Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Close Relationships and Long Generations

Sometimes, I look at the relationships on those barely-complete branches of the family trees under my care and think, "That is such a close relationship to know nothing about."

In today's case, we'll be looking at a woman of whom I know very little, despite her relationship to my mother-in-law being as close as great-grandmother. When I realize that there are many people in this country who actually could remember spending time with their own great-grandparents, I begin to wonder why this woman's history slipped through her family's fingers.

On the other hand, we have to consider the span of generations in any given family. For some families, a generation can be counted off, every twenty years or so, providing the newly-arrived infant in such a family a great-grandmother who might only be her sixties—not an unreasonable scenario. In stark contrast, take a family such as mine, where a generation might stretch as far as fifty years before the next one comes along, and children might not even have had a chance to meet their own grandparents.

Such was the case in my mother-in-law's family. On her paternal branch, the years between generations started with a first leap of forty-five years. By the time we get to her paternal grandmother, we've added another forty two years. Before you know it, we're talking about a great-grandmother who was born in 1808—not exactly someone whom she could invite to even her first birthday party.

Of course, I don't have any proof of Elizabeth Stine Snider's year of birth; I need to rely on reports found on census records from her later years. Thankfully, this woman lived until 1881, affording me a peek into her life from documents dated 1850 through the 1880 census in Perry County, Ohio. And despite her many children, they, too, all died before state records kept the kind of details a genealogist seeks.

Besides what can be gleaned from census records, it was thanks to a personal visit to the courthouse at Perry County that I was able to ascertain her marriage information. According to the "Male Index to Marriages, Perry County," there was an entry for an "Eliza" Stine who married Jacob Snyder on 14 November, 1825. Thankfully, I had a copy made of that record, since the marriage information posted either at FamilySearch.org or at Ancestry.com is now barely legible.

Jacob, as it turns out, was part of a large family of German immigrants, many of whom traveled through Pennsylvania to settle in the same place in Ohio: Perry County. And like his parents before him, Jacob's own family was large—and prone to keep traveling west.

Perhaps it was that his time span—and that of his wife Elizabeth's—put him falling in all the historical cracks which defeat a researcher's hope of discovery. Short of making another trip to central Ohio—not in my future, at this point—it will be hard to go digging through the kind of documents which have yet to make their appearance online, but can be found (with difficulty) through a hands-on search in person.

Then again, perhaps searching for someone with a name as common as Snyder—or whatever German spelling equivalent it might have taken, two hundred years ago—can become a defeating effort in its own right. Couple that with the common surname Stine—perhaps at one point spelled Stein—and mix in the uncertainties of surviving documentation from that time period in the then-frontier region of the northwest territory, and you have a recipe for the kind of research woes that have confronted me regarding this couple.

There is, of course, the Find A Grave entries for both Elizabeth Stine and her husband Jacob Snider. Find A Grave memorials, however, are informational entries put together by volunteers. Though all volunteers are dedicated workers, thanks to the passion they bring to the endeavor, not all volunteer-originated entries are one hundred percent correct. In this case, thankfully, I do recognize the name of the volunteer responsible for the entry and recall that she once told me she had published a genealogy on this family line. Hopefully, the trail she is blazing will be a reliable path for other researchers.

All that said, tomorrow we'll look at some of the initial research challenges in an introduction to Jacob Snider and his wife—the object of my research goals for this month—Elizabeth Stine.

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