Monday, August 14, 2017

My Genealogy Road Trip

I've mentioned in previous posts that some day I'd like to take a genealogy road trip to Haddam, Connecticut to do research on the earliest generations of my Ackley line. Well, that trip is still on my to-do list, but recently I was able to take a less ambitious genealogy road trip that I'd like to report on.


I've always been a planner, and this trip was no different. Given that my time at each location was going to be limited, I made an outline of the information I planned to look for at each library, court house, cemetery, etc. so that I could maximize the time spent actually doing research. The outline included name, address, phone number, and types of records available for each place I planned on visiting, as well as the names of the people I wanted to research as well as the types of information I hoped to find. I found some very good information about research resources on the web site of the local genealogy society in Akron which was very helpful in filling out my outline; if you are planning a research trip I would highly recommend consulting the genealogy society at the location to which you are traveling.

Some other things that I brought with me included my laptop, a lightweight flatbed scanner, and quarters -- lots of quarters (to pay for copying). Although technically not considered portable, the scanner I brought is small enough and light enough to fit easily in my back pack along with my laptop, notebooks, and other office supplies. A truly portable scanner would probably be easier, but I find the quality of the scans from a flatbed scanner to be much better than the scans obtained from running a wand-type scanner over a document multiple times. I also found that the libraries I visited were fine with me using the scanner to make copies of anything I wanted; I always asked a librarian if it was OK before I used it. The scanner also came in handy when visiting cousins (see below), who were very generous in sharing pictures and documents with me. Turns out I didn't need all those quarters since almost everyone let me use my scanner.

Akron, Ohio

The main focus of this trip was to conduct research on my 3rd great grandfather, Gibbons Jewett Ackley, and 2nd great grandfather, Franklin Cady Ackley, who lived in Akron. Gibbons was one of the earlier settlers in the area, arriving in 1834 and living there until his death in 1851. Franklin was born in Akron in 1841 and lived there until 1865. Although I had already collected a lot of information on this part of my family through correspondence with the local library and court house, I wanted to go there in person to see if there was anything I was missing.

My first stop in Akron was the Summit County Fiscal Office. This office holds all land records for the county, and I was hoping to find records of my 3rd great grandfather Gibbons Ackley's land ownership. It turns out that Summit County has digitized all of their land records, and they have self service computers available for patrons to do searches and print whatever they want on their own, which was very convenient (I did use a few of those quarters for this).

Unfortunately the records didn't begin until a year or so after Gibbons' death so there were no records for him, but I did find many pages of records for his wife Amanda's land purchases and sales. Apparently after Gibbons' death she supported herself at least partially by buying and selling property as well as renting her properties to store/shop owners.

An example of a deed record for Amanda Ackley

I also spent a couple of days at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. This is a very nice library with a large genealogy department that is very helpful. I had corresponded with the library in the past concerning some newspaper articles that I had requested from them, but being there in person and being able to see everything they have in their collections was definitely worth the trip. I made heavy use of their microfilms of the local newspapers, local history books, and old maps of the area. I was able to scan a very large map of Akron from 1856 in pieces, which I then was able to "stitch" together with software.

Akron-Summit County Library [1]

The other location I spent time at in Akron was Glendale Cemetery (formerly known as Akron Rural Cemetery). Glendale is a beautiful, historic cemetery that was founded in 1839. My 3rd great grandfather was one of the founders of the cemetery, and there are many Ackley ancestors buried there.

Glendale Cemetery Caretaker's Lodge [2]

I had a little trouble finding the plot where most of my ancestors are buried. As it turns out, most of their headstones have fallen over and are buried beneath a few inches of dirt. There is one small headstone still surviving that is readable that I finally found, and I was able to use that to get my bearings on the plot. Although they are no longer readable, I did find other ancestor's headstones that had toppled over and gotten buried over the years. Fortunately I have a photo taken years ago by a 4th cousin when the headstones were still standing. As well maintained as this historic cemetery seems to be, it was a surprise (and a disappointment) to learn that when old headstones fall over, they are left where they fall and many eventually get covered by dirt over time.

Canton and Massillon, Ohio

I spent some time in Canton and Massillon, both in Stark County just south of Akron, doing some research on Maria (Jeannerette) Ackley, my 2nd great grandmother and wife of Franklin Cady Ackley, Sr. I am preparing a future post about Maria and the sometimes frustrating search for her family, so I won't spend any time here discussing the details of her story. I spent parts of two days at the Stark County District Library in Canton, and part of another day at the smaller Massillon Library. While I didn't find anything that helped me knock down the brick wall associated with Maria, I did find a few useful tidbits of information that added to her story. I found the staffs of both libraries to be very friendly and helpful.

I also went to the Massillon City Cemetery to look for information on a woman who I believe might be Maria's aunt. Since Maria's family represents a major brick wall for me, I am researching any and all relatives I can find in hopes of finding links back to her immediate family. I found a picture of this woman's headstone on Find-A-Grave, so I knew she was buried there. When I went to the cemetery office, the nice lady there checked her computer records as well as some old record books she had. She could not find a thing about the burial I was searching for, but she was able to direct me to the section of the cemetery where the burial was supposedly located according to Find-A-Grave. I parked my car and stepped out, expecting to have to hunt for a while to find the grave in question. As luck would have it, the grave was right there next to my car, so I took pictures of it and all of the graves around it so I could report back to the lady in the office to help her with her records. She was happy to have the information, and a couple of weeks later she called me to let me know that she did indeed find a record of the burial in a very old record book in the office that she hadn't thought to look in when I was there. Ultimately there was no additional information in her records that was useful to me, but I was happy to have helped the cemetery straighten out their records.

Chardon, Ohio

My final stop in Ohio was the small town of Chardon. Before settling in Akron, my 3rd great grandfather and his family had lived in Chardon for a few years and had owned a store there. When I drove into the town it reminded me of a New England town, with a town square at its center. The small local library was on one side of the square; I headed straight there to see what they had. The genealogy department was small, and although I didn't find a lot of new information, the information I got from the local newspapers on my 3rd great grandfather's business made the drive to Chardon worthwhile.

Adrian, Michigan

Adrian is the town where my 2nd great grandfather Franklin eventually settled after he left Akron as a young man. This town was not originally on my list of places I intended to visit on this trip, but when I looked at the route I would be taking from Akron to my hometown in Wisconsin, I discovered that the interstate I would be on would take me within 25 miles of Adrian. So I decided to make a short detour to see the town and visit the cemetery where my 2nd great grandfather is buried.

My first stop in Adrian was at Oakwood Cemetery. Oakwood is another historic, well-maintained cemetery. My 2nd great grandfather and grandmother, Franklin and Maria Ackley are buried there, as well as their son Charles, who died at a young age from scarlet fever. When I first started researching this part of my family I learned that Franklin did not have a marker on his grave; since he was a Civil War veteran I filled out the paperwork to get him a marker from the Veteran's Administration and had it installed on his plot. Although I had a picture of the headstone that was sent to me by the cemetery superintendent after it was installed, I had never been to the grave in person, so I was happy to have the opportunity to visit the cemetery on this trip. One of the cemetery workers knew exactly where the graves were, and he was nice enough to take me straight there, which saved me some time.

With time running short because I was on my way to meet a cousin (see below), I decided to just drive down Main Street to see what it looked like. My 2nd great grandfather had had a business on Main Street when he lived in Adrian, and although the building where he worked was no longer there, there were some nicely preserved buildings from that era (1880s-1890s) that caught my interest. The building below had a date of 1898 on it, and it was across the street from where I figured my 2nd great grandfather had his business. It was a pretty neat feeling to be walking down the street and seeing some of the same things he saw 120 years ago.


The final stop on my trip was at my hometown of Pewaukee, Wisconsin (just west of Milwaukee). The major reason for going there was to visit my dad and sister, but I can never go there without doing some genealogy research since so many of my more recent ancestors settled in Milwaukee.

One of the places I visited while in Wisconsin was the cemetery in the small town of Watertown, about 30 miles west and a little bit north of my equally small hometown. My great grandmother on my maternal grandmother's side of the family was born there and was supposedly buried in Lutheran Cemetery. The town had a large German population, and there are three Lutheran cemeteries in the same neighborhood, so things got a little confusing. Two of the cemeteries are actually adjoining each other, with not even a fence separating them. I finally figured out that Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery was the correct cemetery, and fortunately the superintendent was there so he was able to look up the burial for me.

With his help I was able to locate my great grandmother's headstone pretty quickly, as well as headstones for a couple of her sisters. I learned from the cemetery records that her father and mother were also buried there, although there were no headstones on their plots. I also got some new information that indicates that my great grandmother may have had another sister that I didn't know about; there was another burial in the family plot (the records indicated she was a baby). I need to do some research to confirm this.

My Great Grandmother's Headstone (married name Jones, maiden name Misegades)

I spent a day at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee doing some research at the Area Research Center operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society (see "Link of the Day" below for more information). This facility is located at the university library, and has all kinds of paper as well as microfilm records for the counties in the southeastern part of the state. The microfilm records include extensive birth, marriage, death, probate, and tax records for the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries. The use of the records is free, and you can make electronic copies of anything on microfilm for free, so I have made heavy use of this resource to gather records for my Wisconsin ancestors.

German language obituaries were the object of my research at the Milwaukee Public Library on this trip. The library building itself is a spectacular old building both inside and out that has been nicely restored, and the genealogy and local history room is large and well-stocked with a variety of resources.

Milwaukee Public Library [3]

Milwaukee was home to many German immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century, and most of my non-Ackley ancestors were German. There were close to 20 German newspapers in Milwaukee during that time, and fortunately there is a local genealogist who has made it his mission in life to index the obituaries in these newspapers. The library has most of these newspapers on microfilm, and I was able to find about a dozen obituaries for my German ancestors in an afternoon at the library.

The final cemetery I visited to look for ancestors' headstones was Union Cemetery in Milwaukee. My sister came with me on this excursion -- little by little I am trying to get her interested in this genealogy hobby of mine. Union Cemetery is in a not so nice part of town, and the cemetery itself is pretty run down and not very well maintained. On top of that, there is no rhyme or reason to the way the sections are laid out in the cemetery, so we had a tough time just finding the correct section to search for our ancestors. Unfortunately we were not able to find the headstones we were looking for (we did find the correct section); either they never existed or had long since been broken or destroyed (this was a very old section of the cemetery).

Meeting Cousins

The most satisfying aspect to this trip was meeting some "new" cousins along the way. I didn't start out planning to meet any of these people on this trip, but as I was planning the trip I was contacted by a fourth cousin on my mother's side of the family who I had begun communicating with when we discovered a DNA match. It turns out he was planning a genealogy road trip of his own (much more ambitious than mine) to do some research on some of his ancestors who had lived in Wisconsin. It so happened that our trips would overlap in Wisconsin, so we arranged to meet for lunch. That gave me the idea to contact some other cousins I have been in touch with who lived along my route to see if they'd like to meet, and they all said yes.

The first cousin I visited was Joyce, my dad's first cousin. I had actually met Joyce once before (I tracked her down when I found some of her genealogy information online), but it had been several years since our first meeting, and I welcomed the opportunity to catch up with her and her husband. They had recently moved to the same town where their son Jeff (my second cousin, who I had never met) lived, so it was an added bonus that he would be joining us for lunch so I could meet him. Even though Joyce and I don't know each other very well, we managed to talk about family for over 3 hours. And she had some photos of our family that I had never seen, which she was kind enough to let me scan. I also learned that my great grandfather had tried his hand at oil painting -- something I never would have expected knowing his background as a factory worker and foreman in a straw hat factory. Joyce had one of his paintings on her wall, and when she pulled it off the wall to show it to me she revealed that there was also a painting on the back; my great grandfather was known as a frugal man and probably painted on both sides of the canvas to save money. The painting was a portrait of a woman; Joyce had no idea who it was. But it was no mystery to me -- it was definitely my grandmother (his daughter-in-law), and I had the photograph of her that my great grandfather had obviously used as the model for his painting. Learning this type of information about ancestors is what makes genealogy so interesting to me. As much as I like doing the research and finding all the puzzle pieces that tend to tell a person's story, knowing these personal and sometimes surprising details makes it all the more enjoyable.

My great grandfather's painting and the photo that inspired it

The next cousin I met on my trip was Greg, a 4th cousin once removed on my mother's maternal side of the family. Greg and I first made contact a few years ago while communicating about our DNA match. Along with the help of another cousin from that part of the family (who I met earlier this year on a trip to California), we have managed to work together to knock down some long standing brick walls. As mentioned above, Greg had traveled to Chicago and then Wisconsin from California on a genealogy road trip himself, doing research on some of his ancestors who had lived in the area. Like me, Greg is a planner and had his trip jam packed with research activities in several different towns across the state, but we managed to catch up with each other in Appleton, which is about an hour and a half from my home town. My sister Karen went with me, and we had a very enjoyable lunch with Greg and his wife Barbara. We managed to talk for over two hours until it was time for Greg and Barbara to move on to their next stop.

From the left: Me, my sister Karen, Greg's wife Barbara, and Greg

The final group of cousins I met were on my mother's paternal side of the family. Chuck (my 2nd cousin once removed) and his wife Marsha invited me into their home for lunch, and also invited David (another 2nd cousin once removed), his wife Linda, and Joanne (the wife of a third 2nd cousin once removed who has passed away). As was the case with Greg, my communication with Chuck had begun because we had a DNA match on Ancestry.

After a delicious lunch of bratwurst and German potato salad in honor of our German ancestors, we spent the entire afternoon sharing what we knew about our ancestors. This group had a wealth of information about our common ancestors (my 2nd great grandparents), including many pictures I had never seen, silver that belonged to my 2nd great grandmother, and furniture that was built by my 2nd great grandfather, who was a carpenter. Chuck also had a copy of the same family tree scroll that my mother had, which somehow got lost when my parents moved the last time. He had made a copy of it, and generously gave me the original because he knew how much it meant to me. Once again I left feeling that I knew a lot more about my ancestors because of the personal stories that my new cousins had been willing to share with me.

Chair built by my 2nd great grandfather

Silver belonging to my 2nd great grandmother on top of a wooden chest built by my 2nd great grandfather

A portion of the family tree scroll; the full scroll is 12 feet long and goes back to the year 1600

My advice would be if you have a chance to meet cousins, no matter how close or distant, take every advantage of it!

Discussion Questions

  • Has anyone taken a genealogy road trip? If so, where did you go?
  • If you have taken a genealogy road trip, did you learn anything new or surprising about your ancestors?
  • What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about taking a genealogy road trip?

Link of the Day

Today's link is for the Wisconsin Historical Society's Area Research Center Network. The Wisconsin Historical Society has divided the state into 13 regions and has placed loads of good research materials in each of those regions, typically at a university library. The UWM library mentioned above is one of those centers. If you have any research to do in Wisconsin, I would recommend consulting this website to see which region your ancestor lived in and then finding out what types of research materials that region has available.

Quote of the Day

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

-- Sir Winston Churchill


1. Akron-Summit County Public Library,

2. Glendale Cemetery,

3. Milwaukee Public Library,

Monday, August 7, 2017

Gardner Ackley (1915-1998), Economist and Presidential Adviser

This post is a bit of a change of pace from the usual posts about my Ackley ancestors. Here we'll discuss Gardner Ackley -- if not outright a famous Ackley, at least a name that many people have heard. If you're old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson's presidency, you probably remember hearing the name Gardner Ackley. He was an economic adviser to President Johnson (and before that President Kennedy), and became Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in 1964. My minor in college was economics, and there was a popular macroeconomic theory textbook written by Gardner Ackley that was still in use at the time (mid- to late- '70's). We didn't use it in any of the classes that I took, but his name did come up in class more than once, and I can remember people asking me if I was related to him. I had no idea, and now all these years later I thought I'd do some research and see what I could find out.

Hugh Gardner Ackley [1]

Early Life

Hugh Gardner Ackley was born on June 30, 1915 in Indianapolis, Indiana [2]. He was the son of Hugh Mortimer Ackley and Margaret McKenzie. He rarely used his given first name of Hugh -- sometimes he was referred to as H. Gardner Ackley, but mostly he went by Gardner. According to Allen Ackley's online tree [3], Gardner Ackley was a descendant of Nicholas Ackley (so I guess I am related to him). The line of descent is:

Nicholas-->John-->John Jr.-->John III-->Oliver-->Revilo-->William-->Hugh Mortimer-->Hugh Gardner

Interesting side note -- Gardner's great grandfather's first name, Revilo, appears to be his father's name, Oliver, spelled backwards.

By 1920, the family had moved to Detroit, Michigan [4], and in 1930 they were living in Kalamazoo, Michigan [5], where his father was a professor of mathematics at Western Michigan University and his mother was a Latin teacher at a local high school [6].

Academic Career

After high school, Gardner remained in Kalamazoo and attended the school where his father was a professor, Western Michigan University. He graduated in 1936 with a degree in history and English [6], [8]. Upon graduation, he decided to pursue an advanced degree in economics because he was told it would be easier to get fellowships in that field rather than history or English. He was also motivated by the Depression, saying, ''I also had a general resentment against the Depression and felt there must be a way and that economics must be it.'' [6]

Gardner stayed in his home state for his graduate studies, attending the University of Michigan. He earned a Masters degree in 1937 [1], and completed his PhD in Economics in 1940 [1]. While he was a student at Michigan, Gardner married Bonnie Lowry; their wedding took place on 18 Sep 1937 in Bronson, Michigan [9].

University of Michigan Faculty

As we'll see below, Gardner Ackley alternately worked for the U.S. government and the University of Michigan throughout his career. Upon earning his PhD in economics from the University of Michigan, Dr. Ackley joined the faculty at Michigan as an instructor [1]. He became a full professor in 1952 [1], and was named head of the Department of Economics in 1954; he served in that position until 1961 [1].

During his time on the Michigan faculty, Dr. Ackley wrote the popular textbook "Macroeconomic Theory" (1961) [1] (see photo below); the book was republished as "Macroeconomic Analysis and Theory" in 1978 [8]. 

"Macroeconomic Theory" by Gardner Ackley (stock photo from

Early Government Service

As mentioned above, Dr. Ackley spent a good part of his career working as an economist for the U.S. government. Early in his career, he worked for organizations such as the National Resources Planning Board, Office of Price Administration, Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the CIA), and U.S. Office of Price Stabilization [1]. Several of these agencies were established to analyze and control prices during World War II and the Korean War and the period in between. Perhaps his first experience dealing with politicians occurred during his time as executive of the Office of Price Administration textile branch shortly after World War II. During a Senate hearing on textile prices in 1946, a Senator Bankhead from Alabama had the following comments for the young Dr. Ackley:

Obviously Dr. Ackley did not let these comments discourage him from pursuing a long, distinguished career as an economic adviser to the U.S. government.

Council of Economic Advisers

Dr. Ackley was appointed to the Council of Economic Advisers by President Kennedy in August, 1962. Below is a picture of his swearing-in ceremony.

Gardner Ackley being sworn in as a member of President Kennedy's Council of Economic Advisers (from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website [11])
The official website for the White House describes the Council of Economic Advisers as follows [12]:

Dr. Ackley remained on the CEA after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and was named chairman of the council by President Johnson in 1964. It was during his time as chairman that Gardner Ackley became a household name in the United States. He even appeared on the cover of Newsweek Magazine on July 18, 1966:

Gardner Ackley on Newsweek cover, July 18, 1966 (photo from [13])
The position of Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers is never an easy job -- whoever holds the job must balance economics and politics and hope that the President heeds his or her advice. The position was especially difficult during Johnson's administration due to the pressures of the Vietnam War and Johnson's social programs that were being implemented at the time. The following excerpt from Dr. Ackley's obituary in the New York Times [6] best summarizes his success as chairman:
But Professor Ackley's finest moment, according to Professor Samuelson [Paul A. Samuelson, Nobel laureate and professor emeritus of economics at MIT], was in telling President Johnson in 1966 that the nation could not afford the escalation of the Vietnam War and the Great Society programs without a tax increase -- an increase that was not enacted until 1968, and for which delay, Professor Samuelson said, ''We paid dearly in the inflation of the 1970's.'' 

''He never told the press what he told the President,'' Professor Samuelson said, ''but President Johnson included it in his memoirs. I can't think of a better epitaph than that. It took guts, because usually people tell a President what he wants to hear.''

U.S. Ambassador to Italy

In January of 1968, President Johnson named Dr. Ackley to be the ambassador to Italy. In announcing the appointment, President Johnson described Dr. Ackley as "one of my closest and most trusted friends and advisers" [7]. The appointment of an economist to a diplomatic post might seem odd, but it actually makes sense considering that Dr. Ackley had two separate stints in Italy studying the Italian economy, the first in 1956-57 as a Fulbright Scholar, and the second in 1961-62 on a Ford Foundation faculty research fellowship [6]. He was ambassador until August, 1969.

Comments On Other Presidents

Even though he left the Council of Economic Advisers in 1968 and eventually returned to the University of Michigan faculty, Gardner was asked many times to comment on the economic policies of other presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Dr. Ackley was not shy in providing his opinion, and his statements were often blunt and to the point.

Consider Dr. Ackley's comments from the Lexington Herald in 1980 [14] when asked about President Carter's lack of success in getting his economic policies through Congress:

In the same article, Dr. Ackley had the following additional comments about Carter administration economic policies [14]:

Another example -- his 1981 comments [10] on President Reagan's plans for drastic tax cuts that economist Arthur Laffer theorized would reduce inflation and lead to increased investment and stimulate the economy (an idea dubbed by some as "trickle-down economics" or Reaganomics):


Dr. Hugh Gardner Ackley died on February 12, 1998 in Ann Arbor, Michigan [15]. He was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor [16].

Link of the Day

The link below is for Dr. Ackley's obituary in the Washington Post:

Quote of the Day

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

-- Thomas Alva Edison


1. University of Michigan, Faculty History Project, "Gardner Ackley", (accessed 28 Jun 2017)

2. Indiana, Birth Certificates, 1907-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.

3. Ackley Family Genealogy website,, accessed 11 Jul 2017.

4. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch; Year: 1920; Census Place: Detroit Ward 21, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_818; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 628; Image: 867.

5. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002; Year: 1930; Census Place: Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Roll: 997; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0026; Image: 790.0; FHL microfilm: 2340732.

6. McDowell, Edwin, "H. Gardner Ackley, 82, Dies; Presidential Economic Adviser", obituary, New York Times, 21 Feb 1998 (accessed 11 Jul 2017)

7. Weil, Martin, "Economist Gardner Ackley Dies", obituary, Washington Post, 22 Feb 1998 (accessed 11 Jul 2017)

8. Wikipedia contributors, "Gardner Ackley," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed 11 July 2017).

9. Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

10. Thornton, Mary, "Economists Give Hill Panel Conflicting Views on Taxes", Evening Star, Washington, D.C., 5 Mar 1981, p. 9.

11. "Swearing-in ceremony, Gardner Ackley, Member, Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)", John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website, (accessed 13 Jul 2017).

12. "Council of Economic Advisers", The White House website, (accessed 13 Jul 2017).

13. "7/18/1966 The Economy: Whats Ahead Gardner Ackley", Vintage Magazines, (accessed 13 Jul 2017).

14. Rattner, Steven, "Economic Historians May Categorize Carter's Policies As Too Little Too Late", Lexington Herald, Lexington, Kentucky, 23 Mar 1980, p. 54.

15. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011.

16. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Gibbons Jewett Ackley and His Family (1789-1851)

Gibbons Jewett Ackley (my 3rd great grandfather) was born in East Haddam, Connecticut.  He was the fifth of five sons born to Ephraim Ackley and Hannah Jewett.  There seems to be some confusion about his birth date.  Records from East Haddam, Connecticut indicate he was born on October 2, 1789 [1]. However, in the 1850 census he is listed as 55 years old, which would put his birth year around 1795 [5].  In his obituary, his age is given as 56 years and 6 months upon his death in 1851, which would also put his birth year around 1795 [6].  Also, records filed with his son Franklin’s Civil War pension application list Gibbons’ birth date as January 7, 1795; these records were supposedly from an Ackley family register, (Possibly a family bible?  Note that on this register, Gibbons’ first name was incorrectly given as Gilbert, but other information in the register is consistent with other records.) [20].   One possible explanation for the discrepancy in birth dates is that Gibbons might not have been the first Gibbons Jewett born to his parents; could he have had a sibling with the same name, whose birth date was October 2, 1789 who died at an early age, and this Gibbons was actually born later as some records suggest?  I have encountered other instances where parents gave a subsequent child the same name as a child that died.  However, I have found no evidence of either the death of a previous child or other records for this Gibbons’ birth.

Gibbons Ackley birth record

Ackley Family Register

In the 1820 Census shown below, Gibbons is found living alone in Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky (last name misspelled Acley) [2].  

1820 Census

By 1822, it appears he had moved to Ithaca, New York where his brothers Henry and Julius lived, as evidenced by this ad from the Ithaca Republican Chronicle newspaper on January 9, 1822 announcing his participation in the Ithaca Rhetorical Society.

In March of 1822, Gibbons joined in a partnership with his brother Julius in a hat store in Ithaca and Ludlowville, New York, as announced by this ad from the Republican Chronicle.  Their store was advertised in various newspapers in the area.  According to the ads, they preferred cash for their hats, but would also accept other forms of payment, including wheat, rye, oats, corn, beef, pork, butter, cheese, lard, and lumber.

Gibbons’ partnership with Julius was dissolved in August, 1825, as announced in the Ithaca Journal on August 24, 1825.

Gibbons married Amanda Cady of Moravia, New York on April 11, 1822 [8],[9],[20].  Amanda was born March 10, 1803 in Moravia, New York [20], and was the daughter of Zadoc and Lucy (Little) Cady. In 1825 Gibbons and Amanda were living in Lansing Township, Tompkins County, New York, which is near Ithaca [11].  Four of Gibbons and Amanda’s children were born in New York; Lucy Ann (1823), Nancy Jane (1825), Amanda Helen (1827), and Franklin Jewett (1829).  Amanda Helen died in 1828, and Franklin Jewett died in 1832, after the family had moved to Ohio [9], [20]. According to "History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York", Gibbons was a merchant in McLean in 1828 [10]. 

Gibbons owned property in McLean, selling it in June of 1829 [13], [14].  In November of the same year he purchased property in Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio [15], which would naturally lead to the conclusion that the family moved from New York to Ohio sometime between June and November of 1829.  The trip from McLean to Chardon would be an easy 5-hour drive by car today, but in 1829 the journey must have been difficult.   According to an article in Past Pursuits:

“There were essentially two ways to get to northeast Ohio, either through New York State and along Lake Erie and southward, or through the mountains of Pennsylvania and north up the rivers.” [12] 

There were no railroads or automobiles, so travel over land would have been by horse and wagon.  Although not known for sure, it is likely that Gibbons and his family chose the route along Lake Erie.  McLean is at the southern end of Cayuga Lake (circled in blue on the map below), which was connected to Seneca Lake and the Erie Canal in 1828 (shown in red on the map below).  A trip by boat on Cayuga Lake north to the Erie Canal would have been much easier than a trip through the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Geauga County, which was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, was formed in 1806.  The following, from gives a brief description of the early history of the Western Reserve and Geauga County, up to the time Gibbons arrived:

In the years before the American Revolution, the colony of Connecticut claimed all of the land from its western border to the Mississippi River. This included parts of New York and Pennsylvania. After the United States Federal System of Government was established, Connecticut ceded all of its claims to these lands except for a 120 mile strip in the Ohio Country. This land became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. Funds obtained by the state from the sale of this land were to be used for public schools in Connecticut. The western end of the Reserve (later Huron and Erie Counties) was set aside as the "sufferer" lands. It was to be given to Connecticut residents to compensate them for losses from British military actions during the Revolutionary War. In the Reserve it was called the "Firelands".  The remaining 3,000,000 acres was sold by Connecticut to the Connecticut Land Company. This group of 35 men paid $1,200,000 for the Reserve. This amounted to $.40 an acre. In order to sell the land it had to be surveyed and Moses Cleaveland was hired as the land agent to do the job. Cleaveland settled prior Native American claims by signing a treaty with the Indians in Buffalo, NY on June 22, 1796. The surveying party then continued to the Reserve and arrived at Conneaut, Ohio on July 4, 1796, 20 years after independence from England had been declared.
The surveying party split into town groups. One party surveyed along the north-south Pennsylvania border. General Cleaveland continued along the lakeshore and arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22nd. This was to be his only visit to the site that would eventually become the city of Cleveland. The surveyors laid out Townships in 5 mile square grids beginning with Township One, Range One in what is now Poland, Ohio, Mahoning County. The surveying work was slow and difficult due to the terrain and the dense forests. The entire area was called Trumbull County and Warren, Ohio was the county seat. Beginning in 1798 a steady stream of settlers began arriving in New Connecticut to begin a new life in a new land. The difficult 600 mile trip transplanted the culture of New England to the northern Ohio frontier. Groups of related people or people from the same town moved together to the wilderness to begin new lives. By 1805 Geauga County was thinly settled but had enough voters to separate from Trumbull County. At that time Geauga County also included all of what later became Lake County. By 1820 the population of Geauga County was 7791 and it had doubled by 1830. The total population of the Western Reserve was 55,000 in 1820. Completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a great economic factor in the continued growth of the county. It provided an outlet for agricultural products to be sent east.

Once again Gibbons set himself up as a merchant in Chardon.  As mentioned previously, he bought property in Chardon to be used as his store.  According to the deed to this property, shown below, Gibbons paid $800 for the property he bought from David Bruce.

Gibbons took out an ad in the local newspaper announcing the wide variety of goods he was offering for sale (see below).  According to the ad, he had purchased the “Brick Store” formerly owned by Bruce & Pease (presumably the property described in the deed above), and “intends to make Chardon his permanent place of residence.” [26]  Note that under “GROCERIES” the ad says that the store sells “Nearly every article in the line (Ardent Spirits excepted)”. Ardent spirits is another name for distilled liquor.   Although I have found no other evidence to support this theory, this could indicate that Gibbons was at least sympathetic to the temperance movement that was popular at the time. This ad was dated May 12, 1830, and appeared in the Plainesville Telegraph on October 26, 1830.

Gibbons was on the census in Chardon in 1830 [3].  He purchased an additional parcel of land in Chardon in August of 1831 [16].  Another child, Benjamin Franklin, was born in Chardon in 1832, but sadly he only survived for about two years [9], [20].  The notice of his death appeared in the  Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette on Apr 19, 1834 [30]. Gibbons sold the property in Chardon in September of 1833 [17]  and April of 1834 [18], presumably in anticipation of departing Chardon for Akron. In November, 1833 he ran the notice below in the Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette announcing his intention to discontinue his business and sell off his inventory [31].

Apparently Gibbons was having difficulties collecting the debts owed him by customers at his store in Chardon. Shortly before he left Chardon, he ran the notice below seeking payment before resorting to legal measures to recover his debts [32].

According to his obituary, Gibbons was one of the early settlers in the part of Akron known as North Akron [6].   The town of Akron (later known as South Akron) was laid out in 1825 (see map below).  The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in 1832.  The Village of Cascade (later known as North Akron) was founded in 1833. The first school was built in 1834.  School records indicate that two of his children were enrolled in Portage Township district 6 schools in 1834. North and South Akron incorporated into Akron in 1836, with a population of 1,343 [21].  He bought property in Akron, with evidence of taxes paid in 1838 [19].  In Akron, four more children were born – Charles Homer (1834), Helen Caroline (1839), Franklin Cady (1841), and Lucy Maria (1843) [9], [20]. 

Gibbons was apparently a forward-thinking man, as evidenced by the fact that he sent his oldest daughter, Lucy Ann, to Oberlin College in 1838.  Oberlin was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to admit women, with the first four enrolling in 1837, and was also the first in the U.S. to regularly admit black students beginning in 1835.  Concerned about word of some of the activities at Oberlin, Gibbons wrote a letter to the college in November of 1839.  A transcription of the letter follows.

Akron Nov 29/39
Dear Sir,

My desire to arrive at the truth in relation to some of the charges against Oberlin must be my apology for addressing you, as I have not had the pleasure of making your personal acquaintance.  Some two years since my attention was first called to & my feelings first enlisted in the affairs of Oberlin since which time my mind has been alternately agitated by hope & fear in relation to the first results of your course of providence.  I have however had such confidence in the wisdom & prudence as well as piety of the managers of the institution that I placed a daughter under their guidance at a very early age (16 years old).  She is at home during vacation with the expectation of returning at the commencement of the next term.

Among the charges against Oberlin, is this, that that portion of them who believe with the President & Prof. Phiney on the subject of Perfection are becoming “Ranters” notes an article in the New York Evangelist Nov 23 under the head of “News from Oberlin”.  You will probably see the article before this reaches you.  I have enquired of my daughter whether she has any knowledge of such meetings as the one spoken of in that article.  She informs me that in the summer of 1838 there was one or two at the Fletchers of like character but that she understood that Pres. Mahan used his authority in putting a stop to them.  As she has no knowledge of the one alluded to it has probably happened (if at all) since the close of the term.  I read the article alluded to with feelings of mingled grief & alarm.  Grieved at the occurrence & alarmed in view of the consequences if persisted in.

If it is not too great a demand upon your time will you do me the favor to answer the following interrogations

1.  When did the meeting alluded to take place

2.  Has there been more than one of this character this season

3.  Are such proceedings encouraged or countenanced by the faculty or any portion of them

4.  Are the circumstances true as related in the NY Evangelist

5.  Who was the professor alluded to

6.  From what source did the NY Congregationalist & Observer obtain their information on the subject

If Sir you will make it convenient to spend a few moments in answering these questions with such suggestions as you think proper to make on the subject you will very much oblige.

Yours very Respectfully,

G. J. Ackley
Gibbons was listed as a resident of North Akron in the 1840 Census [4], and was in the 1850 Census for Akron [5].  Gibbons was active in the local affairs of Akron.  In 1834, he joined other citizens of Akron in forming the Akron Lyceum and Library Association.  This group established “quite a respectable library of books, by purchase and donation…” [22].  The association held weekly meetings “for the purpose of listening to addresses from the members and others, and of discussing the ‘burning’ questions of the day…” [22].  When a new select school was set to open in Akron in 1837, Gibbons threw his support behind it, serving as a trustee.  In 1838 Gibbons was part of a group that established the first Akron High School [27].  In 1839 he was one of the original stockholders in an organization that was formed to establish a rural cemetery in Akron.  This group went on to establish Akron Rural Cemetery, now known as Glendale Cemetery [23].  Gibbons and many of his family members are buried in Glendale.

Gibbons was appointed town treasurer of Akron by the town council in 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845 [24].  In 1849 he was elected by the people to serve a three-year term as a director of the Summit County Poor House. While on this board, he served as clerk until his death in 1851 [25].  An article that appeared in The Summit County Beacon after his election discussed his politics, identifying him as “a whig in sentiment” and that he “desires the perpetuation of Whig policy” [28].  The Whig Party was established in the early 1830s and dissolved in the late 1850s.  The party was established as a response to the authoritarian policies of President Andrew Jackson.  Henry Clay was their leader, and according to Wikipedia: 

The Whigs celebrated Clay's vision of the "American System" that promoted rapid economic and industrial growth in the United States. Whigs demanded government support for a more modern, market-oriented economy, in which skill, expertise and bank credit would count for more than physical strength or land ownership. Whigs sought to promote faster industrialization through high tariffs, a business-oriented money supply based on a national bank and a vigorous program of government funded "internal improvements" (what we now call infrastructure projects), especially expansion of the road and canal systems. To modernize the inner America, the Whigs helped create public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions. Many were pietistic Protestant reformers who called for public schools to teach moral values and proposed prohibition to end the liquor problem. 

These ideas perhaps explain Gibbons’ active participation in many of the activities discussed previously.

According to “Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County”, Gibbons was in business in Akron in a concern called “Ackley & Austin”; his son-in-law Allen Hibbard is known to have clerked for this business during his early years in Akron [22]. It is not known for sure when this business was established or when it was dissolved, but an article in the Akron Beacon informs that property belonging to Ackley & Austin was taken in 1843 and offered at a sheriff’s sale as result of a suit against the two men [33].

At some time after he was in business with Alvin Austin, Gibbons partnered with Allen Hibbard in a business under the name A. Hiibbard & Co. In March of 1849, they announced the addition of a third partner, Joseph Wesener, to the business. Below is the announcement, as well as an advertisement detailing the types of goods they had for sale at the “Old Green Store” [34]. Below that is another ad announcing the various items available at their store in February 1851 [35].

Just one week after the previous ad appeared in the Akron Beacon, the article below reported the sad news that the “Old Green Store” of A. Hibbard & Co. as well as several other businesses had been severely damaged or destroyed by a fire in downtown Akron. Fortunately, the structure and inventory were covered by insurance [36].

Gibbons died just five months after the fire, on July 9, 1851 [6].   Following is his obituary from The Summit Beacon, July 16, 1851 [6].

As mentioned previously, Gibbons was buried in Akron Rural Cemetery. Below is a picture of his headstone next to his mother Hannah’s headstone in Section 2, lot 107, taken many years ago by Paul Hibbard, a 3rd great grandson of Gibbons. These headstones are no longer standing.

A transcription of Gibbons’ will follows [7].  Question marks represent unreadable portions of the hand-written will.

Be it Remembered that at a Special Session of the Court of Common [Pleas] begun and held at the Court House in the town of Akron County of Summit and State of Ohio on the fifteenth day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty one by and before Sylvester H. Thompson, John Hoy and Peter Voris ? Associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas within and for the County and State aforesaid, the last Will and Testament of Gibbons J. Ackley late of Portage in said County deceased is this day produced in Court for probate and William J.C. Otis and Alexander Fisher the subscribing witnesses to said will appear and in open Court on oath depose ? ? that they saw the the said Gibbons J. Ackley the Testator subscribe said instrument and heard him publish and declare the same to be his last will and testament and that the said Testator was at the time of executing the same of full age of sound mind and memory and not under any restraint and that they subscribed said will as witnesses in the presence of the Testator and in the presence of each other whereupon the Court considering said will as duly proved do approve the same and order that said Will and Probate be recorded.  Which said Will and Probate follows ????? 
In the name of the Benevolent Father of all, I Gibbons J. Ackley of Akron in the County of Summit and State of Ohio do make and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills made by me. 
I give and bequeath to my brother Julius Ackley of Ithaca in the State of New York the sum of two hundred dollars to be paid by my executrix herein after name out of my estate in discharge of a moral obligation which I am under to my said brother. 
I give ? and bequeath all my estate of whatever ? real personal and mixed to my dear wife Amanda Ackley subject to the payment of the legacy above mentioned and all just debts and charges to be by her controlled appropriated and expended in the maintenance of herself and in the maintenance and education of our children as she shall see fit without being accountable therefore to any ? ?.  And I also wish my dear wife to extend the benefit of this pension to Dwight Hibbard the son of my deceased daughter to such extent as she may at any time see fit. 
I appoint my dear wife Amanda Ackley to be the Executrix of this my last will and testament and also to be the Guardian of our children.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 4th day of July 1851.  Signed and acknowledged by the said Gibbons J Ackley as his last will and testament in our presence and signed by us in his presence. 
W.J.C. Otis, Alexander Fisher 
We William J.C. Otis and Alexander Fisher the subscribing witnesses to the last Will and Testament of Gibbons J. Ackley late of Akron Summit County deceased being duly sworn depose and say that we saw the testator sign said Will and Testament that we attested and subscribed the same as witnesses in his presence, that the testator when he signed said Will and Testament was of a sound mind and memory of full age and not under any restraint. 
Sworn and subscribed in open Court August 15th AD 1851

Attest W.B. Stone Dept Clerk

Link of the Day

Much of the information in this post came from the Summit County Public Library. The physical library has a large genealogy section, and has much information online. Below is a link to their website:

Quote of the Day

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

-- Wernher Von Braun


1.  East Haddam (Connecticut). Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1687-1915, Volume 2,  (Births, marriages, deaths v. 2; Family History Library Microfilm 1398798), page 227.
2.  1820 U.S. Census, Versailles, Woodford County, KY; page 136; NARA Microfilm M33, Roll 29.
3.  1830 U.S. Census, Chardon, Geauga County, OH; page 251; NARA Microfilm M19.
4.  1840 U.S. Census, North Akron, Summit County, OH; page 379; NARA Microfilm M704, Roll 428.
5.  1850 U.S. Census, Portage Township, Summit County, OH; page 426, lines 15-20; NARA Microfilm M432, Roll 732.
6.  Obituary for Gibbons J. Ackley, The Summit Beacon, July 16, 1851, p. 3, col. 4.
7.  Will and Probate of Gibbons J. Ackley.
8.  LDS IGI Record
9.  George Thomas Little, The Descendants of George Little, Who Came to Newbury Mass in 1640,  (Auburn, ME.  1882), p. 57.
10.  History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York,  (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1879).
11.  Tompkins County Genealogical Society, 1825 New York State Census,  ([Ithaca, New York : The Society], 1991 ), 117.
12.  Jane Gramlich, “Connecticut Yankees in Summit County”, Past Pursuits, Volume 6, Number 3, Akron-Summit County Public Library, p. 3-5.
13.  Tompkins County NY County Clerk, Deed records, 1817-1906; index, 1817-1967,  (Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by Reproduction Systems for the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971 ), Volume O, p. 344-345.
14.  Tompkins County NY County Clerk, Deed records, 1817-1906; index, 1817-1967,  (Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by Reproduction Systems for the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971 ), Volume Q, p. 47-49.
15.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 13, p. 228-229.
16.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vo. 14, p. 453-454.
17.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 18, p. 402-403.
18.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 18, p. 218-219.
19.  Duplicate tax records : 1816-1838, Portage County, OH , p. 241.
20.  Franklin C. Ackley, Ackley Family Register, Filed with Civil War Pension Application, 30 Oct 1906.
21.  City of Akron website,
22.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 169.
23.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 237.
24.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 267.
25.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 303.
26.  “New Goods”, Painesville Telegraph, October 26, 1830, p. 4.
27.  “Acts of a Local Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Thirty-Sixth General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, December 4, 1837, and in the Thirty-Sixth Year of Said State”, Vol XXXVI, Columbus, OH, Samuel, Medary, Printer to the State, 1838.
28. “Poor House Directors”, Summit County Beacon, October 31, 1849, p. 3.
29.  “Whig Party (United States)”, Wikipedia,
30. “Died”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 19, 1834.
31. “Selling Off at Cost!”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 12, 1834.
32. “The Last Call”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 12, 1834.
33. “Sherrif’s Sale”, Akron Beacon, January 3, 1844.
34. “Copartnership Notice”, Akron Beason, March 7, 1849.
35. “The Cry Is Still They Come”, Akron Beacon, February 12, 1851.
36. “Another Conflagaration”, Akron Beacon, February 19, 1851.