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.


  1. Just a suggestion re Wills. eg will of William Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, which he signed on December 27, 1815. Less amount of monies given to family members/sons..ect - are sometimes, not only due to disagreements; but also on monies/land given prior to last Will through the years.

    1. Thanks for bringing that up, GJ--certainly a valid point. In fact, I have seen that very situation indicated by a will in my own family's history. However, that will also included the reason for the seemingly small legacy, by spelling out the gift of a large parcel of land that particular son had already received. Sometimes, the reason for such seeming slights will be spelled out, right in the document.

      However, there is another reason why I am careful to sniff out any possibility of family disagreements, and I did spot one possible friction point, which I will examine in a post next week.

  2. Super, you are familiar with these situations - re Wills - and their disparities - among their family members. GJ


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