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.



  1. Are you in DAR? There are 11 verified patriots named Ijams all from Maryland including your William. I won't spoil your story-telling, but if you have any questions, just holler.

    1. Thank you for your kind offer, Wendy. Yes, I am a member of D.A.R. and I have definitely taken a look at the Patriot listings there! A lot of good information...and you are right: I'll get to it!

  2. Regarding the I vs J, I just completed a Paleography course (reading and understanding old handwriting) and I and J could look identical but be either letter, thus an I could look like a J and a J could look like an I. It definitely complicates matters but I believe your thought that its a J and not an I would not be unreasonable!

    1. Thanks for confirming that, Lara. I knew I had read that somewhere--it's just frustrating that I can't find the source, but a paleography text sure would have explained it. That very detail has been a frustration in researching the Ijams surname in general, including all its spelling variations.


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