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?


  1. Jacqi - one idea may be to look at the Bounty Land Applications Index on Fold3. I took a quick look, there are a lot of John Jacksons. But if you find one that matches up with his service, I can go view the original file at the Archives. I viewed a Bounty Land file on an ancestor of mine, and it had information I wasn't able to find in any other source. So you might find that helpful to your search.

    1. Good point, Patrick. One thing complicating this search is how common his name turns out to be. There is, however, one document in John Jackson's War of 1812 pension file which provides a number and information on land he was apparently eligible to receive. However, even that seems to have some problems...something I'll have to follow up on.

  2. Be sure to distinguish between enlistment date and muster-in date.

    1. True. So far, I believe all those varying dates were labeled as enlistment dates on the documents, themselves. Record-keeping, back then, must have been a bear!

    2. Ah, that might explain some of these dates!

    3. The more I think about those dates and their variation, the more I'm convinced it was either due to inept record-keeping, the conditions of war, the "youthfulness" of the new country and its organizational aptitudes. I noticed several internal memos requesting further information from the file back at headquarters, or stating that that information simply couldn't be found...and then, later (at least from our vantage point), the document showing up in the file.


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