Caring for Baby, 1916 Style

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our-babies-booklet-1916Fear is a great motivator for new parents. That’s probably what the Illinois State Board of Health was counting on in 1916 when they published “Our Babies: How To Keep Them Well and Happy – A Booklet for Mothers.” It’s filled with tips that were sure to scare most parents (not to mention scaring readers a century later!)

On Fresh Air:


On the Regularity of Feeding:


And if you ‘re not sure how much to feed your baby, they’ve included this handy chart:


On Registering Your Child’s Birth:

As a genealogist, I applaud Illinois’ push to get parents to record their child’s birth. But, good grief, talk about scare tactics! (Click the image to enlarge it. You’ll want to read every over-the-top caption.)


“The Young Man: I have no birth certificate. The lack of it has been the greatest handicap of my whole life.”

Wow. The only thing that would have made it better would be a panel showing genealogists a hundred years later spitting on his parents’ graves, cursing them for not registering his birth.

You can read “Our Babies: How to Keep Them Well and Happy” and all of its spine-chilling tips on Internet Archive.

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 12 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015-12March Madness is in full swing. If your bracket is like mine, let’s just say that there’s always next year. (I’ve long held a theory that genealogists like March Madness because the brackets look like ancestor charts.)

Hollie Ann Henke at Relativity wrote about Hugh Clark, her 4th-great-grandfather and fellow music lover. Andrea Kelleher of How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey told about her 3rd-great-grandfather Jacob Kerr and how she’s sorting out the wheres and whens of his life. (I love the use of Google Earth!) Colleen Greene of Colleen & Jeff’s Roots shared the reason why she’s beginning the search for her biological mother. (Colleen — we all wish you well as you start that journey.)

The optional theme this week was “Same.” I featured the only other Amy in my database: Amy Skinner, daughter of my 4th-great-grandparents Robert and Elizabeth (Spencer) Skinner. The post is almost more about her minister and how he provided insight into Amy’s life.

Your Turn

Who did you write about this past week? Leave a comment with a link to your post and the name and a bit about the ancestor. (Cousin bait!) Also, take a look at the posts from Week 11. Reading some of those might help you forget about how poorly your bracket is doing.


Upcoming Themes:

  • Week 13 (Mar 26 – Apr 1) – Different
  • Week 14 (Apr 2 – 8) – Favorite Photo
  • Week 15 (Apr 9 – 15) – How Do You Spell That?
  • Week 16 (Apr 16 – 22) – Live Long
  • Week 17 (Apr 23 – 29) – Prosper

The April themes post has ideas for approaching the optional weekly themes.

How the Minister Gave Answers: Amy Skinner (52 Ancestors #12)

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

It’s easy to focus solely on our relatives. After all, they’re the ones we’re trying to learn more about. However, sometimes we need to take a look at the others they associated with to get a better idea of their lives.

Amy Skinner was a daughter of my 4th-great-grandparents Robert and Elizabeth (Spencer) Skinner. She married William Yost in Perry County, Ohio on 18 January 1838.1)William Yost and Amy Skinner marriage, Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,; digitized image of Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 1, page 246. Amy died in Perry County on 29 December 18862)Perry County, Ohio Death Records, Volume 1 (Junction City, OH: Perry County Chapter, OGS, 1986), p. 423. Note: her FindAGrave memorial lists the year as 1888; I’m inclined to believe the death record. and is buried in the Lutheran Reformed Cemetery in Thornville.3)Amy Skinner Yost, memorial 127790110,

Her burial in the Lutheran Reformed Cemetery caught my eye. The Skinners were from a long line of Baptists. Amy’s parents, Robert and Elizabeth, are both buried in the Hopewell Baptist Church Cemetery. Amy’s brother William married Matilda Debolt, the daughter of Baptist minister George Debolt. So where does this tie to the Lutheran Church come in?

I re-examined her marriage record. Amy and William were married by Charles Hinkel, Minister of the Gospel. Time to do a little digging on Charles.

William Yost and Amy Skinner marriage record, Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 1, page 246.

William Yost and Amy Skinner marriage record, Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 1, page 246.

History of Perry County, Ohio by Clement L. Martzolff states, “This church [the Lutheran Church at Somerset] and most of the other Lutheran Churches in the county was served by Rev. Chas. Hinkle who is buried in the old cemetery.”4)Clement L. Martzolff, History of Perry County, Ohio (by the author, 1902), p. 100. Available on Internet Archive. So Amy’s connection to the Lutheran Church goes back at least to her marriage to William Yost.

This split with her parents’ religion didn’t seem to alienate her from the family, at least not officially. Amy was mentioned in her father’s will with the bequest that the daughters “share and share alike.”5), Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996, Robert Skinner will, Perry County probate case 559; Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio. We’ll likely never know if there was tension in the family because she married a Lutheran. But taking a look at the minister who married Amy and William gives a little bit of insight into Amy’s life.

References   [ + ]

1. William Yost and Amy Skinner marriage, Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,; digitized image of Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 1, page 246.
2. Perry County, Ohio Death Records, Volume 1 (Junction City, OH: Perry County Chapter, OGS, 1986), p. 423. Note: her FindAGrave memorial lists the year as 1888; I’m inclined to believe the death record.
3. Amy Skinner Yost, memorial 127790110,
4. Clement L. Martzolff, History of Perry County, Ohio (by the author, 1902), p. 100. Available on Internet Archive.
5., Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996, Robert Skinner will, Perry County probate case 559; Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio.

10 Ways Your Genealogy Society Might Be Driving Away Visitors

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There’s a secret about attendance at genealogy society meetings. It isn’t enough to get people in the door. You have to get them to come back.

Thumbs downI’ve been to a lot of genealogy society meetings over the years. I mean A LOT of meetings. Large societies, small societies, societies in the country and societies in the city. None of them have reported an overabundance of attendees at their regular meetings.

I’ll be honest. There have been times when I’ve sat in these meetings and thought, “You know, it’s no wonder only a handful of people come here regularly. Who would want to come back?”

Attendance is a recurring issue with some churches. Thom S. Rainer noticed this and did a Twitter survey about why people didn’t make return visits to a church. The top 10 list of responses sounded very familiar to me — and very applicable to genealogical societies. I have seen each of them happen in genealogy societies. I’ve adapted Dr. Rainer’s language and added my own commentary.

1. Having a stand up and greet one another time

Rainer reported that this response surprised him. It surprised me, too, until I thought about it. Think about a time when you’ve been introduced to a new group of people, such as being the new kid in class. Suddenly, all eyes are on you and you’re put on the spot. Who enjoys being in that position? My takeaway: Make people feel welcome without making them feel singled out.

2. Unfriendly members

Who wants to come back to a place where people ignore you or are rude to you?

3. Unsafe/unaccessible area

Rainer reported this as “unsafe or unclean children’s area,” which was a turn-off for attracting families with young children. For genealogy societies, we should evaluate if the meeting places are easily accessible and safe. Are there lots of stairs? Is the parking lot well-lit?  Accessibility could also be looked at in terms of meeting days and times. Is Monday at 3:00pm the most accessible time for people to attend?

4. No place to get information

Don’t assume that people know things like upcoming meetings, special events, or member benefits. Have a clearly-marked area where people can get this information.

5. Bad website

Don’t even get me started on this one. People might not even make it to your meeting if your society has a bad website. All of the basic info should be there, including the address and time of your meetings. I wish I had a dollar for every website that said something like “We meet the 2nd Tuesday of the month at the firehouse.” Uh, which firehouse? What time?

6. Poor signage

You know that the meeting room is up on the 2nd floor at the end of the hall, but new people might not. Make it as easy and painless as possible to find you.

7. Insider language

Don’t lose people with jargon. Rainer’s favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.” I’ve heard similar examples at genealogy society meetings. “March 31 is the deadline for SAs for the CPF.” Huh?

8. Boring or bad meetings

Because who wants to come back if the meeting is boring? Do you really need to have an hour-long business meeting every time or do you do it because you’ve always done it that way?

9. Members telling guests that they were in their seat

Hard to believe this happens, but it does.

10. Dirty facilities

I’ve been to meeting spaces where the carpet stains appeared to be a few decades old. It doesn’t make for a welcoming experience.

We don’t like to think of things like clean rooms or unclear signs as keeping people from returning. We certainly don’t like to think of our members as being a source of frustration for new people. However, all of it has an impact.

It’s cliché to say that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. But you know what? It’s true. Take a good look around at your society. What first impression is it making?

Walking away

Are your first-time visitors walking away and not coming back?

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 11 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015-11There was a lot of green in this week’s posts. That’s not surprising, considering the optional theme was “Luck of the Irish.”

Some of the many posts that stood out to me this week include: Cheryl Biermann Hartley of My Search for the Past wrote about the lucky McGaughey family Bible. Patricia Rohn of Shaking the Tree wrote about her great-grand uncle Amandus Logue who worked on construction of the Panama Canal. (Cool name and a cool photo!) Melissa Wiseheart of A Wise Heart’s Journey wrote about Zerilda Eleanora Rakestraw Springer, who she calls “almost a ghost.”

Another post that I’d like to highlight is by Roberta Estes of DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy. Roberta said that doing the 52 Ancestors challenge got her to thinking about how her research has progressed over the years… and how she has 11 things she’d do differently.

My contribution this week was James Orr, one of my many ancestors with rather fuzzy Irish origins. No Famine immigrants for me — my Irish were already in North America by 1800, which makes it a bit challenging. (As if Irish research weren’t already challenging enough!) Ironically, within just a few hours of posting that, Ann Lamb left a comment with clues on where I might be able to find him. Thank you, Ann! It goes to show that writing about your ancestors really can help your research.


Upcoming Themes:

  • Week 12 (Mar 19 – 25) – Same
  • Week 13 (Mar 26 – Apr 1) – Different
  • April themes

James Orr: Possible Irish Connection (52 Ancestors #11)

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coat-of-arms-of-irelandConsidering my estimated 45% Irish DNA,1)AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate, 18 March 2015. you’d think that writing a post for “Luck of the Irish” would be a piece of cake (or a piece of Irish soda bread). Not the case. And, yes, I realize it’s just an estimate and that “Irish” DNA might not be specifically from the Emerald Isle. But good grief, 45%?! You’d think I have one line that just screams, “Hey! We’re Irish!!”

My challenge with identifying an Irish ancestor is that so many of them who supposedly came from there did so in the mid- to late-1700s. That’s not exactly an ideal time for finding records on either side of the pond. So there are lots of family histories and county histories saying “His father was from Ireland” with nothing to back it up.

Such is the case with James Orr, my 5th-great-grandfather. Correspondents and SAR applicants give his birth as “Ireland.” Sometimes they’re specific (sorta) and list it as “Northern Ireland.”

What I do know is that he married Mary Dale, probably in Maryland. They eventually moved to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where James died circa 1815.2)Will Abstracts 1785-1815 Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

References   [ + ]

1. AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate, 18 March 2015.
2. Will Abstracts 1785-1815 Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

Finding New Death Certificates on Seeking Michigan

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Yes, you read the headline correctly. I’m talking about Michigan death certificates. Just because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Buckeye doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a great genealogical resource from that state up north. (Plus, my 3rd-great-grandmother Margaret McKitrick died there in 1924, so I was pretty excited to see this new collection!)

Seeking Michigan ( has had death certificates from 1897-1920 on the site for some time. This week, they added 1921-1939. (NOTE: The title of the collection currently reads “1921-1952.” The index from 1940-1952 will actually be added over the next few weeks, with images added as Michigan’s 76-year privacy restriction allows.)

To access these new certificates, go to and click “Advanced Search” at the top of the page:

Seeking Michigan website death certificates

You’ll get a search form and you can select which collection(s) you want to search:


Although you can search both sets of death certificates at once, I suggest you search them separately. My experience is that combining the two collections and doing a search for “Last Name” (rather than “All fields”) breaks the search. For example, I did a search for Behnke in “Last Name” and had both collections selected. I got zero results. However, when I did the search for Behnke in “Last Name” in just the 1897-1920 collection, I got 32 results. There is no “Last Name” option for the 1921-1952 collection. (I suspect this is the issue with getting no results when combined and doing a “Last Name” search. Hopefully the fine folks at Seeking Michigan will get the fields mapped so that “Last Name” will work as expected.)

(UPDATE: Kris Rzepczynski of the Archives of Michigan confirmed that there is a little bug with the new collection that isn’t allowing searches by “Last Name.” This should be fixed when the 1940-1952 certificates are added in a few weeks. In the meantime, either search the two collections separately or leave the search field as the default “All fields.”)

Searching for Margaret McKitrick

My 3rd-great-grandmother Margaret McKitrick died in Michigan in 1924. I did my searches only in the “1921-1952″ collection. The first search I did was for McKitrick in all fields — and I got zero results. I did the search again for Mc Kitrick (with a space) in all fields and got this result:

Margaret McKitrick results in Seeking Michigan

Tip: When working with “Mc” or “Mac” surnames, always run your search twice — once with a space and once without.

This results looks like the one I’m looking for. Yay! To see the certificate, I clicked the little thumbnail image.

Seeking Michigan death certificate viewer

I can click and drag the image to see different parts of it, I can zoom in and out. I can also download the whole image to my computer and also share it to social media. (Because who doesn’t want to share their ancestors’ death certificates on Facebook?! Seriously. This would be great for sharing with your cousins!)

I was thrilled when I found Margaret’s death certificate. There has been conjecture among her descendants about her mother’s maiden name. I know that Margaret’s maiden name was Morrison and that her father’s name was John. I also suspect that her mother was Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Finally, a record that should tell me Margaret’s mother’s maiden name! I scrolled down on the certificate, anxious to read the section about parents. There, I found…

Close-up of Margaret McKitrick's death certificate

Close-up of Margaret McKitrick’s death certificate

Father: John “Marson”

Mother: Unk.

Apparently Margaret’s son Elmer, the informant on her death certificate, didn’t know the name of his grandmother. Sigh. All Seeking Michigan can do is provide the certificate. They can’t do anything about uninformed informants ;)

Speaking at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

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The Ohio Genealogical Society is having its annual conference 9-11 April 2015 at the Sheraton at Capitol Square in Columbus. The keynote speaker is the incredible Judy Russell. I’ll be presenting two sessions there:

  • Timelines: The Swiss Army Knife of Genealogical Research (Thursday, 9 Apr at 5:00)
  • How Do I Know That’s My Ancestor? (Saturday, 11 Apr at 4:00)

These two topics are fairly new, but they’ve quickly become two of my favorites. If you stick around for these (yes, both are in the last slot of the day!), I bet you’ll have at least a chuckle or two. (The jokes are pretty bad, so I won’t promise full-out laughter ;) ) And, oh yeah, you might learn a couple of things about timelines and how to make sure that record you found is really for your ancestor. (The bad jokes are really just a bonus.)

Early-bird registration discount ends Wednesday, March 18!

Save yourself at least $30 by registering before the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18. You can register online or by mail. I hope to see you there!


April 2015 Themes for 52 Ancestors

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

Spring is springing! Let’s shake off the remnants of winter and get to writing about our ancestors! Here are April’s optional weekly themes for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks:


Week 14 (April 2-8) – Favorite Photo: Who is in a favorite photo of yours? Or tell the story of the photo itself — where was it taken, what was the event?

Week 15 (April 9-16) – How Do You Spell That? What ancestor do you imagine was frequently asked that? Which ancestor did you have a hard time finding because of an unusual name?

Week 16 (April 16-22) – Live Long. Time to feature a long-lived ancestor. Any centenarians in the family?

Week 17 (April 23-29) – Prosper. Which ancestor has a rags-to-riches story? Which ancestor prospered despite the odds?

The weekly recaps will be posted on Thursdays; you can add your links to those posts when it’s time. I look forward to seeing your posts!

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 10 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015-10Week 10 is milestone. Not only are we in the “double digits” of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, but we’re also seeing signs of Spring! For those of us in the north, this comes not a moment too soon.

The optional theme of “Stormy Weather” was interpreted in a  number of ways. Some people wrote about weather events; others wrote about storms of a personal nature. There were others — myself included — who opted not to use the theme at all. Here are just a few of the posts this past week that stuck out to me. Beth Gatlin of So Many Ancestors told the story of her homesteading ancestors and the (literal) storms they endured. (Honestly, it reads like the plagues of Egypt!) Paula at Shaking the Branches wrote about the many storms that her grandmother had to face and the stormy relationships she had. Cathy Meder-Dempsey of Opening Doors in Brick Walls didn’t use the theme at all when writing about her family living in Luxembourg between the World Wars. You have to check out the family photos that she posted! (Warning: You will likely be jealous. I know I am!)

I didn’t follow the theme this week. Instead, I looked at my 3rd-great-grandmother Elizabeth Kelley, who died in 1852 in Perry County, Ohio. I have no photos of her house, but I was able to use her probate records to take a peek inside.

Please take a moment to share a link to your Week 10 post. Be sure to go back to the Week 9 recap and take a look at those posts. You never know when someone is writing about your ancestor!


Upcoming Themes:

  • Week 11 (Mar 12 – 18) – Luck of the Irish
  • Week 12 (Mar 19 – 25) – Same
  • Week 13 (Mar 26 – Apr 1) – Different

If you want some ideas for using these optional themes, check out the March theme post. (And remember — you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to!) Also, the April themes will be coming soon!