Monday, May 31, 2021

Which William?


It's been a long month of research on the Ijams family of Ohio. Though we began the month exploring the family as they settled in Fairfield County in the earliest years of Ohio statehood, my original research goal was to connect my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson, with her parents. Some reports had indicated that Sarah was daughter of William Ijams, a settler from Frederick County, Maryland.

One of the stumbling blocks was the sense that, in reading those old local history books, there might have been more than one William Ijams in Fairfield County. If you recall, we had read one passage stating that three Ijams brothers had come to the area from Frederick County, Maryland: Isaac, William, and Thomas. Other passages from century-old books seemed to indicate otherwise, leaving us with more than one William Ijams.

Now that we're closing out the month and moving on to another research goal, I decided to inspect one more resource to see whether following anyone else's trail could shed some light on this puzzle. Because I already had seen that William Ijams was listed as a Patriot in D.A.R. records—and that his father was listed, as well—I pulled up the records for John Ijams to see what documentation might be provided.

That led me to references for what turned out to be a series of books written by Harry Wright Newman on early families in Anne Arundel County. While that, too, had me puzzled—those old Ohio history books mentioned the Ijams brothers coming from Frederick County in Maryland—I looked at to see if any of the books might be available online. After all, the books' description did mention the Ijams family name.

Though I had disappointment in my quest to locate the first two entries in FamilySearch's books category—the volumes were not publicly accessible there—going to the catalog category online gave me the option, with one of the books, to view it online. Eureka!

There, in the book Anne Arundel Gentry, published in 1933, author Harry Wright Newman laid out the genealogy and family history of several early settlers of the Maryland county, including not only William Ijams' roots, but also those of his wife, Elizabeth Howard. Of course, I'll have to confirm the specifics of that book's report for myself, but I take it as a guide, a trailblazer. And I'm most grateful for the assistance, at this point.

Within those 668 pages of Anne Arundel Gentry, I also found the explanation for why the Ohio books reported the three Ijams brothers as arriving from Frederick County, not Anne Arundel: when their father died about 1782, his widow moved, with some of the family members, to Frederick County. It was likely with the sale of land inherited from their father that the three sons, William and his two brothers, funded their move to Ohio.

Back in Maryland, those three brothers were not without relatives, including some by that same name of William Ijams—not a surprise with a place called Ijamsville, founded by one of William's relatives. To keep each William properly identified will take a diligent examination of each one's ancestry. But that, along with the task of sending for appropriate documentation, will be a continuing pursuit kept in the background. We are, after all, moving into a new month, with a new research goal to pursue, starting tomorrow.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

About Those Newspapers


I've been thinking a lot lately about newspapers. After all, they are an excellent go-to source when the family we are trying to fix in our family tree seems to slip through the cracks of those decennial document years. In newspapers, we can find those elusive relatives in every column from the somber obituary page to the celebratory society page. If we are fortunate and have family from those down-home-on-the-farm communities, we even might find our relatives mentioned as who's coming to dinner, or who's visiting from out of town.

I use newspaper collections a lot in my family history pursuits. My main reason is to help complete collateral lines—those siblings of direct line ancestors whose descendants turn out to be my DNA matches. Until next year, when the 1950 census is finally released, we are mostly limited to the 1940 census when we want to round out the picture of the current-day extended family—unless, of course, those relatives got their fifteen minutes of fame in the local paper.

It's partly because of newspaper entries that I've been able, in these past two weeks, to add 126 names to my family tree—this time, with a good number from my paternal side, that missing connection to Polish ancestry from immigrants to Milwaukee. Now, my combined tree stands at 25,908 individuals. Likewise for my husband's family, where the addition of seventy nine more names yields a tree of 20,991 people.

That's not to say newspapers are my only resource for records in the mid-twentieth century. There are, of course, many other resources which are digitized and posted in genealogical websites. Those, however, can be limited by the openness of jurisdictions. I find it far easier, for instance, to trace descendants in Texas or California—sometimes even Ohio—than I can in many other states which are not as well represented in online collections. It is in such cases that newspapers become even more important as a research tool.

As much as I appreciate the research boost of newspaper collections online, though, one realization about newspapers has me concerned. Perhaps your hometown's newspaper is struggling as much as mine is to keep up their subscription level, from a business point of view. With access to the news possible from so many other outlets, not as many people rely on newspapers in their old-fashioned print format the way our grandparents might have done.

With more and more local newspapers going out of print, though, what will become of that handy resource for future researchers? We may be able to tap into free collections through digitization projects like Chronicling America—or subscribe to a number of newspaper collections online—but what will be the go-to resources for community coverage for future researchers, when print news goes out of vogue? 

I chuckle to think that YouTube videos, or maybe even vignettes on TikTok, will become the massive piles of data a future generation of genealogical researchers will have to trawl through, but there is a serious side to contemplating such a turn of events. Each medium presents its strong suit and its weak side. While newspapers brought us a blend of international news from a national perspective—and a touch of local highlights and community service items—social media may not provide the same focus. 

Those of us who are vocal on Facebook—if, in its future defunct state, it becomes preserved for historical purposes—will make our far-removed descendant researchers quite pleased at our persistent use of such soapboxes. Those of us who didn't avail ourselves of such outlets will become invisible. And lest you think that will never be the turn of events, let me remind you of online services like GeoCities, a treasure trove of information until the company went defunct.

For now, I'm quite a satisfied researcher, thanks to the system of broadcasting information via print form known as newspapers. My research goals have, in many cases, been fulfilled through those daily publications. But I am curious to think about what will replace such services in the future, and how such changes will impact future researchers' ability to find us and learn what our lives used to be like.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Because we Can


No matter how much we complain about the lack of adequate documentation in the family histories published in prior generations, we have to remember one thing. While those of our grandparents' generation—or those who went before them—who self-published their research may have lacked resources we've come to expect now, they operated within a much more restricted arena. We can, with online research capabilities and the proliferation of digitized documentation now, dance circles around the typewritten manuscripts our motivated and forward-thinking great-grandparents might have produced in their time about their family's story. We have come a long way in what we can achieve in genealogical research.

It is precisely because of such a turn of events that I don't mind encountering the lack of clarity on sources for the research assertions as I've run across in the Ijams D.A.R. files I mentioned yesterday and years ago in the case of Sarah Ijams' husband John Jackson's Patriot line.

We've all encountered such wrinkles in the resources used in the past to "verify" genealogical connections. And really, one hundred years ago or more, it would have taken a lot of fancy detective work to unearth some of the documents we now can conjure up in front of our own noses with the mere click of a mouse.

But when we find them—those assertions lacking solid documentation—what do we do next? Do we grumble about the help of that trailblazer and move on with our own research business? Or is there something we can do to make a difference for those of our fellow researchers who follow this same trail after us?

Lately, I've seen so many Find A Grave memorials, for instance, lacking photographs of headstones—the very hallmark of what Find A Grave has come to be known for. If we've found a memorial without the picture of the memorial—and we happen to have snapped a copy of that same headstone—why not become a volunteer for the day and upload the photograph to the website?

While I don't have any way to know what the national D.A.R. headquarters would say about providing records for those of our Patriot files which seem to be lacking the verification of current research standards, it certainly would be worth an attempt to provide documents, if we have them. Anything which could help round out the records already on file for such a Patriot would make the application process smoother for future prospective members.

When I think of how quickly we now can locate material—whether direct evidence, or circumstantial details which could help build a solid proof argument concerning direct line relationship—I realize how rapidly we could round out the collections started in prior generations. What those trailblazers of the past did was remarkable, considering the limited research tools they had at their disposal. Looking at what we can achieve now, though, it would be a small matter to be able to augment those reports assembled by researchers in prior generations.

Because we can, we are seeing local genealogical societies assemble—and, in some cases, preserve—record sets which may not be on the national radar, but which mean something to someone's family. Because we can, we are seeing volunteers look at unorganized fragments of disparate record sets and envision how they can be re-assembled into one, useful unit to benefit researchers. Because we can, we have multiple opportunities to share what otherwise might never be found by the very person who would most benefit from the discovery—through forums, through shared documents on genealogical websites, even through social media outlets for family historians.

Just because others can doesn't mean you are off the hook, however. If you have something to share about your family's history, I hope you will do so, too, in whatever way possible. Because, you know...we can.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Discoveries With Drawbacks


It's been an enjoyable month of research discoveries as we've pursued the genealogical Bright Shiny Objects associated with the William Ijams family after they left Maryland to settle in the fledgling state of Ohio. Despite that, we need to remember our research mission for the month of May: confirm the parents of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson.

Sarah had, unfortunately, died within thirteen years of her marriage to John Jackson. Since she had given him four children, I had hoped that Sarah's early death in 1829 would not cause her life story to be obliterated, at least in part because of the human legacy she left behind to keep her memory alive. Thankfully, we did have one token to confirm her relationship to the Ijams family through her generous brother Isaac Ijams, who mentioned her heirs specifically in his will.

That, however, was not the strong documented link I was hoping for to connect Sarah with her father, William Ijams. While yes, William himself did leave a will, and while we can infer from that will that William had three daughters, he never named those specific children in the document. Some research challenges can border on messy.

However, as Wendy mentioned in her comment earlier this month, we are not left without recourse. It so happens that William Ijams, Sarah's father, was of an age to have lived through the Revolutionary War—better yet, was listed as a Patriot in the Genealogical Research System of the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution. Sure enough, as Wendy had told us, William Ijams has an entry among the D.A.R. Patriots.

That, of course, seems a wonderful discovery—until, that is, we take a closer look. As you may have noticed, D.A.R. Ancestor Searches come with an additional benefit: Descendants Searches. For the entry for this particular William Ijams, there is a descendant line listed through William's daughter Comfort Ijams, wife of Edward Stevenson.

You can be sure I have passed this way before. Not only do I add all collateral lines—down to their descendants for DNA purposes—but I also have worked on Sarah's research problem from the direction of her widower husband's history. So right away, looking at the Descendants List for the line of William Ijams' other daughter Comfort Ijams Stevenson, I could spot two drawbacks.

One of those drawbacks was that William Ijams' date of death was given only as before the date when his will was presented in court. That, of course, is minor, as we've already discussed this month.

The second problem I could spot right away in the D.A.R. descendant's generations was the information given for William's wife, Elizabeth Howard. Her date of death was listed as "p 27 Dec 1815," which was the date when William signed his last will. Elizabeth's story is not only messy, but complicated by the fact that, even though I researched this in the past, some of the records are no longer accessible online.

Take, for instance, the Find A Grave memorial for William Ijams' widow, Elizabeth Howard Ijams, eventual wife of John Whistler. When I last researched that connection, I had saved the link to the memorial showing her burial, along with her second husband John Whistler, in Missouri. When I go to retrace my research steps now, all I get is: "This memorial has been removed."

Certainly a most unwelcome sight. Such disappearances make me want to rush to copy such obscure entries as the thorough notes of one researcher posted on the erstwhile site now overseen by, lest they vanish, as well.

In about 1816 or 1817, John Whistler married his second wife, Elizabeth (Howard) Ijams. She was the daughter of Joseph and Rachel (Ridgely) Howard of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Elizabeth married first, William Iiams (Ijams) of Frederick County, Maryland and had ten children. Sometime before 1806, the family moved to Fairfield County, Ohio near the present-day town of West Rushville. William Ijams died probably in late 1815.

The only other indicator of Elizabeth's last days is a transcribed summary of a passing note in the Columbian Centinel regarding a Mrs. Whistler, "consort of Maj. John Whistler" in the May 10, 1826 edition, found in the collections at

Such few details clue me in on one thing, though: the estimate of death given in the D.A.R. record for Elizabeth presents yet another token that relying on old D.A.R. applications may not produce the full picture to guide me any further in my own research challenges.

Still, as I've always maintained, such resources become trailblazers for those of us who pick up the trail afterwards. It's up to us to verify what we can and improve the trail even further by adding our own discoveries in the hopes that such documentation—and proof arguments—will amplify the next few steps beyond what has already been found. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Sense of Place


What is it we think of when we talk about a "sense of place"?

Perhaps that might seem an odd question to ask in a blog about genealogy. It is, however, not a matter of space and the objects which fill that location, but is truly owing to the people who make that place theirs which bestows us with what we call a sense of place. 

It is the people who have lived in a home which make a house history compelling. Likewise, for a location like Knoxville's School for the Deaf—a place I've never visited, though now would certainly like to—it is not the buildings but the people who have made them what they are who fascinate me.

Of course, my introduction to the school came only on account of my pursuit of the Ijams family history—first, in following young Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams from his birthplace in Ohio to his college years in Iowa and then in subsequent teaching capacities for deaf students in Iowa, Washington D.C., and, ultimately, the Tennessee school in Knoxville.

With Joseph's unexpected death in 1882 in the midst of his career, the story of his five now-fatherless children beckoned me further, leading to the story of Joseph's youngest son, Harry P. Ijams. That, in turn, revealed the story behind one of the city's shining examples contributing to a sense of place, the land which eventually became the Ijams Nature Center.

That Harry, as an adult, moved from the downtown location of the Ijams home once centered around the school's well-being, to the more bucolic Island Home setting which, within ten years, became the new location for the school for the deaf, is not lost on me. I wonder: were those two relocation decisions merely coincidental? Or was there a connection between the two that led the school, once again, to be neighbors with the Ijams family?

I have tried in vain to find an answer in the recountings of local history. Though people in Knoxville certainly exhibit one qualification for a city which has a sense of place—valuing where they came from and what makes them what they have become—in all their many online postings about how-things-came-to-be, I cannot find anything more than a token nod to the fact that the school's neighboring nature preserve was originated by the son of the school's former director.

"The school itself has an unexpected connection with its eastern neighbor, Ijams Nature Center," an online article on the history of Island Home states, alongside the only photograph I've been able to find of Joseph Ijams, himself.


Though there are websites which include several pages of history of the Tennessee School for the Deaf, including a specific section on the administration of Joseph Ijams, there from 1861 to 1882, and another section on the administration during the school's move to their new campus in 1924, there was nothing on the reason behind the decision to move to that specific new location.

There are, of course, possible ways to research this detail further. I can look at records of the sale of the old campus for Knoxville's city hall, and also for records of how the school—under the control of the state of Tennessee—acquired their new campus at Island Home.

In the meantime, though, I can't help but wonder whether any of Joseph Ijams' children had anything to do with the direction that move took the school in the early 1920s.

Whether today's students give any thought to those who—a century ago—made the school what it is now, even though I have never stepped foot in the city of Knoxville, its old city hall building, or the school campus or nature center, because of the history I now know, those locations bestow upon me a sense of place. And it's all because of the people, not merely the space.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Still Neighbors, After All These Years


Though no longer located in downtown Knoxville, back when Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams served as its principal up until his death in 1882, Tennessee's school for deaf students was situated at the intersection of Broadway and Henley, and Western Avenue and Summit Hill Drive.

Of course, I didn't realize that—until, that is, I followed the history of both the institution itself and the organization which purchased the school grounds in 1922.

By 1924, the school had moved from its downtown location to property in the Island Home area once developed by Knoxville entrepreneur Perez Dickinson—the same vicinity where Joseph Ijams' youngest son Harry was developing his own garden retreat. While buildings for the new school location were notably designed by Tennessee School for the Deaf alumnus Thomas Scott Marr, the principal's residence became the very home built in 1846 by Perez Dickinson

Meanwhile, back downtown—a scant four miles away—the organization which acquired the old school campus was the city of Knoxville, which converted the main classroom building into its new city hall. The city held its first meeting at the old school grounds in February of 1925, and remained at that location until 1980.

It was only through tracing the locations of the Tennessee School for the Deaf from its current location back through history, and simultaneously researching details on the institution which followed it at that downtown address, that I could find the original location of the school. That helped me determine the proximity to the old school campus of the Ijams family after Joseph's death, and that of Harry Ijams after his marriage to Alice.

While it may not have seemed necessary, in view of my purposes in researching family history, to go to such lengths regarding the old building and the new campus, that is only if we are asking the question, "Where did the Ijams family live and work?"

However, there is another question still in the back of my mind—though I doubt, from my distance, and given pandemic isolation, I'll be able to locate a satisfactory answer quite yet. That question is: was there another untold story behind the move of the deaf school from downtown Knoxville to its Island Home campus? Was it just coincidence that the school Harry's dad once directed would move next door to the home Harry established at Island Home Park?  

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Roots of "Knoxville's Backyard"


There is a reason I've been following the meandering tendrils of the Ijams family tree. What began as this month's research quest to push back the generations beyond my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson led to desperately probing all the collateral Ijams lines, then reading Ijams wills, then pursuing those named descendants.

Early in the process, as an orienting device, I began the narrative by explaining just how to pronounce that unusual surname, Ijams. Handily, an Internet search brought up a web page providing a quick answer in a discussion about a place called the Ijams Nature Center. While I included that link in the post earlier this month, the farther I dove into the research, the more I realized that website didn't just lead to a coincidental resource for the Ijams surname, but was a representative resource for the very family I had been researching.

Thankfully, when I first stumbled upon that link, I had asked myself, "What is the Ijams Nature Center?" That question led me first to promotional material from the city's visitors center, but beguiled me even farther along an unwinding trail of articles on gardening, bird watching, and preserving not only nature but also the city's history. At first due to general interest, I read up on the place—which sounds like a wonderful spot to visit—but it wasn't until I started down the line of Sarah Ijams' brother Joseph's descendants, especially his youngest son who benefited so much from his uncle Isaac's largesse, that I started seeing names which looked rather familiar.

As you probably have realized by now, the twenty acre South Knoxville farm which Harry and Alice Ijams acquired in 1910 has become one and the same as the nature preserve now dubbed as "Knoxville's Backyard." Perhaps because of Harry Ijams' avid pursuit of ornithology, and his wife's equally dedicated involvement in local horticulture both as a businesswoman and as a pioneer of the emerging garden club movement, their twenty acre home became a showcase for the hard work behind their interests.

Harry—known as H. P. Ijams, a commercial artist and illustrator for the Knoxville News-Sentinel—was widely networked with ornithologists, conservationists, proponents of the Smoky Mountains region. Alice devoted her energies to the formation of garden clubs and the development of the local Girl Scouts resources.

After Harry's death in 1954, following by Alice's declining health, their daughter Jo became instrumental, along with the garden club formed through her mother's inspiration, in launching a city-wide effort to preserve the Ijams property as a public park. That dream was achieved, though after Alice's passing, when the city bought the property in 1965. The result eventually was named the Ijams Nature Center.

If you, as I did, wondered whether the name of that nature center in Knoxville and that of my mother-in-law's roots represented any more than just a coincidence, now you know the connection. That, however, is not the end of the story. At least, it is not the end of my questions, for we have one more trail to pursue before we wrap up this month's research project.

One last question is prompted by the same website which first informed us of the pronunciation of the Ijams surname. As a caption to the first of several photographs of the nature center, the brief entry directed us to "find the park...just past Tennessee School for the Deaf."

Why would the Ijams Nature Center be next to the Tennessee School for the Deaf? Was there another continuing connection to explore here?  

Monday, May 24, 2021

Moving up to the 'burbs


Sometimes, to trace what has become of a family, we need to reach farther back in time and actually follow their footsteps through the land where they settled. In the case of the Ijams family—the two sons of Joseph Ijams who each pursued a mission of specialized education for the deaf children in their respective states—it helps to trace that movement through the history of the houses where they lived.

Right now, we're following the story of Joseph Ijams' grandson, Harry Pearle Ijams of Knoxville, Tennessee. His father, once the principal of the Tennessee school for the deaf in Knoxville, had suddenly died in 1882, when Harry was six years of age. While the school offered Harry's widowed mother a position there as instructor, the loss of their father necessitated the family's move from the principal's housing on campus to a nearby residence in downtown Knoxville.

Once Harry had married the former Alice Yoe, he too had settled in the downtown area, where he managed an engraving shop. However, by 1920, the census record indicated his occupation as commercial artist, and the 1921 city directory confirmed that, while he kept an office downtown, he had moved his family to the new suburbs of Knoxville.

The Ijams family's new digs were located in an area to the southeast of the downtown area, up against the south bank of the Tennessee River, called South Knoxville. This section of land had originally included a six hundred acre farm parcel which was acquired by Knoxville entrepreneur Perez Dickinson in 1869, which he called Island Home. With a bridge constructed to span the Tennessee River and connect the area with the downtown Knoxville business district via trolley service, portions of that original Island Home farm were acquired from Dickinson to establish a suburb development in 1899.

Housing construction at the Island Home Park development began in 1910, and Island Home Park was annexed by the city of Knoxville in 1917.

As for Harry and Alice Ijams and their four daughters, they were among those counted as residents of Island Home Park by 1920.

Census records, however, don't always tell the full story of a family's situation. What may sound like a nice home in the 'burbs for a couple and their four young children cannot possibly be differentiated on paper in a census record from the Eden that horticulturalist Alice Yoe Ijams created for her family, or from which the nature-loving ornithologist Harry drew inspiration for his artistic creations.

That same parcel of land out in the new suburbs at Island Home Park which Harry and Alice now called home was apparently the beautiful haven they carved out of a twenty acre farm which had been in their possession since 1910—notable in many respects not only for what they had made of the place over the years, but for what it was yet to become.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

What's Lost, Now Found,
Turns Strangers to Friends


There is a coffee shop in town which is perfectly situated for meeting friends, both old and new. In fact, if I am about to meet a stranger, there isn't a better location locally than that one, in my experience. With a pleasant and wide open outdoor seating area, the place has a constant flow of customers, coming to meet with each other.

I know from experience that, if I'm to have one of those potentially awkward first-meeting experiences, that is my go-to location. It was, for instance, the very spot I chose when, out of the blue as a new blogger ten years ago, I received an email from a genealogist in town who thought "nobody" lived in our city who'd be as rabid about genealogy as we both were. From a simple email and the meeting it led to, that "stranger" eventually became my genealogy guardian angel and mentor, "The Educated Genealogist."

I'd say that was a meeting of strangers worth encountering. There are some risks which are just worth reaching out to take, and I've found this particular spot in town to be so well suited to such occasions.

That's the place where I've since come to anticipate serendipitous first meetings, and yesterday was no exception. This time, the occasion was once again to meet a total stranger, but the back story was a bit different. Again, it was a contact made by someone reaching out to me—this time through the messaging system. Again, it was a meeting of two people who speak the same language of family history research. And, heartwarmingly enough, it was someone who had been on the very same mission I've found myself on so many times before: delivering an orphaned photo back to family.

Though I haven't done so myself for a while, I have so often purchased abandoned pictures from antique stores as a challenge to return the treasure to a living descendant of the photo's subject. As inspiration for that mission, I can thank another mentor, the blogger who created Forgotten Old Photos. Every time I've followed in that blogger's footsteps, however, it wasn't with as altruistic an attitude; I've often thought, How I wish someone else would find one of my family's photographs and return it to me.

This week, consider that wish granted. Earlier this spring, I received a tentative message at asking if a photo found might be related to someone in my family. It was. In fact, it was another picture snapped at the same birthday party as the photo I used to begin this series of posts eight years ago.

What's more—and this is the most encouraging part—the person who rescued the photo is an accomplished young student who has delved into family history as a self-directed project, pouring hours into research, simply because he wants to.

After I had spent time last week at the NGS Conference, hearing the desperate cry for young people to take up the banner in pursuit of preserving family history, what a heartening realization to meet face-to-face with proof that there are, indeed, young people out there who are already delving right in to that mission. Perhaps, rather than bemoan what we perceive to be a lack, we can reach out to those strangers we don't yet know, and let the commonality of our passion for preserving our family history turn those strangers into friends.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Gift of Connection


As the pandemic slowly inches its way through a second year, medical heroics notwithstanding, I've been thinking a lot about the gift of connecting. 

Connection—something we haven't been able to do, fully, for a very long time—is a need woven into the human psyche. For those of us who've sat through any psychology classes, or business leadership sessions, or almost any interpersonal training, we know the drill: thanks to Abraham Maslow, we can all recite, together, the "Hierarchy of Needs" he championed.

Lest you have forgotten, let me remind you that right in the middle of those five ranges of human motivation is the category of "belongingness"—the yearning to connect with others. Our ability to connect becomes our gift to enable each other to draw closer toward personal fulfillment.

It is not by sheer coincidence that I've been thinking much about connectedness. Yesterday, I spent an entire day watching—from a three thousand mile distance—what, if not for the pandemic, would have been an energy-filled conference of the National Genealogical Society. It was admittedly still an event full of valuable information—but it was a day spent apart from all the people I would have loved to connect with, relate to, and share the energy with. Truth be told, the prospect of facing another online conference—even another upcoming one I've enjoyed the most and would never have missed in the past—withers upon the thought of enduring it virtually. The need to connect is superseding the need to be informed.

There are, of course, ways we can maintain our connection with our groups of friends, associates, or even nearby genealogical society members. Just the ability to connect via video conferencing methods has made the past fourteen months bearable. But we need to move beyond satisfaction with what has become the online meeting status quo. Peopling a meeting with silent, sitting figures, present only to absorb information, is not really the same as hosting an event which gives the gift of connection, of birthing a sense of belonging.

Belonging and participating become a two-way proposition. Belonging is connecting, meeting each other halfway, and thriving on our shared commonality. It is difficult to participate without a sense of belonging. Yet it is unlikely we truly feel as if we belong, if we don't have the opportunity to participate.

In my life-beyond-genealogy, I pay attention to the musings of those who study leadership. One pithy blog I follow, the creation of Peter Shepherd of Human Periscope, is called Noodle Scratchers—noodle, as in that round object perched above your shoulders, meant for thinking.

Recently, Peter asked, "How can I make this [meeting] about connection not content?" After I lead a genealogy society's Special Interest Group meeting, or deliver an hour's lecture on a research challenge, I find myself asking that same question. Why does lecturing via Zoom seem like delivering a drink from the fire hose? Perhaps the restrictive property of the vessel delivering the goods results in an unmanageable flow. The medium may not necessarily be the message, but it certainly can direct us on how to massage that message so our audience may better receive it.

Such considerations as those, however, still leave us in the one-way camp of content, not connection. And yet, that same medium—that online meeting forum—has the ability to accommodate multiple directions. Innovative applications can allow us to achieve that very connection we yearn to reach.

With Zoom fatigue becoming a real threat to the vitality of continued online options for organizations, I'd say now is the time to call for redirection toward connection. That very technology which once snatched us from organizational oblivion can certainly convert into the perfect launching pad for the next generation of meeting ideas to take flight. The generous gesture will be to develop that technology into a tool which doesn't merely permit us to individually deliver or receive content, but enables us to connect with one another.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Tracing Harry's Story


Harry Pearle Ijams was the youngest of the three sons of Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams. Harry was only six years of age when his father, working as principal of the Tennessee School for the Deaf, died suddenly in Knoxville. Although his widowed mother, Mary Aiken Ijams, was almost immediately appointed as teacher and added to the instructional staff at the school, now as the wife of the school's former principal, she was no longer afforded the bonus of housing on campus reserved for the head of the institution. Thus, the Ijams family's move from the place they had called home, to the new location at 111 Union Avenue as we've noticed in the Knoxville city directories—near the downtown campus, but no longer a housing situation provided along with her husband's salary. 

From that sad beginning to Harry's story, we enter a gap in the paper trail until Harry's 1905 marriage to Alice Yoe. Arriving at the 1910 census, we find record of Harry and Alice, along with their one year old daughter, Alice Elizabeth, living on Locust Street, not far from where Harry's mother still lived on Union Avenue. At that point, Harry was reported as a manager at an engraving company.

Ten years later, life was much different for Harry and Alice. The couple had moved from the restrictions of downtown Knoxville—from those few blocks square which comprised the earliest memories of Harry's childhood. The family had grown as well, welcoming three additional daughters: Josephine, Mary, and Martha. Harry was now working as a commercial artist.

That, however, does not tell the full story. While I am certain there is much more to Harry's life story than can be detected at this point from what I have found, I'm sniffing out a story between the lines in the few documents I've been able to discover from such an isolated distance. Once again, this becomes a story told in records I'm wishing I could get my hands on, in person. However, since I can't yet access any solid evidence, the next step is to lay out the facts that can be found—and at least write down the questions those discoveries generate.

Monday, we'll explore the history behind the Ijamses move to a new home—and start our examination of why their move away from the old Deaf School neighborhood didn't really mean moving away from the school, itself.   

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Untangling the Strands
of a Family's Legacy


Of the five children surviving at their father's untimely death, Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams claimed three sons and two daughters. It was the daughters who likely had not much more than a dim memory of their departed father, for Martha was four years of age, and her younger sister Caroline a mere six months old, when their mother Mary was left a widow.

Martha Osbern Ijams was born in Knoxville and remained there until her death in 1943, leaving behind her husband, Canadian E. Clyde Gothard, a former proprietor of a downtown hat store turned insurance salesman and board member of his brother-in-law's Tennessee Mill and Mine Supply Company. That brother-in-law, husband to Martha's sister Carrie, was George Henry Miles Manning, whose abrupt and early death eerily echoed Carrie's experience with her own father, and left their only child fatherless as a teenager.

Of Joseph Ijams' sons, the eldest—himself left fatherless as a teenager—was William E. Ijams. Married to Mabel Townsend—a community-minded woman who served on the national board of the Girl Scouts—in his early years, "W. E." was employed by the East Tennessee National Bank. He later secured a position in charge of the freight department for the Little River Railroad in Townsend, Tennessee, which he still occupied at the time of his 1930 death. Just as his sister Carrie had left an only son, W. E. left an only daughter.

Joseph Ijams' second-born son, Howard Aiken Ijams, was not quite ten years of age when he lost his father. Unlike his siblings who remained in their home town, Howard left Knoxville to study medicine at the University of Michigan and later served in a medical capacity at the United States embarkation camp at Newport News, Virginia, during the first World War. He returned to Knoxville where for a while, he served as city physician. Once again, the extended Ijams family suffered news of another sudden death when, in 1923 at the age of forty nine, Howard's automobile was struck broadside by a street car.

Despite the many tragic turns the extended Ijams family suffered over the years, it is the story of the last remaining son of Joseph and Mary Aiken Ijams we'll focus on in the next few days. By far the longest-lived of his siblings, Harry Pearle Ijams was also the child who gave his mother the most grandchildren.

Those two details, while quite the opposite of the experience of his siblings, do not yield us the prime reason to trace his family line. It is in the story of this youngest son of Joseph and Mary Ijams that we find the faintest—yet most tantalizing—connection tying the legacy of beneficent uncle Isaac Ijams' nephew Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams with the story of how we discovered the correct pronunciation of that Ijams surname in the first place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Weighty Mission, Scant Remuneration


At the close of Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams' life on the eve of Christmas 1882, his send-off was overflowing with flowery accolades, but when the books were closed, his coffers were empty.

When I now consider the life stories of those burdened with a larger-than-life mission, I no longer am surprised at such a turn of events. It seems there are those who have so completely devoted their life to the advancement of others but who, when it is all said and done, have little to show for it.

Apparently, that was the case upon the passing of Joseph Ijams. Principal of the state of Tennessee's school for deaf school children since the close of the Civil War—not to mention, father of his own young family—Joseph left behind enough debts to cancel out any balance to his credit, leaving the administrator of the estate to declare that estate insolvent.

Could it have been possible that such a document referred to a different man in Knox County named J. H. Ijams? I tried looking through the Knoxville city directories, but all I could find under that surname was the unmistakable entry for Joseph himself.

Lest we presume that Joseph's sudden demise led to his removal from the community's collective memory as well, we have to realize that not all stories can be told within the framework of one generation. We are, after all, genealogists: we have learned to look for the rest of the story.

Just as Joseph's uncle Isaac had left a legacy for his nephews which likely led to their being equipped to answer the call to their particular missions in education—to their work with schools for the deaf in Iowa and Tennessee—Joseph's story reverberates in a legacy to future generations, as well. To find our way to the end of that story, though, we'll need to take a detour through yet another generation, as we examine the life story of the young children he left behind, at the sudden loss of his life at the end of 1882.


Above images of the Knox County Records of Insolvent Estates and the 1882 Knoxville City Directory courtesy of 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Our Implicit Confidence,
Our Affectionate Regard


On the morning of December 24—Christmas Eve—Joseph Ijams must have taken abrupt leave of his family. That, at least, is how the Knoxville Daily Chronicle portrayed that most permanent of departures in a full column's length report of his 1882 funeral service a few days later.

The Knox County death register noted, in its hurried scrawl, that Joseph Ijams had succumbed to "cong. brain"—possibly referring to the malady of "congestion," the accumulation of fluid surrounding a specific body part. During that time period, "cerebral congestion" was considered a cause of apoplexy, indicating that, while the onset of a stroke may have felled the man quickly, the likely hypertension bringing on the finality of that diagnosis may have been a longstanding symptom.

How difficult it must have been for his wife Mary to receive such news. The sudden widow of the family's five remaining children was mother to a six month old infant, with the oldest barely a teenager. The kind words spoken in the funeral may have been encouraging—the eulogy was delivered by Knoxville judge John L. Moses to a large assembly of community members and students of the school which Joseph Ijams had come to Knoxville to oversee—but no matter how beautifully the choir sang, or the school's chapel was decorated, grief seldom lifts so simply.

The eulogy offered by the judge provides us ample opportunity to piece together Joseph's life—it is from this column that I borrowed the details for yesterday's post—and to learn how capably he discharged his current duties at the institution where he served. A remark Joseph was quoted as saying does have staying power: "Remember...every single thought you impress upon the mind of one of these children will form part of a bridge over a great gulf." Joseph saw his duty not merely as an occupation, but as a mission.

Indeed, news of his death reached as far as Boston, where it was mentioned on December 26 (page 3, column 3) in the Boston Evening Transcript

Likely, his passing was noted back at Iowa City as well as Washington, D. C., where he had had professional affiliations. Despite the respect Joseph Ijams commanded, or the accolades heaped upon his memory, though, there was one thing that puzzled me as I searched for more information on his life: a document drawn up almost a year after his death, filed with the Clerk of the Court in Knox County.

I, as Administrator of the Estate of J. H. Ijams, deceased, do hereby suggest the Insolvency of the Estate of said J. H. Ijams, deceased.

Monday, May 17, 2021

In his Brother's Footsteps


Item: I give and bequeath to Joseph Henry Harrison my nephew and son of [J.] H. Ijams all the balance of the proceeds of my real, personal or mixed estate of which I may be possessed at my death and which shall remain after paying the above specified legacies as named in this will.

It was 1845 when Isaac Ijams drew up his will, granting legacies to his wife and her son—Isaac's stepson, as he had no children of his own—and bequeathing the remainder to various nephews living in the extended Ijams family's adopted home in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Not forty years later, the youngest of his brother Joseph's sons—also named Joseph, who received the most generous proportion of his uncle's estate—was dead. But in that dash between the junior Joseph Ijams' birth in 1840 and his death in 1882, he lived a life which gave to others in three widely removed locations. His was a legacy which sprang from following in the footsteps of his own brother's example. And, oddly enough, it is likely from that younger Ijams descendant's life that we even know how to pronounce that unusual surname.

At the time of his uncle Isaac Ijams' passing, the junior Joseph was barely five years of age. How his uncle would have been prescient enough to foretell the child's future, I can't say—or perhaps specifically due to the generous legacy the younger Joseph was about to receive, it made such a future possible for the boy.

As it turned out, not only his uncle's generosity, but the influence poured into his life by others in his family likely shaped his shortened life. For whatever reason, by the time of the 1850 census, Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams and his family had left Fairfield County, where the extended Ijams clan had migrated from Maryland, to settle in Ohio's Morgan County. There, as had occurred to his older brother, the family of Joseph's future spouse had also settled—although by 1850, his future bride was a mere three years of age.

Predictably, when Joseph's family later moved from Ohio to Iowa City, Joseph moved with them. By the time of the 1860 census, Joseph was in his brother William's household, along with the extended family. At age nineteen, he was listed as a student, and we discover from other records why: Joseph H. H. Ijams was attending classes at the University of Iowa.

At the close of the upheaval of the American Civil War, Joseph could be found in Washington, D. C., where he was in the employ of an organization then known as the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. That was in 1865, after he had been appointed as an instructor and moved from his teaching position at his brother's school in Iowa City to the nation's capital.

The Columbia Institution was then under the direction of Edward Miner Gallaudet, son of the renowned educator, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, for whom the college-level division of the Columbia Institution later took its name as Gallaudet College and, eventually, Gallaudet University.

Joseph did not remain at his instructor's post in Washington, D. C., for long. An opportunity beckoned when, at the close of the war, a similar institution in Tennessee decided to re-open its doors. By 1867, Joseph was listed as principal of the Tennessee School for the deaf in Knoxville.

On June 29, 1868, in Knoxville, Joseph made some matrimonial promises to the young girl who had, back in 1850, lived in the same county in Ohio as Joseph's family. 

The wedding vows were solemnized, likely, by Mary Aiken's father William, a Presbyterian minister.

The young Ijams family grew with the addition of their firstborn son in the following year, and three more children by the time of the 1880 census. For the youngest, however—Caroline, born in June of 1882—Joseph would not even amount to a hazy memory; by the Christmas holiday of that same year, her father would be suddenly gone.

Above image of Isaac Ijams' will courtesy of, and images of the Joseph Ijams and Mary Aiken marriage record courtesy of

Sunday, May 16, 2021



Every now and then, I can't help but think of how unprecedented our times are, especially for genealogical research. This past week, as I was working on the wills of various Ijams ancestors of my mother-in-law—all, incidentally, filed in jurisdictions located at least 2,500 miles from my little pandemic bubble of isolation—it occurred to me how fast I was flying through the details, compared to how glacially slow the process would have seemed a generation ago.

In the past two weeks, I added 182 names to my mother-in-law's family tree, which now boasts a total of 20,912 individuals. And that wasn't all. I also put in the work to gain 137 names for my own family tree, making the total there 25,782.

That, however, wasn't the amazing part. It was when I jumped from website to website as needed, picking up a census record here, an obituary there, a will, a city directory to find the way home. All nearly jumped to my fingertips instantaneously, and were secured in their proper place in an organized virtual system.

I marvel to think how much time it would have taken, prior to the Internet, to accomplish the research sequence that took, for me this past week, maybe a couple hours of online digging. We don't have to crank through microfilm reels, fighting off the nausea that comes from trying to speed-read film while it is still moving past our eyes. (Hurry! The library is closing in fifteen minutes!)

Furthermore, we don't have to spend a day searching through one record set, only to find that we have nothing to show for eight hours' labor other than the answer to the question, "Was it here?" (No.)

Now, we can construct huge swaths of lineage in a matter of moments rather than months. That gives us the luxury of delving deeper into the stories behind those dates, places, and names. And with tools unforeseen in past generations, such as DNA testing, we can peer into the dark recesses of family secrets—if we have the fortitude to face the truth.

The truth of the matter—at least, for me—is that the farther I follow those details, and the more I work to assemble what seem to be random data points into a coherent story, the more I realize how frail and feeble the human condition can be. We—all of us—are so prone to mistakes, bad choices, dashed hopes, ill-advised schemes, that we can hardly hold our ancestors to task over their own foibles.

After all, with a little digging through the paper trail, we are able to lay bare such raw elements in past generations of our family. They certainly are there for us to stumble upon, and we know just how to do that.

Maybe remembering that, generations from now, our descendants will be able to sift through the data strewn behind our own lives' trajectory, will help us add kindness and empathy to the unfolding of our ancestors' stories, in whatever way it unravels before us.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Don't Blink


Don't look now, but I think a really great idea came and went in a micro-moment at Ancestry. And I hope it will come back.

I don't know about you, but when I set up my family tree on, I wanted to develop a "style sheet" to standardize those pesky little details like formats or abbreviations. Those who have been at this genealogy pursuit for decades might relate to one such device used long before the advent of computers: the tradition of writing surnames in all capital letters. Another one would be using the international date format of listing day before month and year, such as 15 May 2021.

While computer search capabilities may have rendered the all-caps tradition less necessary, I still recommend adopting a style sheet perspective. Once I put my tree on Ancestry, I chose to follow their recommendation of shortening the month to the first three letters only, making readouts less cumbersome, for example. But I still decided to spell out words like Saint instead of "St." or Mount instead of "Mt." Regardless of what I decided to make my "style," I wanted to be consistent in its use.

One of those style details was making sure to list, for any geographic reference, not only the city or state, but include both the county and the country. Our family's tree has become quite international, and I wanted to reflect that detail consistently. However, it becomes tedious, when encountering a digitized document to add to my tree, to have to go in to the entry and type in all those missing elements—particularly the county.

One day earlier this month, I noticed that I no longer needed to click with my mouse, then move my hands to the keyboard to type in the missing county. In fact, I didn't even need to add the first comma; just by clicking on the line of data, a drop-down menu gave me options, including my preferred format. Just like that!

Skipping straight to clickable choices is a detail I had come to appreciate at, where that same feature makes correcting details to my tree a streamlined process. Once I realized the same option was now operable at Ancestry, my speed picked up considerably, as I moved through my tasks adding relatives to my family tree. I didn't even have to touch the keyboard any more for those added documents. That same protocol even applied to dates I wanted to shortened to my preferred format—just click to choose the one I wanted.

There was, of course, one tiny catch: after clicking my chosen geographic format, the drop-down menu developed this inconvenient knack of dropping back down again. To move on to the next item, I learned to just click the mouse somewhere else on the page to get the drop-down line to simply go away. It was a minor annoyance, certainly not outweighed by the benefit gained by the new click-only improvement. I just figured someone coded something wrong, or forgot one step in the process of setting things up.

But then, poof! As unobtrusively as it had appeared, this little gem of an improvement went away. I blinked. I pinched myself. I checked to make sure I wasn't dreaming. But it was gone.

Did I really just imagine those moments when I was suddenly speeding through my family tree data?

Friday, May 14, 2021

A Generous Gift


Item: I give and bequeath to my niece Caroline Elizabeth Ijams daughter of [J.] H. Ijams four hundred dollars.


Isaac Ijams may have seemed generous—not to mention, practical—when he drew up his will in 1845, in bestowing upon his nephew William a horse with bridle and saddle, until we realize what he had granted to William's younger sister.

For Caroline Ijams, born about 1834, her uncle Isaac may have been not much more than a dim memory, for at his passing, she would only have been eleven or twelve years of age. Furthermore, in order for the amount to be given to her, Isaac's possessions would first have to be liquidated, then managed by a trustee—Isaac named another brother, Frederick, for this purpose—until his niece attained legal age to receive the gift. That four hundred dollar gift, however, would be the equivalent of granting your own niece fourteen thousand dollars in today's economy.

Within four years after Isaac's death, Caroline's parents had moved their household from the Ohio county where the extended Ijams family had settled to nearby Morgan County. It is there that Caroline likely met the man she eventually married. Though I can find no marriage record—yet—for Caroline Ijams and Dana F. Stone, together they made up a household in Iowa City, Iowa, by the time of the 1860 census. That they married back in Ohio is almost certain, as Dana could previously be found living in the same Morgan County, Ohio, where Caroline's parents had settled by 1850.

Dana and Caroline did not move to Iowa alone. In that same 1860 census, both her older brother and his wife and their parents were residing in the same city, in a household along with several others. While in 1860, Caroline's husband was listed as a "land agent," by the time of the draft leading up to the Civil War, Dana Stone was listed as a teacher—possibly at the same school which had been co-founded by his brother-in-law William Ijams.

Between that date and the time of his death, I can find little on either Dana Stone or his wife, Isaac Ijams' niece Caroline. Even the listing, online, of their burials is only by transcription from other records. It is only after Dana's 1882 death that I find any record of Caroline—but not in Iowa.

To find the rest of what little there is available concerning Caroline, we need to move from Iowa to Tennessee, not exactly a simple move to a nearby neighborhood. There, in a death register for the city of Knoxville, we find the November 29, 1884, entry for Caroline E. Stone, widow, reported to be about fifty two years of age. As we already know, she was listed as having been born in Ohio, but as for the mention of any relatives, there was none provided. The only other snippet of information given was under the heading for "Place of Death." There, in a miserable scrawl was what looked like the word "Union."

Fortunately, has several city directories for Knoxville in their digitized collection, but in the 1884 directory, I could find no entry for a Caroline Stone, nor even for a Dana Stone with any remark that she was his widow. I did, however, check one other entry in that same directory on a hunch: that there might have been an Ijams family member listed in the same volume. Sure enough, there was one entry under that surname, pointing to the same Union address where Caroline spent her last days.

It was for the widow of Caroline's brother Joseph.

Above images of Isaac Ijams' will and the Knoxville city directory courtesy of

Thursday, May 13, 2021

"A High-toned Christian Gentleman"


Item: I give and bequeath to my nephew Wm E. Ijams Son of [J]. H. Ijams one riding horse, bridle and saddle if living...


While William Edwin Ijams was not the first of his siblings mentioned in his uncle Isaac Ijams' will, he was the oldest, thus first, at least, in our review of the family. By the time his uncle Isaac drew up his will—signed by Isaac on 12 September 1845—William would have been not quite fifteen years of age.

I like to think that perhaps that gesture of kindness from an uncle contributed to the life story which unfolded for this nephew. It certainly echoed in the story of William's younger brother, as we'll see in a few days.

Born December 16, 1830, to Isaac's brother Joseph and his wife—likely an Ijams cousin—Mary Ann, William spent his early years in the same county in Ohio where his father and uncles had settled after leaving their home in Maryland. Before the time of the 1850 census, though, Joseph and his family had moved to Morgan County—a matter of only two counties to the east of Fairfield County, but enough of a distance, perhaps, for Isaac to be unsure whether his younger brother's son was still living.

From the Joseph Ijams family's residence in McConnelsville, at some point William entered school across the state border at a Pennsylvania institution which eventually became known as Washington and Jefferson College. From a biographical sketch published on the occasion of his graduating class' quarter-century reunion in 1877, we learn that William was considered "a high toned Christian gentleman...quiet and unobtrusive, yet sociable and genial" as well as "an excellent student." He had apparently entered the class in his junior year.

By the time of the 1860 census, William had married—to Elizabeth Culbertson in 1856—and relocated to Iowa City, along with his parents and younger brother, also named Joseph. There, William was listed as a teacher.

That detail, however, tells only part of the story, for William was in Iowa by at least 1854. During that earlier year, William had opened a private school in Iowa City for deaf students. Looking closely at the 1860 census, you can spot on the far right column the coding "D+D" for the two students lodging in the Ijams home, indicating they were deaf.

During that year of 1854, William presented his students at an Iowa Hall of Representatives assembly and, along with the politically active deaf advocate Edmund Booth, lobbied the state to establish a school for the deaf. Early the next year, the state established what is now known as the Iowa School for the Deaf, and William served as the school's superintendent for nine years.

Following that service, William turned his attention to the studies of theology, and was ordained a minister in 1865. He served as pastor at several locations, first in Presbyterian congregations, eventually accepting positions in Congregational churches. Though his ministry led him as far as California, he returned to serve in a congregation in Iowa City by 1879.

Even though William died childless in 1893, it is quite certain he bestowed a legacy through his service, as we'll see when we continue with the story of his younger siblings, particularly with the history of his brother Joseph next week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Initial Assessment


It was the mention of what looked like "heirs of I. H. Ijams" in his brother Isaac's 1846 will that had me puzzled. Isaac, brother of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson, had no children of his own, but thanks to his success in life, was able to be generous with the descendants of his siblings. The catch was, other than Isaac himself, none of those siblings had a first name beginning with the letter "I."

To complicate matters, other than Isaac's youngest brother Frederick, all the other brothers—as well as their sister Sarah—had for their middle initial the letter "H," likely for Howard, their mother's maiden name. So who would that "I. H. Ijams" be?

Handwriting in the mid-1800s era in which Isaac Ijams drew up his will could be challenging to decipher. Stylistic throwbacks to a previous century—such as what looks like "fs" for the double consonant "ss"—still made their occasional appearance in government documents. Somewhere in all my rusty recollections about past handwriting quirks, I seem to remember—but of course can't find a source for—aberrations mentioned for capitals of the letters "I" versus "J." Sometimes, the descending portion of the "J" did not extend below the line of text, making it difficult to decipher which of the two letters was intended.

Even if that were so and Isaac meant by his will his brother with the initials as J. H. Ijams, we are still left with a dilemma. If that "I" in the initials for Isaac's brother were really a "J" then which brother did it signify? Isaac had two brothers possessing the initials "J. H."

The answer to this we determine by the fortunate (for us, at least) revelation that Isaac was thinking of his brother "J. H. Ijams" who had already died. Lest we go off on a mad chase of Ohio documents to determine which brother that might have been, Isaac also provided several items in his will concerning that brother's children. In fact, as we learn from the will, at least two of the three children were still minors, for whom his brother had appointed Isaac as trustee.

We had already learned from Isaac's father William's will that the two possible brothers would be John or Joseph. As it turns out, Joseph did have three children whose names match the "heirs of I. H. Ijams" listings in Isaac's will: William Edwin, Caroline Elizabeth, and Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams.

In confirming their relationship to the correct father, though, the effort led me through some fascinating details—which you know I couldn't simply observe and move past, without mentioning. So, starting with tomorrow's post, we'll revisit those life details, beginning with the eldest of Joseph Howard Ijams' children, his son William Edwin.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"Fifty Dollars and no More"


After waxing eloquent about the "certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof," William Ijams got straight to the point: of his belongings, whether real or personal property, his namesake son was to have nothing but "fifty dollars and no more." Likewise, the elder William stipulated a specific, limited amount for each of his grandsons—Henry and Richard—allowing us in that strictness at least a glimpse into the family structure of that son with whom he seemed less than pleased.

It is this will of William Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, which he signed on December 27, 1815, which supposedly represents a man whose headstone affirmed his death was in February of that same year. Besides this puzzle, William was the supposed father of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Sarah Howard Ijams, wife of John Jay Jackson of neighboring Perry County.

While it is unfortunate that William Ijams' will, presented to the Court of Common Pleas in Fairfield County, Ohio, on March 9, 1816, referred to his daughters only as a nameless group—with "money divided equally among" them seeming to indicate more than two—the same instrument thankfully named each of his sons. Thus, we learn that, in addition to son William, the deceased also named—with a more generous gesture—sons John, Isaac, Joseph, and Frederick.

While William's son Isaac would have been in his mid twenties at the time when his father died, it is unlikely that the named witness to William's will—also named Isaac Ijams—would have been this same son. As there was another taxpayer by this name in the county at about that same time, it is possible that the younger Isaac was named after this other man, maybe William's own brother.

At any rate, thirty years later, we find another Ijams will, this time for Isaac, William's son. We can be fairly certain this Isaac was from the same Ijams family, despite the will being filed in neighboring Perry County. There are several reasons for this. For one, Perry County, having been formed of portions of Fairfield and neighboring counties in 1818, was not yet in existence when the elder William passed away. The old Ijams property may well have been close to what became the boundary between Fairfield and the new Perry County.

In addition, the listing of heirs in Isaac's will helps corroborate one of his brothers named in his father's will, while providing missing links to determine the identity of one of the other brothers. Brother F. R. Ijams from Isaac's will was most likely one and the same as son Frederick from William's will. However, due to the occasional writing quirks found during that time period, especially for the letter "J" versus "I," it is confusing to determine the true identity of those individuals listed in Isaac's will with initials which look like "I. H. Ijams." It makes more sense if that first initial was actually a "J" as Isaac had two brothers, both with a middle initial of "H"—John and Joseph. Fortunately, the will provides information on the "heirs of I. H. Ijams," to guide us.

Best part of Isaac's will was the naming of at least two of the previously unidentified daughters of William Ijams. One was referred to simply as Comfort Stevenson, which was obviously her married name. More to the point for my own research purposes, trying to confirm the parents of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother Sarah Ijams Jackson, was the will's provision for "heirs of my sister Sarah Jackson, deceased." That she was, by Isaac's 1846 death, for the young mother had been dead since 1829. The naming of her husband, John Jackson, as one of Isaac's executors, helps confirm that connection.

Isaac's will, while helpful in some respects, provided other loose ends which may yet serve to tie family members together, especially if William's will, with its wishes to have his money "divided equally among"—rather than "between"—his daughters, indicated more than two women. There was mention in Isaac's testament of a nephew by the name of Isaac Turner—unless a nephew through Isaac's wife Elizabeth, a likely descendant of the unnamed third sister. And the will also brings up the name of Isaac H. Iliff, with no explanation of who he was or how he connected with the Ijams family.

Despite the discrepancies—no names for daughters in William's will, and confusing references to "I. H. Ijams" in Isaac's will—tomorrow, we'll begin piecing together the story of these other relatives, to find if they further confirm the likelihood that the elder Ijams' will represented that of Isaac's, and thus Sarah's, father.

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