Genealogists have, with a moderate hint of glee, glommed on to the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Granted, I've found key details in some wills which provided answers to otherwise difficult research questions. So, if I'm stuck researching the collateral lines of my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather John Jay Jackson, why not look for his father's will?
That would be an excellent idea to try, and that I did. If only I could actually find the will of Lyman Jackson, perhaps I'd be a bit more enthusiastic about the concept.
Lyman Jackson, John's father, died in 1835, something we can easily detect by his headstone at the Albion Cemetery in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Thus, one would expect to find his will in the records of Erie County. After all, his name showed up in census records for Erie County in both 1820 and 1830.
In the browse-only collection of courthouse documents for Erie County, preserved online by FamilySearch.org, I took a look at the index for wills. Unfortunately, though the man surely owned property, his name did not appear in the index. Nor, when I searched page by page through the actual records, could I spot his name within the right time frame.
That's when I began wondering about courthouse fires. Checking the FamilySearch wiki for Erie County, it did turn out that there was a fire which destroyed the building plus all books, papers, and records. That, however, occurred on March 23, 1823—long before Lyman Jackson's death in 1835.
That particular entry in the wiki was footnoted, and I always look to see what source was credited for such items. That's how I discovered not only the source for the statement, but a potential resource from which to draw further information on Lyman Jackson and his family: an 1884 volume published in Chicago by Warner, Beers and Company, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania.
There was only one problem with that discovery. Clicking through the link where I found it in the FamilySearch wiki, it showed the entry which provided the basis for the wiki's information, but for some reason, though I could view the book on Internet Archive, it wasn't searchable.
Remember, though, that Internet Archive often has more than one copy of a book posted on their website. I headed to Google to search for alternate copies of the book on Internet Archive, and found one which was searchable. However, that one had a different problem: the scan was so dim, I had trouble reading the text on the pages, no matter how much I enlarged the page. So I struck a compromise: I'd search on the dim-but-searchable page, find the page numbers I wanted for Jackson family entries, then jump back to the unsearchable-but-readable volume of the same book, and flip to the page I wanted to see.
With that back-and-forth compromise, I discovered a few details on the family of Lyman Jackson. First was the note that Lyman Jackson settled there in Conneaut Township in 1806, arriving from Otsego County, New York. Then, in 1810, Lyman's son Michael followed him to the same location. However, Michael Jackson did not remain long, returning to New York—but eventually joining his dad in Erie County in 1815. Thus, I gleaned not only this snippet of Lyman Jackson's timeline, but the name of another of his sons to add alongside son John Jay Jackson.
Knowing that some of Lyman Jackson's children did not remain in Erie County, I was fortunate to discover, among the biographical sketches in that 1884 book, the entry for a Jackson grandson. That, like the report we discovered last week for another descendant of Lyman in Kansas, included some notes on the Jackson family history. We'll see what we can gather from that entry, tomorrow. Apparently, even without a will, there still might be a way.