One name leads to another. That's the technique Margaret Cheney, President of the Ohio Genealogical Society, describes in the practice of genealogy, the study of family history. And it is how the name Jay Miller, Mansfield resident and software designer at DRM Productions, was eventually linked to the name Mattaius Zimmerman, Miller’s German ancestor born around the year 1622.
Miller is now able to trace his lineage back 13 generations thanks to research done by Cheney over the course of about three months. The project started with Miller’s request to learn more about his maternal grandmother, Billie Bride.
“He was pretty specific in what he wanted to learn, but he didn’t know a whole lot,” said Cheney. “He told me what he knew, their names and approximate birth and death dates. From that we have built our story.”
“It’s been crazy the different little pieces that she’s found,” said Miller. “It’s a jigsaw puzzle but it’s without the picture on the front of the box, so it’s that much harder. And it’s blank cardboard on both sides of the pieces.”
Cheney used databases such as FamilySearch.org and Newspapers.com to find data on Miller’s ancestors, though she noted genealogists should not rely solely on the Internet for all information. Physically visiting courthouses, libraries and other resources is the best way to find original documents to verify Internet findings.
“You always want to go back to the original record as much as you can because you’re depending on somebody else to read that record, and it may not have been read right,” said Cheney. “A lot of times a name may have been misspelled. They say when you start out you want to write your last name down 10 different ways of how it sounds, and that helps when you’re out there looking for different things.”
An initial search of the name “Bride” first led Cheney to a number of marriage announcements, but ironically the first record she found of Billie Bride was on Newspapers.com in a wedding announcement published in 1938 for Hobart Lime and Ava Swartz. Robert Bride Jr., brother-in-law of Hobart Lime, served as the best man, and the article makes mention of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bride Jr. and their daughter, Billie.
“Hobart was the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Y. Lime, so we have the parents of the groom; we know the groom is the brother of Robert’s wife,” said Cheney. “The old marriage announcements or an old obituary, anything like that that’s going to give you clues to your family’s past are well worth digging up.”
A 1940 census record shows Robert Bride Jr., an assistant foreman electric, his wife Juanita and their daughter Billie were living on Stocking Street in Mansfield. The census also shows his father, Robert Leonard Bride, a postal clerk, was also living in Mansfield on West Third Street with his wife May and their daughter Lois.
From there, Cheney found a marriage record for Robert Leonard Bride and Alvina May Roller, known as May in the census. The couple was married on March 7, 1906 in Richland County. The record also lists a third Robert Bride, the most senior Robert Bride and the father of Robert Leonard Bride, and his wife Louisa Ellen Pugh. Robert Bride Sr. and Louisa Ellen Pugh were married in Ohio on Sept. 25, 1865.
The official roster of retired officers for the Ohio National Guard shows Robert Bride Sr. served as a Captain in World War I until Dec. 18, 1918. Cheney also discovered a naturalization certificate for the father of Robert Bride Sr., John Bride, who was born in Ireland in 1803.
“It’s always a path that you’re following; you’re always on a different pathway to find what you’re actually looking for,” said Cheney of the process.
After tracing the lineage of Billie Bride’s father, Robert Bride Jr., Cheney focused her attention on Billie Bride’s mother, Juanita Lime. Miller provided the names of Juanita Lime’s parents, Augustus Yokum Lime and “Mortal” Zimmerman. After finding a marriage license for Augustus Lime, it was discovered that “Mortal” was actually named Myrtle, a name lost by word of mouth over the years.
“This comes about from the way people pronounce things, especially if there was a slight southern twang,” explained Cheney.
Augustus Yokum Lime and Myrtle Zimmerman were married on Aug. 22, 1865 in Richland County, with the application for marriage signed by an M.L. Lime. The 1880 census shows M.L. Lime was Martin Lime, the father of Augustus Lime, and that Martin Lime and his wife Susan Wetzlar lived in Worthington Township in Richland County at the time.
Augustus Lime and Myrtle Zimmerman passed away in 1941 and 1940, respectively. Death announcements in the Mansfield News Journal shows funerals for both Augustus and Myrtle were held at Wappner Funeral Home.
“My mom is best friends with one of the Wappners, so she said it’s crazy to see our families have known each other since the 1800s,” said Miller.
Martin Lime and his wife Susan Wetzlar were both born in Ohio and married on Sept. 18, 1860. Martin Lime also served in the Civil War, fighting for Illinois and Michigan, a fact that surprised Miller.
An 1850 census shows Martin Lime’s father, Michael Lime, was living in Madison Township in Richland County; however, Michael Lime was born in Pennsylvania, suggesting this time period was when Miller’s ancestors first came to Ohio and the Mansfield area.
“I think when we start working on our families and we find these things, it opens new doors to us and gives us new perspective of just how long your family was in a particular area or what did they contribute to that area while they were there,” said Cheney. “People in this time frame were very involved in their communities; they didn’t have smart phones or computers.”
Narrowing the family tree down even further, Cheney then focused on the history of Juanita Lime’s mother, Myrtle Zimmerman. Her death certificate in 1940 shows the parents of Myrtle Zimmerman were Jesse Zimmerman and Mary Kindull, both of whom were born in Ohio.
At this point, Cheney pulls out a printed version of a family tree and traces the Zimmerman line seven generations back from Jesse Zimmerman, all the way to Mattaius Zimmerman born in 1622 in Germany. The son of Mattaius, Johann Zimmerman, was born in 1642 in Germany and died in 1693 in Holland. Johann’s son, Jacob Zimmerman, was born in 1681 in Germany and died in 1759 in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Three generations forward, Jesse Zimmerman was the son of David Zimmerman, born in 1807 in Chester County, Pennsylvania and died in 1874 in Ashland County, Ohio.
“This is where my eyes started bugging out of my head,” said Miller. “I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting maybe back to the early 1900s, and then it got to the 1800s and I thought oh my gosh, I can’t believe it goes back that far. This blew my mind.”
Later, Cheney discovered the Zimmerman name on Miller’s ancestry appearing more than once. It was a finding that Miller first thought was a mistake.
“I went wait, this doesn’t make sense I think you’ve got something wrong on here,” said Miller with a laugh. “I said I think you copy and pasted this here because they match.”
Cheney explained the parents of David Zimmerman were Levi Zimmerman, born in 1773 in Pennsylvania, and Susannah Stemm, born in 1773. The father of Susannah Stemm was Johann Stemm, however the mother of Susannah Stemm was Hannah Zimmerman. Hannah Zimmerman shared the same ancestry line tracing back to Mattaius Zimmerman.
“They’re a generation removed from each other, but they’re from the same family,” said Cheney. “It would be like second cousins marrying. This is one of those cases when the tree collapses.”
At the start of the project, Jay Miller had four names associated with his lineage. By the end of the project, Cheney had collected approximately 124 names – and that is only for Miller’s mother’s side of the family.
“I was surprised by how much information is out there and how much she was able to find, way more than I expected,” said Miller. “Three months sounds like a lot of time, but really that was pretty quick to go back that far. And how time consuming this could get.”
For the amount of names and information uncovered, Cheney emphasized Miller’s family tree is only the tip of the iceberg. But it’s important work, work she said she wants the families she helps to continue.
“I love helping other people find their families,” said Cheney. “It isn’t that we have famous people in our lines, it isn’t that we have politicians or bankers or important people, they’re our people. They’re our family, they’re our ancestors, and we want to know where they really came from. We’re finding who made us, us.”