Tag Archives: 52 Ancestors

John Johnson. Yes, really. (52 Ancestors #14)

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canada-flagJohn Johnson. Yes, my 3rd-great grandfather’s name was John Johnson.

A few facts about John:

  • Born circa 1794 in Upper Canada
  • Arrived in Buffalo, New York in 1817
  • Declared his declaration to be naturalized in Morgan County, Ohio in June 1837
  • Naturalized in Morgan County, Ohio in October 1840
  • Lived in Bloom Township, Morgan County, Ohio in 1850
  • Died 16 February 1851 and is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Bristol Township, Morgan County

I wonder if John appreciated how common his name was. His children were Juliett, Uthama, Enoch, Elizabeth, Ezra, Eber, Eliza, John, Margaret, Jeremiah, and Sarah Ann. (Frankly, I’m thankful that I descend from Eber. It’s easier to research Eber Johnson than John or Sarah!)


  • Genealogical Extracts from Naturalization Records of Morgan County, Ohio, (n.p.: Morgan County Genealogical Society, 1981), p. 23.
  • John Johnson household, 1850 federal census (population), Bloom Township, Morgan County, Ohio, page 102B.
  • John Johnson tombstone, Mt. Zion Cemetery, Bristol Township, Morgan County, Ohio.

A Quick Look at Mary Deffenbaugh Danison (1796-1888), 52 Ancestors #10

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I’m going to admit up front that this is a very quick look at my 3rd-great-grandmother Mary Deffenbaugh Danison. But I thought it might be bad form to miss a week in my own challenge…

Mary Deffenbaugh was born 6 May 1796 in Maryland. She married Abisha Danison (don’t you love that name?!) on 8 February 1816 in Allegany County, Maryland. By 1820, Mary and Abisha were living in Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio.

Mary died 20 July 1888 and is buried in the Danison Family Cemetery in Hopewell Township.

Clearly, I need to do more research on Mary.


  • Abisha Danison household, 1820 Federal census (population schedule), Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio, unpaginated (page 3 of the Hopewell Township section).
  • Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp.. Maryland Marriages, 1667-1899 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.
  • Perry County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society, Perry County, Ohio, Hopewell and Madison Township Cemeteries (Junction City, OH: by the Chapter, 1989), p. 9.

The Family Scattered, But He Stayed Still: George Skinner, 1841-1920 (52 Ancestors #8)

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If you were expecting the tale of my second ancestor who died a fiery death, you might be disappointed. (How’s that for an intro?!) I was sick most of last week and couldn’t complete the research that I wanted to devote to it. So instead, I present to you my great-great-grandfather, George Austin Skinner.

George was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1841, one of nine children born to William Harrison and Matilda (Debolt) Skinner. What has fascinated me about George is that he never moved away from Perry County. That by itself isn’t extraordinary, until you put into context with the rest of his family.

His father William died in 1850, which left Matilda to raise the youngest seven children. (George’s brother Marian was just 11 months old at the time of William’s death.) By the 1860 census, the family had scattered. Matilda (twice-remarried) was living with her daughter Amaretta and her husband in Jay County, Indiana. George’s brothers Robert, William, and possibly John Rezin were also in Jay County. His brother Stephen was in Porter County, Indiana. Brother Marian is unaccounted for (so far).

Why did only George stay behind in Perry County? Even his grandfather George Debolt had moved on to Jay County.

For reasons yet unknown, George did stay behind. His descendants are grateful he did, because it was in Perry County that he met and married Susan Orr. They had 11 children, including my great-grandmother Clara (Skinner) Starkey.

George died in Thorn Township, Perry County, Ohio on 28 March 1920. He is buried in Zion Ridge Cemetery.

Came to a Fiery End: John Ramsey, 1860-1941 (52 Ancestors #7)

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John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey, my great-grandfather, was a farmer all his life. It was working the land that eventually claimed his life.

John was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1860, the son of Samuel and Charlotte (Danison) Ramsey. In 1887, he married Melzena Kelly. John and Melzena had a tough life. They lost at least four children before their daughter Carrie was born in 1895; they would lose six children in all before 1900.

When Melzena died at the age of 49, John was left to care for four children, ranging in age from 6 to 16. (Ralph, my grandfather, was the 6-year-old.) Surprisingly, John never remarried.

John’s son Luke never married; he lived at home until John’s death. My mom remembers the front room at her Grandpa Ramsey’s house. It had a wood stove and a chair on either side — one for her grandpa and one for Uncle Luke. She also remembers her grandpa chewing tobacco and spitting into the fire. (Eww.)

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

Tuesday morning, 8 April 1941, John went to one of his fields to burn off some brush. It isn’t known if he had a heart attack and collapsed or if the fire turned on him and he was overcome by smoke. In either case, he collapsed and was burned “beyond recognition.” He was discovered later that afternoon by one of mom’s classmates.

He and Melzena are buried in Highland Cemetery in Glenford.

NOTE: John Ramsey isn’t my only ancestor to meet with a fiery end. Next week, I’ll discuss my ancestor John McClelland, who participated in the ill-fated Crawford Campaign.


Ella (Steele) Young, The Original Groupie? (52 Ancestors #5)

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Ella (Steele) and Thomas Andrew Young, Washington County, Ohio, circa 1910.

Ella (Steele) and Thomas Andrew Young, Washington County, Ohio, circa 1910.

You might remember the man in the photo from a previous 52 Ancestors post. I suspect that Thomas Andrew Young, my great-great grandfather, was an original member of ZZ Top. If he was, does that make the woman in the photo — his wife, Ella Steele Young — the original groupie? (Maybe I shouldn’t continue this analogy much further!)

Ella, the daughter of James and Mary (Belt) Steele, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1855. The Steeles moved to Washington County, Ohio sometime before 1880. (More likely before 1879, as Ella and Thomas were married there 10 August 1879.)

If you look at just the 1910 census for Ella, you would get an incomplete (and inaccurate) picture of her life. According to it, she was the mother of 0 children, 0 of whom were living. In reality, she was the mother of 3, only 1 of whom was still living in 1910:

  • Robert Andrew, born 1880, died 1953. (I’m quite thankful he lived; he’s my great-grandfather!)
  • Mary Elizabeth, born and died 1885
  • Clara Adah, born 1893, died 1894

Ella M. (Steele) Young died in Licking County, Ohio (where her son Robert lived) 5 November 1937. She is buried in Lynch Cemetery in Washington County with her husband Thomas.


  • Washington County, Ohio birth and death records.
  • Young, Ella M. death certificate, certificate 70109 (Ohio, 1937), Licking County, Ohio, downloaded from FamilySearch.org.
  • Young, Thomas, 1910 U.S. census, Fearing Twp, Washington Co, Ohio, page 5A.
  • Young, Thomas A. Civil War pension file application 1122569, certificate 1000598.
  • Young, Thomas A. and Ella M. Steele marriage record, vol. 6, entry #5819, Washington County, Ohio marriage records.

I Think My Ancestor Was in ZZ Top (52 Ancestors #4)

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Thomas Andrew Young, my great-great grandfather, was born in Washington County, Ohio 30 August 1847 and I suspect he was a founding member of ZZ Top.

Thomas was the son of John and Jane Mary (Douglass) Young. Among his 11 siblings were his two worthless brothers John and Douglass. Thomas lived his entire life in Washington County, with the exception of 1903-1906 when he and the family lived in Reynolds Store, Frederick County, Virginia.

He served in the Civil War for a brief period. He enlisted in the 189th Ohio Infantry on 20 February 1865 and was discharged in September of that year. For his service and subsequent disabilities of “heart trouble, rheumatism, throat trouble, chronic diarrhoea and deafness in left ear,” he originally drew a pension of $6/month. This was raised periodically. By the time he died in 1920, his pension was $19/month. His widow Ella (Steele) Young, whom he had married 10 August 1879, drew a pension of $40/month.

So, why do I think Thomas Andrew Young was one of the founding members of ZZ Top? Compare his photo (circa 1910) on the right to that of two members of ZZ Top (shown on the left).

Thomas Young, circa 1910.

Thomas Young, circa 1910.

ZZ Top by Renato Cifarelli. Used under Creative Commons license.

ZZ Top by Renato Cifarelli.
Used under Creative Commons license.


Thomas Andrew Young died in Washington County, Ohio 23 October 1920 and is buried in Lynch Cemetery. Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), his cause of death was “cancer of the face.”


  • Young, Thomas A. Civil War pension file application 1122569, certificate 1000598.
  • Young, Thomas A. Death certificate #36644 (1920), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.
  • Young, Thomas A. and Ella M. Steele marriage record, vol. 6, entry #5819, Washington County, Ohio marriage records.

George Debolt, Old School Baptist Minister (52 Ancestors #3)

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I come from a long line of farmers. And when I say “long line,” I mean that I have very few male ancestors who weren’t farmers. George Debolt, my 4th-great-grandfather, was an Old School Baptist minister.

George was born in 1786 in Pennsylvania, probably Fayette County. By 1811, he was preaching in Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio. George also preached in Perry and Licking counties. With his son-in-law Eli Ashbrook, he organized the Harmony Baptist Church in Licking County.

George’s first wife Mary Rider died in 1850. In 1852, George married Sarah Spence, the widow of David Allen. By 1860, George and Sarah moved to Jay County, Indiana and were living with Sarah’s son Joseph. Not surprisingly, neither the 1850 nor the 1860 census indicates George as owning any real property.

Close-up of George Debolt's tombstone, Boundary Cemetery, Jay County, Indiana. Photo by Amy Crow, 20 August 2004.

Close-up of George Debolt’s tombstone, Boundary Cemetery, Jay County, Indiana. Photo by Amy Crow, 20 August 2004.

George died 1 October 1867 (likely in Jay County) and is buried in Boundary Cemetery along with his widow Sarah.


  • Brister, E.M.P. Centennial History of the City of Newark and Licking County, Ohio. Vol. 1. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1909. [Available on Google Books.]
  • George Debolt tombstone, Boundary Cemetery, Jay County, Indiana. Photo by Amy Johnson Crow, 20 August 2004.
  • Joseph Allen household, 1860 U.S. census, Pike Township, Jay County, Indiana, p. 52. [George is living with his step-son Joseph Allen.]
  • Rezin Debolt household, 1850 U.S. census, Thorn Township, Perry County, Ohio, p. 418. [George is living with his son Rezin/Reason.]
  • Wiseman, C.M.L. Centennial History of Lancaster, Ohio and Lancaster People. Lancaster: by the author, 1898. [Available on Google Books.]

52 Ancestors – #2 Melzena Kelly Ramsey, A Life of Loss

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Melzena Kelly Ramsey, my great-grandmother, was one of the first “new” ancestors I discovered when I started climbing the family tree. Unlike Dad’s side, where my grandma told me the names of many of the ancestors, Mom’s side was pretty much unknown to us.

I first found Melzena in the 1910 census when I was looking for my grandfather, Ralph Ramsey. I didn’t yet have a copy of Grandpa’s birth or death record, but I did have access to the 1910 census of Perry County, Ohio — on microfilm at my local public library. (This was the days before the Internet took off. There were forums on CompuServe and message boards, but nothing approaching digitized records. Yes, I realize how old I sound now. Get off my lawn.) Grandpa was easy to find; he lived in Hopewell Township, Perry County his entire life. Two-year-old Ralph, listed as son of John Ramsey; Melzena was listed as John’s wife.

I remember thinking what a neat name — Melzena. It wasn’t the type of name I was expecting.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

When you sift through the numbers and the plain facts, the census can show so much about a person. Melzena Ramsey, wife (of John), female, white, 45 years old, married once (M1), married 23 years. It was the next two columns that made me curious. 11. 5. I remember scrolling back up to the top of the page to see what those columns were for.

Mother of how many children: Number born. Number now living.

11 children born. 5 now living.

Melzena had lost six children.

Combing through the Perry County birth and death records, only four of the six have been identified:

  • Edward, born 6 March 1888, died 2 April 1888. Cause of death: “debility.”
  • unnamed son, aged 13 days, died 17 February 1889. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed infant (sex not listed), aged 1 day, died 17 April 1891. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed daughter, aged 15 days, died 14 July 1894. No cause of death listed.

The 1900 census also shows Melzena as having lost six children, so the remaining two must have died before then. Was there a child before Edward and maybe a child before the daughter they lost in 1894? The first child to survive to adulthood was their daughter Carrie, born in 1895. Maybe they lost a child between Carrie and Frank (b. 1898). We’ll likely never know.

I think of Melzena and the children she lost. Did she dote on Carrie and her other children as they grew older or was she distant, afraid to get attached?

In a cruel twist of fate, Melzena died 6 July 1914 at the age of 49. Her five surviving children ranged in age from 19 to 6. For so long, she was a childless mother; all too young, her sons and daughters became motherless children.

Cousin Bait and the 52 Ancestors Challenge

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Bait by Laura Gilmore on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

There are tons of reasons to blog about your ancestors. You want to remember them, sort out a research problem, share a cool find. But let’s be honest. We all hope that our post will lead us to finding new cousins. It’s what’s known as cousin bait.

Unlike the kind that you get at the local bait shop, cousin bait is a way to attract others who are researching the same lines. It’s all about getting names and information out there so that you can make those all-important cousin connections. I’m a big proponent in collaborating in genealogy. The more people working on the same research, the better off everyone is. You never know when that cousin who finds you is the one who has the family Bible or the treasure trove of photos.

Within a couple of hours of the Week 1 recap being published, two participants in the 52 Ancestors challenge found a connection with each other. Beverly Harrison at The Hopeless Hooked Genealogist saw the link to Schalene Dagutis’s article “#1 Nathaniel Tucker, Poet.” Turns out that Beverly is a descendent of this Tucker line (from one of Nathaniel’s ancestors, rather than Nathaniel himself). Schalene has more details of this connection on her blog.

Bill West’s post on Edward Colbourne netted him a new 8th cousin, once removed. Gary Scott of the “Looking Through the Lens of a Millennial Genealogist” Facebook page spotted Bill’s post and made the connection.

Not to brag, but yours truly made two connections. While going through the blogs of the participants so that I could add them to my list on Feedly, I looked at Karen Seeman’s blog “Ancestor Soup” and noticed a familiar surname – Debolt. My long-time brick wall has been my 3rd-great grandmother Matilda Debolt Skinner Crossen Brown McFillen. (Yes, she will be one of my 52 ancestors!) I contacted Karen and it turns out that we are 6th cousins, once removed. (Hi, cousin Karen!)

My other connection wasn’t a cousin, but more of an “it’s a small world” thing. I knew that my friend Shelley Ballenger Bishop of A Sense of Family is from my old stomping grounds of the east side of Columbus and that her family had Reeb’s Restaurant at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Champion Avenue. It wasn’t until I read her 52 Ancestors post “Lloyd Ballenger and Reeb’s Restaurant” that I asked my dad if he remembered any of the Ballengers. Turns out he knows Shelley’s dad Ed and remembers her grandpa Lloyd. Small world.

Dad and one of his numerous northern Pikes. You know it's a good size catch when it's bigger than one of your children.

Dad and one of his numerous northern pikes. You know it’s a good size catch when it’s bigger than one of your children.

Cousin bait. Try casting some out and see what you catch!  (And if one of your 52 Ancestors posts lands you a new cousin, let me know!)

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 1 Recap

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52 Ancestors in 52 WeeksWow, this challenge took on a life of its own! Exciting to see so many people who have taken the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge!

This is strong showing to start off our 52 weeks. We have stories of heat waves, mean ancestors, and one ancestor who makes you want to repeat a tongue twister. One story (or at least its title) is likely to put songs from “The Sound of Music” in your head.

At least two participants just set up their very first blogs! Congratulations to Shannon of Our Family Tree Tales and Judi Carroll-Thompson of Journey of a Family Historian. May your blogs bring you happiness and new-found cousins!

One of the most common comments I saw about the challenge was “I’m having a hard time choosing which ancestor to start with.” It’s understandable — so many ancestors, so many things to share. But I knew exactly who I wanted to start with: my paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson. (Read the entry and you’ll know why I wanted to start with her.)

Being a librarian, I had to organize the links :) So I’ve listed them by the surname of the ancestor being highlighted. Females are listed under their maiden name when I could tell what it was.

Didn’t blog this week? No problem — start next week! Leave a link to your blog in the comments below and be sure to include “52 Ancestors” in the title of the posts for the challenge. (And if you’re on Twitter, use the #52ancestors hashtag.)

Here are the entries for Week 1:

Did I miss your 52 Ancestors in  52 Weeks post from Week 1? If so, add a link in the comments. I’ll try to do better next week :)