Thursday, February 20, 2020

Finding Fine-Feathered Friends

Oh, woe is me; I'm seeking non-existent ancestors.

How is it that an unsuspecting researcher (me) could be caught up in a quest to find a man who was never recorded in records in the lands of his forebears—or, worse, was mis-attributed as the son of someone who could never possibly be his father? How do you find such a person?

Perhaps I can blame it on my mother-in-law. After all, this is her line. Remember that John Gordon I so swimmingly could trace back to his early days in Frederick County, Maryland? Well, his grandson James can be implicated for his choice of wife: he it was who married Sarah Rinehart, supposedly born in Kentucky in 1795 to proud parents Simon and Ann Rinehart.

How did a man who lived in Greene County, Pennsylvania, find a potential bride who came from as far away as Kentucky?

Granted, Simon and Ann's daughter likely returned to Pennsylvania after their fling in the fledgling state of Kentucky. After all, Sarah Rinehart's younger brother Jesse was said to have been born in Pennsylvania, so they must have returned to their family's hometown before 1810.

Finding Sarah Rinehart, however—or her parents Simon and Ann—is not getting me any traction in trundling back to a previous generation. So, how to proceed when your research gets in a rut?

Since I already have been stymied with the conflicting stories of just who her dad married—was it Ann Wiley or Ann Wise?—I figured that might be an alternate route for my research to take. Birds of a feather, as they say. Or, to put it in more genealogically-friendly words, I could look for Ann's F.A.N. Club. Were there any Wises or Wileys in Tenmile Country?

You know the drill with the F.A.N. Club theory: people often did things in groups, so it pays to pay attention to the names of the folks in those groups. Migrations of long distances, or any other major changes, often were done by people in groups. Communities were built to stay together, especially near the frontier where strength in numbers could mean the difference between survival and those other, more dire, circumstances.

So our task—should we choose to accept it—is now to see if we can find any indication of families in the neighborhood of our Simon Rinehart, whoever he was, and see if their whereabouts harmonize in any way with Simon's own story. Since Greene County, about the time of the Rinehart family's return from Kentucky, only had about 8,600 residents, chances are likely strong that any Wises or Wileys living there would be connected in some way to the Ann who could have been Simon's wife.

Since I've already entertained the possibility that Simon might have been married twice—once to a Wiley and once to a Wise—it will be beneficial for us to check out both possibilities. And that is exactly what we'll take a look at, starting tomorrow.

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