In chasing after your elusive ancestors, don't just settle for letting them attain Brick Wall status. Keep searching for documents which contain their name. Don't be easily satisfied that you looked at the census—when they weren't listed. Maintain that will to check, to move on to every other document in which you might be able to find them.
And when you finally arrive at a positive sighting in a document? Be willing to read the document for yourself. The whole document. Better yet, if it is drawn up in that antique flowery script—or worse, chicken scratch—consider transcribing it, word for word, to make it easier on your eyes to not only read it, but spot the details you need to find.
If this were not still the season of quarantines and pandemics, I'd be traveling to Fairfield County, Ohio, to get some answers to my questions about Sarah Howard Ijams' parents. Sarah, my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, is of course long gone, but that doesn't mean she was never mentioned in writing in her community. Surely somewhere stands a headstone etched in memory of her early passing as the wife of John J. Jackson and mother of his four oldest children. If not that, at least I could search for some token in legal records regarding what she had left behind. If I had been able to travel there in person, the courthouse would have been my destination for such a research journey.
However, this is not the time for such visits—yet. Thus, my disappointment over my only recourse now—checking online, both for any documents in Sarah's married name in the county of her husband's residence in Perry County, and in Fairfield County for her parents' home—when I found not one record to connect Sarah to her supposed parents.
There was, however, one unexpected gift left for anyone researching the supposed father of Sarah Howard Ijams Jackson. One kind Ancestry.com subscriber had uploaded a copy of William Ijams' will, presented in Fairfield County, Ohio, in early 1816.
This was the will over which I've puzzled, concerning the conflicting dates of his December 1815 signature and of the only headstone supposedly bearing a date of passing for William Ijams as February of that same year. Before we take the hasty move of dismissing this document out of hand due to that discrepancy, let's assume we have the right William and take a look at what the will says. After all, we already have learned that we always need to actually look at the document, no matter which document we are considering as evidence concerning our ancestor's life.
So, once we've checked, what do we find? This William's will lists several sons, presumably from oldest to youngest: William, John, Isaac, Joseph, Frederick—all which are names echoed throughout the generations of the Ijams extended family. By the time of the elder William's death, supposedly in early 1816, his son William was himself father of two boys, Henry and Richard, each of whom was also named in his grandfather's will.
When it comes to daughters, though, they are simply referred to as "my daughters." William's wife, likewise, remained anonymous as only "my dear wife," despite being appointed executor along with a man by the name of William Wiseman.
Still, with as thorough a listing as this in William Ijams' will, we should be able to use these fixed points to determine whether William's sons were the same men as Sarah's brothers. As it turns out, there was a way to cross-check these details.