March 31, 2014

The Two Most Important Things Genealogists Can Do Now

Over the weekend I attended an excellent seminar by Dr. Thomas W. Jones, who among his many credits is author of Mastering Genealogical Proof and co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. The seminar was sponsored by and held at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tom gave four presentations packed with strategies and guidance for effective genealogical research, analysis, and correlation. I came away with valuable insights to apply to my most challenging cases, including those where sources disagree or evidence is lacking. But the point I want to share with you today is one Tom made at the very end of the day, in response to an audience question. I think it resonates with genealogists and family historians everywhere, regardless of location, skill level, technological comfort, or other factors.

His point? Preserve today what could be lost for future generations.

Think about that. What memories or unique knowledge of the past do you have? What research have you done that could be lost or thrown out by heirs with less interest or space? What family surnames are in danger of dying or “daughtering” out? What irreplaceable records do you hold that could disappear in a fire, flood, tornado, or other disaster? What relatives have you been meaning to interview or ask for a DNA test? What stories or conclusions have you intended to write about?

The top two priorities for today’s genealogists, according to Tom Jones, are:
  • Collect all the family lore, then share or publish it so it is not lost
  • Collect as much DNA information as you can

So simple. And yet, such a challenge. As we struggle to solve the puzzles of our ancestry and make the right connections to our past, we often become mired in that past. It’s easy to push on researching, and harder to step back and pull things together for a book, article, or even a source-cited blog post. I’m as guilty as anyone. With so much competing for my time, writing my own family history stories typically falls to the bottom of my to-do list.

What can you do now to make sure your family history doesn’t get lost?

Here’s a few ideas:
  • Become a collector of family lore. Talk to your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings to get their stories, scan their photographs, and learn about their heirlooms.
  • While you’re at it, ask your relatives if they’d be willing to take DNA tests for genealogy. Genetic genealogy is still developing, but holds great promise for solving family mysteries when used in conjunction with traditional research.
  • Sort and store your most precious family treasures—original documents, photos, and mementoes—in archival boxes, separate from your everyday research binders or files. Label and identify everything you put in. Let your family know that these items, above all else, should be saved. (For more information, I recommend How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise Levenick.)
  • If you have an irreplaceable, one-of-kind record, such as a family Bible record, scan or photograph it, then give a copy to a genealogical society. See if they’d be interested in publishing it in their newsletter or journal, preferably with a word-for-word transcription.
  • Pick an ancestor or family that you’ve compiled records for, organize the material in chronological order, and write a summary. Cite all your sources and tell what conclusions you’ve reached. For added interest, pull in pertinent historical detail and craft it as a story. Share it by giving copies to relatives, submitting it to a local or state society publication, and/or posting it on a blog or website. The blog series 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow, is designed to help you share short individual stories.
  • If you don’t have a family history blog, consider starting one. It’s an easy way to share documents, photos, and pieces of your family history, and can lead to connections with distant cousins who might hold additional pieces of the family puzzle.
  • A multi-generation family history chart or book can become a treasured keepsake. Don’t let the size of the project discourage you—just get started. I made a chart for my husband’s parents with the help of Family Chartmasters, and found it very rewarding. Because facts on the chart aren’t cited, I printed out family group sheets identifying the sources of my information and attached them to the back of the frame.
  • If research shows you’re eligible for a local, state, or national lineage society, start preparing your application. Lineage societies require proof of information and relationships, and they keep their members’ application materials. This means the records you submit for your family will be saved and made available to future researchers. 

The key to success? There’s just one. Don’t wait until it’s too late. I plan to heed Tom Jones' advice and make preserving my family history one of my top priorities. What ways have you found to preserve yours?


© Shelley Ballenger Bishop 2014
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March 18, 2014

George Clark, Ohio Pioneer: 52 Ancestors

With long-reaching roots in Ohio, I guess it stands to reason that I have a lot of farmers in my family tree. They weren’t famous, and I seriously doubt they were trendsetters. But with their lives so intrinsically tied to the land, I love what these ancestors can tell me about history.

George Clark, my fifth-great-grandfather, was an early Ohio settler and farmer. The more I researched George, the more interested I became. So interested, in fact, that I wrote an article about him and his descendants for the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly. I’m delighted to say that the article, “Turning Forests into Farms: The George Clark Family of Licking and Delaware Counties, Ohio,” was recently published. You can read it in the current issue of OGSQ. [1]

Here’s part of what I wrote about George:

Evidence of the Clark family’s origins in Ohio dates to over two hundred years ago, when… George Clark, Sr., applied for 160 acres of public land at the Zanesville Land Office on 11 March 1811. Identified as a resident of Licking County, George put $80 down on the northwest quarter of Section 22, Township 1, Range 11. The land cost two dollars an acre.[2] George made all his payments and was issued a patent for the Licking County tract on 19 August 1812.[3] This section, located between Hebron and Zanesville, would eventually front the new National Road, although the road’s route through Ohio had not yet been conceived.

George Clark was born 29 April 1771, according to a family Bible record.[4] He married Juda or Judy Divers in Sussex County, New Jersey, on 14 June 1798.[5]  She was born in 1775. The couple had five children: John Clark, born 5 July 1800; William Clark, born 21 June 1804; George Clark, born 28 November 1806; Anna Clark, born 15 January 1809; and Margaret Clark, born 4 February 1811.[6]
Although no known record of their journey exists, the Clark family likely followed an established trail from New Jersey to Ohio. The Braddock Road was a popular, though difficult, wagon route for early settlers bound for the Ohio country. Originating in Cumberland, Maryland, the Braddock Road cut a rugged path through the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later census enumerators indicated that George Clark Jr. was born in Pennsylvania, and his parents were born in New Jersey.[7] This suggests the family had begun their westward migration by 1806.

George Clark's land application in the Zanesville Land Office register
Zanesville, site of the land office that George visited, was the capital of Ohio from 1809-1812. Columbus had not yet been founded when he arrived in the state with his young family. With the War of 1812 just on the horizon, and tales of Indian raids and unrest to the north, their future was far from secure.

The work of building a homestead and carving a farm out of nearly unbroken wilderness required stamina and determination. Another early resident of Licking County, Henry B. Curtis, recalled arriving in Newark with his parents in 1809, then a small hamlet of perhaps 80 families living in log cabins. He described how, using only a few simple tools, the pioneer set about building a cabin: “Having selected his spot, the tall, straight young trees of the forest are to be felled, measured, cut, and hauled to the place… Whiskey… is laid in, and due notice given to such neighbors as can be reached, of the day appointed for the ‘raising.’” Once the shell of the cabin was erected, the settler and his family had to complete the puncheon floor, “…the big log fire place; the beaten clay hearth; the stick and clay chimney; the ‘clinking’ and ‘daubing;’ the paper windows, and the door with wooden latch and hinges.” After that, there remained the considerable work of clearing the primeval forest and underbrush for farming.[8]

Ohio log cabin
At some point after Margaret’s birth in 1811, Judy (Divers) Clark died. On 27 October 1814 in Licking County, George Clark married for a second time, to Mary Sutton.[9] She was born 18 April 1780. George and Mary had three children: Elizabeth Clark, born 23 October 1816; Suzanna Clark, born 1 March 1819; and Samuel Clark, born 23 June 1822. The Bible record also notes the births of Albert Clark on 18 April 1834 and James Clark on 19 September 1839, written on the same page but in a different hand.[10] These last two births occurred beyond Mary’s expected childbearing years, at ages 54 and 59, and were likely grandchildren. Their names correspond to the sons of Samuel Clark, living next to George and Mary in 1850.[11]
The growing family was reflected in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 U.S. census enumerations of George Clark’s household in Franklin Township, Licking County.[12] The land proved well suited to farming, and the Clark farm prospered. The completion of the Ohio & Erie Canal in 1834 opened new markets for farm produce, and demand and prices for wheat, corn, and other commodities increased. By 1850, when he was 80 years old, George’s property was valued at $3000.[13] With 100 acres under cultivation, he produced a variety of crops, including wheat, Indian corn, oats, wool, potatoes, butter, and hay, and kept an array of livestock.[14]

I think George Clark would be amazed if he could see the land he called home today. In the article, I cover three more generations of George’s descendants, and the many changes they witnessed. If you get the chance to read it, I'd love to hear what you think.


© Copyright Shelley Ballenger Bishop 2014
“52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow, CG, author of the blog No Story Too Small

[1] Shelley K. Bishop, “Turning Forests into Farms: The George Clark Family of Licking and Delaware Counties, Ohio,” Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Winter 2013), p. 360-367.

[2] Ohio Auditor of State, Register’s Monthly Report of Applications to Purchase Land, Zanesville Land Office, 1805-1815; State Archives Series 1997, item BV4452, loose papers, “Account of Lands Entered March 1811” and “Monies Entered March 1811 Zanesville,” entries for George Clark; Ohio Historical Society Archives, Columbus.

[3] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records ( : accessed 14 Feb 2013), record for George Clark (Licking County, Ohio), issued 19 August 1812.

[4] “Public Member Trees,” database and images, Ancestry ( accessed 21 Jan 2013), uploaded image of George Clark Bible “Births” Family Record page, submitted 4 Mar 2012 to “Parmeter-Brooks-Rambo-Eden Family Tree” by Lorilee Anderson.

[5] “New Jersey County Marriages, 1682-1956,” digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 21 Feb 2013), Sussex County Marriages, vol. A, p. 18, George Clark and Juda Divers (1798); citing original records, Sussex County; FHL microfilm no. 961,018. Also: Ancestry, image of George Clark Bible “Marriages” Family Record page, “Parmeter-Brooks-Rambo-Eden Family Tree.”

[6] Ancestry, image of George Clark Bible “Births” Family Record page, “Parmeter-Brooks-Rambo-Eden Family Tree.”

[7] 1880 U.S. census, Trenton Township, Delaware County, Ohio, population schedule, E.D. 115, p. 460A, dwelling 50, family 50, George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 30 Sep 2011), citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 1012. Also, 1860 U.S. Census, Trenton Township, Delaware County, Ohio, populations schedule, p. 43 (printed), p. 88 (stamped), dwelling 310, family 312, George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 30 Sep 2011), citing NARA microfilm M653, roll 957.

[8] Henry B. Curtis, “Pioneer Days in Central Ohio,” Ohio Archeological and Historical Publications, vol. 1:16, p. 240-251; reprinted in booklet form by the Ohio Historical Society.

[9] “Ohio County Marriages, 1789-1994,” digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 17 Feb 2013), Licking County marriages vol. 1, p. 31, George Clark and Mary Sutten (1814); citing original records, Licking County Probate Court, Newark; FHL microfilm no. 384,300. Also: Ancestry, image of George Clark Bible “Marriages” Family Record page, “Parmeter-Brooks-Rambo-Eden Family Tree.”

[10] Ancestry, image of George Clark Bible “Births” Family Record page, “Parmeter-Brooks-Rambo-Eden Family Tree.”

[11] 1850 U.S. Census, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 465, dwelling 143, family 144, Samuel Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 28 Jan 2013), citing NARA microfilm M432, roll 703.

[12] 1820 U.S. census, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 23B, entry for George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 28 Jan 2013), citing NARA microfilm M33. Also: 1830 U.S. census, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 347, entry for George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 28 Jan 2013), citing NARA microfilm M19, roll 134. And: 1840 U.S. Census, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 218, entry for George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 28 Jan 2013), citing NARA microfilm M704.

[13] 1850 U.S. Census, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 464, dwelling 142, family 143, George Clark.

[14] 1850 U.S. Agricultural Schedule, Franklin Township, Licking County, Ohio, p. 603, line 9, George Clark; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 23 Feb 2013); citing original records, NARA microfilm T1159, roll 6.


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