Tuesday, May 4, 2021

See "Ijams"
Say "I-Ams"


To begin with, researching a name like Ijams is not so clear-cut a project as it might seem. Yes, Ijams is a one-in-a-million surname. But it comes with additional baggage: there are several ways to get creative with its spelling. Combine that with the variety of handwriting samples over the centuries for the letter "j" and you can see why a search like this can become frustrating. Not to mention: just how do you say a name like that?!

Despite all the choices for possible surname alternatives, arrivals of immigrants to the colonies with any variant of that name settled first in Maryland, and eventually moved westward to Ohio by the earliest years of statehood. By 1810, in addition to John Jackson, husband of the ill-fated Sarah Howard Ijams, both a William and an Isaac Ijams were listed in the tax rolls for Fairfield County, Ohio.

If we rely on the memories of county residents, published over one hundred years ago in History of Fairfield and Perry counties, Ohio, some members of the Ijams family arrived in Fairfield County "about 1802." This would include three Ijams brothers coming from Frederick County, Maryland, with the names Isaac, William, and Thomas—at least, according to the recollection of one Fairfield County resident, whose report was included in the 1877 book, A Complete history of Fairfield County, Ohio.

However, taking a closer look at what that resident remembered of the Ijams family, I begin to get that hazy "there were three brothers" feeling. There was a William Ijams in that report, alright, but the story went on to list the sons of the three brothers. Guess what: none of those names seem to match the documented names I've been able to find. Nor does the narrative provide any date framework on which to hang that assertion.

While it may be helpful to use such hundred-year-old local histories as guideposts for our research, we'll need to dig deeper to discover just how the Ijams genealogy lines up. Otherwise, we'd be following a similarly-named resident of the same county on a trail back to the wrong set of parents. Obviously, that would be a futile exercise. We'll first need to take a closer look at what we can find about the Ijams relatives in Fairfield and Perry counties in Ohio.



  1. Hi, There is a town just south of Frederick, Maryland called Ijamsville. I have several books on the area. I see that the name Ijams is in 5 of the 8 volumes that I have of The Maryland Calendar of Wills. I'd be happy to send you copies of those transcripts/abstracts. Please message me at my gmail account. Thank you- I love reading your stories about the hunt. You keep inspiring me to try to get through my brick walls.

    1. Oh thank you, Winnie! I have seen that listing for Ijamsville. Also interesting to see how many listings you found for the surname in those eight volumes! It seems many of those with that surname are all connected somewhere--if I manage to go back far enough, I'm sure I will discover just how they are.


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