Tuesday, February 25, 2020

None the Wiser

Let's just say that, back in 1883 when W. H. Beers and Company published the History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio, they hadn't made an error in reporting that Jesse Rinehart's mother's name was Ann Wise. Never mind that Jesse's older sister Sarah claimed that her mother was named Ann Wiley; let's make this claim of Ann Wise our working premise, and find out what we can discover about that family.

We've already seen that there was a possible Wise family settled in the region of the Tenmile Country where Sarah and Jesse's father, Simon Rinehart, had returned after his brief stay in Bracken County, Kentucky, for daughter Sarah's birth in 1795. It was also encouraging to discover that this Wise family had some sons who had also removed to Kentucky in those same early years--though to a different county farther west than Simon's family had gone.

What else can we find about that Wise family? As it turns out—at least if we rely on old, published genealogies preserved for us in digitized form—there are quite a few claims of the progenitor's Wise descendants. Unfortunately, they may not be as reliable as we'd hoped.

I began my quest for older published material in the hopes that research written up nearly 150 years ago might be a bit closer to the truth than what could be found in the twenty-first century. An idea like that may be wishful thinking, but it also reflects on the logistics of human memory over the generations. After all, a man remembering his great-grandparents in 1883 can reach farther back in time than we can, recalling ours today.

First stop was a twirl through the search function at Ancestry.com, where an entry for Johann Adam Wise (or Weiss) brought up several hits under categories such as "public member stories" and public "scanned documents." From there, I searched for the original source for each published item quoted or scanned. To find those originals, I had to use a combination of techniques. Sometimes, I could just search internally at websites such as Internet Archive or HathiTrust, while in other cases, I had to refer back to the book search at FamilySearch.org, or just put a passage from a book in quotes and run it through Google.

In the end, while I was glad to find several resources for the Adam Wise family of Tenmile Country (eventually Washington County, Pennsylvania), there wasn't much I could find that convinced me that I was on the right track for Ann Wise, mother of Jesse Rinehart.

For one thing, the genealogies seemed to contradict each other. Scrolling far down an Ancestry message board thread on the Wise family of Pennsylvania and Ohio, an entry dated 30 April 2007 quoted the line from one published genealogy, which included a daughter of Adam Weiss named Anna Maria. She, however, was placed as child of Adam's first wife, not his second, as did other genealogies.

Furthermore, this Anna was born in 1761; if she was the one to be slated as future wife of our Simon Rinehart, I'd consider it unlikely for her to be married to a man born in 1774, let alone mother of a first child in 1795. And if my hypothesis stands that this Ann was Simon's second wife, that would put her giving birth to son Jesse in 1806, when she was turning forty five. Not an impossible scenario, but highly unlikely for a mother giving birth to a first child.

That, however, was a reprint on a genealogy message board. What about genealogies in "real" genealogy books? FamilySearch.org came to the rescue with a fully-accessible reprint of The Descendants of Adam Wise, 1718-1781, compiled by Elizabeth Fischgrabe and Jacqueline Shidler Meyer in 1996. Disappointingly, the only entry (on page 6) for Mary Ann Wise, daughter of Adam, gave no dates of birth or death—let alone marriage—though it placed her just after her sister Mary, who was born in 1779.

That was in a book put together in 1996. What about earlier books? A brief pamphlet attributed to Henry Wise and originally published in 1921—alternately called "A Short Sketch of the Wise Family"—also mentioned another daughter following Mary (on page 4), whose name was listed as "Mariam." This digitized copy of the pamphlet included several hand-written insertions, one of which corrected the entry to read "Mary Ann." The next page followed with notes about what became of Adam's children, noting that "Abraham and Tobias, with their sisters Mary and Mariam settled in Ohio."

While that might sound a hopeful note—especially if Mariam really were Mary Ann, a.k.a. Ann Rinehart—it would still very much constitute speculation. Not to mention, Ohio was a considerably wide open territory; the proving of such an assertion would require inquiry into what became of not only this Mariam Wise, but at least both her brothers, as well.

A somewhat more encouraging note was sounded by the transcribed words of Adam Wise, himself—thankfully posted at Ancestry.com. Here, we spot the confirmation, at least, that Adam did have a daughter named Mary Ann, who lived, at least, past infancy. Given in April of 1781, not long before his passing, Adam noted in his will,
...Pay my two oldest daughters thirty pounds each hard money, viz: Mary and Maryann Wise, the youngest of which is to remain with [Adam's son] Peter one year....

From that point, should I have the opportunity to travel to Washington County, Pennsylvania, I could consult any other remaining legal documents to see how the guardianship of these two daughters and others of Adam's younger children fared. At least, we now can tell that Mary Ann—whether she became wife of Simon Rinehart or not—was, in 1781, still a minor.

More, of course, could be determined by mining any documents which still might be preserved among the legal papers of Washington County, Pennsylvania. If I were in the area, you can be sure that is what I would be doing next. As it is, having no opportunity to travel through that region any time soon, I'll likely have to poke around the Internet and see what else I can access online to resolve the question of just who that Ann—or, possibly, Mary Ann—might have been.  


  1. It is amazing what is hidden in obsure legal documents. If only we had an army of scanners and unlimited budgets in every repository.

    1. That would indeed be a dream situation, Miss Merry. However, the rate at which documents are being digitized is encouraging. I've had several breakthroughs on ancestors where the documents simply weren't accessible, only a few years ago.

  2. As luck would have it, you don't have to travel to Pennsylvania to search those guardianship records unless you are just looking for a excuse to go. Take a look at the Washington Co., PA records in FamilySearch's catalog (my favorite thing). Their orphan's court records begin in....wait for it....1781. You lucky thing. The only catch is that these images are locked, so you will have to go to your local FHC to view. You only have to pack a flash drive for this trip!

    1. Oh, that is wonderful news, kdduncan! Thank you so much for checking for me. If I don't manage to get it unlocked at our local FHC, there's always Salt Lake City in May for the NGS conference!


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