Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A Little Grumbling About Spelling

Finding that Isaac Brown's wife's maiden name was Rinehart certainly piqued my interest. After all, not only was I searching for a reason why his name might show up in the wills of both my mother-in-law's Gordon ancestors and her Rinehart roots as well, but I am still trying to figure out just how Isaac's wife might be related to the Simon Rinehart who was my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather.

Finding yet another Rinehart connection certainly couldn't hurt. But I'm not sure just how it will help, either. Still, I can't pass up the opportunity to follow the trail laid down by the Find A Grave volunteer who asserted that Cassa Rinehart Brown's parents were "William and Lila Ingram Rinehart."

But first, a little moment to do some grumbling. About spelling.

Now, everyone who knows anything about history—at least, in the early days of the United States—likely realizes that spelling was not always...shall we say, standardized. Not until 1806, when Noah Webster began his efforts to develop a consistent standard for spelling, did the English words our ancestors all took for granted in their everyday speech become formalized in their written format.

That standardization, of course, was for words—nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions. As for names, that may have been an entirely different matter, with one brother spelling his name Reinhardt while his sibling, moving to a different town in that new, English-speaking world, might eventually find his name spelled as Rinehart.

Despite that casualty in an era which was not yet accustomed to the rigorous demand for standardized spelling, there was one surname which somehow managed to maintain its spelling idiosyncracy: a surname prevalent in the Tenmile Country region which was consistently spelled Inghram.

Yes, there is an "h" in that "Ingram." If you doubt the spelling of that surname, witness the numbers of descendants of that original family of settlers who all maintained that same unusual form of spelling in this listing of obituaries transcribed from Greene County, Pennsylvania, newspapers of the 1800s. Scroll down to the entries spelled Inghram, and you'll see why I balked, yesterday, at spotting that Find A Grave note about Cassa Rinehart Brown's parents.

If you spend enough time wandering around the records of your ancestors in a given town or county, you eventually start seeing details you might otherwise have missed in a more cursory review. I call this "reading between the lines." In other words, extrapolating from the black and white details laid out on a page of records to discern what might have been going on behind the scenes.

In the case of Greene County, especially when researching my mother-in-law's Gordon and Rinehart ancestry, I couldn't help but notice how many times those extended families intermarried. I've seen Rineharts married to Inghrams, and Gordons married to Inghrams. Face it: if you are researching a family with many children who make it to adulthood—and those adults live in a limited community with a small, isolated population—you eventually notice multiple intermarriages among the same surnames. Enough, even, to make your head spin.

Now, couple that with the habit, among some people groups, of naming their precious babies after the oldest relatives for whom they still hold fond feelings. Of course, that is likely what is behind my difficulty in determining the right Simon Rinehart, a step vital to progressing toward that next one of ascertaining the identity of his parents. But it is also behind another prevalent name-after favorite: the given name of Delilah.

Yes, there was likely a Delilah Inghram. Worse, there were likely many Greene County belles with the name Delilah Inghram. In fact, in pulling out my latest family history acquisition, the Tenmile Country book by historian Howard Leckey, there was indeed (on page 310) a Delilah—not "Lila"—Inghram who married a William Rinehart. Cross-checking Leckey's notes on the corresponding Rinehart family, once again (on page 323) he mentions William Rinehart, conveniently listed as marrying someone named Delilah Inghram.

Lest you cut to the chase here and assume that our Cassa Rinehart who married Isaac Brown—the man who eventually became executor of Simon Rinehart's will—was, say, a sibling of that same Simon Rinehart, let warning bells and whistles go off in your head. There are problems with such a "solution," the least of which is the difficulty of conflicting dates in each person's timeline.

We may have to take a step back, cool our heels—after all, this search has been going on for years—and let a much more level head take charge. In which case I predict that, in our near future, we will begin building yet another test tree before we can form any hypothesis as to the connection between Isaac Brown, his wife Cassa, and the Simon Rinehart from Greene County who is still, sadly, parentless in his final resting place in Perry County, Ohio.

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