Posts Tagged With: family history

What are the ‘holy grails’ of Genealogy?


Pfouts Michael Conotton winter view wide

Every spring, the flowering shrub planted — or having taken root — at Michael Pfouts’s gravesite swallows his memorial stone, and each autumn, it shrivels to reveal the stone again. Picture from March 2011. This was one of my most unique genealogy finds — I first visited the cemetery south of Bowerston, Ohio, in Spring and couldn’t find Michael’s stone due to the flowering plant. When I came back at the tail end of winter, there was the resting place of our oldest Foutz ancestor, first to come to the United States from Germany.

 

What (Still) Captivates Me About Genealogy

Howdy, all, after a good long while. And happy 2020.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Whispering Across the Campfire. And though a kind of yawning chasm has tended to open up between my posts, especially of late, this year I’ve resolved to open up the archives and spill what contents I’ve accumulated, maybe dig into a new mystery or two.

And resume, today, with a kind of retrospective question. What (still) captivates me about genealogy, anyway?

I got to thinking about this while considering how much family history research has changed since I came off of a book tour in summer 2008 and was challenged to see how many more ancestors I could add to a tree at Geni.com than my wife’s cousin, Carl. That we could even do that online, back then, tapping into my journalistic research skills and tenacity to get the details just right, probably was what originally sucked me in.

But from the first school assignments early in elementary school, there was something innately satisfying to me about filling in every branch I could on the family tree. I’d lost sight of that challenge, probably like a lot of people who fill out the names and file them away in a book or a binder. So much of the genealogy I was exposed to between the ages of, say, 10, and that all-nighter at age 32, was dry, ponderous. Names and dates, dates and names. Typically spelled incorrectly. Perpetually off by a digit or two, and nearly always colored by memory’s romantic fallacy.

There was something unspeakably tyrannical in the form and structure of genealogy as practiced in self-published family tomes. Plodding in their lines of detail. And hypocritical in their tendency to get whole blocks of it wrong. With the chief crime of being inescapably boring.

But by summer 2008 my links with my family’s past were loosening. My grandpa Ley passed away that July, a short year and half after Grandma the previous January. My parents had moved away from the county in Ohio where 200 years of family, on both sides, had laid roots. And I had been seven years gone from the state myself, to Chicago, with two new grapes on the family vine to my credit.

It began to sink in that some scenes would never be replayed. We’d never again live those seemingly endless times around the big table in the Ley kitchen, Grandpa reeling off stories, often tales that ended with both he and Grandma singing. What would become of all the old albums, the slides, the portraits on the piano, packed away or shuttled off to charity (or the dump) like their coats in the hall closet, the things they’d carried home from the war, or work; the sheaves of letters tucked onto a shelf? How would we remember? Where would we find home?

By the glow of our big desktop monitor in the spare bedroom, I began to find a new answer. And get hooked by it.

The aim, at the beginning, was simple, a game: what could I dig up, how far back could I go, simply by taking the little anecdotal pieces I’d always heard from Mom, and Dad, and my grandparents, and plugging them into search engines, guided by my own curiosity and that tenacious skepticism honed in my short professional career to that point in Ohio and Illinois newsrooms. What stories could I uncover?

The databases back then were barely starting to come online. I wouldn’t use Ancestry.com for another couple years. Instead, I relied on the reporter’s knack of stitching together several sources. And questing unblinkingly till I’d gotten double, triple, quadruple verification.

Of course, working around the inevitable roadblocks would eventually require me getting out of the office chair and trekking cross country to local libraries, connecting with relatives old and newly discovered via email, and then in-person. Tromping around cemeteries to see with my own eyes evidence of ancestors before. That only sunk the hooks in deeper. You might say, blood deep.

Genealogy has always been about blood: the family connection we can’t escape, sometimes compounded by the non-blood families we make for ourselves. And these days, some might say the “holy grail” of genealogy is putting aside all that paper research and gumshoeing and spitting into a tube, sealing it up, and mailing it off to the Mormons for verification in their ever-expanding database of lives lived, down to the DNA. And I can certainly understand how for some people, those who have not inherited the trove of documents, or been bound by inertia to a patch of geography for generations, or whose own histories have wound a mysterious path, just how magical  that development is: to connect, to reveal, to finally know.

So I’m acknowledging just how huge an accomplishment that database is. But it just doesn’t get my socks going up and down. It’s a trick of chemistry that, to me, makes blood, somehow, impersonal.

So what gets me going about genealogy? The excitement has been in personally connecting the dots — not leaving it up to a lab. Making my own discoveries — at times backtracking a node or two, reversing course, correcting the path. Reasonably assured of my DNA connection to the thousands of names I’ve already jotted in my electronic tree, I’ve skipped the saliva-gram altogether, and found my own grails to pursue.

In ascending order of fulfillment to the family history researcher — this one, anyway — here are six:

 

J.J. Zeigler graveston Ruslin Hills Cemetery

Grave marker of Great-Great Grandfather J. J. Zeigler in Ruslin Hills cemetery near Dover, Ohio. One of my early genealogy mistakes was in pulling the wrong death date for J.J. from online records, which usually are far more reliable than family memory. But our distant cousins had the correct records here — and pointed me to the rock solid proof.

6. Getting the main milestones right

Early on I vowed this blog would be devoted to family stories, instead of procedurals on how to do genealogy. But if I had to sum up my early approach, before I unearthed mysteries that relied on more advanced techniques, it’s this:

  1. Start with names, then track down, for each…
  2. … birth date and place
  3. … marriage date and place
  4. … date of death and burial place.

This formula gets repeated for every new name you discover: spouses, children, parents, siblings.

Why is it the most important course of work you can follow? Because you’re going to get those names from parents, and grandparents, or talkative uncles. All of them well-meaning — we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt — but few, if any of them, in command of all the details that are going to help you go beyond a generation or two and pluck your actual relatives’ lives from the growing sea of data out there. Not to mention the incorrect data caused by the world of well-meaning researchers — we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt — who were not as deliberate as careful little YOU.

There’s also the aggravating phenomenon, in this digital age, of incorrect transcriptions of the actual, original record. Think about how this happens. Well-meaning volunteers — we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt — who spend days of their own accord squinting at microfiche and yellowing newspapers and crumbling old volumes at the courthouse, and then typing — perhaps badly — what they perceive to be the correct spellings of your family’s series of tongue-twisting surnames and given names.

You want to be armed with the best facts when you wade into that well-meaning muck, believe me.

So I follow the old journalist’s adage, learned, oh, by the fourth week I was on that first job out of college, taught to me by my faithful editor, Eilene Guy, at the Sandusky Register: “If your mother says she loves you: CHECK IT OUT.

How do we arm ourselves against a world of sloppy data? Cross-referencing. And cross-referencing again.

Start with the names, and even dates, in a family history album. Or that are given to you by your mother, over the phone. (CHECK THEM OUT.)

Look up censuses online. There are other sources besides paying to dive into Ancestry.com right away. (And you will want to check every automatic connection trees like that make for you.) FamilySearch.org has grown into a more or less comprehensive one. And it’s free.

In the census you can peg your ancestors’ birth years plus or minus a few years by what the census taker took down. And you can cross-reference that info in 10-year snapshots. They WILL differ.

What you’re after, next, is a birth record. One that records names of parents is even better. (More names to check out!) You can cross-reference that with baptismal records, which may or may not record both the birth date and the baptism date, usually a few days after your node on the family tree sprouted into existence.

Probably the next time your ancestor enters the public record is marriage. A lot of these records are online. Either in the big databases at FamilySearch, or state databases, or sometimes printed in regional histories, which record all the weddings and couples and dates performed at churches throughout the county. You’ll get a marriage date, probably an age (more verification for the birth date), and the name and dates of, face it, your ancestor’s better half.

You’re cross-referencing that info back and forth as you trace the family’s life through subsequent censuses. There are, then, draft records, city directories, even church histories and records of professional associations that can mark further milestones. But for the basics, you’re looking for that document that records the sunset of a life.

Death records will record all sorts of useful information, including cause of death, place of death, which relative signed the papers or was made responsible for next steps. These are backed up by obituaries (which can be wrong) and burial records, even the memorial stone itself (which, still, sometimes can be wrong). But knowing the date places a bookend to that life. And sometimes is even the starting point for tracing back all the previous milestones we just mentioned.

An example of how this diligent research can go wrong: In the case of my great-grandmother Laura Foutz (in family legend, which proved correct, Christina Laurina Catherina Zeigler Foutz), I did not have a death date. And Ohio records, as of 2008, were cut off at 1953. I did not even have an agreed-upon correct spelling of her maiden name — was it Ziegler? That’s what I was told, and what I researched.

That led me to a Ziegler family with a Laura in their household, about the same age as my great-grandfather Vance Foutz, and for decades, just down the street from where Vance and Laura made their home. And a very compelling legend about a J. Ziegler who was gunned down in the tavern he owned.

Trouble was? It was all wrong. Zeigler was the correct spelling. And I eventually pruned that branch from the tree and went through that three-point checklist to verify all the new members as I backtracked.

“If your mother says she loves you, CHECK IT OUT.”

 

Addie John Fisher Family New Phila Ohio early 1900s

Fisher family portrait, shared with us by distant cousins. A young Great-Grandma Zula is top left. Front: Addie and John. Middle: Byron, Clyde and Oscar. Back: Zula and Alverna.

5. Tracing a branch forward

From those basic milestones, censuses and newspapers become your go-to’s for understanding how an ancestor lived, and who they marked their days with.

Censuses will children and spouses, with dates you’ve got to verify, already well-noted. And newspapers will carry lists of survivors in obituaries, and less commonly, birth notices or professional or school news about so-and-so’s kiddos-made-good.

The benefits of tracing not only your ancestor’s and immediate descendants’ lines forward is that, by understanding where siblings and uncles and aunts and the like ended up, and tracing through their descendants, you make connections — in the online data as well as in real live relationships in the world today — that can tap you into a trove of information that brings their stories alive.

The most compelling of these, for me, are pictures.

Even though my family knew a lot of the legends, told a lot of the stories — some fact, and some fanciful — I was over 30 before I even saw a picture of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother Foutz, or Johnson. I knew names that were even earlier with my Ley and Weible ancestors, but being able to gaze into their eyes, and put faces to the names, is the thrill of what involved, detailed genealogy is all about.

Take the picture above, of my great-grandmother Zula Lucrece Fisher Ley as an elaborately-coiffed, elegantly-dressed young firecracker.

Zula was subject of the second series I published on this blog, way back 10 years ago in April 2010. Her death was a story that remained with me through my boyhood: struck ill with influenza in early February of 1920, and she and the daughter she was pregnant with both died, setting my not-year-2-year-old grandpa Ley’s life on a different course than what it might have been. There was a haunting portrait of her holding grandpa as an infant that made those details all the more etched in memory.

It was one of the first stories I wanted to research in depth. And I was able to confirm the details of that tragedy right in the death records, which certainly carry a more ominous weight than the whispered reminiscences of relatives.

Happily, in the year since I’ve been able to assemble a more complete record of great-grandma Zula, including yearbook photos and newspaper articles, as well as scribbled notes in the books she studied as an elementary school teacher. But one of the first scores of my genealogical research was connecting with Noreen Moser, granddaughter of Zula’s brother, my great-great uncle Clyde Fisher.

Noreen shared this early family portrait of Zula and her parents and siblings, as well as a later one. Coming face to face with history is a powerful reminder of all that proper genealogy can be.

 

Sherman S. Foutz

Second Great-Uncle Sherman S. Foutz, oldest brother to my great-grandfather, Vance Cleveland Foutz.

4. Telling the story of a life

The first mystery I pursued in genealogical research — or at least the first post on this blog — was that of the elusive, tremendously successful, Sherman Foutz.

In the patchwork genealogical research my grandma Erma Johnson Foutz conducted with Grandpa Don Foutz in the 1970s, they weren’t even sure whether Sherman was grandpa’s dad’s father or not, so much younger was Great-Grandpa Vance than his oldest brother, Sherman. There were also confusing rumors and tidbits from global researchers of Foutz history that pointed to us being Mormons, or convicts, instead of honest farmers hacking our way through the Appalachian mountains from Maryland to to settle in Ohio shortly after 1810.

But I started to piece it all together by following the census record. And navigating my way over the gap that ensued about 1890 when nearly the entire record burned. That was unfortunate for catching the first census Vance would have appeared on, being born in 1887. And some of the confusion about parentage clearly stems from Vance, as well as brother Charlie, appearing in Sherman’s household in 1900 in Washington DC, along with Sherman’s wife, Laura, but also along with their two children, Grace and Oscar, and Sherman, Vance and Charles’s parents, my great-great-grandparents, Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz.

Further research into newspaper records and local histories cemented the right connections and lineage. But Sherman’s story captivated me.

Born on a farm in Ohio, where his wife’s family also worked, he was one of the first in my family to attend schooling beyond high school. He parlayed his training into a successful career, first as an appointment to the Treasury Department in D.C. under President Grover Cleveland, then as fire insurance salesman and fraternal leader in Harrisburg and Reading, Pa.

But Sherman’s life was tragically cut short by tuberculosis in 1915. It took me years just to obtain his death certificate from Colorado — where he’d spent his last months in a sanitorium. And the record in Pennsylvania, for years, was incomplete as to the fates of his daughter, Grace, and son, Oscar, and wife, Laura. I had a death date for Laura, and grave back in Ohio, but no idea of what happened to Grace and Oscar. And eventually those mysteries deepened, as new names — a step-daughter, Catherine Rutt, a wife for Oscar, Florence Hartman — were added to the fold.

Eventually, I tracked down answers to all the burning questions. And a fuller portrait of Sherman’s life — and his family’s emerged. And I was able to connect with the continuing story of Pennsylvania Foutzes, even get invited to the reunion. That’s living genealogy.

Palmer homestead Scio Ohio

Another view of the old Palmer homestead in Scio, Ohio as it appeared in March 2011.

3. Putting a place to a name

This blog resulted after I got out of my chair in the guest bedroom in suburban Chicago where I started my foray into family history, and set out on treks back home to Ohio to walk the same paths my ancestors did.

There were places I knew, like the home my great-grandfather Robert Weible shared Great-Grandma M.A., just blocks from where I grew up.

And places I was determined to find and set my own eyes on, like the farm my great-great-great-grandfather Gideon Pfouts called home for more than 60 years in Harrison County. I’d probably driven right past that area nearly a hundred times for weekend stop at Tappan Lake in high school, and every trip back and forth from college in Pittsburgh. And never knew.

Well, from censuses you get the township name, and even the address if your families aren’t farmers in the mid-1800s. But from censuses, you go to land records, and township maps, and compare to the aerial survey. And amazingly, a lot of the borders are still visible from a thousand or so feet up. Incredible.

So, seeing Gideon’s old backyard from a computer was unbearable. I had to check it out myself.

In 2010 I took a week off work, ostensibly to hammer out a hundred or so pages to complete my master’s thesis novel for Columbia College. I holed up in my Grandma Foutz’s house, empty for months after her second husband, Max, had passed away. But I ended up spending my days chasing after history.

Visited cemeteries. A lot of cemeteries. Drove winding backroads. Connected with Johnson relatives who took me past the Palmer homestead where my great-grandma Vila Palmer Johnson grew up.

But the oddest highlights yet took place in 2011 and 2012, when, accompanied by a Foutz distant cousin I discovered by “tracing it forward” I tromped around the homesteads of Jonathan Foutz and Gideon Foutz, taking a rock for a souvenir, but otherwise not quite brave enough to knock on doors and see if our 150-year-old knowledge held up to scrutiny.

Someday?

 

Weible Esther Goddard age 16

Esther Bliss Goddard, at age 16. An inscription on the photograph, probably by her son Robert Ohio Weible, identified the photograph as a reproduction of a 48-year-old tintype.

2. Looking into the eyes of your ancestor

As noted above, tracing your tree forward could put you into possession of photos and other trinkets you’d never have counted on, and that bring history alive.

But what about when they’ve been in possession of your parents, or grandparents, for years, but missing captions, or other incomplete details mean those faces would otherwise be lost to history?

My mom sent me a trove of Weible photographs and documents a few years ago, and I was sure, sure, that one of the mystery photographs was of my great-great-grandmother, Esther Bliss Goddard Weible, as a teenage girl.

By process of elimination, and cross-referencing of other photographs to branches on the tree I had thoroughly traced forward, even to distant aunts with untimely deaths, I was able to confirm as best as I could, and fill in a missing photograph on my tree.

But what’s cooler? Looking at photographs of my great-grandpa, her son, Robert Ohio Weible, whom I’m said to resemble, and Esther, there’s definitely a distinctive family resemblance. And some 150 years later, that’s pretty cool to recognize. A recognition earned through research.

 

Dawn James Colt Foutz genealogy research trip

What’s the fun of genealogy research without a partner in crime? Distant Foutz cousin Dawn James graciously hosted Colt Foutz on a recent research trip to Harrison, Tuscarawas and Carroll counties. Oh yeah, and made her share of discoveries, too.

1. Making a present-day connection

So, to sum up: to me, a genealogy spit-test can in no way, ever, compare to the thrills you encounter by starting with names and dates, and then uncovering photographs, faces, places and stories. Untold hours go into this. And to make that connection, forge that eureka! moment, whether online or hunched over a creaking tome in some library, is far more precious than what some database in Utah can tell me.

But even cooler? When you don’t go through all that alone.

Case in point are the visits I’ve made to cousin Dawn James in West Virgina. She’s a great-great-granddaughter of Ida Foutz Moreland, older sister to my great-grandpa Vance. We connected online — Dawn was always only too happy to point out this shocking fact to whatever folks we would encounter back in 2011 to 2014 — and spent a couple trips tromping through cemeteries and driving back roads, even knocking on doors and asking questions, even — memorably — getting shot at as we slipped down the muddy trails of our shared ancestral homestead.

What kind of damn fun is THAT? (Dawn, been waaaaay too long. Let’s do it again, soon.)

I have made connections, some faithful, some fleeting, with other nodes on the tree, other relatives pursuing their own quest, that make the journey all the more companionable and fruitful. They get it, you know? And chances are, they’ve got things that contribute to your understanding better than your own digging ever could: diaries, stories, photographs, possessions.

The most valuable artifact shared, though? Time. We are all just passing through. And to be able to connect to someone else — even more notable during our own pandemic days a hundred years removed from when our ancestors lived, painfully, through similar struggles — and to spend hours and days, soon fleeting, on the genealogical trail with them, is the stuff new legends are made of.

Happy 10th birthday to Whispering Across the Campfire. I promise to be a bit more active in this anniversary year, emptying my own archives in a series of brief, but hopefully useful posts. And yeah, unleashing the magnum opus every once in awhile.

Happy sleuthing, all!

Categories: General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Robert Earl Ley Jr.: 1950s Fluoridation Crusade


Ley RE Jr council at large Daily REporter 9 Nov 1955

The 1950s were a busy decade for grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr. In addition to serving as at-large city councilman for Dover, Ohio, he headed county dentists and was an active voice urging for fluoridation of water supplies to counteract tooth decay in 94% of area school children.

1950s Busy for Dental Ed, R.E. Ley Jr.

From the moment the first Leys in our family left Bavaria and settled in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, they threw themselves into the lives of their community.

Fourth great-grandfather Karl Ley, a saddler and Civil War supplier for the Union Army, also served on the local school board in Shanesville. Wife Susanna Vogelsang Ley, also a German immigrant, was elected president of the women’s guild.

Son Augustus established the first creamery in the county and was proprietor of a long-running dry goods store on the canal in Port Washington. He also served as treasurer and clerk for Salem Twp.

Grandson Charles Henry Ley served on the board of education and city council before gaining election and reelection as Tuscarawas County treasurer from 1911-15.

And great-grandson Robert Earl Ley Sr. — my great-grandpa — after first assisting his father in the treasury office, was a charter member of the Dover Kiwanis Club, a member of the Masonic Lodge in New Philadelphia and of the Shrine and affiliated organizations, in addition to heading up the Tuscarawas County Dental organization.

Which brings us to the ambitious Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Carrying on a family tradition of service, Grandpa Ley would serve on the Dover City Council and participate in Dover Kiwanis, Dover American Legion, Dover Lions Club (as president), Dover Elks Lodge No. 975 (as exalted ruler), the Dover Masonic Lodge (achieving 32nd degree), Tadmor Shrine, Royal Order of Jesters, and Chef de Gare of the 40 et 8 Voiture 117.

Whew.

Probably, grandpa was at his most civic-ally bustling during the decade of the 1950s. In addition to his role as councilman-at-large in Dover, in 1954, his election as president of the Tuscarawas County Dental Society melded his professional and public lives, and gave him the stage for proposing a contentious. but noble, idea: the fluoridation of the public water supply.

Survey: 94% of School Children with Tooth Decay

The discussion seems to have kicked off with particular fervor around 1953, when a state board of health trailer stopped in town to check for tooth decay in elementary school children. The findings were shocking: 94% of the more than 5,000 kids surveyed were found to have dental problems, according to the reporting of Paul Mico, county TB health educator.

In a Dover Daily Reporter article of June 2, 1954, Mico compares the county’s struggles with what Grandpa Ley encountered in the Pacific during World War II. In this case the Philippines came out on top of the U.S. by a great margin, Mico wrote:

Dr. Ley had the occasion once to check the teeth of 200 Philippine children, and even though their nutritional standards were far below ours, he found only two children with decayed teeth.

One in 100 there, 94 in 100 here. Why the great difference? Candy, pop, gum and other highly refined sweets were practically non-existent in the Philippines when Dr. Ley was there, but they are consumed in huge quantities here.

Aside from the statistical gap, why the fretful concern? The attitude of the day, as Mico related, was that baby teeth weren’t worth caring for, since they were just going to fall out anyway, and that adults could always replace rotten teeth with artificial sets. Dangerous misconceptions, since tooth decay in children can lead to malformed jaws and facial structures, and adults can develop bacterial infections leading to secondary diseases.

Yelchchchhc, right?

County dentists responded to the dilemma with a prescription of healthy nutrition, regular checkups, cleanings and X-rays, and the topical application of fluorine. But the throwing in of these well-trained and civic-minded professionals behind the idea to add fluoridation to the public water supply was met with typical resistance, Mico wrote:

One of the great mysteries in the field… is the great difficulty encountered… in initiating fluoridation of community water supplies. Adding fluoride … will reduce dental decay by 65 percent. It is not dangerous to health; does not add taste, color, odor or hardness to water, costs only 5 to 14 cents per person per yar; and is endorsed by a great many national and state health agencies.

By late summer, county dentists, led by Grandpa Ley, had voted formally to take up the cause of public education and push for fluoridation, according to a September 1954 vote.

Over the following months, Robert Earl Ley Jr. led the charge, presenting to the Lions Club a week after the dentists’ vote and formalizing the platform at a dentists’ meeting in October.

As Mico quoted Grandpa Ley in an October 14 Daily Reporter article:

We are not being selfish in any manner, what-so-ever (Ley said). If every dentist in this county could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from now on, we still couldn’t treat all the people who need treatment. We are facing a great problem and are willing to do everything we can to show the people how they can help themselves.

The dentists concluded by calling on “every PTA, CCL, social and civic group, and school” to join in the cause. But the effort would play out over the course of years.

Carrying Fluoridation to the Ballot

Throughout the 1950s newspaper record, many Ohio communities reflected the national trend by engaging in the fluoridation debate, including Sandusky and Newark years before Dover. By the midpoint of the decade, according to a Sept. 24, 1954 Daily Reporter article, “a thousand (U.S.) cities now drink water fluoridated artificially, and another 400 have ordered… equipment.”

A 10-year study of two New York towns, Newburgh and Kingston, found fluoridated Newburgh reported 47 percent fewer childhood cavities than its neighbor.

By June 1956, Ley and colleague Dr. C. R. Crawley had gained the support of the Dover Chamber of Commerce with a 43-3 vote in favor of fluoridation. But the debate would drag on, with Ley still stumping in 1957-58 before the St. Joseph’s PTA and others, even as cities including Cincinnati and Columbus had voted to reject fluoridation, in Columbus’ case by a more than 2-1 margin.

Grandpa’s time on city council passed without a positive enactment of any law to move forward with fluoridation. And, at least in my search of the public record, his voice seems to go silent on the topic. A reckoning wouldn’t come until until spring 1970, when the state assembly required four towns in Tuscarawas County to vote yea or nay on fluoridation.

In a March editorial that year, Harry Yockey of the Daily Reporter laid out the sides. In opposition to the measure, groups cited concerns about the damaging effects of sodium fluoride on the kidneys and bones. Opponents offered rewards to anyone who could prove definitively that fluoridation isn’t harmful. The Cincinnati Enquirer shot holes in that argument, saying it would be just as well for the public to offer a reward to prove the harmlessness of peanut butter, or milk, or unfluoridated water. Yet, debate persisted, at a time when a mere 40% of Americans received regular dental care. Cost, of course, was also a concern. Not to mention philosophical arguments against mass medication.

The May 5, 1970 vote was an overwhelming “No” with all four cities, Dover, New Philadelphia, Dennison and Uhrichsville blocking any action by the state government to require fluoridation. Only two communities statewide approved the measure.

Subsequent years saw more twists and turns in the debate — but no definitive resolution. In 1971, the state fluoridation law would be ruled unconstitutional. But efforts to require municipalities to act continued. In 1973, the National Kidney Foundation announced no correlation between fluoridation and kidney ailments. Cincinnati legislators OK’d the measure not long afterward (only to see it overturned in 1975). By 1974, nearly half the U.S. population drank fluoridated water.

Back home, in 1974, New Phila proposed, then scrapped plans for a public forum on the topic. In Dover, it seems nothing ever came of the debate, and even today, the discussion continues.

 

Categories: Ley, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Josephine Wible, Well-Traveled Teacher


Weible Josephine dhs yearbook 1931

Josephine Wible, daughter of Edwin Frederick and Minnie Mae (Ley) Wible, about 1931, as a popular Dover High School teacher.

Josephine Wible, a Cousin Twice Over

Headlines in the Dover Daily Reporter 60 years ago this August announced, “Josephine Wible Feted.” The occasion? Marriage, at age 48, that September 1954, for one of Dover’s most-beloved and ambitious, teachers.

Rewind a half-century. Josephine, born 1905, was eldest of Edwin Frederick Wible and Minnie Mae (Ley) Wible’s four children.

Edwin, remember, was a son of David Wible, and grandson of Frederick Weible, which made him nephew to my great-great grandfather, Franklin Eli Weible.

Minnie Mae Ley was the only daughter of Augustus Ley and Harriet (Powell) Ley, brother to my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley.

Edwin and Minnie’s marriage, in December 1904, was the first union of the Weible and Ley families. My grandparents, Sue Weible, granddaughter of Franklin Eli, and Robert Earl Ley Jr., grandson of Charles Henry Ley, would marry nearly 40 years later.

But back to Josephine. Of her childhood, W.D. Shirk, in his history of the Powell families, writes of a 1917 visit to her parents’ household, “theirs is truly a model family….

“They are … the proud parents of four as bright children as can be found in the Buckeye state; Josephine Elizabeth, b. Sept. 26, 1905; James Frederick, b. Sept. 30, 1908; (Ruth) Eleanor, b. July 21, 1910, and David Augustus, b. Apr. 4, 1916.”

After graduating from Dover High School in 1923, Josephine attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1927. She then spent 13 years racking up classes and specialized training in theater, radio and dramatic production, studying at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa, which granted her a master’s degree in 1940.

Throughout her studies, Josephine taught. She held a teaching fellowship in the summer theater at Westford, Mass.; taught high school in Dover and Delaware, Ohio and in Rochelle, Illinois; and taught at the post-secondary level at Stevens College (Missouri), Salem College (North Carolina) and Centenary Junior College (Hackettstown, N.J.).

Returning home to Dover was an early stop on her teaching itinerary. Throughout the 1930s, she led the drama and speech groups at Dover High School, and appeared to warm the hearts of everyone, as evidenced in the 1931 yearbook dedication below. The signature, on my grandpa Don Foutz’s junior yearbook, is hers.

Weible Josephine dhs ybook full dedication 1931

Beloved Teacher Summers in Dover

Later editions of the Dover Daily Reporter are only a partial guide to Josephine’s many achievements and their impact on the life of her community. Josephine is featured regularly in “Echoes of Yesteryear”….

The paper always seemed proud of the town’s prodigal daughter for returning to Dover every summer, no matter where her teaching career took her.

It was during a visit home in August 1954 that Josephine was treated to her bridal shower. She likely met John Milliken of Stockton, New Jersey, while teaching at Centenary College. Their marriage — his second, her first — was performed by the Rev. Richard Michel at the Moravian Church.

After marrying, Josephine and John moved to Acton, Mass., where she continued her teaching career and active involvement in the community.

By the time of her death, in May 1974, the Millikens called Los Gatos, Calif., just south of Santa Clara, home. Josephine died one day after my great-grandmother, Beatrice Ethel Weible — her first cousin once removed. John would follow her in death in 1982.

Interestingly, Josephine Wible Milliken chose to be buried at home, near the Weible family plot in Maple Grove Cemetery. John is buried in New Jersey.

Categories: Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ralph & Sherman Foutz’s Raucous Youth


Glen Mills Schools Delaware Pa

Getting sent to Glen Mills Schools for troubled youth, outside of Philadelphia in Delaware County, was a constant threat for Sherman Foutz’s rough-and-tumble grandsons Ralph and Harry Sherman as they grew up in 1920s and 1930s Harrisburg.

Rough & Tumble Times for Ralph & Sherman Foutz

Research in the last month has shed new light on the mysteries surrounding the family and descendants of my great-great uncle Sherman Foutz.

As intriguing as new leads in genealogy are, though, they only manage to stitch together the roughest weave of a life.

There are still plenty of gaps you can poke fingers through.

But that’s the kind of discourse we’re left with as we examine lives of 70, 80… 100 and more years ago. Absent an audience with our actual ancestors, we collect clues, consider them. And end up, perhaps, with a closer understanding of who they were, and what life was like.

We can see, for instance, well enough to realize that by the time of his father Sherman’s death, Oscar Foutz was living far away from his family, and divorce in 1917 only seemed to cement that.

We can see that Oscar certainly doesn’t show up with family members, or even in and around Harrisburg, from 1920 on. And that widowed mom, Lizzie, though she has the care, for a time, of grandson Ralph and foster daughter Catherine, seems occupied enough with continued existence in Harrisburg, albeit an increasingly solitary one.

What happened to grandsons Ralph and (Harry) Sherman Foutz? Newspaper accounts from their boyhood through their 20s reveal repeated run-ins with local and state authorities. They are listed as “homeless,” “old offenders.” They’re responsible for robberies, thefts, the odd assault.

We know that life eventually settles down for Ralph. He meets and marries Virginia Henson. Finds steadier work as a truck driver. Has seven kids — and countless more grandkids, through which his story lives on, and new ones among his descendants are written.

I’d like to know more about the Virginia and Ralph Foutz who became “gram” and “pap” to my distant Foutz cousins. And of his younger brother who shared their grandfather Sherman’s name.

Their youth, and what became of Oscar and Florence and Lizzie, is only part of the story. The way my own Grandpa Ley’s losing his mother as an infant, and half-brother as a young teenager, shaped his early life, but he wrote his own story the rest of his 70+ years. Or how my Grandma Erma Johnson Foutz lost three brothers within three years to separate water-related accidents. Tragic at the time. And certainly echoed through stories I heard growing up. But the next 61 years for her were filled with family — six other siblings and countless memories.

So, a youth with a rap sheet doesn’t define the shape of the mature man.

But it can underline and even explain much of what we’ve discovered about life after Sherman’s death in 1915.

Foutz Rapsheet: 1920s

I thought it might be useful to view the newspaper accounts I’ve collected in decade-long snapshots.

The beginning of the 1920s find 11-year-old Ralph in the care of grandmother Lizzie Foutz and 14-year-old (adopted) aunt Catherine. This is about the time Lizzie works as a cook for the Elks Home.

Eight-year-old brother Sherman, on the other hand, is probably living in Harrisburg with mother Florence, stepfather William Frank Orner, and half-brother Raymond Carroll Orner.

If Lizzie’s life didn’t seem clearly hard-scrabble when considering the census record (and Oscar’s and Grace’s absence), consider that 11-year-old Sherman is already “on parole” and considered “an old offender” by the courts, and that when the brothers reunite for a theft in 1922 they are identified as “two homeless children.”

  • October 15, 1920: Ralph Foutz, “an old offender”, already on parole (at 11), admitted to running away from home and is sent to Mont Alto hospital for treatment in lieu of being sent to Glen Mills school for troubled youth, according to the Harrisburg Evening News.
  • Jan. 6, 1922: Ralph and Sherman Foutz, “two homeless children,” are sent to Glen Mills troubled juveniles school after “figuring” in a bicycle theft, according to the Harrisburg Telegraph.

Foutz Rap Sheet: 1930s

As Ralph and Sherman reach their 20s, their involvement in thefts continues, and their estrangement from family seems complete.

Youthful, but no longer considered children, their crimes no longer land them in hospitals for treatment or schools for troubled youths. The major crime both are involved in at the beginning of the decade puts them in county prison for more than a year.

Their victims? When not random, they include family. Ralph and Sherman break into and rob the farmhouses of their grandpa Francis Hartman and Aunt Hannah Gable, Florence’s father and sister. Ralph faces additional time for stealing a necklace and cash from a girlfriend’s house in Harrisburg.

Some context: according to my latest research, Florence’s second marriage didn’t last long. In a genealogy boards discussion from 2006, a daughter of Raymond Carroll Orner reported that William Frank Orner moved away and remarried, and that her father was told as a boy that his mother had died (in reality, she wouldn’t die until 1938, when “Carroll” was 20). By 1930, there is a Florence Orner listed in the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Asylum in Harrisburg. I haven’t cemented the connections yet, but if this holds together, it would seem the fracturing of Oscar and Florence Foutz’s family was complete.

  • Dec. 28, 1931: Ralph, 23, is charged with felonious entry and larceny for entering a Harrisburg home and stealing $2.62 and a necklace, according to the Harrisburg Telegraph.
  • Nov. 27. 1933: Transported back to Harrisburg after serving 22 months in Berks County prison for breaking into his relatives’ farmhouses, Ralph, now 25, is made to answer for the stolen cash and necklace from 1931. He pleads guilty, but asks for leniency, telling the judge, “I’ve learned my lesson. All I ask is a chance to prove it.” The judge sentences Ralph to a reduced 60 days in Dauphin County prison, but tells Ralph if he is arrested again, he’ll serve three years, according to the Harrisburg Telegraph.
  • April 1936: Sherman, 26, is sentenced to 60 days in Washington County (Maryland) jail for stealing instruments from a parked car in Hagerstown and likely selling them to a second-hand store, according to the Daily Mail.

 

Foutz Ralph Virginia

Virginia (Henson) Foutz and Ralph Francis Foutz, in an undated photo.

Foutz Rap Sheet: 1940s

Although I haven’t tried to assemble an exhaustive account of the Foutz brothers’ run-ins with the law, by their late 20s and 30s, life appears to settle down for Ralph and Sherman.

Ralph successfully pleads for leniency in the early 1930s, and stays out of trouble before getting involved in a hold-up and robbery. He is granted parole, however, returns to his wife, Virginia, and young son.

  • Feb. 8, 1938: Ralph, 29, is held on $2,000 bail after he and three 18-year-old youths attempt to hold up and rob residents of a Harrisburg house. He pleads guilty to assault with intent to rob, unlawfully carrying firearms and a statutory offense, and is sentenced to 9 to 18 month in Dauphin County prison. Five months later, a judge grants Ralph’s plea for parole, which cites his wife and 2-year-old son being on relief, according to the Telegraph.

During the course of the 1940s, Ralph finds steady work as a truck driver, and celebrates the births of Charles Harry, in 1939, and Catherine in 1941. Like his father, Ralph appears to enjoy boxing, as articles in local papers in the late 1930s indicate.

Foutz Ralph more boxing Lebanon Daily News 17 July 1934Foutz Ralph amateur boxer Evening Sun Hanover 1 Sep 1937

A truck accident in 1944 is the final off-kilter news item for Ralph and family in the 1940s.

Brother Sherman, meanwhile, faces serious time in 1946 after being involved in stealing from a refrigerator car. Although I’ve found a couple traces of him marrying (a woman named Mary) and moving back and forth between Harrisburg and Hagerstown in the 1930s and 1940s, that’s where the story of Oscar’s younger son goes dark for me.

Just as these articles have helped shine a little more light on Sherman Foutz’s descendants in the early part of the 20th century, I’m hoping getting to know Ralph and Oscar through their family will illuminate what happened next.

Categories: Foutz, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grace Foutz Feature Frames Life in Ohio


Sherman, Grace, and Rebecca Foutz; Rachel Caldwell 1910

About 1910, clockwise from left, Sherman Foutz, his daughter Grace Foutz, his mother Rebecca Foutz and his grandmother Rachel Caldwell pose in happier times.

Grace Foutz Chaney’s Happy, Distant Life

In this ongoing series, we’re taking a crack at solving some of the mysteries surrounding the family of Sherman Foutz, my great-grandfather Vance Foutz’s oldest brother.

A recent research binge on newspaperarchives.com blew open a couple doors I thought, given Pennsylvania’s reputation for white-knuckle-gripping its vital records, would probably stay shut fast.

An illuminating source, as ever, are the obituaries of relatives past. And just in case information is incomplete (or wrong) in the final record of our dearly departed — as was the case in Sherman Foutz’s 1915 obituary, the one clipped and saved for 100 years — it always pays to check the initial “extra” to readers of the day or so before — the death announcement.

If I could offer one genealogy lesson — though stories are the point of this blog — it’s that starting from the end of a life often yields the richest clues to an ancestor’s entire life. Obituaries done right, at least the way I was taught as a cub reporter at the Sandusky Register (egad, a decade and a half ago), serve up all the pertinent birth, marriage and death dates; spouses, children, parents, siblings, (living and dead); occupations, places lived, war record; and all the various memberships and associations that make up a life in brief.

A treasure trove, if you can get at it. And hoping, of course, the newspaper chronicling the lives of your loved ones hasn’t adopted the same abbreviated style as, say, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which hadn’t changed its basic name, died, funeral date and place format in the 98 years between my great-great grandfather Morgan’s death in 1897 and the death of his granddaughter in 1995.

But here I go burying the lead.

Fewer links ahead, promise, and a thorough peek into the life of Sherman’s daughter, Grace Foutz Chaney.

A Return Home to Ohio

The central tragedy for Sherman Foutz’s family was his early death, at 47, of tuberculosis in 1915. Following that, the first of our Foutzes to leave the farm in Harrison County, Ohio, attend college and work in the big cities of Washington D.C. and Reading and Harrisburg, Pa., essentially split up.

Eldest daughter Grace marries that December in a West Virginia county neighboring the one a lot of our other relatives seemed to elope to (probably a story in itself). She lives the rest of her life not with her mother, Elizabeth Foutz, or step-sister Catherine, back in Harrisburg, but with husband Fred Chaney in Uhrichsville, where she works as a school teacher.

They never have children. They never leave Uhrichsville. And they have an odd propensity for consistently lying about their ages. In fact, Grace’s gravestone is off by the same incorrect six years as most of the censuses, which made her, for a time, the same age as the six-years-younger Fred, and which was maybe their point in fibbing.

But never fear: Grace’s 1970 obituary finally gets her age right, and spills the details about a lot of her life. We learn Fred precedes her in death by 15 years. Older brother Oscar is also listed as deceased. Then there are the tantalizing hints of “several nieces and nephews” and that foster sister, Catherine Rutt, whom we haven’t found out a lot about yet.

The obit offered a lot of details. But at the time I discovered it among my great-grandfather’s things a few summers back, the usual parade of questions marched along:

  1. When did brother Oscar Foutz die? Preceded could mean a couple years earlier, or as far back as the 1910s, when he suddenly stops being counted among his mother’s residence, where one son, Ralph, resides. The other, Harry Sherman, as well as Oscar’s wife, Florence Hartman Foutz, are also lost to history (But more on them soon.)
  2. Why did Grace marry an Ohio man just eight months after her father’s death? Where and how did they meet?
  3. Why did Grace suddenly and emphatically live so far removed from her widowed mother, young foster sister and the remnants of her brother’s family in Pennsylvania?
  4. And, living as she did just a dozen miles south of her extended family (my own) in Dover, Ohio, did she maintain connections with the greater Foutz clan?

On this last point, the written record seems to suggest Grace knew about Vance Foutz’s family in Dover and kept up with my great-grandfather, her uncle in family relation, but really just three years her senior and one year Oscar’s, an accident of the 20-year span between bookend brothers Sherman and Vance. In fact, when preteen Vance, Oscar and Grace lived together in Washington D.C. about 1900 (family lore has recorded that Sherman got his youngest brothers John, Charley and Vance jobs in the postal department), they were likely more playmates than proper uncle and nephew and niece. That Vance’s and Grace’s birthdays were also close together (hers, Sept. 5, 1890; his, Sept. 7, 1887) could also have been a fun circumstantial bond.

A few years after Grace died, later in the 1970s, Vance’s daughter-in-law, my great-aunt Louise Foutz, was trying to piece together family history with my grandparents and great-aunt Doris Foutz Waddington. Louise counted, among her father’s known siblings, a brother, Charles, and at least two sisters — Mrs. Sam Hathaway, of Bowerston, and Mrs. Thomas Moreland, of Carrollton. …:

Also a brother Sherman that we know little about, and possibly another sister (Louise wrote). … I went to Pop’s sister’s funeral when I was pregnant with Donna. A Frank Coleman used to visit often, and a niece that lived in Urichsville (sic.), and some red-haired nephews from Canton. Neither Doris or I remember names.

The red-haired nephews likely belonged to Charles Foutz, who died of pneumonia in 1918 at age 32, leaving a wife and four children behind. (More on them soon!) The niece is most likely Grace. An examination of great-grandpa Vance’s funeral guest register shows the shaky hand of 78-year-old Grace Chaney as present.

Pity, then, that no one from my grandparents’ generation remembers Sherman’s dynamic daughter. Fortunately, a newspaper article from the same Times-Reporter, a year before her death, tells more of Grace’s story.

Devoted teacher, never tested for teaching license

A January 25, 1969 feature entitled “Wonderful Life…” details Grace Foutz Chaney’s childhood and education, her marriage to Fred, her teaching career and the ways she lived out her days in Uhrichsville.

Read the whole article by clicking the thumbnail below.

Chaney Grace Foutz wonderful life Daily Reporter 25 Jan 1969

Grace Foutz Chaney’s life is detailed in a January 1969 Times-Reporter article.

Some highlights:

  • Born in Bowerston, by the first grade Grace Foutz attended school in Washington D.C., “where her father was connected with the printing department of the federal government.”
  • After the family’s move to Reading, Pa., she attended private girls’ school and, like her father, became active in the Knights of the Maccabees.
  • At 15, having just completed 8th grade, she took a “sub-Freshman” test and was granted admission to Irving College.
  • Though Grace never properly graduated high school, she spent 5 years at Irving, graduating with a “bachelor of science degree for teaching, Latin, English and problems in democracy.” She was also granted a teaching license in Pennsylvania.
  • Grace was granted a teaching certificate in Ohio (as well as 2 lifetime certificates for teaching grade and high schools) and taught for 40 years in Dennison, Tuscarawas, Harrison County, Conesville and Feed Springs. She never served as a substitute, only taught full-time.

The article also details some family highlights, even if the facts seem dubious or outright incorrect.

On brother Oscar, the article reports him as having died in 1945. An interesting — though perhaps false — match to mother Elizabeth’s death year.

As to husband Fred Chaney, the article reports Grace met him when she returned to Ohio for her grandmother’s funeral “in May 1916.” The death of Rebecca Foutz may, indeed, have been the occasion Grace and Fred met, but sources tell us Rebecca died in May 1915, same year as Sherman, and same year as Fred and Grace’s marriage that December.

The article shares Fred’s occupation as railroad conductor, and gets his death right, in September 1955 (coincidentally, on Vance’s birthday). And shares the location of their first shared, and later, Grace’s solitary residence in the Nicola Building at 3rd and Water streets.

Grace’s wonderful life, though illuminated in interesting ways, still is in many ways a mystery. But with some of the clues revealed there, we fill in a few more blanks. More answers to come.

nicola bldg 101 e third st uhrichsville oh

Grace Foutz Chaney made her home in the Nicola Building in Uhrichsville for more than 30 years.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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