Monday, November 6, 2017

Where Simon Says He Is

When self-published family histories all seem to be screaming different details as fact which couldn't possibly co-exist with the others, the only solution to resort to is that of hunting up the original documentation. With the pursuit of Sarah Rinehart Gordon's family story from the late 1700s, the challenge might turn out to be that records from those pioneers' Kentucky wilderness may not even be in existence. Let's see what we can find.

We've already found one record—thanks to a comment by reader Marian Koalski—listing Sarah's parents as Simon "Rineheart" and Ann Wiley. Still, that was Sarah's own death record from 1876, found in Perry County, Ohio. What about earlier records?

The difficulty with tracing Sarah's earlier years is that this woman apparently didn't stay put in one location. In fact, the narrative of her story's locations makes her sound like a child of a much more modern era. Reports consistently gave her state of birth as Kentucky, not the Ohio location where she was resident as a married woman, according to the census records for 1850, 1860 and 1870. And yet, she married a man—James Gordon—who, with his extended family, moved to Perry County from Pennsylvania, not Kentucky.

Since families back then, if moving at all, seemed to migrate within a group, I wondered whether Sarah's parents—still back in Kentucky at the time, for all I knew—might have moved with their daughter. Since Rinehart was a popular surname in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where the Gordons once lived, it was worth testing that hypothesis.

I took a look at what I could find in the earlier census records for Perry County. While it is a matter of guesswork to determine whether any given head of household in a pre-1850 census is the right individual, at least I could see whether the hypothesis could be ruled out entirely. If no Simon Rinehart in Perry County, Ohio, then I get to nix that theory.

Getting a running jump with the 1850 census for Perry County, it turns out there was a Simon Rinehart listed. Added bonus: living with him was (presumably) his wife, named "Anne." In addition, on the following page, three more names were added to the household: Hannah "Rhinehart," Lucinda, and Charlotte. Of course, given the limitations of the 1850 census, I can't just presume they were daughters of Simon and Ann, but there is that slim possibility.

The 1850 census listed this Simon Rinehart's age as seventy six, giving a potential birth year of 1774. Ann's age was given as sixty eight. While Ann's birthplace was reported to be New Jersey, I was particularly interested to see that Simon's birth location was stated to be Pennsylvania. Despite his daughter's claim to have been born in Kentucky, I happen to know there were a good number of Rineharts in the same Pennsylvania location where Sarah's husband's family once lived: Greene County. At this point, I am envisioning a scenario in which Simon meets and marries his bride, Ann Wiley, in Greene County, rather than any romantic tryst on riverfront real estate in northern Kentucky.

The 1840 census for Perry County, while lacking the detail of the 1850 record, did include a head of household named Simon Rinehart. While the household did including a puzzling young male between the ages of ten and fifteen, it also showed an older man, aged somewhere between sixty and seventy. Encouragingly, the household also included a woman between the ages of fifty and sixty, as well as four younger females, one in each of the age divisions from five to ten, ten to fifteen, fifteen to twenty, and twenty to thirty.

If Simon and Ann reported their ages, in 1850, as seventy six and sixty eight, then the age slots for the 1840 census would match up with their presumed earlier ages of sixty six and fifty eight. With the three younger women, in 1850, aged thirty eight, thirty five and thirty two, respectively, things didn't fall as neatly into place—one would expect three tick marks in the category for ages twenty to thirty, not one—but knowing how iffy age reporting could be in those older enumerations, I can't rule that entry out entirely at this point.

What the 1850 census does give me, though, are three additional names to trace, in my effort to determine whether this Simon and Ann Rinehart in Perry County were parents of—and had migrated with—the Sarah Rinehart Gordon who had claimed she was born, back in the 1790s, in Kentucky.


Above: Excerpt from 1850 U.S. Census, showing household of Simon and Anne "Rhinehart" of Perry County, Ohio; digitized image courtesy


  1. Jacqi, I enjoyed following along as you carefully explained your research reasoning. And since my hubby's family tree includes "Rinehart" in Ohio, I'm especially interested. No "Simon Rinehart" that I know of, but will double-check just in case.

    1. Now that would be an interesting connection, Marian! With Rinehart being such a common surname in that area and time frame, though, you are probably right in doubting the possibility. Simon was a name that seemed to repeat itself often in this family line, so if you didn't see any in your husband's line, I'd tend to agree with you. Thanks for double-checking, though!


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