Friday, February 28, 2020

Getting the Right Isaac Brown

When one particular name keeps appearing in the important papers of an ancestral family for whom little else is known, it pays to ask a few questions. Like: who is this guy? And why was he in my ancestor's life?

That is exactly the task we'll embark upon, now that we've seen the name of Isaac Brown mentioned in the wills of both James Gordon and his wife's father, Simon Rinehart. We'll take some time today to see what can be found about this Isaac Brown of Perry County, Ohio—and then continue next Monday to follow up on the clues we've found.

Just as a review, we've already discovered that while James Gordon met and married his wife Sarah Rinehart in Greene County, Pennsylvania, she was actually born, in 1795, somewhere in Kentucky. We've also learned that several of the folks who lived in Greene County in the early 1830s all decided to make the move to the central Ohio location of Perry County. That Ohio county was the scene where, in 1840, Sarah's husband James Gordon drew up his last will and testament, and where her father did the same in 1853.

In both instances—and for unknown reasons—both men chose to include someone named Isaac Brown in their proceedings. Since inclusion of a name in a will is not a trifling matter—there is likely an important connection to be discerned here—it may be helpful for us to follow this trail. After all, we still don't know who Simon Rinehart's parents were, despite the well-known story in Tenmile Country of one pioneer with that same name—Simon Rinehart—who tragically lost his life at an early age. Furthermore, we have been unable to confirm the maiden name of our Simon's wife, thanks to conflicting information from different sources.

Of course, seeking an Isaac Brown in Perry County won't be as easy as it seems. In 1850, for instance, the county contained over twenty thousand residents, and stepping back a decade won't help our search much, as the population was barely one thousand residents less in 1840. Finding the right Brown—even if his given name were Isaac—will be a challenge.

And that, as it turns out, is what we are presented with: the challenge of finding the right Isaac. In the 1850 census for Perry County, there were no less than seven men with the name Isaac Brown in Perry County: three in Harrison Township, two in Salt Lick, and one each in Clayton and Pike Townships. Added to that was the eighth possibility: a gentleman going by the initials I.S. Brown, who might also be an Isaac.

However, if we consider that, in 1850, Simon Rinehart lived in Pike Township, we can start our hunt-and-peck procedure with this one candidate: the Isaac Brown whose census entry was listed not far from the page in which Simon's own entry was written.

Of course, nothing is ever easy. This particular Isaac, whom I thought would so conveniently fill the bill as brother to Simon's wife Ann—whoever she was—turned out to be born, not around Tenmile Country in Pennsylvania as would fit nicely with our plot line, but in Virginia.

Hint: Virginia does not fit the preferred narrative.

Moreover, pushing our tree-building luck ahead ten more years doesn't do much for any discoveries. While there was an Isaac Brown in the 1860 census, that Isaac's wife was not the same as the Catherine listed in the 1850 census—if, indeed, the abysmal handwriting was trying to communicate that message to us. In 1860, the wife was listed clearly as Cassa, not Catherine.

I tried pushing forward yet another ten years, selecting the older children, in case Isaac himself was no longer living, but I realized yet another roadblock standing between that questionable 1860 census and the decade beyond: the Civil War. That oldest son likely served in the Union Army by that point, and may have been lost to all by 1870.

Still, I took the children one by one, to see what I could discover about this Isaac Brown family, and followed the trail. It wasn't long until I discovered a middle name appended to one of those children which made me nearly shout out loud: it wasn't a connection to Simon's wife at all. It wasn't a Wise. Nor was it a Wiley. It was a Rinehart connection. With Simon, himself.


  1. I really enjoy learning about your processes.

    1. Thanks, Miss Merry! I'm kinda curious to see where they lead, myself!


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