Friday, February 21, 2020

Retracing Those Steps Westward

When reports about an ancestor's mother's maiden name seem to conflict, it's time to entertain the possibility that perhaps there wasn't just one wife and mother. Perhaps there were two. Whoever Simon Rinehart married—either before leaving southwest Pennsylvania for what would soon become the commonwealth of Kentucky, or after arriving in Kentucky—we know one thing: her given name was likely Ann.

But was she a Wise? Or a Wiley? Reports about Simon's daughter Sarah claim her mother was a Wiley. A brief biographical sketch of her brother Jesse claims his mother was a Wise.

In order to determine just who married Simon Rinehart and braved the wilds of a new continent to give birth to his daughter in Kentucky by 1795, we need to first reconstruct the entire community of people who moved west. Perhaps some repeat appearances of specific surnames will reveal clues as to which families would be most likely in-laws to Simon Rinehart—and thus, parents of Simon's daughter Sarah.

We'll start reconstructing the trail with the one standard we know: the family of the man whom Sarah eventually married, James Gordon.

As I've mentioned before, James Gordon was the grandson of John Gordon, whose migrations were fairly easy to trace. After all, we've recently discovered that John was the son of George Gordon, appointed first sheriff of the newly-formed Frederick County, Maryland, in 1748. John and several of his children eventually moved, after the Revolutionary War, from western Maryland to Monongalia County in what is now West Virginia, where his son William married Mary Carroll in 1793.

Immediately after that, William and Mary—as well as others in the Gordon family—moved from Monongalia County to the southwest portion of the state of Pennsylvania. Originally settling in what was Washington County—in the region informally known as Tenmile Country after the waters flowing through the area—the land eventually became part of the newly-formed Greene County. Their son James—the one who eventually married Sarah Rinehart, the identity of whose mother we are still tracing—was born there in 1794, just before the official creation of Greene County in 1796.

Let's see if that echoes any of the migration stories for families with the same surname as Simon Rinehart's as-yet-unidentified wife. We'll start today with a family in the Tenmile Country descended from a man named John Wiley, one which echoes the path taken by the Gordons.

John Wiley—at least, according to the Tenmile Country history—was also born in Maryland, but eventually ended up settling on a branch of the Tenmile Creek. One name mentioned in conjunction with this John Wiley was that of the widow of Samuel Seals, who became John's second wife; Seals being a surname related to the extended Gordon family.

Most interesting about this John Wiley, interjected in his brief biography in The Tenmile Country, was the note, "He joined the migration to Mason County, Kentucky." While that was not the same location as the tax record showing our Simon Rinehart to have lived, briefly, in Bracken County, it was interesting to see that John Wiley's oldest son, Elijah, eventually died in Bracken County, Kentucky. Not only that, but Elijah's wife was also a Seals. Another son, Hiram Wiley, also apparently moved to Bracken County.

Lest we get our hopes up about this John Wiley as a possible father of our mystery mother of Sarah Rinehart—who was born in Kentucky and lived, though only briefly, in Bracken County—let it be noted that while Sarah's mother's birth might well be within the range of possibility as a child of John Wiley, who was born about 1732, none of his ten listed children in The Tenmile Country were named Ann.

Still, where one Wiley moved, perhaps there were others. However, there also were folks in Tenmile Country by the name of Wise—the other possible surname for Sarah's mother. We'll take a look at that possibility on Monday.


  1. This is very interesting. Remember as you search that Ann is also a nickname for Nancy and Agnes. Also, when the Rineharts migrated, they may have traveled with grown siblings rather than parents. Ann may have had married sisters near her. This is such a tough time period to search. Watch for any deeds of gift to Simon that could have been from a father-in-law.

    What I've noticed is that earlier researchers tended to do a mash-up of women in that time period because they could not sort them out. In my line, they determined that Charles Kavanaugh's wife was Ann Coleman even though no one could connect an Ann Coleman to him. It turned out that his wife was Ann Covington, a daughter of Ann (Coleman) Covington. That's also why researchers took Philemon Cavanaugh Sr's wife Sarah and Philemon Cavanaugh Jr's wife Ann and mashed them up into Sarah Ann. It was too difficult for them to sort out the Philemons, and there weren't so many records for them to work with. Don't be discouraged; you may be able to find what earlier researchers could not.

    If you come across an Ann Wiley or an Ann Wise who is a generation too early, don't count her out. One could be the daughter of the other.

    1. These are all vital point! And your example of nicknames for Ann may specifically become an important consideration, if one hint I stumbled upon turns out to be true. We'll discuss this further next week.

  2. Have you seen Harvey Washington Wiley's 1930 book An Autobiography? I don't think it's going to help much, but it is interesting.,+kentucky%22&source=bl&ots=pklHHN5Beb&sig=ACfU3U117_XTpVcMYcM9lFC4z6x_b-vTGQ&hl=en&ppis=_e&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjP4teIguTnAhVBIqwKHc6pBOIQ6AEwBHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22john%20wiley%22%20%22bracken%20county%2C%20kentucky%22&f=false

    1. Good ol' Google Books! I'm loving what I'm finding from this link you sent, kdduncan!


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