Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Gordons on One Side

How many people can say they are their own cousin? Surely that sounds strange—until you begin researching lines which had been in this country for hundreds of years. It turns out several colonial settlers in the 1600s and 1700s thought nothing of having their children marry their cousins. In a situation in which there was a limited pool of eligible spouses, it made sense to select a mate who was known to the family, and cousins often filled the bill.

Whether that was the situation in my mother-in-law's case, I can't say. But I did discover that the Gordons on her paternal side of the family were eventually related to the Gordons on her mother's side of the family. Today, we'll look at that paternal side, and follow up tomorrow with the maternal side.

It was actually her father's paternal grandmother who was a Gordon. Though this woman was known as Nancy Gordon, apparently her real name—at least, according to her 1891 headstone—was Ann or Anna. From Nancy, the Gordon line stretches back to Greene County, Pennsylvania, through her father James to his father William B. Gordon. It is Nancy's mother who also causes me research headaches, for she—Sarah Rinehart—was the daughter of the one of the two Simon Rineharts whom I can't yet place within the Rinehart family. For now, though, we'll focus on Sarah's husband James Gordon's line, and his father, William B. Gordon.

It was William Gordon who points us in the right migration direction, for though he died in my mother-in-law's home turf in Perry County, Ohio, he came there from the southwest Pennsylvania territory known as Tenmile Country, and he arrived there, eventually, from his 1772 birthplace in Frederick County, Maryland.

William Gordon, in turn, was son of John Gordon and Mary Hellen Duke, the couple I mentioned yesterday as the progenitors of all the Gordons connected to my mother-in-law's family. In addition, William, who was married twice and could boast of a robust family with each wife, was the likely reason my mother-in-law never realized she was her own cousin—but that, too, is a story for another day.

Researching this Gordon family and all its twists and turns has been a challenge requiring me to take a close look at the many collateral lines of these Gordon patriarchs. Using the whereabouts of both William Gordon and his father, John Gordon, has allowed me to trace their movement westward during the very earliest days of this nation. And being able to spot those geographic locations where they settled allows me to find the records detailing their lives as the Gordon clan migrated from Frederick County, Maryland, eventually westward to Ohio by 1827.

Above: Portion of pedigree chart showing Nancy Gordon's father James, her paternal grandfather William, and great-grandfather, John Gordon of Frederick County, Maryland.


  1. I haven't found cousins marrying cousins yet, but I do have a lot of siblings marrying siblings from another family. Double cousins!

    1. Yes, double cousins. They may eventually become the basis for some pedigree puzzles, as well. Some future family historian may be mulling over that one, too.

  2. Ha ha - this sums up the kind of problem I have identifying the background of DNA matches. Most of them seem to come from multiple family lines. My family, both sides, is chock full of cousin marriages and siblings marrying another set of siblings. The new Beta family tree tool at 23andMe has my grandparents with a whole host of children. Now, knowing them personally, I know they are really not my mother's siblings, but her double-first cousins. But how is 23andMe supposed to sort that kind of thing? After all, the 14 children from those two families come from the same gene pool :-)

    Cross-matching between my paternal-side and maternal-side relatives is staggering, going way back. 200 years worth of South Carolinians had no idea what a mess they were creating for future genealogical research. But I'm game!

    1. What a relief when you finally get that all sorted out, huh? I keep waiting until someone comes up with a formula to differentiate between endogamous DNA relationships. I suspect it will be a long time, though, before 23andMe's beta tree will be up to such a task.


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