Posts Tagged With: Guernsey County

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 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.

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Ley, newsletter, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | Joseph Burkey

Burkey Joseph Civil War 1

not Third-Great-Grandfather Joseph Burkey served in the 126th Regiment, Company B, of the Ohio Valley Infantry during the Civil War. He is buried in New Cumberland Cemetery near Atwood Lake, Ohio.

Places of Rest & Remembrance #4 | Joseph Burkey

Like the life and times of Fifth-Great-Grandfather — and Revolutionary War vet — Jacob Crites, the details of the childhood, married life and final days of Joseph Burkey are mostly elusive.

But we’re pretty clear on his war record and the activities of his company during the Civil War.

Joseph Burkey is Colt’s Third-Great-Grandfather, related on the Johnson side. He’s the father of Anna Burkey, who would marry Clement Johnson. The line continues thus:

Joseph Burkey/Amanda Stevenson – Anna Burkey Johnson – Charles Johnson – Erma Johnson Foutz – Fred Foutz – Colt

Joseph was born May 18, 1840, probably near Guernsey, Ohio, where the Johnson clan called home. In the 1850 census there is a Joseph Burkey Sr. there in Oxford, born in 1805, with a wife named Jane and a bustling household, of which an 8-year-old Joseph Jr. is part. The dates almost line up — in the vein of census inaccuracies and subsequent leeway.

Joseph is next found in a Guernsey County census in 1860, in the home of James and Emeline Scott, listed as a laborer. Joseph and Jane Burkey appear as neighbors on the same census page, a couple households higher up.

In between is the great Civil War. And in 1880, we again catch up to Joseph Burkey in Guernsey County, this time farming and married to a Mary J. Burkey, born about 1830 and 10 years his senior, with a household of five young children, including Sarah E. A., age 13. A 75-year-old Joseph Burkey senior is also among the family.

What makes the three records hold at least loosely together are the birthplaces of Joseph Burkey’s father in Pennsylvania and mother in New Jersey, the consistent ages of the particulars, the birth year of Mary J., which is consistent with Amanda Stevenson’s in family lore, and the 1867 birth year of Great-Great-Grandmother Anna Burkey Johnson.

As to the rest, and the latter details of Joseph’s life, it’s a bit murky. We don’t know when Amanda died. An 1890 census that was largely destroyed by fire keeps us from catching up with Joseph again until shortly before his death in 1900. By then he is living in Warren Township, Tuscarawas County, and remarried to Clara (Kerr) about 5 years. She is 47 and childless; he is 60. He works as a farm laborer and owns the house he’s living in. Again — this record matches up with birth year and with parents born in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively.

We also match the couple to Joseph’s pension record, which lists Clara as dependent. There is the curious notation next to invalid status, in March 1885, and records Clara’s widowhood in December 1901, a full year after Joseph’s death. But who knows with bureaucracy and paperwork?

Joseph is buried in New Cumberland Cemetery, near Atwood Lake, Ohio. Clara is there, too, — her stone bears a death date of June 26, 1911. The grave of Amanda Stevenson is nowhere to be found.

Joseph Burkey – Civil War Service

What we do know is that Joseph Burkey enlisted as a private in Company B of the 126th Infantry on May 17, 1864 at age 23. He was drafted, according to Army records.

He was mustered out at the same rank on June 19, 1865 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The record of his Ohio regiment is set forth below. Joseph would have seen action the year’s worth of battles throughout Virginia, just after Spotsylvania Court House.

Regimental History
(Three Years)

One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Infantry. – Col., Benjamin F.
Smith; Lieut.-Cols., William H. Harlan, Aaron W. Ebright, Tho-
mas W. McKinnie; Majs., George W. Voorhes, William G. Williams.
This regiment was organized at Camp Steubenville from Sept. 4
to Oct. 11, 1862, to serve for three years and was sent to
Parkersburg, W. Va., a few days later. It remained in the
western part of Virginia during the succeeding winter and
spring, and in June was engaged in a brisk skirmish at Martins-
burg, in which Co. I was captured entire by the enemy. At
Bristoe Station in October the regiment and its corps took part
in a fight with a portion of Lee’s army, and for many days
thereafter were engaged in skirmishing with the enemy up to
Centerville. After spending the winter at Brandy Station, the
regiment in April, 1864, went to Rixeyville, where it remained
until the opening of the grand campaign under Gen. Grant, in
his march on Richmond. It took part in every engagement of the
campaign, from the crossing of the Rapidan to the crossing of
the James. The loss of the regiment at Spottsylvania was 16
killed and 54 wounded, and in front of Cold Harbor it was in
the assault of Ricketts’ division, 6th corps, on the enemy’s
works, carrying and holding them under a heavy fire. After
crossing to the south side of the James the regiment partici-
pated in all the marches, skirmishes, etc., of the 6th corps,
up to July 2, when it went into entrenchments at the Williams
house, 5 miles south of Petersburg. Four days later it em-
barked for Baltimore, and there took cars for Monocacy Junction
where it played an important part in the severe battle of Mono-
cacy, in which it lost heavily. It marched in pursuit of Gen.
Early’s army and participated in engagements at Snicker’s gap,
Charlestown and Smithfield. It was in the battle known as the
Opequan, losing a large number in killed and wounded. In the
action at Fisher’s hill the regiment performed a conspicuous
part, losing 4 men killed and 17 wounded. Then it was engaged
in a number of marches and counter-marches, arriving at Cedar
creek just in time to take part in the memorable battle of that
name. In December it rejoined the Army of the Potomac and
spent the winter in the trenches around Petersburg. In a
charge on the enemy’s picket lines on March 25, 1865, the regi-
ment behaved with great gallantry, being the first to enter the
entrenchments. At 3 a. m., April 2, it went into position in
the front line of battle and participated in the charge which
was to dissipate the last hope of the Confederate States. The
regiment was mustered out on June 25, 1865. It lost during its
term of service 9 officers and 111 men killed; 10 officers and
379 men wounded; aggregate, 509.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 2

Battles Fought
Fought on 9 Oct 1862.
Fought on 14 Jun 1863 at Martinsburg, WV.
Fought on 15 Jun 1863 at Williamsport, MD.
Fought on 15 Jun 1863 at Martinsburg, WV.
Fought on 14 Oct 1863 at Bristoe Station, VA.
Fought on 27 Nov 1863 at Mine Run, VA.
Fought on 6 May 1864 at Wilderness, VA.
Fought on 7 May 1864 at Wilderness, VA.
Fought on 9 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 10 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 12 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 13 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 18 May 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House, VA.
Fought on 21 May 1864 at North Anna River, VA.
Fought on 30 May 1864 at Hanoverton, VA.
Fought on 1 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 2 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 4 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 6 Jun 1864 at Cold Harbor, VA.
Fought on 19 Jun 1864 at Bermuda Hundred, VA.
Fought on 22 Jun 1864 at Weldon Railroad, VA.
Fought on 22 Jun 1864 at Petersburg, VA.
Fought on 9 Jul 1864 at Monocacy, MD.
Fought on 21 Jul 1864 at Snicker’s Gap, VA.
Fought on 9 Aug 1864 at City Point, VA.
Fought on 28 Aug 1864.
Fought on 19 Sep 1864 at Opequan, VA.
Fought on 21 Sep 1864 at Flint Hill, VA.
Fought on 22 Sep 1864 at Flint Hill, VA.
Fought on 22 Sep 1864 at Fisher’s Hill, VA.
Fought on 19 Oct 1864 at Cedar Creek, VA.
Fought on 12 Nov 1864 at Middletown, VA.
Fought on 25 Mar 1865 at Petersburg, VA.
Fought on 2 Apr 1865 at Petersburg, VA.

Burkey Joseph Civil War CLOSE

A star marks Joseph Burkey’s grave, for service in the Civil War.

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Knocking at Vance Foutz’s Door

Vance Cleveland Foutz 1963

Colt's great-grandfather, Vance Foutz, on the steps of the apartment at 428 Race St. (rear) in Dover where he lived in the years following the death of his wife, Laura (Zeigler) Foutz.

Deeds, Domiciles and (More) Dogs…

Where were we again? Where’d we leave off, when last we gathered around the whispering flames?

Ah, yes. Headed east along U.S. 250, crossing the border of Tuscarawas and Harrison counties in Ohio and bound for Route 151 and its winding course toward Scio, where the Palmers farmed, not far, incidentally, from the Foutzes (and Pfoutses), oh, a century and hefty change ago.

And when, specifically, were we? An August Monday in 1947, observing the passing of Colt’s great-great grandfather, Clement Johnson. The Johnsons, of course, hailed from Guernsey County, around Middlebourne, though Clement would move his brood to New Philadelphia, and work in the coal mines alongside his oldest son, my great-grandfather, Charles. (And Charles is how we get from the Guernsey County Johnsons to the Harrison County Palmers.)

And that’s where we were headed in our exploration of the lives of our ancestors, through the obituaries and other various and sundry artifacts turned up during a brief visit home in March.

The course I plotted had already taken us through the Leys, was winding through the Johnsons/Palmers and bound for the Foutzes and, eventually, the Weibles.

The booty? Considerable. Photos of final resting places, obits commemorating lives well-lived (and, at times, tragically ended), stories from  the history books, documents from the official record, tales from the road. All tidbits hitherto undiscovered until teaming up with distant (Foutz, by way of Moreland) cousin Dawn James for a bout of “full-contact” genealogy.

And what delayed us? Life, as it happens, in the present day. And, more specifically, a new family dog for this generation of Foutzes/Leys/Johnsons/Weibles.

Bark Once if You’ve Heard this Before….

Growing up, dogs were always part of our family (if not our family tree — though members of our tree on will notice all the furry siblings and children my cousin Sarah has added (happy birthday, Kipling!).

A post earlier this year shared a letter from 60 years ago detailing the training of one my great-grandfather Robert Ley’s hunting dogs. In the comments section for that post, you can find evidence of how two distant Ley cousins display their love for dogs and the wilderness. Richard Ley and his 20-odd hounds outfit expeditions hunting bear and cougar in New Mexico. Also operating from the Land of Enchantment, cousin Huie Ley runs a general store and riding stables.

When I was growing up, the Ley family dog was named Shadow. A friendly, smallish black and white mutt kept by my grandparents. She was allowed to roam up and down the hill, stopping inside for a juicy meal of Gainesburgers. Legend has it she was dropped off at the Dover Dairy Queen (later, Softies) during my mom’s shift there, and Mom entrusted her to my dad before bringing her home. And home she stayed until she was a doddering teenager (in people years) and I was almost a teen myself.

In my house, we had a fun-loving — but splendidly trained — golden retriever named Chase. We picked him up, as my memory goes, after a trip to Sea World on or about my fifth birthday. (Mom has insisted it was before my birthday, since I could still get in free.) I remember we brought him home in some sort of carton he was chewing through, and when we let him out in the yard he chased us around (befitting his name), nipping at our ankles.

I learned to care for Chase. It became one of my chores, later on, to feed him, and take him on the odd walk. He was more of an outside guy. Stayed in the kennel and run my uncle Bob Ley used to have for their dog. (Princess?) Chase was with us a good 13, 14 years. I was home from my first year of college when I went out to feed him, lifted the lid of his doghouse, and found him, peacefully at rest. A good, long life for a “cedar dog” fond of heading out for an adventure the moment our attention was occupied and returning, usually muddy to the hips from a swim in the Tuscarawas River, a day or several later.

We added a cocker spaniel when I was in high school. Maggie, a black, jittery dustmop, but she got along well. An homage, perhaps, to Mom’s cocker, Corky, when she was a girl. And later, Summer, a female golden, joined the mix. We’ve watched her go from a spindly pup with a white “jewel” splotch on her otherwise impeccably purebred forehead, fond of crawling under legs, through her jumpy, fetchy teen years to her doddering, jewel-faced seniorhood, during which she is still fond of crawling under legs.

All of this is preparatory, perhaps, to introducing the latest addition to our family. And explaining, partially, my absence.

We’d been talking about welcoming a dog into our family for awhile. Whether or not our 13-year-old cat, Lucy, would tolerate his presence was something of a consideration. In the end, I was dogged by an absence. An itching in the palms that begged a bit of canine cranial to fit, softly, naturally there.

I began to research rescues. Labs were considered, researched, applied for. In the end, I was taken with the image of a gorgeous golden picked up as a stray in northern Illinois and saved from death row by Illinois Animal Rescue. We applied for him, got ’em (to the chagrin of maybe a couple dozen others who, as luck would have it, called after I did), and have been spending the last four months getting to know him and integrating him into our bustling home.

We renamed him Macallan — in honor of the Scottish birthplace of goldens, and a pretty fine single-malt — and he has warmed our hearts with his headlong pursuit of tennis balls and all the affection we can give. Been a pretty wild four weeks, so far, and a considerable consumer of attention.

And yeah, of course we love it.

You May Resume Ball Rolling Now

It would be decidedly unartful to render all of the above as a mere excuse. (Though perfectly fine.) Instead, I’ve been thinking about what it would have been like to walk up to some of our ancestors’ homesteads in years far fallen from the calendar. And what sorts of folks — and four-legged companions — we may have been greeted by.

Strolling down the dusty main drag of Port Washington, Ohio, circa 1850. Would Charles Ley (the former Karl Gottleib Ley), resident saddler, also have housed a dog or two in his stables?

Picking through the hilly acreage of Gideon Foutz, say, about 1895. Would we first be met by a pack of farm pooches, racing from the main cabin or else alongside (great-great-great) uncles Nelson and Nathaniel where they worked? Perhaps trailed by visiting grandkids Vance and Charley and a Moreland or two?

Or that packed Johnson household, circa 1930, in New Philadelphia? Ten mouths to feed and perhaps a dog besides. I bet we’d still find a place at the table. And stories enough to last.

Or from a shady porch off Wooster at a Weible address. We’d sip our lemonade or iced tea and have our palms wet from condensation and licks besides.

You can tell a lot about somebody by the company they keep. Homo sapiens and otherwise.

Wouldn’t it have been something to find out?

Ah well. The former porch of an aged Vance Foutz is empty now. But if I could, I’d ask him — did your grandpa own a dog? Or your dad? Or you? Ever wanted one? If so, what kind? And what would you name him? And where could we take him, given an afternoon, and time? What adventures could we get into?

Boys, even 90 or so years removed, have their favorite themes.

Foutz Vance apartment Dover 2011

Vance Foutz's former apartment, seen on a rainy March day in 2011, opposite from where he stood in 1963. We know he enterained his card buddy Jacob Lentz. Did he ever have a dog?

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For the Record | Clement Johnson, 1947 Obit

Clement Johnson Anna Burkey

Colt's second great-grandparents, Clement Johnson and Anna Burkey.

Clement Alvin Johnson | 1863-1947

This blog series explores the lives of Johnson ancestors as revealed in their obituaries. Much of this information was gathered during a March 2011 research trip to Tuscarawas and Harrison counties in Ohio. A scan of the obituary is available at the bottom of this post.

From the Times-Reporter (Dover/New Philadelphia), Monday, Aug. 19, 1947:

C. A. Johnson

Clement Johnson, 84, of 890 E. High Ave., New Philadelphia, died at his home Saturday at 6:45 p.m. of complications. He had been ill since last February.

Mr. Johnson, who lived most of his life in New Philadelphia, was born at Middlebourne, Guernsey County, and was a son of the late Thomas and Nancy Valentine Johnson. He was last employed by the Buchanan Gas and Oil Co.

Surviving are five sons and three daughters: Mrs. Carrie Swank, Mrs. Della Weber, Charles and Dwight Johnson, all of New Philadelphia, Adrian Johnson of the home, Mrs. Helen Stringer of Dover, Delbert of Sadis, Donald of Ecorse, Mich., and Norman of Washington State; 30 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren; and a sister, Mrs. Virginia Touvelle of Barnesville.

Friends may call at the residence where services will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. Rev. Herbert Smith will officiate and burial, in charge of the Linn-Hert Co., will be in East Avenue Cemetery.

It is worth noting that Clement, like his son Charles, was a coal miner. Oddly enough, he died 11 years to the day before his daughter-in-law, Viola Mae (Palmer) Johnson.

What else was happening in the world Aug. 16, 1947? Days earlier, both Pakistan and India had gained independence from the British Empire. Barely a month earlier, the controversial — and disputed — UFO incident took place in Roswell, N.M. A week earlier, the balsa raft Kon-Tiki completed its Pacific journey.

Johnson Clement obit 1947 Times-Reporter

Johnson Clement Anna East Ave Cemetery

Categories: Johnson, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Know Thy Patriarchs – 7 (& 1/2) Johnson Generations

grandma Erma Maxine Johnson Foutz

Grandma Erma Maxine (Johnson) Foutz

Ancestral Anthology, Part 4 – Johnson Family

One of the more intriguing aspects of my family history research has been linking up with the discoveries made by others in my family — those known to me and those newly met — and adding their finds to my own work, or helping them along in their research with what I’ve been able to uncover.

My mom did a lot of digging into the Leys and Weibles, when she was about the same age as I am now. And I’ve benefited from the documents and pictures she saved, as well as the books she stocked on the Leys, Powells, etc.

On the other side of the tree, my grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz left behind a trove of items from her decades of pondering and pursuing clues into both her family and my grandpa Foutz’s. Countless newspaper clippings, cards from funerals, family snapshots and genealogical lists in her elegant hand — with all the attendant red-ink corrections and deletions and additions.

One of Grandma’s last projects was to begin a series of pocket-size family records she intended to pass on. Her working copy — bound in green — contains the above noted flourishes, as she deciphered and backtracked and polished her understanding of previous generations. Since the summer, I’ve been working in one of her brown-covered blank copies, and delighting as I’ve confirmed or otherwise amplified the information she had collected.

Surprisingly, for such a common last name — I’ll get to all the Charles Johnsons and Thomas Johnsons dotting east-central Ohio later in this post — we know an awful lot about the parents and children of my great-grandfather’s and great-great grandfather’s generations.

It’s immediately after that — or, I guess, before — that records and knowledge start to break down.

Then again, in the spirit of comparing notes, a lot of what I know about the Johnsons today is built upon the research of others — my grandma; my grandma’s niece, Sarah Fitzgerald. And I’ve heard there’s at least one other Johnson son out there who’s racked up a lot of info.

So here’s a look at what we know so far. With some combined sleuthing, we’ll see what corners we can find assured passage around, what dead-ends we can throw a ladder over.

Johnson Ancestry – Looking Back 8 Generations

1. Jonah Robert Foutz and Benjamin Peter Foutz

Born in Illinois, Sept. 6, 2006 and Sept. 9, 2008.

Colt Foutz

2. Frederick Colt Foutz (married Kathryn Marie Knutson)

Born in Dover, Ohio, June 2, 1976. Educated at Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia College Chicago. Newspaper reporter and columnist in Ohio and Illinois, freelance writer, musician. Currently manages a creative team at a Chicago advertising agency. Married Sept. 21, 2002 in Olathe, Kansas. Katie was born Dec. 8, 1977 in Rochester, Minn. Parents of Jonah Robert, Benjamin Peter.

Fred Foutz

3. Frederick Charles Foutz (married Janet Louise Ley)

Father. Born in Dover, Ohio, June 5, 1952. Educated at the University of Cincinnati. Salesman, sales manager, customer service rep. Married Dec. 21, 1975 in Dover. Janet was born May 25, 1952 in Dover. Parents of Frederick Colt, Daniel Morgan, Jacob Ley, Samuel Chase.

Erma Maxine Johnson Foutz 1953

4. Erma Maxine Johnson (married Donald Dale Foutz)

Grandmother. Born Oct. 27, 1920 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Died July 16, 2000 in New Phila. Secretary, homemaker. Married May 9, 1942 in Dover. Don was born March 4, 1914 in Dover, Ohio. Died Nov. 14, 1980 in Dover. Parents of Donn Dale, Robert Vance, Frederick Charles. Remarried Jan. 1, 1982, to Max Troendly Miller (1916-2009). Made her home later in life in Green Valley, Arizona and New Philadelphia.

Charles Arthur Johnson

5. Charles Arthur Johnson (married Viola Mae Palmer)

Great-grandfather. Born Nov. 6, 1886 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Died Sept. 13, 1962 in New Phila. Coal miner, steelworker. President, Local 8607, United Mineworkers of America. First married Feb. 17, 1907 in Tuscarawas County, to Leona Miller. She died shortly after. Second marriage (to Viola Palmer) July 1, 1911, probably in Dennison, Ohio. Viola was born June 3, 1889 in Scio. She died Aug. 16, 1958 in New Phila. Parents of 10: Thomas Leonard, Virginia Mae, Nellie Irene, Carl Arthur (died young), Erma Maxine, Charles Jr. (died young), William Dean, Joseph R. (died young), Lloyd George (twin) and Floyd Clement (twin).

Johnson Clement Charles Carrie Anna Donald Helen

Johnson family: Clement, (clockwise) Charles, Carrie, Anna, Donald, Helen.

6. Clement A. Johnson (married Anna Burkey)

Second great grandfather. Born March 6, 1863 in Middlebourne, Guernsey County, Ohio. Died Aug. 16, 1947 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Coal miner. Married Sept. 25, 1884 in Guernsey County. Anna was born July 25, 1867 in Guernsey County. She died Nov. 3, 1929 in New Phila. Parents of 10: Charles Arthur, Carrie Mae, Roy (died young – had twin who died at birth), Helen Viola, Donald D., Dwight Joseph, Delbert M. (twin), Della (twin), Alvin Norman, Adrian L.

7. Thomas W. Johnson (married Nancy Valentine)

Third great grandfather. Born about 1822, probably in Ohio. Died 1864 in Corinth, Miss. Farm laborer. Served the Union Army during the Civil War as a mule skinner. According to family lore, he died of the measles during a march through Mississippi. Because of his non-soldier status, his wife could not collect an army pension, and she is listed on the 1870 census as a pauper, with at least one of her children living in a relative’s household. In the one census record in which his married family appears together (1860), he is listed as not able to read or write. Married Feb. 4 or 9, 1854 in Guernsey County. Nancy was born about 1836 in Guernsey County. She probably died in 1928. Parents of four confirmed children: Violet Melinda, David, Virginia Frances, Clement Arthur.

Gazing into the swirling mists…

8. George Johnson??? (married Mary???)

As family legend had it — or at least what I can remember of it, possibly incorrectly — the Johnson line came from England. But so far I’ve stumbled upon nothing that firms up that rumor.

There are several records that connect a Thomas Johnson born in Ohio in 1822 to a George Johnson as father, and a Mary as mother. However, several of these records show Thomas leading quite a different life after that, with a different spouse in one case, and saved by different descendants and relatives in others. So it’s tough to say what’s what.

There are several Thomas Johnsons that pop up in Guernsey County from about 1820 on, and they have birthdates that could connect to our ancestor as late as 1829. But the single census record in 1860 that shows Thomas W. Johnson’s married family all living together has him as 38 years old, and Nancy as 24. Unfortunately, the transcriptions of their marriage record (which list dates of Feb. 4 and 9, alternately) do not have any more information than the date, location and their names.

The more promising leads on connecting Thomas W. to a father named George are the tax records for Guernsey County which show him living in various parts of the county — Spencer Twp. and Derry among them — and sometimes appearing with the initial R. These could be different George Johnsons. And there are census records for 1850 that list a George Johnson, born 1797 in Virginia, in Cumberland, Guernsey County. This would make him about the right age to father Thomas. But again, these docs need to link up in a convincing way to provide anything approaching proof.

What would be nice is finding a death record for Thomas that lists his parents. Or some fragment from a local history that establishes who the family is and where they came from. Clement’s death record reports his parentage accurately. But his oldest sister’s death record (for Violet Melinda) only contains the curious information that she had a son — without being married — and that he claimed not to know who his grandparents were, or where his mother was born.

Definitive clues could be uncovered by tromping around Guernsey County, or tracking down their actual gravestones. By the 20th century, of course, Clement had moved the family to New Phila, where at least two subsequent generations (my great-grandfather and grandmother) were more or less lifelong residents.

Johnson siblings 1979

The living Johnson siblings, in 1979. Oldest bro Leonard is far right. My grandma, Erma, is center.

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