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Dr. James M. Owston (#47059231)
 member for 6 years, 2 months, 10 days
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Bio Photo Prompted by an eighth grade assignment to construct a family tree, Jim Owston has been interested in collecting genealogical and historical data for over 40 years.

As part of this assignment, the discovery of a yellowed newspaper clipping detailing the 1929 death of his great-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Merriman, prompted an initial visit to her grave site at the McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery in 1968. He was pleased to add this grave to Find A Grave as a new contributor in 2008.

He has traced all the lines of his family back at least four generations. His direct ancestors include the following:

Four Civil War veterans (John Merriman, Thomas W. Day, John C. Brakeall, & George W. Staley).

A decorated Royal Navy warrant officer that served in the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars: William Owston.

At least two Revolutionary War veterans (William Gardner & David Gardner).

A soldier in Captain Beer's company in King Philip's War — John Gustin, who was born as Augustine Jean de le Tocq in the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands.

The Plantagenet royal house of England and Anjou via 3 Gardner lines that merge. This lineage includes 60 European kings and 8 canonized saints.

Members of the Waldensian sect that escaped religious persecution in southern France by traversing the Alps into Germany - the Maneval/Manewal family. His great-grandmother, Marie Katherine Manewal Schad was his most recent relative born with the Maneval surname.

Among the Quakers who traveled with William Penn to the colonies was his ancestor Thomas French who settled in Burlington, NJ.

His ancestors came from England, Germany (Würtemberg & Hesse), Scotland, France, Ireland, Wales, the Island of Jersey, and perhaps Switzerland. Family tradition holds that one or several of his New England lines were Mayflower descendants. Another tradition signifies that one of his German ancestors served as a Hessian soldier (on the side of the British) during the American Revolution. Neither of these traditions have yet to be satisfactorily proven.

Beyond record keeping, Y-Chromosome DNA Testing has determined that Owston's paternal line was among the haplogroup I1. This group originated in Scandinavia and his ancestors may have been Danish Viking invaders that attacked and settled the north of England in the 9th Century A.D. The modern spelling of his surname Owston indicates Norse influence over the original Saxon spelling Æston which became Easton elsewhere.

As far as his maternal ancestry, mitochondrial DNA testing places his ancestry in common with 47% of all Europeans in the the H haplogroup. This DNA grouping has been nicknamed Clan Helena - one of the theoretical seven European foremothers. Apparently, the H haplogroup was the most successful of the migrations into the European continent.

In addition to his genealogical studies, he is currently researching the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves with Chris Rasmussen. Three blood relatives (although not direct ancestors) served in this unit which was formed in Western Pennsylvania in 1861. His relatives in the unit included Captain Charles W. Owston, Daniel Merriman, and Charles Champlin Townsend.

Owston holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) and educational specialist (Ed.S.) in Leadership Studies from Marshall University in addition to masters' degrees from Marshall and WVU, and bachelors' degrees from Kentucky Christian University and Mountain State University.

His Master's of Arts in Humanities from Marshall included a concentration in history. Owston's internationally recognized doctoral dissertation on institutional rebranding utilized historical research as one of the multiple research methods that he employed. The dissertation is available online at This work was the winner of two outstanding dissertation awards.

Other historical works under his belt include being the designer & caretaker of the Virtual Nixon Era Center at Mountain State University. This project was actively worked from 2001-2003. While currently operational, updates have been added on an infrequent basis since 2003.

Two historical papers are available online: Heterodyning in the Hills - The WOBU Story and The Early History of Transylvania University: An Archetype of Restoration Movement Institutions of Higher Education and has contributed to several WikiPedia articles including most of the article on his hometown of North Versailles Township, PA.

Owston, a former dean at Mountain State University, lives in Beckley, WV with his wife and two daughters.
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Messages left for Dr. James M. Ow... (574)[Leave Message]
Connie Godak
Martin Vincent Godek
Thank you for posting Martin's information on Findagrave. He is my husband's grand-uncle. His birth was 1 Oct 1896, in Antrim, Tioga co., PA, if you would like to add that information to his memorial.
Connie Godak
Added by Connie Godak on Dec 05, 2014 11:44 PM
Glenn Plonk
RE: The Saucer Boys (Frank and Earl)

Yes...thank you!
Added by Glenn Plonk on Dec 05, 2014 8:50 AM
Glenn Plonk
The Saucer Boys (Frank and Earl)
I have viewed your posting of Frank and Earl Saucer and tried to reach Dr Ostown previously or perhaps whom ever posted the boys on Find A Grave originally.

My grandmother married Oswald Oscar Saucer in 1890 when she was 16. There were 3 children born during this marriage: Blanche, Frank, and Earl. The family came apart in late 1900. The boys went with Oswald and Blanche stayed with my grandmother - Loretta Hanna Saucer. Oswald put the boys in an orphanage near Pittsburgh called the "Home for the Friendless" in December 1900. By February 1901, both had died of measles and typhod (sp?). Loretta and Oswald divorced in 1905, and Loretta married Isaac Francis Walraven in 1906 and my mother was born in 1907. I have searched for Blanche without success.

Ironically, I got my start in genealogy following a 6th grade project in middle school...but didn't get deep into it until I retired in Maryland near Annapolis when I tried to figure out the maternal side of my family.

Some relatives of my mother (cousin) used to visit my parents in Boston by can't recall the name...nor could my brother or sister. I know they lived in East Liverpool, Ohio and often sent china to my Mom.

You can reach me at
Added by Glenn Plonk on Dec 04, 2014 5:56 PM
Helen Smith
Elizabeth Booth Wellens
Are you related to her? She is my great grandmother. Helen Smith
Added by Helen Smith on Dec 03, 2014 10:48 PM
Shannon Carr
Dr. Owston
I noticed in your Bio, you have roots in Switzerland, I also noticed that one of your memorial pages is Jacob S Simmen. Any relation to you? He is a Swiss and likely in my family as well. Please don't hesitate to email me at
Scarr at

Added by Shannon Carr on Nov 30, 2014 12:39 PM
C. Robinson
More on Samuel Patterson
Dr. Owston: Thank you so much for adding the extra information. I've been searching for their marriage info. on Ancestry, to no avail, so am very glad you've given the date. Your help is very much appreciated.

Added by C. Robinson on Nov 28, 2014 6:16 AM
C. Robinson
More about Samuel Patterson
Dr. Owston: Your added information is very important in that it clarifies that the one you've described was Not my great-grandfather
but was his son, my great-uncle, a brother of my maternal grandmother.

I am intrigued by the year of his date of birth, 31 Oct. 1866, because he had a brother born 09 Mar. 1866. This is not impossible, but would mean that Samuel was born prematurely by about two months.

Are you related to him, too?

Thank you for your very helpful information.
Added by C. Robinson on Nov 27, 2014 12:21 PM
C. Robinson
Samuel Patterson
Dr. Owston:
I am very curious about the Samuel Patterson buried at Allegheny Cemetery, Memorial 37981379. One of my great-grandfathers was a Samuel Patterson who died in 1916 and I am trying to trace his burial place. He immigrated to Pittsburgh circa 1896 and lived there for a period of time. Thank you for any light you can shed on the one for whom you have created a profile.

Colleen Robinson
Added by C. Robinson on Nov 26, 2014 6:56 AM
Rich Vance
Edward Dias in McKeesport
Hello Dr. Owsten,
I sent you a bio addition through the Edit tab for Edward Harrison Dias on Oct. 16.

Perhaps it got misdirected to your spam folder?

Info for the bio:
Son of Elmer William & Elizabeth "Betty" Dias; brother of Dorothy, Elmer, & Raymond.
Husband of Gertrude Luella Dias; father of Marilyn Joy, Edward William, Connie Lee, Sheryl Lynn, & Terry Wayne Dias.

WW II Veteran, PFC, U.S. Marine Corps
Mar 1, 1943 - Mar 15, 1945

(sources: 1930 U.S. Federal Census, McKeesport, Allegheny, PA; PA Veterans Burial Card; PA Veterans Compensation Appl, WWII)

Thanks, Rich
Added by Rich Vance on Nov 18, 2014 5:41 AM
Miles Layng
Dr. Owston -

Your ancestry is very similar to mine. Interested in your FindaGrave site for Miles Layng, my great, great grandfather. There are at least four researchers, counting me, working on his family tree. Are you related to him? Any suggestions?

Thank you, Dr. George H. Schauer
Added by sagesteps on Nov 14, 2014 8:03 AM
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