Archives Contest Entry: Finding Something that was Missing

While the “I Found It in the Archives Contest” has concluded for 2014, we want to take this opportunity to share all of the fascinating entries that were submitted to the Ohio History Connection’s local contest. Special thanks to everyone who took time to share their story and show how much archives matter to our daily lives.

Theresa Harris

Theresa Harris


Very early in life I learned there was an important figure missing. I had no father present in the way other little girls did. My mother later married a serviceman in the US Air Force stationed at Lockbourne AFB for a short time. Her second husband was a prominent man well known and respected in the Columbus African-American community. He was a wonderful man and I loved him but he was not my biological father. Confusion and suspicion began to overshadow what should have been a happy and productive time in my life. I was missing a vital part of my identity.

Many years later, I was determined to learn the identity of my elusive father. I was well acquainted with the Ohio Historical Society and proceeded to glean the archival resources for a man that had been brought to my attention. His name was Dr. Guilford Bert Hoiston, a 1938 graduate of The Ohio State University Medical School. I found his death certificate which indicated he had died as the result of a home furnace explosion 10 months after my birth. I was so intrigued by this information that after a brief hesitation, I proceeded to access other sources. I found the Hoiston extended family members via an online service. Dr. Hoiston’s sister was living in Cleveland, Ohio and agreed to submit her specimen for autosomal DNA testing to determine a relationship. It proved to be a 97% probability that we were related. I have met members of my paternal family and found the physical resemblance uncanny. I had succeeded in finding my paternal family.

I later visited OHS to search the newspaper microfilm collection of The Ohio State News, a widely read African-American publication. I learned a great deal about my father’s life as well as the controversial aspects of his untimely death. The social structures in communities have a profound effect on the lives of individuals. I learned that without my knowledge, Dr. Hoiston had always been a part of my life.

I am now set on a path to do the research for my maternal ancestry as well. I have learned that my central and southern Ohio ancestors had a very important role in early Ohio history. The Underground Railroad and the War of the Rebellion are prominent in my current research. The OHS is an invaluable resource I am certain to access very often.

By Theresa Harris

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