Monday, June 13, 2016
Problem Child in Perry County
Since we are planning a return to central Ohio this summer—and may as well return to Perry County for some genealogical double checking while we are there—I thought I'd line up a few prime candidates for that limited research time. One of the main connections I still need to figure out is that of my mother in law's great grandfather, Adam Gordon.
Keep in mind, I've been working steadily on transferring my Gordon research from a database housed on an ancient computer into a more thoroughly documented tree on Ancestry.com. From years of working on this Gordon line, I already am well aware there were two camps in this family: one that stayed in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and one that moved to Perry County in Ohio.
The geographic separation comes in handy in the case of this research problem. You see, Adam seemed to be a popular choice for a boy's name in this Gordon family. Just at the midway point where I'm currently hovering in my transfer project, I already have three Adams in this Gordon line—two of whom have birth dates somewhat near each other. Not to mention, there are seven men in the extended family who had one form or another of that name, Adam Gordon, interspersed within their full name. For some, Gordon was the middle name drawn from a mother's maiden name. For others, it was prefaced by another given name, such as John Adam Gordon. No matter how you stack it, there were a lot of Adam Gordons in that family tree. It's good to know keeping an eye on their geographic location can help identify which ones connect with which parts of the extended family.
Needless to say, it could otherwise be easy to confuse them. So, when I came upon this particular Adam Gordon, who seemed to disappear from one household and show up in another in a subsequent census, I wanted to proceed carefully.
What is of particular interest to me in double checking this case is that, like many Perry County families—and not unlike many families with roots in colonial America—this Adam Gordon is one I suspect to be related to other Gordons showing up in my mother in law's pedigree chart. The trouble is, Adam's father bore yet another oft-repeated given name in this line: William. And William died early, leaving not many records I can trace.
This, of course, calls for some on-site investigation, which I will now have the opportunity to accomplish.
Here's the timeline on Adam's roots. Born in Perry County in 1839, he was the son of William Gordon and Lidia Miller. Thankfully, I can find their marriage record in Perry County, showing the date as 24 April, 1838. (Though you need to scroll through several pages to locate the pair in the county's index, a copy is also accessible online.)
Though the 1840 census doesn't provide names for all members of a family's household, I'm fairly certain Adam's father was listed—as "William Gordon Jr."—at the top of this page for Reading Township in Perry County. Predictably, it showed a young married couple with a son under the age of five.
If you think all I have to do is wait for the 1850 census and then look things up, think again. Something happened at just about the time of the 1840 census making that quite impossible. First, William's wife, Lidia, apparently died. I have a note that it was on January 6, 1840, though all I have to show for that is a photograph of the headstone, tucked away in one of those many storage boxes which come of decades of research (and which I evidently need to upload to Find A Grave, as none is there already).
Within that same year—1840—Lidia's husband apparently also died, although that is not what was entered in my extensive notes shared with other Gordon researchers. This was a detail located recently, thanks to a Find A Grave entry. Just as it had been entered in the 1840 census, his entry at Find A Grave was for William Gordon Junior, who died December 24, 1840. The headstone, thankfully, included his age—twenty three years, eleven months and four days, to be exact in that old fashioned sort of way—allowing the possibility that this William Gordon was the right one, out of many William Gordon candidates.
All this, of course, occurred before the county kept records of deaths, and certainly well before any civil registrations of births. Because William was so young at the point of his death, it may have been unlikely that he left any sort of will. He may not even have owned his own property—another detail I'll have to check. Baptismal records for William and Lidia's son may be my only option to positively link the couple with Adam, and to help me delineate whether I have the right Adam—and the right William.
The main question I have in all this, however, was who the father of this William might have been. Granted, it seems a slam dunk to presume William junior's father would be William senior. But which William senior would that be who should take that honor?
My one clue at this point is granted in the 1850 census, where we find an Adam Gordon located in the household of a Perry County widow by the name of Mary Gordon. True, in addition to the many Williams and Adams in this Gordon line, there were a number of Marys, so that is not a very solid clue.
Of course, we get no help from the 1850 census, itself, as it lists no records of relationships other than the fact that these names were all of people sleeping at the same address. However, on the page preceding the one in which Adam was listed as an eleven year old boy—to be expected for one born in 1839—along with sixty year old Mary, there was a twenty one year old farmer named Mark Gordon.
It so happens that the presumed grandparents of Adam—a man by the name of William Gordon whose surviving wife was named Mary—had a son named Mark. According to other records, this Mark was born in 1829, handily adding up to twenty one years in time for the 1850 census. So I could presume that the Adam Gordon in this household would be our orphaned Adam, now living with his widowed grandmother.
I'd still like to see a bit more documentation before I assert that as fact. And maybe a trip to Perry County will produce the desired records. Or maybe it won't. It all depends on what details the people there in Perry County in the mid 1800s considered to be important enough to document for the orphans of that time period.
You can be sure I'll be putting that one on my to-do list for my next visit to Perry County.