Monday, May 10, 2021

Will Power


If the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way" has been co-opted as the genealogist's reminder to study the provisions of our deceased ancestors' last testament, all the better if we can find two wills. For our unfortunate deceased young bride of John Jay Jackson, Sarah Howard Ijams, it may be a second family member's will that powers our way toward confirming the identity of her parents and siblings.

To recap, Sarah was my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, a young mother who died not long after the birth of her fourth child in early 1829. Her parents were apparently some of the first settlers of the region in Fairfield County, before the earliest days of Ohio's statehood. Needless to say, given the time period, there was not an abundance of records, nor did women figure prominently in such documents during that era.

The catch, however, is to determine exactly whether her father was a man named William Ijams. It so turns out that the transcription from cemetery records of William's sunken headstone gives a date which conflicts with the date in which his will was drawn up and presented in court in Fairfield County. In other words, burial before signing will—an odd order of events.

Last week, we took a look at a will—though not digitized directly by any of the major genealogical companies, thankfully uploaded to by another Ijams researcher—presented on behalf of William Ijams' family in the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas on March 9, 1816. According to the document, William had signed his will in the presence of three witnesses on December 27, 1815. The question is: can we find a will of another family member which can corroborate the names listed in this William's will as the same individuals in the family of the William we've tentatively identified as father of Sarah—the father who supposedly died in February of 1815?

As it turns out, there is a will of another Ijams family member from neighboring Perry County, dated September 12, 1845. Perry County, carved from Fairfield County in 1818, is the same county in which Sarah's widower, John Jackson, remained and remarried after her death, raising a second family, not far from where the Ijams family had farmed in Fairfield County.

Before we look at the specifics spelled out in this second Ijams will—with the goal of comparing the details with the earlier will of William Ijams in Fairfield County—we need to get up to speed on some particulars concerning this second Ijams descendant. Isaac Howard Ijams had likely been born in Maryland, as had so many of the other migrating Ijams clan settling in Fairfield County. In 1817, he married a widow in nearby Muskingum County, Ohio, by the name of Elizabeth "Koons"—possibly Koonts—and thus took on responsibility for raising her orphaned son, Ephraim. Apparently, other than young stepson Ephraim, Isaac had no children of his own.

Thus, in his will almost thirty years later, Isaac's stipulations regarding Elizabeth and her son Ephraim took up a significant portion of the document, while concurrently assuring us by those contingencies that we are looking at the right Ijams family.

The condition noted, regarding Elizabeth, was that she was to inherit specific items, which she should, in turn, bequeath to her son Ephraim, provided  she was willing to follow additional stipulations.

...Item: I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Elizabeth one thousand dollars and one third of my household and kitchen furniture during her natural life and at her death whatever portion of the one thousand dollars and furniture above named may remain in her possession...
In other words, she could have the money he set aside for her, as well as the named items of property, to pass along to her son and his heirs in the future, as long as she "remain satisfied wherewith and shall surrender all her legal rights or claims to all the balance of my estate...."

With that said, Isaac then proceeded to name other members of his Ijams family—the very details which we were hoping to find. Tomorrow, we'll compare the list in Isaac's will with that of Ijams family members named in William Ijams' earlier will, and see where that leads us in sorting out our research questions.

Image above: Excerpt from the last will of Isaac H. Ijams, dated September 12, 1845, and presented in court in Perry County, Ohio, on February 5, 1846, by witnesses I. F. Dollison and Isaac Larimore; image courtesy

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