Kelly Clarkson was here
It was a cold morning Feb. 23 when a car pulled to the curb in front of the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library and out stepped pop singer and first “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, along with a camera crew from The Learning Channel’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” program.
The show, in its fourth season, follows celebrities as they trace their ancestry and visit related sites.
Clarkson was in town to learn about her great-great-great grandfather, Isaiah Rose, a Civil War veteran and former Ohio Senator who lived in the Coal Run area and is buried in Round Bottom Cemetery. The story of her quest will air at 9 p.m. Tuesday on TLC.
“We knew they were coming and had closed the genealogy library for the day. They were here from around 9 or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It was a pretty long day,” said assistant librarian Eric Richendollar.
He said Clarkson and the crew were very professional, but also easy to work with.
“They brought two or three cameras and took shots from several different angles inside the library,” Richendollar said.
He wasn’t sure if any of the local library staff would be shown in the episode, noting that TLC had brought their own genealogy expert to help Clarkson review the historical documents about her ancestor.
“She was professional and nice, and seemed like a very down-to-earth person,” Richendollar said of Clarkson. “It was a great experience for us.”
Grammy-winner Clarkson, 31, shot to fame after winning “American Idol” in 2002 and has since sold more than 20 million albums, with hits including “Miss Independent,” “Since U Been Gone,” “Walk Away,” “Mr. Know It All,” My Life Would Suck Without You, “Already Gone” and “Stronger.”
Clarkson’s great-great-great grandfather Isaiah R. Rose was born in Belmont County in 1842, but when he was a small boy the family moved to Coal Run, according to a history of Isaiah Rose by Betty K. Rose of Devola. The article was published in a 2010 edition of the Lower Muskingum Historical Society’s “Reflections Along the Muskingum” periodical.
Rose, 86, wrote that Isaiah enlisted with the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War and served with General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army during the infamous “March to the Sea.”
Isaiah’s younger brother, Thompson Rose, who also served with the OVI, was fatally wounded at one point, and while attempting to help his brother Isaiah was captured by the Confederate Army and was confined to the Andersonville Prison in Georgia for seven months.
After serving through the war, Isaiah returned to the Coal Run area and eventually became a senator in the Ohio General Assembly in 1906. He died on Nov. 26, 1916 in Coal Run.
“I always admired Isaiah because after returning from the war he realized he needed an education and attended public school with his son,” Betty Rose said.
She hopes to see the “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode.
“I’ve never seen the program, but I’m hoping to have it recorded so that I can watch this episode,” she said.
Local genealogy historian Ernie Thode, who also works at the library, was not there the day of the filming, but said the library had been contacted by TLC back in November about the planned visit.
“They were in contact with me and (library director) Justin Mayo in November and December,” he said, adding that the staff also did some preliminary research for the show.
Mayo said before Clarkson and the crew left the library Feb. 23 he presented the singer with a “souvenir” basket of local wine from Marietta Wine Cellars.
“I basically just had time to hand it to her and then they had to leave-they were on a tight schedule,” he said. “But she really appreciated it.”
Thode said he was able to watch an advance preview of the “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode recently.
“There’s some ‘teaser’ footage of Marietta and the W.P. Snyder, and later she pulls up in front of the library before she goes inside,” he said.
From the library Clarkson and the crew drove north on Ohio 60 to Coal Run where she’s filmed at Isaiah Rose’s final resting place in Round Bottom Cemetery.
It was dusk when they arrived at the graveyard. Local historian Phillip Crane said his wife mentioned seeing a lot of bright lights at the cemetery that evening.
During some research in the wake of Clarkson’s visit, Crane discovered she has more than one connection to the area.
“I found out that Kelly’s grandmother was Mary George who lived in Parkersburg, W.Va.,” he said. “And Kelly’s mother, Jeanne Rose, grew up in Parkersburg and graduated from Belpre High School.”
Crane also found the star has connections to other relatives in the area, including the Ewing and Humiston families.
He said more information about Clarkson and her family will be included in his column, “An Eye on the Lower Muskingum,” in Saturday’s edition of The Marietta Times.
Thode said in addition to being entertaining, the TLC episode will give the county genealogy library some great exposure.
“The publicity is valuable, but it also shows that we do serve everybody here,” he said. “Just this week we’ve had people from Mesa, Ariz. and South Carolina doing genealogical research.”
“We’re very fortunate that our library directors have realized the importance of this facility,” he said. “People from all over the country and all over the world come here to research their family histories, even if their ancestor was just passing through.”
Mayo said the TLC airing of Clarkson’s visit is exciting news for the local area, but also indicates the quality of the genealogy library supported by the resources of the Washington County Library System.
“I would put our genealogy department up against any other library in the state,” he said.