Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What to do When That Brick Wall
Really IS a Brick Wall

You have this brick wall, but you are determined to figure a way to research around the roadblock and get your answer on just who this ancestor really is. You try umpteen techniques to noodle your way beyond any mental blocks. You check all the latest updates on digitized records. Perhaps you even send a snail mail inquiry to a local repository, seeking advice. But not one clue surfaces. What do you do next?

While I have been stuck on the identity of the Simon Rinehart in my mother-in-law's tree for far more years than I care to recall, even my best attempt this time didn't shake loose any hints. I did learn quite a few details in this foray back into the realm of the Rinehart residence in Washington County, Pennsylvania—but not enough to securely identify both Simon and his wife (or wives) named Ann.

Of course, I'll keep working on this research puzzle in the background, but there are a few tasks to take care of right away, before letting this puzzle rest for a while and moving on to other projects.

The first, of course, is to broaden my horizons and get a bigger picture of the big picture. For Simon's foray into Bracken County, Kentucky, for instance, I could compose a timeline of county boundary changes, to understand exactly where his property once lay. I could, as well, research the overarching reason for why so many people—including several of Simon's friends and neighbors—seemed to be moving to such a remote place as Kentucky in the 1790s.

The big draw for land in Kentucky originated for many, likely, with the bounty land offer for those who served in the Revolutionary War in the original thirteen colonies. Where a soldier served did not match up with where the lands were awarded. For instance, because this portion of Kentucky was once considered part of Virginia's domain, when Virginia set up its bounty land program, the lands awarded were situated, for the most part, in the area which became Kentucky. Confusingly, though the paperwork may have been drawn up in Virginia, the records for these land warrants are now held in Kentucky, not Virginia.

As for my Simon, his wife (or wives) named Ann, his daughter Sarah and his son Jesse, what is imperative is to be sure to write down all the records I attempted to find, and what the outcome was for each one. I need to document why each attempt failed so I don't repeat the same steps in the future.

On the flip side of those failures, I need to note any records I was not able to obtain, and state the reason why I think those would be helpful resources if I could find them. I also need to write out a research plan to take me from this point onward, when and if any additional documents surface—or when I have the opportunity to travel to where I can conduct research personally. After all, not everything is online...yet. I need to be prepared both for that eventuality and for alternate courses of action in case my dreams do not come true quite when I'd hoped.

Obviously, Simon did have a wife, and she did have one specific identity (unless, as we've guessed, he had two wives). Whether there are documents showing that identity clearly, I can't yet tell. I haven't found any. But another task is to keep an eye on any other names which do seem to surface on a regular basis when researching this family.

As it turns out, there was one family name which seemed to show up in a few family documents—a name which has, as far as I can tell, no family connection other than those unexplained appearances in family documents. We'll take a look at that name tomorrow, and determine whether it is a bona fide clue, or a genealogical red herring in the mix.


  1. Hmmmm, a new player enters the game!

    1. Actually, it is usually a good sign when a new name pops up. Don't want to see all our research options depleted!

  2. Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

    1. Chris, I'm honored to be included in your very interesting list of reading opportunities for this week!


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