Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Where There's a Will . . .

I already knew I had a way to answer my question regarding my problem child in Perry County: look at his (supposed) grandfather's will. But do you think I remembered that detail from research done well over ten years ago? Of course not.

It helps to review research records from time to timeespecially when that family tree grows to that oft-mocked level of thousands upon thousands (and no, I didn't get there by cutting and pasting from other people's family trees). I always remembered that I didn't feel confident about that conclusion that Adam Gordon's father William was son of the patriarch William Gordon, the one who had convinced a good part of his family to leave their home in Pennsylvania and move to Ohio, back in the 1830s.

Having no handy civil registrations to bestow me with the verification of a paper trail, back when I first worked on this line, I had relied on circumstantial details to piece together my case. But when websites like FamilySearch.org and Ancestry started adding so many new records to their digitized collectionparticularly the wills from various statesI did poke around to see if I could find anything on my two William Gordons.

And promptly forgot about what I had found.

Poking around on another Gordon file yesterday, I ran across the digitized version of the 1989 Gateway to the West, a two volume set from the Genealogical Publishing Company, which extracted articles originally offered as a serial publication. In one article of will abstracts from Perry County, I found the following details:

GORDON, William - dated 10-2-1849; proved 11-10-1849. Wife, Mary. Children: Sarah Johnson, Margaret Hoy, Elizabeth Wiseman, Mary Clark, Eleanor Clark, Nancy Spragg, Jane Guyton, Susanna Hewit, Cassandra Cochran, Lucy Heffley, Mark Gordon, George W. Gordon, and William Gordon, dec'd, his son (testator's grandson), adm. Executors: John J. Jackson and Mark Gordon. Witnesses: Peter Witmer and Daniel Baker. (278)

While it was helpful to find the mention confirming that William Gordon's namesake son had predeceased himjust as I thoughtit would have been even lovelier had the person abstracting the will actually included the name of said grandson.

No need to worry ourselves about that one now, of course. The actual will, itself, has since been digitized and posted on Ancestry.com. Here, excerpted from the sixth item of the document, is the transcription of the specific item in question over William's grandson:

...and they shall also be bound to give my grandson Adam Gordon son of William Gordon either fifty dollars in money or a horse saddle and bridle when he shall arrive at the age of twenty one years.

Evidently, not even abstracts catch all the details. But the way around that is to look at the original document (or its exact replica). Always, always review that original document for yourself, I tell people. Because when stuff like this happens, letting your own eyes do the walking across that document can catch the details that someone else, exhausted from the tedium of a monumental task, might have omitted. When you look, knowing what you are looking for, you can sometimes catch what others miss. And finding that one missing detail is all that it takes.

What more could we ask?


  1. Jacqi, thanks for the reminder to review info and always look at the original document!

    1. Oh, you're welcome, Marian! It's amazing what you can find, just by taking the time to open up the original document (or its digitized version). There are so many items not included in an indexing program or transcription project that may be the very detail you are looking for.

      I spent the afternoon today, upon being prompted by a post in Randy Seaver's blog, Genea-Musings, to trawl through the Indiana Death Certificates collection at Ancestry.com, in which I discovered basic errors in even dates of birth and death in transcriptions. These things likely happen more than we think. But we won't catch them to correct our own records if we don't take the time to look.

  2. I wonder if he took the money or the horse saddle.

    1. I wondered that same thing, myself...but resisted the urge to run to the calculator to see what the present-day value of that fifty bucks might be.

  3. I wonder too what was worth more?
    I have so much to review and double check ...uffda.
    You are making progress! :)

    1. Sometimes, that review and double check just has to happen when it happens, Far Side. Right now, with a possible trip to Perry County in the offing, it's a slam dunk I'll be focusing on my loose ends in Perry County. You just have to take things as they come, and not beat yourself up over what's still undone.

  4. Yes where there's a will there's a way (to find your family).


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