Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Finding a Missing Son


In his 1855 will, Ohio resident Nicholas Snider mentioned his sons Jacob, Joseph, Lewis, Simon, and Conrad, as well as his daughters Catherine and Mary. But were those all his children? If we rely solely on that one document, filed where he last lived in Perry County, it turns out we'd be missing something—a lot of something, if we consider all the two-hundred-plus Snider descendants who show up as my husband's DNA matches.

That is one reason why I'm a fan of exhausting all possible avenues for discovering the details on an ancestor's life. I want the complete picture.

Among those other documents may be some reports considered less than reliable. After all, we reserve our highest confidence for those records completed by a primary source—the original copy of Nicholas' will, for instance. Reports provided to others, who then compose a summary of the information—say, an article in a local newspaper—are prone to a higher likelihood of error.

Still, I am not above taking a peek at them. And then backing up my discoveries with other documentation.

Take, for instance, some publications from the time period about fifty years after Nicholas' death. One, published in 1883, included a biographical summary of a successful businessman by the name of Samuel Snyder—corroborated by another biography, printed in 1909. The other, printed in 1902, reviewed the accomplishments of another gentleman named William Snider.

As it turns out, Samuel Snyder and William Snider had one particular detail in common: they both claimed their grandfather was Nicholas Schneider. But here's the catch: each of them noted that their father was named Peter.

Say what? There was no son of Nicholas named Peter. Not, at least, according to his will.

What we learn from these three articles is that Peter Snider, born in Perry County, was married to a woman named Ellen—or Eleanor—Dean, sometime before their son Samuel's birth there in 1843. Samuel's brother William followed in 1856. The more lengthy biographical sketch devoted to William's life reveals that his father Peter was born in 1816 in Maryland, and informs us that two years after Peter's birth, the Snider family moved from Maryland to Ohio, "entering land from the government" located near Somerset.

Each of the articles provide detailed listings of Snider relatives, whether the children of William or Samuel, or their siblings. Whether that information was completely correct—you know how editorial errors in such projects can result in unreliable details—cannot be determined without some independent research of our own. We'll start checking those details this week.

However, the most helpful part of this record of the children of a missing Snider son is the oral reports on Nicholas' own history, provided no doubt by the traditional stories passed down to these grandsons by a relative they knew personally. We'll take the approach that the stories are correct, and follow these trailblazers' lead to see what we can find to confirm or discard the reports.  

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