“Mom, it’s Conflict on the phone, again. It’s saying it’s created something…”

There are essentially six types of “information” in my book.  Now I am not a lawyer, I do not pretend to be a lawyer, I am not a graduate of a law school, I am not licensed to give legal evidence.  You would look to Judy Russell’s blog, The Legal Genealogist, for that information.

My take on these rules, simplified, fall into the following definitions:

  1. True information. And there is sound evidence that it is true. Verified primary source material.
  2. Partially true. There is evidence that it is true, but sometimes that evidence needs to be verified for its own sake.
  3. Mostly true.  This is the type of information that is based on fact, but the details are modified by adjectives of aggrandizement. John Smith was a farmer, TRUE, according to census records, contemporary news accounts, court records and his journal. BUT ” John Smith had the bestest farm in Columbia County, Pennsylvania?”  Well, how do we define bestest?  You can’t.  It may have been a “nice” farm, but even that is a value judgement.  And value judgements aren’t evidence unless there is an established way to measure them.  So this “bestest” is nice, but it isn’t proof of anything.
  4. Mostly untrue. Most family legends have a thread of truth.  It can be a be a loose thread, but there is a thread, never the less, that can be either be cut out, or followed to the real story.  Think about cutting through whale blubber with embroidery scissors to get to the point.  There may be something there, but if its hiding under all that fat…?
  5. Patently false.  Not a bit of truth about it (“Lord Smitherines was born in 1650 and died at the end of the 16the Century) – and –
  6. Oh, Hell, no way.  Something so far off the charts that only the stupid, the uninformed the crazy will believe it. Like my great aunt who used to insist that my Grandmother’s family descended from “the great Kings of Roman Lithuania.”  Or the woman who stood up at one of my sessions I taught in Ohio and announced that “I have my family tree all the way to Adam and Eve.” Really?  Really?  Really.  If your common sense alarm goes off, call bullshit if you must.

Now some people confused “contemporary” information, that is to say information from the time period that the person or person(s) lived in to be “True Information” because looks like “primary source information”.

Only one thing is true about information that is contemporary to the subject – and that is that it is, at face value, contemporary to the subject.  Contemporary information, such as “established” magazines and “esteemed” journals (non-professional) can fall into to that “Mostly true” category.  Let us look at this example, from The American Monthly Magazine, published by the  Daughters of the American Revolution, January – June, 1909.


Lets look at the article with the highlighting, which is an announcement on Mrs. Elizabeth Dey Clark Little, the surviving daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Sargent Israel Clark.  Israel Clark’s line is well documented in the 17th century, and Israel Clark did his best to ensure that his line would continue, marrying four times, widowed three, and fathering fourteen children during his life.  The Youngest, Elizabeth, being born when her father was approximately 62.  Elizabeth’s middle name “Dey” is her mother Margaret’s middle name.  Elizabeth died on October 27, 1908.  There is no standardized Ohio Death Certificate for Elizabeth because the county didn’t start recording the form, which was mandatory beginning in 1909 in all 88 counties until December, 1908.  We are pretty sure that she died in Marion, Marion County, Ohio because the local paper, The Marion Star, ran her death notice stating that she  died at the home of her daughter Mary Little McPherson, on Leader Street in Marion.  And we know that in 1908, the McPherson’s lived on Leader Street, near West Fairground Street, then the Garden City Pike, in Marion, Ohio, based on city directories.  So we have no real evidence of her birth, or her death other than what we can get off of her death notice.  We can send away for a copy of her DAR paperwork to see what it tells us as well.

In her dotage


But there is the another problem with this article, which was probably submitted by the Findlay (Ohio) Chapter to the DAR for its magazine.  And it contains one sentence that no one seemed to catch that contradicts one of the article’s main assertions.  Go back and see if you can find it.

Did you find it?

Yes? No? Huh?

Well here it is:  “Mrs. Little came to Ohio at the age of eight years.”

Did you just have a “Hello?  Mom, it’s Conflict on the telephone, and it says it has done something…” moment, right?

The conflict is that somewhere after she was born in Ohio (“…and was born in Delaware County, Ohio, March 16, 1819.”) this article would lead you to believe that she came to Ohio in 1827 for the first time.

How can this be?  It’s can’t. People simply didn’t capriciously travel in 1819. And if it were true, where did she go, and why?

And I should note that Marion County, Ohio, where Israel settled for the remainder of his life, was “erected” (Yes, that is the proper term) from Delaware County, Ohio in 1821.  So she quite possibly could have been born in what is now Marion County, instead of what is now Delaware County proper.

But it does tell us that we can’t build a conclusive case with this article alone, even though it comes from a respected source, and just because it is a contemporary source to the subject.

What we need to find is either a definitive document – for 1819 that would be a letter, or a family bible entry, or a journal entry or some other type of sworn instrument that could resolve this conflict.

So when Conflict arises, it means rather than just ignoring it, it wants to be recognized, and resolved.




The hole in Ohio’s online historical newspaper access.


I am a native to Ohio, which makes me an “Ohioan”.  With the exception of a brief window in the 1980s when I moved to Washington, D.C., to go to school and to work, , I have lived in Shaker Heights, or Marion or Columbus, Ohio.

But in 2012, we were transferred when my husband’s employer said you have two choices: be bought-out, or move to Baltimore, Maryland.  Why move to Baltimore, “They name be Cahrm City, I am sure”?  Because his employer said that they wanted him here, and because we have grown accustomed things like food, shelter and medical insurance.  So we loaded up the truck and moved to Baltimore.

The problem for my genealogy research meant that I was no longer ten minutes to the Ohio Historical Society, now The Ohio History Connection, and no longer fifty minutes to Marion, or two-hours from Cleveland, but EIGHT hours, by car from Baltimore.

This meant my access was going to rely almost exclusively on online sites and databases.

And don’t get me wrong – Ohio’s well covered in these online databases and with digital imaging.  Thankfully, Ohio was the center of it all in the United States for more than a century.

Now, I am luckier than most when it comes to online databases for newspapers.

Newspaper Archive, and now, Newspapers.com have most of the Marion Star newspapers online.  Moreover, Chronicling America has the (loopy) Marion Mirror – a newspaper that usually took liberties with facts.

BUT, what I can’t get to from here are the newspapers for smaller communities like Bucyrus, Galion and Kenton, Ohio. Findlay, too, I believe.  Bucyrus is the county seat for Crawford County.  Galion is the second largest city in Crawford County, and for a county with a relatively small population, to have two cities of their size is unusual.  Kenton is the county seat for Hardin County.  Online access to Pickaway, Ross, Madison and Fairfield county is also slim to none online.

The access isn’t there because the 1) commercial companies that put newspapers online want the local newspapers to ship their microfilms to them to digitize them and or the papers may only have one or two sets of microfilm in existence.  The second reason is because the Ohio History Connection has failed to look at Ohio and see where the holes are when submitting content to “Chronicling America.”  They have also chosen to go with special “projects” like newspapers from the Civil War in during the 2014-2015 grant year, and some of this content is already online.

And with the current President, cough cough, who doesn’t believe in funding the humanities, I don’t think we are going to see a significant increase in the funding for Chronicling America.  The only way for that to happen is to elect someone else in 2020 – or in the 2018 Congressional Mid-Term elections.  Otherwise the program will wither on the vine.

At RootsTech I had a chance to speak with vendors from Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank and Find My Past.  And when I described this problem, the answers were all pretty much the same: “We’d love to have the content, just have them send us the microfilm.”  No contact information, no description of process, nada. Nothing.

But when a community only has one copy of the microfilm for their daily newspaper of record, they are not going to send it off willy nilly to some “black box”* and then wait la-ti-dah for it to get sent back.  They need funding for the  transport and some type of guarantee that the films will be returned, etc.  In other words they need information on how it works, costs and the features and benefits of getting all online.

And in the case of the Bucyrus Telegraph, Forum and the merged Telegraph-Forum, there is only one copy – and its at the library in Bucyrus.  Fat chance that’s going anywhere.  OHC in Columbus has the papers, but not the films.

So for those of us researching these counties in North Central Ohio from afar, the only online hope is to scour neighboring, larger communities online, cross our fingers and hope for the best.


*The Black Box theory is philosophical idea that ideas (input) go into an organization, or an institution, or some other type of “body” of peoples that is not open, that guards its inner workers and what emerges on the other side are products of that “input”.  And while inside of that shrouded process cannot be seen, it’s impossible to address (because the processes happen behind the scenes) or effect any answers to questions that might arise while the “body” is processing that information.  Within the black box, a disconnect can occur, with the results of input being unlinkable to the input.   So if I say “We need Apple’s” -> [BLACK BOX] -> We could get “fruit” “computers” or “sauce”.

Clear as mud?  I thought so…

Are you “Erect”?

Well Mr. Man, are you?   Or do you slouch when you walk to your job?  What about hang your head?  For shame! No wonder you can’t get ahead in life!

If you are a lover of the value of old newspapers in genealogy, you know that periodically you can get diverted by something on a page that has nothing to do with what you are looking for.  If you are looking for John Jones’ death notice and come across an advertisement headline that says “Pimply? Well don’t be!” you are going to at least scope out the claims of the product.  I mean, who wants to be pimply?  And who ever had to find a word that rhymes with “pimply”?  Not me.

This little gem is something I came across in the August 27, 1895 issue of the Marion Star, my hometown newspaper.   It promises, in direct, no nonsense fashion, how to stand up straight and tall and put your best foot forward.


OK, now admit it.  You tried at least one of these, right?  It was number 11, wasn’t it.

This little bit is what we used to call “Filler” in the older days of journalism when pages were laid out by hand.  Today, you press a button and the computer lays out the page.  But back then, with metal type slugs and hot metal castings, you did it manually.  It was hard, labor intensive work.  And try as you might to carefully lay everything out, sometimes you needed something to fill out the space and these little gems would be used.

And think about your ancestors – reading a newspaper, seeing this, and considering these tips as a serious means of self-improvement.  You have no radio, no TV, no electric lights, no computers or smart devices. And this is in an era when we are SEVENTY years from self-help book craze that got started with “You’re OK, I’m OK.”*  So why not make yourself erect (and you need to stop thinking dirty thoughts, if you are) and present a better you as you walk to the market, or walk into church, or to work.

Huzzah! For you Mr. Man!

Ready for a stroll.


I however insist that you not put forty pounds of anything on your head and run up and down the stairs as Number 6 proposes.

As you get through the day, if you must “Look upward as you walk on the sunny side of the street,” put on some sunglasses.  And watch out for people looking down at their cell phones.


*Note – I am not a fan of self help books.  One of the most unhappy wretches I have known in my life would never seek professional help, would go to work and then home, and they call and whine about their lives. “I never meet anyone,” they would opine.  When I suggest that they take up a hobby like bird watching, volunteering or GENEALOGY, their response was “I have a hobby.  I read self-help books.  They are so affirming.” 

Well, there you go, right?  

Trust me – the only one who is helped by a self help book is the author, every time someone buys their books.  But that’s my opinion – your mileage may vary.