to NGS.

For example, one of the first assignments is to complete a pedigree chart and a family group sheet, with full source citations. If you haven’t done the research necessary to do that, or don’t know the basics of citation writing, you’re probably going to have a difficult time with it.

Why should someone take this course? What are the benefits?
  • The HSC gives a systematic, step-by-step progression through record types and the research process. One reason I signed up for it was that I felt I had gotten a lot of information piecemeal, from a variety of books and lectures, and wanted something more structured. The course provided that structure.
  • You can start whenever you want, and progress at your own pace. Each CD has four to six lessons, and you’re allowed one year to complete them (you can ask for an extension if needed). You don’t have to do the lessons in order.
  • The assignments encourage hands-on experience at archives and courthouses to stretch your usage of various types of records. Because you can use your own family for the assignments, the work you do actually helps your research.
  • The course serves as a foundation for more advanced study. If you’d like to attend one of the genealogy institutes, take a methodology-focused course, or are considering genealogy as a profession, it’s a good step to take. The HSC is one of five accepted prerequisites for the Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University.

What does “graded” mean?
When I started the course, you had the option of taking it graded or ungraded. Now it appears that everyone takes it graded, which is the best option anyway. “Graded” means that a genealogist who has volunteered to be a grader for a particular lesson will read over your assignment, check to make sure you’ve included everything that was asked for, and appear to understand the material. He or she will then stamp your assignment as “Complete” or “Incomplete.” You’re not given letter grades or number scores, but the grader will usually write a few lines giving feedback on what you’ve submitted. If an assignment is incomplete, they’ll tell you what you need to do differently, and how to resubmit it.

What tips would you give someone taking the course?
  • Do the recommended reading. Because it’s a home course, and essentially at a college level, no professor is standing over you to make sure you’ve done your reading. But you will get far more out of it if you do. I’d suggest buying the following three books at the outset, and highlighting, underlining, and making notes to your heart’s content as you go along:

  1. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, Third Edition, by Val D. Greenwood (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000)
  2. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, Third Edition, by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Ancestry Publishing, 2006)
  3. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Second Edition, by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009)

  • Create a binder or file with sections corresponding to each lesson, to collect information. I ended up with three binders, one for each CD, in which I keep copies of my assignments, printouts of journal articles and supplementary reading, lists of resources, and more. I even printed out the lessons so I could highlight and refer back to them easily.
  • Try to keep a consistent pace. I tried to do one lesson a month, but because I had a lot of other things going on and the last few assignments are pretty complex, it took me a little over two years to complete the course. Still, it felt good to make steady progress.
  • Sign up for the Home Study Course mailing list, which you should receive information about once you enroll. It provides a forum for questions and answers, with frequent input from graders. 

I hope this information is helpful if you’re trying to decide whether the NGS Home Study Course is right for you. If you have specific questions, you can email the course administrator at: I really do feel any investment you make in genealogy education is well worth it, and wish you all the best whatever path you choose!