In the 1970s my family would go to the Ball family reunion in Gallipolis, Ohio. One of the Ball cousins had researched the family and had made a large drawing of the family tree going back to my great-grandfather. I was fascinated by my place in this tree.
During the winter of 2008 I signed up for Ancestry.com, discovered familytree.org and quickly became hooked on genealogy. I spent hours going through records and started making my own family tree. My Aunt Leona showed me a photo of my maternal great-grandfather, whose name was General Lafayette Chatfield. No, he was not a general, that was his given name! Aunt Leona told me that he had been murdered shortly before she was born. I wnated to know more of this story and that’s where the Ohio Historical Society archives helped me.
I found the death certificate for General Chatfield and found it had occured in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio. I searched the newspaper online at the OHS site and found that they had The Morning Irontonian on microfilm. I went to the OHS with the hope of finding his obituary. As I was searching, I was surprised to see the headline for the day after his death reading – “SENSATIONAL SHOOTING AFFAIR AT SHERIDAN — GENERAL L. CHATFIELD IS SHOT AND KILLED BY HARRY BELCHER.” I was so excited to find not only an obituary but also a front-page article that told the details of my great-grandfather’s death.
I also had trouble researching my paternal great-great grandfather’s date and place of death. The last time he appeared in a census was in 1880 and I though he had probably died between then and 1900. Aunt Leona told me that her mother had known this man, so that meant he had to be alive between 1900 and 1920. I was able to find Reuben Ball’s death certificate and found he was buried in Wellston, Ohio. Once again, I went to the archives where I found his obituary in the Wellston Telegram. This provided me with the name of his parents.
My first discovery at the Ohio Historical Society archives was definitely an exciting moment for me. I was a novice researcher whose computer skills were basic at best and this made me more confident that I could use resources that were available. The finding of my paternal great-great grandfather’s obituary that listed his parents names made it possible for me to find documented proof of my family’s lineage back to my fourth great-grandfather, Joseph Ball.