Note: A huge thank you to Millie Turner from Ancestry.com for all your great photos and information!
Also, remember, you can click on images to enlarge them.
The last conversation I ever had with Grandpa went a bit like this: “Remember when the ice cream fell off your cone?” “Brooklyn Bridge!” “There was someone on Emma’s side who used to hold séances…”
The first two I’ve heard many times over, but the last was brand new. What do you mean “used to hold séances”? How random. And why have I never heard of this before?
Fast forward four and a half months.
Frustrated with the Coy issues, I decided to take a step back and figure out how I’m going to organize my ancestor “People Pages” for this website (still deciding…). I looked at each branch of the tree to see how I wanted to display the information and when I reached Emma Eva Thomas, I realized her lineage was empty. [Emma is Grandpa’s grandmother.] I knew nothing about her childhood or her parents. It seemed like a glaring omission, especially because I’ve dated the Richards back to the mid-1700’s, Coy’s to 1816, and Varley’s to 1818. But the Thomas family was stuck at 1890, with the birth of Emma. I even have info about the Skibo’s and Farkas’ that went back further than 1890… and they are my BIGGEST hurdle.
I opened up Emma’s page on my Ancestry tree and looked over the information. One of the good things about having ancestors from Mansfield, Ohio is that there are lots of newspaper articles online. I looked through a couple of them – one about a “Five Hundred Club” card game that she won and another about a Non-Perail Club she was hosting (not that I even know what that is…). The third article I came across was her obituary.
Emma’s obituary (1)
Reading through it, I realized I haven’t added her sisters’ names to my tree – Ona and Blanche. So I did. Then, since searching Emma on Ancestry hasn’t yielded any new information, I decided to look for Blanche Thomas Sines. Lo and behold… I hit the jackpot!
The first thing I saw as I scrolled through the list of results was a picture of Elizabeth Wise. The notation next to the picture said “Elizabeth (Wise) Thomas: Ex-wife of Joshua Lincoln SinesMother of Blanche Noami (Thomas) Sines…” I clicked on the picture and it led me to a treasure trove of pictures and information from Ancestry user millieturner52. She even had a picture of Hank in his football uniform! (more pictures at the end of this post).
Elizabeth Wise Thomas (2)
In addition, millieturner52 had Elizabeth Wise’s obituary. So I read it. And that’s when things got even more interesting!
Lizzie Thomas’ Obituary, April 28, 1939 (3)
In the last sentence of the first paragraph, it said that Elizabeth was a charter member of the First Spiritualist church and was a pastor. How cool? A female pastor in our family. Awesome!
But of course, I have no idea what the First Spiritualist Church is so… I looked it up on Wikipedia.
And I quote:
“A Spiritualist church is a church affiliated with the informal Spiritualist movement which began in the United States of America in the 1840s.”
“Spiritualist churches are places of worship for the practitioners of Spiritualism. The Spiritualist service is usually conducted by a medium. Generally, there is an opening prayer, an address, the singing of hymns, and finally a demonstration of mediumship. Healing circles may also be part of the formal proceedings.” (4)
Shut the front door! “Mediumship”? Really? So Elizabeth Thomas was a medium?
Of course, I had to take it a step further. If she was a pastor at this church, then maybe she was mentioned in the local paper. And she was! I found a bunch of clippings about the First Spiritualist Church and “message circles” (group type séances) she held for the public. In fact, in a few minutes of searching I found five of those ads.
From The Evening Independent newspaper, March 4, 1933 (5)
From The Evening Independent newspaper, October 10, 1932
There you have it! Grandpa was right (of course!), and that mystery is solved. Lizzie Thomas, my 3rd great grandmother was a medium. Unique family indeed!
Here are some of those photos I’ve been going on about! Enjoy!
L to R: Oliver Reiner, Ona Thomas Reiner and Joshua Lincoln Thomas (Elizabeth’s husband)
Hank in his football gear. Notice the “cleats”
From what I gather: Top row L to R: Claude, Clyde, Ed Thomas; John William Sines (Blanche’s husband?) and his son Jack Edward Sines. Bottom row: Hank and William Oliver Richards and their dog! ☺
1) “Mrs. Richards.” News Journal [Mansfield, Ohio] 9 Jan. 1976: 5. Ancestry.com. Web. 4 Aug. 2014.
2) millieturner52 Ancestry.com Family Tree
3) millieturner52 Ancestry.com Family Tree. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/52420673/person/13360647921/mediax/3?pgnum=1&pg=0&pgpl=pid%7CpgNum
4) “Spiritualist Church.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 July 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2014.
5) “Spiritualist Truth Seekers.” The Evening Independent [Massillon, Ohio] 4 Mar. 1933: 3. Print.
6) “Message Circle.” The Evening Independent [Massillon, Ohio] 10 Oct. 1932: 2. Print.