Four or five years ago I was perusing the archives at the Ohio Historical Society in search of ancestors. I already knew that my family line could be traced to the mid-1800's to a couple counties in southern Ohio. I was reading a history of Meigs County produced for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Several individual family histories were recorded. I went back to the "t's" and was pleasantly surprised to find an entry under "Trainer." As I began reading, my pleasant surprise turned to outright joy.
There was a picture of an old farmhouse, and these words at the beginning of the paragraph, "My great-grandfather, James Trainer (1803-1875), justice of the peace and veterinarian, married Mary Patterson (1809-1886) in 1828. My grandfather Hiram (1845-1918), was the eleventh of fourteen children born to this Irish couple." I knew that my great-great-great grandfather, Mathew (1835-1918), had a brother named Hiram and a father named James. I looked at the bottom of the article for the author's name...it was Ada Belle Robinson Trainer. It said she was residing in Lancaster, Oh in 1976.
I went to another side of the archives and retrieved a Lancaster phone book. Her name was listed and there was an address! Several days later I found myself walking up a driveway to a fading green house, wondering who I would encounter. I didn't even get a chance to knock on the door, because a little old woman came around the corner of the house, watering can in-hand. I surprised her, but she quickly recovered, and I introduced myself. I love to do this...to see a person's face when you bring up a name from their past and they slowly make the connection. We are related!
That Spring day I began a relationship with Ada Belle Robinson Trainer that continued until March, 2005, when she passed away. We enjoyed hours of conversation together (which she allowed me to tape). She brought out old photo albums, newspaper clippings, diaries, and family heirlooms. Ada Belle was a family historian's dream come true. She kept notes of each days events, saved everything, and had an incredible memory for people and events. Over the course of many visits our relationship grew to the point that she brought out the real treasures...the family Bible of James & Mary Trainer, of Hiram & Eliza, of Harry and Alma (her parents), and pictures of each couple. They were absolute gold. She had her father's diaries....over 30 years of daily entries from 1914-1945.
Through Ada I discovered a farm my family never knew existed. James first came to Ohio in 1835. He built a cabin in Meigs County and lived there with 12 children, before building a house in 1849, and having two more children. That house stands to this day, and I have been in it. The name "Trainer" is barely legible on the barn door. It was farmed by two more generations before Ada and her mother had to sell it in 1949 due to her father's early death.
My direct line left the family farm in the second generation and moved north one county. They pursued a life of farming, working in brick yards, clerking in stores, driving trucks, and various other blue color jobs. Somehow the family branches lost track of one another in just a couple generations. My grandfather had no idea there was a homestead in Meigs County; he didn't even know he was Irish.
But because of Ada it all came together. I visited her briefly on the day before she died. The rest home where she was staying had called to let me know she would not live many more hours. She could barely talk, but managed some "yes" and "no" answers to questions. Her breathing was labored and we both knew her life would soon end. I quoted Psalm 27:1, touched her hand, and told her to rest, as I slipped out of the room. The next day her daughter called, "Mom is gone. She asked for you to do her funeral."
So on a clear, spring morning in March 2005, I stood beside Ada's casket in Athens, OH. I celebrated her life, and reminded a handful of people about her faith, and trust God that I will see her again someday. Since there were hardly any family members left, I helped bear her body to its final resting place. Then Linda and I went home. We saw Ada's picture in our living room, paged through the family Bibles she entrusted to our care, and thanked God for paths that crossed in His grace.