Monday, May 8, 2023

Cheat Sheet: Searching for Shortcuts


One thing about researching family history in the digital age: we can speed up the search process by manipulating the data we seek. Granted, "browse only" files can seem to slow down the research process, but there are plenty of other files available online which are fully searchable.

Thus, while I am plowing my way slowly through the oldest of browse-only probate records for Fairfield County, Ohio, there may be a shortcut for finding the answer to my question about the unnamed daughters in William Ijams' will.

William had died in Fairfield County in the early months of 1816, but tax records indicated he had settled there much sooner than that. He had arrived there from his family's home in Maryland and, as often was the case, William Ijams' family did not travel there alone. According to what I've found in some hundred year old local history books, William—along with his wife and children—had made the move west with at least two of his brothers.

Thus, when I strike out, riffling through hundred year old documents for a shortcut to my question's resolution, I do need to take care that I don't grab a record for a collateral line in this extended Ijams family, rather than a record for William's own descendants. This family did tend to recycle favorite names from generation to generation.

Finding a collection of Ohio marriage records at, I put the digitized record set through its paces to see if I could compose a cheat sheet for my research question. I narrowed the search to show results from Fairfield County only, as that was where William and Elizabeth had settled with their family, and only for the surname Ijams, including the usual spelling variants. Then, pulling up the resultant list—there were fourteen marriages listed—I then culled the results for only the brides with the maiden name of Ijams.

Out of those fourteen marriages in that search result, six entries were for brides surnamed Ijams (or a spelling variation). Of those six, I recognized only one.

That entry was for Comfort Ijams, the known sister of Sarah, my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother who faced an untimely death in 1829. Comfort had married Edward Stephenson—alternately spelled Stevenson in other records—in 1811.

Since the other Ijams marriages in that list of possibilities included some names of grooms which I recognized from among William's sons and grandsons, I further culled this list based on the years of marriage given for the descendants I knew. Though the list included dates as late as 1841—another clue to keep in mind for future research—I noticed the marriage dates for those descendants I already knew hovered closer to the turn of the century. With that in mind, I looked specifically at the Ijams brides married before the date of their possible father's death.

Here, then, were the possibilities left to me. Marrying late in the year of 1804 was Mary Ijams, wife of Walter Teal. And, following a year after Comfort's wedding in 1811, someone named "Rabecca" Ijams married James Beck in 1812.

Just as a simple experiment, I'll take some time this week to see whether either of those women—Mary or Rebecca Ijams—lived long enough to produce documentation which links them to the right Ijams family. While this is a roundabout way to find my answer, it may turn out to be a faster route than wading through page after page of browse-only probate records for the same county.

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