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, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1049. []
  3. “Ohio, County Marriages 1790-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 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, Ancestry.com (http://www/ancestry.com : 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, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 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, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 409. []
Posted in Thoughts and Musings | Comments Off on A Whodunit: The Curious Case of Benoni Staats And His Disappearing Children

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(http://www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 18 Oct 2012) []
Posted in Fun! | Comments Off on From the Crypt: Ghost In Gallipolis, 1874

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 (http://www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov : accessed 16 Oct 2012). []
Posted in Fun! | Comments Off on Ghosts In Cleveland!: 1862

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 Ancestry.com, 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 Stevemorse.org 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

Finding County Records In The Ohio Historical Society’s New Catalog

In the wake of the unfortunate closing of the Ohio local government records program at Ohio University, records appeared to have been sent to different repositories, including the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. I sent an email to the staff at OHS trying to figure out what records were actually sent there.

The response indicated that they did receive records from Ohio University, and that they were included in the catalog.  Reference staffer, Travis Kokas, who answered my email also included a great tip for how to search their new catalog system to find government records. I modified the steps a bit, to hopefully make it simple and easy to find what you need.

To save scrolling time and energy, I’ve kept the instructions text-only, but click any of the thumbnails at the bottom of the post to see an image of each step.

Here’s how to find those records :

1)  Go to the Ohio Historical Society’s main catalog page to see their new look. From there select the “MANUSCRIPTS, AUDIO/VISUAL, AND STATE ARCHIVES” link.

2) On the manuscript search page, select the advanced tab, and then click on the arrow to the right of the “Creators or Contributors” field.

3) Type the name of the county (i.e. Noble County), but do not put the name in quotation marks. Click the “Display” button to the right of the search field.

4) From the list of results, click the check boxes next to the county offices in which you are interested. Click the “Paste” button (located under the search field), which will then take you back to the search page, pasting those items you’ve selected into the “Creators or Contributors” field.

5) Click the “Search” button. That’s it! You can click on the individual records to see more info for that particular item. Happy Hunting!


Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Steps 4 & 5


Step 5


Posted in How-To | Comments Off on Finding County Records In The Ohio Historical Society’s New Catalog

Being A Good Genealogy Ambassador

Sometimes, things just don’t go our way when we try to get our research done. Other times, not only are they not going our way, they’re definitely going against us. It’s easy to get frustrated when a clerk tells us that a particular record doesn’t exist when we know it does, when the one volume we drove half a day to use is “out being rebound”, or when we simply run into someone having a bad day and looking to pass it on to someone else. But it’s precisely those moments of adversity that allow us to make the best impression.

On one particular research trip, the man sitting at the next microfilm reader over from me was photographing the film. The rules clearly stated that you could take photos but you had to pay an additional (and rather ridiculous) fee to do so. He obviously hadn’t read them. The librarian came over to tell the man that he couldn’t take pictures unless he paid the fee. I can’t imagine while crossing the library to shut this guy down, that she thought it would go well. It didn’t. Have you ever seen Bill Cosby’s Himself – the part describing his wife having a conniption? That was this guy.

She got exactly the reaction she probably expected. In the end, everyone was aggravated  and each of their spouses probably got a lengthy, expletive-laced description of the encounter as soon as they got home. But what if – what if – in that moment when his free photographic world came crashing down around his ears, the guy apologized profusely and thanked her for pointing out the rules he forgot to read. You know she would not have expected THAT. He wouldn’t even have had to pay the fee – just apologize, thank her, and stop taking pictures. How much better of an opinion of genealogists would that librarian have than she probably does now? How much more likely would she be willing to help the next genealogist rather than simply endure him or her. While it’s not easy, and unfortunately, we all have our moments, I think it is important to bear in mind that we are all ambassadors of genealogy each time we walk though the library, courthouse, or archive doors.

I’m not trying to toot my own here, but I feel pretty strongly about representing the hobby and profession well. Recently I had to stop myself from creating one of “those moments.” In the past, I had gotten copies from a particular county recorder by ordering all the filmed deed indexes, and then getting copies of the deeds from the county recorder themselves once I had the volume/page references. It was cheaper and faster than ordering a zillion rolls of film. It cost me $1 per page and I had them within a week.

So this week, when I needed some more deeds from that county, I hopped on my email, fired off the list of deeds I needed, and waited breathlessly to find out how cheaply I was going to solve all my ancestral mysteries. The answer rather surprised me. If I wanted to pick the copies up in person, it was $28. The office was about 8 hours away, which made it a little unlikely I was going to jump in the car to do that. However they would mail them to me for an additional $28. As you might imagine my initial reaction was something like “ARE YOU KIDDING  #$%#$% ME? $28 TO PUT THEM IN AN  %^$%@! ENVELOPE?!

But I waited a day, until I was more calm, to respond. While I still felt (and still feel) that it is a ridiculous policy, it IS their policy. Me going gonzo in an email isn’t going to help that, and would probably have the opposite effect.  So I sucked it up. Here is the slightly edited, names-changed-to-protect-the-innocent-version. Though it probably doesn’t whether they were or not, the nice things I said are actually true:

“Thank you for your response. I am in Cleveland, Ohio, which would be kind of a long commute to pick them up :)
I don’t remember such a large charge for mailing, but it has probably been 5 or 6 years since I have gotten copies this way. If that’s correct, at $2/page, it would be less expensive to work from LDS microfilm.

I certainly appreciate you taking the time to look up the deeds for me, and hopefully I will get a chance to make another visit to [YOUR OFFICE] this summer. [YOUR] Recorder’s office is definitely one of the nicest county offices I’ve worked in, and I love going there!”

Here is the response I received back from this message:

“Mr. Staats,
It certainly would be a long commute, but we would be happy to have you! Our current charge is $2.00 per page for mail copies. Please visit us if you ever come to [OUR STATE].
I think our office is a nice office, as well. Thank you for the compliment. Have a great day and maybe our paths will cross one day.”

I think I made the right decision.

Looks like I better get to the FHC catalog and order some deed microfilm (DO YOU KNOW THOSE ^&#$%*#  FLIPPING THINGS WENT ALL THE WAY UP TO *#$&#$&!* $7.50??!!!)

Please comment below. I’d love for you to share how you were able to be a good genealogy ambassador.

Posted in Thoughts and Musings | 5 Comments

Ohio University No Longer an Ohio Local Records Repository?

In Ohio, there are several designated repositories for county records no longer in regular use. Each repository (such as the University of Akron, Wright State University, and others) are designated for a number of surrounding counties. Ohio University in Athens, Ohio was the repository for several Southeastern Ohio counties.  While checking this evening to see what some of their holdings were, I found this message on their Special Collections page:

Notice: Removal of Local Government Records

The Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, working with the State Archives (Ohio Historical Society), is divesting its Local Government Records holdings. The Mahn Center is in the ongoing process of returning records to the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio, as well as to other organizations.

Please note that Athens County will packets have been transferred to the Athens County Historical Society & Museum.

After consulting this list of local government records that have been in our holdings, please contact the Mahn Center before traveling to consult any of these records.

Thank you.

May 15, 2012

I’ll try and follow up, but does anyone know anything about this? Hopefully nothing disappears in the process.

Posted in Misc. | Comments Off on Ohio University No Longer an Ohio Local Records Repository?

Guernsey County (Ohio) Map Department Online Resources

Those who do a lot of research in Guernsey County, may already be aware of this, but I recently discovered that the Guernsey County Map Department – an arm of the Auditor’s office – has digitized and placed online a number of maps that might be helpful in your Guernsey County property research. And I know you all are making property research a key piece of your research plan, right? (Hint: the correct answer is, “Yes, yes I am.”). Take a look around, and i hope you’ll find something of use in your searches.

The table below shows the maps currently on their site. Clicking on the links will take you directly to those pages.


I love this map of the towns of Centerville and Easton (click for larger size):

Cropped from the orignal at http://www.guernseycounty.org/mapdept/images/misc-1800-plats/PG_12.pdf


Most of us could probably figure out the complicated numbering scheme for the twenty or so lots in each town, but I appreciate the effort! Notice, however, (with the exception of the National Road) the widths of the streets and alleys shown here: 16.5, 33, and 66 feet. While those measurements may seem odd, they are the base measurements for almost every street you’ll find. It all comes back to surveying and the surveyor’s chain. 66 feet is one chain which is comprised of 100 links. Therefore, 33 feet is simply half a chain (50 links), and the seemingly ungainly measurement of 16.5 feet is a quarter chain (25 links).

The Gunther chain is quite a brilliant invention, and the simple fact of the matter is that our country was surveyed end to end, one chain at a time. For an in-depth history of Gunther’s chain and the surveying of America, I highly recommend, Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, by Andros Linklater. If you’re a geek like me, you’ll love it!

Posted in How-To, Thoughts and Musings | 2 Comments

1860 Constitutional Concerns of Benoni Staats

Timely that just a day after the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, I should sit down and start to transcribe letters written by my 3rd great uncle, Benoni Staats in the 1860s. In the first letter in the collection, Benoni focuses on his interpretation of the first article of the Constitution, and is asking for the opinion of his Congressional candidate on the issue. These letters are part of the Ephraim Cutler collection in Special Collections at the Marietta College Library. You never know where stuff is going to turn up. You’ll find all kinds of cool things in college libraries, so make sure that you investigate them in the areas you research.

Here is just a snippet of that first letter. A little enlightened for his time — especially living in the area that he did. Although a poor farmer most of his life, it is clear from his writing that he was quite well-educated.

Vincent,” Barlow township, W. Co. O. [Washington County, Ohio] Sept 17th/60 [1860]

To the Hon. Wm. P. Cutler – Sir, as you are a Candidate for Congress, and are now canvassing this district for that office, I design to have your opinion on the First Article of the Constitution (I have tried your predecessor in vain).  In the first place the Articles of Confederation existed and were in force until this Constitution was adopted by the requisite number of states; and in the Preamble to the Constitution it says, “We the people of the United States,” – now I contend that “people” means “persons,” that is to say “we the persons of the U States.”

Thus, the Preamble to the Constitution, denominates the people of the U States thereafter as “persons,” and nowhere denominates them as property of the U States, nor does it anywhere say “We the property of the U States.” Now Sir, from these deductions, it is plain that these U States are composed of “persons” and not “property” and the three fifths clause which is said to relate to slaves and free colored persons, they are still denominated “persons” and not “property”— and as such are numbered by the U States Marshals for the Representation in Congress and are a part of “We the people of the U States.”1

This is just part of the first letter – an impassioned argument for the equality of “Indians and negroes.” There are five or six in the collection. Each are interesting, and I will post them as I can.

Letter from Benoni Staats to Congressional candidate ,William P. Cutler, 17 Sep 1860.

  1. Benoni Staats, Vincent, Barlow Twp., Washington County, Ohio, to William P. Cutler, letter, 17 Sep 1860, requests Mr. Cutler’s opinion on the First Article of the Constitution; Ephraim Cutler Collection, 1860, Sept 17 ; Marietta College Library Special Collections, Marietta Ohio. []
Posted in Family Findings | Comments Off on 1860 Constitutional Concerns of Benoni Staats

One Weird Trick To Improve Your Online Networking Experience

Hello kids, I’m back and posting. Consider yourself warned. And, yes. The title of this post is taken from those bizarre ads you see online where “One weird trick” seems to exist to do everything you might be wanting to do.

Here’s my one weird networking tip:

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, oh my. There are so many online ways in which genealogists can meet and greet these days, it can be a confusing landscape. Each platform has its own terminology, etiquette, and challenges – friends, connections, followers, requests, introductions, and more. For non-techy folks, it may seem more trouble than it’s worth. Believe me, though, it is WELL worth the effort. One way to simplify things is to understand that networking online is really no different than networking in person. You just need to adapt the tools of each platform to do electronically what you would do in person.

One of the things I’ve noticed is an increase in the amount of blind connection requests I get from genealogists (and others, to be fair). On LinkedIn, this is a request from someone I don’t know, but can usually figure out that they are somehow connected to genealogy. All that’s included in the request is the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” On Facebook, this is the default way to “friend” someone, as there’s no way to send a message directly with your request. If I see you are a genealogist, or we have common genealogy friends, I usually accept the request.

However, on both LinkedIn and Facebook, I think you will have much more success building your network, and the quality of that network will be greater, if you personalize each request. We have reasons that we want to connect with someone. We need to tell them what they are; whether it’s because you might want to hire them, they share a specialty with you or have a specialty you might need down the road, or maybe you are just looking to expand your network. Say that. While Facebook doesn’t allow you to send a message with the friend request – send them a direct message to go along with it.

As part of the request, make some comments and ask some questions that go beyond “I’d like to add you” and the reasons. Open a discussion that allows you to get to know each other a little bit. I’ve probably gotten five or six connection requests on LinkedIn the last few days, and not one of them changed the standard “greeting.” In most of those cases, I haven’t communicated with them besides accepting the connection request. That connection is really doing neither is us any good. I kinda don’t like the term “networking.” What we are really doing is building relationships. I don’t want to amass a giant database of people. I want to know each of you that are in there – even if just a little bit.

You can connect with me using the buttons on the right of the page. I look forward to meeting you!

Posted in Thoughts and Musings | 1 Comment