Monday, April 12, 2021

Constructing the Cluster


How do you tackle a research problem when you know next to nothing about the southern families in question? You consider all the connections you can find as "suspects" and create a list of the cluster of the target ancestor's friends, associates, and neighbors.

For instance, in the Monongalia County case of Godfrey Guseman, likely husband of Anthony Carroll's daughter Margaret, we have a few resources to help us gather such a list. Remember that, during the time period of the War of 1812, the preferred approach to military defense was to raise a company of men as part of a state militia. In the county where Godfrey Guseman resided in the early 1800s—Monongalia County, at that time part of the state of Virginia—there was such a company formed by Captain Samuel Wilson, with Godfrey Guseman as his lieutenant.

Included in this company were a few other names of interest. For one thing, we already have spotted the other men carrying the same surname as Godfrey: Joseph, Isaac, and John.

In addition, recalling that the ancestor who prompted me to start this month's research quest—my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Mary Carroll Gordon—also had relatives by marriage in the same county, it is no surprise to see another Gordon included in Captain Wilson's company: Philip D. Gordon. Philip, as it turns out, was older brother to Mary Carroll's husband, William Gordon.

Turning from this one indicator of friends and neighbors—and likely family—to another source for community names, let's look back at the references we've already found in the wills of Mary's possible father, Anthony Carroll, and her sister Margaret's husband, Godfrey Guseman. Interestingly, both wills mention names associated with specific properties.

In Godfrey Guseman's will, he mentions "the mill property on the Monongahela now occupied by James Kern." And Anthony Carroll's will makes note of "my land lying on Coburns Creek."

It is instructive to turn to the local history books of the 1800s to find mentions of various early mill properties in Monongalia County. In one such book, published in 1883, an entry mentions, "Abram Guseman came from Martinsburg in 1779, and settled on Decker's Creek, and built the Hagedorn mill."

Another entry in the same book explains,

Hagedorn's Mill was built about 1807, by Abram Guseman, and was in the possession of the Guseman family until 1869, in which year it was bought by Lewis Hagedorn and Peter J. Weinig.

In addition, we've already seen the significance of the surname Kern in this family cluster, so we know to pay attention to tips found in the Monongalia County history book about that name, as well. Apparently, the first mill in the "Morgan District" of the county was erected by a man called Michael Kern. Whether that was someone connected with Godfrey Guseman's son-in-law, James Kern, I can't yet say, but in addition to the mill north of Morgantown, another member of the Kern family—Michael junior—built one south of the town, as well. Add those Kern names and their mills to the cluster around the Carrolls and the Gusemans, too.

But what about the property mentioned in Anthony Carroll's will, on "Coburns" Creek? And the additional clue which came in the mention of Godfrey Guseman's sister, Susan Murdock, in his own will? These two clues, as it turns out, lead us outside their home county into neighboring turf. We'll turn there next to see whether there are any other names which can be useful to add to our cluster.

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