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

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