Tag Archives: county history

County Histories: Strategies and Tips

When looking for county history entries regarding your ancestors or collateral relatives, I have a few tips and strategies for you.

First, look for county histories published in the areas where your ancestors lived. For Samuel Cook Dimick, I found him in the Wood County, Ohio county history, but also found mention of him in a few publications in Grafton County, New Hampshire. Don’t limit yourself to where they ended up. Expand your searches.

If you find the county history on a digital repository such as Google Books or Internet Archive, those services have decent searching capabilities and OCR (optical character recognition). You may also see if a supplemental index exists. The original county histories were rarely indexed though you may find a Table of Contents that lists the names of the subjects of the biographical sketches. When I began working on Samuel Cook Dimick, I was fortunate to discover that the Wood County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society had published an index to the Wood County history.

Title page of the Wood County Index.

One book that has been a valuable resource for identifying county histories, has been A Bibliography of American County Histories by P. William Filby. This book contains a state-by-state listing of county histories. Some county histories encompassed several counties in one region. County histories can also be found at the local public library of the county that the history is about. If you cannot find a digital copy, don’t forget the public library. Utilize the local library’s catalog or WorldCat to help you find a copy.

You may be able to find most of these county histories in online digital repositories because many of them are coming out of copyright and are in the public domain. The benefit of these is that you can download them right to your computer. You may find different versions online, or the digitization my have lumped volumes one and two together rather than as separate books.

There are a lot of places to find digitized books these days.

There are probably more, but these are my top places to visit to find county histories.

County histories are a valuable resource full of information on topics of community context. They give us fantastic clues on our ancestors and provide a lot more research avenues for us to follow. Remember, though, the information in them is subject to scrutiny. These sketches are very rarely documented and were written by the family, usually, so the details may have been embellished to make the family sound more prominent. That’s not to say they should be completely discounted or tossed aside. So far, I have not found an error in the information I have been able to corroborate on Samuel Cook Dimick from his biographical sketch. These sources should be an integral part of your research plan when researching your ancestors.

County Histories: More on the FAN Club

Last time I mentioned that looking for the collateral relatives or those in the FAN Club (friends, associates, neighbors) of your ancestor can be quite revealing. Let’s look at an example of what I mean.

Throughout this research on S.C. Dimick, I realized that his biographical sketch mentioned that they lived in Toledo a few years before going to Wood County. Toledo is just a county to the north, not very far away from where Samuel finally settled near Bowling Green. Looking at city directories for Toledo, I discovered that he worked for “H. M. Clark & Co.” who were manufacturers of tin and “Jappaned Ware.” Basically they made metal plates that were covered in enamel and painted. Here are some examples of “Jappaned Ware”:

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

I’m going to be honest here. It took me a while to look for a county history entry for H. M. Clark. But when I finally got smart and started researching him and his company. I discovered an amazing county history entry, in a county history in … South Dakota! Through the power of internet searching I found it in South Dakota. I would never in a million years thought to have looked there, so I’m ever-thankful for the technology we have today to bring these disparate sources right into our homes and computers.

The following table shows the key datapoints from each biographical sketch:

Samuel Cook Dimick (OH)H. M. Clark (SD)
Born Lyme, NH 1835Born Lyme, NH 1832
In “hardware business” in NH, which he later soldWas a clerk in a store in NH, opened his own general store which he sold in 1868
Congregational Church in LymeCongregational Church in Lyme
Moved to Toledo (abt. 1871)Moved to Toledo 1868
Engaged in can manufacturing until 1875Operated manufacturing establishment until 1881
“Disposed of that business” and moved to Wood County, OhioSold his business and moved west to “Dakota”
Married Mary Marshall, 1860 in Lyme, New HampshireMarried Alice E. Dodge, 1856 in Lyme, New Hampshire
Side-by-side comparison of the biographical sketches of Samuel Cook Dimick and his associate H.M. Clark.

Samuel Cook Dimick and H. M. Clark lived nearly parallel lives. And it seems most likely that Samuel went to Toledo to work with Clark in his can manufacturing business.

The lesson I learned and I hope to share with you is to research the FAN club, those people living around and beside our ancestors. They might reveal important information on your ancestor.

County Histories: Find the Collaterals

You may have looked for information about your ancestors in county histories and not been able to find any biographical sketches about them. If that happens, expand your search. Put your ancestor in the center of a target and start researching those people around him, his uncles, cousins, close family friends, his neighbors, and so on. What has come to be known as the “FAN club” (a term coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills).

During my research on Samuel Cook Dimick, I was able to locate county history sketches about his wife’s family of origin which gave information back to before 1800 in Massachusetts (i.e., a new research path!).

Hamilton Child, editor, Gazetteer of Grafton County, New Hampshire, 1709-1886 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Company Printers, 1886).

In this same book by Hamilton Child, I also found a sketch for Samuel’s great-grandfather Shubael Dimock, from Tolland, Connecticut who settled in Lyme in 1783! It goes on to give fantastic information, and again, more research avenues.

I’m not putting the full sketches in… you get the idea at the vast amounts of information you can find if you just keep looking.

Author’s depiction of the FAN Club, or collateral relative searching.

Keep searching for those close to your ancestor and you are sure to have some results in finding more information and clues about yours.

County Histories: School Records

Samuel C. Dimick’s biographical sketch mentioned that “after attending the district schools of Lyme, [he] entered the high school of Orford, N. H., where he completed his education.” I set out to learn more about the school in Orford and what that experience may have entailed.

I found a description of the school in a county-history-style book about Grafton County, New Hampshire. This entry describes it as a boarding school.

Hamilton Child, editor, Gazetteer of Grafton County, New Hampshire, 1709-1886 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Company Printers, 1886), page 240 (page 1052 on digital copy); digital images, FamilySearch Books (https://books.familysearch.org).

I did some more digging around on the internet and came across a bit of ephemera someone had digitized and posted online. The image is of what looks like a flyer or pamphlet describing the rules of the school. (The image is a partial scan and part of it is blurry, but we can get the idea of the rules and regulations from this portion.)

“Academy Structure and Regulations,” Encountering History Along the Cross Rivendell Trail (rivendelltrailshistory.org : dowloaded August 2015).

To quote parts:

“Any person of good moral character may become a member of this Academy…

“Tuition will be required in advance…

“Every student is required to spend such portions of the day in study, recitations, religious and other exercises as may be designated by the Principal.

“Every student is required to be at his own room during study hours and to conduct himself at all times with propriety.

“Neatness is required of all, both in their own and in the rooms of the Academy.

“The use of profane or indecent language, insult, or abuse of others, card and dice playing, are strictly prohibited.”

I was unable to locate any individual school records that might include the registration, grades, classes, etc. that Samuel may have taken but this find at least gives me a bit of insight into the character and upbringing of S. C. Dimick.

County Histories: Clues in Other Records, Land (Part 1)

There were a few statements in S. C. Dimick’s biographical sketch that led me to examine land records.

First: “In 1875, we find him a resident of Center township, Wood county, where he purchased 120 acres of the old Williams farm, and has here since made his home. He has one of the best orchards in the township, and his excellent farm has been brought under a high state of cultivation by industry and good management, with its attendant hard labor.”

Wood County, Ohio, Deed Book 48:123 (1876), County Recorder’s Office, Bowling Green, Ohio; FHL microfilm 409,648.
Close-up, describing the 120 acres purchased.
Ohio, Wood County, 1886 (Philadelphia: Griffing, Gordon & Co., 1886), 17; digital image, Historic Mapworks (www.historicmapworks.com : accessed 15 March 2015).

This map shows approximately where that 120 acres were located. This is after he sold some of the 120 acres to some relatives of his daughter-in-law.

Samuel bought this land outright. It was not a military warrant, or homestead, or some other acquisition from the Federal Government. So, this did not answer why he moved his family to Ohio. We will keep looking at the clues.

Next time, more land clues.

County Histories: Clues to Other Records, Newspapers

Last we found S. C. Dimick in the census records, in 1870 still in Lyme, New Hampshire and in 1880 he was living in Wood County, Ohio. Let’s look at other clues in his biographical sketch that lead me to other records.

Newspapers

I found several news articles for S. C. Dimick who was involved in the Wood County Farmer’s Institute. In 1886 he served as the president! The institute also resolved to thank various people. Included was a thanks to Mrs. S. C. Dimick for her paper on “Butter Making and Marketing” as well as an essay by Mr. S. C. Dimick on “Ensilage.”

“Farmer’s Institute,” Perrysburg Journal (Ohio), 12 February 1886, p. 3, c. 4.

I also located his obituary stating that he “died from grief” just days after his wife died.

“Died from Grief,” Marietta Leader, (Ohio), 3 May 1903, p. 3, c. 4.  

Neither of these news articles gave any clues about when or why they moved to Ohio from New Hampshire.

Next time, we will examine clues in land records.

County Histories: Looking at Census Leads

When looking at the details found in Samuel C. Dimick’s biographical sketch, let’s start with a basic one. Let’s look at him in the census. For each of my research subjects, I try to find them in every census they should be in. For Samuel, we will just look at a couple that I focused on because I primarily wanted to know why he came to Ohio from New Hampshire. We can’t always answer ‘why’ questions in genealogy but we can make some good educated guesses if we find the right information. So, I wanted to figure that out if I could.

1870, Lyme, Grafton County, New Hampshire

In 1870, Samuel was living with his wife Mary in Lyme, New Hampshire. He was 34, she was 35, and they had two sons, Marshall, age 2, and Burton, age 6 months. Samuel’s occupation is hard to make out, but it looks like “R.M. & Tin Plate Manuf.” I only knew he was a farmer from my earlier research.

1880, Center Township, Wood County, Ohio

By 1880, he was living in Center Township in Wood County, Ohio, which is near Bowling Green. He is listed as a farmer.

These two censuses at the bookends to his migration to Ohio. Sometime between 1870 and 1880 he and his family made the move. We will continue to look for clues about his life in the county history and see what more we can learn.

County Histories: Follow Every Lead

In the last blog post, we looked at the general family information we found in Samuel C. Dimick’s biographical sketch. Now let’s discuss all of the minutiae and details that we (and by ‘we’ I mean I) might gloss over the first (or second, or tenth) time we read a biographical sketch.

When I began researching Samuel, I didn’t know anything about him, of course, so the details that were important to me at that time were the main biographical points we looked at in the last post. However, as time moved on, I gained more experience, and I wanted to know more specific information about him and his family, I started focusing on some of that minutiae. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to absorb information from a source. And that’s ok, as long as at some point in your process (this could be many years later), you go back and review your previous research.

After really digging into the details, I was able to compile a list of other sources I needed to examine to verify those details and get more information:

  • Census Records
  • Newspapers
  • Obituaries
  • Land Records
  • Land Ownership Maps
  • Vital Records
  • City Directories
  • School Records
  • Agricultural Census
  • Indian Reservation Records
  • Revolutionary War Records
  • Expand search to other states mentioned in the sketch: New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Minnesota

Over the next several posts, we are going to look at some of these in detail. I won’t go over each and every one, because, well, that could get boring. But, there are some highlights I want to hit that really opened some new research avenues and helped me understand Samuel’s life better and in more detail.

County Histories: More Details on Samuel Cook Dimick

“We now come to the personal history of our subject, who, after attending the district schools of Lyme, entered the high school of Orford, N. H., where he completed his education. After working on his father’s farm for a time, he removed to Wisconsin, where he was in the lumber business for a year, and, on the expiration of that time, went to southern Minnesota, where for a year and a half he had charge of a government farm on the Indian reservation…

“In 1875, we find him a resident of Center township, Wood county, where he purchased 120 acres of the old Williams farm, and has here since made his home. He has one of the best orchards in the township, and his excellent farm has been brought under a high state of cultivation by industry and good management, with its attendant hard labor…

“Mr. Dimick was married at Lyme, N. H., in 1860, to Mary Marshall, who was born in 1835, and they became the parents of two children, the younger of whom, Burton C., born November 4, 1869, died July, 1889…

““…Marshall C., born December 13, 1867, was educated at Toledo and Bowling Green, and now has a half-interest in the homestead farm, to the cultivation and improvement of which he now devotes his energies. He is a young man of good address, genial and industrious, and is one of the most enterprising and progressive farmers of Center township…”

I only shared some of the most vital or interesting bits about Samuel in the quotes above. In the full sketch, some of the things we learned about him include:

  • Born: 23 June 1835, Lyme, New Hampshire
  • Married: 1860, Lyme to Mary Marshall
  • Children: Marshall Chester and Burton Cook
  • Occupations: Farming, lumber, hardware store, can manufacturing
  • Other locations: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin
  • Land ownership: bought 120 acres of the “Old Williams Farm” in Wood County, Ohio
  • Extensive details on Mary Marshall’s family background

We have also been able to reconstruct family groups from this biographical sketch. Here is what we learned about Samuel:

We were also able to reconstruct his wife’s family:

Next time, we will start looking at some of the information in more detail and discuss following every lead from these sketches.

County Histories: Samuel Cook Dimick

Biographical Sketch of Samuel C. Dimick in the county history for Wood County, Ohio.

I know this image is incredibly tiny and I’m not expecting you to read it. I’m going to share some of the main points and highlights and some things I’ve learned and some things I’m still working on from this particular biographical sketch. If you want to read the sketch in its entirety, click here.

Samuel Cook Dimick is one of the ancestors I focused on early in my genealogy-hood. My paternal grandmother, Marge, was a Dimick. She was very interested in the Dimick family history and we were able to take her on a trip to New England to visit some ancestral towns and cemeteries. She had a copy of this book in her possession. So this was a book I was familiar with early on. This biographical sketch shares so much information about Samuel C. Dimick and alerted me to things I had not found in other records.

The sketch contains many of the usual things you would find such a general genealogical birth, marriage, death information.

“Samuel C. Dimick is the proprietor of one of the most noticeable homesteads in Center township… He comes from sturdy New England stock, and was born in Lyme, N.H. on June 23, 1835… “His father, Chester Dimick, was also there born July 6, 1802, and was a son of Samuel Dimick, a native of Dorchester, Mass. The latter aided the Colonies in their struggle for independence, and was married in the Bay State to Abigail Cook, who was born August 12, 1767, and was a daughter of Samuel Cook, of Vermont, who was also one of the heroes of the Revolution. This worthy couple passed their last days in Lyme, N. H. and to them were born twenty-one children.”

Pretty typical of general biographical sketches in county histories. This one traces ancestor back to the Revolution. The county histories generally were a celebration of our immigrant ancestors the formation of the country. We will continue exploring this sketch in future posts.