Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Looking Back Before Leaping Forward


We're on a bluff overlooking a whole new month, and it's time to make our leap into a new research project. But before we move forward, it's good practice to take a look backwards, review what we've accomplished over the past month, and make plans for the next time we visit this specific research adventure.

My goal for April had been to examine my mother-in-law's matriline, starting with one particular ancestor: her fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard, eventual wife of William Ijams. This fourth of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2024 I had hoped held the key to determining just how my husband's mtDNA matches connected to his mother's matriline.

Step one in that process was to push the trail back as many more generations as possible, but in that one month, we only gained two generations before discovering that William Ridgely's wife Elizabeth, if she was indeed a Duvall, was not daughter of the Lewis Duvall to whom genealogists of past centuries had attributed her parentage.

From that point, we did an about-face, keeping in mind there were several daughters whose lines could be followed in that multi-generational process bringing us back to the present. After all, William and Elizabeth Ridgely, no matter who she might have been, were said to have been parents of at least eleven daughters.

Only problem: that was back in the mid-1700s, when women may have been seen, but seldom documented. A better approach was to start with what I already knew, and work the same plan from there. Hence, the start with Elizabeth Howard, herself, and the careful work to document each of her own daughters.

At that point—partially thanks to autosomal DNA matches linking back to Elizabeth Howard—the unexpected happened. There was another daughter in the matriline, someone I had entirely missed. I now needed to carefully construct her life story. That was the discovery of Rosanna, granddaughter of Elizabeth Howard and daughter of my mother-in-law's direct line ancestor, Sarah Ijams, wife of John Jay Jackson. 

It is easy to see how I could have missed Rosanna. Sarah, her mother, died at a relatively young age in 1829 in a place then still considered a frontier. Rosanna had married, and with her husband and children, eventually left the family's home in Perry County, Ohio, for new farmland in Iowa. Perhaps there was not much community built around that new home to remember Rosanna at her own early passing.

Rosanna, however, had daughters. And those daughters still need to be researched. With that on my to-do list, I need to set up plans for when I revisit this research question. Among the items I want to assemble would be records regarding Rosanna's husband, Walter Mitchell—his will, in particular. For each of their daughters, a next step would be to trace their own generations, at least for those who married and had children. Checking for any other autosomal DNA matches will be helpful, but my main focus in moving to the next generations would be to identify Rosanna's daughters, then their daughters, and onward to the present with those same female descendants. Remember the research goal: identify possible mtDNA matches by building out that aspect of Rosanna's tree.

Granted, there still is that other puzzle on the distant end of the generations: the other Elizabeth, wife of William Ridgely, who as my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandmother, was also on her matriline. She, too, had female descendants to trace, women who also may have carried that same mitochondrial DNA signature. Putting all this on my research to-do list for a future year sounds more like the makings of at least two projects, rather than one month's goal. 

That, however, is a task to puzzle over in another year. Tomorrow, we'll start fresh with another of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2024. This time, we'll turn to the Maryland ancestors of William Ijams, husband of this month's focus, Elizabeth Howard.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Still Out There


It is always helpful—albeit puzzling—to find that I've missed an entire branch of the family tree. Such was my challenge over the weekend when I discovered I had never even realized there was another daughter of Sarah Ijams and her husband John Jay Jackson. Exciting as that discovery might have been—after all, that adds another possible set of matches to my mother-in-law's matriline—it was quickly followed by the next discovery: there's another possible branch still out there for me to find.

It was partially thanks to a stray DNA match claiming to descend from another daughter of Sarah Ijams—one I hadn't yet realized belonged to our matriline—that I discovered this omission. Out of the forty eight DNA matches for Sarah's line linking to my husband's results at Ancestry.com, there was only that one match who claimed this missing Jackson daughter as an ancestor; all the rest either descended from Sarah's daughter Nancy, or her two sons Joseph and Robert.

That missing daughter's name was Rosanna. She was born about 1821 in Ohio, but had closed out her years in Iowa. Marrying Walter Mitchell in Perry County, Ohio, in 1840, Rosanna and her husband had several children before moving to Chickasaw County in Iowa. Using the 1860 census as a guide, I could see locations of her children's place of birth indicate that the Mitchell family must have made the move to Iowa just before 1859.

While it might be tempting to think that Rosanna ended up moving so far from home due to her husband's wanderlust, looking at the broader perspective of her extended family helps paint a different picture. Rosanna's brother Robert, after his 1851 marriage and birth of his first two children, had moved his family to Chickasaw County, Iowa, in the mid-1850s. But before either of those two siblings' families made the move, their brother Joseph was in nearby Lansing, Iowa, having moved his family there right after the 1850 census.

The suspected trigger point for all these decisions to leave their home in Ohio—at least, this is my guess—was that all the children of Sarah and John J. Jackson who lived to adulthood, with the exception of my mother-in-law's direct ancestor Nancy Jackson, opted to move out of town rather than remain close to their father's household after his marriage to his second wife. The only one who remained—Nancy—had married into another family with deep roots in Perry County. Perhaps the rest of Sarah's family wanted to separate themselves from reminders of a lost mother, as well as to get a new start in life for themselves.

Reviewing all these details this past weekend after discovering the existence of Rosanna's line, however, opened up another possibility: there is likely another Jackson line out there yet to be discovered. While working on this puzzle, I looked far and wide for another record I had yet to find: the obituary for their father, John J. Jackson.

As it turns out, John J. Jackson had a small but noteworthy claim to fame, himself: he was said to have been the oldest surviving soldier in Perry County from the War of 1812. His funeral, it was noted in newspaper reports, was attended by military representatives from much younger ranks than his own long-gone comrades. I finally managed to find the actual obituary, a long, wordy review of his life's story.

Obituaries from that era can disappointingly omit the very details we seek—names of survivors would be a nice touch—yet from that record, I noticed one mention about his surviving children. Explaining that Sarah, John's first wife, had died young, the obituary mentioned that her husband was survived by four of Sarah's seven children. While I was aware of Nancy, my mother-in-law's direct line, plus sons Joseph and Robert, and daughter Elizabeth who died unmarried in her early twenties, adding in the discovery of Rosanna still left me two children short. Looking at it another way—checking those who still survived their father's death in 1876—I had to remove Rosanna from the list, since she died in 1862. From that perspective, too, there was one child still missing from among the survivors.

Who that one Jackson child—or two—might have been, will likely need to be a project reserved for another year's research quest, as we're nearly at the end of this month's project. That will need to be item number one on the to-do list I draw up tomorrow to close out the month.    

Sunday, April 28, 2024

A New Branch


This has been one of those weeks when I have to ask myself, "Now, how did you miss that?!" Despite the number of years I've been working on my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother Sarah Ijams, I never realized she had another daughter—not, that is, until I discovered a DNA match whose connection to Sarah was through a branch of the family I hadn't previously found in my own research.

To be fair to my bewildered self, I was working with a woman's story line which had her born at the very end of the 1700s and abruptly cut short in her early thirties—long before women's names made any regular appearance in census records. To add to the complications, hers was apparently a family with the preference of deeding property to their children, rather than drawing up one of those documents which bequeathed everything to their beloved relatives. I could have found such a deed to a son-in-law and blithely flipped right past it, having no knowledge of how that person connected to the family line.

So, in a spate of document discoveries, I've tentatively added yet another daughter to Sarah and John Jay Jackson's family, and have begun that long slide back to the present, following each of that daughter's descendants. After all, any daughter of Sarah becomes granddaughter of Elizabeth Howard, and thus part of my mother-in-law's matriline. Hopefully, this will produce useful information for continuing that search for mtDNA matches.

In the meantime, though, that discovery of a new branch also bolsters my count, just in time for another biweekly report. Sure enough, when I checked, the past two weeks has brought 165 new names to my in-laws' family tree, despite the struggle to locate documentation on the women in the family during those early years of female invisibility. My in-laws' tree now includes 34,483 documented individuals—and this new discovery will keep me busy for another couple weeks to come.

In just a few days, we'll move on from my April research goal as the month comes to a close. I'm not sure I've found everything I had hoped to find for my mother-in-law's matriline—there are so many women in her ancestry for whom I still have not been able to find documentation, even with the research boost of the FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search. We'll take the next couple days to recap what we've accomplished this month, and lay out plans for next steps when I return to tackle this same family line in a future year. 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

"Or Related Field"


Though I didn't realize it at the time, I spent my college years majoring in "or related field." For those of us who chose unusual—read: not in demand—fields of study to pursue, that became our unintended consequence for the choices our eighteen-year-old selves made. Fortunately, there are indeed job opportunities out there for "or related field," or I would have starved to death long ago. It's the power to be flexible—or as some put it, the ability to reinvent ourselves—that allows us to take any steps forward.

There is a second benefit to such flexibility. For each time we step up and bring our talents to bear in those "unrelated" disciplines, we enrich the project as much as the project benefits us. The context in which we move forward now includes more than one point of view, more than one protocol, more than one regimen. The context now becomes enriched.

While the pursuit of genealogy is avocational for me, I have watched the field pass through seasons in which those bringing their "or related field" perspective have enriched the result for all of us. I recall when I first began researching my family's history in earnest. It seemed, in those early-Internet years of genealogy forums, that I was routinely making the acquaintance of other researchers who were, in their "other" life, doctors or lawyers or professors or librarians. If "genealogist" had a job description then, these would be the candidates eligible to apply on account of their qualifications in other fields.

Yet, when we think about it, to effectively make use of all genealogical tools available to us, that is what we need: the legal chops to digest the verbiage of courtroom procedures, the medical know-how to read those illegible diagnoses scrawled on our ancestors' death certificates—or the medical history smarts to translate old terminology into current-day disease nomenclature. We need the librarian's ability to sniff out just the right resource, no matter how rare, to reveal the specific information we're seeking. And we can certainly use the scientist's procedural rigor for formulating and then testing our research hypotheses.

Maybe the ideal genealogist would be the one person who harnesses each of these research superpowers—but it would be the rare person who has all these skills finely honed and always at the ready. Rather, it might be more helpful to see genealogy as a team process, where each of us brings our special perspective to the table to help each other attain our research goals more effectively. After all, each of us has a special "or related field" skill which can broaden the approach of our fellow researchers. We can enrich the process of working together to help each other jump over those ancestral brick walls.


Friday, April 26, 2024

Until You Know That You Know


Sometimes, in shuffling through the myriad stacks of records necessary for tracking those elusive ancestors, we run across documents which we know are significant finds—but somehow the fact doesn't fully register in our minds concerning the importance of what we've found. It isn't until our mind once again comes around full circle and realizes that now we know that we knew that fact that we can proceed to actually put that discovery to use.

That's the case with this month's work on my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard, wife of William Ijams. I had been working my way through Elizabeth's daughters, with the purpose of outlining all those who linked to Elizabeth's matriline for mtDNA purposes. I had already examined the lines of daughters Rebecca, Rachel, Mary, and Comfort. The only one remaining was Sarah. 

Sarah was likely the youngest daughter of William Ijams and his wife Elizabeth Howard, but she was also my mother-in-law's direct ancestor, so I had already thoroughly researched the women descending from Sarah—except, apparently, for one detail. That detail was clearly represented in a document which I had seen and known about for years; after all, it was called to my attention by one of those convenient "hints" at Ancestry.com. How could I have missed that?

The document was housed at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records. If I had ever thought to access that website and conduct a search on Sarah Ijams' own name, the document could easily have been found. But who would go looking for a land record under a woman's name back in 1817? And under her maiden name, too!

Yesterday, in a research tailspin over lack of progress on this month's research goal—finding more connections to Elizabeth Howard's matriline—I decided to celebrate DNA Day by reviewing all my husband's autosomal DNA matches using Ancestry's ThruLines tool. At this point, he has forty eight matches there directly linked to Elizabeth Howard through her daughter Sarah Ijams' descendants. Most of them are linked to our tree, but there are about eight new matches which I hadn't yet added. Hoping for that small chance that an autosomal match might also have connected via that same matrilineal path, I didn't want to miss any details.

Nothing significant materialized. In that dull moment of grasping for "what's next," up popped that persistent hint about the land record with Sarah Ijams' name on it. The property description didn't seem to match the location I had remembered from other court records for her family—I had assumed in the past that her name was on the document due to some land she had inherited—and was stymied by what the hidden story might have been.

Mulling over what that untold backstory might have been, rather than just staring at the document as it was presented on Ancestry, I decided to look at the version from the source. Though the record had stated "Sarah Ijams of Fairfield County," looking up such a document at the BLM website produced nothing. However, if I searched for Sarah's name in Ohio in general, but didn't enter any county name, up popped the record in neighboring Perry County. 

Clicking on the tab labeled "Related Documents," showed clearly that the land was in Perry County, not Fairfield County, Sarah's family home. Interestingly, another document also showed in the list from that second search, regarding an adjoining property. That property belonged to Sarah's brother-in-law, Walter Teal, whom I had also had trouble tracing during this month's research project. Now realizing that Walter's property was likewise in Perry County, that would be a helpful detail to know when searching for any deeds or other documents to trace possibility of daughters for Walter's line, since his wife was also on Elizabeth Howard's matriline.

But what I had failed to remember—this is the part I should have already known—was that Perry County was not established until March 1 of 1818. And since the Ijams family had lived in Richland Township in Fairfield County—which history I had read only a week or so ago—I should have remembered that tiny detail about Richland Township losing two of its sections to form part of Perry County. 

I'm pretty sure I know that I know that—now. That detail has finally sunk into the "working knowledge" side of my brain. That also explains why I had seen some other deeds recorded in both counties, despite being a single transaction. But as to why the land was listed in 1817 under the name of an unmarried woman, that is a puzzle whose answer I have yet to know.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sisters and Their Stories


Though I can't say I've found an answer yet, this has been a month which may have come full circle. I began the month looking for all the women who belong on my mother-in-law's matriline. I eventually settled on researching the daughters of her fourth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Howard, wife of William Ijams. The only problem: it's hard to find stories of sisters born in the late 1700s. Until, that is, I ran across a document identifying two of them, and hinting at a third.

Elizabeth Howard and her husband, William Ijams, had five daughters. Besides my mother-in-law's direct line third great-grandmother, Sarah, the other daughters were Rebecca, Rachel, Mary, and Comfort. This month has been one continuous struggle to find any records of these sisters' married lives, particularly the details indicating the names of their children—especially their own daughters.

We've found a bit of information on Mary's daughter, Providence Teal, but none of her three daughters had continuing lines of female descendants—they didn't "daughter out." With Rachel, an early census record after her marriage to James Turner indicated that she may have had at least five daughters, but what their names were or whether they lived to adulthood and married, I still can't say.

And then there's Rebecca. With Mary and Rachel, at least I could find some documentation beyond the marriage record to indicate what life had brought them in later years. For Rebecca, I had little beyond a reference to her husband's name in her father's will—William Ijams had named William Wiseman as his executor. I did find a will for someone by that name, living in Fairfield County, but the document didn't specify the names of any descendants. All the will mentioned was three apparently unrelated people with whom William Wiseman had been living at the time of the most recent census before his 1854 death.

In the 1850 census, living in William Wiseman's household were Eliza Noals and her likely daughters Elsa and Catherine Noals. Like William, Eliza had been born in Maryland, though she was almost thirty years younger than William. Her two supposed daughters were both born in Ohio, and were in their twenties. An unrelated eleven year old boy from Germany rounded out the household.

When William Wiseman's will was entered into the court records on February 7, 1854, names quite similar to those appeared as his legatees. Those named were Alicia Ann Noles and Catherine Noles. In addition, a third person of that surname—Leo Noles—was mentioned in William's will. Oddly, though Eliza Noles was also mentioned, she was only indicated as recipient, along with the other women, of support from the estate's executor for "protecting and maintaining" the three women "during their single life." All the rest of William's estate was bequeathed to the Literary Society of Saint Joseph in neighboring Perry County, Ohio, whose director was named as executor of William's will.

With no mention of a wife or descendants of his own, I considered whether the document was written by our William Wiseman. And yet, some details seemed to match. As indicated in his will, William was buried in Perry County. But there was no sign of a wife named Rebecca or any children from that marriage. I began to wonder whether there was another William Wiseman in town.

Fortunately, a land transaction in Fairfield County helped provide another piece of the Wiseman story. Dated May 1, 1831, the record indicated that land purchased by one Edward Stevenson was sold to him by "William Wiseman and Rebecca his wife," and "James Turner and Rachel his wife." With that one document, we are gifted with the names of the wives of those two men. Of course, we already knew from their father's will that Rebecca and Rachel were sisters, but finding their husbands' names in any records has been a challenge. This, at least, gave another verification of the connections.

What is interesting about that document in Fairfield County records is that, immediately preceding it was another document regarding another property exchange, between Joseph H. Ijams and Edward Stevenson. Referring to an original exchange in 1827, the 1831 document revealed that the description of the property in question contained an "incorrect recital of the metes and bounds" of the location.

What doesn't get mentioned in those documents is the other relationships contained within the named parties. Joseph H. Ijams was brother of William Wiseman's wife Rebecca, and James Turner's wife Rachel. In addition, Edward Stevenson had married another Ijams sister, Comfort, in 1811. While the land may have been changing hands, it was all still kept within the same family—but if it weren't for knowing who the sisters were, that fact would have remained invisible.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Too Many Turners in Town


It seemed like a really good research plan. To find the names of the Turner children—the unnamed descendants showing in the 1820 census household of James Turner and his wife Rachel—I thought I'd simply look for James Turner's will in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Apparently, that idea crashed and burned far sooner than I ever dreamed would be possible—all thanks to the efficiency of Full Text search capabilities at FamilySearch Labs. On to Plan B: look for signs of any transfers of property in the same county, from James Turner and Rachel, his wife, to any others with that same surname. But that idea isn't working too well for me either. Why? Apparently in a county of sixteen thousand people, there were too many Turners in town for that approach to yield any helpful clues.

Still, I'll keep my eye open for these possibilities. Besides seeing the deed transferring ownership of property from James and Rachel to someone else named James M. Turner, I found another deed mentioning Solomon Turner—another possible son? Among the deeds in Fairfield County during that time period, I also ran across Turners by the names of Isaac, Joseph, and even Bazel. Then again, in later dates, I couldn't be sure whether the Williams I found were sons of James' father William, or sons of another Turner sibling. I had enough tabs open on my laptop to cause a computer meltdown, surely.

But what about the daughters? That, after all, was my original goal for this month's research project. I wanted to find information on the female descendants related to my mother-in-law's matriline for DNA purposes. There certainly were a few land transactions in those Fairfield County deeds which mentioned men of other surnames. What they lacked, though, was any mention of how—if at all—they might have been connected to James Turner. So the 1823 transaction selling land to Herbert Winegardner, or the one naming James Price, provided me no details to give me any traction. Though James and Rachel certainly did have daughters, we're still left not knowing what their given names—let alone their married names— might have been.

In the midst of searching through pages and pages of court records, though, I did run across another curious land transaction, bringing together some of the same names I had encountered while taking that research detour to learn the history of one of Fairfield County's first churches. We'll take a moment to examine that deed tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Near the Old Graveyard


Richland Chapel was the name of the first Methodist church built in Fairfield County, Ohio. From a description in an old local history book, the chapel was said to have been a log cabin built "near the old graveyard." Among the church's first members appeared the surnames of collateral lines descending from my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Howard, wife of William Ijams.

Right now, as I take a hiatus from the search for all Elizabeth's matrilineal descendants, a detour to examine the history of this county's earliest church may be helpful. As it turns out, that "old graveyard" near the chapel is a place I've written about before. Known by some as the Stevenson Cemetery, by others as the Ruffner Cemetery or the Campground Cemetery, it was an old burial ground where the now-half-sunken headstone for William Ijams rests. 

A more recent cemetery sign—at least, according to Find A Grave resources—identifies the location as the Stevenson Ruffner Cemetery. Through chatty weekend "Nature Notes" over the years by Lancaster Eagle-Gazette columnist Charles Goslin, we can glean some of the history of the place. His May 6, 1961, article takes us on a Sunday afternoon drive along "Snake Run," stopping in at the cemetery to learn a bit about the history of the area.

On or near that same property, not long after 1800, a man named Daniel Stevenson settled, along with his brothers. Daniel was said to have been a "soldier of the Revolution"—though D.A.R. can find no service records and admits earlier membership applications may have mistaken him for another soldier entirely—and received a land grant to settle in Fairfield County in 1806. Columnist Charles Goslin mentioned that the area became known as the "Stevenson Settlement" after this early settler.

How well-integrated the Ijams household became within that Stevenson Settlement, the church meetings held on that property, and even the burial of Elizabeth's husband there, can be gleaned by comparing names in hundred-year-old history books with the intermarriages of the Ijams daughters. As we've already seen, though daughter Rachel's husband James Turner has not been specifically mentioned, history reports we've already covered did mention others of that surname in the congregation. Younger Ijams daughter Comfort married Edward Stevenson, and although I have yet to document his father's identity, the surname does resonate. Daughter Sarah, of my mother-in-law's direct line, married John Jay Jackson, mentioned in yesterday's post. And William and Elizabeth's son William married a daughter of the Ruffner family. All these marriages handily demonstrate the intertwined community whose legacy became the now-deserted cemetery called by many names where our Ijams ancestors once lived, worshipped and, eventually, were buried. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

In the Right Vicinity

Some local histories just resonate with surnames from our family's history. That, according to the history of Richland Township in Fairfield County, is what I've been noticing as I search for signs of my mother-in-law's roots during the early years of Ohio's statehood.

Among the earliest settlers in that vicinity, according to one 1912 book, History of Fairfield County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens, were these: Wiseman, Turner, Stephenson, Ijams. All of these, I already know, fall handily into what some genealogists call the "F.A.N. Club" of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard and her husband, William Ijams. Or, to look at this report from the eyes of another genealogical phrase, "cluster genealogy," those surnames lead us to the right cluster.

To see that cluster a bit more clearly, though, we need to take a detour from our main research goal to explore what brought those families from their previous, distant residences to their new homes in the formative years of Ohio's Fairfield County. In a word, that gathering force was religion.

That same 1912 history book noted that the township—indeed, the whole of Fairfield County—saw "the early organization of religious societies and churches," but the first of such meetings were held before any church buildings could be erected. Those meetings were held "in the log cabins of the settlers."

In another book, Pioneer Period and Pioneer People of Fairfield County, Ohio, published in 1901, author C. M. L. Wiseman noted that the church in question—at least for my mother-in-law's family—was Methodist. Included in a list of those who attended services in that early church prior to 1805 were:

Daniel Stevenson and wife, Isaac and Thomas Ijams, John J. Jackson, John Sunderland, Edward Teal...William Turner.

Perhaps you, as I do, see that cluster of familiar surnames taking shape—the very surnames I've been following as we look for the matrilineal descendants of Elizabeth Howard and her husband, William Ijams.

When attendance overtook building capacity, church meetings were held out of doors in 1803, and then again in 1807, a year said to have drawn over one thousand people to such a "camp meeting." The site of the camp meetings, and the log cabin itself, was noted as "near the old graveyard" and "in sight of the home of Daniel Stevenson." Before we explore further how these surnames intertwine with the daughters of Elizabeth Howard and William Ijams, let's take a step back, tomorrow, to learn a bit more about what that author meant in 1901 when he talked about the old graveyard. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Revisiting a Six Year Old Story


It was almost exactly six years ago when I began sharing the story of a photograph I rescued from an antique shop up in Gold Country. The picture itself was sweet, containing the cherubic faces of two young boys, the younger barely one year of age. The puzzling part was that the portrait was labeled in French, and likely dated from the earliest years of the 1900s, an odd find from a store in a small town in the northern California foothills.

At that time, I had begun what has become a habit of rescuing old abandoned photographs and researching the subjects of the picture in hopes of finding current-day descendants who might be interested in receiving the orphaned picture. In the case of Emile and Lucien Hallée, the two boys in the photograph, with barely enough details to locate a possible descendant, the generous assistance of a Canadian blogger who spread the word plus the power of social media enabled a happy ending: the photograph made its way home to family.

Ever since that point, I've been totally sold on the thrill that comes from what I call "giving back" to the genealogical community, and have returned several other photographs to family over the years. But it has only been lately that I've been able to share such stories in person. This coming Monday, April 22, I'm privileged to have that opportunity to head up to the same gold rush country where it all began in 1848 to present "The Genealogical Legacy of the California Gold Rush" to the Placer County Genealogical Society. If you're curious or want to hear that story once again (as well as others), I invite you to come along, whether in person for those living in the Auburn, California area, or online for those in time zones in which an evening presentation at seven, Pacific Time, would not be prohibitively late. The Society's website has the information to guide you in accessing the online meeting, and they are very welcoming in inviting visitors to their meetings.


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Granny Hobbies: Do We Make the Cut?


Recently, I read an article by one writer I follow online, who was reflecting on something he had read in another writer's blog. The topic he had shared was about what's called "granny hobbies." The originating writer, in a blog called Working Theorys, explained granny hobbies like this: hands-on and thumbs-off. Hands-on, because these are hobbies which are all about creating something. Thumbs-off, to signify being as far removed from online activities as possible, especially if mindlessly consuming social media posts.

The list provided by the original writer encompassed the kind of activities you might presume would be in such a list: cooking, gardening, knitting, playing board games. What I found interesting was to see how the second writer augmented that list of granny hobbies: he included genealogy.

Great. Now we can officially claim family history research to be among those in the domain of senior citizens? While I prefer to see people of all ages finding themselves fascinated with their family's stories, I do have to grant these authors one concession: there are benefits to the act of creating and the discipline of mindfulness about those creative processes.

If there is now a movement returning to such beneficial hands-on activities, I suppose I don't mind the moniker of "granny" hobbies. By its description in these two online articles, it apparently is something seen in a positive light. And there is certainly plenty to say for the therapeutic benefits of working for pleasure with the end goal of creating something of beauty or value. Preserving one's family legacy—at least the intangibles of personal and family history—can apparently not only give us something to pass down the generations, but it can serve to benefit ourselves and others in the doing of it, as well.

Friday, April 19, 2024

When All the Details Line Up


It's encouraging, when looking for a brick wall ancestor, to finally find the document in which all the details line up and we can say with assurity that we have discovered the name belonging to the previous generation. In some cases, the one court document I found which mentions James Turner assures me of his connections to my mother-in-law's family. In other cases, though, it brings up more questions.

James Turner, if you recall, was son-in-law of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother. And that distant great-grandmother was a matriarch on my mother-in-law's matriline, a potential common ancestor for the three exact matches my husband has on his—and thus his mother's—mtDNA test results. All I need to do is determine just how those female descendants for that matriline might figure into the puzzle.

After discarding the possibility of several of the women descending from Elizabeth Howard, that fourth great-grandmother, due to lack of daughters to pass down that mtDNA signature, we are currently circling the family of Elizabeth's daughter Rachel. Because Rachel was married in 1802, before Ohio had even attained statehood status, it would be a very slim chance indeed for me to find mention of her own name in legal documents—with one exception.

That exception was my hope to find a will for her husband, James Turner—and that her husband predeceased her. That hope, however, was quashed when my search for such a legal document in Fairfield County came up empty-handed.

It was as far as a last will and testament go that I was foiled in my research attempt. In its place, however, I found something else which turned out to be quite helpful—except for one detail.

The document was an indenture dated January 11, 1843. By the time of the 1840 census, James had already declared his age to be in his seventies. His wife was not far behind him. And the document being drawn up in court on that date in 1843 served as an exchange of property between the elderly couple and another man named James M. Turner.

The record was helpful in that it identified Rachel specifically as James' wife. In addition, we could possibly infer that James M. Turner may have had some relationship to the originating parties in that he exchanged a mere two hundred dollars in exchange for the property (worth about $8,000 in today's economy, not a bad price).

There was, however, one glitch in that document which didn't seem to line up. Toward the end of the first page of the court record, in specifically describing this property of James Turner, the wording stated, 

...which lot or section of land was granted by the United States unto the said William Turner by Letters made Patent...

Wait. Which said William Turner? I went back to reread the document—not relying on the AI transcription provided by FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search function, but reading that handwriting for myself. If there was a "said" William Turner previously mentioned, I have yet to find it.

However, the indenture provided some other very specific details, like the date in which that original transaction occurred (August 13, 1805), and the description of the property location (Section 28, Township 17, Range 17). I blasted over to the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records to see whether there might be any record of a William Turner receiving land in Ohio.

There was. In Fairfield County. At that precise location: Section 28, Township 17, Range 17. On that same date: August 13, 1805. 

Don't you love it when all the details line up?

Better yet, if James Turner had somehow received that land from someone named William Turner, perhaps William was James' father, just as James M. Turner, next recipient of that property, might have been son of the elder James.

Of course, that's just a guess on my part. But at least it points me in a possible direction to continue my search. After all, it will take some cluster genealogy to help point out what became of Rachel and James Turner's currently invisible daughters.     

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Turning to the Turners


Stomping around the wilds of pre-statehood Ohio without genealogical trail, map, or compass can be a disorienting experience. Looking for someone with a name as common as Turner does not help the situation. And yet, intrepid researchers on a quest to map out their family tree remain undeterred. Let's see what we can discover about James Turner, husband of Rachel Ijams.

Granted, I would not be looking for Rachel Ijams if it weren't for her mother, formerly Elizabeth Howard of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Elizabeth was my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother, and sat squarely in the path of her matriline. My husband's mtDNA results bid me chase that trail as far as I possibly can. Thus, all the female descendants of that line are in the crosshairs of my spyglass.

Having failed to find any continuing female lines of Rachel's sister Mary, it was time to move on to the next eligible family member: Rachel. What little I already knew about Rachel I gleaned from the probate proceedings for her father's 1815 will in Fairfield County, Ohio. Thankfully, Rachel was married by the time she signed to acknowledge receipt of William Ijams' legacy, since his will only obliquely mentioned his female offspring as "my daughters." The one clue—best one so far—was that in 1802 in Fairfield County, still part of the Northwest Territory, Rachel married a man by the name of James C. Turner.

Yes, I know Turner as a common surname can be a research challenge. At least I can find James Turner in census records in the early years of Ohio statehood. From the 1820 census, we learn that James and Rachel were likely the parents of two sons around the age of ten, and three daughters under the age of ten plus two more in their early teen years. If each of those daughters lived to adulthood, that would give me five chances to find potential mtDNA matches.

Easier said than done by far, of course. When we fast-forward to the 1830 census, still in Fairfield County, only one female remained in the household—a possible daughter in her later teen years. The others could already have married—or they could have met the demise of so many in those early years, fallen to death-dealing diseases.

By the time of the 1840 census, James Turner and his wife—we can only presume she was still Rachel—remained alone in their household, with James in his seventies and his wife in her sixties. On a hunch, I took a look to see if any other Turner households were listed in this census at the precise location of James Turner's entry in Richland Township. As it turns out, there were five. Of course, that could mean they were nephews of our James just as much as it could signify his own sons. There is no way to tell at this point, though I am tempted to explore our James' F.A.N. Club to see if I can uncover any leads.

With James supposedly in his seventies by the time of the 1840 census, I would have been surprised to see any mention of him in the 1850 census, as much as I would have hoped it were possible. It was time to explore other options to uncover details about this family. Unfortunately, looking to old county history books yielded little more than we already know. The History of Fairfield County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens, a 1912 book edited by Charles Christian Miller, provided the slightest of nods to James and Rachel's roots.

Among the first settlers were: William Wiseman, Theodore Turner, Stephenson and Ijams families and Judge William McClung.

Granted, the very first name in the list—William Wiseman—caught my eye, as we will turn to that name next in our search for matrilineal descendants, but I can't yet say whether James was even related to the list's second name, Theodore Turner. The only consolation in that passage is that I know another Ijams daughter did indeed marry a Stephenson. We are in the right place and on the right track—but not far along enough to yield us any usable information.

There was, however, another resource to check: the latest tool to smash through genealogical brick walls, FamilySearch Lab's Full Text search. Looking for James Turner in Fairfield County, Ohio, did produce some records. Not quite what I was seeking—it would be handy to locate James' own will, for instance—but it is worth some consideration. We'll take a look at those court records tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Providence's Progeny


On the trail of all the female descendants of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard didn't seem to be that challenging of an assignment. At least that's how it seemed at the beginning. But after running into several daughters whose female offspring birthed only sons—if any children at all—I was beginning to despair of reaching my matriline-mapping goal with that handy mitochondrial DNA test.

Then, I found Providence. And among Providence's progeny, there were three daughters: Elizabeth, Sarah, and Mary Eugenia—not one, but three chances to make progress with my research goal.

Don't assume things will go well for us here, though. Providence, daughter of Elizabeth Howard's daughter Mary Ijams, was married to Thomas Dain, an Indiana man whose death in 1865 came with no documentation that I can find (so far), other than his monument in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

With Thomas' passing, he left Providence with their youngest daughter—Mary Eugenia—still at home. Born after the 1850 census, which listed her two older sisters, Mary Eugenia did not marry until her 1874 wedding with Jacob Smith.

It's fortunate to have found that record, for the 1900 census revealed exactly what I've been looking for: more daughters among the descendants of Elizabeth Howard. In fact, Mary Eugenia and Jacob had two daughters: Bernice and Myla. Bernice, however, never married. And Myla, soon wife of Frank Merrill Talbot, followed the family pattern by producing three sons for the next generation. No daughters.

Don't think looking to Mary Eugenia's older sisters will help us out in our quest. Her oldest sister Elizabeth's marriage produced one son. Period. And the middle sister, Sarah, has eluded me ever since her disappearance after the 1850 census.

With that, we'll retrace our steps back through the generations until we arrive at the generation of Elizabeth Howard's other daughters. Tomorrow, we'll see if we have better results in following Mary Ijams' sister Rachel, wife of James Turner, back in Fairfield County, Ohio.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Finding Females Before the Fifties


Since I realize that caving to the allure of alliteration may leave me wide open to misinterpreted hits from spammers, let me clarify that title: I'm now looking for the females in Walter Teal's family from before the fifties—the 1850s, that is, not their fifties. 

I'm still on the trail of my mother-in-law's matriline, looking for any mtDNA matches, specifically any women descending from her fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard. Elizabeth's daughter Mary Ijams had married Walter Teal in Fairfield County, Ohio, in 1805, but somehow may have disappeared before her husband showed up in the 1840 census in Wabash County, Indiana.

It's hard to tell on those enumerations prior to 1850. While tally marks within age brackets can give us somewhat of a picture of a family's composition, they certainly can't tell us the names of any of those women in the household. But at least the document reveals that there was one possible daughter of Walter and Mary still remaining in the 1840 household: someone between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. Who could it have been?

Stepping back another ten years, Walter's household in the 1830 census had shown two other possible daughters: at that time, both were between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. If they were still alive by the time of the 1850 census, that would mean Mary had at least three daughters we need to find—assuming all three had lived to adulthood.

Fortunately, one of the daughters showed up in a transcription of a record in the Teal family's new home in Indiana. That transcription, a marriage index for Indiana weddings, clearly showed the parents' names as Walter and Mary Teal, but as for the bride's name, it was rendered as either Prudence or Providence. Likewise, the married surname display had problems, but appeared to be Jessup.

That's a start. Another marriage index supplied a bit more of the story. The groom was Jacob N. Shallenberger—or possibly Shallenborg. The bride was listed as Jessup. Apparently, if this was our Walter and Mary's daughter, she was married more than twice.

Sure enough, other documents began to fill in the blanks. Moving to earlier records than Shallenberger, Providence was once married to someone named Jessup. And before that, was married to someone named Thomas Dain. The good news in all of this? I could find that earliest couple in both the 1850 and the 1860 census—complete with the names of all their children.

Especially the daughters.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Where's Walter?


When relatives disappear, the natural question arising in a genealogist's mind is: where did they go? Since I've lately been working on the female ancestors comprising my mother-in-law's matriline, thanks to testing that full mitochondrial DNA signature, I can't simply wonder what became of her third great-grandmother's sister Mary Ijams. I need to ask what became of her husband. Thus, my question this week is: where's Walter Teal?

We've already seen that Walter Teal was the man who married Mary. Though the only accessible digitized copy of their marriage record somehow managed to cut off Mary's maiden name, we fortunately have documentation of her receipt of her portion of her father's inheritance—thankfully, received after her marriage to Walter Teal.

Because this detail leaves us researching a woman during the invisible decades for women in the early 1800s, I can only hope I found the right Walter Teal when locating such a name in the 1830 census for Fairfield County, Ohio, the same place where the couple had married twenty five years earlier. But when we turn to the 1840 census to look for Walter's family, there is no mention of this head of household in the place where they had lived for decades. 

However, using the Full Text search at the FamilySearch Labs, it was apparent that Walter's name had been mentioned in a number of deeds in Fairfield County over the years. Perhaps this made me a little less apprehensive of the discovery that there was indeed a Walter Teal in the 1840 census—but not where we thought we'd find him. This time, a Walter Teal showed up in Indiana. Was this our guy?

Once again, the census wasn't really of any help in identifying who else might have been part of Walter's household. We can see from the readout that whoever was in the Teal home—we have no way to know whether they were relatives or, perhaps, farm hands—it was headed by a man between the years of fifty and fifty nine, exactly ten years difference from the report we found back in Ohio for the 1830 census.

The 1840 entry was for a household in Pleasant Township in Wabash County, Indiana. Along with that older man in the Teal household was one between fifteen and nineteen years of age, along with two younger boys, one of whom was five years or younger. The data for the women in the family paint a far different picture than what we had gleaned from the previous enumeration, however. The oldest woman this time was in her thirties. She was accompanied by one other female, aged fifteen through nineteen.

This might have been our Walter, alright, but it certainly couldn't have been his wife Mary. Looking elsewhere for confirmation—or at least explanation of what might have happened in the past ten years—I spotted a General Land Office record for someone named Walter Teal. It was, as I had hoped, for property in Wabash County, Indiana. Thankfully, where his name was to be entered in the document, the actual detail stated: "Walter Teal of Fairfield County, Ohio."

It may be possible that Walter's wife Mary had died before the 1840 census, and that he had remarried. Depending on when he acquired the Indiana property, Mary may have died before he made the decision to leave Ohio—or she may have made the trip with him, then died shortly afterwards. It is my guess that that youngest child in the household could serve as a clue as to how long it had been since Mary's death—if we are unable to locate any death record for her in either state.

In my pursuit of the family's matriline, though, it will be to those possible daughters of Mary that I will turn my attention next. Not only that, but in following the family—hopefully to some point beyond the 1850 census—we can see whether that matriline was carried forward to future generations. 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sometimes Fast Means Slow


No matter how fast we can now read our way through the unindexed wills at FamilySearch, thanks to the AI assist at FamilySearch Labs latest Full Text search project, that faster approach can still slow things down. In other words, "fast" can sometimes mean "slow" when it comes to research progress.

Since today marks my biweekly progress report, I thought the count wouldn't look so inspiring. After all, the Full Text search capability means we can find potential documents more quickly, but that doesn't take into account the reading of the documents after they are found. Nor does it account for the fact checking I do via supporting documents for each will I've discovered through the Labs. In other words, it's been slow going, even after finding wills and deeds speedily.

Still, in the past two weeks, I've documented 132 individuals in my mother-in-law's matriline. In pursuit of just how those mitochondrial DNA matches connect to my in-laws' tree, it now includes records for 34,318 relatives. I guess that isn't too bad, considering I discovered an incorrect marriage reported in two genealogy books, and had to revise some entries—not to mention backpedaling on the next generation in that matriline. I'm now stumped as to who might have been my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandmother, back in colonial Maryland, since William Ridgely's wife Elizabeth was evidently not the daughter of Lewis Duvall.

I guess the Full Text search at FamilySearch Labs helps discover those errors faster, too. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Power of Speed


Real value is no longer created by traditional measures of productivity. It's created by personal interactions, innovation, creative solutions, resilience, and the power of speed.
~Seth Godin
The Song of Significance

Finally getting down to reading a recent acquisition in my anti-library, I felt a quote literally leap off the pages of entrepreneur Seth Godin's latest, The Song of Significance. It was that phrase, "the power of speed," which resonated. After all, if it hadn't been for FamilySearch's latest development in speed-researching (otherwise known as Full Text search at FamilySearch Labs), I couldn't have gone speed-sliding down my mother-in-law's matriline quite so deftly.

Think of it: FamilySearch.org, by virtue of having accessed a faster way to page through endless legal documents, has created real value for those who need such creative solutions. The mind-numbing guesswork of paging through unindexed files, reading—no, oops, not the right page once again—line after line of indecipherable handwriting has finally come to its end. If, of course, the Labs Full Text test turns out to be a keeper.

The FamilySearch Labs example gets me thinking in broader application categories. What, for instance, if we applied that Seth Godin maxim to our current situation with waning member participation in local genealogical societies? Could the thought of personal interactions, innovation, or creative solutions speak to our dilemma there? I know that once Covid forced us to couple our traditional meeting format with the newer tech of online connectivity, we gained some benefits—but lost some personal interactions and resilience. Does this mean we face a zero sum game?

I tend to take that call to create "real value" as a call to return to personal connections. When our local genealogical society, after wandering the desert of online-only meetings for three years, decided to create a new, in-person get-together event just because, the energy level in the room was palpable. That buzz told me people really need this connection—even if it hasn't been the "way we always do things." All we added was personal interactions—but that is exactly the element we were sorely needing.

Maybe it only takes just one change to resurrect a wilting organization. We'll try others too, of course, but it is reassuring to see what a big response can come from such a simple change. After all, as Seth Godin likes to point out, real change can trigger a network effect of its own—which amplifies the signal we want to send even farther and faster.  

Friday, April 12, 2024

Duly Documented


Admittedly, there is nothing to compare with looking at an age-old document and realizing the signature at the bottom of the page—or even the "X" in its place—belonged to one's own ancestor. Conversely, there is nothing quite like the frustration of reading a digitized copy of an 1804 document and getting to that final line, only to realize the surname of that ancestor didn't quite make it into the picture.

So...was it her? Or was that just wishful thinking?

Despite that being the case in the record of Walter Teal's marriage to Mary Ijams, I didn't have to wait long to find my answer. Thankfully, Mary was one of the unnamed daughters in William Ijams' 1815 will who, after awaiting the slow-moving process of probate to duly run its course, had to sign to acknowledge receipt of her inheritance. Better yet, the probate documents identified her not only as the wife of Walter Teal, but listed her specifically as "formerly Mary Ijams."

I had first made that discovery last year, while researching my mother-in-law's matriline for mtDNA purposes. From that point, though, I've yet to discover what became of Mary and her husband, Walter Teal. Granted, their season of raising a family—if that was part of their life's story—would have fallen to the years before census records named each member of a household. The only information those early enumerations provided would be age ranges and genders. Whether those household teenagers called Mary "mom," I'd have no way of knowing.

Still, without exploring the possible lead, I'd have nothing on this other daughter of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother. Considering that, I think it's time to play genealogy guinea pig again, and test possible leads for Walter and Mary Teal.

Fortunately for us, there was an 1830 census record for a man by that same name—Walter Teal—in the same Ohio county where he had married Mary: Fairfield County. Listed in that household was one man between the ages of forty and forty nine, along with one woman in that same age bracket. In addition, the household included two males between the ages of ten and fourteen, plus another one in his twenties. Of particular interest to me, searching for other descendants from the same matriline, was the entry for one young girl between five and nine years of age, plus two others in their later teen years.

Was this the household of our Walter and Mary? Hard to say, not knowing the date at which Mary might have been born. An 1804 wedding might imply Mary was about eighteen to twenty years of age by that point which, extrapolated out to that 1830 census, would make sense to see her fall within the forty to forty nine year bracket. And the couple certainly had remained in the same county where Mary's parents had settled. But we can never just assume—even in a rural county during its early years of settlement—that there wouldn't be more than one man by the same name. And it's the man's name we would have to rely on during a time period like that. Pick the wrong name twin and we'd be led to mistaken conclusions.

Next week, we'll see whether we can follow Walter Teal through the next decade of his life to learn more about this family, especially to see whether we are chasing the right couple.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Didn't "Daughter Out"


It was years ago when I first ran into the phrase, "daughtered out." Perhaps it was during a time when Y-DNA was the preferred—or perhaps only—DNA test used for purposes of genealogy. Following the patriline for Y-DNA meant, of course, that one was following a male line of descent which featured one detail in common for each match: sharing the same surname. The difficulty with trying to piece together a genealogy based on that surname was that, in any given generation, it was possible for a man in that line to not have any sons who could thus pass along the surname. In other words, that man would have "daughtered out."

In my current case, using the mitochondrial DNA test to help in researching the matriline of my mother-in-law, I would have loved it if her ancestors had "daughtered out." However, with aggravating frequency, those women belonging to her matriline often did the opposite: if they had any children at all, the offspring was comprised solely of sons. Very rarely did I see any daughters.

I'm not done yet with my travels through my mother-in-law's matriline. While in the background—where I'm stuck on a dispute over whether her sixth great-grandmother was daughter of Lewis Duvall of colonial Maryland—I'm seeking documents to resolve the genealogical impasse, for purposes of daily posts from this genealogical guinea pig, I've taken to seeking any and all female descendants. And finding very little at all for her mtDNA results.

In many cases, more sons were born to these ancestors than daughters. For those few families which included female descendants, quite a few of those daughters either never married, or had childless marriages. In other cases, a female descendant who married might have had several children, all of whom would be sons. Where were those "daughtered out" families when I needed them?!

I am working my way down the lines of descent for the daughters of Elizabeth Howard, my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother. The reasons for this choice of starting point take in the difficulty of locating descendants for Elizabeth's two sisters, Rachel and Sarah. There is more work to do on those searches, but while that is ongoing in the background, following Elizabeth's own daughters seems easier. And easy progress would be encouraging right now.

Elizabeth and her husband, William Ijams, chose to move from the area in Maryland where their ancestors had settled for generations. Their new home was in Fairfield County, Ohio, where William died in the early years of the 1800s. Because their daughter Sarah was in my mother-in-law's direct line, that was one line which I've already checked quite thoroughly. It is Sarah's sisters—Rebecca, Comfort, Rachel, and Mary—whose descendants I need to pursue.

I have yet to find any descendants at all for Rebecca. Comfort, while having four daughters herself, seemed to be blessed with many grandsons, at least for those daughters who married at all. On the other hand, Rachel and Mary, while marrying in the early years of the 1800s in Fairfield County, seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth. For Mary, though, there may be a slight sign of just where she went after disappearing from her home in Ohio—but I can't yet be sure.

You know what that means: I'll have to once again play the genealogical guinea pig and test a hypothesis. For this, we'll need a few days to pursue Mary and her likely husband, Walter Teal, after the date of their 1804 wedding in Fairfield County, Ohio. We'll begin tackling that question tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Getting Un-Stuck


Getting stuck in the big middle of a family history mystery can be no fun. When the momentum drags to a halt, the first—and only—thing on my mind is how to get unstuck. While I'm not sure I'll soon see that shift in perspective, here is where I've ground to an abrupt stop.

I had been merrily chugging along on my mother-in-law's matriline, that generation-to-generation line of mothers only. From her third great-grandmother Sarah Ijams, I had slipped from central Ohio back to Maryland, home of Sarah's mother Elizabeth Howard. Then, thanks to mentions in family wills, it was an easy move to her mother, Rachel Ridgely, and then up another generation to her father William Ridgely, the one who died in 1755, mentioning in his will his wife Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, as I had discovered in last year's exploration of old genealogy books, was said to have been born into the Duvall family of colonial Maryland. According to those books, that Elizabeth was daughter of Lewis Duvall and his wife Martha, another Ridgely. 

When I followed that line from those old genealogy books and then tried to verify them with documentation, finding Lewis Duvall's will became my genealogical crash pad. Lewis Duvall had a wife named Martha, alright, but none of his four daughters was named Elizabeth. Where did Elizabeth come from?

The first reasonable guess would be that there was more than one Lewis Duvall in Anne Arundel County,  Maryland. There, we run into the other assertion found in some books: that when Elizabeth Duvall married William Ridgely, she was marrying her cousin. Where did that notion come from? Another genealogy book? I still can't find any details on that.

To complicate, there was indeed another Lewis Duvall in the area. He had a wife by another name, of course, and it would be worth our while to check out who this man was, and whether there was any mention of his descendants in his own will. In particular, did he happen to have a daughter named Elizabeth?

No matter who Elizabeth, wife of William Ridgely, turns out to be, that will provide the next stepping stone in our leap to the distant past through the cousin matches linked to my husband's mitochondrial DNA test results. Warning, though: this will not be easy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Research Roadblock


Sometimes, even a full day of searching can yield no results. That's the research roadblock I'm facing in this current project. Pushing back a few generations on my mother-in-law's matriline seemed to be a promising prospect—as long as I was making progress. Once I hit that warning sign that one woman's parents might not have been the ones others were thinking of, I couldn't find documentation to point me in one direction or the other.

Stuck, I tried to wiggle my way out of the impasse. Since the whole goal of this month's Twelve Most Wanted goal was to push as far back in time as possible on my mother-in-law's matriline for DNA purposes, an alternate step might be to at least reverse course and conduct descendancy research on the women I had identified as likely collateral lines.

Even there, though, I'm running into roadblocks. Remember, these are women born in colonial Maryland—a time period when little is mentioned about women, other than to see them married, or, for the fortunate few, to see them properly endowed with the legacy due them from their well-to-do father.

Silence on the paper trail does not necessarily mean those women were never married. Nor does it imply they didn't descend from families bestowing legacies. This simply could mean that the documents I'm seeking did not endure the test of time, or were destroyed in subsequent upheavals of later ages.

Or perhaps the document is still out there, but misfiled due to clerical error, or even illegible handwriting or impossible spelling. Try, for instance, a surname like McElfresh, which I've already seem spelled several different—admittedly creative—ways. How to search for possibilities like that? Wildcards are nice in theory, but when the results yield options numbering upwards of a thousand, the idea of "exhaustive search" takes on a dimension I'm not willing to pursue.

I'll still poke around, looking for signs of those daughters of the most recent common ancestor on my mother-in-law's matriline, but I guarantee it won't make for scintillating reports. We'll have to change our approach slightly, to see if there is another route to lead us to our end goal. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Not the Only One in Town

If William Ridgely, my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandfather, needed to mention his father's name in his 1755 will to differentiate himself from others in town with that same name, we'll likely have to do the same with his wife Elizabeth. Though I consider it fortunate that we are dealing with residents in a rather small colonial province—Maryland—it still appears that there may be some disputes as to the true identity of William's wife Elizabeth. She, too, may not have been the only one in town with that name.

Using old genealogy books covering the legal documents of that era, I've run across claims that Elizabeth was daughter of Lewis Duvall and his wife, Martha Ridgely. I've also found statements in such books that when Elizabeth married William, she was marrying her cousin. However, when I look to the will of her supposed father Lewis, I find mention of three daughters: Martha, Susanna, and Anne

Notice: no mention of anyone named Elizabeth.

True, Lewis Duvall's 1724 testament also lacked mention of any wife. Perhaps, in addition to his wife predeceasing him, we could assume any daughter named Elizabeth might have done likewise. But when we realize William Ridgely's will indicated his wife Elizabeth was still very much alive in 1755, we realize the futility of trying to make that theory stick.

So who did Elizabeth, William Ridgely's wife, really belong to? 

Sunday, April 7, 2024



We've just come to the end of a long but pleasant week in our region's corner of the genealogical world: our regional council just hosted a week-long Family History Week, with the culminating day's sessions held at our state archives up at the capital. Driving home after the last session, satisfied with the outcome but still exhausted, it occurred to me it might be nice to just do some light family history research to round out the evening—and today's post.

With that, I turned to Ancestry.com's ThruLines tool to see what DNA matches my husband might have to Elizabeth Howard, my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother. Even though Elizabeth is on my mother-in-law's matriline—and my husband stands in for her on that mitochondrial DNA test—any of her descendants in this generation could still be matchable using the regular autosomal DNA test as well. She's still within reach based on that more widely-used test.

While it is unfortunate that we never had the opportunity to capture a snapshot of my mother-in-law's DNA—she passed about five years before I started testing family member—Elizabeth Howard is still my husband's fifth great-grandmother. And that is certainly reachable.

Turning to ThruLines, I noticed that Ancestry identified fifty eight of their customers who seem to be descendants of Elizabeth Howard and match my husband's DNA results. That's a promising number, considering that he is just at the outside reaches of possible autosomal matches. But when I look closer at those fifty eight matches, I notice one thing: most of the names proposed seem to descend from supposed children of Elizabeth whose names I never found in documentation. In fact, I noticed a few of those "matches" did have familiar surnames in their tree—from an entirely different family line.

While it is incredible to think that I can find current-day descendants of this woman born in the mid-1700s who still share genetic material with my husband, I am not so awed by the thought as to lose my sensibilities about double-checking the rudimentary tools we use to determine just how we relate to another person. ThruLines is so helpful, agreed, but it warrants a thorough fact-checking every time we put it through its paces.

The bigger challenge, of course, will be to push my mother-in-law's matriline back far enough to then switch direction and conduct descendancy research on the collateral lines of that earliest mother on the matriline. That will come soon enough.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Meanwhile, Back on the Matriline


It's interesting how one successful find in our deep ancestry creates a desire to find more of the same. Finding Joseph Howard's wife not only in his will, but in her own will dated several years later, following  a second marriage, has been encouraging. Discovering that she made mention of a sister's married name helped cement the connection to the sisters' father, William Ridgely. But I can't forget that my goal is to once more push back through the generations on one specific line: my mother-in-law's matriline. After all, I have her descendant's mitochondrial DNA test to lead me to the ancestry of any exact matches to that specific DNA test. I just need to push back far enough in those never ending generations to make sense of how the matches actually connect.

Right now, that mother's mother's mother's line has led me to Rachel, my mother-in-law's fifth great-grandmother. I have the potential to push back three more generations—but that is only thanks to reliance on reports from century-old genealogy books I had found when I worked on this same research path a year ago. Now, I need to find documentation to confirm what those writers of the past century had claimed. Thankfully, the FamilySearch Lab's new Full Text search capabilities are helping expedite that process—but it is still a slow process.

In the midst of all that bleary-eyed reading of handwritten wills recorded in colonial Maryland, I received a reminder of why genealogy blogging has not outlived its purpose. Yes, so many people complain that blogging is now so passe, but I haven't yet yielded to pressure to join that bandwagon. And with what happened this past week, I think it might be worth it to remember one other reason for blogging about genealogical discoveries: our blogs are cousin bait!

Was it simply coincidence that this week brought me messages that someone out there was also researching this same line of my mother-in-law? And is quite willing to discuss discoveries in current research on our mutual lines? I'm delighted that someone decided to reach out and connect—after all, so many times we do send messages to fellow researchers and in return get...nothing. In this case, however, we've exchanged some notes on our recent discoveries and found out each one's work can bolster the progress of the other.

Research tools are useful—and sometimes fun to use, too!—but nothing else comes quite so close to top billing in my book as finding a distant cousin who enjoys family history as much as I do.

Friday, April 5, 2024

A Will to be Remembered


Finding a sister's married name in a will may seem a handy way to pinpoint the right family—until making the discovery that the surnames in question are more common than I thought in that ancestral hometown. Still, the will of the likely father of Joseph Howard's wife Rachel seemed to be a document drawn up by someone intent on being individually remembered, no matter how many people shared the same name.

Rachel Howard—by the time of her 1807 will, known as Rachel Beall—had mentioned her sister specifically as Deborah Dorsey. I had a hunch that, at the end of her life, Rachel was noting her sister's married name, not a maiden name. But, as it turns out, Dorsey was a fairly common name around Anne Arundel County, Maryland, which Rachel and her siblings had called their childhood home. Finding the right Deborah Dorsey would have been challenging.

Fortunately, Rachel's father had outlined in his will not only the names of his four married daughters, but paired them up with their spouses, as if for our benefit. Thus, Rachel's sister Martha was noted to be the wife of Henry Gaither. Her sister Margaret was wife of Samuel Farmer. Younger sister Elizabeth was wife of Aquila Duvall. Thankfully, yes, there was also a sister named Deborah—and her husband was a Dorsey. Better yet, Deborah's husband sported a given name not likely to be confused with any others: Lancelot.

In addition, William Ridgely identifed three specific sons—Samuel, William, and Charles—then added another note about "my nine children," names which could barely be read from the fading text of that 1755 document, but which thankfully included the name Rachel. Rounding out the naming of family members, William added a brief mention concerning his wife, Elizabeth.

As if to ensure that this document was not to be confused with that of any other by the same name, William closed the document with his signature as "William Ridgely, son of Charles."

Apparently, this William was not the only Ridgely by that name in town.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Moving Step by Step


If, in genealogical pursuits, we start at the end and move step by step backwards into our family's history, how are we to know the next steps to take for our female ancestors? After all, theirs was an experience involving name changes throughout life. It almost seems as if pursuing our male ancestors would be the far easier course to take. 

Fortunately, now that genealogy resources are developing "full text" search capabilities, searching for a mother under her married name could still feasibly lead us to her maiden name. In the case of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth, that is indeed one helpful tactic.

Elizabeth, whom our family had recorded by her married name, Elizabeth Ijams, had name changes on either end of her life. After her husband, William Ijams, died about 1816, she remarried and ended life under the name Elizabeth Whistler. Though I have yet to find any documentation of either of Elizabeth's marriages, thanks to full text searches, I know that her maiden name was Howard.

Elizabeth's father, Joseph Howard, was a lifelong resident of colonial Maryland who died in 1777. From his will, we learn that he lived in Queen Caroline parish in Anne Arundel County. His will was presented in court that year by his brother Brice Howard on March 25. Among the children named in his last testament—along with his wife Rachel and her namesake daughter, plus sons Cornelius, William, and Joseph—was "my beloved Daughter Elizabeth Ijams."

Just as it would be challenging to find records of Elizabeth in her later years due to her second marriage, we face the same issue in looking for Elizabeth's mother. However—though unusual for that time period—we are fortunate that her mother possessed property which needed to be properly passed to her heirs. Once again, thanks to a full text search, Elizabeth Ijams' name appears in the 1806 will of someone named Rachel Beall.

Rachel's will, proved in court in Frederick County, Maryland, on January 26, 1807, provided a double-check of the names from her former husband's will thirty years earlier. Missing were the names of sons William and Cornelius Howard, who had predeceased her, though children Joseph, Rachel, and "my Daughter Elizabeth Ijams" were clearly mentioned. Along with that entry was one for an additional daughter, Sarah—likely the unnamed daughter referred to in Joseph Howard's will when he made provision for his as-yet-unborn child.

In addition, Rachel Beall's will included an item naming Deborah Dorsey, specifically explaining that she was "my sister." This almost allows us another point of reference for moving backwards in time to the next generation in my mother-in-law's matriline—with one complication. Finding the name Dorsey in 1700s Maryland means first being able to identify the right Dorsey family among many.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Begin at the End


Usually, genealogy's tale is told from the end to the beginning. We begin by documenting those events at the close of life, then move cautiously backwards in time, collecting records of key life events until we reach the point of our ancestor's birth. Thus, when we consider a woman's life history, we confront our first problem early on: how are we to learn anything from her most recent life documents if we don't know the name she claimed as she exited life's stage?

Fortunately, in the case of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth, I already have found that final married name—though I have yet to produce any written sign of the marriage ceremony that sanctified it. Elizabeth, widow of William Ijams of Maryland, had settled with their family in central Ohio. She and William lived in Fairfield County until her husband's death early in 1816. After that—at some unknown date—Elizabeth married John Whistler somewhere in Missouri.

There are signs of this second marriage, of course. Especially considering how well known Major John Whistler was, it was no surprise to see reports of his second wife's death in far-ranging locations—like the Boston, Massachusetts, May 10, 1826, edition of the Columbian Centinel.

In Missouri, at Cantonement Belle Fontaine, Mrs. Whistler, consort of Maj. John W. U.S. Military store keeper.

Closer to home—at least the place Elizabeth's children still called home—there were legal signs of her updated name, as well. In deeds recorded in Fairfield County, Ohio, "J. & Elizabeth Whistler" were listed as grantors of property acquired by Edward Stephenson in 1820. The relationship? Edward was husband of Elizabeth and William Ijams' daughter Comfort.

But what about Elizabeth's earlier years? Again, I have yet to find an actual document confirming Elizabeth's first marriage. I did, however, locate mention of her in two other significant documents. One was the will of her father, Joseph Howard, presented in court in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, in March of 1777. The other will, also mentioning her specifically as Elizabeth Ijams, followed in 1807. Both documents, which we'll look at more closely tomorrow, will allow us to piece together the story of Elizabeth's earlier years—and reveal the name used by Elizabeth's mother at the close of her own life as well.

Image above: Excerpt from the May 10, 1826, edition of the Columbian Centinel, published in Boston, Massachusetts; image courtesy of GenealogyBank

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Start With What You Know


Perhaps you've already heard that sound genealogical advice: start with what you know, and move step by step, backwards in time from that point. Granted, I've long since started outlining my mother-in-law's tree. Plodding along, one generation at a time, I'm finally approaching the level of her fourth great-grandparents.

This month, we'll be spending some serious research time with one such woman, someone who was born in the mid-1700s in colonial Maryland. This woman married a fellow Marylander around the time of the birth of our nation, then made the pioneering move west with him to raise at least ten children in the years just preceding Ohio statehood. But that was not all. After her husband's death, this same woman accompanied one of her youngest daughters even further westward to a fort on the frontier where her son had been stationed—only to see her daughter married off to a soldier there, and herself becoming the second wife of Major John Whistler.

Not bad for a life story, eh? That, at least, was what I was able to find on Elizabeth Howard, my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother, the last time we had studied her life. There is far more yet to discover, however, and that is our task for this month's focus from our Twelve Most Wanted for 2024. After all, the point of starting research with what we know is gaining a firm footing to enable us to make that leap into the unknown—the next generation.

As with many of our elusive ancestors, Elizabeth Howard's story leaves many gaps. Documentation, for one, is difficult to find. Living on the edges of civilization didn't help her case. Her supposed destination, as widow of William Ijams, had been to Jefferson Barracks, a military post on the Mississippi River just south of what is now Saint Louis—yet record of her marriage, or that of her daughter, is lacking.

With her many children, surely some of them may include documented connections to Elizabeth and her first husband—but that is what we need to find this month. With the improved search capabilities at FamilySearch.org—I'm thinking primarily of the Full Text search at FamilySearch Labs—we'll be putting that tool through its paces as we look for wills which include Elizabeth's name among the documents her family members left behind.

Of course, the hope is to extend that search capability beyond Elizabeth's own lifespan to that of her parents and siblings. While there are many details already discovered about Elizabeth, those early years of the family need to be put in clearer focus in the way that only documentation can.

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