There are pockets of time within the human timeline when available record sets provide a rich source of family history details. Correspondingly, there are other eras in which the dearth of details drives us to grasp for other resources. In Nicholas Schneider's case, he did leave us a legacy in the form of his children's shared stories, helping to fill in the blanks where we couldn't find the details any other way.
True, we were fortunate to see him live to an age when his family story could at least be partially captured by the 1850 U.S. Census. There, we learned that Nicholas was likely born in 1766, somewhere in Germany. We could see that his wife—at least his current wife—was about thirteen years younger than he was, and that they likely had at least two children living with them, one of whom was married with a young daughter of his own.
In Nicholas' will, we learn some of the rest of his children's names, but not, as it turns out, all of them. His will does not mention his wife, Anna Elizabeth, as she had been reported to already have passed away in 1853. Lack of any headstone photo or even mention of Nicholas or Anna in old listings of Snider family members buried in the old Holy Trinity Catholic Church cemetery lead me to wonder if the Schneiders' headstones have gone missing, been vandalized, or simply crumbled over time.
Yet, his will, thanks to government preservation and digitization by genealogical organizations, is still available to us today. The document, showing evidence that Nicholas had by then acquiesced to the Americanized spelling of his surname as Snider, began much the same as any other will:
I, Nicholas Snider of Hopewell township, Perry County and State of Ohio, being old but of sound mind and memory. Life being uncertain I therefore have concluded to make my will and make disposition of the property in my possession which the Lord has bless me with.
Nicholas immediately proceeded to give his farm to his son Conrad, whom we had already observed was living on the property with his wife and child. Nicholas' apparent stipulation for granting the property to his youngest was adherence to a schedule of payments to other children named in the document: his unmarried daughter Catherine, also living at the farm; oldest son Jacob; then Joseph and Lewis; and finally, his married daughter Mary Elder. That he did not include his son Simon in this schedule of payments—but mentioned his name as executor—caused me to wonder whether there were any other Snider children not included in this will.
As it turns out, even though records in Perry County, Ohio, were sparse in the decades between the county's formation in 1818 and that expanded detail of the 1850 census, we have other resources to help determine the family legacy left behind by Nicholas and Elizabeth. While the 1840 census, though only a head count of family members, told us to look for at least three sons and one daughter, the 1820 census, taken shortly after the family arrived in Perry County, indicated a household comprised of eleven people. Who else might have been missing from Nicholas' will?
That's where the legacy of family tradition and oral reports can fill in the blanks when a time period's records fall short of the information we're seeking. True, some family stories can amount to nothing more that that: mere legends. But others, providing traceable leads, may reveal the identities of family members whose names have slipped through those documentary cracks.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the reports of two Snider brothers, both grandsons of Nicholas and Elizabeth, whose family stories, made public, help round out the family portrait of that Schneider lineage.