City Directories: Addressing Identities

1890 Cleveland City Directory page1

*Note: Since I’ve not a had a chance to explicitly clear the use of his ancestor’s names, I will avoid anything that might identify the client’s family (including the source citations)*

City directory research can be a lot like tax research, with the addition of occasional pictures and advertisements thrown in for spice. Wading through each consecutive year can become a bit tedious. Why do I care what my ancestor’s address each year was, or where he worked? Believe it or not, tracking your ancestor each year through their appearances (or non-appearances) in city directories, paying attention to those who may have lived with or near him or her, and knowing your ancestor’s occupation at a given time can help you sort out people of the same name.

I am currently working on a client project where city directories provided the key piece of evidence needed to help confirm the identity of his ancestor in a marriage record. The client knew his ancestor had been married twice, and had found the first wife’s death register entry, coroner’s report, funeral home record, obit, and cemetery record – none of which provided any clue as to her maiden name. No marriage record had been found in the county where his ancestor was born, lived, and died.

The first wife died in 1898 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, at which time the husband would only have been 25 years old, which helped narrow the range of potential marriage years. I was able to find a likely marriage record in Canton, Stark, Ohio for people with the same names in 1894. But how do I know that this couple 60 miles away is the same couple? I turned to the city directories. The ancestor appears in the 1891-1893 city directories as a baker. He is not listed in the 1894 city directory, but is again listed in the same area in 1895, again as a baker. The surname is not very common, and he is the only person of that surname listed as a baker. I found it rather interesting that the only year this person was not in the city directory happened to be the same year of the Stark County marriage record.

What do I do next? Since they’re available (although not online), it’s off to the Stark County Library to check Canton city directories. Starting in 1890, there is no one of that surname listed through 1892. There is no one of that name listed from 1895 forward, but as you may have already guessed– in one directory, the 1893-94 directory, this man is listed. He is listed as a baker.  He is boarding with his employer (the owner of the bakery), and even better- so is the woman that he will wed later in 1894!

While more work remains to be done, and the woman’s past continues to elude me, the information that the city directories provided helped make a very strong case that we’ve successfully determined the first wife’s identity and his ancestor’s marriage date/location. And just as importantly – using only addresses, noting occupations, and connecting the dots, we can reconstruct at least a small part this couple’s early life together and begin to tell their story.

Cleveland city directories can be found on from 1861-1923. Later years are available at the CLeveland Public Library and Western Reserve Historical Society. Canton and other Stark County towns are found at the Stark County District Library, Main Branch, in Canton, Ohio. All marriage records were accessed using FamilySearch’s “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994″ database

  1. The Official Cleveland Directory for the Year Ending July, 1890, (Cleveland: Cleveland Directory Co., 1890), 490; digital images, ( accessed 20 Nov 2012). []
Posted in How-To, Thoughts and Musings | Comments Off

April 12-13, 2013 is Legal Genealogist Weekend in Cleveland, Ohio!

Disclaimer: I am the chairperson of the Western Reserve Genealogical Society’s Genealogical Committee, as well as the Great Lakes APG chapter representative. I am also a big fan of Judy Russell. I dig genealogy. My favorite color is green, but am most partial to a dark emerald hue. I can cook.

With that all out of the way, I can’t wait for this April! Why? Well, Judy G. Russell will be right here in Cleveland Ohio, speaking at two different events: a Friday evening lecture, and then an all day seminar on Saturday.

Here’s the scoop:

On Friday, April 12, 2013 — the Great Lakes APG chapter is hosting an evening lecture featuring Judy G. Russell, who you may know better as the Legal Genealogist. Her topic will be The ABC’s of DNA. Details are still being finalized, but the event will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 32895 Cedar Rd, Mayfield Hts, Ohio 44124.

Exact times and registration information will be announced soon. Anyone who is registered for the WRHS Saturday seminar will receive a discount for this event. If you want to be sure to get this info, drop me an email at, and I’ll forward the info as soon as it’s finalized.

Then the big show on Saturday April 13, 2013 from 9am to 4pm– the Western Reserve Historical Society is excited to present Genealogy and the Law.
The legal context in which our ancestors lived affected their lives and the records they created. Understanding that context will help wring every bit of evidence out of each record you find. In addition to explaining how and why they may have acted as they did, court records often reveal surprising details about our ancestors.
In Judy’s words: “Without understanding the context in which events took place and records were created, we miss so much of both the significance and the flavor of what happened. “ Don’t miss this!


8:30-9:00 Registration (coffee and refreshments)
9:00-10:00 Knowing the Law
10:00-10:30 Break
10:30-11:30 Court Records and Family Stories
11:45-1:30 Lunch (not provided)
1:30-2:30 Widows, Orphans, and the Law
2:30-3:00 Break
3:00-4:00 Through the Golden Door: Immigration After the Civil War (1864-1924)

Complete details and online registration can be found on the Western Reserve Historical Society’s website. Hope to see some of you there this spring!

Brought to you by:


Posted in Events, Fun! | Comments Off

Facebook Increases Awareness of the East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society

I have to admit, having pressed our board to let me create a page for the East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society, I dropped the ball at first. I made a few initial posts, and no one really responded. I made a few more and still not much response. After awhile, I neglected to keep up with the page other than updating the “next meeting” info.

On October 28th, I attended a meeting of the Cleveland District Roundtable – which is a gathering of representatives from all the various Cleveland-area  genealogy societies. This was the first of these I’ve attended, and one of the topics on the agenda was using facebook for genealogy societies. I spoke quite a bit in support of social media – maybe a little too much so, as I’ve been tapped to speak about the subject at next summer’s Ohio Genealogical Society’s Chapter Management seminar. I was asked plenty of questions after the meeting, and it really inspired me to do a little more with this

Driving home from meeting, I decided that if I was going to speak about using facebook for your genealogical society, I better start using facebook for MY genealogical society. Honestly, I didn’t have a detailed plan in mind, but decided to try two things:

1) I would change the cover photo on a regular basis to different pictures from Cleveland’s history
2) I would post some “popular” genealogy links. I also figured that the posts would get more exposure if I shared them on my own page.

So how much work did I put in, and did it work? A looking at the graph below pretty clearly shows some dramatic results. You can see what immediately happened on October 28 – the date I changed the cover photo and made a post. I shared both on my own wall. It literally took me a combined total of less than 10 minutes to post those seven links and add a comment. Reach went from 10 views on Oct 27th to 117 by October 31 – more than 10 times the level it was just four days earlier. Better yet, it has stayed at that level, and probably will as long as I continue to post regularly.

I’m convinced. There is no doubt that with a minimal amount of effort, you can greatly increase your society’s exposure. The cool thing is that this little trial is only about two weeks old, so who knows how far this graphic could expand. Will more exposure lead to more members? Maybe, maybe not, but people aren’t going to join if they don’t know about you. And younger people certainly aren’t going to join if you don’t have a presence where they are likely to find you.

This is an experiment in progress.  If you’d like to be part of it, please visit our page, “like” it, then post a comment or two or three. Post a link to your society’s page and we can like each other. See how sweet all of this is? I like it. Coming Soon to East Cuyahoga: Twitter? …well, maybe not quite yet – one social media step at a time.

Activity on the ECCGS FAcbook page

Posted in Thoughts and Musings | 2 Comments

My BCG Portfolio Is On Its Way…

…to an extension!

Yes, it’s time to break down and file for that extra time. I don’t regret going on the clock and not getting done within the year. I’ve had a lot of other things going on – speaking, writing, as well as working, family, etc, etc — and all those things are good things. I would have liked to have gotten a little bit farther along in the process by this point, but that’s okay.

The primary benefit of my time spent being on the clock is simply the fact that certification is always on my mind as I do whatever genealogical activity it is I’m doing. Even though I haven’t finished the portfolio components, I think it has helped increase my quality of work simply by reminding me that I want to meet the standards each and every time out of the gate. The cool thing is, that even after I successfully submit my portfolio (not if – when!) those standards will stay stuck in my brain. They can keep all the other weird things that are lodged there company!

Posted in Fun!, Misc. | 2 Comments

A Better Way To Set Up Your Genealogy Society’s Email

In the course, of doing publicity for various genealogy events, I’ve run into this problem many times:

After compiling a distribution list of all the chapters in the area, I send an announcement about a particular event. Inevitably, several of them bounce as they are often older, inactive personal email addresses. Even some that do go through don’t get to the right person. Since officers change frequently, often the person I send the message to is no longer in the corresponding secretary position (or president, or whoever was listed as the contact), and they then have to forward the email to someone else, or ask me to resend it.

While I’m sure that some societies already do this, wouldn’t it make sense that each society have a one, set email address for each particular board or committee position? This address could then be configured to forward messages to the personal email addresses of whoever is currently in that position. Setting up that forwarding is pretty painless, and doesn’t require that you have a technical guru on staff.

For example, if I am trying to send something to the newsletter editor at the Anycounty Genealogical Society. Looking on their website or other online listings, I would see that the email address is “”, and all the other offices have similar addresses (,, etc). If Jane Smith were the editor in September, and I sent her an article, it would go to the AGS_News address and be forwarded to her personal email address. When I want to send something else in February, unbeknownst to be, the new newsletter editor is John Jones. Since, the AGS folks were slightly tech-savy, and updated the forwarding address to John Jones’s personal email – the message I send to the AGS_News address automatically goes to the correct person.

I don’t need to update my contacts list. They don’t need to try and forward things or remember to pass on the message at the next meeting. No muss, no fuss – just easy-peasy.

I am definitely going to suggest this at the next round of society meetings I attend. Would this work for your society, too?

Posted in Thoughts and Musings | Comments Off

Ghosts at the Staats House: Caldwell, OH, 1877

I admit it, I’ve posted the text of this article before, However:

1) It’s Halloween, and
2) I am still without power due to Hurricane Sandy.

I hope you enjoy this spooky story involving my 3rd great uncle!

“More Spiritualism,” Wheeling (WV) Register, 24 Oct 1877, p. 1, col. 2.

Posted in Fun! | Comments Off

A Whodunit: The Curious Case of Benoni Staats And His Disappearing Children

Benoni Staats would lose six children in the ten years between the 1850 and 1860 Washington County, Ohio censuses. How could this happen? Who did this? Poor Benoni, right? Not really. Unlike most whodunits, this one starts off with the answer: the 1850 enumerator did it.

Here is that 1850 entry1:

We see that according to this entry, Benoni and his six children are enumerated in the household of Hezekiah Collins in Adams Twp, Washington, Ohio.

Let’s take a look at Benoni in 18602:

1860 Barlow Twp, Washington, Ohio census

Where did all the kids go? Benoni was married to the Rebecca listed here, Rebecca Addis, in Noble County, Ohio on 9 May 1851.3 You’d think that at least one of the children would still be there wouldn’t you? It would be surprising, especially since most of the children were a little older in 1850, that all of them would have succumbed to some terrible disease, wouldn’t it? Well, it would be surprising, and you’ll all be glad to know that the children were spared.

Let’s find Hezekiah Collins in the 1860 census4. Here he is, in a hard-to-read record that doesn’t list the whole first name – just initials, but look at the sequence and relative ages:

1860 Martinsburg, Pike, Illinois Census

Comparing the 1850 “Staats” children and the ones here, we get a pretty good sense they are the same kids.The ages are a little off, and Mildred is not in the household, but she could have been already married, and it’s hard to argue against the fact that the rest of the sequence appears in order.
T=Zachariah (T would turn out to be his middle initial)

Obviously, the 1850 census enumerator in Ohio wasn’t all that concerned with what name went with what people, nor did he seem to care all that much about correct ages. Notice that Benoni was the same age in 1860 as he was in 1850 – a pretty nifty trick. For further confirmation that the children in 1850 are actually children of Hezekiah Collins, not Benoni Staats, we can look at the 1870 Census for Hezekiah, and see that Zachariah is still in the household, and the family has moved on to Oregon5 :

1870 Coast Fork, Lane, Oregon census, showing Zachariah’s middle initial of “T”

While I have not completely followed up on the Collins family, we can find evidence of the other Collins children in Oregon as well. Here’s a 1914 city directory listing showing Ballard and Zachariah6:

Eugene, Oregon 1914 City Directory

While I have not followed up completely with the Collins family, it is clear that nothing terrible ever happened to the children of Benoni between 1850 and 1860 – he didn’t have any to lose.
The next mystery to solve with Benoni is what happened to his children between 1840 and 1850. Again, you ask? Yes. In 1840, there are six children in his household7.
Are they his? Are they someone else’s? That, my friends is a mystery for another day!

1840 Harrison County, Ohio entry for Benoni Staats showing six children in the household (edited to better fit the space).

  1. 1850 U.S. census, Washington, Ohio, population schedule, Adams Twp, p. 264 (handwritten), dwelling 151, family 155, Hezekiah Collins household; digital images, ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 738. []
  2. 1860 U.S. census, Washington, Ohio, population schedule, Barlow Twp, p. 263 (stamped), dwelling 21, family 17, Benoni Staats household; digital images, ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1049. []
  3. “Ohio, County Marriages 1790-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012), Staats to Addis (1851); original data: Noble County, Ohio Probate Court, Marriage Records 1:2. []
  4. 1860 U.S. census, Pike, Illinois, population schedule, Martinsburg, p. 542 (handwritten), dwelling 78, family 78, H. Collins household; digital images, ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 219. []
  5. 1870 U.S. census, Lane, Oregon, population schedule, Coast Fork, p. 515B (stamped), dwelling 40, family 40, Hez Collins household; digital images, (http://www/ : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 1286. []
  6. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta),” database and images, ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012), 1914 Eugene, Oregon city directory, p. 486, Ballard T. Collins and Zachariah T. Collins. []
  7. 1840 U.S. census, Harrison, OH, Moorefield Twp, p. 91, line 16, Benoni Staats household; digital images, ( : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 409. []
Posted in Thoughts and Musings | Comments Off

From the Crypt: Ghost In Gallipolis, 1874

Continuing the Halloween theme: here’s one I can definitely relate to…1









For some free newspaper ghost-hunting of your own, go to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site, select the “advanced Search” tab, and find those ghosts!


  1. untitled, Gallipolis Journal, 1 Jan 1872, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, Chronicling America( : accessed 18 Oct 2012) []
Posted in Fun! | Comments Off

Ghosts In Cleveland!: 1862

Kicking off my countdown to Halloween is a Cleveland ghost story. I have been on my share of these sorts of ghost-chasing adventures. More spooky newspaper stories will follow – getting spookier and spookier as we get closer and closer to Halloween.

For some free newspaper ghost-hunting of your own, go to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site, select the “advanced Search” tab, and find those ghosts!

Without further adieu,  I present: “The Ghost Discovered”!1

  1. “The Ghost Discovered,” Cleveland Morning Leader, 5 Dec 1862, p. 3, col. 1; digital images, Chronicling America ( : accessed 16 Oct 2012). []
Posted in Fun! | Comments Off

Just The Right Time: Revisiting My Genealogy Beginnings

Yesterday, I decided to take a break from professional genealogy activities and actually do a little research on my own family. I wasn’t going to go hog-wild – just flesh out some collateral families descended from Elijah Staats, maybe see if I couldn’t find the name of a living person or two.

So that’s what I did. I went to, and pulled up the census record for the first family. Then I went to FamilySearch’s Ohio County Marriages collection and found the marriage record for the husband and wife to get the maiden name. This marriage was recent enough that it gave me dates of birth, as well as parent’s names. So back to the census I went to gather info about these earlier folks. I was able to do that pretty easily for a couple of generations – one of the benefits of having Ohio families is that there’s lots of good stuff online, including probate court birth records. After I worked backwards for awhile, I went to the digitized books section of FamilySearch to compare what I had found against the mug book for that county. If I were seriously working on this family, I would have gone more in-depth, which might have required an in-person trip or ordering records from a distance, but for my purposes, this was fine.

The family eventually moved to Seattle, Washington. Washington births and marriages were online at Ancestry, and some deaths at FamilySearch, so I was able to keep working forward on the family. That got me enough information that I could jump over to GenealogyBank, where the Seattle Daily Times was online. I was able to find obituaries and marriage notices of the family. Some were in the SSDI, and I used some additional sources to piece together most of the family. To my surprise, the eldest daughter of this family happened to live to 99, passing away in 2010, and the obituary named all her children and grandchildren. Whenever I get a chance, I can go to and do some people searches for these folks.

By now you’re probably thinking “…..So what’s the big deal? We all do this everyday.” Well that was exactly what I thought was a big deal. Maybe it was the fact I was working on a family I hadn’t revisited since the “old days” of genealogy, but it struck me, rather pointedly, how genealogy has changed over the years I’ve been at this. We’ve started to take for granted that we can sit in our chairs and put together a family (in this case, spanning 1837 to 2010), document the research reasonably well using original sources, and do it all in a couple of hours.

I thought about how long what I did would have taken previously. First, I would have had to go to the WRHS library to use their census microfilm. If I wanted to get the marriage records to find a wife’s maiden name, I would either have had to send a request by mail, order microfilm, or go to southern Ohio to use the marriage books themselves, none of which happens quickly – possibly taking weeks or months. And all that is just for one couple. They had six kids who had kids. They came from families with lots of kids, and all their grandparents had lots of kids. Sure, I could have cheated a little and just followed the paternal lines through the censuses, making assumptions as I went, but that would 1) ignore half of the pedigree chart, and 2) be pretty shaky research. In short, it would have taken a really long time, and likely wouldn’t have been as well-documented.

I think I started genealogy at exactly the right time. In the late 1990s, which is when I started this madness, USGenWeb and other resources were out there that didn’t necessarily have much genealogical information, but they did have lots of information about where to find the information. Ancestry had census and other records, but I couldn’t afford the subscription, so I still worked primarily at the library. I didn’t use the internet much for actual research. I used it primarily as a guide for where I was supposed to go to do the research. I think that having had a several year window where most of my research was done at the courthouse or archives has really helped me sort through the online world of records, that while handy, might be a little confusing if you hadn’t had the opportunity to work with similar records in book form.

It brings to mind Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from his book Outliers, which basically states that whatever the field, or whoever the practitioner, it takes about 10,000 hours to become an “expert” at something. So when the Beatles got their big break in America, they had played about 10,000 hours. When Bill Gates got his break – 10,000 hours. There were numerous other example given. I’m no Beatles or Bill gates (and I cringe at the word “expert”), but when the time arrived that I had access to all these wonderful records online, I’m pretty sure I was close to that 10,000 hour mark, and I was much more prepared to take advantage of them than if I had only started a year or two ago.

I can’t wait for the next 10,000 hours!


Posted in Thoughts and Musings | 2 Comments