Monday, August 31, 2015

Rupert Charles' John Hancock

When I passed through Fort Meade last week, I hoped to at least locate one city document that contained Rupert Charles McClellan's signature. After all, my great grandfather served as mayor of that tiny Florida city for one brief term during the early 1900s.

When we looked at the binders stored at the Fort Meade Historical Society's museum, though, the earliest volume contained data from 1914—too late for my great grandfather's term in office.

While we couldn't find any such records, it was interesting to see what was included in the volumes of documents stored at the city's museum. Most of those early records—at least the pages which survived the ravages of time—seemed to be forms naming citizens and specifying the charges for which they were being fined.

Though the documents didn't carry Mayor McClellan's signature for any of those items dated 1914 forward, what was lacking at the point of service fortunately was made up for at the point at which the money came due. While these were not glamorous mementos of my great grandfather's term in office, at least I found what I wanted: a signature by the mayor (well, at least in pre-printed format) displayed on one of Fort Meade's tiniest official documents.

On the first day of July, 1919, the Town of Fort Meade, Polk County, Florida, will pay to bearer the sum of twenty five dollars ($25.00) in gold coin of the United States of America of current weight and fineness at the Office of the Treasurer of said town, being six months interest then due on its sewer bond dated July 1st 1912.

One after another, small stickers were affixed on—no, over—those old records of fines noted in the 1914 binder from the city's archives. It brought to mind our research trip, last year, to check the microfilmed baptismal records in 1830s Ireland, when I wondered, "What happened to the outside margins of the pages?" In that case, the Irish priest, desperate for a wick with which to light the votive candles, would tear tiny slivers from the margins of the baptismal records, themselves. In this Florida version, the city clerks had apparently decided to co-opt the older records as a storage device when investors cashed in their notes on the Fort Meade sewer bond.

Yeah. Told you: not glamorous. But worth gold to someone.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mr. Mayor, the Dentist

Recently visiting Fort Meade, the small town home of my great grandparents, Rupert Charles and Sarah Broyles McClellan, was informative. Of course, it was nice to see the place and learn more about what life was like for my ancestors during those years in the early 1900s when they lived in Polk County's oldest city. And it was a treat to visit their historical society's museum.

But what I really wanted to find was more detail on my ancestors. After all, since my great grandfather was the town's dentist—not to mention, Fort Meade's mayor for one brief term—there ought to have been some trail of evidence marking his existence in the area.

Fortunately, a cousin tipped me off that there were old city record books stored at the city's museum, and urged me to look for them. Maybe something within those pages held a copy of R.C.'s signature. Then, she also told me to keep an eye out for a display with an old dentist's chair; she thought it might have been from his office.

Armed with that intel, when we walked in the front door of the museum and were greeted by the historical society volunteers, there were two questions uppermost on my list. Once we explained our mission, our helpful volunteers directed us to the room with the very display my cousin had described. The chair, however, was thought to have belonged to a different dentist.

That, however, didn't jive with the calculations. It was a very old style chair, and Dr. McClellan had left it behind when he moved his practice to Tampa in 1919. The new office was to have all new equipment, and taking that old style of chair simply wouldn't do. Perhaps the dentist who took over his practice in Fort Meade received the chair, as well.

There is one way we can untangle this minor mystery: the Fort Meade dental chair itself bears the tag indicating the manufacturer—McConnell, out of Demorest, Georgia. The date on the manufacturer's tag seems to say May 8, 1900. Possible date of the patent? Perhaps a visit to our helpful friend Google will resolve the question—a question to tackle after my return home. In the meantime, though, here's an interesting capture of a similar chair by same manufacturer in its current native habitat (an antique store), courtesy of this blogger.

One look at the chair reminds me of all those old horror stories about the dread of having to go to the dentist. The chair was simple enough—but somehow, its austere air was enough to remind me that fear can be a tradition passed down through the generations, as well. Going to the dentist is nothing, today, in comparison to the ordeal of years gone by, so why do we still act like a trip to the dentist is consignment to a torture chamber? We don't know how spoiled we are.

Dr. McClellan's office was situated on the second floor, above the bank alongside the main road through town. Now, of course, the bank is gone—supplanted by a pawn shop, of all things—and there is no public access to the upstairs suite. But the volunteers at the museum told us that we could spot the right place by the mosaic sign embedded in the doorway to the bank's front entrance. (Of course, the signs to the pawn shop would be a dead giveaway, as well.)

We simply had to go back down the street—despite the rainy weather—so my intrepid husband could snap a picture of what, in bygone years, would have been the storefront entrance to my great grandfather's business.

In addition to his professional livelihood, however, Dr. McClellan was known for one other role: that of his one term as mayor of Fort Meade. For that, we hoped to find some records bearing his signature. Though the records at the museum only went back to 1914—and R. C. McClellan's term began in 1912—the volunteers brought us the volumes which came closest to that date range.

Though not many, there were some records which satisfied our search. Even this little bit is a start, telling me that with a little more time, we may locate more of what we're hoping to find.

Photos courtesy of Chris Stevens.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The History-Keepers of Fort Meade

It is not unusual to encounter a dedicated group of people, committed to preserving the history of an area. However, it is more likely that group would be dedicated as a county's historical society, rather than that of a city. During my trip to trace my roots here in Fort Meade, Florida, however, I've had the fortune to meet some of the people who have made it possible for this small city to capture its own history in a local museum setting.

While "city" is Fort Meade's official designation, the place in which my maternal grandmother grew up now has a population of under six thousand people. Still, its historic district is composed of 151 buildings which have qualified as historic landmarks, according to the Polk County Historical Society—of which Fort Meade is its oldest city. According to one count, Fort Meade has over three hundred homes on the National Register of Historic Places.

Founded in 1849, this central Florida locale was the place where my great grandfather chose to establish his dental practice—and where, back in 1912, he served as the city's mayor. Now that I've had the opportunity to visit this place for myself, it was a treat to stop by and walk down these very same sidewalks, myself.

Just after my husband and I flew to Florida, my cousin mentioned that Fort Meade has a city museum we might want to visit. I hadn't even thought to look for this resource, and was glad to take up her suggestion to stop by. Being a small, volunteer-run organization, the city's historical society is only able to keep the museum open for a limited number of hours during the week. The morning we were driving through town thankfully happened to fall on one of those days.

We ended up having a delightful visit with the volunteers and board members present that day at the museum. They were only too glad to help direct our attention to historical artifacts of specific interest to me in my quest to trace my family history. We gleaned stories from the volunteers about life in the city back in the early 1900s—an old mining town whose long-abandoned phosphate pits have become the "lakes" alongside the state highway.

During our visit, we also learned the history of the 1880s-era building that houses the museum. Now located near the railroad tracks and the city's old depot, the two story building once had served as the city's first indoor schoolhouse. Later, it became a boarding house.

Moved to its present location in 1989, it wasn't until 2000, after extensive refurbishing, that the building was opened to the public as the Fort Meade Museum. A handcrafted gazebo, serving as a stage for open-air entertainment, and a refurbished set of cars from the phosphate train, reconverted to meeting rooms, round out the museum's community-oriented properties. Already outgrowing its spacious layout in that two story building, the museum could use even more space, and some board members have dreams to expand to include a library and archives.

There is something so helpful about learning more about the context in which our ancestors lived. I'm still trying to piece together the story of why my great-grandparents Rupert Charles and Sarah Broyles McClellan chose to leave the old McClellan family property up in the northern part of the state to relocate to Fort Meade. Whether I ever discover the story behind that move, it is easy to see the McClellans' lovely home—now one of those historic landmark properties in Fort Meade—and the small-town ambience made the move a good choice for my great-grandparents and their family.

Photographs courtesy of Chris Stevens.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Going Back Home

Well, for one thing, it wasn't my home. But we did go there.

It is a splendid little home on a corner lot. Back in the early 1900s, when my great-grandparents Rupert Charles and Sarah Broyles McClellan bought the place, it was framed by a spacious lot and—I assume—young palm trees and an oak tree outside the kitchen porch in the back yard. Two cannon-ball-topped pillars stood guard at the walkway leading from Oak Street to the well-appointed porch and front door.

Today, the corner lot stands across the street—in both directions—from the town's elementary school. Even Google maps didn't quite pick up on the hint that the street was gated off for the protection of the children on the sprawling campus, so we got the grand tour of the neighborhood, just trying to drive to the right address.

There have been other changes. The property is now enclosed with a wrought iron fence and an ominous neon sign proclaiming, "Beware of dog." This is a sign to heed—even though no dog was to be seen.

Through the rain—hey, this is Florida at the start of hurricane season—my intrepid companion didn't miss the opportunity to snap some photos of what was once the place where my maternal grandmother spent her teen years, graduating from the Fort Meade high school in 1919.

It might have made for a nostalgic trip. Sarah McClellan did actually make that journey, returning in 1949 to her old home in Fort Meade in the later years of her life.

Unlike my great-grandmother, however, I wasn't the one who once lived here. Hey, I've never even set foot in this state until this week, despite my claim to historic roots in this territory. But perhaps I can say I partook of the nostalgia on behalf of those relatives now long-gone.

Not only are these ancestors no longer with us, but the people who purchased the house from R. C. McClellan are no longer here, either. To those living in Fort Meade today—the ones who still remember those earlier days of the previous century—that home is known as the Heath house.

But even the Heath family no longer owns the property. Nor does the next family. The procession of homeowners continues, as even the ones who purchased the house a few years ago and wonderfully restored it to its previous condition have now sold the home and moved on.

Photos of the former R. C. McClellan property in Fort Meade, Florida, courtesy of Chris Stevens.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Hazards of Blogging

When a blogger like me is smitten with a weakness for The Bright Shiny, it's hard to stay on task. Consequently, when deep in the midst of exploring one branch of Ye Olde Family Tree, I—and my readers—may suddenly find ourselves snatched away and spirited toward the nether reaches of yet another family tree.

Granted, there are sometimes other hazards of Life that get in the way. I do need to remember to cut myself some slack, for instance, when I beat myself up over having lost the trail, the first time I started blogging about William Ijams and John Jay Jackson. (Yes: three years ago.) Thankfully, in that case, I was able to pick up the thread and get back on track, albeit years later.

When it comes to other threads at A Family Tapestry, however, the passing of years since initiating a series on one part of the family might mean all the other stuff that inevitably happens while we're busy having fun blogging can cause us to miss out on hoped-for results.

I guess it's no secret I'm on the road again—this time, with an opportunity to squeeze in some family history research. I'll save the particulars for another post—I do, after all, want to pick up a few details to share from one of my destinations for tomorrow's topic. But even though the long-hoped-for opportunity is now here, other people's lives have moved on, and with that, apparently the connections which might have supercharged that opportunity, had it been taken when first offered.

It is what it is. Sometimes, we can blog and the research moves forward at a speed at which it feeds the information mill with nary a hiccup. Other times? Let's just say the Speed of Blog doesn't always match up with the Speed of Life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Curators of Stuff to Love

Don't you love it when you can curl up with a good book and get lost in its pages for hours?

I always appreciate it when I receive a great book recommendation. And that's why I love trawling through the various social media, where there are so many great reading suggestions. My Twitter associates point me in the right direction for insightful articles in magazines, newspapers, and blogs. I suspect the same is true for LinkedIn—another social media property on which I'll soon be focusing my attention. As for blogs, they figure right up there with the best of the readers-cum-social-commentators, when it comes to the heads-up for great reads.

So, of course, when all these great resources align to recommend useful reading material, I'm not more than a click away.

That's what happened last month—just before some traveling, which always calls for a healthy helping of food for thought—when blogger John D. Reid mentioned in a post at Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections that he had been enjoying the contextually-rich volume, The Invisible History of the Human Race.

The more I thought about it—John Reid's comments on the book, as well as The New York Times' review of the book—the more I decided it would be the perfect reading companion for my upcoming travels. I bought the book in time to tuck it in my travel bags for that early August trip.

Now, I'm nearly halfway through author Christine Kenneally's well-researched volume, and am finding myself heading out the door again on a surprise flight back east. What better companion than this to fill the six hour void?!

While Christine Kenneally's book is ostensibly about DNA—that, at least, is the hook grabbing John Reid's attention—it naturally travels a far wider course. Included, as you might suspect, are sections covering genealogy and all the usual suspects:, and the LDS Church—much more than just "nature's digital record," as Kenneally dubbed DNA. Included between the covers of these three hundred pages (plus obligatory end notes and index) are side excursions taking us far afield of what we've come to expect as the usual tour of genealogical research. She recalls pre-World War II Germany and Hitler's tragic partnering with proponents of the eugenics movement. She examines the genealogical silence imposed upon those in the foster care of the recent past in Australia and closed adoption cases throughout the modern world.

And that's just as far as I've gotten in this book. There are worlds more awaiting my chance to grab a few more golden hours for extended concentration.

Even at this midpoint—though it is always my policy to hold off such comments until the conclusion of the matter—I can say I heartily recommend this book. It is not an easy read. It is not a straightforward examination of one simple topic. It is a contextually-dense exploration of the universe surrounding mankind's quest to understand our origins. As noted inside the book's cover,
Knowing where we stand—with respect to our direct and distant ancestors, our nationalities, and even to the tribal bands that long ago wandered from the birthplace of Homo sapiens in Africa to populate the earth—grounds us in our humanity by enabling us to claim our place in the Great Chain of Being.

I don't know if thoughts as deeply ingrained as those are what drives me to check my DNA test results each week, but there is no denying what seems to be a primal need to connect with our roots. This book is one author's exploration of that human need. And by the time my flight touches down at the end of the day, I'll hopefully have made the voyage to the last of the pages of her argument. 

Disclaimer: Though I have, at times, contemplated the inclusion of what is called "affiliate links" in this blog, up to this pointand including this postI have not done so. Please click away with abandon; though it is my contention that any decision to purchase this book would be a beneficial one for any book lover who enjoys reading this blog, it certainly won't augment my financial standing in any way, nor decrease your benefit from such a purchase.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Things Will Just Have to Wait

Yesterday, I mentioned finding a May, 1817, record of land granted to Sarah Ijams in Perry County, Ohio.

Yesterday, I mentioned finding it unusual to see a parcel of land—particularly out in such an isolated territory—granted to a woman. That was what gave me pause to think it over, yesterday.

Today is another day. And today, I have another something to wonder about, for it was that date that once again stopped me in my tracks.

It sometimes takes time to absorb all the details that become important guideposts when researching an era or and area. I've been working with Perry County research for so long, I'm amazed this thought hadn't hit me sooner—but I'm thankful it at least came to me in retrospect.

The thought is this: why did the Bureau of Land Management readout for Ijams land grants indicate they were for parcels in Perry County, when Perry County wasn't even formed yet? As of 1817, that land would still have been in Fairfield, Washington or Muskingum counties, the counties from which Perry County was drawn. Perry County didn't even come into existence until March 1, 1818.

Notwithstanding that minor detail, I tried to find another way to verify whether it was our Sarah Ijams who received title to that land. My thinking is that it was this land that convinced her husband-to-be to not pursue his own land grant in Arkansas, since he would, ultimately, have received this land from her upon their marriage. Once he encountered her abrupt passing—upon or shortly after childbirth—he may have then reconsidered that plan.

Another thought I had was to check to see if there were any will left by the young mother, Sarah Ijams Jackson. While I've so far been unsuccessful in locating any mention of that possibility in the records I can access online, I have a long way to go through the browse-only digitized documents at, so let's call that result inconclusive, at best.

This is the kind of research quandary that makes me wish I had an upcoming trip to Ohio in my back pocket. I do have a trip coming up, but it's not to Ohio. For now, not being able to get my hands on any of those old documents, in person—whether court records of wills, or land records for the County during that time period—it looks like we'll have to tuck this puzzle away for a later time.

It's been illuminating to wander through the War of 1812 Pension Papers and other records regarding the military service of Sarah's husband, John Jay Jackson, and the Revolutionary War-era mentions of Sarah's father, William Ijams of Maryland. When a researcher can't get her hands on the actual documents in person, these digital forays into historic archives are priceless. But sometimes, it absolutely requires an on-site visit to find the information that's been missing, elsewhere.

Hopefully, that will be in my near future. But for now, there are other projects calling my name. We'll have plenty to capture our attention in these newer directions, too.

Above: "August Afternoon, Appledore," 1900 oil on canvas of Maine's Appledore Island by American Impressionist, Frederick Childe Hassam; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Monday, August 24, 2015

. . . But There Still Are Questions

Having found a way to place William Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, squarely in the midst of several genealogies of descendants of colonial Maryland families, I still have one puzzle I haven't yet been able to solve. It isn't, incidentally, the type of stuff brick wall quandaries are made of, but it still has me set back a bit. Mostly, I'm puzzled because this is not the type of document detail one would find in early 1800s land records in the United States.

If you recall, it was William Ijams' daughter Sarah who started me on this quest to piece together two families—that of William and the Ijams relatives, and the other of the man from Missouri territory, John Jay Jackson, whom Sarah met and married, some time between 1816 and 1818.

Somewhere back in all the papers included in John Jay Jackson's War of 1812 pension file was a volley of correspondence about some land that he was entitled, by virtue of his service, to claim—but hadn't. That was followed by his change of mind and decision that he did want to obtain that land, after all. Apparently, a long search was made for the missing documents that would yield him his due—but only once the papers were presented. At long last, something must have been uncovered, for one document mentions that John Jackson was, after all, entitled to his Arkansas.

I'm not sure what that twist in the story signified. By this time, John Jackson had long been settled in Perry County, Ohio—else I wouldn't have been researching a long line of Perry County ancestors whose endogamous legacy has had me chasing people who turn out to be their own cousins.

In the midst of all this (at least to me) confusion, I thought one way to check for property records was to search the surname in the register of land patents at the Bureau of Land Management. While "John Jackson" produced the anticipated overload of search results, since I was already in the neighborhood, I thought I'd also see what could be found under the name Ijams. After all, the Ijams family from Maryland evidently found their way to the Ohio frontier, as well. This was my chance to see who, exactly, had laid claim to property there.

In the midst of the usual form letters, I found this one curiosity: a record for land in Perry County, Ohio. The pre-printed form, including the hand-written entries, read:
Exd. and Sent 20 May, JAMES MADISON Monroe, President of the United States of America, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: Know ye that Sarah Ijams of Fairfield County OHIO, having deposited in the General Land Office, a Certificate of the Register of the Land Office at Zanesville, whereby it appears that full payment has been made for the northeast quarter of section Four of township Thirteen in range Fourteen of the lands directed to be sold at Zanesville by the Act of Congress, entitled "An Act providing for the sale of the lands of the United States in the Territory north-west of the Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky river," and of the Acts amendatory of the same: There is granted, by the United States, unto the said Sarah Ijams the Quarter lot or section of land above described: To have and to hold the said Quarter lot or section of land, with the appurtenances, unto said Sarah Ijams, her heirs and assigns forever.

The document was dated May 13, 1817—an uncommonly early date for land grants to women. I found that somewhat unusual.

I remembered that Sarah and her sisters had been willed land by their father, who had recently died. Wondering if that were somehow a formality that the daughters needed to settle, I double checked the location of the parcel to be sold, according to William Ijams' will, but the description of the location didn't match—not only were the parcel numbers off, but the land wasn't even in the same county. Besides, wouldn't an executor have taken care of such details? This was back in the era when women's names weren't so much as mentioned in the will—let alone in independent land transactions.

Granted, whether this is our Sarah Ijams, I have yet to determine. Given the number of Ijams men settled in the area, there might be a possibility that this was a different person. Still, it took me by surprise to discover any woman named in a land deal such as this.

Perhaps this will just have to remain one of those unanswered mysteries, but it certainly reminds me to always be prepared to be confronted with the unexpected in our research.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tapping Into a Genealogical Mother Lode

It's fascinating how the prevalence of some surnames can change over time. I once ran across an ad for a genealogical company in Great Britain, in which that very question was posed. There are actually surnames which, though once fairly widespread, may no longer be claimed by anyone.

Perhaps, as I've been discussing my research on War of 1812 veteran John Jay Jackson, you may have found his wife's maiden name to be among those not commonly encountered. If I hadn't lived in a city in which one of the streets bore that very surname, I likely wouldn't have been aware of its existence, either.

Now that I'm researching that name—Ijams—I'm seeing it pop up all over the place. Before I had spent much time with my friend Google, I had amassed several citations of that moniker. Did you know, for instance, that President Truman had an ancestral connection to that name? The genealogical records kept among his papers at the Truman Library include a listing of seven Ijams family members from Anne Arundel County in the colony of Maryland from the late 1600s.

Folks from around Knoxville, Tennessee, will perhaps wonder why I seem so stumped by a name like Ijams. According to one website, Ijams was the name of "Knoxville's leading bird expert," developing the bird sanctuary which eventually became the Ijams Nature Center.

Perhaps, like me, you are not a bird lover, and thus are nonplussed by such a fact (or perhaps you've just never been to Tennessee). The further I wandered with my friend Google, the more this search showed me the prevalence of the surname.

Resources at one genealogy site included a page labeled "The Ijams family of Maryland" and contained scanned copies of one book on the subject, which in turn referred to another volume, Anne Arundel Gentry. Having seen that location mentioned in the past, and knowing our Ijams family originated in Maryland, that title had popped out to me before—but, not having had the preparation of researching John Jackson's wife's line until this past month, I wasn't yet equipped to make any connections.

Those scanned copies provided me a review of the name's origin, which was helpful. I had seen this information before, but had neglected to note any source. Now I had one. According to these two sources, the surname Ijams had a number of alternate spellings. Eyams, Iioms and Iiams are among the earliest variants. If you have ever purchased the pet food brand Iams for your furry four-footed best friend, you are likely supporting a company named after yet another variant of the Ijams spelling. At some point, the letter "j" was inserted, adding yet another volley of spelling variants to the mix.

What was curious about flipping through the pages of these resources was that it didn't take long to locate our William Ijams' place in the family constellation of his time. I had already read that his father's name was John, and that his mother was a Jones. Yet, I hadn't been able to link him to this family which was being mentioned in so many of the references showing up during my tryst with Google.

Stumbling upon one book on the Ijams genealogy put all that into place, confirming—at least in one researcher's opinion—the connection between our lowly William Ijams whose gravestone is falling headlong into the dirt in Fairfield County, Ohio, and a family whose roots in England were said to have led to someone in the family serving under an appointment by Queen Elizabeth, herself. With our William Ijams showing up in Harry Wright Newman's Anne Arundel Gentry, and even as entry number 2702 on page 127 of The Descendants of Richard Cheney of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, it's as if we've struck the Mother Lode of the Ijams family genealogy.

Whether that was so, or not, I haven't checked for myself. But with one afternoon's searching online, it was interesting to see what came up for a surname we had barely heard of, before.

Now knowing that, it would be no small surprise to discover that, back in Maryland—the colonial origin of the family at its 1600s settlement in the New World—there is still a place known as Ijamsville. And—much as we might have suspected, reviewing all the spelling variations for this surname—the folks of that unincorporated community back in Frederick County, Maryland, have provided us with a pronunciation guide, lest we let that inserted "j" fool us into rendering the name incorrectly.

Let's just say, next time you see the name Ijams, you simply think of the dog food.

Above: Photograph of unnamed man, panning for gold in Alaska, circa 1916; photograph courtesy United States Library of Congress; in the public domain.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not Even a Vestige

When I first began this pursuit of untangling the records concerning my husband's fourth great grandfather and the whereabouts of his marriage, Ijams had not been a surname on my radar. In fact, it was commented that Ijams is not usually a name encountered by readers here at A Family Tapestry.

The twists and turns of trying to trace John Jay Jackson's bride—and not only when she became Mrs. Jackson, but where—have yielded a mezzo-mezzo outcome. We learned a few interesting details about the intricacies of the War of 1812, enjoyed browsing through the free collection of the War of 1812 Pension Papers, but never really found a sound explanation for just how Sarah Howard Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, met up with quartermaster Jackson at Fort Belle Fontaine, a matter of five hundred wilderness miles distant from her home.

However, now that the surname Ijams is on our radar, let's take a look at what general information can be found on the name. has a handy blurb on the history of various family names, among them, thankfully, being that of Ijams. If we look at their map of surname distribution in the United States for the census year 1840, Ancestry reports that density for that surname was highest in the state of Ohio.

Small wonder. According to the 1877 volume, A Complete History of Fairfield County, Ohio, author Hervey Scott noted that the 1806 list of county taxpayers included Richland Township residents William, Isaac and Thomas Ijams, along with William, junior. Later on in that volume, the author reveals that those first three Ijams men listed in the tax rolls were brothers.
Isaac, William and Thomas Ijams, brothers, came from Frederick County, Maryland, and settled immediately on the west of the present village of West Rushville, among the earliest settlers of Fairfield County, where they all three died at somewhat advanced ages.

The Ijams family was also mentioned as being "among the first settlers," being considered some of the "leading men in the tobacco trade."   

Being among the first has its advantages. The Scott History included a brief sketch of the Ijams genealogy in Fairfield County.
Isaac was the father of Isaac, John and William Ijams; William was the father of Richard and Howard; and Thomas was the father of John, Joseph and Frederick. All of these eight sons have been known as citizens and business men in and about Rushville; but they are all gone—most of them have deceased.

Of course, we have to take that list as a sketch, not the complete listing. For one thing, we've already discovered—both here and elsewhere—that there was a William, junior. Another complicating matter is that the elder William married a woman whose maiden name was Howard—and she wasn't afraid to use it. To say that William had a son named Howard begs the question: which son? At least three of her sons bore that maiden name as their middle name. Even upon her daughter Sarah, Elizabeth Howard Ijams bestowed the middle name Howard.

It was interesting to see how intertwined these early families were. Granted, according to reports, the Fairfield County head count in those early years—based on that 1806 list—was a mere fifteen hundred fifty one taxpayers. Multiply that by the average size of a family of that era, and you get a picture of how small that isolated population really was—the perfect scenario for repeated intermarriages among families of these early settlers.

Another scenario for that intermingling was in the realm of business. Names like William Wiseman and William Coulson, mentioned in the Scott History, seemed familiar because they were. Each of those men showed up, as we've already seen, in the last wills of the elder William Ijams and his son Isaac Howard Ijams. It's not surprising to find their names mentioned in the same breath as the Ijams names.

How helpful it was to glean details from this History about those pioneer years of settlers in Ohio like the Ijams family. One reminiscence included in the book, reported by a county resident by name of John Van Zant, gave the sense of the times and business associations of those Ijams men:
William Coulson, of Rushville, was an early citizen, and died there recently at the great age of about ninety. His career there as a merchant and dealer in tobacco, as also that of John, Joseph and William Ijams, in West Rushville, will long be remembered. They are all dead, and the immense production of tobacco on Rush Creek, of former years, has almost entirely ceased, and not even a vestige of the trade is to be seen.


Friday, August 21, 2015

The Bonus is in the Details

Sometimes, the best policy is to keep searching, even after finding the details you are seeking.

Finding the mention of Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson in her brother's will, as we did yesterday, was helpful. It provided the link that has been—so far—missing from what I can find online concerning her father's will.

Pursuing further information on Isaac Ijams, however, yields a few more details of interest. Thanks to that Rootsweb entry I mentioned a while back, there were some clues that Isaac—along with his brother William—had also served during the War of 1812.

While I've yet to locate any pension record for Isaac, there is a likely entry for him in the file, "U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914"—available both at and at—showing his enlistment in March, 1812. The entry showed a twenty three year old man by the name of Isaac Ijams enlisting in Pittsburgh for a period of five years—much like the entry we found earlier for the younger William Ijams. And, just like that William Ijams, this Isaac was born in Washington County, Maryland—and, apparently, enlisted on the same day.

What is valuable to note, concerning this Isaac Ijams, are the details included in his file. Among other things, the record summarizes his service, including:
D.R. Capt. John Whistler's Co. Feby. 16 & I.R. June 30/15... I.R. & D.R. Capt. John Whistler's Co. 3d U.S. Infy. Oct. 31/15 Present. Joined from 1 Infy. Oct. 1/15.

For all the time I've been wondering about the connection between Elizabeth Howard Ijams—the widow of the elder William Ijams—and her second husband, Captain John Whistler, here is yet another indicator that the two families had a number of connections.

Another entry in the notes for Isaac Ijams' military service provides cause for conjecture:
On leave for 30 days from Dec. 14/15.

Could that possibly have indicated the time at which Isaac's father was dying? After all, the senior William signed his will on December 27 of that same year, and on that same date, along with Peter Black and John Sunderland, Isaac Ijams had served as witness to that final will of his father.

One last observation came with noticing the date of Isaac's discharge—on March 2 of 1817. Wherever Isaac had been stationed at that point, perhaps he didn't make that return home alone, for it was only a matter of ten more days until his captain was wed to his widowed mother, back home in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Big Brother to the Rescue

While William Ijams' last will and testament did not name his wife or daughters—the very details for which we had turned to that document—the December 27, 1815, document did, at least, establish the names of his sons. One of those sons, in particular, turned out to leave us a helpful tidbit in his own will, filed much later and in a different county.

In the Fairfield County, Ohio, document, William Ijams had methodically listed his five sons in birth order: William, John, Isaac, Joseph and Frederick. The eldest two were to be given cash amounts specified in the will. William's land, divided into fourths, was designated for each of the youngest three sons, with the fourth portion to be sold for the benefit of the unnamed daughters.

It was the oldest of those three sons receiving the property to which we'll turn our attention, for it was a matter of a fast-flying thirty years when Isaac H. Ijams found himself drawing up his own last will and testament.

In those more modern times, perhaps it was not as unseemly to include the names of those female relatives for whom the dying now felt led to leave a legacy, for Isaac provided us just the genealogical road map we'd hoped to see in the previous generation.

Even though his sister Sarah was long deceased by the time Isaac drew up this document—by then, located in neighboring Perry County—the wonder is that she was named in her older brother's will at all. But there it is, undeniably:
I give and bequeath to the heirs of my sister Sarah Jackson deceased one hundred dollars to be equally divided.

Not only that, but her husband was named as one of Isaac's executors, as well.

While I haven't been able to determine the exact date of Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson's passing, we can be certain it was before John Jay Jackson's second marriage in 1829. From that point in 1829 to when Isaac Ijams' own will was drawn up in 1845, Sarah's older brother found a way to keep alive her memory by including his deceased sister's name in his will.

While it meant only a matter of a few dollars inheritance for each of Sarah's several children, Isaac Ijams will never know the additional legacy he had bequeathed upon the rest of us by his inclusion of this simple remembrance in his will.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Where There's a Will . . .

The subtitle for this post should be "Uh-oh..."

One sure-fire way to check for descendants of an early 1800s ancestor would be to turn to those last wills and testaments. After all, a loving father would be sure to name each of his darling children as he turns his thoughts toward the eternal.

Wouldn't he?

That was my reasoning, as those thoughts tossed about in my mind over how to confirm the relationships between a dying William Ijams and his wife, Elizabeth Howard Ijams—soon to be Whistler—and their daughter Sarah.

By virtue of the record that William had taken the oath of allegiance in 1778, his documented direct-line descendants are eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. It also means that, for a price, any other inquiring souls may download the original listing of resources used to document that genealogical connection between William Ijams and the D.A.R. member claiming him as her Patriot.

Of course, you know what I did.

Let's see what can be found about William and, at least, the D.A.R. material provided concerning his next generation, from which my husband's line immediately veers away. But hey, at least I have that one generation to go by. Any bit helps. Maybe.

Other than the fact that my eyes just went bleary, trying to read the copy of William Ijams' will included in the downloadable membership record, there were some other details causing me alarm.

First off, the abstract of the will—handily also transcribed by a devoted family history researcher at Rootsweb from Fairfield County Will and Estate Abstracts Cases 1-500—had some issues that concern me. See if you can spot the trouble.
Case #256 - estate of William IJAMS of Richland Township. Will written December 27, 1815, filed in March of 1816, and recorded in Will Book 2, page 62. Owned land in section 29, township 17, range 17. Executors were wife, Catherine, and William WISEMAN. Heirs: sons, William, John, Isaac, Joseph, and Frederick; daughters, Rachel, wife of Joseph TURNER, Sarah H., wife of John J. JACKSON, Mary, wife of Walter TEAL, Comfort, wife of Edward STEVENSON and Rebecka IJAMS WISEMAN....  Grandsons, Henry and Richard IJAMS (sons of William IJAMS) were heirs also.

Right away, if you remember the entry for William Ijams on Find A Grave, you realize the date given there for his death was earlier than the date at which he supposedly signed his last will and testament. Was this the right William Ijams? There was at least one other in Fairfield County, Ohio, at the time.

Yet, after all my pursuit of the exact date of marriage for William's widow to the War of 1812 captain, John Whistler, I've spent far too much time on the topic to wink at the fact that this transcription shows the name of William's wife to be Catherine, not Elizabeth. Like I said, "Uh-oh."

But this is a transcription. And transcriptions call for a trip back to the original document. So that's where we go next in this file of downloadable material from D.A.R.

And my eyes get even more bleary.

Thankfully, not only did my now-favorite Ijams researcher mention the link to a digitized version of the Ijams willmuch more decipherable than the copy sent with the D.A.R. material—but she transcribed it, as well. Bless her.

After the brief but obligatory statements about being "of sound mind, memory and understanding," the bequests began. So here goes:
...I give and bequeath to son William Ijams Fifty dollars and no more, I give and bequeath unto my grandsons Henry and Richard Ijams sons of William each of them twenty five dollars and no more. Item I give and bequeath unto my son John Ijams one hundred dollars and no more. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Isaac Ijams the S.W. quarter of section twenty nine Township 17, Range 17 by his paying three hundred dollars to my daughters. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph Ijams the N.W. quarter of section Twenty nine S.P. 17 R 17. I give and bequeath to my son Frederick Ijams the N.E. quarter of said section on which I now live. I give and bequeath to my daughters the S.E. quarter to be sold and the money equally divided among my daughters. Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my Dear wife and William Wiseman to be sole executors of this my last will and Testament.

Notice how sons William, John, Isaac, Joseph and Frederick—plus grandsons Henry and Richard—are specified by name, but though lavished with terms of endearment, his wife is left unnamed, as are his daughters. Since the sold land was intended to be converted to the cash the daughters were to receive, we can presume that some record of disbursements was included in the probate file. But though names were stated in the abstract of the will ("Case #256"), none were included in Ijams' actual last will and testament.

Which leaves me still firmly ensconced at square one: not yet possessing any documentation to connect either Elizabeth Howard Ijams with her first husband, nor Sarah Howard Ijams with her father.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For Those Who Change E-Mail Addresses
. . . And For Those Who Don't

Don't you love it when you discover something online that leads you to an answer for that burning genealogical question you hadn't been able to solve?

Don't you hate it when that something needs additional explanation or verification—but the person who had provided that first teaser of an answer left contact information that is now out of date?!

In the last week, I've had two occasions to benefit from email contact with another researcher. One, of course, was the hoped-for reply from Cheryl Whistler Garrison, the researcher whose notes—evidently posted no later than 2006—have been helping me muddle through this Ijams-Jackson-Whistler marriage mystery. The other was a surprise email coming to me out of the blue, in response to a forum post I had made, back in 2007. Am I happy I've kept my email address up to date at that old online genealogy resources? What do you think?!

First, let's take a look at what can be added to our continuing research on Sarah Howard Ijams, her marriage to John Jay Jackson, and her mother's second marriage to Captain John Whistler. Cheryl confirmed her resources for the elder Ijams' marriage to the Captain, citing not only the "Yuas" entry digitized on, but an additional newspaper entry for the same.

This, as it turned out, was the same entry as had been mentioned in a comment added in 2014 to my old Ijams post from 2012. Elizabeth and John were married in Fairfield County, Ohio, according to an entry in the Eagle, a newspaper of the time, published in Lancaster, Ohio. The newspaper entries had been transcribed and published as part of a collection by the Ohio Genealogical Society, then culled and reprinted in the 1986 edition from Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Ohio Source Records.

Always preferring to see the original source—well, in this case, since I won't be traveling to Ohio any time soon, at least the source which had gleaned those original newspaper entries—I Googled the title to see if I could access a copy. Fortunately, it is among the holdings at—searchable, no less. There, I could see for myself the entry,
MARRIED, 1817...(*Feb. 27).... On Sunday, 2d Wm. Trimble, Esq., Major John Whisler of U.S.A., Commandant at Ft. Wayne, to Mrs. Elizabeth James, wid. of the late Wm. James, Esq., of Richland twp.

Once again, the newspaper editors—or their transcribers—got it wrong: that should be Captain John Whistler, of course. And the widow's name entered in the county's marriage records as Yuas now re-invents itself as James. That is not unusual, I understand: the surname Ijams has been rendered with a number of different spellings. While I can't vouch for Yuas, I do feel more certain about James.

In her reply to my email, Cheryl was gracious to share more of the content of that letter from the Ijams direct descendant. Among other details was one I had suspected from what I found while flipping through those wonderful War of 1812 pension files: John Whistler had known Elizabeth Ijams previously. But my guess as to a connection at Fort Wayne was not entirely correct: apparently, they knew each other back in Maryland. This tells me I need to examine the military documents for Elizabeth's son William, whose papers stated he was born in Washington County, Maryland. That is very possibly the same location as that of John Whistler, before his enlistment in the United States Army.

According to the scenario painted in Cheryl's email, John and Elizabeth married in 1817, and then when he headed to his new post at Fort Belle Fontaine, Elizabeth brought along her three youngest children. Presumably, one of them was Sarah Howard Ijams, the daughter who eventually married John Jay Jackson, who had also been stationed at Fort Belle Fontaine.

While that seems adequate to settle my mind over those non-stop questions, I do have a few more resources to examine before laying this research challenge to rest. I want to look over the material retrieved from D.A.R., as well as take a peek at the probate records for Elizabeth's first husband, William Ijams. Apparently, the date of death mentioned in William Ijams' Find A Grave entry was somewhat premature. That, however, will save for another day.

Of course, I was elated to have received that response from Cheryl. I was also quite relieved. After all, it's been nearly ten years since she posted her most recent update to her online notes. A lot of changes could have happened since then—including not one, but several email changes. Fortunately for me, that was not the case and we were able to make the connection.

Sometimes, the questions come from the opposite direction—someone has found a genealogical item I've posted online, and decided to email me. Since I've been interacting online in various genealogical venues since there were genealogy forums, I've always tried to keep my email address up to date at those resources.

I'm glad I did. The other day, I received an email from a researcher on another one of my mother-in-law's family lines: this time, it was the Gordons. Just as much as I was pleased that another researcher was able to answer my question sent to an address posted in 2006, I sure was glad I've kept my email addresses updated since that 2007 post I made! Now I'm able to connect with another serious researcher and share what notes we've found.

It hasn't been long since genealogy research has been enabled—supercharged—by handy Internet resources. But time really does fly. For those of us connecting online since the early 1990s, we need to push back from our computers long enough to take a deep breath and realize that's been over twenty years ago! A lot can change over the course of time—especially a stretch of time that long. And we all know how easy it is to change from one email address to another. Or from one service provider to another—along with the obligatory change in email address.

The moral of the story? If you've got any queries posted out there in the ether anywhere, and you hope your investment in posting them will someday pay off, remember to go back and update your email address everywhere you've left those little gems. Your Hansel-and-Gretel breadcrumbs won't be quite the cousin bait you'd hoped, if changing circumstances have gobbled up the email address leading readers from your well-placed posts back to you.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Fireworks and Genealogy

It probably wasn't that hard to deduce—after my sniveling comment last week about mouse-eared hotel shower faucets—that being three hundred miles south of my home would likely land me in Disneyland. If you had arrived at that conclusion, you were correct.

While some of the people in our party that week attended stodgy old business conference proceedings, and some others of our company indulged themselves in the wonders of the Magic Kingdom, I, myself, did not partake in either. I used those precious daytime hours to decompress, relax and revel in the sinfully green landscape surrounding me.

When it came to evening activities, though, all were present and accounted for, once the nightly fireworks display began.

And so it is that I still have fireworks on my mind.

About the same time as we made our trip southward, Blaine T. Bettinger wrote a post on his genetic genealogy blog discussing the helpfulness of realizing just how much of one's family tree is already completed. The title of his post asked the question, "How much of your family tree do you know?" The follow-up was a thought-provoking prompt: "And why does that matter?"

I've thought about those questions all week. I mulled over them while walking around that beautiful hotel landscaping I enjoy so much. I thought about his questions during the mind-numbingly dull drive back home through the baking-hot central valley. I even rehashed what he wrote after returning home.

There wasn't a time I considered it any more, however, than when we were watching those nightly fireworks displays. And yesterday's edition of my bi-monthly post accounting for my ongoing genealogy progress made me realize: of course it would be fireworks that would make me think of his blog post. After all, what I'm doing in my constant research—especially now, as I try desperately to make connections in those hundreds of DNA matches that don't seem to line up—is very much like those fireworks I watched every evening.

If the comparison fails to light up any connections in your mind, hold on. I'll explain.

You see, all my family trees—my husband's paternal tree, his separate maternal tree, and each of my two separate trees, as well—have been getting exceedingly fat around the middle, lately. The reason for this is simple: I'm adding data on all the siblings of all the ancestors as they take their places in our direct lines. And then, after pushing back yet another generation, I'm working my way forward again—documenting each sibling's marriage and children, then their marriages and descendants, and on through the generations, back to the present.

There's a reason for tracing all those collateral lines. It's like those fireworks. Peering through the dark sky last week, I could see a thin strand of light as each of the fireworks shot straight up in the air, going higher and higher until at just the right point, something inside detonated and radiated a shower of lights and color in a full radius across the sky. Then, the bright arc of light, now spread out, began its descent downward again. We watched, never failing to delight in the show, never taking our eyes off those last fading streams of light until they faded out, entirely.

And then the next missile would shoot toward the dark sky, and we'd follow yet another line upwards—and then track it back down, as far as our eyes could see.

For each line of ascent in our family trees, I'd push it as far as I could go, then chart each of that person's children, trailing that line back downward, as far as I could see. Yes, the explosion at the pinnacle is the bright point at which we are all most interested—finding a new maiden name for the next generation's mystery relative certainly provides us some research fireworks—but before it goes dark, it is the connections that are made on that descending trajectory that allow me to match up with someone else on my DNA test matches who might not have as complete a family tree diagram. It's those downward-falling sparks from that research fireworks display that light up the connections with others that I'm seeking.

In his article, Blaine Bettinger mentioned the usefulness of actually completing a chart—which he displayed on his blog post—framing the question of research completeness in terms of percentages of ancestors known per span of generations. For instance, for the two nearest generations consisting of your parents and grandparents, the total number of people needed to complete that portion of your tree would be six—two parents and four grandparents. What percentage of those six do you have itemized in your own family tree? If you are like most people, you can claim 100% completion there.

Push that back yet another generation, and the total head count would increase to fourteen: eight greats plus the six we already mentioned. Are you still shining at 100%?

Adding another generation on top of that—jumping that total head count to thirty with your second great grandparents—and we start to see some DNA test participants slipping from their 100% positions. And as I've mentioned before, that hampers us from being equipped to determine connections with DNA matches as close as third cousin. When genetic genealogy companies can give results up to the level of sixth cousin, that means some are out of the game by the time they are only halfway in. That can really take the sizzle out of the fireworks display.

Blaine Bettinger's percentages chart is a great motivator. From the vantage point of the big picture, it allows you to visualize the level of completion of your family tree(s). It certainly will help me track my progress more thoroughly for my bi-monthly statistical wrap-ups—added, as I'll do, to a systematic follow-through on those downward descending streams from each branch of the overall family tree.

The higher each new fireworks missile shoots, the more descendants it will shower down in its trailing light display. After all, by the time I reach the fifth great grandparents who will yield me the sixth cousin connections I seek, we'll be looking at a total display of 254 possible ancestors, let alone all their children and their descendants. But it will take a brilliant display of those fireworks to light up all the connections that need to be made, before we can effectively sort out all those DNA matches.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Helping Those Who Help Themselves

That DNA testing stuff can be a pricey proposition. Why anyone would delve into an inquiry with that kind of price tag, and yet not bother to follow through and use it as the tool it was meant to be, is beyond me.

It's stats time again around here, and I'm noticing one thing: of the four major family trees I'm tracking—my husband's paternal and maternal lines and those of my own—the two with mushrooming numbers are the two with DNA matches who actually answer inquiries and emails.

While I don't want to ascribe any supernatural powers to the practical aspects of real-world DNA, this experience puts me in mind of that old saying, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." Only, in this case, it's more like, "DNA test results help those who help themselves."

In my camp, the proof is in two of our four family trees. The ones without much headway—the paternal lines for both my husband and myself—are the ones without much follow through with matches.

My paternal tree is virtually flatlined; I haven't received any new DNA matches since April 7. Thus, the tree itself still stands at 150 names. While one person did contact me—quite the anomaly from my usual experience over the last two years of working with DNA testing—we were snared by that undocumented name change orchestrated by my paternal grandfather back in the early 1900s. Though I appreciated the contact, the connection—wherever it might have been—couldn't possibly have sprung through that paternal line.

My husband's Stevens tree, while edging up oh-so-slowly to a total of 910 names (besting the count two weeks ago by 28), has only gained three more DNA matches to reach a total of 504. Actually, he hasn't even received any further matches since over a week ago.

On the other hand, I keep waiting for one test result in particular to come in: that of a presumed third cousin on my husband's Tully side. Oh, when will that result come in? Two families are waiting with baited breath, wondering whether the science will confirm or reject our hypothesis that our respective Tully forebears belong in the same family tree.

And then, there is the matter of one Ann Kelly of Lafayette, Indiana, who may—or may not—belong to my husband's second great grandmother's family there. Finding out whether Catherine Kelly and Ann Kelly were sisters seems to be easier based on DNA testing than it has been by old-fashioned paper trail, in this case.

Other than those two possibilities, there have been no emails in or out, seeking verified connections. Those DNA matches just sit on the sidelines, idling, until the grunt work kicks in to line up confirming paper trails.

On each of our maternal sides, though, there is much more action to be seen. There is something motivating about finding potential matches via DNA testing: it encourages researchers to pull out their paperwork and see if they can mutually put the puzzle pieces together. There's synergy in teamwork.

Take my husband's maternal side, for instance. With our recent foray into War of 1812 pension papers and the questions about the Ijams family and their connection to both Captain John Whistler and a much younger John Jay Jackson stationed at Fort Belle Fontaine near Saint Louis, there is much motivation to round out that family tree—and bring it forward through all lines of descendants. That exercise is designed to help reach out to others whose DNA match is telling them more than their genealogical paper trail is equipped to reveal.

Small wonder, then, that our Flowers tree now includes 1,452 names, an increase over the last two weeks of 97 names.

Likewise, with the ongoing motivation on my own maternal tree of finding that elusive nexus with my mystery cousins of the "exact match" mtDNA test status, I've been busy with the Davis tree as well. That tree now stands at 4,930 names, up 87 since the last count. It's no surprise, with all those endogamous colonial roots, to see that I am now up to 901 DNA matches, including seven more which arrived in my in-box through this Friday. One of those results promises to lead us to a connection as close as second cousin—another researcher and I are in the process of comparing research notes on that possibility, right now.

With every confirmed DNA match comes the built-in tool of being able to manipulate all the other results. A handy device—at least at Family Tree DNA—is that of being able to sort results based on commonality. Once I can confirm that someone matching my maternal side is specific to a certain branch of that tree, I can sort through the rest of my results to see if any others match up. Even if those people hadn't provided trees—or even cursory lists of surnames—with a common third party's match, I can still tell where he or she lines up in the universe of our respective families.

But only, of course, if I've already confirmed someone else has matched that surname, as well.

That's the importance of finding matches in the midst of those hundreds of DNA test results. It's not so much whether a person lines up as a second—or third, or fifth—cousin, but where in the family constellation I should place them. Each clue confirmed leads me to yet another clue. But I can't really confirm a clue without some teamwork from those others who match me. Those who believe in that teamwork help themselves by helping each other. It's as simple as that. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Couldn't Have Found This
Without Some Help

The one clear line I have, delineating a dividing point before which Captain John Whistler couldn't have married the widow Elizabeth Howard Ijams, comes with a date concerning John Whistler's first wife. As we saw yesterday, some time during John's return trek northward from Newport Barracks to Fort Wayne, he received word that Anna Whistler had died, back at the Kentucky post, on April 25, 1814.

Where John Whistler was, when he emerged from mourning the loss of his wife to decide upon marrying Elizabeth Ijams, I still can't tell. Was it while he was still at Fort Wayne? Could he have returned to Newport Barracks to reclaim family property? Or had his wife died while in transit to her former home at Fort Wayne?

Complicating matters are the conflicting dates given for Whistler's various assignments while in the military. After his honorable discharge in 1815, one other note in Heitman's Register gives us some bearings as to Whistler's whereabouts: on March 5, 1817, he was again appointed to the position of military storekeeper, but this time not at Newport Barracks. This time, he was stationed at Fort Belle Fontaine, the post on the Mississippi River near Saint Louis—the very place where John Jackson was now stationed.

Try as I might, I had not been able to find any record of Elizabeth's second marriage to the Captain—not any more than I had been able to locate records for her daughter Sarah's marriage to John Jackson.

After reviewing my old notes from the first time I had tackled this problem—remember, I had started this project nearly three years ago, just before some major family upheavals—I rediscovered a few things. First, that the wonderful resource of Cheryl Whistler Garrison's online notes came to us, thanks to the research prowess of Intense Guy, who sent me the link back in December of 2012.

I've certainly used that online material several times—truth be told, coveting Cheryl's possession of that letter from a descendant of Nancy Jackson, the daughter of John and Sarah Howard Jackson, which Cheryl had mentioned in her notes. The other day I finally realized, despite the most recent update to Cheryl's notes being back in 2006, that she had included contact information.

I emailed her, hoping that address was still valid. And held my breath.

In the meantime, in reviewing all those old notes and posts, I also came across a comment sent in 2014 from someone identified only as "Sunderland-Ijams Researcher," providing a totally unexpected location for the Whistler-Ijams marriage. Whoever that kind soul is, I'd love to express my gratitude for the help. I would never have suspected that marriage had occurred back in Ohio, but according to that comment, two resources claimed that was so.

The only drawback: Elizabeth's surname was spelled "Yuas."

Think I should buy it?

According to records digitized at FamilySearch, John Whistler and Elizabeth Howard Ijams were married on March 12, 1817 in Fairfield County, Ohio. Elizabeth's name in the margin looks a little bit more like Ijams than it does in the official entry itself, but hers was a surname for which there were historically many name variations, anyhow.

The trip back from Saint Louis , as described in newspaper and book entries published long since the time of its occurrence in the early 1800s, had left me confused about the true date and location of each couple's marriage—both that of widow Elizabeth and Captain Whistler, and her daughter Sarah and John Jackson. Despite all the help I had received back in 2012, it had not yet painted the full picture for me. After all, those articles identified Jackson's bride as only "an Ijams, a sister of..." and not much more. How could I rely on information like that to lead me to the correct dates and places for each of the two marriages?

That's what made it so helpful to hear from another researcher. Someone like Cheryl—with that letter she received which I so wanted to read in its entirety—could perhaps fill in the blanks in my many questions about the various Ijams marriages.

Above: From the Fairfield County, Ohio, Marriage Records, the entry showing the union of John "Whisler" and Elizabeth "Yuas" on the 12th day of March, 1817; image courtesy

Friday, August 14, 2015

Whistler's Wife's Forts

In my quest to discover exactly how—and where—it might have been that John Jay Jackson married Sarah Howard Ijams, I've taken up the parallel track of the courtship of Sarah's widowed mother by Captain (and widower) John Whistler. However each of these women met up with their prospective husbands, sometime around 1818, the one's story cannot be far from the other's.

We've already seen how John Whistler's tour of duty took him to many outposts of the then-western frontier of the United States. Keeping in mind that his wife and family would follow him in some assignments—but due to their nature, not in others—I became curious to see just where John's first wife might have been during his military career.

There are a number of discrepancies concerning genealogical reports of Captain Whistler's first wife. Her name was supposedly Anna Bishop, but whether she eloped with the young John Whistler after his return to England following the War of 1812 (as some stories portray it), or was just someone he met when he settled in Maryland in the newly-formed United States, I can't be sure. Some Whistler family researcher have disputed this story.

Piecing together John Whistler's military history was a chore, considering that various histories of the last century seemed to carry details in disagreement with other reports. One of the best ways, I thought, to trace his wife's whereabouts was to see where her children were born. After all, John and Anna Whistler were the parents of fifteen children. That should have left some sort of genealogical trail.

For much of my behind-the-scenes work on this question, I relied on the footnotes of a family history posted online: that of Cheryl Whistler Garrison. It was through her work on the descendants of John Whistler that I found the 1917 Griswold book, The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Some of her other citations led me to resources I otherwise might not have discovered.

Even so, combining Griswold's Pictorial History with Whistler's biographical sketch in Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army didn't provide a full picture of the family's whereabouts. Nevertheless, keeping in mind my hunch that where the Whistler children were born would clue me in on where their mother was located, I proceeded as best I could.

Sometime after enlistment in the United States Army, following injuries sustained in battles in the western frontier, John Whistler was sent to Fort Washington to recuperate. It was at that point when his family joined him.

Fort Washington is a location I want to take a moment to review, for that location will figure in our story at a later point. The fort itself was part of the early history of Cincinnati, located on the Ohio River at the mouth of the Licking River. Though the fort is no longer in existence, its location is commemorated by a plaque on Fourth Street in the city, as well as by Fort Washington Way, a corridor of the Interstate that runs through downtown Cincinnati.

As early as 1803, the fort was relocated, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, to the newly-established Newport Barracks. For the purposes of our story, though, John Whistler was by then long gone, having joined General Anthony Wayne's campaign northward from Fort Washington. It was during that tour of duty that John Whistler became involved in building the first Fort Wayne.

That, however, was not a trip for women and children. Anna and her young children likely stayed behind at Fort Washington. While the Whistlers' older children were likely born in or near Hagerstown in Washington County, Maryland, by the time of the tenth child—Ann, born in 1794—we finally have a way to pinpoint the domestic unit trailing then-lieutenant Whistler. Baby Ann's arrival was at Fort Washington.

By then, however, Ann's father had moved on to other assignments. He was part of the Battle of Fallen Timber somewhere near present-day Toledo, Ohio, less than two weeks before Ann was born at Fort Washington. After the battle, Whistler continued on with General Wayne to the location of the current city of Fort Wayne. After completion of the fort's construction, apparently the family rejoined the newly-promoted Captain Whistler, for the family's thirteenth child, George Washington Whistler, was born there at Fort Wayne in 1800.

There were other children born to John and Anna between Ann and George, of course, but places of birth were not indicated. Then, too, some records indicate that John did not remain at Fort Wayne, but had been reassigned to another fort in the Detroit area upon his promotion in 1797. Whether the family went with him in this in-between time, or stayed on at Fort Wayne is not clear. However, by the time of George's birth, the family was together again, back at Fort Wayne.

By 1802, the family was on the move again, likely following John's transfer to Detroit. We can tell where John's wife was once again, by the proof of the arrival of daughter Caroline Frances on Christmas day, 1802, in Detroit. This was the Whistlers' fourteenth child, followed only by a son born in 1808.

At this point, with the War of 1812 upon them, it is hard to determine where John Whistler's family stayed. A note in the Pictorial History indicates that at some point, the family had stayed on at the fort in Indiana, living in quarters there on the compound and socializing with others of the same circumstances. One woman, a neighbor at the fort, later reminisced of her association with the Whistlers,
The commandant was a man of high character, a linguist and a musician; his wife was a woman of rare charm and force of character.

After the war's conclusion, the dates of John Whistler's assignments again become unclear. He was sent back to Fort Wayne to rebuild the garrison there—according to some reports, either in 1815 or 1816. Or, he was honorably discharged in 1815. Or, he was reassigned in 1815 as military storekeeper at Newport Barracks, the post which replaced the old Fort Washington, across the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

However it happened, one thing we can tell: no matter where Whistler was on April 25, 1814, his wife was back at Newport Barracks in Kentucky. This time, we can't trace her whereabouts based on the arrival of any of her children. The news that reached John Whistler this time—wherever he was stationed—was not happy news. On that day, Anna Whistler had died, and was buried somewhere in Newport, Kentucky.

Above: "Fort Washington as it Appeared about 1810," illustration from Volume 1 of Charles Frederic Goss' Cincinnati, The Queen City, 1788-1912, published by the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company in 1912; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

When Life Teaches You Genealogy

I had a horrible thought the other night while writing yesterday's post. This morning, something happened to change all that...

I've heard insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results.

Perhaps, in my case, it has seemed insane to keep poring over the same people's history, hoping to find the smoking gun evidence to answer my question of how it was that two single women in the northwestern frontier of 1800s Ohio would have the guts to travel yet farther west to an outpost near present-day Saint Louis. After all, no matter which way I attack the research problem, I keep coming up with the same result: no documentation that I can find, yet indications that others are saying with certainty the exact date and location for the wedding of Sarah Howard Ijams (the Ohioan) and John Jay Jackson (the quartermaster stationed at Fort Belle Fontaine).

How did they find those details?

How come I can't find that documentation?

And so, wearyingly, I linger over lists of possible proofs, dawdle amidst details of military campaigns—over and over again, rehashing the obvious in hopes of culling the minutest details that would help narrow the focus of my search. And, hopefully, point me to some indication that, yes, it really was true: this couple did actually get married at the right place and the right time.

Insane, I know. But I keep at it.

So, this morning, I awaken to my daughter asking me if I know how to turn on the shower.

I know: that is an unusual request. After all, showering is one of those activities of daily life that we repeat mindlessly. It seems like insanity to have asked such a question.

But today, we are not at home. I'm actually writing this post from the hotel where our family is staying while my husband attends a business conference.

To set the stage for my daughter's un-insane request (after all, if doing the same thing repeatedly yet hoping for differing results is insanity, wouldn't that make doing the same thing expecting the same results the opposite of insanity?), let me remind you that such mundane details as how a bathroom is designed may remain standardized, say, if you were traveling in the same country as that in which you live. For those who have traveled internationally, however, it is very obvious that the engineering of such customary conveniences may turn out to be quite unexpected. Witness my daughter's travels to Ireland last year, when in her first day's sleep-deprived stupor, she couldn't figure out how to do something as routine as turning on the lights in her hotel room.

I assure you, the same sort of thing happens when encountering foreign bathrooms.

Lest you think I am now traveling in Zimbabwe or Kazakhstan, let me put your mind at rest. I'm really only three hundred miles away from home. Yet I'm staying in a rather nice hotel—an impeccably landscaped property where the management chose to customize their shower design.

This is where the definition of insanity kicks in. Roused from my sleep to answer my daughter's question, I go in to inspect the shower design. As I suspected, it was one of those configurations without separate faucets for cold and hot water. One knob did it all. One customized knob.

That knob and I had quite the pre-coffee morning encounter. I twirled it to call it to action. I got action: water coming out the bathtub spout. No shower.

I pulled it. I pushed it. I rotated the knob further. I tipped it. I pressed it. Like a blind soul trying to locate the braille readout, I worked my fingers along every edge of that knob, as well as along the spigot. All I could find was one streamlined design: no hint of abberations. No clue to reveal the magic button.

It was after the third attempt at doing the same thing—turning the knob the full extent of its range, hoping it would click over to routing the water upwards through the shower head—when I remembered that definition of insanity.

Why would anyone choose to be insane?

I stopped.

But that just killed me. After all, we were going to need to take a shower at some point. So we hit upon a different course. We brilliantly deduced that, in the wee hours of the morning when dutiful conference attendees have to get up and prepare for a full day of education, my husband had surely already fought this battle. He obviously engaged the enemy and overcame him. He certainly smelled shower-fresh when he kissed me goodbye through the sleep-deprived haze.

We were about to text him for the secret password to shower operation when it just overcame me: I was not about to succumb to an unconquered shower head. Insanity or not, I was going to head back to that bathroom and get the best of that customized snobbery. I was going to make that shower submit.

And here was just the point at which I learned that doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results is not always insanity. This time, something in that streamlined, customized design—something that had gotten stuck the other three times and didn't function quite the way it was supposed to work—sprung loose from its moorings and dropped into place.

It was a small, rectangular steel bar. With gravity—and, obviously, pointed in the right direction—the bar was supposed to drop into place and redirect the water stream from its downward flow to the bathtub upward through the pipes to the shower head. This time, a delicate stream of diffused water emerged from just the spot I had anticipated the other three times I had tried this trick.

As I crawled back into bed, trying to orient myself to the fact that it was now a fresh new day, the experience reminded me of another attempt I had been making—one that I was sorely tempted to re-dub as insanity. It snatched me away from the brink of giving up on this Jackson-Ijams pursuit, gently reminding me that, sometimes, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is, in fact, not insanity.

Sometimes, those prissy little customized steel bars that malfunctioned the other three times finally decide to fall right into place.

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