Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Genealogy Year in Review

After a few years of limited interest in what I consider my primary hobby, I became active and interested in genealogy again in 2009.  My accomplishments:
  • I started putting my family tree on Ancestry.com
  • I have made a lot of progress in organizing the family photographs and documents I have obtained over the years.
  • I have met some distant and not-so-distant relatives with whom I have been able to exchange information.
Sharing information with my heretofore unknown relatives has been rewarding.  I had shied away from sharing my research with others because of a bad experience in the past when I shared a great deal of information with a distant cousin who didn't as much as acknowledge receiving it.

However, I had reached the point in my research where having only a few facts and maybe a photo or two wasn't enough.  I wanted to know more about the personalities of the people I have been researching for years.  To do this, I needed to network with people who had the type of information I was seeking, like family stories and photographs.

I began with the Donaldson branch.  My mom had only met a couple of her Donaldson cousins, since she was only seven when her father died and none of her cousins lived in this area.  I did some research and found the name and address of a gentleman whom I believed to one of my mom's cousins.  In return, a received a photocopy of a picture of my Donaldson great-grandparents and addresses of two other relatives.  I contacted these two individuals and heard back from another of my mom's cousins.  I have received a lot of information from this very kind and helpful lady.  She provided an address of another Donaldson family researcher who is (I think) my second cousin, once removed.  This lady has also been quite helpful.  It has been a pleasure getting to know some of my Donaldson relatives.

I have also gotten to know some of my Dudley relatives.  First, I met a third cousin, connecting through Ancestry.com.  We have exchanged information and he also put me in touch with a lady who is my second cousin, once removed.  I have also been able to exchange information with her and have been able to provide several photos of her great-grandfather, Charles Dudley, who must have loved to have his picture taken!   I am also hoping to receive information from another Dudley connection in the near future.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have met my Dudley relatives.

I haven't had quite as much success with my paternal lines.  I attempted to contact one of my dad's Ballein cousins with no response.  I heard from a very distant Ballein relative, but at this point we don't have anything to share with each other.  If any Balleins, specifically those with a Brown County, Ohio connection, happen to read this, please contact me by posting a comment to this blog.

My goal this year is to try to find some distant Davis cousins.  I made a connection in the Ogden branch, though.  Unexpectedly, I received a letter from a lady researching the Ogden family and asking if I had any photographs I could share.  She found my name and address on a pedigree chart I sent to the Brown County, Ohio Genealogy Society in the early 1990s!  I was able to exchange information with her.  She was kind enough to send me school pictures of my grandfather, James Quincy Davis.

Thanks to everyone who has been willing to share family information with me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

St. Mary's Church in Arnheim, Ohio

Let me begin by saying that this blog post is not about St. Mary's church in Arnheim, Ohio. I was hoping that this title would catch the eye of someone who attends St. Mary's and might be able to offer assistance because of the strange thing that happened to me today.

At work, I spoke to a woman in another department about a couple of business matters. She then said that her next question had nothing to do with work. Although I have known this woman for a number of years, she and I have never had a personal conversation and I have never told her about my family or interest in genealogy.

She asked if I had any relatives in the Sardinia, Ohio area. I told her I might, because my grandmother was from the Sardinia area. She explained that she has a vacation home in the Sardinia area and visited over the weekend. When she visits, she attends services at St. Mary's church and she said there is a woman who attends St. Mary's and looks exactly like me.

Now, if she had mentioned that she had seen someone who looked like me at any other spot on earth, including my other grandparents' hometowns, I would have probably been briefly interested and then have forgotten about it. But what are the chances that she would see someone who looked like me in the hometown of the family member I resemble most?

My paternal grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein, was born July 17, 1901 near Sardinia Ohio. Her father was Noah Hite Ballein and her mother was Dora Elma Wardlow. Hite Ballein's father was Peter Ballein and his mother was Margaret Kincaid. Elma's father was John Reese Wardlow and Lulu Dunn.

Perhaps this mystery lady has Ballein, Wardlow, Kincaid, or Dunn blood coursing through her veins. I would love to know. Grandma is pictured below. If this resembles someone you know, please post a comment on this blog.








Sunday, November 22, 2009

School Pictures

A couple of months ago, I received a letter from a distant relative, who found a family tree chart I sent to the Brown County, Ohio Genealogical Society over 15 years ago. We are both researching the Ogden family of Brown County. My paternal grandfather, James Quincy Davis, was the son of James Ulysses Davis and his wife, Rosa Ogden.

A few weeks ago, my distant relative was kind enough to send me copies of grandpa's school pictures from 1916-17 and 1917-18. He attended the Shiloh School, a one-room schoolhouse in Brown County. He would have been 10 to 12 years of age in these pictures. Even though one of the pictures contains a caption indicating which child he is, I didn't think it was him. I have a picture of him when he was around 14 and I know what he looked like. Also, my mom looked at him and was doubtful because he didn't have the "Davis ears" (large and protruding). I was disappointed.

Then, last week a friend allowed me to borrow his copy of the group photo from our fifth grade class trip to Washington, DC. At first glance, I didn't recognize anyone. As I looked more closely, trying to find myself in the photo, I was able to identify a few more people, but not myself. I scanned the photo and zoomed in. I identified some more kids, but still not me. I still don't recognize most of the kids and have not found myself in the picture. I saw most of these kids every school day for at least seven years, not to mention that I have been looking at myself for a long time now.

So, what lessons have I learned? Don't make assumptions and label photographs! I'm still not sure that's grandpa in the school picture, but I'm also sure I'm not quite as observant as I thought.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Lost Children

One family heirloom in my possession is "Detsie's cup." I don't know anything about this cup, except that it supposedly belonged to Detsie Ballein (pictured at right), the eldest child of Elma and Hite Ballein and the sister of my paternal grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein. It's just a small metal cup with a little handle and some engraving on it. Perhaps it was a gift from first time parents to their little girl. Detsie was born January 10, 1897 and died on August 27, 1899. It occurs to me for the first time that I don't even know where Detsie is buried. A little lost life; one of many in the days before advances in medicine. And, sadly, a life often forgotten in the course of genealogical research.

My maternal grandparents, Mary and Edd Donaldson, also lost two children. Ernest Mitchell Donaldson, known as Mitchell, was born in 1922 and died as an infant on January 8, 1923 from pneumonia. I don't believe I have ever seen a picture of Mitchell. Everett Dudley Donaldson was their second child, born in 1918. The story goes that at the age of five, Everett stepped on barbed wire and contracted tetanus, which took his life. It had to have been an emotional and time in my grandparents' lives. In 1922, Mitchell was born. In January 1923, Mitchell died. In January 1924, Rosemary was born. In March 1924, Everett died. Not only did they need to cope with the loss of their sons, but explain it to their other sons, Clarence and Edward. This picture shows Everett and big brother Clarence and little brother Edward on the pony. Mitchell and Everett are buried in Troutwine Cemetery in Lynchburg, Ohio.

Family trees are full of these little lost lives. We know little about them, except perhaps their birth and death dates. However, we need to honor the memory of these children and the families who loved them by remembering them as more than birth and death dates in the family tree.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An Impassioned Plea!

I'm frustrated and I need help. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been searching for the parents of my great-great grandparents, Thomas Dudley and Iva Lettitia Tankersley Dudley for several years. I have chosen to pursue Lettitia's parents, guessing that researching a less common surname might make my odds better. And, if I can find Lettitia's parents' names, maybe it will make it easier to find Thomas' parents. Although I continue my own research, I am also hoping that someone out there will someday read this blog post and contact me!

Iva Lettitia Tankersley was born around 1811 in Virginia. She married Thomas Dudley on 11/17/1830 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Marriages of Pittsylvania County, Virginia 1806 - 1830 by K. B. Williams lists her name as "Malitia Tankersly." The marriage bond was posted by Nicholas Dillard, a teacher in Pittsylvania County. Soon after their marriage, Lettitia and Thomas moved to Ohio, settling in Clark Township, Clinton County, Ohio.

She and Thomas had 11 children, Absalom (born 1833), Robert (1835), Campbell (1838), William (1841), John (1844), Jane (1846), twins Jesse and Berryman (1848), Mary Ann (1850), Lewis (1853), and one whose name I can't find. Thomas had died by 1870. In 1880, Lettitia was living with her daughter Mary Ann and her husband, Jeremiah Himes. I found a family tree online which indicates that Lettitia died in 1891, but didn't provide a source or contact information for the compiler.

So, if you know the names of Lettitia's or Thomas' parents (or any other information about them), please leave a comment. I'm desperate!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lulu

"We have a relative named Lulu? Sweet!" These were the words of my niece when I mentioned that my blog post would be on my great-great-grandmother, Lulu Dunn Wardlow.

I first learned of Lulu when I found her obituary in my grandmother's Bible. I asked my dad if he knew her. He said he did and that "she was a nice old lady." He couldn't tell me much more, except that he remembered his grandmother's family discussing Lulu's walking a half mile across a field to her daughter's home . . . at the age of 90.

Lulu Dunn was born to Robert and Elmina Shaw Dunn on August 20, 1854 in Sardinia, Ohio. She married John Reese Wardlow on August 3, 1873. They had nine children, the second of whom was my great-grandmother, Dora Elma Wardlow. John Wardlow was a farmer.

The first picture I saw of Lulu was the one below, of a family gathering, probably in the early to mid-1930s. Lulu is second from the left in the back row. I had a hard time picturing this unassuming elderly lady hiking a half mile to visit her daughter.


Then a distant relative was kind enough to share a picture of a younger Lulu. Now, this lady could walk half a mile across a field and harvest a crop and wrestle a bear on her way. She is neat as a pin and has a look of quiet determination. She looks kind and reliable. And I bet her children didn't have to wait until their father came in from the fields to be disciplined.

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this picture of Lulu. However, I'm sure the same words could be used to describe any number of other women of her generation. They weren't famous and aren't mentioned in history books. All they did was raise children and work until their hands were raw and nurse sick children (who sometimes didn't survive) and send their sons off to war. As my niece would say, "Sweet!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Cemetery Scare

In honor of Halloween, in this post I will share a frightening experience I had at Troutwine Cemetery in Lynchburg, Ohio.

Several of my Dudley family members are buried at Troutwine. My great-grandparents, Jesse (1847-1925) and Mary Shaper Dudley (1861-1947) are buried there. Jesse's sister, Jane Dudley Setty (1845-1901) is buried at Troutwine. Two of Jesse's and Mary's sons, Lewis (1880-1906) and Thomas (1890-1940), are buried there was well. My uncles Everett (1918-1924) and Mitchell Donaldson (1922-1923) are also buried at Troutwine Cemetery.

The day we visited, the cemetery was sun-drenched. It was a bright day and there weren't any trees in the cemetery to obstruct the sunlight. There were some wooded areas surrounding the cemetery. The grounds were well-maintained, not overgrown and neglected. As cemeteries go, this was a pleasant place.

Or so I thought. I was exploring the cemetery and walked toward a section that bordered a slightly wooded area. I was reading the headstones when I heard it. "Ooooooooh . . . oooooooh." I gasped! My heart was pounding! A ghost! As I began to come to my senses I heard it again. "Oooooooh . . . ." I carefully turned toward the sound. And there in the wooded area bordering the cemetery I saw it . . . a cow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Quaker Lambs

A couple of years after beginning my family history research, I decided it was time to compile my findings. At that point, I was somewhat perplexed over the Lamb family. Other than the basic information I found on censuses, I didn't know much about them.

My grandfather, Eddie Earl Donaldson, was the son of Mary Cordelia (Molly) Lamb. Molly was the daughter of Nathan and Anna Lamb. When I first compiled my research, I didn't know Nathan and Anna's parents' names, Anna's maiden name, or when they died.

One day I was perusing Wabash County, Indiana cemetery records when I found an entry for a Nathan Lamb at the Friends Cemetery. Initially, I thought it might have been a different Nathan Lamb or that he might have been buried in a Quaker cemetery even though he hadn't been Quaker. After all, my mom had never heard anything about Quakers in the family.

I decided to pursue the possibility that the Lambs were Quakers, first looking in William Wade Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. The floodgates opened. I was able to find information which confirmed that the Lambs were Friends. I was able to find information on generations of Lambs and other ancestors of whom I had previously been unaware.

One of my favorite characters in the Lamb family is my 3X great-grandfather, Jonathan Lamb. The peace-loving Quakers disciplined him on more than one occasion for his temper. In 1834, he was reported for "getting angry with one of his fellow creatures and using profane language." I like to think that Jonathan's anger was righteous - he was trying to right a wrong or taking a stand for an unpopular, but morally correct, position. On the other hand, he might have just been the black sheep (or in this case, the black Lamb) of the family.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wardlow Cemetery

On Memorial Day weekend 2003, my family travelled to Washington Township, Brown County, Ohio to visit the Wardlow Cemetery. My dad was quite weak by that time, due to the disease that would take his life less than three months later. We brought a lawn chair for him to sit in because he was so weak and standing was painful for him. However, he struggled to his feet and managed to walk around the cemetery with my eight-year-old niece and me to visit the grave sites of five generations of our family.

We walked to the rear of the cemetery to the oldest gravestone, which belongs to Samuel Wardlaw. Samuel and his wife, Elizabeth Nesbitt Wardlaw, moved from Virginia to Ohio with his parents Robert and Janet Wardlaw, and his brothers and sisters and their spouses. They were among the first settlers in this area and once owned the land where the cemetery is located. Samuel died in 1848. A foot stone marked EW was the only marker of Elizabeth's grave.

Samuel and Elizabeth's son, Levi, and his wife Abby Hall Wardlow are also buried in the cemetery. Some time in Samuel's and Levi's lifetime, the spelling of the family name changed from "Wardlaw" to "Wardlow." Unlike his parents and grandparents who travelled from Virginia to Kentucky and on to Ohio, Levi reportedly never strayed far from the homestead. He is quoted as saying that he had never seen the Ohio River, which was only around 25 miles away. Levi died in 1890 and Abby in 1891.

John Reese Wardlow was Levi and Abby's son. He and his wife, Lulu Dunn Wardlow, are buried near their daughter, Dora Elma Wardlow Ballein and her husband, Noah Hite Ballein. The Wardlow branch of my family were farmers through Elma and Hite's generation. Elma and Hite are buried next to their daughter, Jennie Esther Ballein Davis and her husband, James Quincy Davis. Esther and Quincy Davis were my dad's parents.

Under the canopy of trees covering the cemetery, we visited the graves of aunts, uncles, and cousins, some my dad had known and others he had not. We stood beneath the ancient oak tree that met our ancestors when they came to this burying ground to mourn and honor their loved ones. This was my dad's last visit to the Wardlow Cemetery and I will always remember the effort he made to honor his past.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Russell Shaw

I was reminded on Monday's news that the Brown County fair is this week. This, of course, made me think of my 5X great-grandfather, Russell Shaw. The first Brown County fair was held in Russellville, the town he founded, and reportedly his onions were prize winners at that first fair in 1850.

Russell Shaw was born April 19, 1781 in Rensselaer County, New York to Susannah and Anthony Shaw IV. Russell married Johanna Reynolds on February 16, 1800. Russell and Johanna and their children, Sylvester and Susan, arrived in what is now Brown County, Ohio in 1802. After their arrival in Brown County, Russell and Johanna added to their family.

In 1816, Russell Shaw purchased 200 acres of land at what is now State Routes 62 and 125 in Jackson Township, Brown County, Ohio. He established the town of Russellville and sold 36 lots of land. He donated the land for the public square and cemetery. At the first meeting of an elected Russellville town council in 1854, Russell Shaw was chosen to serve as town treasurer, a position he held until his death.

Russell first made his living as a blacksmith. He also worked as a farmer and owned a general store. He and his brothers, Asa and Peter, built steamboats in Ripley, Ohio. Russell was a member of the Christian Church in Russellville and a member of Mason Lodge No. 71 in Ripley.

Johanna Reynolds Shaw died April 30, 1864. Russell Shaw died July 21, 1864. They are both buried in the Russellville cemetery.

On August 31, 1930, a monument to Russell Shaw, donated by Russellville and Ripley businesses and Russell's heirs, was dedicated. The monument is located in a park in the Russellville town square. The inscription reads,
RUSSELL SHAW
PIONEER AND PATRIOT
FOUNDED RUSSELLVILLE IN 1816
SOLDIER IN THE WAR OF 1812
HONORED CITIZEN - CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Woman's Junk Is Another Woman's Treasure

I am in the process of organizing the notes, pictures, and memorabilia I have compiled from years of researching my family tree. This afternoon, I looked through one of my Grandma Donaldson's scrapbooks, which contains greeting cards she received from the late 1960s to her death in September 1976. Like her mother, Mary Shaper Dudley, she saved things that, to some people, might seem meaningless and needed to be disposed of. However, these "meaningless" remnants give us an important glimpse at their lives and what was important to them.


My great-grandmother kept hundreds of mementos of her children. She had dozens of pictures of her eldest son, Charlie, including one in front of the Packard factory in Detroit, where he was employed. She kept the funeral card and newspaper clippings from Lew's death in 1906, when he was struck by a train. She saved postcards from her son Frank telling about his travels around the country, a photo of Ab in his army uniform with his wife Christena, a picture of Tom and his navy buddies taken at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and an army photo of Clarence before he was shipped overseas to fight in World War I. The postcard shown at the left is from her daughter Mary and reads "To Mamma from Mary. Birthday Grettings."



My grandma's mementos include letters from a friend she met on a bus when she travelled to Florida, Mamie Duncan. Grandma and Mamie corresponded for many years. From reading these letters, I can tell that Mamie was a kind and considerate friend, which leads me to believe that grandma was a good friend to Mamie as well. Grandma also corresponded with Helen Klanke, her brother Charlie's step-daughter.



Through her illnesses, she received cards from her children, her brother Clarence and sister-in-law Dot, and her church friends. She kept birthday and Christmas cards and Valentines. She saved handmade cards and artwork from her grandchildren. She kept a postcard of a ship her grandson served on during the Vietnam war. She saved letters she wrote to my grandfather. She kept the remnants of my mom's World War II rationing book and, much to her embarassment, some of her report cards. She kept newspaper clippings about the happenings in the lives of friends and neighbors.



At some point in her life, grandma began writing her autobiography. She didn't get very far, but wrote enough to give us an idea of what her childhood was like. She told what it was like to grow up in the country as the youngest in her family with six older brothers. She explained how the family worked together to make a living. She told how the neighbors would all pitch in to help neighbors in need. Thankfully, grandma didn't throw away the beginning of her autobiography when she didn't get back to it (as I probably would have), since I consider it one of the most valuable items I possess.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Travelling Man


My maternal grandfather, Eddie Earl Donaldson, was born to David Scott and Mary Cordelia Lamb Donaldson in Elwood, Indiana on May 30, 1897.


My grandmother, Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson, said that while she was married to him, she never lived in one place for too long. By 1910, his family had moved to Missouri and they then moved on to Oklahoma. We don't know if he actually moved to Oklahoma with them. By 1915, he was living and working in Cincinnati, Ohio. We aren't sure why he chose to move to Ohio. One of my grandmother's brothers, Charlie, worked with my grandfather. Charlie brought him home for a visit and introduced him to my grandmother. They were married December 7, 1915.


Throughout their marriage, my grandparents lived in numerous locations in the Cincinnati area and Clinton and Highland Counties, Ohio. They also lived briefly in Oklahoma, where his World War I draft registration was completed.


Throughout their marriage, my grandparents often lived apart, my grandmother in the country with the children and my grandfather in the city to work. My mom remembers when she was four or five years old and the family visited her dad who was living and working in Oakley (a Cincinnati neighborhood). He gave my mom a gift of three new dresses, the same style in three different colors.


My grandfather was raised in a Pilgrim of Holiness church, his best friend was a minister, and he was married to a Christian woman. However, grandpa was far from a saint. His lifestyle choices likely resulted in his early death at the age of 46 on October 25, 1943.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Many Loves of James Quincy Davis




My paternal grandfather, James Quincy Davis, was born July 11, 1906 in Brown County, Ohio to James Ulysses and Rosa Ogden Davis.

Grandpa was married more than anyone else I have personally known - five times. He was first married at 20 years of age. The family story is that he divorced his first wife because she liked to play cards too much. I later learned that the young lady was only a teenager when they were married. So, I guess grandpa was married to a teenage card sharp.

Grandpa next married my grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein. The story goes that they met at a store in Eastwood in Brown County, Ohio. There was a story in the Cincinnati Post several years ago about Freeman's store in Eastwood which, back in the day, was a popular spot for socializing. It is possible they met at Freeman's. My grandmother was visiting the store with her sister Freda and brother Oscar. My grandparents were married on grandpa's 25th birthday, July 11, 1931. They had two children, my dad Russell Lee Davis and my aunt. Whereas my grandmother was quiet and humble, grandpa was colorful and outgoing. Grandpa was active in church, teaching Sunday School for many years and later preaching.

After my grandmother died, grandpa married Mabel Hawthorne Love on November 24, 1965. Mabel would nurse injured birds back to health and allowed them to fly around her house. Her house always seemed immaculate, though I'm not sure how she carried this off with birds in the house. I also remember the vegetable garden grandpa had when he was married to Mabel. Mabel died December 22, 1976.

After Mabel's death, grandpa married Lissie Howell. She was ill most of the time they were married. Eventually, Lissie's daughter and son-in-law took both of them into their home in Batavia, Ohio. I only met her a couple of times, but she was a sweet woman. Lissie died in 1982 and grandpa continued to live with his daughter- and son-in law until . . .

Grandpa married for the fifth and final time in 1986. He met his fifth wife (who is living, so I won't publish her name) at the Williamsburg Church of the Nazarene, where he served as an usher and she taught Sunday School. She cared for him through his final illnesses and his battle with dementia. Grandpa died on November 29, 1996.

One final note. Although grandpa never seemed to have trouble finding himself a wife, his son (my dad) was in his mid-20s and had never been married. So, grandpa introduced him to my mom one Sunday at the Fairfax Church of the Nazarene. Dad didn't move quite as fast as grandpa, but he and my mom were finally married at the Fairfax Church of the Nazarene in 1962.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today's Special Guest Blogger . . . My Mom

My mom wrote the following memories of her mother, Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson:



My Mom was a strong woman; she had to be. Although she was only about 5’4” and weighed around 115 pounds, she was wiry and energetic. When I was seven years old, my Dad, Eddie Earl Donaldson, died, leaving my mother with a year-old baby and three other children aged fifteen and under. This was during and shortly after World War II.

When I was nine, Mom sold the Dodge car Dad had left (he had no insurance, only the car) and put the $50 she got from the sale on a house in Afton, Ohio. There was a house, a dilapidated garage/shed, an outhouse and a chicken coop. Mom planted a half-acre garden (by hand and a hand-pushed plow) and bought a few chickens and a couple of roosters. She canned the vegetables she grew, as well as blackberries we would pick in the summer. Dandelions were Mom’s friends. She would pick the greens and either cook them or wilt them with hot vinegar, sugar and bacon grease and chopped up hard-boiled eggs.

We had a barrel by our backdoor to catch rainwater, with which we would wash our hair. We bathed in a galvanized tub, since we had no indoor plumbing. Water was carried from the well for drinking, cooking and laundry. Mom cooked on an old-fashioned wood stove, which had a water reservoir and a warmer oven. We would often walk along the railroad tracks which ran behind our house to pick up coal that fell from the cars. Since the house was heated by a pot-bellied stove, we used this and whatever wood we could find, along with the coal Mom bought, for heat. While we lived in Afton, we were given a long-haired Chihuahua puppy who we named “Penny.” Penny became not only our pet, but also a beloved member of our family.

When I was 12 years old, we moved to Florida to be close to my Aunt Dot and Uncle Clarence Dudley. The only time I ever saw Mom wear slacks was once on the beach while picking up shells. As usual, money was “as scarce as hen’s teeth” (as Mom would say). Once we dug up periwinkles at the beach. Mom took them home, rinsed and boiled them and made chowder. It wasn’t bad and tasted a lot like oyster soup.

At the age of 13, we moved to Newtown, Ohio and lived in a converted barn. The house was a duplex with five rooms on each side. My oldest brother, Clarence Donaldson, and his family lived on one side and we lived on the other.

Throughout the years Mom worked at numerous jobs to keep her family together. She baby sat, took in laundry, cleaned houses and even helped in the butchering of pigs. While we lived in Newtown, Mom did house cleaning at The Children’s Home of Cincinnati. She had to walk about a mile to catch a bus then transfer to another in order to get there.

Many times, she and I would carry our fishing poles and bait and walk about a half mile or so to Clear Creek and fish. I truly believe that she would have rather fished than eat.

When I was 19, we moved back to Fairfax, Ohio. Mom loved Fairfax and especially the Church of the Nazarene. She was at every service unless physically unable. The wonderful friends we had there were like another family to all of us. Mom loved flowers and had many rose bushes. She was the happiest while she lived in Fairfax.

Wherever we lived, when one of her neighbors was ill she would be there to offer her help. She would make tummy bands for newborn babies. (These were used in the “old days” until the umbilical cord fell off.) She would also make baby quilts.

Mom never missed decorating the graves on Memorial Day. If she didn’t have the money to purchase decorations, she would pick flowers from her garden and wrap them in damp paper towels or newspaper.

Mom was not an affectionate woman, but there was never a doubt about how much she loved each of us. She sacrificed for us more times that I can count.

My Mom was the dearest, most special, wonderful mother God ever created. When she passed away, Heaven rejoiced and I wept. I believe Mom is walking down those streets of gold, carrying her fishing pole to the crystal flowing river, listening to the angel choir and Jesus is saying to her, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant. Enter in to your rest.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jennie Esther Ballein Davis

Jennie Esther Ballein Davis was my paternal grandmother. She died when I was a baby, so I don't remember her. Her friend, Reverend Ruby Blanchard performed her funeral and was kind enough to provide a copy of her funeral service to my family several years ago:

Esther Ballein was born July 17, 1901, the second child in a family of five, to Elma Wardlow Ballein and Noah Hite Ballein at Sardinia, Ohio and departed this life February 9, 1965 at Cincinnati, Ohio. She was always a dutiful, reliable, respectful child - the joy of her parents' heart.

She was united in marriage with James Quincy Davis on July 11, 1931. To this union were born two children.

Esther and her husband were converted in the same service at the Fairfax Church of the Nazarene. They joined the church and were faithful members until September of 1957. However, at this time she and her good husband felt led by God to begin a new work in the Milford area which in a short time led to the organizing of a church. This church was incorporated as the Milford Church of the Nazarene and she was the first person to become a charter member. Here she served in various capacities, bearing the numerous burdens of this new work as a noble Christian soldier. Her body was frail, but her faith and zeal were unlimited. Regardless of the cost, she faithfully labored in the service for the Master she loved so well . . . .

During this last illness of several months, she bore testimony to her strong faith in God many, many times, and asked friends who visited her to join in songs and prayers and praise. Those who went to cheer her came away greatly strengthened in their spiritual lives. She never said an unkind word to anyone, nor about anyone. Her speech always exalted her precious Savior. The talent she had for writing poetry and music was dedicated to God.

She is survived by her husband, James Quincy Davis, two children . . . and three grandchildren . . . . Also, by three brothers - Howard, Harold and Oscar - one sister - Mrs. Freda Huggins and a host of other relatives and friends . . . .

In her unique humble manner she urged others to live Christian lives and meet her in heaven. Thus, earth's loss is heaven's gain and she eagerly awaits the reuniting of all her loved ones and friends in that better and brighter country where partings never come.

Freda Ballein Huggins, Esther Ballein Davis, Russell Lee Davis

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Davis Curse

Researching my Davis ancestry has been full of brick walls. The Davis surname is quite common, which can always make research difficult. The Davises haven't, to my knowledge, been rich, powerful, criminals, or officeholders, so no books have been written about them. If there are family pictures, documents, or bibles, I don't have them and don't know who does.


Samuel Davis, my 3X great-grandfather, is the first Davis ancestor in my family tree. According to census records, he was born around 1782 in Ireland. I don't know who his parents were. I don't know how or when he arrived in the United States. He settled in Brown County, Ohio, but not early enough to be mentioned in any of the Brown County histories. He and his wife (I'm not 100% sure who she was) had a family. I know their names, but not much more. I'm not even sure when Samuel died.


Isaac Davis, my 2X great-grandfather, was born around 1827 in Ohio, possibly in South Lebanon in Warren County, but I have no documentation of this. He married Lavinna Patton in Brown County on 10/24/1849. Lavinna was born in January 1823 in Ohio. I'm not sure when either Isaac or Lavinna died either.


Things pick up in the next generation, though, despite the fact that my great-grandfather's name was James (how many James Davises have trod the earth?). I have a couple of pictures (James and Rosa Ogden Davis' picture is below), more detailed census records, a death certificate, and some of my dad's memories.


I have neglected my Davis research for the last few years. It is always easier to research branches when you are actually finding information. I will have to use my creativity and best research and investigative skills to track down my Davis ancestors.

James Ulysses Davis and Rosa Ogden Davis

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Who Is Lucy Herr and Why Is She Living with My Great-Grandfather?

Years ago when I began researching my family history, I asked my Uncle Edward about my great-grandparents, David Scott Donaldson and Mary Cordelia Lamb. Among other things, he told me they didn't always get along and at one point lived miles away from each other.

According to the 1920 census, Mary was married and living in Chelsea, Oklahoma with some of her children, but not her husband. David was widowed and living in Oklahoma City with his "half-sister," Lucy D. Herr. Unless there is a long-lost family secret, David didn't have a half-sister.

From what I have been able to gather to date from censuses and her obituary, Lucy Deere was born in 1865 in Oregon to Mary and William Yates Deere. Her parents died when she was a child. She was a great-niece of John Deere of farm equipment fame. She was an artist, but also worked as a servant and a courthouse records researcher. She first married Don Alexander in Oregon and, after his death, Benjamin Herr in Oklahoma City. According to her obituary, "Sixty years ago she was in the headlines when John Mulvaney (sic), painter of Custer's Last Rally, committed suicide in New York, purportedly over his failure to win her love."

David and Mary Donaldson were again living together at the time of the 1930 census and Lucy Herr was back in Oregon. She later moved to Sacramento, where she died in 1946.

So, what was the nature of their relationship (I know what you're thinking, but I'm trying not to make assumptions), what brought them together, how long were they together, and why did they part ways?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Proceed with Caution!

When researching family history, I have learned the importance of finding primary sources for information. Although family trees prepared by others can be helpful in research, it is vital to verify the information through a primary source. Some examples from my own experience:
  • My great-great grandfather, John Shaper was born around 1836 and lived in Highland County, Ohio. I had been unable to determine when he had died, so I was quite excited to find that other researchers had discovered that he had died on 10/31/1917 in Highland County. At least one researcher had even provided the death certificate number. I ordered the death certificate and found that it was not my John Shaper, but a much younger person person by the same name.
  • I have been trying to find the names of the parents of my great-great grandmother, Iva Lettitia Tankersley Dudley (known as Lettitia) for several years. She was born in 1811 in Virginia. Some online family trees show that she was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Tankersley of Virginia. One family tree, though, indicated that this Lettitia Tankersley died in Indiana and had never married or had children. I contacted the owner of this family tree, who indicated that she obtained her information from a family bible in the possession of a cousin. It is, therefore, unlikely that this is my Lettitia.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beginning

For several years I had wanted to begin researching my family history, but just never got around to it. One Sunday evening in the early 1990s, I pulled out my Grandma Davis' Bible. Although family births, marriages and deaths weren't recorded in this Bible, it contained notations of scriptures, poems that she wrote and likely intended to set to music she wrote, pictures, report cards, obituaries, and assorted other items that reflected her life.

My grandmother was born Jennie Esther Ballein on July 17, 1901 near Sardinia in Brown County, Ohio. There is a little booklet in the Bible with a handwritten notation, "In case I should die I want this Bible to go to Jennie Esther Ballein, White Oak, Brown Co., Ohio, and no one else." The Bible was originally owned by one of her aunts.

Included in the Bible was an obituary for Lulu Dunn Wardlow, my grandmother's grandmother and my dad's great-grandmother. I noticed that Lulu had died in 1945 and asked my dad if he knew her. He told me he did . I held in my hand my great-great-grandmother's obituary and my dad could tell me a little about her. The next day, I made my first trip to main branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. One of the first books I found was Historical Collections of Brown County, Ohio by Carl N. Thompson. By the time I got home that evening, I had been able to trace back to my fifth great-grandfather in one branch of my grandmother's family. So, the journey began.