Thursday, May 25, 2017

Using City Council Records in Your Family History Research

Searching city council records for an ancestor may be like searching for a needle in a haystack:  the volumes are generally unindexed and are handwritten.  But if you know an event date in which your ancestor was involved with the city, these records can offer additional details.  My ancestor filed a suit against the city and I was able to learn more about the outcome of that suit in the city council journals than through other records.  I also discovered that another ancestor and his business partner were hired to build a bridge for the city.  For me it was worth the search.

About these records
City council records are/may be available at FamilySearch among court records of the county where the city was located.  I checked two other county record collections at FamilySearch and didn't find any but FamilySearch continues add records to their online collection.  City council records may also be available at the physical county courthouse, city hall, or a historical society.  Some cities may be putting their own council records online.

Among other things, these records were created to detail the decisions the city council made concerning the operation and improvement of the city as well as about the handling of problems (such as suits filed against the city), and requests by citizens. 

These records were handwritten by the city clerk.  Some clerks' handwriting was easier to read than others' but since each clerk remained in office for a year or more you become familiar with the handwriting and it becomes easier to read after a few entries.

Using these records will feel like going back in time to when one read and searched pages of microfilm, or even further back in time to when one turned the physical pages of the county record books.  But you know how much easier it is to see a name on a written page when your eye is attuned to that one name?  It's that way with these records, so in some ways one can glance through the pages and the name will pop out.  Other times you may choose a serious perusal of the pages.  And sometimes, for me at least, it was just plain interesting to see what was happening in the city.

What you will definitely find
  • who the president and members of city council were
  • which committees were created by the council (e.g., finance, claims, markets, streets, etc.) and who was on each
  • city offices (weighmaster, city wardens, police, civil engineer, etc.)
  • who received money from the city and the amount, though not necessarily the purpose
  • who held government offices in the city

What you may find
  • who filed lawsuits against the city
  • when the city installed street lights and or changed from oil to gas
  • when bridges were built, who built them, and the cost
  • when roads and sidewalks were built and/or improved and with what material
  • which public buildings were torn down, which were built/rebuilt
  • when public water pipes were installed
  • when telephones were first installed in the city 

Reasons to read city council records
If you are interested in learning about the environment in which one of your ancestors, or a family of ancestors, lived, learned, and worked, I can't think of a better source of information.  City council records provide a history of a city in a way no other source can.  Combine them with a city map, a city directory, and old photographs or postcards for a more complete understanding of your ancestors' environment. 

Have you used city council records before?  Did you learn more about an ancestor?  Did you find them interesting?

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Searching for Abel Armitage in City Council Proceedings

Did Abel Armitage win his suit against the City of Steubenville or not?  He filed a case against the city because one night he fell into a trench that had been dug for water pipes.  The suit went to the Court of Common Pleas in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.  Joyce Jonard Humphrey, another Armitage descendant, found several entries in the Court of Common Pleas journals but they left uncertainty in my mind as to the outcome of the results in court.

When I discovered that FamilySearch has published Council Proceedings of the City of Steubenville, I wondered if Abel's case might be mentioned in those records.  I decided to search these unindexed records one page at a time, beginning with the journal that covers the dates January, 1876 through March, 1882.  In them I finally found Abel and discovered the outcome of his hearing.

From the entry for March 16, 1880, journal page 314



     The solicitor presented a communication in regard to
the case of Able [sic] Armitage asgainst [sic] the city
asking for instructions as to taking the case to
the district court and recommending that the bill
of W. F. Campbell for reporting and transcribing
the testimony in the case be paid.  Mr. Garrett
moved the report be received and the recomend-
ations [sic] be adopted.  Carried.
     A petition from four witnesses in the Armit-
age case asking council to pay their fees was
read.  Mr. Garrett moved the amount be placed
on the appropriation ordinance.  Carried.

Notes and Comments
  • Where might W. F. Campbell's transcriptions be found?  They do not appear in images of the City Council proceedings.  Might they have been kept elsewhere and, if so, where might that be?  I'm sure they would be enlightening to read.
  • Wm. F. Campbell was listed in the next appropriation ordinance with the amount of $15.00.
  • Who were the four witnesses who petitioned the Council pay their fees?  In the next appropriation ordnance there are three individuals who were paid $ .75 each but it does not tell what the payment was for.  They are J. S. Smith, Lewis A. Veite, and James McKay.  What fees did the witnesses want paid?

From the entry for April 26, 1881, journal page 399



     The case of Able [sic] Armitage against
the City for $207.84 was on motion referred to
the committee on Claims.

From the journal entry for May 10, 1881, journal page 403 and 404



     An ordinance making appropriation passed
a first ready [reading] as follows  Be it ordained
by the counsel of the City of Steubenville That
there be and hereby is appropriate [sic] out of the monies
in the Treasury not otherwise approrpiate [sic] the
following Sums of money to the following [?]
herein after named namely . . .
               Abel Armitage        207.84
     [Not on image above.] It was moved and seconded that the ruls [sic] be
Suspended and the ordinance placed on its
final passage.  Ayes.... 12  nays none.
The rules being declared Suspend[ed] the ordinance
was placed on its final passage and adopted
as follows  Ayes .... 12  Nays none. 

Notes and Comments 
  • In the newspaper's first note about Abel's court case it reported that he requested $2,500.00 for damages.  If that's accurate, receiving less than 10% of that amount must have been disappointing.  The Inflation Calculator tells me the $207.84 that he received in 1881 would have equaled $5,243.72 in 2016.  Not a tiny sum, and yet $2,500.00 would have been equal to $63,073.93 in 2016.
  • From the time Abel filed the case in February, 1879, until its resolution in May, 1881, more than two years had passed.  Even with the settlement by the City Council on record there's no telling exactly when he received his money.
  • It's interesting to note that in the 1880 U.S. Census Abel was recorded as disabled. 
  • These records have not yet helped me learn Abel's death date but at least now I know he was still alive in May, 1881.

I will continue reading these records:  it seems that Abel's wife, Ann, may have also filed against the city, also for a fall, in November, 1881 with the case continuing until 1883.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Team of Fine Horses

I love finding little clips like this one in old newspapers.  They add color to the lives of my ancestors.  Henry Meinzen is my great-grandfather.  This article was published in the August 26, 1901, edition of the East Liverpool Evening News Review.


A team of fine horses belonging to Henry Meinzen ran off at Steubenville Saturday and caused great excitement.  The  driver  jumped from the wagon and escaped injury.  The horses ran at great speed for several blocks when one of them fell.  It was so badly hurt it had to be shot.

Always the questions.
How did this news reach East Liverpool but was not published in Steubenville newspapers (at least as far as my searches show)?

What caused the horses to run off?  Was the driver inattentive for a moment?  Had something frightened them?  How sad that one of them had to be put down -- sad for the horse and sad for Henry who would have had to replace the horse.

Was Henry the driver or someone else?  Henry would have been 64 in 1901.  If he was the one who jumped and was uninjured he was certainly more agile than I am!

Why take a team of horses into the city unless they were pulling a wagon rather than a cart or buggy?  Or perhaps it was a large and/or heavy carriage.  There were still 10 children living at home in 1900.   If a wagon, what was on the wagon?  In 1900 Henry was living in New Alexandria, a neighboring town to Steubenville, and was working as a gardener.  Had he brought fresh produce to town to sell?

I'll never have answers to these questions but nonetheless, they come to my mind.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Audrey Meinzen Doyle and her daughter
I have very few photographs of just my mom and me together.  Most are group family photos, and I believe there are only three or four of those.

So I cropped us out of two family photos to make this little collage.  These were both taken at Christmas time.  I was nearly a year in the one on the left, nearly two in the one on the right.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

--Nancy.
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Saturday, May 6, 2017

I Write Like . . . . - SNGF

I'm coming late to the party but this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, proposed by Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings, was just too enticing to ignore.  He suggested that we
  1. Find something that you have written that you are really proud of - the best of your work.  Do an Edit > Copy of it.
  2. Go to the website http://iwl.me/ [I Write Like] and Paste your text into the waiting box.
  3. Tell us which famous author you write like.  Write it up in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog, or post it on Facebook.  Insert the "badge of honor" in your blog if you can.

For the fun of it I decided to copy and paste several blog posts.  I personally feel like I have somewhat different styles of writing depending on the topic and whether I have an emotional connection, am sharing first-hand memories, writing a factual post, etc.  Below are the results.

Two posts were in the style of Agatha Christie. 
Agatha Christie was a British crime writer of who also wrote romance stories under the name Mary Westmacott.  She is best known for her detective stories, especially those featuring Miss Marple.  According to Guinness Book of World Records she is the best-selling novelist of all time.  (Which brings me to the question:  If I write like Agatha Christie why do I have so few readers?  Ha!)


 Two other posts were in the style of Anne Rice.
Anne Rice is an American author of metaphysical Gothic fiction, Christian literature, and erotica.  She is one of the most widely-read authors in modern history.


In other posts I write like James Joyce.
James Joyce was a modern, avant-garde writer from Ireland, considered one of the most influential of his time.  His most famous work was Ulysses, written in 1922.  Other works include Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners


I learned the last bit of writing I submitted was written like Arthur Clarke.
Arthur Clarke is a British science fiction author, and inventor.  His best-known book is 2001:  A Space Odyssey

Considering the speed of the analysis at I Write Like I suspect the accuracy of these results.  I imagine the more written works I submit the more variety there would be in the results.  Still, accurate or not, it was a fun exercise.  Thanks, Randy.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 30, 1880, Common Pleas Court Record of Abel Armitage

In the previous post concerning Abel Armitage's suit against the City of Steubenville, Ohio, on March 12, 1880, it seemed that the case had been settled in Abel's favor for $150.00.  But this entry in a Common Pleas Court journal of Jefferson County appears to be part of the same case.


April 30, 1880
Abel Armitage                 |
v.                                    |>   Civil Action
The City of Steubenville   |

This day came the said defend-
ant and presented his certain R ??? [Rule?] of Exceptions
taken on the trial of their Cause :  and the s??? [same?] is allowed Signed
and sealed by the Court and ordered to be placed on file with the
pleadings and made a part of the record in this case.
Thoughts and Questions
The earlier court journal entry stated that the court favored the plaintiff (Abel) and assessed his damages at $150.00.  So why was Abel back in court on April 30, 1880?  Was he unhappy with the amount?  (Or, as reader Wendy suggested, the defendant, the City of Steubenville, may have been unhappy with the settlement.)

What is a "Rule of Exception" (assuming that's what it says)?

This court journal entry and the one in the previous post are the only two for Abel -- or at least the only two that have been found.  The next ones, dating a year or two later, are for his wife, Ann.

Many thanks to Joyce Jonard Humphrey for providing the image.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Common Pleas Court Record for Abel Armitage, 12 March 1880

In February I posted newspaper articles noting Abel Armitage's appearance in the Common Pleas Court of Jefferson County, Ohio.  In March, I posted the results of my searches to find where the court records of those cases might be.

Now, in April, I'm happy to report that Joyce Humphrey, another descendant of Abel (and his second wife, Ann), went to the Jefferson County Genealogical Society office, searched the journals, and found some records.  She noted that the newspaper dates were not consistent with the docket and journal entries she found.  (Reminder to self:  Never take a newspaper article as absolute truth.)  I'm transcribing only the journal entries in this post.  She gave me permission to post and share these documents.  Thank you, Joyce!

The first image of a journal entry is for Abel Armitage vs. The City of Steubenville and is dated March 12, 1880.


Journal page 23
March Term 1880

Friday March 12" 1880  8½ oclock A.M.
Court met pursuant to adjournment
Present Hon. James Palnick Jr. Judge

Abel Armitage                  }
v.                                     }     Civil Action Verdict
The City of Steubenville   }
The jury heretofore impanneled and
sworn to try this cause, after hearing the evidence
arguments of counsel and charge of the Court return to open Court the
following verdict in [uniting touch?]:  We the jury in this case being duly
impanneled [sic] and sworn do find for the plaintiff and assess his damages
at the sum of One hundred and fifty ($150) dollars  E. H. McFeely [?] Foreman.

Notes and Comments
Is this the case that was announced in the February 14, 1879, issue of The Steubenville Weekly Herald.  At that time Abel was asking for $2,500.00 in damages.

The notice in the March 5, 1880, issue of The Steubenville Weekly Herald gave the court date as March 11.  Was the court so busy on the 11th that Abel's hearing was postponed until March 12?  Did this necessitate his being in court both days?

In this case Abel was awarded the sum of $150.00.  The Inflation Calculator tells me that $150.00 in 1880 was equal to about $3784.00 in 2016. 

Was he able to collect the money from the City of Steubenville?  Steubenville's City Council journals are available online at FamilySearch.  When I browsed through them a month ago I was impressed with how much detail they contained.  Perhaps there is a record of money being paid to Abel. 

If this case was settled in 1880, Abel and/or his wife must have filed at least one more case against the City of Steubenville.  The last image Joyce sent dates to 1883.

This is the first of several more court records I'll post.  Thanks again to Joyce Humphrey for sharing so generously.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

High and Holy Hymning:  He Is Risen!



                    He is risen! He is risen!
                    Tell it out with joyful voice.
                    He has burst his three days' prison;
                    Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
                    Death is conquered; man is free.
                    Christ has won the victory.

                    Come with high and holy hymning;
                    Chant our Lord's triumphant lay.
                    Not one darksome cloud is dimming
                    Yonder glorious morning ray,
                    Breaking o'er the purple east,
                    Symbol of our Easter feast.

                    He is risen! He is risen!
                    He hath opened heaven's gate.
                    We are free from sin's dark prison,
                    Risen to a holier state.
                    And a brighter Easter beam
                    On our longing eyes shall stream.

I wish you the blessings of a joyful Easter!

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Generous Gift - Wedding Wednesday

My parents, Audrey Meinzen and Lee Doyle, married on September 15, 1938.  It was nearing the end of the Great Depression but it was not over yet and, of course, they had no idea how much longer it would continue.  The wedding was small and simple, as was the reception which was held at the home of Audrey's parents.  In talking with Mom years ago about her wedding I remember her saying that she and Dad received "a large sum of money" from Dad's grandfather, William "Pap" Doyle.  She never mentioned the amount.

Not long ago I was looking through papers that my mother had saved and found a check from William Doyle, dated September 22, 1938, a week after Mom and Dad married.


It's clear that Pap signed the check but it was written by someone else.  The check was folded inside this wedding card.



My mom recorded that she and dad together earned about $160.00 per month at the time
they were married.  Dad was working at a steel mill, she as a nurse at a hospital in Warren, Ohio.  U.S. Inflation Calculator tells me that if this "large sum of money" were converted to 2017 U.S. dollars it's value would be $3,455.00.

I agree with Mom and would call it a large sum of money, too.  At the time of Mom and Dad's marriage, Pap, a farmer for most of his life, was 75 years old and had been a widower for two years.  Dad's mother, Beulah (Gerner) Doyle, died soon after Dad's birth; his father, Gust Doyle, died in 1933, just six years earlier.  Pap's gift of money may have been an attempt to offer the financial support he knew Dad's parents weren't there to offer or he may have realized how difficult it would be for a young couple starting life together during the Great Depression.  Whatever his reasons for giving such a large sum of money, I think Pap was a generous man who gave a generous gift.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

On Break at Copperweld Steel - Workday Wednesday

These are photos of my father and some coworkers at Copperweld Steel Company, Warren, Ohio, in 1946.  Perhaps they are on break or just finished lunch.

Joe Mack on the left, Lee Doyle, my father, on the right. 
This was probably taken inside the mill.  I like the effects of the back lighting.  To me it looks dramatic, almost eerie, and very late-1940s. 

Two men, Joe and Dad again.

Three men.  H. Baker joins Joe and Lee.
My father always preferred shirts with two pockets.  His preference must have started before this photo was taken.

H. Baker leaves and Einhorn, Joe Weaver, and an unnamed man join Lee.
The way my father has his head down it looks like he's being teased.  He smoked cigarettes for a number of years.  I tried to use the length of the cigarette to put these photos in sequence.

Men come and go, Dad remains.
Left to right, K. Ambrose, Lee Doyle, J. Weaver, and the same unnamed man as above.

The group gets bigger.
Left to right:  H. Baker, Joe Mack, Lee Doyle, Joe Weaver, and another unnamed man.
With all heads (except one) turned his way, it looks to me like Joe Mack is telling a story.

I don't remember my father speaking about work or his coworkers often but I do remember the name "Einhorn" and it seems that Einhorn was a "character" -- an interesting person who did things differently than most others. To the right is "Einhorn."  In the vernacular of the time and place, I believe most men were called by their last names.

For the longest time I couldn't find these photos.  They surfaced when I was looking through the scanned pages of my mother's photo album.  They were taken after Dad had been at Copperweld for five or six years but before he became a foreman.

I cropped the backgrounds out of these and could probably improve them by adjusting the contrast but am posting them as is.

--Nancy.

Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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