BELLVILLE — Tom Neel, the library director of the Ohio Genealogical Society, was the speaker last week for the Nov. 18 meeting of the Bellville Jefferson Township Historical Society. Neel’s talk was divided into two slide presentations, one about the techniques used when researching genealogy, the other about Samuel Isley’s Ohio Genealogical Society Library.
Neel began by showing those at the meeting a picture of his grandmother dressed for her high school play. This photo was taken outside the family home in New London, Ohio, which Tom now owns and occupies. Then he asked, “Why is genealogy so addictive?”
Starting with a basic ancestor chart, some people become involved with a lineage group such as Daughters of the American Revolution, the Mayflower Society, or First Families of Ohio. Neel suggested researchers study at home first, then visit the library and look at the computer. He said that 90 percent of the information the library has is not computerized.
After the initial research at home — which should include interviewing your older relatives — researchers may travel the world. They may have to translate foreign languages or decipher Old English, which is sometimes as difficult as foreign language. Cemetery headstones also reveal answers, he said, but sometimes older headstones are broken or completely disintegrated. He added that restoring headstones is a learned skill/
Family Bibles yield birth and death dates, sometimes marriage dates. Courthouse records, funeral homes, marriage licenses, baptismal certificates, wills, real estate transfers, estate packets, letters, inventory records are all sources of ancestral information. Likewise, common pleas court, naturalization records, private business records, prison records and cemetery records can be useful. He explained that one third of burials have no tombstone.
Neel showed meeting participants a personal business record which listed “John Chapman — or as some say Johnny Appleseed.” He made a purchase for $1. The record is valuable in that it is the only place we know that verifies Johnny Appleseed was so-named while he was still living.
Additional resources include census records, agricultural, veterans’ and widows’ schedule, maps, and tax records. There are a number of websites dedicated to ancestral research. The most common Ancestry.com, which is somewhat expensive. The Mormon site is Familysearch.com.
He related that Bellville was considered Congressional land. Much of Ohio was settled by those who received land grants from the Revolutionary War, or the War of 1812. The area north of us — known as the Firelands — was settled by families who suffered loss of land during the Revolution in Connecticut. The counties in the Firelands have the same names as counties in Connecticut.
Then he shared information about the library.
The Ohio Genealogy Society Building on State Route 97, outside Bellville, is named for Samuel Isley. Yes, the ice cream Isley. The Ohio Genealogical Society was initiated in 1959 by Dr. Betty Reed and a couple other physicians who were her colleagues. On July 23, 2010, the current building was opened. The land was donated by Jim Gorman and the lead donor for the building was Mr. Isley. There are approximately 5,000 society members . The building has, among other things, an obituary library, 20,000 yearbooks and county histories. Information comes from all 50 states and some foreign countries. There is an online catalog.
The Bellville Jefferson Township Historical Society does will meet in December, January or February. Our next meeting will be March 16, 2020. The speaker is yet to be determined. Anyone interested in local history is welcome to call the society for more information.