Monday, March 2, 2020

Warming up to Some Hints

It's a wonderful thing to discover that we can do an end run around what we thought was a genealogical brick wall. To glean any hints from such an effort, though, we need to be willing to do some research on our ancestor's collateral lines.

In the research problem where I'm currently stuck, I need to find three details. First, I need to find the names of the parents of my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, Simon Rinehart. Following that, it would be nice to determine the name of Simon's wife, the mother of Sarah Rinehart, the woman born in Kentucky who somehow made her way back to her dad's home in Greene County, Pennsylvania, to marry James Gordon. And finally, the icing on the smashed-brick-wall cake would be to determine if the mother of Sarah's brother Jesse was the same as her own mother, or was another woman with the same given name of Ann.

Fortunately, all of these players in my current mystery ended up in the same place: Perry County, Ohio, where they moved from Pennsylvania, sometime during the early 1830s. Yet, try as I might, I have not been able to find any records to indicate the names of Simon Rinehart's parents, a task complicated by the existence of another Simon Rinehart whose tragic demise was recalled by local lore for over one hundred years after the fact, back in Greene County, by a tree linked to his name, marking the exact spot of his murder.

That was in 1779. Our Simon Rinehart was obviously quite well and living in Perry County for decades after that point, and though he would have been of an age to have been a son of the doomed other Simon Rinehart, the ill-fated older Simon had not left behind any namesakes.

Yet, no matter where I looked for other documents on our Simon Rinehart, I found no records linking him to his parents. Nor could I find—online, at least—any verification of the maiden name of his wife Ann, though circumstances of the birth of the two eldest of Simon's children lead me to believe Simon may have been married twice.

So now, I've resorted to what I do in any case which seems to confront me with a genealogical brick wall: I look for details on collateral lines. Unfortunately, though, researching the siblings of Sarah Rinehart Gordon proved unsuccessful. What would be next? Looking for any aberrations I could possibly find.

It was in Simon Rinehart's will that I stumbled upon a clue: a name which I had recently seen in yet another will related to this extended Rinehart family. The clue came in the form of the name Isaac Brown. Though I had no idea whether this would become a collateral line or not, I began building a tree for this new suspect, and then for his children.

Following the line of this one Isaac Brown, neighbor of Simon Rinehart and appointed executor of Simon's estate, it turned out there was, indeed, a worthwhile clue to follow up on: for whatever reason, Isaac also had a family member whom he named Simon.

Now, granted, Simon—at least during that time period—was not an uncommon given name. But there it was in the 1850 census—albeit hard to read—in the form of the nine year old son of Isaac Brown. In the midst of more commonly-chosen given names in their family like Matthew, Robert, and John, was the name Simon, oldest son of Isaac and Catherine Brown.

Just to be sure I was reading that handwritten entry correctly, I moved on to the 1860 census to check. Sure enough, there was a nineteen year old son named Simon. And though his father was again reported as having been born in Virginia, his mother was listed as a native of Pennsylvania. This would be the location of Greene County, previous residence of both the Rinehart and Gordon families. The hints are getting warmer.

And then came the Civil War. By then, this Simon Brown would have been in his early twenties, a prime candidate to be in the thick of battle. Afterwards, the 1870 census for Perry County revealed no sign of a Simon Brown.

The rest of the story, however, was that somehow, in the midst of war, Simon Brown had made his way to Pickaway County, where he married Martha Alexander in December of 1863 and, after the war, settled with his wife and their two children in Henry County, Ohio.

Along the way, chasing after this son of Isaac Brown, I picked up some tempting clues. One was a Civil War record, filed under the transcribed name of Simon Rineweart Brown. The other, a Find A Grave entry showing a headstone labeled Simon R. Brown, came with a volunteer-entered memorial under the more complete name of Simon Rinehart Brown.

Now, despite the fact that even Find A Grave volunteers have been known to make mistakes, that's more to my liking. But, of course, it means answering another question: why would Isaac Brown name his oldest son after the neighbor whose will subsequently listed him as executor?

Above: Marriage return for Simon Brown and Martha Alexander, dated December 23, 1863, and filed in the records of Pickaway County, Ohio; image courtesy


  1. Jacqi if you take a fiction break I recommend The Widows by Jess Montgomery set in Bronwyn County just south of Perry County in 1924,currently reading it.

    1. Kat, thanks for the recommendation. I took a look at reviews, which look interesting. By the way, in the author's notes, she mentioned that though Bronwyn is a fictional county, the story does include factual material from the region of Ohio which does include Perry County--and especially material on the coal mines there.

    2. I should have read those author notes first!

    3. Sounds like the author did some careful work on the historical basis behind her novel. It's just interesting to see the lengths she went to for the details woven into her story line.


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