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Finding your family in local resources: Obituaries and the Allyn Room

October 30, 2017

Obituary for John M. Williams, Geauga Republican Record, Wed July 22 1925 p. 5, microfilm Anderson Allyn Room, Geauga County Public Library

Over the next few blogs, we will explore the life story of a Geauga County resident, a miller by the name of John M. Williams (1845 – 1925), using records found either in the Allyn Room or through other GCPL resources, such as subscription databases. While Allyn Room records focus on Geauga County ancestors, you can use this same model to look for records for your ancestors in local repositories in other counties or states.

Since obituaries can be a rich source of information, we will start with John M. Williams’ obituary. In Geauga County, obituaries or death notices did not become common until the late 1800s. Many people did not have an obituary. The Allyn Room participates in the RBHayes Ohio Obituary Index. Volunteers extract old Geauga County obituaries from microfilmed Geauga County newspapers and other sources, as well as clipping current Geauga obituaries. The obituaries are then indexed in the online RB Hayes Index, which now lists over 102,000 Geauga County obituaries and other records. Patrons can check the index online from any computer, then order the actual obituary from the Allyn Room for $3, by following the instructions at rbhayes.org. Or patrons can come to the Allyn Room, find the obituary on microfilm or on the genealogy server and make a copy for $.10 per page.

John M. Williams’s obituary gives many details about his life. He ran a flour mill in Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio, from 1880 to his retirement in the 1900s. John learned milling from his father, Heman Williams, a pioneer miller in Concord, Geauga (now Lake) County, Ohio.  Heman had a carding mill and a gristmill on Big Creek in Concord. John later worked at an uncle’s mill in Wisconsin, and then farmed in Michigan where he married Harriet A. Morley. The couple moved back to Concord in the 1870s to operate Heman’s mill before owning mills in Claridon and Chardon, Geauga County. John’s son, A.J. (Alva) was his associate in the mill in Chardon. This obituary account of three generations of millers can be corroborated and “fleshed out” with other local resources found in the Anderson Allyn Room for Genealogical Research in the Chardon Branch of the Geauga County Public Library (GCPL).

Cheryl McClellan is the Genealogist at the Chardon Branch. She is currently reading The Golden Lane: How Missouri Women Gained the Vote and Changed History by Margot McMillen.
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