Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Board Meeting and End-of-Year Picnic

HCGS Board Celebrates
Summer time and the livin' is easy . . .  Board members not already on vacation gathered for the final Board meeting of the year.  Kenny Burck graciously hosted all of us at his home and was delighted to review the comments many of you left in the previous post.  (If you haven't had the chance, click on this link and leave a comment).

A wonderful dinner was followed by a business meeting.  The people pictured above are already hard at work on plans for next year.  We would love to have you take a more active part.  Think about what it is you like to do, and we'll find a place for you.

Jeff Herbert introduced us to our new Cemetery Chair, Jane Fitzpatrick. She is the one pictured in the green shirt and we welcome her. We are excited about her plans for helping us complete the cemetery records we have for Hamilton County.

Next September we will be meeting again.  For at least the first three Board meetings, we are returning to our "home" at the Norwood Library.  Maybe we'll see you there.

Submitted by:
Kathy Reed

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thanks, Kenny

Some of the roles of HCGS President

I am a relative "newbie."  I first became interested in the Hamilton County Genealogical Society when I found out about their lineage societies and thought I might have ancestors who qualified.  That's when I first met Kenny.  Over the next few years, I was able to establish that my family qualified for the First Families designation and, of course, for the new Century Families group.

Because of Kenny, I got to meet other Board members and realized what a resource they were.  Got German?  Talk to Kenny and John Tholking.  Irish?  Talk to Mary Ann Falloon. Land records? Tap into Liz Stratton's expertise. I started attending Board meetings. You have no idea how great it is to be with people who have such incredible knowledge of the records of Hamilton County and beyond and who enthusiastically want to share what they know.

But back to Kenny.  He is a "character" to say the least.  If you don't believe it, ask him about his son, The Naked Cowboy. Volunteer to serve on the Board as Recording Secretary and allow your minutes to be "critiqued."  Show up to a member meeting on crutches. Try to submit more ancestors for Century Families than Kenny.  (Final score: Kenny 12, Kathy 11) He can be quite competitive.

Kenny accepts his Century Families Recognition for 12 family members

So as a relative "newbie," I felt that we needed to acknowledge the numerous contributions Kenny has made over the 30+ years he has served our organization and many others.  The problem is that I had no idea what all he had done.  Kenny graciously agreed to send me some of his resumes, so I could have some basis to discuss all that he has done. In the end, what was really valuable to me, was a brief summary of the activities that Jeff Herbert, our new Chapter President, was able to send to me.

-          Many years of service on the Board including multiple terms as President and Vice-President
-          Numerous research publications for the benefit of the chapter
-          Numerous articles and research extractions in the Tracer
-          Leadership positions and service for OGS, FGS, NGS, and Palatinate Societies
-          Host of two national conventions here in Cincinnati (FGS in 1998 & NGS in 2012)
-          Teaching of numerous classes on German research
-          Avid supporter of German Interest Group for the chapter and related programs and activities in the    community

We could write a book fleshing out all of Kenny's contributions, but luckily for me, it wouldn't be conducive to being posted on a blog. So let me just end by saying that we appreciate you. We also know that you are not going anywhere. You are co-chairing the OGS Conference to be held in Cincinnati next spring. You are currently organizing a Chapter Management Seminar for OGS and will continue serving on the Board as Past-President.  

Since we all know that Kenny is "responsible" for moving the Chapter into the 21st Century with new technologies including this blog, facebook and twitter, I'm sure he would love to read your comments below. Consider leaving one. And Kenny, we are all grateful.

Submitted by: 
Kathy Reed

Monday, June 18, 2012

Patricia Van Skaik Receives Griffin Yeatman Award

On Monday, June 18, Hamilton County Recorder Wayne Coates presented Patricia Van Skaik, Manager of the Genealogy & Local History Department at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, with the 2012 Griffin Yeatman Historical Achievement Award. From left to right are:  Kimber L. Fender, Cincinnati Public Llibrary's Eva Jane Romaine Coombe; Director Wayne Coates, Hamilton County Recorder; Patricia Van Skaik, Manger of the Library's Genealogy & Local History Department; Kenny Burke, Past-President of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society; Greg Edwards, Assistant Director -- Library Services; Paula Brehm-Heeger, Library Services Manager -- Central Region.

While working at the Library for the past 28 years, some of Van Skaik’s achievements include coordinating the annual Family History Day; developing a large collection of records on microfilm and books from courthouses and historical societies; working to digitize Cincinnati City Directories; and making grave registration cards of war veterans available.

A recognized genealogy expert who has spoken nationally and internationally, Van Skaik has served on the Board of Ohio Genealogical Society for more than 20 years. She has coordinated entry of local historical items into Newsdex, created a video archive of oral histories of 350 World War II and Korean War veterans, mounted an exhibit commemorating the 1937 flood, and developed enumeration district map overlays of the 1940 Hamilton County map. She also brought worldwide attention to the importance and preservation of the “Cincinnati Panorama of 1848.”

The Hamilton County Recorder’s Office created the Griffin Yeatman Historical Achievement Award in 1994 to recognize the citizens and groups of Hamilton County who volunteer their time and service to preserving and promoting the history of Hamilton County. The award is presented for excellence in historical preservation, research or achievement, which has contributed to the preservation of buildings, sites, structures and objects pertaining to Hamilton County’s History.

Press Release: 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June Tracer is Now Available Online

The June edition of The Tracer is now available online in the members-only section of the website. Articles in this issue:

Vechta, Oldenburg—Cincinnati Genealogy,JOHN THOLKING & JOSEF BORGERDING
Chapter Election, Awards, Heritage Luncheon
Chapter Co-hosts Successful NGS Conference in Cincinnati
Unlikely Heroes Keep Veterans’ Names Alive, CLIFF RADEL
Using WPA Veterans’ Cemetery Maps
Chapter Members in “The Decrypters”
More Ohio Records on FamilySearch
Hamilton County Records Online: Lineage Societies, Enquirer, Churches, Cemeteries
1940 Census Enumeration Districts in Hamilton County
1940 Census Indexing Update
Catherine Street Cemetery—Methodist Reburials, JIM DEMPSEY
Cincinnati City Reports Offer Wealth of Information, JANICE SCHULZ
Books Available Online, MARY ANN FALOON
Bylaws of the Hamilton County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society
Hamilton County Probate Accounts—Partial Abstract of Account Volume 3,
     1840-1857, Part IV, JIM DEMPSEY
Public Library Acquisitions, COMPILED BY MARK SCHMIDT
Book Reviews BY COLLEEN PHILLIPS: Over-the-Rhine Heritage Guide,DON HEINRICH TOLZMANN

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pioneer Steamboats

This is the third in a series of posts written by John Tholking.  In this article, John discusses the Cincinnati our First Families and Settlers and Builders ancestors may have experienced when we were the steamboat capital.

The Ohio River was the great road into the west.  The trails of the Indians and buffalo led to the river as well as the later main roads of the western country.  Early explorers traveled by canoe, horseback or by foot, but most early immigrants floated down the Ohio with their families, meager possessions and food in canoes, flatboats, barges or keelboats.  In December, 1788, the first group of settlers in Hamilton County, led by Benjamin Stites, landed at Columbia, at the confluence of the Ohio and the Little Miami Rivers.

Steam driven boats were first invented in Europe before 1800.  In 1807, Robert Fulton's steamboat Clermont successfully navigated the Hudson River from New York City to Albany in about thirty hours, becoming the first American steam vessel to offer regular transportation on an inland river.


The first steamboat to descend the Ohio was the Orleans in 1811.  As early as 1809, Nicholas Roosevelt, an associate of Fulton, had floated down the Ohio on a flatboat making measurements of the channels, water levels and noting coal deposits.  After eighteen months of construction, at a cost of $38,000. the Orleans, with Captain Roosevelt and his family and crew left Pittsburgh on October 20, 1811.  The boat first passed Cincinnati on its four day journey to Louisville.  Because of low water at the falls of Louisville, the Orleans had to wait one month for higher water. During this time it steamed 141 miles back up the Ohio to Cincinnati.

Two years before, Mr. Roosevelt had said he would return in a steamboat, but no one had believed him.  When the 116 foot long, bright blue steamboat laid anchor at Cincinnati, it seemed as if all the twenty-six hundred inhabitants gathered on the riverbank to watch. 

No one who lived on the Ohio at that time will ever forget the amazing year 1811.  On September 17, on a bright and cloudless day, the sun was eclipsed by the moon.  In the fall, The Great Comet of 1811, with a head larger than the sun, blazed across the night heavens for months.  Millions of squirrels began migrating south and died in the Ohio River.  In December the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America caused changes in the course of the Mississippi and other rivers.  Even more amazing, in terms of the settlement of our ancestors, was the two thousand mile voyage of this first steamboat, the Orleans, from Pittsburgh, finally arriving in New Orleans on January 12, 1812. 
The second steamboat on the Ohio was the Comet, built before the summer of 1813, followed by the Vesuvius in November 1813, both built in Pittsburgh.  In 1814 the Enterprise, the Aetna, the Despatch, the Buffalo, the James Monroe, the  Washington and others followed. 
The first steamboat to complete the trip from New Orleans back to Pittsburgh was Henry Miller Schreve's powerful Enterprise in 1815.  Henry Schreve designed boats and boilers much more suited to river travel and developed snag boats to remove the many snags or trees in the channels that sank over half the early steamboats.  This made steamboat travel both more safe and reliable as well as more profitable. 

Charles Goss states the first steamboat built in Cincinnati was the Eagle in 1818 for a Kentucky firm.  The Western Spy reported "The steamboat Cincinnati, launched in February, 1818, was the first steamboat that has been built from the keel in Cincinnati.  She is owned by Mr. J. W. Byrne and Mr. P. Pennywitt, Jr., merchants of this place."  (Cincinnati Western Spy, March 7, 1818)

Cincinnati soon afterward awoke to the importance of the shipbuilding industry, and between 1817 and 1819, about one fourth of the vessels constructed on the western waters were built here.  Several shipyards were located in Cincinnati, North Bend, Fulton (Columbia) and nearby areas.

Most early steamboats were built for freight as well as passengers.  Often the stench of the animals and livestock was unbearable.  As late as 1843, John James Audubon described his passage on the steamboat Gallant as the " filthiest of all filthy rat-traps I have ever traveled in.  Our companions on the voyage, about one hundred fifty, were composed of Buckeyes, Wolverines, Suckers, Hoosiers and gamblers and drunkards of every denomination, their ladies and babies of the same nature, and specially the dirtiest of the dirty.  We had to dip the water for washing from the river in tin basins, soap ourselves all from the same cake, and wipe the one hundred and fifty with the same solitary one towel.  Our stateroom was evidently better fitted for the smoking of hams than the smoking of Christians.  When it rained outside, it rained also within, and on one particular morning, when the snow melted on the upper deck or roof, it was a lively scene to see each person seeking for a spot free from the many spouts overhead."

The General Pike, owned by Cincinnatians John H. Piatt and Philip Grandin, was the first all-passenger luxury packet travelling a regular route between Maysville, Cincinnati and Louisville.  Built in Cincinnati in 1818, it had 14 staterooms and enough berths to carry 86 passengers.  "The center of the large hall is supported by eight marble columns, which together with a handsome carpet covering the floor, crimson berth curtains, the mirrors decorating the wall, the neatness and beauty of the painting, and the remaining furniture, give the whole an air of elegance which borders upon magnificence."  (Western Spy, Cincinnati, March 20, 1819).  The cabin fare in 1819 was $8.00 downstream and $12 up - six years later the corresponding fares were $4 and $6.  For such sums the passenger was provided not only with transportation but with bed and meals on a large boat of excellent accommodations.

As late as the 1840's the principal route of migration for settlers was by wagon through Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, then by steam-boat down the Ohio.  Flatboats, keelboats, and barges were still heavily used until the 1820's, after which steamboats became the primary form of river travel. 

Early newspapers such as the Western Spy and the Cincinnati Gazette often carried lists of passengers as well as cargo for barges, keelboats and steamboats. 

Submitted by: John Tholking
Membership in First Families is open to descendants of pioneers who were residents of Hamilton County before December 31, 1820.  Applications or requests for forms may be sent to FFHC, Hamilton County Chapter OGS, PO Box 15865, Cincinnati, OH 45215-0865.

Millions of Hamilton County Records Headed Online

Judge Jim Cissell
Dan Monk, Senior Staff Reporter of the Business-Courier, wrote an article featuring Judge James Cissell's efforts to preserve Hamilton County Court Records and make them available online.

In the absence of permission to republish the article on this blog, please click on this link to read the full story.

“He’s a saint to us,” said Jim Dempsey, director at large for the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. “There’s no question of the benefit that he’s made to local historians and genealogists.”
Once again, this is evidence of the benefit of the collaboration between Jim Dempsey and the Probate Court. Generations of future genealogists will be grateful for their efforts.

Kathy Reed