Wednesday, November 15, 2017
About Those Old Genealogies
What is it about things that are claimed to be "old" and therefore more valuable than the same item from our own time period? Perhaps that makes sense to value an antique piece of furniture or artwork from a prior period of history. But family trees? Though some people get excited to find an old genealogy about their family, I've learned it is quite possible for diligent genealogists of prior centuries to make just as many mistakes as those of our current century.
The only difference, in finding an "old" genealogy of a family I'm researching, is that I can check out what my fellow researchers of a hundred years ago might have heard about their roots. But those grandmothers of the early eighteen hundreds, say, who passed along the family lore to their younger generations certainly didn't have the opportunity to check out those family legends against the proof in the digitized documents we can so easily call up today.
Your eyes may have lit up when you saw me mention discovering an old history book about the families living in western Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. After all, the Rinehart family which still keeps me in the dark about their origins were once from Greene County, Pennsylvania. And other researchers have also felt sure that my Perry County, Ohio, Rineharts were indeed once residents of Greene County.
Taking a look at the entry about the Rinehart family in this book—The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families—does show us one useful detail, at least. Looking over the Rinehart genealogy detailed in those pages, beginning at page 322, gives us a clue that that family liked to re-use the same names, generation after generation. They nearly wore out the use of names like Simon and Jesse. Cassa, Sarah, and Hannah were winners in the name-after contest, too.
The difficulty was how hard it made it to sort out which Rinehart family might be the correct line for this Simon Rinehart I've been seeking. Yet, if I kept my bearings by insuring that other details about our man were also represented, it would still be possible to not be led astray by all those same names in the Rinehart extended family.
The trouble with all those Simons, however, was not in how many of them there were, but in how nobody among the whole of them shared the same details our man would have to have. For instance, there is no Simon listed with a wife named Ann. Furthermore, if this Simon was father of our Sarah Rinehart Gordon, he would have to be a man born at least twenty years before Sarah's arrival in the late 1790s. As far as I can tell, no Simon mentioned in The Tenmile Country contained the full complement of those requirements.
What complicates matters is that this same Greene County is the one in which I found several of our family's Gordon relatives, too. It is obvious the Gordons from Greene and the Rineharts from Greene lived close enough to each other to know each other well. In addition, despite the distance between the two counties—Greene, where the families once lived, and Perry County, Ohio, where some of the Gordons and Rineharts eventually settled—I am able to find a cluster of those same families in Perry who once were neighbors back in Greene.
There are so many names, it almost makes me want to sketch out this Rinehart family line, as detailed in The Tenmile Country. Better yet, to enter it all into a test tree database in my Ancestry.com account. I've got to come up with a way to examine the narrative for gaps. After all, Bruce Anderson found some missing segments, as I mentioned yesterday. There may be more.
The most glaring false start is the Simon Rinehart reported in Tenmile who lost his life during an ambush out on his frontier property. Obviously, he couldn't be the one who ended up in Perry County. None of the other Simons mentioned in the book would match the age and dates, though. Could there be other branches of this family who were not included in the genealogy in this book? Or does our Simon Rinehart coincidentally come from the same county, but not the same Rinehart family at all?