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 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.

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