I was sprucing up my site (still learning). I put up some pictures and a few little icons. Wow, this blogging is a real learning adventure!
So, since I put up some of my family pictures, I thought that I should tell you how I found my Ballou ancestors. Ballou is my maiden name.
My grandparents were Robert Oleson Ballou (1892-1977) and his wife, Vera Kern Edwardsen Ballou (1895-1985). Since they lived in Connecticut, and I grew up near Baltimore, so they became “Grandpop and Grandmom in Connecticut” to my sister, brother and me. When they wrote letters to us, they even signed them that way!
Grandpop was an author, publisher and editor. His main “claim to fame” (in my mind) was publishing, under his own publishing company, John Steinbeck’s first novel, To a God Unknown. When I was young, Grandpop was the editor-in-chief for Viking Press in New York City, traveled extensively and met many great and famous people. He ghost-wrote a book on etiquette for Eleanor Roosevelt and my mother told me he also ghost-wrote a book for Errol Flynn!
Robert Oleson Ballou
Grandpop grew up on a farm near Wheaton, IL, west of Chicago. He was the youngest of eight children born to Augustus Marble Ballou (1844-1892) and his wife, Lillian Eugenia Nind Ballou (1855-1943). When Grandpop was a few months old, his father was killed in a train accident. His sudden death must have been terribly devastating to the family! Not to mention, Grandpop grew up never knowing his father.
The farm was part of the same one where his father, Augustus, and his sisters grew up. My father told me that Augustus raised Rhode Island Red chickens. That was all I ever knew about the farm. I always imagined that there were lots of dogs and other animals because Grandpop was a real animal lover.
August Marble Ballou
What I knew of Grandpop was that he went to Oberlin College, but never graduated. He was an ambulance corpsman in WWI since he was a conscientious objector. He was married, when he was young, to a woman named Estelle M. Peyraud (1895-1920). She died very young. Dad thought it was from the flu epidemic at the time, but my mother told me that Estelle died in childbirth. Either way, she died young. These are the only “facts” that I ever heard about.
Growing up, I didn’t really know my grandfather. I knew him to be kind. He liked animals, especially dogs. He liked books…lots of books!! I liked visiting in Connecticut, except there was no TV. I liked to go with Dad to pick up Grandpop from the train station in Danbury when he came home from the City. I liked going to his apartment in New York so I could ride in an elevator. The only personal things I remember was that he always had a glass of water beside his bed at night and when he signed his name, he wrote it as Robert O. Ballou, always underlining the “u” in Ballou so it wouldn’t be confused with an “n”. Funny the things you remember as a kid…
I should also mention that I never once met any of my father’s relatives. There were never any kind of reunions or anything like that. It was the way it was. I don’t know why.
So, by the time I decided to start on this genealogical dig, Grandpop was long gone and I had no idea about where to start.
The first thing I did was go to my local library. By that time, I was living in Elmira, NY and knew the Steele Memorial Library had a genealogy section. The ladies there were so helpful to me! The library had hard bound indexes to the heads of families in the federal census records for practically every state. I quickly went to look up all of the Ballous in Wheaton, IL. I knew Grandpop’s father’s name was Augustus and was so happy to find an Augustus in the 1880 census in Milton Township, DuPage Co., IL. Could he be the right one? How many Augustus Ballous could there possibly be…it’s gotta be him! The nice librarian showed me how to find the microfilm of the census and how to load it onto the machine, make all the necessary adjustments and lo and behold! I found Augustus with Lillian as his wife!! It was so exciting! The record stated that Augustus was a farmer and that he and Lillian had just married during this census year. How cool was that?! The record showed Augustus and Lillian’s ages as 35 and 25, respectively. So, the nice librarian asked if I knew who Augustus’ father was. I didn’t. So, she showed me how to look back to the 1870 census, as Augustus may have still been living at home since he just got married in 1880. We looked at the index again and found a Levi Ballou living in Milton Township. I followed the microfilm process I had done earlier and was so…so excited to find Augustus, age 25, living with Levi Ballou, Mary Ballou, Frances Ballou, Augusta Ballou and Herbert Holt. Ages were given again. Places of birth were given. How exciting! I had just won the genealogical lotto!!
Armed with this initial information has helped me to delve further into my Ballou family. The internet has helped tremendously with this rewarding hobby of mine. New information is added daily. It’s unbelievable!!
At the bottom of this page, I will place some links to the other information I have found on my Ballou family and genealogy in DuPage County, IL. These are free databases. A great tip that I have found super helpful to me is doing a Google search with the name in quotes. By typing, “Robert O. Ballou” will give you results of the whole phrase instead of results with just Robert and Ballou. Also, beware of scams online that promise to give you information for $19.95, etc.
So, if you belong to this family and would like to share your information or desire some information from me, give me a holler! I’m thankful to two cousins, Gayle and Ralph, whom I’ve met online and their information has given me some invaluable insight into the family.