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.

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