Sunday, December 16, 2012

Driven to Distraction

You’ve heard me say it before: nothing is set in stone—not even engravings on a headstone.

Let’s revisit that question of when, exactly, John Jackson’s second wife, Mary, died. Was it in March? Or in May? Last time I looked, I found an entry in the Perry County records showing the date of Mary’s passing as May 19, 1871. One would think a government-issued document would be the final word.

It may not have been.

If the entry in the Find A Grave page for Mary Grate Jackson at Holy Trinity Cemetery in Somerset, Ohio, was a typo, it was a time-honored typo. Perhaps a hundred-year-old typo.

I learn a lot by visiting the reports contemporary to the lifetime of my family’s auxiliary lines. Remember my comments on Lyman J.Jackson’s entry in the 1883 History of Fairfield and Perry Counties? Where I mentioned that you can’t trust anything? It doesn’t matter whether it’s in writing—or even if it looks official.

After reading the rest of Lyman’s biographical sketch in the Perry County, Ohio, history book, I’m wondering just who I should believe for these basic family history facts. While I’m generally thankful for those details I can glean about other family members from the featured person’s bio, Lyman’s entry here makes me want to do something rash, like pull out my hair.

Look here:
In March, 1839, the Jackson family removed from Rushville, Fairfield county, to a farm near New Reading, Perry county, Ohio. The parents lived here during the rest of their lives, the mother dying in March, 1871, and the father in September, 1876.
Okay, see that: “the mother dying in March, 1871….”

Now, my question is: who am I left to believe? Do I just take a vote here? Or toss all these items in the air and see which one comes down first? Perhaps the obituary would settle it.

On the other hand, I have this quarrel with the newspapers….


  1. Well both months do start with an "M"?? Makes you wonder doesn't it?

    With a particular ancestor of mine, I had his recorded dates, including date of death. On a trip, I visited his gravestone and it confirmed his death date. However, I learned that his journals were housed at a local archive and was able to visit the archive and view those journals. Imagine my surprise when his journals continued a year beyond his supposed death date! (and yes, the journal entries were written in the same hand.) After his last entry, his wife wrote in the journal indicating when he has died.

    I found it interesting when a sister-in-law told me that she realized recently that when her father died a few years back, she had given an incorrect date of birth for him and that that date is on the headstone. She said she doesn't know what she was thinking, but somehow in the process just wasn't thinking. It happens!

    1. Those types of scenarios are quite understandable. Think of all the emotional stress the reporting party is likely to be under. Every question to be answered may at first bring a wave of grief all over again--or a torrent of tears. "Just wasn't thinking" is certainly understandable under those circumstances.

      As for your relative with the journals--what a treasure, Michelle! I hope you are transcribing them and preserving them for future generations! What a surprise it must have been to see that entry on his death in that unexpected date! Glad you found those archived records.

  2. Good Luck finding the Obit..I am not so sure it would answer the March/May many references say March..and May?:)

    1. Well, I'll use all the luck I can get. This newspaper isn't coming up in all the usual resource places, so it may call for some contortions before I can actually get my hands on it. Someday....


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