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.  

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