The Paint Me House: Out of it’s Misery

photo 3 This eye-sore was chock full of eye-soreyness since the day we moved in across the street in 2006. It didn’t have any graffiti on it yet, but it was in horrendous shape. My neighbors who have lived around this neighborhood longer than I could tell me more I’m sure, and I’ve heard bits and pieces as to why the house at 705 was in the shape it was in, but frankly such recent history is none of my business. Whatever the reason it can’t be a happy one.

We begged the city to tear it down in 2011 and 2012 – we had our house on the market and though values on all houses were down, this pile of wood and blocks was not helping. Scrawled on it in white spray paint for the last 7 years was “Paint Me” and “Mom” and “I ❤ Ashley”. And so we all called it “The Paint Me House”. Sounded better than the Mom House or the I Heart Ashley House, I thought.

The family next door to it shared with me last fall it would be torn down in November. I guess things needed more time. And then last week flags started going up. Water line. Gas. Phone line. I was hopeful.

Yesterday the big excavating equipment was brought in. (Need an excavator? Call my sister’s boyfriend!) The kids loved seeing the show. They started away at the porch, then took a dinner break. We left for the evening and when we came back- gone! We missed it. I know I have a good picture of it from a few years ago, but I have to find it.

This morning we got a better look:photo 1 (1)

I’ve done a few posts about the history of my house, and as intriguing as that is for you readers (hardy har har) I decided to do a quick search about the beginning years of the heap of bones of a house across the street. In a way, it’s kind of bittersweet. It lost it’s dignity years ago and if I had grown up in that house and seen it meet it’s end like that, it would make me sad.

 A Brief History of 705 Eastern Avenue. Or affectionately known as The Paint Me House.

My 3 year old house on Banning watched as it was being built in 1923. Soon the Patrick McKay family bought and moved in from their house on Edgehill. Patrick immigrated to the US from Ireland at the turn of the century and made his way from New York to Akron to Ashland. He worked as a pump assembler at the FE Meyers Pump Factory. They lived right next to his wife Rosene Marie’s mother, Rosa Yeagle. They and their young family grew to have four (that I know of) children, Mary, Cecilia, Theresa and Patrick Jr.

I could find 3 of their graduation pictures from the page.

Image Cecilia graduated in 1939 from Ashland High School.

 ImageTheresa graduated in 1945 from AHS.

ImageAnd Patrick Jr. in 1949.

The McKay’s made a home in that house for more than 3 decades, and watched as their son and youngest child went off to serve as a Corporal in the Korean War. Then in 1959, his father (now in his mid 70’s) died at Samaritan Hospital. Right up the street.  I can’t find much in City Directories online or info after that to see how long Marie stayed in the house.


That was a chapter in someone’s life. It held memories of new babies, school days, war times and losses. No house will stand forever. Miles was worried that would happen to our house, but I assured him we’d never let it go that far down hill while we owned it.

Miles also consoled me when I shared my disappointment with not getting to see the actual demolition of the whole house. “Mommy, don’t worry- they can just build a new house, let it get old and then they’ll do it again! You’ll get to see that one!”

I hope not:) It would actually just be great to have green space there for a while.

See the video:

 (Sources from Census records from 1930, 1940, Ashland City Directories from 1919-1959, the Ashland County Auditors website, and the Ashland County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society’s webpage.)



The Michael Nevins Mystery: Part 2

NevinsTreeSo, I found out that my great-great grandpa didn’t have some other family out there, and in fact had died of TB at the age of 28, leaving a young wife and two-year-old daughter behind. I wanted to know where he came from though. Now that I had his death certificate,  I knew his parents names. Michael J. Nevins and Ann J. Conlon. All three of their birthplaces were England in this document.

The next piece of the puzzle lay in England. I dug up an 1881 UK Census from Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, England. Michael Sr., Ann, a four-year-old daughter Mary and a two-year-old son- Michael. I learned that Michael Sr., 27 at the time, was originally from Ireland.

1881 UK Census in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, England (Cropped)

1881 UK Census in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, England (Cropped)

Around three years later the growing family must have decided to try for a better life in America, because I got my hands on (so to speak) a passenger list for the S.S. Borderer sailing from Liverpool to Boston on September 24, 1884.

S.S. Borderer Passenger List (Cropped) Sept. 24, 1884

S.S. Borderer Passenger List (Cropped) Sept. 24, 1884

The only strange thing is how off the children’s ages were compared to the next documents I found that were consistent with themselves (US censuses, marriage records, birth records of their children once in the US). There are so many errors and inconsistencies within these documents- I mean, let’s think about it, even in 2013 with all of our technology all of us have had a company, organization or the government spell our name wrong, or get our birthdate wrong somehow. So I’m giving the steward, this John H. Hill that wrote the manifest in 1884, a break. By the way, dude, you spelled their last name wrong, too. It’s Nevins, not Naven.

They arrive in Boston and find a place to call home in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence was known as Immigrant City, so naturally they would have heard about it back in England and had a plan when they arrived. The woolen mills gave employment to hundreds of immigrants and the Nevins were no different. Michael Sr. was a Woolen Carpet Weaver back in Heckmondwike so this move made sense. The blasted 1890 US census was lost to a fire, so the best I have is what I learned about Michael and family in 1900. Michael Sr. was missing. Ann was a widow.


Walnut St., Lawrence, MA 1900 US Census (cropped)

So I had to back track again. This time I found Michael Sr.’s death certificate. Only 38, he died in 1891 of Apoplexy (a stroke is what I assume). At this point I always get bogged down with dates and names and occupations that I have to stop and remind myself of what was happening all around. What they may have been feeling. If they did come to America for a new start, there were certainly no shortage of rough times.

In 1889, Michael and Ann had their 7th child, Richard in January. Sadly he came down with Infant Cholera and died in June, only 6 months old.

The following year, 1890, they lost their 6 year old daughter, Ann, and Michael Sr.’s father, Anthony. The incredibly sad thing I can’t wrap my head around is that Ann died of Marasmus. Which is essentially malnutrition. It was common for infants and the elderly to have this as their cause of death at the turn of the 20th century, but a 6 year old? I don’t know what kind of conditions they lived in, or what access to food they had, but I felt so sad to read that about their little girl, my great-great grandfather’s young sister. Once I learned more about what cholera was, I was convinced that their living conditions could have been poor enough to have contaminated drinking water, not much food and obviously crowded spaces. I found a couple of excerpts from “The Journal of Infectious Diseases” from 1910 and it sheds light on the conditions in Lawrence, Mass. and surrounding areas during the 1880s and 90s. Apparently they saw a drop in disease related deaths after the area began a water purification program. Huh.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 11.47.51 PM

And as I read, I saw that Cholera was sometimes brought on because people were mixing raw river water with milk and giving it to their infants. Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 11.49.28 PM

Two children gone in a year’s time and the patriarch from Ireland. Then in 1891, Michael Sr. dies. Now a single mother, Ann raised the rest of the children on her own- Sarah,16, Mary,13, Michael Jr.,11, Catherine,9, and 6 year old Patrick. As they get older, the oldest ones go off and marry and start their own families-  but even in those records I find a child of theirs here and there dies young because of malnutrition or illness. In 1900, Michael, Catherine and Patrick were still living with their mother but by May of 1905 Michael had married a fellow English immigrant named Ellen Taylor. Ellen came to the Methuen/Lawrence, Massachusetts area in 1898 on the S.S. New England at the age of 14 with her parents and sister, Maud. Nine months later, little Elizabeth Nevins arrives on February 23, 1906. Michael still worked as a carriage painter just like in the 1900 census. They married in 1905 (see below) and we all know what happens three years later. His younger brother Patrick would die from the same illness (TB) in 1910, only 25 years old. The same year Ellen gets remarried to Peter Beeley. They would spend the rest of their lives together.

Lastly, I came across Michael and Ellen’s marriage record, which further gives me more solid proof to back up all the other finds. Apparently he took a break in between his carriage painter profession to be a dairy man, because that’s what is listed as his occupation in their marriage record. Hmmm. So my great-grandma could really say her daddy was the milk-man? Well, carriage painter turned milk-man, turned carriage painter once more.


Michael Nevins and Ellen Taylor Marriage Record 1905

Sometime I want to gather up all these addresses I find on censuses and records and do more than try to find them on google maps. If the buildings are still standing (which many are not from the looks of them by way of satellite) I want to go there myself and look around, be a creep and take a stealthy picture or two. Unless I journey all the way there to find that the crowded tenement my immigrant ancestors fought hard to survive in is now a Sheetz or something. Rotating over-cooked hot dog, anyone?

The Michael Nevins Mystery: Part 1

All we knew about Michael Nevins was that he was the father of my great-grandmother. His name was found in a family Bible as such but there is nothing else to tell us about him. The only other facts we had to go by was that my grandma’s mother was named Elizabeth Nevins and born on February 23, 1906 in Methuen, Massachusetts. Her mother, Ellen Taylor was from England and by 1910 she had a new relationship- she had married a Peter Beeley, also an English immigrant, and together they would have nine children together and be known as “Ma” and “Pa” Beeley.

Peter, Ellen Beeley and Ellen's daughter Elizabeth Nevins in 1910

Peter, Ellen Beeley and Ellen’s daughter Elizabeth Nevins in 1910

For years the children assumed their older sister, Elizabeth was their full blood sister. They had no idea about any Michael Nevins and still today some of the Beeleys have a different idea about who Elizabeth’s father is. One of the Beeley brothers remembers a young man coming around their house and asking him, “Is Elizabeth your sister?” To which the Beeley brother replied, “Yes.” “Well she’s my sister, too.” Something was obviously mysterious about it all and when the family did understand that Elizabeth was their half-sister, the question still remained- what happened to her father? The answer my grandmother always knew to be true and that I always heard growing up in my questions about our family was that “Ma Beeley” had married Michael Nevins and sometime after they had daughter Elizabeth, they divorced. Everyone had “heard” or assumed he went on to have another family, but never knew what happened to him. Divorce was obviously not as common at the turn of the 20th century and rarely was it because of a mutual agreement or irreconcilable differences- more likely it was because of adultery, abuse, desertion or mental illness. It wasn’t until 1969 could you file for a “no-fault” divorce in the US. It seemed rather scandalous to me up until now. Now it was just a mystery.

A few weeks ago my grandpa (he’s the one who drew me into this addictive hobby when I was in grade school) had some papers to  give me from the Beeley cousins and from his research. There were family trees of the Beeleys and one of a possible Nevins link. Mismatched census records and question marks showed me there was no evidence to support it was accurate. There seemed to be a few Michael Nevins floating around the Methuen/Lawrence, Mass. area in the early 1900s from census records, but to find out which Michael was “our” Michael, we needed more proof. Grandpa did, however, come across a birth record for Elizabeth Nevins. This matched my grandma’s mother’s birth info to a T.

Cropped Birth Record of Elizabeth Nevins 1906

Cropped Birth Record of Elizabeth Nevins 1906

Then I started digging a bit more on And I found a death certificate. For Michael Nevins. If you know anything about genealogy research you know that a death certificate can be a gold mine of information. I couldn’t believe what I saw! This discovery would rock my grandparents view on what my grandma’s family told her about her biological grandfather. I wanted to call them up right away I was so excited- but it was midnight and I didn’t know if they’d still be up or not!

Michael Nevins Death Cert 1908

Michael Nevins Death Cert 1908

They didn’t get divorced- he died 2 years after the birth of their daughter- at the age of 28 from Tuberculosis! But why say you were a divorcee? Why not just say you were a widow and remarried? Over 100 years have passed and I don’t think these questions will ever be answered. My next step was to find out more about Michael’s family and where he came from.

Beginning My Family Tree Heirloom Project

For a few years now I have tried to figure out the best way to go about this project I had in my head. It would take my love for art and love for genealogy and combine them somehow, and after I completed my own and worked out all the kinks, it might be something I could custom make for others and sell.

I wanted to have something we could keep in the family that would show who we were and where we came from, something Miles and a future sibling could fight over when we die. Just kidding, but it would be a cool thing to keep and pass down. I should leave a little space for future generations, but I only have so much space for a tree that is traced back to the early early 1700’s. some before. I’m going to keep it to my 3rd or 4th grandparents, though, so 7 or 8 generations. I have lots of pictures for many of them, but the ones I don’t have will get the ultra cool silhouette look.

I want to incorporate pictures of my ancestors, as well as finding tiny oval or rectangular frames to actually glue on top of them, then below each person, leave room to record their birth, marriage, death, occupation, other places they lived if I have that info from old censuses. I’m going to have to be really economical on how I use my space, especially when family tree charts get tighter as they go up, naturally.

This is a rough I started in Illustrator a while back, but my painting would include Jason’s side too, plus all the other info I want to add. Ugh. Sometimes I think, why do I do projects that overwhelm me from the start? I guess it’s a challenge. And it’s something I want to do, but I just want to get started. I need lots of uninterrupted hours though, something I don’t get a lot of being a mom.

Here’s my blank canvas and some scrapbooking paper that looked like old wallpaper I though, I want to use, as well as most of my wallet sized pictures of people. I was smart and photoshopped 4 pictures of faces on on 4″x6″ print, that way I didn’t have 8 actual wallets of everyone in the history of the Lawrentz/Barnhart family:) It saved me money too. I still have some pictures to find and print, but not many. Wish me luck on starting this beast!!

A Piece of the Past: Part II

This isn’t my 3rd Great Grandfather who built the log cabin in the previous post. But it is his twin brother, Alexander, who settled west in Missouri. I’d like to think they were paternal twins, though, so maybe Noah looked like this.

The puzzle pieces that my distant cousin Jeff is reassembling once was a log cabin that this man’s twin brother, Noah, built for his family around 1853 in the hills of Roane County (at that time it was Jackson County, Virginia), West Virginia. He and his wife Elizabeth (Allman) Lawrentz raised children there, including my Great-Great Grandpa Alexander (obviously named after Noah’s brother), and when he died in 1880, their son Jacob Madison Lawrentz moved (back in, I assume) with his wife to stay with his mother. His family lived there to raise their children then moved out to a new farm house they built. His son James Roscoe Lawrentz acquired it in 1917 and lived there until his death in 1933. His widow sold it in 1940 to the Jarvis family, and so it was finally out of Lawrentz family ownership. About 87 years.  The Jarvis’s owned it until 1980 and it was sold to 2 more owners before it’s final owner in 2007. They still own the land, but now the pieces of the cabin are going to a new home! I’m excited to see it all put back together, and when it is, I think we’re going to have a Lawrentz reunion and meet there.

The pictures below show a log with the carved name “J. D. Lawrentz”, J. David Lawrentz was a child of Noah’s. Also, some artifacts my cousin and helpers found while dismantling the cabin. The little book is actually a half of a daguerrotype case, my cousin told me, that had fallen behind the wooden staircase wall.

It’s amazing to see something like this, so tangible and something I can connect to my personal roots. Not someone famous, not an historical figure. Just an American pioneer that set out just a little further west to buy land, raise crops and a family, and live their lives.

Even the little knowledge I have about my ancestors who lived so long ago, moves me. I may know dates and names of places for most of them, but to have seen and touched walls and walked on the ground they walked on everyday, makes me want to search harder and want to learn more about all of the people who make up the roots of who I am. 


A Piece of the Past: Part I

Just because you may not know of your family history before your grandparents or great grandparents doesn’t mean it’s not out there. I didn’t know anything about the Lawrentz side of my family before my interest was peaked in 2003 by accidently reading an obituary that happened to have a Lawrentz in it whom I’d never heard of. That got me asking my grandma lots of questions and many late nights online searching and searching. I felt a little like Nancy Drew.

Only I discovered things quicker cause I had the internet. Take that, Nancy.

Over the years I’ve used to my advantage as well as a handful of Lawrentz cousins I never knew I had, generously offering me their findings and helping me put the puzzle pieces together.

Just yesterday, I received a large packet in the mail from my 3rd cousin (once removed) Jeff Lawrentz, who lives in West Virginia. That’s where much of the Lawrentz family got started. We’re trying to figure out if it was Germany or not that they initially came over, but all we know is Samuel Lorentz was born in Virginia in the mid 1700’s and moved west with his family to what is now West Virginia and the family grew around that area, some moving to the Akron area (my branch) and some stayed put. Obviously since then they’ve spread out all over the country, but I can’t keep track of everyone!

Anyway, to the point, Allison. Yes, the point. The point is that Jeff sent me a letter, a newspaper clipping, a couple pictures and a CD full of photos. These photos are of my 3rd great grandfather, Noah Lawrentz’s, log cabin he built around 1857. How amazing for an average person like me to be able to see  my  great-great-great grandpa’s house he built for his family! The cooler thing yet, was that after I discovered it was for sale in 2007, and another cousin told me it was the old Lawrentz homestead, I decided I was going to go down there and see it in person. That got my dad’s curiosity going too, and before I knew it all 5 Lawrentz’s were headed down to the Spencer Genealogical Fair in Roane, County, West Virginia. The fair was okay, not much info on the Lawrentz’ clan but we made our way by back roads to the church cemetery many of them were buried in, and further down the road, we saw it: the old cabin.

Some people had bought it and were there taking the siding off of it- they said they wanted to use the old logs as part of their new big log cabin they were building on the property. We had come just in time. We got to see the inside and outside of the old place and get a feel for what it must have looked like when Noah and his family lived there.

Now, three years later, little did I know, the owners decided it was too much work or something and were just going to tear it down and that was it. So my brave cousin Jeff stepped in and they allowed him to salvage it. He took it apart piece by piece, labeling and documenting everything so when he gets resources he will put it back together  just as it was! That is one big honkin’ puzzle.