Monday, April 10, 2023

Finding Elizabeth's Roots


It is a far cry from researching the roots of our near ancestors living in, say, the previous century to the challenge of finding records for those far-removed ancestors in colonial times. That, however, is the task we're facing when we begin exploring the roots of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Howard Ijams.

Elizabeth was supposedly born in colonial Maryland in 1758. If it weren't for someone sharing an unpublished genealogy of Elizabeth's second husband, Major John Whistler, I wouldn't have found the resource trail which led me to my only other clue to her roots so far: a book called Anne Arundel Gentry.

Once I got oriented to the layout of this 1933 genealogy book, however, I've begun piecing together what can be found on at least a few more generations linked to Elizabeth's family. This week, we'll begin exploring what author Harry Wright Newman included in his book about the families associated with Elizabeth's line, starting with Elizabeth's own parents, today.

In the entry for her first husband, a man listed in Newman's book as William Iiams, we find a listing for not only William's parents, but his wife's as well. William, son of John and Rebecca (Jones) Iiams, had married the daughter of Joseph Howard and his wife, the former Rachel Ridgely. This daughter, Elizabeth, was apparently listed in her father's 1776 will under her married name.

We are fortunate that the Newman book mentions that detail, as her name appears in a currently-available digitized copy of that will in the lower, faded, portion of the page. Harder to read, likely due to the age of the copy of the document, it is still possible to make out Elizabeth's married name—clearly shown as Ijams—but not much else in those last few lines of the page.

From the book's entry on Elizabeth's parents, using information drawn from her father's will, we discover that Elizabeth had at least three brothers and a sister, with one additional sibling not yet born at the time the will was drawn up. That sibling turned out to be Elizabeth's sister Sarah, joining the other sister, Rachel, wife of Eli Gassaway.

As for the brothers, though three were named, only one lived much longer than the time it took to settle the estate. That, completed on April 14, 1790, included only one son in the distribution: eldest son Joseph, who by then was married to a likely relative whose name was given in the book as Mary Howard. The Newman book surmises that Joseph's brother Cornelius died in 1785, and that youngest brother William Ridgely Howard followed suit before that 1790 date.

The listing of Elizabeth's sisters can be helpful in this project, specifically due to the one additional tool I'm using: the mitochondrial DNA test results for one descendant on Elizabeth's matriline. If either of those sisters had daughters of their own, their female descendants could also be passing down that identical—or near identical—genetic signature encased in their mtDNA. Perhaps one of them could be an exact match to the test results I already have on file. I am still awaiting responses to begin the process of comparing trees with those matches.

Better yet, the Newman book did not stop at Elizabeth's parents' generation. We can move on yet another generation tomorrow, by exploring what the Anne Arundel Gentry book mentioned for the generation previous to Elizabeth's parents, Joseph Howard and Rachel Ridgely.

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