Friday, October 26, 2012

Not to Make Things Difficult, But…

So we want to certify that our family is eligible to be designated as members of the First Families of Ohio, right? That entails the simple task of documenting descent from a man or woman intrepid enough to settle—before 1821—in what was once the wild and woolly Northwest Territory.

Well, it’s not like the Ohio Genealogical Society is insisting on residence in the area before becoming the Union’s seventeenth state—recognition for that comes with a special 1803 bicentennial pin for Society members whose ancestors were not merely intrepid, but truly trailblazers. This target family—the Flowers family of Perry County—won’t be that special.

There is, however, just that wisp of a notion that qualification for FFO could be in our future. Except for one thing: lack of records. After all, who kept records that far back? Especially for birth? Not the government.

The one set of records I have to rely on for this time period would be church records. True, there are also land records, but those would help only if the direct ancestor signed his name on the dotted line. Those living on and working the land of other family members left no such paper trail.

Of those church records, the earliest baptismal records seem spotty. While someone has been kind enough to transcribe those records and post them online for others to freely access (on this page, scroll down to the second blue subheading labeled, “Transcription”), the listings don’t begin until the year 1818. Our Flowers family supposedly celebrated birthdays dating from before that year.

Keep in mind that these early records were kept by itinerant priests. Actually, the first such records are signed “Edwd Fenwick”—the very man we met during the series concerning P. M. Flannigan, the Irish-born, Michigan-raised pastor of our Stevens family’s Chicago church, Saint Anne. Bishop Fenwick, located in Cincinnati during the time of Pastor Patrick M. Flannigan’s student years, had earlier devoted over a decade to missionary work, traveling throughout both Ohio and Kentucky.

In Perry County, Ohio—home of my husband’s Flowers family ancestors—then-Father Fenwick had blessed the first Catholic Church in Ohio, Saint Joseph Church in Somerset, on December 6, 1818. The transcription of baptisms includes a handful of names for that first year. None of them is surnamed Flowers.

Not many more names add to the list for the following year, although tantalizingly, the list does include some other Flowers family members. As far as I can tell at this point, there are no helpful clues regarding this Flowers family for any of the years leading up to the cut off point of December 31, 1820.

At least, that is, for the specific Flowers line I am researching. You see, I have a dilemma in my preliminary records. Looking at the family of Joseph S. and Elizabeth Ambrose Flowers, let’s take a look at the run of their four sons, beginning with son Joseph S. Flowers, junior, through son George Ambrose Flowers. Son Joseph was born in Pennsylvania in 1811, establishing that this is where the family lived before moving to Ohio. It does take one’s mother being in the same place as the child being born, logic would dictate, and so we can safely assume that where the son was, the parents were likely to be, also.

The next son, Thomas, was born in 1814. For this son, I have a handy report in a secondary source, stating that he was born in Ohio. According to page 405-406 of the 1883 History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Their Past and Present entry for “Thos. Flowers,” he was “born in Muskingum county [part of Ohio] in 1814; came to Perry county in 1820” and the article specified his parents’ names. Likewise in this case, where the son was born, the mother had to be close at hand. At least, I’d presume that meant she was also in Ohio.

Thomas, as fate would have it, is not our family’s direct ancestor. That would be too easy. Ours is the next child, Simon T. Flowers. And here’s the rub: there are records that state that Simon, born 1817, was in Pennsylvania at the time of his birth—not Ohio.

To complete the picture, the next son, George Ambrose Flowers, was also documented to have been born in Ohio. Thankfully, his arrival was before the First Families cut-off date; he was born in 1819. Mom must have been, again, in the vicinity, one would think.

So, does this mean the family commuted between Pennsylvania and Ohio from year to year? Not with the transportation innovations at hand during those times! If it was true that our family's direct ancestor, Simon, was born in Pennsylvania and not Ohio, can I at least assert that his mom—also a direct ancestor—was in Ohio before 1820, by virtue of the necessity of giving birth to other family members, even though they were not of our direct line? Can mom-hood count? By indirect line of reasoning?

Of course, I’ll make sure to do the due diligence dance and find corollary means for staking my claim. But I just wish ol’ Simon would have cooperated and kept his story straight for all the government officials who kept prying into his personal business concerning those key life events.


  1. What was their ethnicity? If it was German look for Blume, or Blumen. That might be a idea if the records are in German.

    1. Claudia, that's always a thought to keep in mind, especially back in that time period. However, according to other researchers--I haven't checked this out for myself yet--this Flowers family may have originated in the Alsace-Lorraine region between France and Germany. Whether they spoke German or French, I don't know. I am encouraged by the fact, though, that I've seen early-1800s records with the surname Flowers on them, so I don't have to worry about translation issues quite yet.

  2. I've read about the first Catholic priests and the records. I admire how patient you are. Hope you're successful. My ancestors didn't show up in Ohio until 1850s. I was lucky to find their naturalization record online through Univ. of Cincinnati. Always like coming to your blog and learning something!

    1. Bettyann, thanks for stopping by, and for your kind comments!

      Several readers through this past year have mentioned to me about their success in finding information through various university archives or collections. Some of those resources, when I hear of them, come as total surprises. Some of them are repositories that I've never heard of previously--but thanks to another researcher's tip, I now benefit from.

      Your mention of the University of Cincinnati is another point. These collections can have such helpful material, though I notice their collections often don't show through general-purpose search engine approaches. A researcher has to know how to find each of these collections and search through the university's own system in some cases. When you find a gem, such as the one you found in those naturalization records, it is so worth the effort. Other times, it seems like a fruitless effort. It takes the help of someone who's found something at a specific collection pointing readers in the right direction that makes the difference!

  3. I have no doubt that you will sort it all out:)

    1. I kinda think so, too. It's just the sticky details I'll have to wade through in the meantime that get to me...


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