Saturday, October 27, 2012

Know He’s Hiding in There Somewhere

You know how it is, tracing genealogical records: you start from what you know, and move gradually backward in time. Each step holds you firmly in place—and refuses to let go—until you can verify that you know that generation’s vital statistics, too. And then you can move on—er, back.

All that is fine and well as long as one is researching a country for which certificates and census records provide the details—those handy research guides known as names. When, in the United States, you encounter the Wall of 1850, you pass from the land of the named to the land of the itemized. If your ancestor is not the head of household, before that 1850 watershed mark, that ancestor will not be named, only counted.

True, in making my way back on the timeline of the Flowers family of Perry County, Ohio, I do have verification of other family members’ names, even before 1850. There are some baptismal records. There are some tax records. And there is the cemetery in the churchyard of the old Saint Joseph’s church in Somerset. Taking a look at the seven hundred thirty eight Saint Joseph’s interments listed on Find A Grave is like taking a walk through my family tree database. Yet, when I check for a listing of all their Flowers burials, the key ancestors I’m seeking aren’t listed on that website. Until I can actually get there, I’ll have to assume that my target ancestor remains hidden there.

The key ancestor I’m seeking is Joseph S. Flowers, senior. It was his wife, Elizabeth Ambrose Flowers, whom I mentioned yesterday—the mother who bore some of the Flowers children in Pennsylvania and some in Ohio. Their son Simon—the one for whom a pre-1820 birth in Ohio is only sometimes supported by government documents—is my husband’s direct ancestor.

If I can find some other sort of indicator that the senior Joseph Flowers was in Ohio prior to 1821, I can apply on behalf of my husband’s family for status as First Families of Ohio members. And yet, finding any such material is proving difficult.

Why? I’ll recount several issues as I review roadblocks to this application in the next few days. In short, besides the pre-1850 census configuration, I’m struggling with naming issues, spotty baptismal records for the early years of the local church, property ownership issues, and discerning proper repository jurisdiction for early government records as Perry County itself was not formed until 1818.

I’ll most likely be revisiting these issues with fellow researchers among our distant Flowers relatives. With the large families replicated over several generations of this Ohio family, I can assure you that there are several descendants also researching this family and its many related branches. That is one positive note for which I’m thankful: the many helpful, friendly distant cousins I’ve met online and worked with for the past two decades. This project may also call for me unearthing those storage boxes of material I’ve found over the years—as well as revisiting the online forum groups that provided so much help along the way.

Somewhere, in all that data, Joseph S. Flowers of Perry County, Ohio, is in there. All I need to do is find him, and document what I find, before December 31 of this year.

Photograph of Saint Joseph Church, Somerset, Ohio, courtesy Find a Grave volunteer Nancy Ann Mull Buchanan.


  1. Most of us just give up when we get to a road are forging on! :)

    1. ...or at least taking my cue from The Little Engine That Could, "I think I can, I think I can!" I seem to be telling myself that a lot, lately.

  2. I love how you wrote " When, in the United States, you encounter the Wall of 1850, you pass from the land of the named to the land of the itemized " and it so true ! It is a wall and it's a different kind of research method before 1850 . I got a lot of good ideas from Marsha Rising Hoffman's problem solving book . Have you read it ??Looking forward to the Flowers project...


    1. Magda, thanks for the book suggestion. No, I have not read that one, but I will certainly look it up!

  3. Before December pressure there is there? Sometimes in some of my research I've found that time makes all of the difference. There are new individuals that become interested in family history and THEIR files or family information may provide that exact detail that I need, or I know of one situation where a historical society discovered boxes of documents long ago forgotten in a dusty basement. But for you, time is not on your side and you can't just set it aside hoping that with time, new information will become available. While its these kinds of mysteries that give us the most angst, they are also the very thing that brings us back to genealogical research, time and again.

    1. Well, Michelle, if it doesn't work out, there is always next December 31! I know there is a path from here to there, and I certainly don't mind taking the time necessary to do it right.

      You are so right about that collaborative aspect of the research. Thankfully, there already are other researchers out there who can help guide me through this. I may not get this done in the next two months, but it will get done somehow!


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