Ley

Five Enduring Foutz Family Mysteries


Jonathan Foutz

Great-Great Grandfather Jonathan Foutz would probably agree with Dory — looking for answers to genealogy questions? Just keep sleuthing!

Genealogy Never Rests

Just keep sleuthing, just keep sleuthing….

Dory from Finding Nemo (and her own eponymous sequel) was really a genealogist at heart. The motto that kept her moving — swimming — kept leading her to families, no matter the leagues between them. First, Nemo’s, then happily, her own.

Aside from occasional bursts of full-contact hereditary rummaging, my genealogical quest has been more of an occasional thing. Some early-a.m. flipping through old newspapers here, some peeks at the burgeoning pile of electronic detritus on Ancestry.com there. Day job, Dad duties, mindless TV — all conspire to slow my family-sleuthing from mad scramble to meandering marathon.

And that’s OK. This blog is a record of where we’ve been before, and an open lane to the depths we’ve yet to discover. And often, the way to latch on to new currents is to back-paddle to places we last left off. Dive around. Pick up the tidal pull again.

What do we do? We sleuth….

Questions to Keep Sleuthing By

My goal for this space the next six months is to share, at least once a week, some tidbit or tale that I’ve kept under glass the last few years, or lately untangled from the historical net. These discoveries spark conversations, which in turn spark connections — people with answers, and questions of their own. Keep ’em coming.

For now, here are five of the biggest, most-enduring mysteries I’d like one day to solve, bringing further clarity to the muddy waters of Foutz, Ley, Weible, Morgan, Fisher, Johnson, Palmer, Zeigler origins.

1. Where did Michael Pfouts come from?

Yeah, we think we know. Württemberg. Along the lower Neckar River region in Germany. Where Foutzes of old farmed, fought, made little Foutzes.

So says John Scott Davenport’s Foutz Newsletter of the 1980s: Michael Pfoutz emigrated to America in 1787, settled in Washington County, Maryland, and by 1810 or so was on his way to Harrison County, Ohio, where multiple records pretty definitively trace the Pfouts-Fouts-Foutz story through the succeeding two centuries.

But: Where exactly did Michael come from in Germany? Why did he cross the ocean, at 18? Did anyone come with him? Where else did those possible brothers and sisters, and father and mother, end up?

As the Davenport newsletters grow yellowed, and the originators of that work pass away, we’ve got to look for new answers, new connections. One I may have found, that I’ll reveal in a post soon (to echo Star Wars’ original trilogy): “a sister(rrrrrrrrr)?”

2. What happened to Rachel Foutz?

As traced in the years since an original summation of Foutz mysteries, we now know what became of every brother and sister of my great-grandfather, Vance Foutz, and even have a pretty good bead on their descendants, save for one sister, Rachel (Foutz) Coleman.

Rachel was one of three older sisters to my great-grandfather. We know what became of Lila and Ida. And it’s through Ida’s son Sherman’s diary — and the useful transcribing of distant cousin Dawn James — that we gain a little color around the facts we know, and a window on life in Dover, Ohio after Rachel and family followed younger brothers Charles, Vance and Mom Rebecca Foutz there in the first decade of the 1900s:

  • Born June 3, 1871 to Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz,in Harrison County, Ohio
  • In 1891, at age 20, Rachel married a war vet, William Coleman, more than 20 years her senior, and became stepmom to at least one living son, Berttie
  • They had at least four kids — Carl, who died of tuberculosis at my great-grandfather’s house in 1915 (same spring as Rebecca Foutz and her oldest son, Sherman); Blanche, Frank and Bessie.
  • Bessie, born in 1906 in Dover, disappears, along with mother Rachel, from the record. No other census, death or burial records have been found.

We later find William living in a veterans’ home in Canton, Ohio. And Frank lives until 1959 in Canton (he has a family I have not further explored – could be connections there). Meanwhile, sister Blanche lives until the ripe old age of 97, passing away in 1994 in Kent, Ohio. A few years back, I spoke to a family who knew her well, and shared photos. Story to come.

But what became of Rachel? There’s a mystery even more vexing for all we’ve assembled about our now-distant Foutz relatives.

Kaiserslautern Coat of Arms

Kaiserslautern Coat of Arms. The Leys emigrated there from The Netherlands sometime in the 1600s.

3. What can we learn of the Netherlands Leys?

According to A Short History of the Ley Family, a pamphlet passed down from our Port Washington, Ohio Ley ancestors, the Ley family originated in the Netherlands and came to Kaiserslautern in Germany, probably in the late 1600s.

We can trace the family back through my fourth-great-grandfather, Karl Ley, coming to America in 1833 and settling first in Shanesville, Ohio, and later, Port Washington, making his career as a saddler. And then further back through his father, Frederick Charles Ley, a minister at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pfalz, Bavaria; and then through his father, John Frederick Ley, also pastor at that parish (succeeding, in fact, his father-in-law, who succeeded his own father).

Neat trick, and probably an amazing place to visit someday for all that family mojo.

But we don’t know much about Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Ley — not his name, date of birth, city of residence, or death — save that he had a large, rural estate and was mayor, for a time, of his unknown city. And that his dad, Great Ley x 8, was first to move from the Netherlands and settle in Kaiserslautern, where he set up a cloth “manufactory.”

What can we learn from detailed German records, which seem to have been maintained through the tenuous political jigsaw puzzle of those centuries, and through war, etc., but weren’t so far recorded by our relatives?

Who were Thomas Johnson’s parents?

We’ve got names, known to my grandma, Erma (Johnson) Foutz, and her sisters. Just not much else. Maybe because his name was so common?

George Johnson was probably born in England, so says family legend, and he married a, well, Mary, and they settled in Guernsey County, Ohio. That’s the sum total of our knowledge about fourth-great-grandfather Johnson.

Admittedly, it doesn’t get too much clearer with Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Thomas, who died at 42 in the Civil War. Though just where in Mississippi, and of what, is a matter of some debate. (Possibly also due to his fairly common name?)

We hear he was a mule skinner in the army — something to do with nabbing available meat from local farms the army passed through and butchering it for the fighting boys. But we don’t even know that much about the wife he left behind, Nancy Valentine, back home in Guernsey, at first, and then, by 1910 in Jackson, Ohio. There’s a tid bit about her maybe not getting his pension — why? We also don’t know her death.

This is odd, because we know all their descendants, and their paths through Harrison and Tuscarawas counties, Ohio. Time to start sleuthing….

5. Where, in Wales, were the Morgans?

Also in the common name department are my second-great-grandparents, Thomas and Jannett (Rees) Morgan. We know their lives after they emigrated from Wales quite well — from their marriage in Philadelphia in 1872, to their settling in western Pennsylvania, and eventually, in Carnegie, where Thomas ran the Hotel Morgan before he died, in 1897.

What is a continued vexation — a problem not cleared up by the terse obituaries of the 19th century — is just who their parents were. When Thomas first came over; when Janet did. What happened to their sisters and brothers (if they had any) and parents. Even how “Reese/Rhys/Rees” is spelled.

We have theories about where they were from in Wales, and family stories of Jannett and her children going back to visit. We’ve gained their photos, and a hunch about Jannett’s Dad’s name, Daniel.

Everything else? Time to get sleuthing.

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Here’s to the Mothers….


Foutz Dan Colt Mom Jake 1981

Mom Janet Ley Foutz and sons Dan, Colt and Jake, circa 1981. (Robin Williams as Mork, though admired, is not family.)

Family Moms through the Ages

One measly day?

For all the diapers and dandified prom pictures and PSAT prep and running-long recitals. The backyard football blood and the spring Saturday track meet sweat. The night-before science fair reports and the needlessly verbose detention polemics.

The strep throat and fevers and incidental vomiting.

The kisses and flowers and poems. And the blue-ribbon daughters-in-law, too.

The grandchildren.

One measly day? HA. Mothers made us, and hence, for now and for all time, we declare every day, perhaps not tailor-made for them, but still, mothers’ days.

Where would we be without them?

A Family Mothers Slideshow

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #4


Ley Zula Robert Jr. 1918

A 1918 portrait shows my great-grandmother, Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, and her newborn son, my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Tragic Death Tied to Flu Epidemic

When I started this blog, it was to share what’s most interesting to me about genealogy — the way the lives and personalities of our ancestors come to life in the stories we uncover.

At times those stories are tragic. Perhaps none more so than the story of my great-grandmother, Zula (Fisher) Ley.

Posts in the last weeks have shared snippets of her young life — acclaim for her acting in a senior play, notching a finalist finish in a national beauty contest, sneaking off to Wellsburg, W. Va. to marry Great-Grandpa Earl Ley.

These and other portraits show Zula as vital, intelligent, beautiful.

But her life is defined for her descendants by its tragic end, subject of the second post ever in this blog. It was front-page news in neighboring Dover: how the young wife, 24, of a prominent dentist passed away of influenza and pneumonia late on a Sunday night at home in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

An account in the hometown Daily Times, however, also ties Zula’s death to a sudden epidemic that winter.

The Feb. 2, 1920 edition, front page, broadcasts in bold headlines: FLU EPIDEMIC CLAIMS THREE; RED CROSS TAKES UP BATTLE. Whole Families are Reported Ill. Relief is Sought. Three Persons Die Over Weekend.

While influenza is fast enveloping New Philadelphia in a grip that claimed three fatalities Sunday and Monday the Red Cross is preparing to combat the epidemic with nurses.

Mayor E. N. Fair Monday as chairman of the influenza committee of the Red Cross was seeking a nurse for a family where help could not be obtained to take care of the ill.

Whole families are ill with the epidemic, and many patients were reported on the verge of death, Monday.

Young Wife Dies

Mrs. Mary Zula Ley, 24, wife of Dr. Robert E. Ley, Dover dentist, succumbed to influenza-pneumonia at 11:30 p.m. Sunday following ten days’ illness.

The death of Mrs Ley which occurred at the residence on West High street, caused widespread sorrow.

The husband and one son, Robert Earl, aged 16 months, survive.

Years later, with more information known about our family history, it is believed the hereditary presence of Factor V Leiden, which causes abnormal clotting of the blood, particularly in veins, may have contributed to Zula’s death.

Reported in neither paper was the stillborn death of her infant daughter, also named Mary on a separate death certificate.

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #3


Robert Earl Ley Sr. and Son

A very young Robert Earl Ley Jr. and his father, Robert Sr.

Secret Wedding for Zula Fisher & Earl Ley?

There are certain major checkboxes in the Genealogy-by-numbers game. Birth and death are the bookends. And, if a particular branch should bear fruit, marriage the node not-quite-in-between.

Know those dates and you’ve got the basic sketch of a life’s trajectory. But what’s behind a date? Pair it with a location and you start to have a story.

We’re born where our parents’ lives began to blossom, sometimes in the stomping grounds of previous generations, often in a new place, with new possibilities.

We pass away at the terminus of a hopefully long journey, the many bends and dips and peaks along the way often not documented as boldly, yet significant in their bearing on life’s course.

The place we’re married, now, that can be a waypoint with ties to our youth, the places where parents raised us; or to the place where we fell in love, got our starts; or even someplace random or dreamy in its romance, significant unto itself.

And of course the stories get deeper beyond mere dates and places. It’s more than mere rite of passage. A party, a reunion — and union — of relatives (some sober, some significantly less so), a crossing of a particular threshold, an adult declaration of commitment.

Yeah, I bet there’s a lot of stories tucked in there.

In my research, dutifully documenting these dates of significance for relatives on various branches of the tree, for those in Ohio in the early decades of the 20th century a particular place dots biographical records enough it begins to coalesce into an arrow pointing to … West Virginia. Specifically, Ohio and Brooke counties.

Today, we’ll take a look at Wellsburg, W. Va., county seat of Brooke, and an occasion in summer, 1917.

Wellsburg, ‘Gretna Green’ to Ohio, Pennsylvania Elopements

The official record reads that Robert Earl Ley and Zula Lucrece Fisher were married June 27, 1917. The place, with a little more digging, is Wellsburg, W. Va.

But the newspaper announcement of their marriage — and the timing some six months later — reveals a bit more.

From the New Philadelphia, Ohio, Daily Times, Dec. 19, 1917:

Wedding Announcement

Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Fisher announces the marriage of their daughter, Mary Zula Lucrece Fisher to Liet. Dr. Robert Earl Ley, son of former County Treasurer Charles Ley and Mrs Ley of East avenue. The marriage took place at Wellsburg, W. Va. June 27, 1917.

Dr. and Mrs. Ley wil spend their Christmas vacation in the East, after visiting relatives and college friends of Dr. Ley’s in Cleveland. They will be the honored guests at several social events while in Cleveland.

Mrs. Ley is a graduate of the New Philadelphia high school in the class of 1932. During the past two years has been teaching in the Dover schools.

Dr. Ley, is a graduate of Western Reserve Dental college and for the past year and half has been practicing in Dover.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Ley have a host of friends and relatives in New Philadelphia and Dover, and the announcement of their wedding will come as a surprise.

“The announcement of their wedding will come as a surprise,” OK! And to their friends in two cities at that. OK!

Also significant in the timing is that it’s not just six months after their nuptials, it’s just about nine months exactly before the birth of their son, my grandpa, Robert Earl Jr., Sept. 30, 1918.

Interesting, eh?

I am sure there are some stories in those intervals of six and nine months, respectively. The story of Wellsburg, though, is documented in a number of places.

Wellsburg served as a famous “Gretna Green” in the U.S. for its fortuitous lack of a waiting period before marriage. Thousands of couples each year crossed from Ohio and Pennsylvania to wed. As surrounding communities enacted longer waiting periods before couples could tie the knot, the flood increased — more than 4,000 couples were married before Christmas Day in 1933; the annual tide swelled to 10,000 by 1936. In 1937, the county responded to pressure from parents in Pittsburgh, among other municipalities, and toughened its laws.

So, Great-Grandma and -Grandpa were products of the time. But as it turns out, there’s another twist to this story.

 

John & Addie Fisher Family, New Philadelphia, OH

Great-great Grandparents John and Addie Fisher are front, center. Great-grandma Zula is front, left. Sister Alverna is front, right. In the back are brothers Byron, Clyde and Oscar.

Fisher Sisters Tie Knot on Same Day?

June 27, 1917 was a Wednesday. Wellsburg was a little over an hour away — 65 miles — down present-day 250E and 22E toward Pittsburgh.

Did 23-year-old dentist Earl and 21-year-old teacher Zula sneak off on a weekday alone to get hitched? As it turns out, probably they did not.

Although I could find no newspaper announcing the wedding of Zula’s younger sister, then 19-year-old Alverna, and 21-year-old Olin Abbuhl, family records on Ancestry.com all reported the same marriage day for the siblings. Curious. And could be wrong.

But diving for the actual records reveals this: at the top of page 238 in the Brooke County wedding registry you’ll see Earl and Zula; at the bottom of page 241 you’ll find Olin and Alverna. Although they recorded Earl’s age as a year older than he really was, only the inaccuracy for Alverna bears any legal implications. At 19, she fell two years short of the age requirements — though there was no checking. So the license records her age as 21.

The lack of a wedding announcement for Olin and Alverna — even their obituaries in 1962 and 1977 do not report their wedding date — leaves several possibilities. Were both sisters wed in secret? Were Olin and Alverna wed officially, with Earl and Zula deciding in the moment to also tie the knot? Not likely, due to Alverna’s (actual) age.

We don’t know the exact details now. But the facts of date and place certainly tell an interesting story.

 

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Zula Ley: Little-Known Fact #2


Ley Zula Robert Jr. 1918

A 1918 portrait shows my great-grandmother, Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, and her newborn son, my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Zula Fisher, Aspiring Film Actress

One of the most striking portraits in my family’s collection is that of my great-grandmother, Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, holding her infant son, my grandpa, Robert Earl Ley, Jr.

The portrait is made more poignant, certainly, by knowing the rest of their story.

How Zula, at 24, would die of influenza while pregnant with her second child, a daughter. And grandpa grew up for a time in the care of Zula’s parents, John William and Addie May, before rejoining his father and stepmother’s household years later.

Zula’s beauty and youth are all the more touching and tragic, knowing more details of her character.

A New Philadelphia Daily Times story from when she was 20 captures her foray into national beauty contests designed to screen test potential movie stars.

Zula Fisher Cracks 1916’s Top 100

From the front page, Tuesday, May 9, 1916:

The beauty and brains contest, a nation wide enterprise, which, under the guidance of the World-Equitable Motion Picture Corporation, has been running for he past eight months in the Photoplay Magazine, is drawing to a close. Lillian Russell, one of the judges, has made the first selection.

Miss Zula Fisher of New Philadelphia, one of the original candidates, was selected by Miss Russell and is one of the hundred who will enter the final elimination. The elimination is now going forward to select the eleven successful candidates.

Miss Zula Fisher, when the contest originated, was prevalied upon to send her photograph with the result that when the eight thousand likenesses were gone over she was selected as one of the hundred most likely film subjects by Lillian Russell. The contest called for an equal amount of brains and beauty. It was essential for the candidate to write a letter in her own hand-writing, stating her reasons for desiring to become a film actress. The applicants, or candidates were then grouped as to the section of the country in which they lived and two candidates from five different sections will finally be chosen. Lillian Russell, Sophie Irene Loeb, a noted New York society writer, William A. Brady, the famous theatrical manager, are the judges. There will be ten winning candidates from the United States and one from Canada.

The eleven successful young ladies will be taken to New York, a month will be devoted to teaching them the value of various dramatic angles, and then those who show proper interest and sufficient ability, will become permanent members of the World and Equitable stock companies, and at goodly salaries appear in films.

Lectures, theatre parties, studio lessons and a number of events are carded for the successful candidates and it is very likely that Miss Fisher, will be one of the successful entrants.

Pretty neat, eh? Considering the obvious beauty of subsequent generations of Ley girls (and presumably, Fisher girls, too), and a connection to a certain modeling aunt of mine, Heather Ley, Zula’s youngest granddaughter.

Would have been nice — awesome, even — to lay eyes on her contest photo, or her entry write-up. Alas.

A quick search of Photoplay magazines from the period reveals what we (probably) already knew: Zula didn’t make the cut. Seems the contest was done and dusted as early as February that year, but the magazine and film corp kept the public in suspense. How might life have changed for Zula — and us, her descendants — had her film dreams played out?

Thursday, another fun fact — and mystery — from her life a year or so later.

Fisher Zula Beauty Brains Photoplay Excerpt 1916

 

 

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