Monday, November 13, 2017

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

In puzzling over possible misreporting of a mother's maiden name on an ancestor's death record, there is always the option of cross-checking by looking up the answer on a sibling's certificate. Thus, I thought it would be an easy matter of finding Sarah Rinehart Gordon's brother Jesse listed in the not-yet-indexed Perry County, Ohio, records. After all, I already had the date of death for Jesse—March 1, 1880—and even the township in which he lived, thanks to a report in the 1883 publication, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio.

Looking up the death entry in the microfilmed collection, "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001" would be a snap. Yes, the collection has not yet been indexed, but it is logically laid out. First, I clicked on the county and the volume I wished to peruse. Then, since it was arranged in date order, I made an educated guess and plunged in.

I noticed the pages were set approximately by date, and—thankfully—also in alphabetical order, separated by townships. I went to the section for 1880 deaths, found the entries for Pike Township, where the Jesse Rinehart property was situated, and let my eyes scan the entries for "R" along the left hand column.


I went back and noticed a few further details. For one thing, I discovered that most of the entries were in alphabetical order. Not all. To complicate matters, occasionally the clerk would get mixed up and, instead of using the last name, first name format, would reverse the order, so I had to go back and search for any misplaced entries in the J section.

Still no Jesse Rinehart.

Next, I noticed that the date entered in the far left column of some pages was not the date of death, itself, but just the date in which the Assessor of the township had made his entry. And each set of entries could span nearly six months or more of deaths for that locality. In fact, there were several pages I discovered in which the range of dates spanned two years—say, 1880 and 1881. I went back and checked an even farther date range, just in case.

After still no sign of my Rinehart man, I began to wonder whether the history book had made a misprint of Jesse's date of death. Perhaps he didn't die in 1880, but maybe in 1881. Or, what if that "fact" was gleaned, mistakenly, from that left column, which was really the date of the assessor's entry, not the date of the event itself? I extended my search backwards in time, too, in case it was merely the entry that occurred in March, 1880.

This Jesse Rinehart was not cooperating.

"Forget this," I told myself. "Go look up his will."

If you think that provided me any relief from my frustration, think again. Nothing is ever easy.

Perhaps our Jesse died, not only in a different township—and believe me, I checked the whole of Perry County—but in a different county altogether. And I'm not game for a search of Licking and Muskingum and Fairfield and Athens and Morgan counties. There's got to be another way.

It's just that I haven't exactly come up with it yet. But I will. Meanwhile, back to the drawing board. There are a good number of other notes in my twenty-year-old Rinehart file still to review. 


  1. Well said - 'nothing's ever easy'. You gave it your best shot for that session and may feel more like attacking another county another day.

    1. It seems that has become my theme song lately, Gayle: "nothing's ever easy." On the flip side, perhaps my work load expectations have deflated too much. Hopefully, I'm learning to deal with it. Thanks for the encouragement, though!


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