Gathering Records to Tell the Story

The stories passed down by descendants who have researched the CLONCH family history are fantastic and a bit unbelievable. Ralph L. Hayes heard of the scandals which went on in the family and shared the stories in mailing lists and genealogy forums on the internet nearly two decades ago. Being a good researcher, Ralph went to the courthouse in Point Pleasant in Mason County, West Virginia, to ferret out the records to back up the family history. He found the divorce of his 3rd great-grandfather “only by going through some OLD dusty unindexed boxes in the courthouse.”

Seeking Documentation

I’ve wanted to find the documents Ralph discovered as the story of the CLONCH brothers is so difficult to believe. Since FamilySearch has added more collections from Mason County to their online records, I’ve been looking for this and that record to better tell the story.

Ralph L. Hayes is my fourth cousin. He descends from John William CLONCH (1840-1919) and Mary Ellen LEMASTER (1847-1921) while I descend from Alexander CLONCH (1842-1910) and Tabitha Ann COOLEY (1861-1913). John and Alex were the sons of our 3rd great-grandparents William CLONCH (1807-1863) and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS (c. 1816-c. 1892).

If you’ve been following recent posts about William CLONCH’s estate, you’ll have learned William and Mary were not married but had eight children, seven grew to adulthood and married, six had children. William kept the family together beyond the grave by leaving a will in which he stipulated the land the family lived on was to remain in the family. Did he know at the time of his death in 1863 that his two oldest sons would become part of an incredible story equal to a primetime soap opera?

I wrote A Little “Peyton Place” (Part I) and A Little “Peyton Place” (Part II) in December 2013 but the posts only recount what Ralph learned while researching and don’t include documentation.

Living overseas and nowhere near the American courthouses of the counties my ancestors lived in, I must rely on record collections found online. FamilySearch’s catalog is my go-to place whenever researching and gathering records to tell their stories.

Two Marriages

1862 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Mason County.1

1863 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

Alexander CLONCH married Mary Ellen LEMASTER on 10 November 1863, also in Gallia County.2

Two Divorces

Neither of the marriages lasted. In the September Court of 1864 John and Sarah were divorced.3 The records of the circuit court in which Ralph found more details are not yet online but I found another mention a few pages further in the Chancery orders4 and in a fee book.5 [Click on over to the links in the citations below to learn why this divorce produced more records.]

Alexander and Mary Ellen never had children even though by 1880 they were legally married a little over seventeen years. To be more precise, they never had children with each other. Alex’s brother John and Mary Ellen had eight children between 1865-1880 and Alex had 3 children with Mary Ellen’s sister Rebecca from 1868-1876. Many online trees list Rebecca LEMASTER as Alex’s second wife. A marriage record was not found in West Virginia or Ohio. Is it possible they were married and the record has yet to be found?

I think not. Alexander was still married to Mary Ellen LEMASTER when her sister Rebecca gave him three children. Alex and Mary Ellen’s marriage was not dissolved until the March term on 1880, when the divorce was mentioned in the Chancery orders.6

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

March term 1880

Alexander Clonch
     vs                                          In Chancery
Mary E. Clonch

This cause come on this day to be heard upon the bill, exhibits and depositions filed therewith and the process having been duly served upon the defendant and she still failing to appear answer or demur to plaintiffs bill and the cause set-for hearing and was argued by counsel on consideration of all which the court is of the opinion that the

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

plaintiff is entitled to the relief prayed for in his said bill, it is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the marriage heretofore solemnized between the plaintiff and defendant be dissolved and annulled and the plaintiff forever divorced from his said wife from the bonds of matrimony and that she be forever barred of dower in any lands the plaintiff had or now has or hereafter has and the plaintiff recover from the defendant his costs including a fee of ten dollars as prescribed by law in and about his suit in this behalf expended and that execution issue therefor & c.

Importance of the Records

Why was finding this record so important to me? Five months after the above divorce, on 19 August 1880, Alexander CLONCH married Tabitha Ann COOLEY, my great-great-grandmother. They were the parents of nine children, six of whom married and had children, including my great-grandmother Rebecca Jane CLONCH (1888-1950). Also with the above record I have proof for the part of the story which goes:

The marriage was dissolved, Mary did not appear and she does not get her dower and must pay costs.

One document at a time, the complete story may one day be told.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Alexander CLONCH
Parents: William CLONCH and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS
Spouse: Tabitha Ann “Tobitha” COOLEY
Parents of Spouse: John COOLEY and Sarah Ann TREADWAY
Whereabouts: Mason and Fayette, West Virginia
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 2nd great-grandfather

1. Alexander CLONCH
2. Rebecca Jane CLONCH
3. Myrtle Hazel ROOP
4. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
5. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio), Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 14 of 276. John W. Clonch and Jane Foster, 20 Feb 1862. ( : accessed 18 Dec 2013). 
  2. Ibid., Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 19 of 276. Alexander Clonch and Mary Ellen Lemaster, 10 November 1863. ( : accessed 19 February 2019). 
  3. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), <i>FamilySearch</i> (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861961, DGS 7615568, Chancery orders, Vols. 1-2 1843-1877 (1 from 469 & 4 to 401 – Back of v. 1 has separate pages of land records), image 286 of 949, Folio 386, September Term 1864. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Jane Foster.( : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  4. Ibid., image 303 of 949, folio 421, March Term 1865. 1865 John W. Clonch ordered to surrender his child William A. Clonch to the mother Sarah A. Clonch.( : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  5. “Fee books, 1804-1881” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the West Virginia University Library, Morgantown.), Film 174649, DGS 7616441, Fee Book 1859-1867, 1859-1869 1860-1866 1862-1868, image 76 of 425, page 62, bottom of page. ( : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  6. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929”, Film 1861962 Item 1, DGS 7615569, Chancery orders, Vols. 4 1877-1880, image 321 of 899, Folio 274 and 275, March Term 1880. 1880 Divorce of Alexander Clonch from Mary Ellen Lemaster. ( : accessed 6 January 2019). 

Lëtz Play! Can You Top This? A Marriage Record With 15 Events

Each week, as I write about another set of my children’s Luxembourgish 5th great-grandparents, I review the information I have. If I haven’t worked on the family in a while, I search for baptismal and/or birth records, marriage banns, marriage records, death and/or burial records, census records on FamilySearch in the collections for Luxembourg or Lëtzebuerg.

Flag-map of Luxembourg
By Stasyan117 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
This week I looked into the SCHAEFFER-GREISCH family. I’ll be sharing the post on Friday. However, I couldn’t wait to play this little game with you.

Lëtz Play! Can You Top This?

Have you found a record in your genealogy research which reveals as many events as the one I discovered?

When I re-read the 1810 marriage record of the SCHAEFFER-GREISCH couple who married in Esch-sur-Sûre in north-western Luxembourg, I found the widowed father of the groom was living in Bourglinster, a town in the commune of Junglinster in central Luxembourg. I found his 1819 death record in Junglinster and learned he had remarried. When and where did this marriage take place?

I located the 1809 marriage record in Junglinster and it is filled with genealogical information. Imagine finding the dates for fifteen (15) events in one record!

Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Junglinster > Naissances 1859-1890 Mariages 1797-1876 > image 790 of 1488. 1809 Marriage Record No. 8 (part 1). ( : accessed 3 June 2017).
Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Junglinster > Naissances 1859-1890 Mariages 1797-1876 > image 791 of 1488. 1809 Marriage Record No. 8 (part 2). ( : accessed 3 June 2017).
  • 21 April 1809 – Date of marriage for Johann Baptiste SCHAFFER and Catherine WEINTZ
  • 22 June 1752 – Date of birth of the groom, Johann Baptiste SCHAFFER
  • 7 Frimaire year X – Date of death of the groom’s first wife Catherine JACQUES (aka SCHAACK)
  • 16 January 1795 – Date of death of Jean SCHAFFER, father of the groom
  • 21 February 1771 – Date of death of Marie BRAACK, mother of the groom
  • 15 March 1760 – Date of death of Jean SCHAFFER, grandfather of the groom
  • 25 March 1760 – Date of death of Susanne SCHAFFER, grandmother of the groom
  • 3 Nov 1765 – Date of birth of the bride, Catherine WEINTZ
  • 9 Pluviose year XII – Date of death of the bride’s first husband, Matthias REIDELER
  • 21 February 1773 – Date of death of Michel WEINTZ, father of the bride
  • 3 Frimaire 1797 – Date of death of Marie BRAUN, mother of the bride
  • 12 April 1749 – Date of death of Theodore WEINTZ, grandfather of the bride
  • 19 April 1767 – Date of death of Marguerite WEINTZ, grandmother of the bride
  • 26 March 1809 – First proclamation of the marriage banns
  • 2 April 1809 – Second proclamation of the marriage banns

It’s normal to find dates of death of the first spouse and deceased parents of the bride and/or groom in Luxembourgish marriage records. I have also seen the fact that the grandparents were deceased when the party was an orphan. But this was the first record I’ve seen with names and dates for the grandparents of the bride and groom.

Have you found a record with this many events mentioned? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment or link to a post you’ve written about your extraordinary find.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Luxracines on Tour – A Visit to Bastogne, Belgium

logo_klengTwenty members of Luxracines, my genealogy association in Luxembourg, had a very enjoyable although cold and windy day visiting the town of Bastogne, Belgium, this past Saturday.

1964-09-021 BastogneBastogne, Baaschtnech in Luxembourgish, lies a stone’s throw from the Luxembourg border. In 1964 my first visit to Bastogne, at the age of 6, was to see the Mardasson Memorial, a monument honoring the memory of American soldiers wounded or killed during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

People visit Bastogne for the military as well as the cultural history of the area. While there are several military sites and museums, there are other sites worth visiting which have been around since earlier times such as the Church of Saint-Pierre (as early as 12th century) and the Gate of Trier (14th century).

As Luxracines members are genealogists and interested in all historical aspects, our visit to Bastogne took us to the Piconrue Museum housed in an old abbey. The museum invites visitors “on a journey to the heart of the Ardennes to explore the region’s culture through its rich tangible and intangible heritage.

The primary objective of the Piconrue Museum is the protection and conservation of objects and documents threatened by theft and neglect as well as oral legacy of memories, prayers, gestures, songs and legends of the region.

expoTheme of the exhibition, The Ages of Life – Birth, Life and Death in the Ardennes Region, takes the visitor back in time to the 1850 to 1950 period. The rites of passage of society from “the cradle to the grave” in the rural area of the Ardennes and Luxembourg were deeply marked by the Catholic faith as seen throughout the collection of items showcased.

cradlegravetinyThe museum director Sebastien PIERRE walked us through the exhibit giving interesting insight into the times and the stages in the lives of the inhabitants: Baptism, school days, Communion, military service, marriage, home life, work, social activities, to the inevitable – Death. Throughout the exhibit the visitor is reminded of the past and the many changes which have come during the postwar period. The people and culture of the Ardennes region have entered a modern time but their memories of days gone by live on.

muralThe exhibit begins with an introduction to the theme. A mural with photographs from today and yesterday of young to old resembles a family tree.schooltinyThe years at school and…

playtiny…at play were and are an important part of the development of our children.

communiontinyThe Catholic Church played an significant role in the children’s lives. From Baptism to Communion to Confirmation.

tradetinyAdolescence was a time of growing, learning trades, and discovering the opposite sex….

marriagetiny….in preparation for marriage or, in the case of some children, priesthood or convent life.

socialtinyFor those who married life continued with raising a family, work inside and outside the home, and social activities. deathtinyAnd in the end came old age and death.

The exhibit allows the visitor to pause and reflect on the good and the bad of the times as compared to today. For example, girls and boys were often separated in school and guided in their future rolls by the toys they were given or activities they were allowed to participate in. The roll of women and men was greatly influenced by society and the church and this has changed a great deal in the last decades.

We were not rushed through the tour of the museum and the impression it left on me has me planning to return as there was a deeper layer to it – the memories of the people and the heirlooms they shared make this collection all the more meaningful.

Courtesy of Rob Deltgen

Our planned visit of the Church of Saint-Pierre had to be cancelled. Early in the morning a children’s musical group was practicing in the church and, after our visit to the museum, a funeral mass was being held. We therefore continued on to the Restaurant Wagon Léo where we had a wonderful lunch before returning home to Luxembourg.

leoIn 1946 following World War II a Bastogne farmer Léopold BERTHOLET and his wife bought a tram wagon and transformed it into a diner with a dozen places. Léo served pommes frites made from Bintje potatoes, the only good potato for french fries. The family enterprise has become a true institution in Bastogne. In 1950 he added a wooden annex to increase the number of seats to 42. For the last 70 years and three generations the Restaurant LEO has continued to expand for the comfort of its clients and now seats 250 and includes a bistro and hotel.

More impressions of our visit were shared here by our President Rob Deltgen


© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

I Hit the Jackpot with Four Births and a Death!

or How to use the (online) Municipal Archives in Metz, France

Things have been a lot busier than normal for me since the New Year. I haven’t had the time to go to my WordPress Reader and read the blogs I usually follow. Luckily most of my favorite bloggers use Facebook, Google, and Twitter and I see them as I go through my feeds. A few days ago I had a bit of time and began reading the most recent (unread) posts on my Reader.

I follow Laura Aanenson’s where2look4ancestors. In her post Catherine Brun; My 6th Great-Grandmother she mentioned her favorite French website to go to and wrote:

Then a funny thing happened.

The Moselle Departmental web site was completely revamped!

This is a site I’ve used and it’s bookmarked on my Firefox toolbar as 57, the number the department is known by. Less than two months ago I consulted the site when working on  52 Ancestors: #47 The SCHLOESSER-CONSBRÜCK Family. I wrote:

It wasn’t very sporting of my 3rd great-grandfather Johann Joseph SCHLOESSER to spend the last years of his life in Metz, France. It’s not fair he chose to work, live, marry, have children, and die in Metz. You ask why?

While most French departmental archives I’ve consulted have civil records online, at this time, the Archives départementales de la Moselle doesn’t. They have the Tables décennales from 1792 to 1952 (10 years lists of births, marriages, deaths) and the pre-1792 parish records online but no vital records.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel as an article I found online suggests they were to go online before 2015. On the Archives de la Moselle homepage there is a message which translates: Gradually, the microfilms of vital records will be unavailable from 17 November 2015. Users are advised to inquire before planning a trip to the archives. None online and may not be available in the archives? Hopefully this means they are pulling the microfilms to make digital copies for the internet. I’ve subscribed to their newsletter so I won’t miss the big announcement when they go online. I promise to be a good sport until they do!

So far I haven’t received any newsletters but thanks to Laura’s post I went to the site for a quick look around. I clicked on: Recherches > Archives en Ligne > Registres Parroissiaux > Concernant Metz et ses nombreuses paroisses. I was surprised to find a notice about the municipal and departmental archives being complementary and only the images of the departmental archives were on the 57 site.

For the municipal archives of the city of Metz I followed their link which took me to the Ville de Metz – Archives Municipals. I had to jump through more than a few hoops before I got to the page which took me to the records I was interested in. The site is entirely in French (I did not find a Translate button) so I’d like to share with you how I found my way to the records.

How to get from A to B on the City of Metz’s Archives Municipals Site

Click 1
Click 2
Click 3
Click 4
Click 5 to open parish & civil records and ten years lists.
Click 6 to open the registers of the civil records.
Click 7 to choose the civil records for Metz.
Click 8: scroll down to correct year and click Etat-civil 1840-1842.
Click 9 until….

This is where it starts getting interesting. Metz was divided into 5 sections so there are 5 batches of birth, marriage and death records for each year. I was searching for Jean Joseph SCHLOESSER’s death record. I knew from the 10 years lists (Tables Décennale) that he died on 24 November 1841 in Metz but not which part of Metz. We can leave out a few clicks here (I checked section 1, then section 2 and would have continued through 5).

Note: If at this point you realize you are not in the right time period and you use your back button or their Page précédente button to go back to the Plan de classement des Registres you will have to repeat clicks 5 through 8 as the list collapses when you go back.

Click 10 to see the death register for section 2 of Metz for the year 1841.
Click 11 and 12

Click 11: Most registers have an index at the end. The site is not slow but it’s faster to click on 1 (see image above) and choose the last or second to last image to get to the end of the book. Click 12: After choosing the image number you have to click on 2 (see image), an “eye” to view the image.

metz12smThis is a screenshot of the the 2nd to last page (zoomed and pixelated*) in the register of deaths for 1841. The index shows my 3rd great-grandfather’s death record is number 194. Since he died the end of November I chose a page I thought would be in the area and then went forward/backwards until I found record number 194. This is similar to using images on FamilySearch (before their new feature was added) where you had to “play the numbers” to get to the page you were looking for.

*Due to the terms and conditions of the archives a license (free) must be obtained for non-commercial online use of images. I have pixelated parts of the index page to be on the safe side since I have not applied for a license.

After finding my 3rd great-grandfather’s death record I went on to search for the birth records of his four daughters who were born in section 2 of Metz in 1836, 1838, 1840, and 1841.

Now the work begins. I’ve picked out the most important items in the records (to be sure they are for the correct individuals) but a full transcriptions of each might turn up some little known clue. On item I found very interesting was the name of the street the family lived on was mentioned in each record. I’ve already taken a virtual visit of the street, rue Saulnerie in Metz, courtesy of a French blogger, Marc de Metz.

Un grand merci à Laura Aanenson for mentioning her favorite French website where I found the information about the Municipal Archives of Metz!

© 2016 Cathy Meder-Dempsey