Monday, May 3, 2021

The Men in Sarah Ijams' Life


Sarah Howard Ijams was my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother. Perhaps because of the brief span of her life, not much is known about her. With a lifetime stretching from 1796 to 1829 in the earliest years of Ohio's statehood, that detail of her circumstances may provide the most compelling reason for her story falling into oblivion.

However, as we'll see this month, her unfortunate lot of being the baby of a family sporting an unusual surname but mixing that distinction with a dizzying swirl of oft-repeated given names makes tracing—and documenting—her own story surprisingly difficult. In the generations associated with Sarah's family, we see multiple Williams, Isaacs, Johns, and Josephs, even in the small community in Fairfield County where the families settled.

In addition to that, Sarah married a man with an average, get-lost-in-the-crowd name: John Jackson. Perhaps owing to her premature death, likely following childbirth, Sarah triggered none of the usual indicators of having passed from this life. I have yet to find a death record, or even her headstone—the name figuring prominently on her husband's memorial being that of John Jackson's second wife.

Any mention in local history books of that first wife of John Jackson—that would be Sarah—was more likely than not framed in terms of the men in her family, whether her husband or her brothers: "His first wife was an Ijams." And though many Ijams family history accounts point to a William Ijams of Fairfield County, Ohio, as her father, due to the many men in the extended family carrying that name, I can't be quite sure the man of the sunken headstone, dying in 1815, possessed the right identity.

To instill some confidence in Sarah's identified place in the Ijams constellation, I propose taking a slow tour of what can be found in Fairfield County of her many brothers, before we attempt moving backwards in time to connect Sarah and those brothers to the right William Ijams, his wife, or that rumored origin of their parents in the state of Maryland before the late 1790s. 

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