Do you ever find yourself, locked in a struggle with an unrelenting brick wall ancestor, feeling as if you are going in circles? That might be a sign to readjust your research plan.
That's me and Mathias Ambrose right now. I'm looking for definitive evidence showing who my mother-in-law's second great-grandmother Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Flowers, could claim as her father. Was it really Mathias Ambrose of Bedford County, Pennsylvania?
I've got tidbits like the nearly undecipherable chicken scratch outlining his last wishes, back in 1804. Oh, it shows he had a daughter named Elizabeth "Flower," all right, but I'd really like to have learned a bit more about Mathias and his family before that 1804 snapshot of his family history.
The difficulty lies not only in the slight change in spelling for his daughters' married names—both Elizabeth and her sister Susannah married "Flower" men—but in the way Mathias' own surname was recorded. Census records in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, show him, as well as two of his sons, under the surname variation Ambrosy in 1800 and Ambroser in 1790.
It would be handy to just conjure up some marriage records online for Elizabeth and Susannah, but guess what: "Mother Bedford" county records only reach back to 1852 for marriages. Even trying to confirm Elizabeth's parents' names through her own death record doesn't reach the threshold for such information; she died in Ohio in 1864, long before the state kept such details.
Perhaps it's just me, being picky about such details, but I would sure like to find a second way to verify that we have the right chain of events. After all, there could have been another Elizabeth, daughter of Mathias Ambrose who married another Flowers man in Pennsylvania. Or a Flower who married an Ambrosy who was not our couple at all. You get the drift.
My first research instinct is to explore all the collateral lines. There are, in this case, many to choose from. And yet, in those early years in such a large frontier territory, records seem sparse and inaccessible.
However, though we won't see much sign of his eight daughters during that era, we already are seeing evidence of Mathias' three sons, Jacob, John, and Mathias, in Bedford County records. Add to that the fact that the only records linked to D.A.R. Patriot Mathias Ambrose descend from his son Jacob. There certainly should be some clues we can glean through visiting this collateral line.