Monday, December 3, 2012

Deconstructing Misinformation

I’m on a mission to ferret out what is genuine fact and what is more likely the result of the genealogy version of the child’s game, “Telephone.” I want to revisit the segment from the John Jay Jackson bio that I quoted last Saturday, and examine it, bit by bit. Surely there is some truth that can be squeezed out of that seemingly enigmatic report.

Here’s what I found on page ninety-four of Pioneers of Perry County Ohio by 1830, compiled in 2003 by the Perry County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society:
Mr. Jackson was first married in 1816 at Bellefontaine, Missouri to Sarah Howard Ijams, daughter of Wm. Ijams (sister of William, John and Joseph Ijams) who later died in 1825. In January 1818, he accompanied his wife, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law across the Mississippi at St. Louis to Bearfield Township, Perry County Ohio, where they arrived the latter part of August.
First, let’s take an excruciatingly painstaking approach and list each of the “facts” we can glean from this paragraph:

·        The subject is John Jay Jackson
·        He was married in 1816
·        There is a place called Bellefontaine in Missouri
·        John Jackson’s wife was named Sarah Howard Ijams
·        Sarah was the daughter of William Ijams
·        Sarah was sister of William, John and Joseph Ijams
·        Someone died in 1825 (whether Sarah or her father)
·        A trip from Saint Louis to Ohio commenced in January, 1818
·        The party included John, Sarah, Mrs. Ijams and her son
·        The party arrived in Bearfield Township, Perry County, Ohio
·        The trip concluded late in August—presumably 1818

Next, let’s determine what directions we may now take, based on those prompts:

·        Marriage records for John Jay Jackson and Sarah Howard Ijams
·        Family constellation reconstruction through other documents
·        Cemetery or probate records for Ijams or Jackson death in 1825
·        Confirmation of date and location of marriage
·        Confirmation of date and location of death
·        Search and review history on Bellefontaine, Missouri
·        Review history on Bearfield Township, Perry County, Ohio

Of course, thanks to the assistance of some of you reading this blog, it appears no marriage documentation is readily available online for the Jacksons in Bellefontaine, Missouri. On a hunch that the marriage might actually have happened in Ohio rather than in Missouri, I’m also pursuing searching through marriage records in Fairfield County, Ohio, where the Ijams family lived before 1820.

With that whole list in mind, we have quite a bit of work cut out—and that is from just one paragraph! There is yet another whole page of information to be analyzed.

While I’m thankful that such records preserve and pass down information from the past—after all, the biographical sketch was extracted from an article published in the September 28, 1876, issue of the New Lexington Tribune—I still need to cast a jaundiced eye at all information. Information is best tamed when you have made it your own by diligent examination of all facets. It’s not that anyone is out to deceive you with wily designs of misinformation. It’s just that reports can be no more accurate than the people who create them.

And people often make mistakes.

Above left: Leo Lesser Ury, "Reader with Magnifier," oil on canvas, 1895; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain in Australia, the European Union, the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the artist plus seventy years.


  1. There is an Isaac Ijams listed in FindaGrave who died in 1825 in Stevenson Ruffner Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio.

    Find A Grave Memorial# 51979210

    Oddly, a son of his is listed as John Wesley Ijams.

    1. Iggy, I found some interesting items on this Isaac Ijams. Even though, from what I've already found, the family seems to be Catholic, I did find confirmation that Isaac was a founding member of the first Methodist Church in his county. It is no surprise, back in those years, to see him name a son after the Methodist Church's prime inspiration.

  2. I found this mention -

    "[Jackson, Robert Turner] was born Dec. 30, 1828 in Somerset, Perry County, Ohio. He was the son of John Jay Jackson (Feb. 17, 1792 - Sept. 24, 1876) and Sarah Howard Ijams (Oct. 6, 1796 - Feb. 12, 1829). He married Matilda Ann Deaver Feb. 25, 1851 in Perry County, Ohio."

    So it would seem the person that died in 1825 was not Sarah unless the "nine was heard as a five" and/or typo'ed.

    I also found this mention:

    "Facts of John Whistler's second marriage to Elizabeth (Howard) Ijams were recorded in a letter from Nancy A. Snider of Tiffin, Ohio, dated 4 February 1896 to "Cousin" William H. Ijams of Omaha, Nebraska. In it she states, "Some time after Grandfather's death (i.e., Mr. Ijams), Grandmother (Elizabeth Ijams) married General (sic) Whistler of the U.S.A., and moved to St. Louis, Mo., taking with her the three youngest children, - Joseph, Frederick and Sarah Howard, the latter marrying my father, John Jay Jackson, a soldier in the U.S.A. of 1812 there (i.e., in Saint Louis) . The second marriage of Grandmother (i.e., Sarah Howard's mother) was without issue."

    1. Yes, Iggy, from both that and what I've found, I'm more inclined to believe an 1829 date of death for Sarah, quite possibly as a result of the birth of her son Robert. What is difficult, though--in addition to lack of any documentation--is that I've seen other dates for Sarah's death, too. If it was in 1829, it had to be early in the year, because John Jackson remarried in that same year.

      Now, you and I both know only one of those dates can be correct. the old game show, I feel like bringing on the emcee who says, "Now, will the real Sarah Jackson please stand up???"

      I had just found the mention of Sarah's mother's remarriage, by the way. It gives credence to an early date of death for Sarah's father. I've been working on a post regarding that--but it entails brushing up on my American history (not my forte). There may be quite a story behind this shuttle between Perry County in Ohio and the Saint Louis area, even in those frontier years. The letter you found seems to explain it all in a way that makes sense.

      I'd love to know the source where you found this mention of the letter. That's a treasure!

    2. Sorry - here it is:

      Note #1153 on

    3. Thanks so much for finding that, Iggy. I took a look around. Oh, how I'd love to have a copy of that letter! Wonder how much more information it contains...

  3. I often argue with people about the fact that people make mistakes. Even on vital records and even, yes, on gravestones! My great great grandfather's stone is incorrect. His year of birth is off by one year.

    Don't you just love the detective work?

    1. Good perspective on that. Yes, I've got those gravestone stories, too...but it does help to focus on what we love, rather than those frustrations. Anyone who puts in the time searching will eventually come to that same realization.

  4. I thought you might like to have the following information about Elizabeth Howard Ijams and John Whistler
    Ye Ancient Swains records marriage as Whistler, Major John: Eliz. Yuas: Mar 1817

    Marriage Index: Ohio 1789-1850
    Whisler, John
    Yuas, Elizabeth
    March 7, 1817 Fairfield Co.

    Ohio source Records: Newspaper Extracts. Extracts from the Eagle Established 1817 (Fairfield Co., Ohio)
    Transcription of Text
    Married 1817...On Sunday, 2nd Inst. by Jacob Leef, Esq... Major John Whisler (sic) USA (United States Army) Commandant at Fort Wayne to Mrs. Elizabeth James (sic) wid of Late William James, Esq. of Richland Twp.

    1. Thanks for posting those two references! Very helpful--and leads me in a different direction for seeking marriage info for Elizabeth's daughter, as well. Besides those perennial editorial slips suffered by newspapers everywhere, the listing as "James" may not be problematic, either. As you've undoubtedly discovered yourself, the surname Ijams has been rendered with a number of different spellings, such as Iiams. I believe James was another version, so this is likely our couple.


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