A prestidigitator could not do better with your soiled shirts!


An advertisement for Excelsior Laundry in Akron, Ohio (Akron Daily Democrat, June 10, 1899, Image 5, col. 4).

What is a prestidigitator you ask?  An illusionist or magician!  When is that last time you can think of someone using the word prestidigitator in normal conversation?  No one calls David Copperfield a prestidigitator, and I don’t blame them.  Calling him a magician is much easier.

It’s strange how words can change meaning over time and how some words stop being used entirely.  Believe it or not, vocabulary can be a major road block when doing research in historical newspapers and other historical documents because it can be so different.   We actually have a term that we use to describe these vocabulary differences: “historic vocabulary”.  We use this phrase to describe words and phrases that were used by the people living during those times.  Our vocabulary is like a living organism that grows, changes, and dies.  Some words that we use today were never heard of 100 or even 50 years ago and vice versa.  The change in vocabulary can be caused by several factors.  Much like today’s technology, a newer, better, version of a word could be created thereby rendering the old word obsolete, such as the word “betwixt” (between).


In 1918, New Berlin, Ohio, became North Canton, Ohio, due to anti-German sentiment (El Paso Herald, February 11, 1918, Image 1, col. 2).

Geographical locations, like city and country names, are also example of how vocabulary can change and make it difficult for researchers to find a particular location.  Try locating the town of New Berlin, Ohio, on a map.  You will be looking for a while because that town no longer exists with that name.  It is currently called North Canton and is located in Stark County.  The village of New Berlin was founded in 1831 and was inhabited by mostly Germans immigrants.  With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, it became very unpopular to be associated with anything German (sauerkraut was even re-named “liberty cabbage” in several restaurants).  In 1918, the citizens of New Berlin decided to re-name the village North Canton, abandoning the original name.  So if you are looking for information about North Canton in the newspapers prior in 1918, you actually need to look for New Berlin.

A word can also change what it means based on new inventions.  Take the word “computer” for example.  We use it in today’s language to describe the everyday machines that we use today for our Internet browsing needs, work, and just about anything else you can think of.  Our definition of what a computer is did not come into existence until the 1940s.  Prior to that, a “computer” was simply referring to a person who performed calculations or one who computes.


An example of how the word “computer” was used in the 19th century. These calculations were made by a person, not a machine! (Logan Ohio Democrat, July 23, 1887, Image 3, col. 7)

If you would like to learn more about historical vocabulary or see how it can affect your search results, click here to view one of the Ohio History Connection’s Chronicling America Search Strategy Videos available through YouTube!  This short video will show you to use historical vocabulary on Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’s free digital newspaper database.  There are over 250,000 pages of Ohio’s historic newspapers available on the website, with more to come.  Also be sure to visit Ohio Memory to view over 150,000 pages from historic newspapers like the Ohio State Journal and Ohio Statesman.  What sort of obsolete words can you discover in the pages of old?

The Chronicling America Search Strategy Videos  was developed by the Ohio History Connection with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio. Please visit the Ohio Digital Newspaper Portal for more information.

Chronicling America is brought to you by the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922.  National Endowment for the Humanities awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress at Chronicling America. As part of the project, the Ohio History Connection contributed over 200,000 newspaper pages to the project between July 2008 and August 2012 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2014.  For more information about this project and resources for searching Chronicling America, please visit the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio Project Wiki or Ohio Digital Newspaper Program Website.

Kevin Latta, Government Records Archivist

Posted in collections, Digital Projects, Digitization, Newspapers, Ohio Memory, Research Tips, Research Tools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Vote for Your Favorite Finalist

Voting is on for the I Found It In the Archives contest!


We have three fascinating stories about amazing things that researchers have discovered in the Ohio History Connection Archives/ Library.

Click here to select your favorite entry.

Feel free to spread the word and encourage people you know to vote!

Posted in collections, Current News, Programs | Leave a comment

I Found It In the Archives Finalist: Deborah M. Tracy

Genealogy Rule #1: The best ‘finds’ are the ones you were not looking for.

Deborah M. Tracy
When I located the birth certificate at Ohio History Connection for Charles Haddock, my maternal great-grandfather, I discovered that his father’s name was Jasper Haddock, an ancestor previously unknown to my family. Then, in OHC’s newspaper microfilm archive, I found Jasper’s obituary in the 3/15/1905 Barnesville (Ohio) Whetstone, which mentioned that Jasper was a Civil War veteran!

Jasper’s military records revealed that he was one of the Ohioans who served in the heralded 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the unit consisting of the overflow of African-American recruits for the legendary 54th, featured in the 1989 movie, Glory. Jasper was wounded, 11/30/1864, in the Battle of Honey Hill, SC, a bloody engagement in which the 55th lost 1/3 of their soldiers in one afternoon.

After the war, Jasper returned home to Captina (aka Guinea /Flatrock), a settlement of freed slaves near Barnesville. Jasper died in 1905, and was buried at Captina A.M.E. Cemetery, a long-forgotten African-American cemetery not easily found on maps.

Undaunted, my husband, 95-year-old Mother and I traveled to the former site of Captina, in search of the cemetery, not knowing what we might find. On a dirt-and-gravel road, we managed to locate the cemetery. Many headstones were missing or broken. The A.M.E. church that once stood nearby was gone. And, we found no headstone for Jasper Haddock.

Disappointed, we briefly stopped in Barnesville to find the now-vacant Bethel A.M.E. church that my mother remembered attending as a child. As we stood in front of the church, a stranger greeted us with a friendly ‘Hello’. We told him we had just returned from an obscure cemetery outside of town, in search of a distant ancestor. He said, “You mean Captina Cemetery?”, and then asked, “What’s the person’s name?” When we told him ‘Haddock’, he just smiled and explained that he (Hiram Bowen) just happened to be the volunteer caretaker of that cemetery.

What were the odds?

Hiram then stunned us by stating that he could get a granite headstone for Jasper at no cost to us, if we sent him his military records. We were amazed. And 6 months later, Hiram called to let us know the headstone had been placed!

We rushed to Captina to see the new headstone and to perform an impromptu dedication ceremony. The resulting video is now on YouTube for all to see.

Deborah M. Tracy


Posted in Civil War, Military History, Newspapers, Research, Vital Records | 1 Comment

I Found It In the Archives Finalist: Kory de Oliveira

Kory de Oliveira
My paternal grandma loved to share detailed stories of her childhood in Nelsonville, Ohio, and her paternal grandmother, Jane Hemsley Bateman. She described how she could escape the struggles of life during the Depression and a house full of siblings when she crossed the street to her Grandma Bateman’s house. They were close. My grandma knew that Grandma Bateman had been raised by her aunt and uncle, although Grandma never really knew why that was. With my curiosity piqued, I needed to explore Jane Hemsley Bateman’s past and why she may not have divulged many details about her own childhood. I wanted to do that for my grandma.

Jane Hemsley was born in County Durham, England, to a coal mining family. Jane, her parents, paternal grandmother, and father’s sister’s family crossed the pond when she was very young and landed in Meigs County, Ohio, by 1870 . She lost her mother and grandmother shortly thereafter. Ten years later Jane was living with her aunt, but her father, Robert Hemsley, was to be found elsewhere- the Ohio Penitentiary . Grandma was thoroughly amused by this revelation and I knew I had to get acquainted with some skeletons in the closet. I spent several hours in the Microfilm Room at the Ohio History Connection scanning for Robert’s admission entry to the Pen, hoping it would contain a description of his physical characteristics, and possibly something more. No such luck. With a whole decade of prisoner entries to sift through I eventually had to throw in the towel and leave it for another day.

After a few more years of fervent online research, I learned that Robert Hemsley was decreed a 2nd degree murder conviction in February 1874 for fatally stabbing his neighbor (during a drunken brawl) who had had “illegal relations” with his new wife . Armed with a more precise timeline, I ventured back to the OHC Microfilm Room and discovered that Robert’s April 1874 Ohio Penitentiary admission entry included a physical description! There was my skeleton: my 3rd great-grandfather was a 5 feet 4½ inch “hard drinker” with grey eyes and a heavy brow, a thick nose and short mouth, thin brown hair, teeth that were in poor condition, and a defective right middle finger, but yet was somehow stout and well built. Several scars on his face and arms were noted, presumably from a tough life of coal mining and drunken brawls. Sadly, it was too late to relay those details to Grandma but I’m sure she would be thoroughly amused.

Kory de Oliveira



“Canadian Passenger Lists,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 March 2014), manifest, S. S. Belgian, October 1865, penned p. 1, line 31, Anne Hemsley, age 2. Jane was listed by her middle name on the passenger list.

1870 U. S. census, Meigs County, Ohio, population schedule, Syracuse Post Office, p. 26 (penned), dwelling 167, family 198, Robert Hemsley; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1242.

1880 U. S. census, Columbus, Ohio, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 40, p. 72 (penned), block 72, inmate 17, Ohio Penitentiary; NARA microfilm publication number T9, roll 1017. For dwelling and family, block and inmate have been substituted, respectively.

Robert Hemsley, “Neighboring Counties, Meigs,” The Athens (Ohio) Messenger, 25 January 1883, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 March 2014), The Athens Messenger (Athens, Ohio).

Robert Hemsley, Register of Convicts no. 9872, admission 3 Apr 1874, pp. 36-39 (penned), Ohio Penitentiary, Columbus, Ohio; Ohio History Connection Archives, Columbus, Ohio, microfilm role uncited, accessed 4 Apr 2014.

Posted in Incarceration Records, Newspapers, Research | Leave a comment

I Found It in the Archives Finalist: Marty Davis Cottrill

Touching the Past

Marty Davis Cottrill
While researching my Beers ancestors who had helped establish North Columbus, I found a book about the Bull Family, who had lived near David and Elizabeth Schlegel Beers. The book featured sketches of several circuit riders who had served the congregation of Clinton Chapel, where my ancestors attended. (The book was Early Clintonville and Grove City and the Bull and Smith Families, by Nancy J. Pendleton, 1997.)

One circuit rider, Uriah Heath, reportedly served Clinton Chapel in 1838-39 and again 1848. I knew my ancestors Solomon (David’s son) and Eliza Pennington Beers had joined a Sunday school class there in 1839. The Pendleton book indicated that Uriah Heath knew the Bull family well. Did he know my Beers ancestors, too? The book also reported that Uriah Heath kept a diary—and that this diary was at the Ohio Historical Society Archives!

I set aside an afternoon to visit the OHS Archives, hoping the diary was still available. What would it be like, I wondered, to hold this volume that was 160 years old? Before I knew it, the archivist delivered the old book to me at one of the tables set aside for viewing such works. I put on the gloves I was given and turned the pages carefully, intent on finding a date that brought Uriah Heath into contact with my ancestors. The information I had for Solomon’s wife Eliza Pennington Beers showed that she had died at age 38 in 1848, possibly of cholera. (It was a hard life; three of her five children preceded her in death.)

I scanned the pages for July 1848, the month that Eliza had died—and was rewarded with Uriah Heath’s handwritten account of his visit to the Beers family the day after Eliza had died:

“July 21 1848 . . . Mrs. Beers was lying dead, having departed at ten o’clock last night. The family feel desolate and much afflicted. May the dispensation of the Providence of God be sanctified to the good of the survivors.”

I was mesmerized by this journal entry by a caring person who had seen and talked with the family of Solomon and Eliza Beers. I spent two hours with that diary and deeply appreciate the chance to “touch” my ancestors’ lives through the words of the pastor who visited them at a crucial time. Thank you, OHS Archives!

Marty Davis Cottrill


Posted in collections, Manuscript Collections, Research | 3 Comments

Exhibit Tours with Curators Coming in July

On your next visit to the Ohio History Center you can tour current exhibits with our curators.

July 12 tour Faces of Appalachia: Photographs by Albert Ewing

What was it like to wonder the back roads taking photographs? Join Lisa Wood, curator for visual resources, to learn more about the life    and work of traveling Appalachian photographer Albert Ewing.

July 19 tour Follow the Flag

Their regiment’s flags were extremely important to soldiers during the Civil War. Join senior object curator Cliff Eckle to find out how flags were used and how Ohio’s delicate Civil War flags are preserved.

July 26 tour Going, Going, Gone? Endangered and Extinct Species

Our newest exhibit Going, Going, Gone? is open! Join natural history curator David Dyer for an in-depth tour to learn more about endangered and extinct species in Ohio and other places.

If you want to participate in a curator led tour:

Day and Time: Saturdays in July at 2:00 PM

Location: Ohio History Center at I-71 and 17th Ave.

Cost: Free with Museum Admission

Posted in Civil War, Curators, Current News, Exhibits, Natural History, Photograph Collections | Leave a comment

Frequently Asked History Collections Questions

Here at the Ohio History Connection, History Curators are often asked similar questions from the public. We have put together a list of our most frequently asked questions to help explain what we do.

Americorps members help rehouse and organize our hat collection.

Americorps members help rehouse and organize our hat collection.

What is a collection?

A collection is a group of objects that help serve a museum’s mission. The mission of the Ohio History Connection is to help people connect with Ohio’s past in order to understand the present and create a better future. In order to serve this mission, we have divided our three dimension objects into three collections: history, archaeology, and natural history.

What do you collect?

Anything related to Ohio History! We collect anything from hair pins to airplanes; we look for objects that will help visitors connect with Ohio’s history.

Are there things you don’t collect?

Much thought and research goes into each donation offer. As stewards, we have to think about space and preservation of our collection. In the History Collection, we sometimes have to turn down objects based on condition, duplication in the collection, or lack of provenance. Provenance is the history behind an object; without knowing the object’s history, it can sometimes lose its importance.

How do you research an object?

We research an object in a variety of ways. We usually start with the provenance of an object and try to research more about the people associated with object and the historical context the object was used in. We use books and primary sources from the Ohio History Connection Research Library; we also communicate with other museums that have similar objects.

I came to the History Center a few years ago and saw an object that I was interested in. Why isn’t it on exhibit anymore?

H 52949 was recently taken off exhibit after being displayed at the History Center for years. Alan Canfora was wearing this jacket on May 4, 1970, when he was struck by a bullet fired by an Ohio National Guardsman on the campus of Kent State University. To prevent light damage, we have taken it off the   exhibit floor, but researchers still have access to it in our collections facility.

H 52949 was recently taken off exhibit after being displayed at the History Center for years. Alan Canfora was wearing this jacket on May 4, 1970, when he was struck by a bullet fired by an Ohio National Guardsman on the campus of Kent State University. To prevent light damage, we have taken it off the exhibit floor, but researchers still have access to it in our collections facility.

We often rotate objects on exhibit for a number of reasons; usually it is to help protect an object from light and environment damage. We also change out objects if we get a better example of that object or just for something new for visitors to see.

What happens if I want to donate an object?

First contact the history department through this form. A curator will be in touch to find out more information about the object you wish to donate. If the object is a good fit for the collection, a formal report is made to the Collections Management Team (CMT), a committee made up of curators across all disciplines, who votes on if it should be accepted or not into the collection.

History objects are stored in the Society’s collections facility.  They are available to researchers by appointment; exhibited at the Ohio History Center and the Society’s 58 sites statewide; and loaned to other museums.

Can you appraise something for me?

Ethical and legal reasons prevent Ohio History Connection staff from appraising artworks. The Smithsonian Conservation Institute has put together a list of resources for artifact appraisal.

What does it mean when an object is “loaned”?

Recently, the Historical Aircraft Squadron borrowed our Culver Cadet airplane for an exhibit at their museum.

Recently, the Historical Aircraft Squadron borrowed our Culver Cadet airplane for an exhibit at their museum.

Often when museums are putting together exhibitions, they look to other collections to see if there are objects they can borrow to help tell the story in their exhibition. Museums love to collaborate through this processing of loaning objects; its win-win, as new audiences can see objects they might not normally have the opportunity to see. As a great example of this, recently our Lilly Martin Spencer painting, “Shake Hands?” was loaned to the Art Institute of Chicago for their exhibition, Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine. As part of the exhibition, Chef Meg Galus of the restaurant NoMI saw the piece and was inspired by it. She likely would never have seen this piece if it had not been loaned.

What is the weirdest thing in your collection?

We have a number of unusual objects in our collection. One of my favorite objects is a ring made from bone (H 70407). During the Civil War, Sergeant Peter Heckert, of Company F, 120th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment had to have his left leg amputated at Jackson,

H 70407, a ring made from

H 70407, a ring made from Sergeant Peter Heckert’s amputated left leg.

Mississippi July 11, 1863. Heckert asked the doctor to save his bone; Heckert made the ring from his own bone and wore it!

What do curators do on a daily basis?

Every day is different for curators! We generally process collections, research potential donation offers, work with researchers, plan and chose objects for exhibitions, oversee the care of our collection, take objects out for loans, and work with sites around the state. Sometimes we even get to be on TV to talk about our collection! Of course we also write blog posts and answer questions from readers.

History Curator, Cliff Eckle, films a segment about our Civil War battle flag collection.

History Curator, Cliff Eckle, films a segment about our Civil War battle flag collection.

How do I become a curator?

There is not one singular path to become a curator. This is what makes our field so interesting and diverse! Some curators have come from history backgrounds; others have come from art, design, education, business, or even the science field. I received my M.A. in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program and interned in a variety of museums in curatorial and digital collections. The key to a career in the museum field is experience! Start volunteering or interning with a museum.



What other questions do you have for the History Curators at the Ohio History Connection?

Emily Lang, History Curator

Posted in collections, Curators, Donate, Volunteers/Interns | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment