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Showing posts from September, 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…

One Woman's Junk Is Another Woman's Treasure

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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 …

The Travelling Man

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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 grandmoth…

The Many Loves of James Quincy Davis

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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 R…

Today's Special Guest Blogger . . . My Mom

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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…

Jennie Esther Ballein Davis

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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 ch…

The Davis Curse

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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 hav…

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. Acco…

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 LettitiaTankersley 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 El…