Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The One Good Thing About Taxes

Put simply: taxes create a paper trail. While they may be painful to pay at the time, participation in that historic event, say, two hundred eighteen years ago can leave us now with enough governmental budget dust to sway a genealogical opinion about an elusive ancestor.

One such ancestor, in my family's case, was the third great grandfather of my mother-in-law, a man by the name of Simon Rinehart. According to reports from other researchers of this family, Simon's daughter Sarah was born in the late 1790s in a state newly-admitted to the Union: the state of Kentucky.

I've always looked askance at such reports of a woman from that time period and place subsequently marrying a man from back in Pennsylvania, and then moving to Ohio to raise their family, but it may turn out that the simple—albeit painful—act of paying one's taxes might just have been the trick to confirm this one part of a crazy eighteenth century itinerary.

Of course, there's no way I could have found any such documentation through dint of will or my own research powers. Only thanks to online search capabilities could I run across any record. But there it was: from a collection at Ancestry.com labeled Kentucky Tax Lists, 1799-1801. Dubbed the "second census" of 1800 Kentucky—itself a brand new state missing that first United States census by the time of its formation—the searchable list is transcribed from original tax lists now in the holdings of the Kentucky Historical Society.

If Sarah Rinehart was indeed born in Kentucky, as census records in the later decades of her life asserted, it was possible that her father's name could be showing on such a tax list. It was worth a look.

The reassuring entry—Simon "Rineheart" in Bracken County, dated 22 November, 1799—confirmed which of two previous self-published genealogies contained the correct information. Not only can I confirm the family's presence in the state, I can now safely rule out the possibility of Sarah's birth farther south in Somerset, Kentucky.

The discovery also sent me scurrying to the FamilySearch wiki to learn all I could about additional resources for Bracken County. To my dismay, I learned that marriage records for this county were only available from 1797 onward; that county would not provide me any information to help confirm or rule out a Kentucky marriage for Sarah's father Simon and his bride, Ann Wiley. My only possibilities for resolving that question would be to look to records from where the family likely emigrated, back in Greene County, Pennsylvania—or hope that the county from which Bracken was carved (either Campbell or Mason counties) would have holdings that predated Bracken County's formation.

Knowing the possible scenario from later census records—with Simon born in Pennsylvania and Ann coming from New Jersey—it seemed unlikely, in that era, that Simon would have traveled from Pennsylvania with an unmarried Ann to set up housekeeping in distant Kentucky. While it seemed the most logical approach to look for their marriage record in Pennsylvania, though, finding the right Simon Rinehart in Greene County, Pennsylvania, would turn out to be a search with challenges of its own.

Above: Yes, it was Bracken County in Kentucky where Sarah Rinehart Gordon's parents had settled—at least for the decade in which her Kentucky birth occurred. Excerpt from digitized image of transcribed tax records from the state of Kentucky courtesy Ancestry.com.


  1. Jacqui, yes! Never thought I'd agree that taxes are good but you are right. ha!

    1. It takes looking at things with a genealogist's eye, but that can make even taxes look good!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Marian! Of course, it's unlikely I ever could have found that record, researching pre-Internet. Even after all these years, I'm still amazed at what can be unearthed, using online resources to tackle our research puzzles.


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