Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Women's History Month Wrap-Up: Finding Information about Your Female Ancestors in Erie County

March is Women’s History Month, and in honor of the women of our area, here are some tips on how you can locate information about your female ancestors in Sandusky and Erie County. 

For the earliest settlers in Erie County, you can check the index of the Firelands Pioneer. There is a general index arranged by surname, and a separate index for obituaries. In the June 1865 issue of the Firelands Pioneer, Truman Taylor recounts his grandmother’s account of  how several families moved from Glastonbury, Connecticut to Perkins Township in Erie County, Ohio in 1815, by oxen train.

The women had to wash clothes along the way, sometimes hanging the wet laundry on a brush pile to dry. The families camped at night, stopping in a location with pastures for the cattle and horse. They took provisions along with them, consisting of bacon, bread, butter and cheese. Once they settled in Erie County, the pioneers had to clear the land, build cabins, and till the tough prairie sod.

Two sources that provide information are Mothers of Erie County, by Marjorie Cherry Loomis, and Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve, edited by Mrs. Gertrude Van Ressselaer Wickham. These books are anecdotal in nature, and provide biographical information about the earliest female residents of Erie County. The Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve was originally written in five parts, and is housed in a bound two volume set, shelved in the genealogical section of books in the lower level of the Sandusky Library.  The pages devoted to women from Sandusky are found in Part 1, pages 158 to 164. Mrs. Jane Hartshorn, daughter of William Kelly, recalled that when her family settled in Sandusky in 1818, there were only five frame houses in Sandusky at that time. All the rest were built of logs. The family stayed in a small log house that had been used as a cabin for fishermen. It had no fireplace, just a stone hearth, and very little furniture or dishes. Though times were difficult, she remembered those early days with fondness. Jay Cooke remembered his mother, Martha Simpson Carswell Cooke, working at her spinning wheel, to prepare material for the children’s clothing and stockings. When Martha’s husband, Eleutheros, brought back cans of oysters from the east, she shared liberally with her neighbors. Jay Cooke recalled that his mother had wise counsel and unfailing Christian love. There are indexes in the back of volume two of Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve arranged by the surname of the pioneer women, as well as an index to towns and counties.

For genealogical information about your female ancestors, the Sandusky Library has access to Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest. An outstanding online resource, available to anyone with computer access, is FamilySearch.org. This database is particularly strong in Ohio information, such as birth, marriage, and death records and some census data.  Sources available inside the Sandusky Library include school yearbooks, Sandusky city directories, Erie County directories and histories, obituaries in the microfilmed copies of the Sandusky Register, and church records, also on microfilm. Hundreds of historical photographs are housed at the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Inquire at the Sandusky Library for more information.

A fun way to learn a bit more about women from Sandusky and Erie County, search for  women ​in the Labels list to the left. In these links, you can read, for example, about women working for the war effort in World War II.

Sarah Howard was the first African-American female to graduate from Sandusky High School.

The Woman’s Endeavor was a newspaper published by Sandusky women in 1908. In 1920, there was an all-women jury in a courtroom at the Erie County Courthouse. Dr. Carrie Chase Davis was one of the first female physicians in Sandusky, and was also known for her active involvement in women’s rights.

Two other notable Sandusky women we cannot forget are Marie Brehm, the first legally qualified female candidate to run for the vice-presidency of the U.S., and Jackie Mayer, Miss America of 1963, now a motivational speaker. Jackie Mayer speaks about her recovery from a near-fatal stroke when she was 28.

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