February 15, 2013

What's New? Check out Going In-Depth

The first edition of Going In-Depth, the new digital magazine produced by The In-Depth Genealogist team, debuted today. If you haven’t seen it yet, why wait? Take a look for yourself here. Yours truly contributed the Gen Ed (Genealogy Education) article, “Genealogy Conferences Want You!” Though I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, I’m excited to be a part of this new publication that welcomes everyone interested in reading and learning about family history.

My article gives a brief overview of some of the major U.S. genealogical conferences, and focuses in on three of them coming up this spring: RootsTech, NERGC, and the NGS Family History Conference. I hope you find the information helpful and timely.

I’d love to go to these three conferences, but regret I’m not able to make them. I highly recommend them just the same. I’ve found genealogy conferences to be a priceless opportunity to meet others who share my interest in family history, and a great way to learn about a wide range of genealogy records, resources, and research strategies. Besides that, they’re a lot of fun!

I will be going to the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati from April 25-27, and hope to see some of you there. I’ll also be attending the FGS Conference in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, from August 21-24 (the full program brochure is available now, and it looks great).

The always popular exhibit hall at the 2012 NGS Conference 

My future articles in the Gen Ed column at Going In-Depth will discuss webinars, summer conferences, the ProGen study group program, books, ways to learn about genealogy online, and other topics. If you have questions or suggestions about things you’d like to hear more about, just leave a comment here.

So head over to The In-Depth Genealogist and get a copy of Going In-Depth for yourself. It’s free to view or download. All of the articles by the contributing authors look so interesting that I think you’ll be hooked by the time you get to the table of contents. I can’t wait to sit down with a hot cup of tea and read it all the way through myself!


February 14, 2013

School Valentines, 1967

One Valentine’s Day many (cough) years ago, my mother gave me a precious gift: a new scrapbook with purple and gray construction paper pages, perfect for saving my most treasured keepsakes and recording my innermost thoughts. You can tell right off the bat I was destined to become a genealogist, because the first thing I did was identify myself and record the date.

Then I proceeded to recap the big Valentine’s Day party at school. I taped in a napkin and a few valentines to commemorate the event. Even at this tender age, I was all about original sources.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the page is filled with keen observations and eloquent writing. Where else can you find absorbing stories like this:
             At school I got this card. I read it. I liked it."

Perhaps I was practicing for the day I might become a blogger, because I left a comment on each valentine. For this one, I noted:
            "See the Fox. He loves me!"

In true writer’s fashion, I saved my biggest story to the end. The name of the classmate who gave me this is long forgotten, but his or her gift lives on. Enthusiastically, I wrote:
            "A little bear. Look at his tricks. And oh! Look at the ballon."

(Okay, can you tell I learned to read with Dick and Jane?)

What I remember best is the thrill of opening my school valentine “mailbox”—in the early grades, a paper lunch bag decorated with crayons—and finding all the little cards inside. Each sealed white envelope waiting to be opened and its treasure revealed. Oh, and I remember walking around the desks in the room, carefully putting my valentines into my classmate’s bags. I gave one to each person, because it wouldn’t be polite not to. But I had secretly picked out my favorites from the assortment for my best friends, and written their names carefully on the envelopes. Certainly they would know just how special they were to me!

What memories do school valentines bring back for you?

February 13, 2013

A Brilliant Reception for John and Carrie Evans: Wedding Wednesday

Thoughts of love and weddings seem to come naturally around Valentine’s Day. And who doesn’t love a good wedding announcement? One of my favorites is this one for John Evans and Carrie Beum, my husband’s great-grandparents. It appeared on the front page of the Westerville, Ohio Public Opinion on New Year’s Eve, 1896. I can almost see the hall lit up for their reception on one of the most festive nights of the year, the guests dressed in their holiday finest, the tables aglow in candlelight.
                                   Will Wed This Eve. 
         John Evans, one of the most popular conductors on the Columbus Central, and Miss Carrie Beum, the accomplished daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Beum, are to be married at the home of the bride’s parents on Plum street this evening at 8 o’clock. Rev. N. D. Creamer will be the clergyman in charge, and James Lawson and Miss Barbara Williams are to be best man and bridesmaid. The bride and groom will spend a few days with the latter’s parents in Columbus, where a brilliant reception is to be given them to-morrow evening. They will reside here and, for our part, we wish them abundance of all that is good. (1)
John Evans Columbus Ohio
John Evans

John was an immigrant from Montgomeryshire, Wales, having arrived in Columbus in 1881. Carrie was the only daughter of a long-established Ohio family. I’m not sure how or where their paths crossed—perhaps it was literally on one of the High St. streetcars he conducted. How long did they court? What did they like to do? I have a picture of John, young and handsome, but none of Carrie. I wish I knew what she looked like, how pretty she was in her wedding dress. 

I like to think of the new Mr. and Mrs. John Evans on their wedding night, happy and surrounded by family and friends on the cusp of a new year, because their happiness would be cut short all too soon. In less than two generations’ time, even Carrie’s name would be lost, just a shadowy figure in the family lore. But that, my friends, is a story for another time. For now, let’s let love carry the day, and raise a toast to wedding nights gone by.


Written in conjunction with the 2013 Family History Writing Challenge

1. “Will Wed This Eve.,” Public Opinion (Westerville, Ohio), 31 December 1896, p. 1, col. 2.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/46603454@N02/4531806670/">Passion for Flowers</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

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February 6, 2013

The Legacy of Mary Comfort Eberhard

Some people leave great legacies in business, politics, or education. Others are recognized for their military service, philanthropy, or contributions to science. Mary Comfort Eberhard left a different kind of legacy—humbler, perhaps, but impressive nonetheless. She raised sixteen children to adulthood in the farmlands of Pennsylvania and Ohio at the turn of the 20th century.

One of her daughters, Nora Eberhard Ballenger, would later recall that Mary used to bake 12 to 14 loaves of bread, including her favorite pan rolls, twice a week. “My mother never baked under 16 to 20 pies and two large cakes on weekends. We always had a great crowd,” she remembered. “We grew almost everything we ate—vegetables, meats, eggs. She made her own dumplings and even churned her own butter.”

Mary Madina Comfort Lewis Comfort Polly Scheirer
A beautifully illustrated fraktur, written in German, shows that Mary Madina Comfort was born 28 May 1875 in Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Lewis Comfort and Polly Scheirer Comfort.1 On Christmas Eve, 1891, when Mary was 16 years old, she married John Llewellyn Eberhard in Allentown.2 No doubt their Christmas that year was a merry one—and it would be the only one they celebrated without a child in the house for more than 40 years.

Mary and Llewellyn made a home for themselves in Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a milk dealer. Their first baby was born in August 1892. Others followed, more or less every other year. By January 1902, there were six little Eberhards: Eva, Roy, Harold, Helen, Mabel, and Irma.3

In 1903, they decided to move west to the area around Bellefontaine, Ohio, where Llewellyn’s brother William Eberhard and his wife lived. They rented a farm, and Llewellyn resumed his dairy work. Mary resumed cooking, cleaning, and caring for her large brood. By 1910 she had given birth to seven more children: Emma, Enoch, Bert, Clarence, Carrie, Anna, and Nora.4

Bert and Clarence were twins, born prematurely. Mary would later tell Nora that she did her best to keep the tiny babies alive, nestling them in boxes laid in front of the open woodstove oven door. But despite her efforts, both boys died within a few days.

Mary Comfort Mary Eberhard

In 1913 the family moved again, this time to farmland between Galena and Johnstown, Ohio. There they put down roots in the community, and Mary started doing “custom hatchings”—incubating certain varieties of chicken eggs, to order, for customers. She used her egg money to supplement the income from Llewellyn’s dairy work. Meanwhile, she had five more children: Bertha, Robert, Georgia, Blanche, and, lastly, Mildred, in 1920.5

An article in the June 1929 edition of The Milky Way, published by the Moores & Ross dairy company, featured Llewellyn Eberhard and his family. “Mrs. Eberhard uses one room of the house as an incubator room, and does custom hatchings at 3½ cents an egg,” it reported. “She has been doing this for 15 years. The incubator has a capacity of 3000 eggs. Mrs. Eberhard is also quite a baker. She bakes 14 loaves of bread at one time, twice a week. It is nothing for her to bake 22 pies, four cakes, 200 doughnuts and 200 cookies at one baking.”6

Of course, Mary didn’t do everything alone. The children all had chores, either in the house, barn, or garden, depending on the season and day of the week. Nora preferred the house chores, because she didn’t like the smell of the cows. On washing day, Mary would organize several of them into a makeshift assembly line to get the clothes and sheets through the hand-cranked washer and wringer and out onto the clothesline. Nora sometimes helped her mother on baking days, and other times it was her job to tend to the younger children and keep them out from underfoot.7

Eventually, as the children grew up and moved out of the house, Mary’s baking, laundry, and egg-hatching responsibilities eased. She and Llewellyn celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with their family on December 21, 1941. He had retired three years previously, and the hard work of Mary’s earlier years was behind her as well.

On April 15, 1958, Mary Madina Comfort Eberhard passed away in Sunbury, Ohio, at the age of 82. Her obituary named her 15 surviving children (Helen predeceased her), and noted that she left 39 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. She was buried in Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville.8

Today, Mary’s legacy lives on in her many descendents, which now include an untold number of great-, great-great-, and great-great-great-grandchildren. She wasn’t rich by any monetary standard, and her days were filled with the hard, plain work of raising a family and keeping house. But somehow, I don’t think she would have changed a thing. My only regret is that I wasn’t born in time to sample her baking.


© Shelley Bishop 2013.

1.     Mary Madina Comfort (Kumfert) fraktur, birth and baptism, 1875 (Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania); privately held.
2.     Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, marriage certificate no. 3753 (1891), Llewellyn John Eberhard and Mary M. Comfort; Court of Common Pleas, Orphan’s Court Division, Allentown.
3.     1900 U.S. Census, Salisbury Twp., Lehigh Co., Pennsylvania, population schedule, E.D. 49, p. 5B, dwelling 95, family 97, Lwellyn J. Eberhard; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 14 Oct 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1429.
4.     1910 U.S. Census, Rushcreek Twp., Logan County, Ohio, population schedule, E.D. 144, p. 9B, dwelling 216, family 222, Llewellin Eberhard; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Aug 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1205.
5.     1920 U.S. Census, Harlem Twp., Delaware Co., Ohio, population schedule, E.D. 72, p. , dwelling 99, family 99, Llewellyn Eberhard; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Aug 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1377.
6.     Moores & Ross, Inc., “The Milky Way”, vol. 5 no. 6, June 1929; photograph and article on the L. J. Eberhard family (cover and p.7); privately held.
7.     Personal recollections by Nora Eberhard Ballenger, collected over a period of years by Shelley Ballenger Bishop and Edward Ballenger II.
8.     Mary M. Eberhard obituary, Columbus Evening Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), 16 April 1958, p. 7A.


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