Friday, July 31, 2015

Keeping Things Orderly

In sending for the full personnel file of my father-in-law's service during World War II, our family was treated to a detailed summary of every battle in the Pacific theater in which his unit engaged.

Not so for my husband's fourth great grandfather, who served in the 4th Regiment of the U.S. Riflemen during and after the War of 1812. Though it has been a fascinating excursion through our family's own micro-history to read John Jay Jackson's pension papers—now freely accessible online, thanks to a digitization project between the National Archives and a crowdsourced collection of corporate sponsors, nonprofit organizations, generous individual donors and volunteer transcribers—the record lacks those details of military operations to which we've become accustomed.

No small wonder. Apparently, at the start of our country's independence, what military forces we had at the time were likely hampered by widespread illiteracy. Whatever military training the officers of the nascent country might have had needed to be infused throughout the ranks of those whose fervor for freedom had possibly made up for their lack of military discipline.

Sensing that need, a system of paperwork flow had to be instituted. Among other reports, one such device was implemented during the years of the Continental Army, and formalized at the time of hostilities leading up to the War of Independence, by order of General George Washington,
It is order’d, and directed, that not only every regiment, but every Company, do keep an Orderly-book, to which frequent recourse is to be had, it being expected that all standing orders be rigidly obeyed, until alter’d or countermanded.
With that practice instituted in the American military by 1776, its continuance during the War of 1812 has yielded at least a basic record of military maneuvers for our study focusing on the regiment in which John Jackson served.

Though reporting on the record-keeping trait as established during that earlier war, a helpful document composed by John K. Robertson and Bob McDonald and posted online, "A Brief Profile of Orderly Books," provides an overview of this source of military history, which the authors call
the most basic document to be kept...that recording of all orders affecting a given command.
Fast forward, for our purposes in examining the whereabouts of John Jackson during and subsequent to the War of 1812, to our study of the various captains under whom he served. In addition to what I've been able to glean from Francis Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, the orderly books of the various expeditions have helped to reconstruct the narrative of the operations involving Jackson's captains.

In addition—and probably extending from that trait of military discipline in recording all in the Orderly Books—those who led the exploratory expeditions westward, after the War of 1812, also kept journals of their daily progress. Tomorrow, as we review the biographical details of one of Jackson's superiors, Charles Pentland, we'll benefit from the keeping of such records, which provide details as minute as travel conditions and as broad as scope of mission.

Above: 1855 oil on canvas by John Frederick Kensett, "Upper Mississippi," courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Captain Magee and the Pittsburgh Blues

The more I read about the War of 1812, the more I realize how little I know about that episode in our nation's history.

I am not alone. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reporting on a local bicentennial commemoration had commented on the "handful of spectators" attending the outdoor ceremony, calling the War of 1812 "the nation's forgotten conflict."

Because you and I have an inordinate interest in genealogy, we may have seen that recent bicentennial mark in a different light. That same year inspired the launching of the crowdsourced effort to make the war's pension papers freely available to the public through an ambitious project to digitize and index that entire National Archives collection. The Federation of Genealogical Societies partnered with lead sponsors to raise funds for the "Preserve the Pensions" project—an still-ongoing effort, as thirty five percent of the holdings are not yet digitized, with an estimated fifty percent of the cost yet to raise. Regardless, because so much of the collection is now accessible—for free at this website—the genealogy community has been more focused on researching this time period.

Fortunately, among the pension papers already searchable online is the folder of War of 1812 veteran John Jay Jackson, my husband's fourth great grandfather. If you've been clicking through the hyperlinks on my recent posts, you've been able to view the material in his packet.

It was there that I realized many of the captains he served under were listed in his file. In an attempt to learn more about his assignments, I've launched on an exploration of resources detailing the responsibilities—and, hopefully, battles—of each captain.

We've already taken a look at what could be found about the captain under which John Jackson enlisted yesterday. With today's post, I'll begin a review of what can be found about the next captain mentioned in the official acknowledgement of receipt of Jackson's application for pension: Captain Magee.

If it weren't for the handy Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, I wouldn't have found anything about Captain Magee. For one thing, there was no first name provided. When my search revealed no resources, I worried that "Magee" could have been a poorly-spelled attempt at a name like "McGee"—or worse, perhaps something like "McGehee."

As it turns out, the officer in question was Matthew J. Magee from Pennsylvania. As had the captain we reviewed yesterday—John Morris of Indiana—Captain Magee first served with his state's militia, and entered the war at the earliest point in 1812.

That Captain Magee hailed from Pennsylvania turned out to be a significant detail. Apparently, at the time, the question of war was not a popular proposition, politically—with few exceptions. One of those notable exceptions was the support offered the President by the governor and representatives from the state of Pennsylvania. Thus, Captain Magee and his regiment were listed as volunteers as early as August for a war not declared by Congress until June 18, 1812.

The group the Captain was assigned to lead was known as the Pittsburgh Blues—among the first of the Pennsylvania units to respond to the governor's call for troops. Originally a company of the state militia formed in 1807, once war was declared by the United States, members of the Blues became federal troops. Serving, at one point, under General William Henry Harrison—later to become a United States President—the Blues' campaigns took them primarily to various outposts in Ohio, then known as the Old Northwest.

Captain Magee's duties, however, took him elsewhere. By March 17, 1814, he was assigned as captain of the 4th Regiment of Riflemen—the very company which John Jackson was soon to join.

Once again, just as I had seen in attempting to research the history of Captain Morris' campaigns, I was unable to locate listings of which battles involved Captain Magee—and thus, Sergeant Jackson. However, as in my foray into the history of Captain Morris, the extraneous material I located on Captain Magee—and, along with him, another of Jackson's superiors, Charles Pentland—provided a sense of just what the terrain was like in the last outpost where we later found John Jackson.

Though a project organized just after John Jackson was discharged from service, both Magee and Pentland were involved in what was called the Long Expedition. Occurring in 1819 and 1820, the Long Expedition was the first federally-funded exploratory expedition accompanied by professional artists. Their journey up the Missouri River was captured on more than four hundred drawings and paintings.

Also pertinent to our understanding of the surroundings in which John Jackson was last assigned—and through which his future bride apparently traveled to meet up with him at Fort Bellefontaine in Missouri Territory—is the fact that Charles Pentland kept an extensive journal of his assignments and expeditions, including that of the Long Expedition.

Because of the material there that helps provide context for that era and location—remember, I'm still questioning the circumstances surrounding this wilderness tryst between John Jackson and Sarah Howard Ijams of Ohio—we'll take another detour tomorrow to explore what we can glean from the Pentland journals and other contemporaneous reports of such military expeditions.

Above: "Encampment of the Travelers on the Missouri," aquatint published circa 1839 by Johann Carl Bodmer, printmaker and illustrator who accompanied the expedition of German explorer, Maximilian, Prince of Wied; courtesy Wikipedia, via website; in the public domain.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Joining the Regiment

Tracing the history of John Jay Jackson's involvement with the United States Army's 4th Regiment of Riflemen during the War of 1812 can be challenging. First of all, there are no less than three different dates of enlistment stated in the Jackson pension papers: May 31, June 4, and August 31—all during the year of 1814.

One constant among all those varying details was that he enlisted in Erie, Pennsylvania, under the command of Captain John Morris. In hopes of finding more about John Jackson's service—his pension file lacking much detail on the campaigns in which he was involved—I decided to take a look at what could be found about each of the five captains named in the Jackson papers, the first of whom was John Morris.

Before launching into a report of what I discovered about John Jackson's first captain, it was helpful to glean some information on the company in which he served. Consistent to all his assignments was his connection with what was called the 4th Regiment of the U.S. Riflemen. While keeping my eye open for mentions of his regiment was helpful, I found that even learning about the establishment and organization of that regiment helped inform about John Jackson's whereabouts during and after the War of 1812.

When the regiment was first activated in 1808, there was only one such unit in the United States Army. Only upon an act of Congress in February, 1814, establishing three additional regiments of riflemen was each then designated by number. John Jackson was assigned to the 4th Regiment.

Complicating matters in my search for John Jackson's whereabouts during the war was the discovery that the regiment never fought together as one unit. Companies or detachments from the regiment were often allocated to other commands, thus partially explaining the list of captains under which John Jackson served. However, that also complicated the ability to determine whether he was present at any of the specific battles I was able to link with the various commanders.

As for determining Jackson's whereabouts from records concerning the captain under which he enlisted, I wasn't able to find much. The few mentions I found led to tangential information describing the times and conditions under which he likely served. However, these, too, helped inform a more complete understanding of the setting at the end of Jackson's service—that unclear time when, incredibly, he met and married Sarah Howard Ijams at an outpost of Missouri Territory sometime around 1818.

The most factual biographical sketch I could find on Captain John Morris was his entry in Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Issued by the Government Printing Office in 1903, the book contained two volumes of Army history from the date of its organization in 1789 to the year of publication.

While the John Morris entry was factual, it was also brief. It showed him to be from Indiana, having served as captain of that state's volunteers since 1812. Then, with the addition of the three extra regiments of riflemen in 1814, he was designated that year as captain of the 4th Regiment on March 17. The only other note about his service was that he was honorably discharged on June 15 of the subsequent year.

It was a Google search that led me to additional details on Captain Morris' life—and an overview of conditions just before the time of John Jackson's own enlistment. At the beginning of the conflict, in the vicinity of his post near Fort Wayne in what was then Indiana Territory, Captain Morris became one of the survivors of what was called the Pigeon Roost Massacre.

A footnote to the narrative about the massacre in Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 provides a description of life in Indiana Territory during that time:
The manner in which I used to work was as follows: on all occasions I carried my rifle, tomahawk, and butcher knife, with a loaded pistol in my belt. When I went to plow, I laid my gun on the plowed ground, and stuck up a stick by it for a mark, so that I could get it quick in case it was wanted.  I had two good dogs. I took one into the house, leaving the other out. The one outside was expected to give the alarm, which would cause the one inside to bark, by which I would be awakened, having my arms always loaded. I kept my horses in a stable close to the house, having a port-hole so that I could shoot to the stable-door. During two years I never went from home with a certainty of returning, not knowing the minute I might receive a ball from an unknown hand...

On the evening of September 3, 1812, a "scalping party"—possibly in league with the British as a diverting tactic in conjunction with a plan to attack Fort Wayne—descended upon a small settlement known as Pigeon Roost, killing three men, five women and sixteen children. Two men escaped the scene under cover of night, along with two surviving children in their care, and made it to safety at the home of another settler six miles away.

If you have been wondering why I've taken this sudden detour into the minutiae of Indiana history—and suspect the only possible reason for this rabbit trail—you are correct in assuming it involves Captain John Morris. Sadly, among those killed in the massacre were the captain's wife, mother, and only child. Although the accounts of this event don't explain the circumstances for his presence, they indicate Captain Morris had been there at one of the homes, had helped in its defense, and had, along with the owner of the home, aided in the escape of the two surviving children from that home.

While that vignette in Indiana history occurred before the Captain ever became the enlistment officer under whom John Jackson entered the service of the U.S. Army, it does serve to illustrate the conditions in which John Jackson found himself, once the war was over, when the 4th Regiment—along with the 2nd and 3rd—had been disbanded and re-organized into the original Regiment of Riflemen and then re-assigned to service along the Mississippi at Fort Bellefontaine.

An interesting footnote to that period of military history is my discovery that the original Regiment of Riflemen now has its own re-enactment group, complete with website describing its traditional duties at the time of its formation. While, unlike lineage societies, one does not need to be a direct descendant of those who served in the original regiments to be part of the re-enactment group, it would be interesting to see if anyone has researched his role enough to portray his own ancestor.

Besides the information provided in their website that I've already mentioned, the site also includes some additional details that may shed some light on the unexpected (at least to me) presence of women in these military settings. Along with some other details we'll glean from our tour of the biographical sketches of the other captains under which John Jackson served, this may provide possible reasons for the presence of Sarah Howard Ijams and her mother at Fort Bellefontaine after the close of the war.

Above: Sketch of Fort Wayne in 1812, from Benson J. Lossing's The Pictorial Field-book of the War of 1812 published 1868; in the public domain.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Who's Who of Jackson's Military History

Sometimes, the only way to find those elusive answers to questions about mystery ancestors is to let your fingers do the walking.

That's right: let your mind wander. Surf the Internet. Follow the trails that eventually lead you to stuff. But only after you absorb enough background information to brief you on the topic.

So that's what I ended up doing, stuck on John Jay Jackson, the New-York-born volunteer who enlisted in Pennsylvania for service in the War of 1812—and ended up being discharged from a fort in the Territory of Missouri to marry a gal from Maryland who was living in Ohio.

Got that?

You'd think we were talking about the jet set here. But no: this is a time frame dating almost exactly two hundred years ago.

My question is: how did all these folks get around? How did they meet? How did they get to know each other enough to decide to marry? I want to know the back story.

Of course, available resources are conspiring against me. John J. Jackson's pension papers are mum on the topic. It didn't help that his first wife—the wife I'm wondering about because she constitutes my husband's direct line and connection to yet another Revolutionary War Patriot—died within about ten years of their wedding day. It also didn't help that John's second wife also predeceased him. That those facts leave me with two reasons why the Jackson pension papers would have remained silent about family doesn't do much to brighten my research mood.

Since normal modes of research aren't turning up key revelations I'm seeking, I'm trying another tack: look for historical notes on the captains mentioned in the Jackson pension papers. After all, there is no shortage of name-dropping opportunities there. There are four captains mentioned in the official paperwork recounting his tour of duty: Duffy, Birdsell, Magee and McGonigle. Also mentioned was brevet brigadier general Thomas Adams Smith. In addition, the pension paperwork shows me that John J. Jackson enlisted in Pennsylvania under Captain John Morris. And that his discharge papers from Fort Bellefontaine were signed by "Charles Pentland, Adj. Rifle Regt."

Googling all those names, admittedly, didn't produce quite the wealth of results I had hoped for. Partly, that was because of incorrect spellings. "Birdsell" turned out to be Birdsall, for instance—and I won't even begin to explain (today, at least) what "Duffy" turned out to be. Lack of first names, either by outright omission or camouflaged by those irritatingly uninformative double initials, served to further frustrate the search.

What I did stumble upon, though, were some interesting facts about some of those gentlemen officers. Charles Pentland, for instance, was mentioned in several footnotes in books of the later 1800s, in which it was revealed that he religiously kept a journal—a record from which were drawn reports in a number of other volumes, all documenting the types of transportation difficulties faced by John Jackson's own company as they served along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and the types of living conditions then expected in that region.

I also may have partly uncovered the reason why John Jackson went through so many captains: they either were discharged just prior to John Jackson, or were transferred to other posts. In one case, a captain was murdered.

We'll take a brief look at the service of each of these men and how it might have intersected with the tour of duty of our John Jackson—providing one way to get a sense his whereabouts during and after the War of 1812. In addition, we'll glean a few reports from the contemporaries of these men, illustrating the customs and expectations of the times in these remote areas around the Missouri Territory where Jackson served. As it turned out, there was a lot to learn, just from familiarizing myself with the biographies of the captains under which John Jackson served.

Because I couldn't help myself and kept searching until I found some interesting resources, I have too much to cover in one day's post, so we'll take each man's story, one day at a time, beginning with John Jackson's beginning: Captain John Morris.

While none of these officers were related to our Sergeant Jackson, of course, it may seem a waste of time to take such a detour—but you know me: a glutton for The Bright Shiny. These rabbit trails lend themselves well to my genealogical exploratory style. If nothing else, they help me get up to speed on the times and customs of an era of our history and region of our country with which I'm not as well informed.

Above: "River Bluffs, 1320 miles above Saint Louis," oil on canvas by American traveler, author and artist George Catlin, circa 1846; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blinded By Mindsets

I've lately caught myself making research assumptions based on details of experiences I'm accustomed to having now. There is apparently a part of my brain that automatically fills in the blanks on the cultural and historical aspects of my ancestors' lives that I don't know—handily inserting details that might be commonplace now, but not necessarily then.

Take this current mission to find documentation on the marriage of  War of 1812 veteran John Jay Jackson and his intended, Ohio resident Sarah Howard Ijams. In my mind, I assume that they naturally exchanged their wedding vows after he completed his tour of duty. That weddings always take place in the location indicated by the bride and her family. That wives would never be out at the battle front—or even near it, sequestered within the confines of the fort—during times of war.

Since I wasn't making headway, relying on my presumptions, it was time to revise the protocol. Well, actually, this didn't occur in quite so rational a fashion. What I did do was attempt a detour around my brick wall detail by zeroing in on those several captains mentioned in John Jackson's pension papers. My thinking was: if I could learn a bit about the facts surrounding each captain's own tour of duty, then perhaps I could cobble together an idea of what assignments John Jackson might have taken part in, too. An added bonus might be a more precise timeline of service and an itinerary of where his almost-five-year tour of duty led him.

My thinking might have been stellar, but it encountered hindrances.

For one thing, not every captain's name came up in searches, no matter how clever I tried to be with search terms. Still, I found enough to make the effort worthwhile.

Another problem was that what was written about the captain might have been far removed from the segment which intersected with Jackson's own service. The price I paid for that, however, more than made up for that research handicap.

What I began to glean from my research wanderings was a fuller sense of what the times were like. More importantly, it revealed what was customary, in the realm of military service—and, actually, life in general—during the times in which this ancestor once served, out on the then-frontier fringes of western America.

But the end result was that this foray into books and reports of that time period opened my eyes to customs and options much different than those I handed myself by my limiting assumptions. The realm of possibilities for how Sarah came to meet John—and even further back than that, how Sarah's widowed mother came to meet her own second husband before their marriage at that Missouri Territory fort at Bellefontaine—has broadened considerably.

Above: "Fur Traders Descending the Missouri," 1845 oil on canvas by Saint Louis portrait artist, George Caleb Bingham; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What a Difference a Date Can Make

While I'm primarily struggling with dates of enlistment and discharge for John Jay Jackson because I want to determine exactly when he married Sarah Howard Ijams, apparently John Jackson was pursuing verification of those dates for a very different reason.

As we've already seen, when John Jackson enlisted under Captain John Morris in 1814, he had agreed to five years of service. Apparently, there was a payoff for keeping one's word in the terms of service under which he enlisted. And it didn't seem to be simply how much his survivor's pension might be, once he needed the money. There seems to be a matter of land involved, as well.

As is often the case, when it comes to agreements with the government, there might have been some fine print in the mix. Being that one of farmer John Jackson's sons eventually became an attorney in nearby New Lexington, Ohio, John was apparently well-equipped to take on any arguments arising from having taken advantage of one particular loophole, once it came time for him to call in those governmental promises.

My first clue that something was unusual about the Jackson pension papers was gleaned from a hand-written note affixed to the back of a letter. It contained the explanation:
A Certificate must be produced [?] from a [Commissioned] Officer in service, stateing [sic] the name of your [substitute?] & that he engaged to serve for 5 years from the date of your discharge, as the evidence cannot be procured from the rolls....

Looking further, the pension file revealed the information John Jackson must have been seeking: the document showing one Michael Kelly, "born in Dublin in the Kingdom of Ireland," who had voluntarily enlisted in the army at Bellefontaine in the Territory of Missouri. The document was dated April 13, 1818, and was witnessed by J. J. Jackson.

For his enlistment, Michael Kelly received from Captain McIntosh a twelve dollar bounty, for which he signed by placing his mark. Duly noted, below that, was the Captain's statement explaining the nature of the transaction:
I certify on Honor that the above named Michael Kelley substituted in the place of Quarter Master Sergt John J. Jackson U.S. Rifle Regt.

Penciled in, beneath the signatures, was the question, "Did Kelly engage for 5 years," likely a follow up to the subsequent application made by John Jackson for his pension—or, possibly, for paperwork requesting an enlistment bounty of 160 acres of land.

Substitutions were apparently a permissible way to disengage from that five year term of service. If that transaction was dated April 13, 1818, we might then be able to deduce the reason for John Jackson's desire to end his military service—and also the possible date for the upcoming event motivating his change of plans. If, that is, John Jackson's marriage occurred after the end of his military service.

Above: "Spring. High Water," painting by classical Russian landscape artist Isaac Ilyich Levitan; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Dates That Drive to Distraction

Though genealogy's research is driven by both names and dates, we most often focus on the names. However, in hoping to pinpoint John Jay Jackson's whereabouts during and after the War of 1812—trying, mainly, to determine when and where he actually wed Sarah Howard Ijams—I'd like to take one post to examine solely the dates.

Dates, it turns out, vary in the Jackson military history, depending on which document one is reading.

For instance, so far, I've found three different dates of enrollment for John J. Jackson. And no—though an understandable hypothesis—these differing dates aren't for other men with the same name. Each of these documents can be found in the War of 1812 pension files for John Jay Jackson of Somerset, Perry County, Ohio.

Take his claim for a survivor's pension, filed June 22, 1871. There, his date of enlistment showed as August 31, 1814.

Remember that fragment of a parchment I mentioned yesterday? Though the date of issuance was cut from the document, one line yet visible was the one confirming he
was enlisted the thirty first day of May Eighteen hundred and fourteen.

Unless it was a forgery, I'd take that parchment to be the older document and thus the more reliable source.

Yet another document confirms that enlistment date as June 4, 1814—and refers to the "Roll dated December 31st, 1815" as source for that date.

As can be seen on that last record, the same discrepancy seemed to exist, concerning John Jackson's date of discharge. On the roll dated June 30, 1819, from the last post at which the Quartermaster Sergeant served at Fort Bellefontaine, his discharge was said to have occurred June 4, 1819.

At this point, would you be surprised to learn that his date of discharge—according to a different Pension Office document—was listed as May 31, 1818. Although the document went on to add the explanation that Jackson "served afterwards under Capt. W. L. Duffy," we are talking about a discrepancy of over a year's difference. When it comes to applications for pension, that could make a difference for a man in his later years.

All told, for his pension, the final tally showed John Jackson was credited with a length of service of four years and three hundred eight days—not quite the five years that a different combination of the dates on record might have indicated. Considering the agreement under which he enlisted was to serve for five years "or as needed," he didn't quite make the original deal.

While one concern might be to learn what impact that might have had on his pension—or even eligibility to receive land grants—my insistence on getting the right dates is not driven by that question. What I'm really seeking is an indication of when he might have married his first wife, the young Sarah Howard Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio.

On the other hand, reviewing all the discrepancies on these dates—both on entering and on leaving the service of the United States Army and its Fourth Regiment, U.S. Rifles—makes me wonder: why didn't he get credited for a full five years' service?

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Little Home Decorating Project

It was a strange strip of time-worn paper which, in addition to the anticipated yellowing of the centuries, gave every appearance of once being part of a d├ęcoupage project. It would not have been surprising to discover this slip of paper lying on a craft table, but that is not where I found it. I found it in a pension file from the War of 1812.

The cover of John J. Jackson's file, pursuant to the Act of February 14, 1871, indicated that subsequent to his service in Captain John Morris' company during the War of 1812, he had been discharged in the Spring of 1817.

The "Brief of Claim for a Survivor's Pension" amended that information to include service under Captains Magee, Birdsell and McGonigle, as well. However, there the dates showed enlistment on the last day of August, 1814, and discharge on June 4, 1819.

Over the course of the twenty six pages in the John J. Jackson file, the paperwork to secure his pension provided—or conflicted with—the basic facts of his service during and after that war. There were some curious insertions among those pages, but none more surprising—or aggravating—than that slip of yellowing paper found on the ninth page of the digitized personnel folder.

On that page, a typeset statement laid alongside the aged fragment of the page assured the researcher,
"All unique information in the document is visible in this image."

But looking at the image itself—seemingly a confusing mishmash of sentences—I got the distinct feeling there was much more that this page was wanting to tell us. The bold heading at the top read,
To all whom it may concern...

In much smaller script, the flowery hand continued,
...That John J. Jackson, Quarter Master Sergeant of the Rifle Regt...

At that precise spot, where the entry continued on the next line of the page, another piece of paper had been slapped over the first, at ninety degree angle and irritatingly face down, although the ink seemed to have bled through the paper. Whatever was written on the reverse side is now lost to us.

It seems hardly a matter to fuss about—and perhaps that might be so for anyone not caring to know more about this John J. Jackson of Somerset in Perry County, Ohio—but from the scraps of text I was able to decipher from the remainder of the segment, I could tell I would have been interested to see the rest.
...who was enlisted the thirty first day of May, Eighteen hundred and hereby honorably discharged from the Army of the United States...was born in Otsego...the State of New York, is twenty...

And that was the end of the readable portion. A side note, obviously added by someone reviewing the application, instructed the viewer to
Hold this discharge up to the light and the Genuine Signature of S. C. Pentland will be seen.

Oh, how I would have liked to have read the rest of that narrative! Granted, the details revealed themselves in the remaining twenty six pages in the Jackson file. At least, I presume they did. I have no way of knowing what might have been missing.

So, what became of that yellowed record that ended up only a fragment in John Jackson's military record?

A statement, signed on September 19, 1820, might provide the explanation.
Before me, a Notary Public duly commissioned + sworn personally, came John J. Jackson of said county and maketh oath that that [sic] he enlisted as a private in the 4th Rifle Regiment of the United States at Erie Pennsylvania on the 31st day of May 1814 for 5 years or until unless sooner discharged by proper authority, that he served as Quarter Master Sergeant of the Rifle Regiment until the 31st of May 1818...that his discharge was dated on the said 31st of May 1818 and signed by Charles Pentland Adj Rifle Regt. This discharge has since been mutilated by a female who did not know the value thereof + pasted it in a window. 
See? D├ęcoupage project.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Signs of His Presence

So the story goes, concerning ancestor John Jay Jackson, that
[a]fter the war was over, he in some way drifted to St. Louis, and he emigrated from that place, or vicinity, to Bearfield township, Perry county, Ohio, and his name will be found in the history of that township as one of the first settlers.

If that is so, we should be able to locate some corroboration of that assertion which was shared in the 1883 tome, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio: Their Past and Present. And there are some encouraging signs.

Take this copy of the census for Perry County, enumerated in 1820. Not far from the bottom of the first page for Bearfield Township, as promised, there was the entry for John J. Jackson.

In his household was one male between the ages of twenty six and forty four—that would be John, who was born in 1792—plus a woman between the ages of sixteen and twenty five and a girl under the age of ten. Unless there was more than one John J. Jackson in that tiny township in the wide open places of that then-newly-established state of Ohio, the woman was likely his wife, Sarah Howard Ijams. Since the only daughter I am currently aware of—my husband's direct ancestor, Nancy Ann Jackson—was not born until 1823, I have yet to determine who the child might have been.

Although the History book mentioned Jackson's arrival in the county was "in 1815 or 1816," I couldn't manage to find any documentation of his presence in Perry County before 1820. Included in that pursuit was a review of a transcription of the county's 1819 tax record, obtained from the auditor of the State of Ohio, which showed one Jacob Jackson, but no other Jacksons at all.

However, even the history book didn't know the history of the county it was purportedly describing. The county wasn't founded until March 1, 1818. Records dating farther back would have to obtained from whatever county in which the Jackson residence had previously been recorded.

Land records didn't seem to help, either. Though Jackson is not an unusual name—and its combination with a given name as oft-used as John no help in fingering the right individual in our search—there still didn't seem to be any likely prospects among the many John Jacksons brought up in a document search through the General Land Office Records. Not in pre-1820 Perry County, nor in the surrounding counties during that time period, either.

The war referred to in that history's narrative was, of course, the War of 1812, and it may be there that we find the one detail that can be corroborated by actual documentation. Even that, though, presents its own problems. Set aside any hope of finding a widow's pension application with all the usual details of benefit to family history researchers; unlike many veterans, John Jay Jackson not only long outlived Sarah Howard Ijams, but survived well beyond the passing of a second wife, as well.

That John Jackson "in some way drifted to" Saint Louis is an odd way of representing that portion of his life's history. It also does no justice to whatever arrangement allowed a widow and her marriageable-aged daughter to travel west through the frontier to Jackson's post along the Mississippi—and then return home to Ohio through conditions just as rugged and dangerous. Oh, and in the meantime, exchange two sets of vows—one for the mother, one for the daughter.

I had hoped the archived records from the War of 1812 would shed some light on the reasons behind these events, but as some of you had suspected, the contents of the Jackson file turned out to disappoint on that account.

In other ways, the file provoked even more questions.

Above: "View of Bald Face Creek in the Ohio River Valley," 1858 painting by Berlin-born artist, Henri Lovie; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Marching Orders

After hissing and moaning over the difficulties anticipated for my newest project—finding enough documentation to connect my mother-in-law's family to Revolutionary War Patriots Lyman Jackson and William Ijams—it turns out I actually have quite a few resources already assembled.

Primary among them is an excerpt I found in a book entitled History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio: Their Past and Present. Being a book published in 1883, of course the title runs on for at least seven more lines of text—ending, incidentally, with the helpful "Biographies and Histories of Pioneer Families, etc., etc."

I'm always overjoyed to stumble upon such entries in the history publications of that prior century. I don't, however, see them as gospel truth. I tend to use the information gleaned from their pages as guide and trailblazer for my own research. If you are not convinced of the wisdom of this approach, perhaps the observations of the next couple days will persuade you otherwise.

John Jay Jackson, supposed son of Patriot Lyman Jackson and husband of the daughter of Patriot William Ijams, merited an entire paragraph in this book of over twelve hundred pages. Yes, you read that right: the book has 1222 pages—yet another of the many reasons why I love digitized and searchable manuscripts.

At face value, the text contains a number of clues to guide our research:
John J. Jackson, of this township, and the latest surviving soldier of the War of 1812 in it, though a quiet, modest man all his life, has rather an eventful history. He served through the War of 1812, and drew a pension to the day of his death, for military services rendered the United States Government. After the war was over, he in some way drifted to St. Louis, and he emigrated from that place, or vicinity, to Bearfield township, Perry county, Ohio, and his name will be found in the history of that township as one of the first settlers. His first wife was an Ijams, a sister of William, John and Joseph Ijams, well remembered by the older citizens of Perry county. Mr. Jackson and others journeyed from St. Louis, across the country, to this county, in 1815 or 1816. It was a journey full of strange adventures. So far as now remembered, Mr. Jackson and companions are the only pioneers of Perry county who emigrated from the West. All the others came from the East or South, and nearly all from the East.

Besides the dates and locations mentioned in the narrative, the big prize is the detail about John Jackson's involvement in the War of 1812. Even more important than that was the fact that he drew a pension following his service. While the tedium of having to sift through a list of numerous other pensioners with a surname as common as Jackson coupled with a given name as oft-used as John will be the main obstacle, at least this gives us the possibility of finding documentation that may include other details I need. Remember, the goal is to construct a paper trail connecting my current day relatives with either John Jay Jackson or William Ijams—or, hopefully, both.

Above: "Blue Hole, Little Miami River," 1851 oil on canvas by Robert Seldon Duncanson; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why I Stopped

If you found it rather extreme that I should have completed, over three years after its start, my application to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, then I expect this explanation will strike you in quite the same manner.

In yet another attempt to connect with a Patriot, I am currently struggling over how to locate documents connecting my mother-in-law's family line with the Patriot, William Ijams. While it sounds like it's helpful that William's daughter had also married the son of a patriot—Lyman Jackson—it's not turning out that way.

It's not just a matter of inaccessible documentation. Granted, I'll have to get my hands on some old-fashioned paper records, likely during a trip back east. But that's not the main issue.

What's at hand here is a situation which either falls in the cracks between regularly scheduled forms of early documentation, or moves far afield of the type of civilization which is accustomed to such documentation. In other words, the story of what became of these people has been handed down in various—sometimes conflicting—permutations. And I needed to review those twists and turns in the narrative.

I had gone down this path before. Just as I had mentioned initiating my search for my own D.A.R. Patriot years ago—worse, in reviewing my notes, I found Sheri Fenley's own blog post about our first meeting to start the project indicating the true date was more likely in 2011—I had started the search for the Jackson and Ijams connections almost as long ago. Right after the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012, to be exact.

How did I remember that trivial detail so vividly? Simple: I Googled my original series of posts to refresh my memory on the tangled pile of data I had found back then.

In reading that series, starting here, only so slowly did the realization dawn on me of what it was that kept me from completing the task that first time. Calling it deja vu would cast the experience in too cheerful a light, so I suppose I'd have to find a more somber label for that creeping melancholy that again slipped over me.

I had pre-written some of those posts, back in 2012, because I knew I'd be going on a business trip to the Midwest; taking a break in the midst of our duties to visit family nearby, I couldn't help but remember the cousin who had died there of cancer less than a year before. Then, right after starting the series, our family was hit with the surprising loss of another relative—my sister-in-law. And just before that Christmas Eve, I received a phone call that my aunt had unexpectedly fallen, in the midst of picking up her bags to head out of town with friends for a holiday trip, and broken her neck.

It was a devastating month. If it hadn't been for writing up some of that research ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have had any of the work laid out for this project, at all. Even now, getting my head around all the twists and turns is overshadowed by those memories. Funny how we forget some of the details. Maybe that is merciful.

In pursuing family history, when we spend so much of our time focusing on those who are no longer with us, it seems ironic to realize how much the circumstances we write off as "Life Happens" can get in the way of research progress.

Above: "The Oxbow," Thomas Cole's 1836 oil on canvas depicting the view of the Connecticut River from Mount Holyoke near Northampton, Massachusetts, after a thunderstorm; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Extracting Clues About Nancy

The difficulty with identifying family connections in the early 1800s is that documents from that time period don't share, outright, the information we are seeking. Reconstructing our family history earlier than 1850 is an entirely different process than the post-1840 process of checking census records, or availing ourselves of post-1860 marriage records, or even the more detailed death records of the early 1900s. Sometimes, we have to infer the details we are seeking.

That's pretty much what I'm doing, in piecing together the life history for Nancy Ann Jackson Snider. I can tell from her death record in Perry County, Ohio, that she was born in nearby Fairfield County, because someone thought to record that detail in the November 23, 1905, record. Because the record gave the exact length of her life—down to the number of months and days—I can conclude that her birth was on or about February 5, 1823.

Furthermore, I know that Nancy Ann married Simon Snider in 1841 because that detail is included in the index to marriages in Perry County—and, as long as the surname discrepancy doesn't cause us to wince too badly, we can presume that it was their wedding that occurred on October 25.

We can track the names and approximate life spans of all fourteen of the Snider children by following the records of the 1850 census, the 1860 census, and—even though Nancy Ann became a widow on April 3, 1867—even in the 1870 census.

Though it took other means to determine Nancy Ann's parents' names, I can't help but notice that her father and step-mother lived next door to the Snider household, according to the 1860 census—and that they stayed close at hand through at least the 1870 census, as well.

"J. J." Jackson—John Jay—had been in the area of Perry County for years. Even though his daughter Nancy Ann had been born the next county over, there are reports of the Jackson family being in Perry County from an early point.

Actually, some of those stories seem to be conflicting reports—seeming to repeat the difficulty I had had in tracing John Jay Jackson's whereabouts, ever since he and Sarah Howard Ijams had been married, sometime after his service up river from Saint Louis during the War of 1812. This is a story that will do us well to revisit, tomorrow, as we retrace the soldier's steps as he returned to civilian life, raised a family, lost a wife, and moved from one county in Ohio to another—a task made all the more difficult because it occurred during an era not obsessed with leaving a paper trail.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Remote? Or Coincidental?

I suppose there is always the chance—no matter how remote—that two genea-bloggers might share the same ancestor. We certainly have equipped ourselves to be able to determine that, should we stumble upon familiar surnames in each other's posts. After all, I've already discovered that my Genealogy Angel and D.A.R. guide, Sheri Fenley, and I are umpteenth cousins, courtesy of that long-standing (and prolific) Taliaferro line.

What are the chances that I'd meet another blogger-turned-relative?

Well, it turns out, while working on this latest goal—documenting my in-laws' connection to a D.A.R. Patriot—I was reminded to check a particular surname in my husband's DNA test results.

The way it happened was this: each time I work my way down through the lines of descent from a sibling of an ancestor, if that sibling was a woman who married, I check to see if the newly-added spouse's surname matches any of the people on our DNA test results. This weekend, I stumbled upon a surname which evidently has more than one intermarriage with my husband's mother's line—but one which I hadn't checked before on his DNA match list.

I headed over to my husband's list of DNA matches to plug in that surname, but while I meant to enter the name in its proper place—"Ancestral Surnames"—I had entered it in the slot used to search for other test participants by their own name.

Five results popped up. One of them included a picture of the participant.

Right away, I recognized the photo. It was for a fellow genea-blogger.

My immediate thought was, "Cool. We match!"

Then, I got to thinking about it. If anyone from my family was going to match this person, it should have been me. I've often read this blogger's posts, amazed at how our ancestors walked the same streets in the same town and surely must have known each other.

I took a look at the blogger's list of ancestral surnames. There even was one that matched a surname that was married into my line. But, wait! This was supposed to be a DNA match to my husband's line. How did that happen?

Of course, the relationship is noted as distant—"5th Cousin to Remote Cousin"—but nonetheless, it was there. In his list of results. Not mine.

I shot off an email right away. If we can't find the nexus for our match—and it's quite likely we won't—at least it's good for a chuckle.

But it also gives pause to consider how significant a percentage of test returns those Identical by State results might be.

Meanwhile, though I'm hot in pursuit of a new genealogical goal, I haven't forgotten about my duty to keep bi-monthly tabs on my progress. Yes, it's that time again. So I'll break in here to check on the count in each tree.

This new goal has certainly energized the work on this particular line. In the past two weeks, I was able to add 159 individuals to my husband's maternal tree, bringing the total number of people there to 1265. And, as I had predicted last time, with the influx of a new batch of DNA tests from conferences and the Global Family Reunion extravaganza, this tree gained seven more DNA matches—albeit all distant ones.

Sadly, in all the enthusiasm over my husband's maternal line, his paternal side suffered from lack of attention. The total count there still stands at 877.

Likewise, in my own trees, the paternal side stood nearly stock still. The only improvement—thanks to that discovery of an old marriage record for Aunt Rose—was the addition of the two names listed in that document. Of course, those names, as we've already seen, led us nowhere. But at least now I have 150 in my paternal tree.

Because my maternal tree enjoyed the boost from my project to find the nexus with my "mystery cousin," the first of only two "exact match" results for my mtDNA test, that meant adding 173 names to my own maternal tree. The count there now stands at 4509. And yet, I'm still no closer to an answer than before. However, I'll let that puzzle percolate in the back of my mind while I attend to this task of finding documentation to connect my husband's family with their own D.A.R. Patriot.

And who knows? Maybe that remote cousin in my husband's DNA matches will turn out to be more than just a coincidence, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Starting From What We Know

One rule of thumb, in genealogical research, is to move incrementally from what we know toward what we hope to discover. No sudden moves. No surmising. That step-by-step discipline will lead you straight to the information you are seeking.


In working on my mother-in-law's family lines over the years, I had pushed back gradually, following that precept. For whatever reason, when I got to the point of Nancy Ann Jackson Snider on my mother-in-law's matrilineal line, I had stopped.

Then came a trip back east. We just happened to need to drive from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio. If we took just a little detour from the usual Interstate route through Indy, we could pass through Fort Wayne.

If you've been doing genealogical research for any amount of time, you know what that means. Do not pass go. Do not do anything else until you've stopped at the Allen County Public Library.

Why? They've got a genealogical center with holdings setting them in the number two position, behind Salt Lake City, for family history research. Actually, amend that: since the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is considered to be a private library, when it comes to the Allen County library, it is considered to have the largest public genealogy collection in the United States.

So I stop when I drive through Fort Wayne.

It was the last stop I had made to that wonderful reference collection that provided the clue that led me to realize that it might not be wise for me to discontinue my research with Nancy. Rather than be the end of the research line, Nancy might just open the door to the beginning of an interesting pursuit.

Since we need to approach this new foray incrementally, let's take a look at what material I have gathered for Nancy Ann Jackson Snider over the years.

One of the first items easily discovered for Nancy Ann was that there was apparently another married woman by the same name in Perry County, Ohio—so I was forewarned to tread carefully among the pages of that county's history. After living her entire life within the confines of Perry County, the woman I later learned was the other widow Nancy Ann Snider had died in 1891 at the age of seventy four. Our Nancy Ann lived her eighty three years, nine months and eight days until 1905. Besides, unlike her name twin, our Nancy Ann was born in nearby Fairfield County—a little research detail which will come in handy, later.

In addition, a trip to the cemetery at the Sniders' hometown church in Somerset quickly confirmed our choice of which Nancy Ann to favor. Our Nancy Ann was married to Simon Snider—on October 25, 1841, to be specific—although even here, the record was riddled with errors. Warning number two: beware of bureaucrats making mistakes in official documents. Although the note in the margin of page 38 of the Perry County Marriage Records, volume three, had listed "Simon Snider to Nancy Jackson," the handwritten statement read,
I do certify that I did on the 25 day of October A.D. 1841 solemnize the marriage of Simon Snider and Nancy Johnson.

Johnson? Really? Make my day.

Those slips of the pen didn't end there. Remember, research needs to progress incrementally—and here I am, jumping all over the place in my data-dumping rush to tell you everything. So let's look at what we can find in the census records.

Since our Nancy Ann died in 1905, the most recent census record for her was the 1900 census. There, as a widow living with one of her married daughters, Nancy Ann reported that she was the mother of fourteen children, eight of whom were still living—eight more opportunities to verify the details reported in Nancy Ann's life records. That was pretty much the same story, moving back through all the census records until arriving at the 1860 census.

Since Simon, Nancy Ann's husband, had died in 1867, this was the first census which included his name. That is probably a good thing. You see, once again, someone got Mrs. Snider's name wrong. In this case, though, the enumerator wasn't the one getting it wrong; it was whoever transcribed her record. There, she's "Mary Ann." However, when you look at the original document, it looks pretty clearly like a Nancy Ann to me. Warning number three: if at all possible, always go back to the original document (or a clear facsimile of it) to glean your information.

I'm probably mixing my sayings when I hope that "three's a charm" means no more problems with vital records. Even though our push to uncover more about Nancy Ann Jackson Snider's past is not guaranteed to go any more smoothly than this, we can hope we've already paid our dues with these few research tangles, and can now move on to the previous generation.

Above excerpt from the 1860 census record for Reading Township in Perry County, Ohio, courtesy

Friday, July 17, 2015

That Scorecard Detour...

Now that I've found my new marching orders—to document my sisters-in-law's connection to a Revolutionary War Patriot—let's take a look at the scorecard for my husband's maternal line.

This is a diagram showing where I currently am, in transferring my research on my husband's line to my account. The line I'm targeting to possibly lead my sisters-in-law to D.A.R. eligibility comes from Nancy Ann Jackson, wife of Simon Snider.

There are a few things to notice about this snapshot.

First is that, in following the line from Nancy Ann Jackson to the present, we realize that we are tracing my husband's matrilineal line. In other words, should either of his sisters (or he, himself) wish to have an mtDNA test done, it would reveal their deep ancestry following this very line of ascent.

The second feature of this family tree diagram is that it represents an incredibly convenient research feature for me: each member on this chart lived and died in one particular place in mid-Ohio, known as Perry County.  Over the years, while visiting family in the Columbus area, my husband and I have often walked the cemeteries of Perry County, notebooks in hand. We've sometimes visited the courthouse and gone through the old, old records there.

Of course, while in-person visits are wonderful, they are few and far between. That leaves the rest of the research year to depend on what can be found through other means—mostly through online research.

While there may not be many digitized documents specifically available from this county in such online repositories as or, I have spent years researching this location and happen to have found a gem of a resource. It is a site done on a volunteer basis by a distant cousin of the family—everyone in Perry County is a distant cousin—who has painstakingly scanned and posted historic record after record on his own website. While we have, over the years, made several trips back to Ohio to visit family—and, of course, slipped away for some genealogical research while we were in the neighborhood—Tim Fisher's invaluable site has stood in the gap for those in-between-trip times when I needed to look something up, now.

Another plus for researching Perry County is the fact that, over the years, they have had an active genealogical society, diligent in preserving records and publishing books on their work. It was one of their publications—which I found during a trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana—that alerted me to the possibility that Nancy Jackson was indeed a descendant of a Revolutionary War Patriot.

So, that's where my research progress stands, up to this point. As you'll notice by the green arrows to the right of Nancy Ann Jackson's name, I've begun to add the next generation. But because Nancy Ann, herself, was likely born in 1823, there are many aspects to this type of search that don't conform to the usual approaches taken to research later arrivals on the family tree.

To get an idea of what's ahead of us, we'll take a closer look at what we know, currently, about Nancy in tomorrow's post.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Daughter's Work is Never Done

I can't blame you if you had assumed, after reading yesterday's post at A Family Tapestry, that I would now delve into finding the next generation of ancestors in those maternal lines still puzzling me. If you had drawn that conclusion, I would normally have heartily congratulated you on your astute observation.

But sometimes, Life happens.

Now, don't go assuming that this means an unfortunate downturn of events. On the contrary. Remember: not only is there bad stress, there is also good stress. This is one of those good times.

Yesterday, I finally—yes, unbelievably, finally!—completed the last step in sending in my application to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. All, incidentally, in time to be included in this 125th anniversary year of celebration! It's, um, only been about three years since I officially started the process. And, just as it was begun three years ago, yesterday it ended over another cup of coffee.

In what should have simply been a meeting to provide a festive closure to such a long process, after affixing my signature to the drawn-up application, I guess I couldn't bear the thought of having it all "over." The thrill of the hunt is too alluring for me. I had to have a new chase to look forward to.

With a smile still on her face—incredibly, after all those months of coaching me through the research process—my genealogy angel was quite gracious as I grasped for ideas on a next challenge. Currently serving as Registrar of our local D.A.R. chapter, professional genealogist and fellow genea-blogger Sheri Fenley has exhibited the patience of a saint in coaxing me toward closure on this one project. And now, I want to do this to her again?

From somewhere in the back of my mind came the realization that, not only could my daughter also be a D.A.R. member by virtue of my maternal line's Patriot—Zachariah Taliaferro—but she could doubly qualify for membership, thanks to her paternal grandmother's history, as well.

In fact, at the close of that same year in which I initiated my pursuit of D.A.R. membership, it was in writing about two people in my mother-in-law's line that I realized I was researching a possible Patriot. His name was Lyman Jackson, father of the New York born John J. Jackson that I suspected had come from such a heritage.

Indeed, the further I pursued that line, the more indicators I stumbled upon. For one thing, I did locate enough material to show me that John J. Jackson, himself, had served during the War of 1812—stationed, at one point, at a fort on the Mississippi River near Saint Louis.

Once I zeroed in on John J. Jackson's wife, however, I also realized that she, too, was descended from a Patriot—Sarah Howard Ijams was daughter of William Ijams.

While you may think I am going overboard in seeking to link three different Patriots to my daughter's D.A.R. membership, I have an additional reason for this next project: I have two sisters in law and two nieces who may, by virtue of a properly-assembled paper trail, also avail themselves (should they wish to do so) of membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. And pass down to yet another generation the awareness of our part in our nation's history.

That's one way to keep it all in the family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Time to Check the Scorecard

Sometimes, we get so mired in all the detail of the multiple ancestors we're researching that it's good to take a process break and check our genealogical scorecard. Where are we, anyhow? And where should we be headed now?

In my case, while I'd love to solve the mystery of my paternal grandfather's origin, perhaps only his Y-DNA will reveal that secret. Until a yet-unrevealed match to his genetic genealogy shows up to also volunteer for such a test, all that's left to me is a waiting game on that account. That, and future forays into digitized collections of New York City minutiae—if, that is, the right document just happens to be scanned, at all.

In the meantime, there is much yet to be done on my maternal lines. Besides my now-completed D.A.R. application, I do have an adoption mystery to solve on my mother's side: that of her great grandmother, the young woman from Georgia who was said to have been adopted some time before she married Thomas Taliaferro Broyles of Tennessee.

So let's go back and review where we've been and see what next steps are possible.

This is a clip from my family tree diagram at—essentially my maternal line, beginning with my grandmother, Rubie Broyles McClellan from Fort Meade and Tampa, Florida. Right off the bat, you can see the tree is completed through my third great grandparents.

Extending a line from Rubie to the women in each succeeding generation—Sarah Ann Broyles, Mary W. E. Rainey, and Mary E. Taliaferro—represents my matrilineal line. That's the key to examining the results from my mtDNA test—the one that follows the mother's mother's mother's line back through more generations than we could ever hope to document. I need to identify another descendant from that line—a sibling of Mary W. E. Rainey, or, even better, a sibling of her supposed mother, Mary E. Taliaferro—who would be willing to participate in DNA testing to compare our results.

Of course, it goes without saying that, if you are reading this and realize these names sound suspiciously like the surnames in your own family tree, please contact me. I'd love to compare notes. You may have the answer to my question.

Beside that project, though, you may have noticed that, with the exception of just one of my third great grandparents (the one with the green arrow to the right of her name), I have not yet worked any of these lines back further than that point. There are a few reasons for that.

First, of course, is the realization that, with every succeeding generation we push back in time to reach, our number of researchable ancestors doubles. That may be a trivial detail when we are talking about moving from our four grandparents to our eight great grandparents. Or even when we make the jump to our sixteen second great grandparents. But when we arrive at our thirty two third greats, doubling that—and then following all their descendants back down line to the present—can be a daunting task.

Second, if you take a look at the range of birth years for my second great grandparents, you realize that they arrived on the scene anywhere from 1852 all the way back to, in one outlier's case, 1812. The significance of that detail is that, with the exception of our supposed orphan, Mary W. E. Rainey, all these second greats were born before census records provided itemization of all members of the household. To connect some of the members of this generation with their own parents calls for an entirely different set of resources for documentation. Some of those documents have yet to become available online. And I have yet to travel to the southern states where such legal documents may be found in their native habitat.

Third is a corollary of the first two: as the universe of ancestors broadens, we by necessity need to hone our focus more carefully. While it is quite an easy proposition to "do" all our grandparents, doing just one fourth great grandparent means focusing on only one-sixty-fourth of the possible company. Completing that entire generation is quite the grand slam, indeed!

The necessity of managing to complete that task, though, becomes apparent when we realize what is required of us, once we commit to using the tool of DNA testing. How can we determine the veracity of DNA test results placing us and a matching individual at the level of fifth cousin if we don't know our fourth great grandparents?

Granted, not all results ranging that far out in relationship are entirely accurate. The farther we go, the greater the chance of running up against the scenario of "identical by state" matches. But given the number of descendants of the longstanding American surnames in my family history—and that of my husband, whose family history and genetic testing I'm also tracking—I've run across a number of others for whom our matches indicate relationship at a level more distant than even sixth cousin.

In instances like that, it's a good thing our scorecards reach back that far.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Adopting That Sulky Attitude

I'm about to nurse that "I'm Adopted" grudge. You know, the kind you afforded yourself long ago, every time your childhood sense of equity was violated.

C'mon, now, 'fess up: you've indulged in it, too. Remember that time, when dinner was done and all the other kids got to run off and play, but you had to sit there...because you hadn't finished your broccoli? Yeah, that time. You decided nobody really loved you. You just knew you were adopted.

Or the time when the extended family decided it was such a lovely summer evening that they'd have dinner out back on the picnic table—only afterwards, you had to stay behind and help with the dishes.

See? It just wasn't fair. It must have meant something. Yeah, you were adopted.

And so it goes. We're all well past that sulky stage of childhood, and yet that mood sometimes catches up with us, even now.

At least, I know that's true for me right now. Remember my gleeful discovery, last week, of a document that was sure to lead me past my paternal brick wall? Well, yesterday, I took the time to sit down and look up all those names on Aunt Rose's marriage certificate. I checked out her father, Julius Krauss. I looked for her mother, using Anna Zegar, the maiden name provided on the marriage record.

Do you think I actually found anything?

Of course not.

Stuck, I kept that sulky mood at bay by a brilliant realization: I had my brother's Y-DNA test done. After all, if Rose was really my paternal grandfather's sister, her father would be part of our patrilineal line. Maybe those surnames would pop up somewhere on my brother's Y-DNA results. Or maybe even on his autosomal DNA test.

I pulled up my brother's DNA test results. After all, though he doesn't yet have any "exact match" results for his Y-DNA, he is closing in on 400 matches on his autosomal test. Surely someone on that list of hundreds would have one of those surnames in their records.


I switched over to my own DNA test results. If you've kept up on my bi-monthly statistic reports, you already know how many matches I have in my own file—but if you don't, I'd be more than happy to tell you that my own tally is closing in on 880.

Did you think I'd find any Zegars or Krauses there?

Of course not.

Actually, with precious few of those "matches" turning out to be real, documented familial connections, I'm beginning to get to feeling as if I really was adopted. Who are all those people in my DNA test results? Why do none of those DNA results seem to line up with my painstakingly extensive documentation?

Not that I want to minimize the agony experienced by those who really are adopted and have that deep yearning to know their roots. Witness the two "mystery cousins" I'm currently working with, who have had that inexplicable drive to find out what their birth heritage really is. In comparison, I really am nursing a childish sulk. But I'm frustrated, nonetheless.

Then, too, I have to keep in mind that my oldest cousin had warned me that our paternal grandfather had once told him that he—Theodore J. Puhalski or John T. McCann or whoever he really was—was adopted, himself.

I had always thought that surely, my grandfather had only meant that his parents had died when he was young, and another family member had taken him in. After all, we are talking about a childhood during the late 1800s, when that sort of arrangement was customary.

But I thought I could figure a way around that roadblock. Perhaps I can't. As frustrating as it is, I may have to concede defeat. There are just some genealogical secrets that may remain just that: secrets. No matter how much of a tantrum I throw in my retreat into that sulky haven, I can't coax some details from the lips of those long departed. Nor can those secrets get extracted from the documents of foreign lands—or even the reticent bureaucrats of New York City.

Even in the face of the most petulant childish pout, the answer for a genealogical researcher may simply be just "No."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Found Another Julius

It's been a little over a week since I decided to celebrate Independence Day by gathering my own set of documents linking me back to that Revolution. As I mentioned, my long-postponed D.A.R. application needed some attention, and the July 4 holiday seemed just the time to complete it.

As sometimes happens, after I submitted my documentation to the local chapter's registrar, it turned out I needed just one more death certificate.

Now...where did I put that thing?

So began a week-long merry chase for one scant slip of paper that I just knew had to be "in here, somewhere."

At the close of the week, I still hadn't located the item.

In the meantime, however, I had found a whole bunch of other papers which turned out to come in handy.

You know how it is: you start down the trail, intending to head to one destination. And then, along comes The Bright Shiny—that innocuous Thing with the irresistible pull—and snatches you right off your feet and away from The Trail of Good Intentions.

What's a disciplined genealogical researcher to do? Well, in my case, take a look; one never knows whether the Thing found might be what I was looking for the last time I went through this ordeal.

In my defense, there are boxes and boxes of files, accumulated over years of research, now needing my attention. You have to remember, I've been at this stuff for decades. I'm not kidding when I say I was born wanting to know about my family history. That's quite a few years of filing away documents, research notes, photographs, memos and letters.

As it turns out, there was one document which I was quite pleased to find. I had sent for it years ago—likely before the advent of online research, for I clearly remember getting this one via the stamped-self-addressed, snail mail route. Besides, it was a record from New York City—that Black Hole of document requests which tries the patience of genealogical souls. On top of that, since I didn't know what surname to file the long-awaited resultant document under, I had simply stuck it in my father's file. His old file. Like, tucked away in one of those storage boxes.

If you recall my attempt once again, a few months ago, to figure out the origin of my paternal grandfather's family, you may have guessed—correctly—that this misplaced document has to do with my grandfather's sister Rose. When we last discussed her, I had just discovered that her unfortunate mother's name, rather than Anna Kraus, might have been Kusharvska.

Rose, herself, had not been much of a help to me in discerning her maiden name. The best I could do was locate her in the New York State census under the name Rose Miller. That was the earliest record I could find for Rose. Later, I found ample evidence of her marriage to New York City resident George Washington Kober. But then, hoping to send for Rose's death certificate to identify both her parents' true names, I once again ran into a stumbling block: Rose had married again.

Rose's new husband was a man with a name the local newspaper editors just couldn't seem to spell consistently. Sometimes, he was identified as Julius Hasinger. Other times, it was Julius Hessinger. All that, however, was superfluous in the face of one other little detail: no matter how it was spelled, it didn't lead me to Rose's date of death, and thus, neither did it lead to a way to locate her own death certificate.

Finding this one slip of paper last week, though, may have put that whole question to rest. For conveniently, I had sent away for the "Certificate and Record of Marriage" of one George Washington Kober and Rose Miller, married in New York City on the seventeenth of November, 1915.

The record included several details which handily fill in the blanks for my father's Aunt Rose. First, at the time of her marriage to Mr. Kober, she had been divorced. Thus the source of her surname in the 1915 census as Miller.

Notwithstanding that answer, on the next line, requesting "Maiden name, if a widow," she answered, "Krauss."

If that leads you to believe that, having been told that Rose's mother Anna's married name was Krauss, it must have been Anna's maiden name that was Kusharvska, think again. The marriage record then asked for the mother's maiden name—in this case, Rose's mother's maiden name was given as Anna Zegar.

Zegar! That added a new name to my list of surnames to pursue. And it effectively removed the sting—at least partially—of getting that death certificate for Anna and seeing the entry "unknown" for both Anna's parents. At least now I had a lead for Anna's father's surname.

There was one more useful detail on Rose's marriage license application: that of her own father's given name.  In now being able to read his name on her marriage record, I wonder if, years later in meeting the man who was to become her third husband, Rose felt some affinity to him through something as introductory as his name. Have you ever noticed how often ancestors seem to marry someone having a name just like their sibling or their parent? I've seen it so many times, yet never hear anyone remark on that. And once again, Rose provides another example of that trivial detail, for the given name of her father—the elusive Mr. Krauss I have yet to find in any documents—was Julius.

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