Friday, May 31, 2024

Was Hoping for a Photo Finish


It's the last day of the month, and what can I say now? I was hoping for a photo finish, pulling up the probate records for my mother-in-law's eighth great-grandfather Richard Cheyney at the last moment, but no: it won't be possible quite so soon. Some things take time in the family history research world.

Looking back at this month's research challenge, I can't say I'm entirely disappointed at overall progress. This missing record will be added to my planning list for next time, whenever that next time will materialize for future lineups on my Twelve Most Wanted. And that's okay. Each year, as long as I keep pushing backwards through the generations, targeting research goals and being open and flexible to where the documents will lead me, I'll make progress. 

Considering we started this month by working on my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather, William Ijams, we did work back a few generations. Not only did we look at William's direct paternal line, but we took time to examine some points about those hard-to-find colonial women who married into William's patriline. And from those discoveries—especially when I could locate wills detailing collateral lines—I've been working on their descendants whose DNA might put them in my. husband's list of (admittedly very distant) DNA cousins.

Tomorrow brings a new month, and with it a new research project, as we jump to the sixth of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2024, and the third ancestor linked to my mother-in-law. Every month's project is a new research adventure. While William Ijams' ancestors kept us on this North American continent far longer than I—and certainly my mother-in-law—ever anticipated, with tomorrow's project, we may find ourselves looking for passenger ships' records sooner than we thought.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Another Generation, Another Puzzle


As this month draws to a close, it's time to wrap up all that can be found on the ancestry of William Ijams, fourth great-grandfather of my mother-in-law. In this past month, we've worked on tracing his ancestry to his parents, John Ijams and Rebecca Jones, then moving further in the Ijams line. John's father, also named William, had married another colonial Maryland resident, Elizabeth Plummer, yet finding any record of her father, Thomas Plummer, has not been something I've been able to achieve in this past week. However, before the end of this month, I also want to step back yet another generation to this William's father, and examine what can be found on that elder William's wife.

This goal, however, may generate another puzzle. Following these Williams in Anne Arundel County has been challenging, not only because we are looking for documentation in the 1600s and very earliest years of the 1700s, but also because Anne Arundel apparently suffered a courthouse fire. While many county residents supposedly voluntarily brought in their own copies of the lost records to be preserved after the fire, I have yet to find such records retained by the government—though I've found mention of them in one book by a Maryland researcher.

This eldest William Ijams—or Eyams, or Iiams, as the surname was alternately recorded—had married another colonial resident by the name of Elizabeth Cheyney. This Elizabeth, at least according to Harry Wright Newman in his 1933 book, Anne Arundel Gentry, was daughter of Richard Cheyney, and was born  about 1652. The Newman book made mention of a record, re-filed after the courthouse fire, referencing a deed of gift conveyed in 1674 by Richard Cheyney to William Iiams and Richard's daughter Elizabeth, specifically mentioned as "now wife of William Iiams." 

Finding such records for Richard Cheyney, however, is another matter—even with the help of FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search. I was able to locate a will drawn up in Anne Arundel County on March 6, 1685, for someone by that name, which looks promising. But I can't be sure. The will named sons Richard, Thomas, and Charles, along with mention of three daughters. Unfortunately, while identifying daughters Mary and Anne may be helpful to other descendants, seeing that third daughter listed as "Eliza" rather than Elizabeth causes me to wonder whether this is the will for the right parent of our William Ijams' wife Elizabeth. 

Granted, the mention in the Newman book of the re-filing of the deed of gift seems to tie the names into one neat family bundle, but I'd prefer to find further documentation to confirm the author's assertion. At least it might help to guide me in determining that I had located the correct Richard Cheyney's will. The only consolation in that will was the discovery that, while none of the daughters were identified by their current full names, the mention of "my son in law John Jacobs" indicates the possibility that either or both of the other two daughters might also have been married at the time their father's will was drawn up. Whether that was so, and what their married names might have been, however, is left for me to uncover.

Thankfully, a reference to where the probate documents were filed was included at the close of the Cheyney will for future follow-up. Incredibly, the date listed for that set of documents was during the year of 1726, long after Richard Cheyney's will was drawn up. If Richard's daughter Eliza was one and the same as our Elizabeth, wife of William Iiams, hopefully the probate records will indicate the woman's true identity. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Learning About a Quaker Community


Discovering a new twist in the family faith—in this case, the Quakers—was so unexpected to me that I had to dig further to learn about this religion and how to research its adherents. Elizabeth Plummer, my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandmother, was apparently raised in the Quaker community of West River in Maryland, as we discovered last week

Naturally, I wanted to read up on what was known about that colonial settlement, since I now know it was linked to our family. Elizabeth's father—so far, identified either as Thomas Ploummer or Plummer—and his wife Elizabeth (yes, another Elizabeth!) were members of that community, according to Harry Wright Newman's book, Anne Arundel Gentry.

Checking for additional information online on that community, the first discovery I found was a timeline labeled as the history of the "burial ground," but it included a much broader view of the community in general, an informative read for someone who has never researched Quaker ancestors in the past. From there, I headed to the FamilySearch wiki for further guidance on how to proceed with research. There, the wiki article on the Society of Friends led me through a brief history, plus an overview of available resources. 

For those just beginning their discovery of Quaker ancestors, the wiki recommended a book, Our Quaker Ancestors, written by Ellen Thomas Berry and David Allen Berry, which happens to be searchable through Google Books. Since I wanted to go for the gusto, I also spotted the wiki's recommendation to check out the website, where I did find an entry for the history of that particular community over the centuries.

It was fortunate to find that website, for it provided dates to help track the morphing identity of the community. Even so, I'm still confused, as some other articles seem to indicate differently.

For instance, indicated that what was once West River was later known as the Sandy Spring meeting place. Yet, when I check a website showing the history of the Sandy Spring community itself, it claims the location to be "one of the oldest" Quaker meeting places, but its records date to only 1753, long after Elizabeth Plummer's parents were there. To add to the confusion, another community—the Third Haven Meeting House in nearby Talbot County, Maryland—identifies as the oldest surviving Friends meeting house. At least that meeting house dates to 1684.

It helped to find a timeline for the Sandy Spring meeting house. Apparently, that was attributed as an outgrowth of the West River meeting house. It might be useful to trace the genealogy of the later location's families, for the timeline mentions intermarriages between families of the two meeting locations, a reasonable outgrowth of a growing religious movement of that time period. According to one FamilySearch wiki article, Quakerism had grown to become the third largest religion represented in the British colonies, a significant and widespread movement. No wonder, once my family tree reached back that far in time, I had run into Quaker ancestors. It might be far more surprising to not have discovered such a connection in the early 1700s.

Seeking sources for genealogically significant records becomes my next task, and yet, finding records combining Quaker meetings with the right meeting house location—in Anne Arundel County in my particular case—may also be a challenge. One six-volume resource, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, seems to contain records of meeting house proceedings in every state but Maryland.

A FamilySearch blog post from 2016 pointed me to another source for Quaker records. No surprise, it's, but the story of how Ancestry obtained the records made for an interesting read. I love stumbling upon the history of a history resource. Indeed, turning to the Ancestry card catalog and entering the keyword "Quaker" brought up seventy resources. And I wouldn't be surprised to find even more.

All this means, of course, is that I have my work cut out for me, if I plan on finding anything more on Elizabeth Plummer's parents in Quaker records. Unlike the established church, Friends did not practice any sacrament of baptism, so I won't likely find any such verification of births in the family. But the meeting records may contain so many more details that it would be worth the effort to gain this small peek at life among the Friends in early eighteenth century Maryland.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

When It's Not There


When we find a specific detail about an ancestor's life, of course we first want to locate a document to verify the assertion. Last week, I encountered information through Harry Wright Newman's book, Anne Arundel Gentry, which indicated that a deed verifying the relationship of Elizabeth Plummer not only to her father Thomas, but also to her husband William Iiams had been destroyed by a courthouse fire. Not to worry, though—at least, according to the Newman book—for many of the records destroyed in the 1704 fire were re-recorded when residents voluntarily brought in their own copies to again be noted in the court documents.

But when I headed to the FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search to locate such a record, I wasn't able to find anything quite like the quoted document from the Newman book. This means finding alternate ways to locate the alleged document, if possible. If it is not available through FamilySearch, then another possibility could be the Maryland Archives. Besides that, someone posted a copy of a will pertinent to Elizabeth's own family on Ancestry. As the Newman book mentioned Elizabeth Plummer Iiams' death as occurring in 1762, that became my next goal to locate. Again, no results for my search.

Using other researchers' writings as a guide to locate documents can work to our benefit, and there are other resources out there for locating these collateral lines connected to our William Ijams (or Iiams) family. Even the extensive notes attached to the Find A Grave memorial for Thomas Plummer, Elizabeth's father, provide a guide of the book and page numbers for records of interest, which may be findable through the Maryland Archives.

I'll be gathering more of these hints to compose a to-do list for my document hunt. Somewhere, those records should be findable. It's just a matter of determining which repository has the actual document. Hopefully, somewhere, the records I need will be findable online. After all, it's a long way to Maryland—unless I can do my research "travel" virtually.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day in
Small Town America


Driving through a small town in Kansas over the Memorial Day weekend is decidedly different than what would be experienced back home. In my case, back home is a city of over three hundred thousand people. Saint Marys, on the other hand, boasts a head count less than one percent of that size. With that disparity in population counts, you'd think there would be more manpower fueling the drive to decorate for the holiday weekend in a place much larger than Saint Marys, but I doubt that is the dynamic behind the difference.

All along the main street this weekend, there were flags posted from the tip of utility poles. The festive look, combined with the historic buildings in the diminutive downtown area, made for the quintessential Americana look. Nostalgia and commemorations go hand in hand in this type of tableau.

There is no other reason than family connections that would call me to a place halfway across the continent from the city I now call home. This, of course, reminds me of the importance of remembering and celebrating such ties. While our extended family has very little in the number of relatives whose service to country resulted in the ultimate sacrifice, a day like today eventually turns to thankfulness for not only those who served in the military, but for the connections each of us share with our extended family. Being together on a holiday like this seems additionally special.

Whether your town went all out in a coordinated effort to decorate for Memorial Day or remained about as enthusiastic as some larger cities seem to be on this day, I wish you a time to appreciate family in all its forms—from those whose lost lives we commemorate for their sacrifice, to those who served and are still with us. And let's celebrate having each other as supportive family for all the struggles we each face in life.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ancestry, Descendancy, or Both?


When I first walked into the Sutro Library—billed as the largest genealogical collection west of Salt Lake City—the first reference book I pulled off their shelves outlined the descendants of the founding Taliaferro settlers in America. I found that book years ago, and the book's format was not a rare one. Today, however, those pursuing their family history are far more likely to draw up a pedigree chart outlining the ancestors of one particular individual. (Remember the instruction in beginning genealogy classes, "Start with yourself"?) But with the advent of genetic genealogy, those mystery DNA cousins prompted me to do a hybrid approach: first, trace my ancestry. Then, identifying a founding ancestor, reverse course and plot the lines of all that ancestor's descendants back to the current date.

Now that I'm working on the DNA matches connecting my husband—the subject testing on behalf of my mother-in-law's family history—to the line of the earliest William Ijams, I've seen quite a jump in the number of names in that family tree. I checked once again, since it is time for my biweekly progress report, and saw that the past two weeks brought 214 newly-identified relatives to my mother-in-law's tree. That family tree now contains 35,045 documented individuals—and counting, as there are many more to document before the end of this month.

While pushing back through history one generation at a time can add to a family tree, adding the collateral lines to each generation can make for a very bushy tree. It's a matter of deep versus wide, depending on which research approach you choose—or, in my case, deep and wide, all in the same tree.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Context Before Relationship


Not all jokes are funny anymore.

A while back, someone shared a joke with a group I was in. I didn't get it. Not because I lack a sense of humor; it was likely because the story line referred to some celebrity I know nothing about. I didn't know the context behind the joke's story line. I missed a chuckle, but spared everyone the monotony of a post-mortem on a now-vanished moment of mirth.

From that fleeting experience, I realized something: context is king if you want to function in any social circles. It doesn't matter whether you belong to a D&D gamers' group or a grandmother's knitting circle. If you don't track what's new and upcoming in that interest group, you likely also don't have a basis for ongoing relationship. Not only are the jokes not funny, the gossip is meaningless, and the heart-to-heart confidences might never make their necessary appearance.

I kept thinking about that moment of the missed joke for quite a while. During that time, I had been meeting with various genealogical groups in my region, noticing the differences in membership composition. While the "personality" of each society might have been different—some more eager to ask questions after presentations, some more focused on research techniques or relevance to local history—there was one inescapable solidarity: this is primarily the domain of those retired enough to spare time for family history pursuits. And that's a particular shared context.

Those of us in genealogical societies have been at it for quite some time. Those who choose to join us are more likely to first size us up with the conclusion that they can easily become one of us. Why? The context resonates. In other words, they are examining the context of our group—the topics we discuss, the terms we use, the comparisons we make. If they understand the terms we use, the way we think, the buzz words we resort to, that puts them at ease and they will feel more comfortable envisioning themselves becoming part of our group.

If not? I'm beginning to wonder whether it is really the terminology of genealogy—the pedigree charts, the family group sheets, the third-cousins-twice-removed—that keeps potential new members from joining genealogical organizations. Could it actually be something else—like the social context, itself?

Perhaps those genealogy programs which focus on discovering the roots of current celebrities are not far off base. Those for whom names like Ciara or Jesse Williams resonate will not be attracted to our local society if we don't learn to talk the talk like Dr. Henry Louis Gates has done. If we want a different membership in our group, we need to talk like the people we want to join us.

Membership in an organization is a form of relationship. Before new people will join a group, they need a positive feeling that their context is the same as our context—talking the same language, sharing the same day-to-day concerns, even laughing at the same jokes. Changing the name of our group from Washington County Genealogical Society to Washington County Genealogical Association does not provide that context. What does is when new eyes look at the current group and see themselves in our membership.  

Friday, May 24, 2024

Forsaking the Faith


I'm not sure why, but it is always surprising to me, when researching the story of a family which staunchly supported one particular religion over the years, to discover that that belief was not as resolutely adhered to by one's ancestors—nor by one's descendants. As I wander through the generations in my mother-in-law's decidedly Catholic family, I've been surprised to learn that her fourth great-grandfather, William Ijams, was more likely an adherent to the Methodist way of John Wesley. Yet, now that I've traced William's ancestors from his father John to his father William, I now find a new twist: a wife who married into the established Church of England, forsaking the faith of her Quaker parents.

This William's wife, born Elizabeth Plummer, was the namesake child of another Elizabeth. A typewritten note signed by Harry Wright Newman and inserted into his book, Anne Arundel Gentry, explained that Elizabeth Plummer's mother, while often listed under the name Yate, was actually George Yate's step-daughter. She was born a Stockett, a detail we hopefully will cover before the end of this month, a surname which made its appearance in another branch of the Ijams extended family.

Elizabeth Stockett's daughter, Elizabeth Plummer, married William Ijams on August 27, 1696, presumably in Anne Arundel County, part of then-colonial Maryland. Two years later, according to the Newman book,  she was baptized as an adult at All Hallow's Church. Her parents, as Mr. Newman noted, had raised her as part of the Quaker community of West River.

William and Elizabeth Plummer Ijams went on to raise a family of at least nine children themselves, as we've already mentioned. But of Elizabeth's own origin, we might not have known much at all, owing to a fire which destroyed many of the documents at the "State House." Thankfully, William and Elizabeth—as well as many other residents of the region—voluntarily brought their own copies of records such as this deed from Elizabeth's father, mentioning the relationship between Elizabeth, her husband William, and her father, Thomas Plummer.

That, at least, is a story conveyed in the pages of the Newman book. You know what the next step will be for us: to locate the document through the FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search. Because now, we can. If it's there.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

May: a Month of Mishaps


Times like this compound challenges faced by those of us bloggers who have committed to posting on a daily basis. If you thought today—after missing my chance yesterday—would be the big reveal for the details on the will of the founding Ijams ancestor in my mother-in-law's line, think again. Yesterday? My mind was too befuddled to think clearly enough to read anything, let alone handwritten documents drawn up in 1703.

But that was yesterday's excuse. Today? Well, if I'm lucky, I'll escape from the Denver airport before midnight, if our connecting flight arrives to whisk us away to Kansas City. This time, thankfully, the event is a joyful one: the wedding of a Stevens cousin's granddaughter, a time for family from across the country to gather together for a family reunion of sorts. 

If we get there, that is. While our consolation prize is that we finally get a much-delayed plane to fly in, the drawback is that we still aren't sure the craft is mechanical-issue free. What a dilemma.

So, about that will: the last testament of the founding immigrant William Ijams—or Eyams, as Harry Wright Newman painted him—was supposedly presented in court in 1703. You know my first stop was to check for a copy through the FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search. Unfortunately, despite searching for all the spelling variations I've already encountered—Ijams, Iiams, Jiams, and even Eyams, and even just looking for a William with wife named Elizabeth—there was no sign of any such document. While my mother-in-law's seventh great-grandfather may well have died when Mr. Newman reported it in his book, it looks like I'll have to come up with some other creative search ideas if I am to find the actual will.

Meanwhile, we've bypassed the other side of two Ijams generations, the wives of the elder and the younger William Ijams. Since I've spotted information on their two families during my explorations, we may as well round out the month by noting something about the two Elizabeths who married those Williams: Elizabeth Plummer, wife of the younger William Ijams, and Elizabeth Cheyney, wife of the founding immigrant ancestor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Process Break


There are some moments when the mind cannot tolerate staying focused long enough to trace even the most obvious of family relationships. This is one of those times.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to say a difficult goodbye to my longstanding companion and self-proclaimed "senior editor" of A Family Tapestry, Luke. Though I knew the day would eventually come, it was still  more difficult than I anticipated it would be. 

If you have been following along here from nearly the beginning, you may have recalled meeting Luke at the wrap-up of the year when I began blogging. He had often been at my side, inspecting my commentary as it crossed the computer screen. In this past year when life became more difficult for him, he still remained in his special spot next to my work space. It's hard to take my seat to write and realize his place is empty.

After that final goodbye, I gave some thought to the pets of our ancestors, and wondering if we would understand our relatives better if we knew more about their pets (if they had any). I can still clearly remember my mother's stories about her childhood pet, a black Scotty named Jo-Jo, and all the trouble his stubborn tenacity could land him in. But even trying to divert attention to family stories right now just doesn't measure up to the need of the moment.

I know so many of us who pursue our family history are also fond of our pets. In online meetings, I sometimes see the swish of a telltale tail across the screen as someone's cat jumps up on the table--expectedly or not. They are in our lives, and in their small way make our lives more pleasant, more enjoyable--but they are gone in such a short while, no matter how much we might miss them.

If that is the case for us, I'm quite sure those who filled our past generations might have known such attachments, as well. And yet, those dearly held feelings often turn out, in the long run, to be as ephemeral as the trinkets of life accumulated in a junk drawer. Could that ever be something to share about an ancestor? To write down as part of that relative's story? How do you trace something as fleeting as feelings?

Sometimes, people ask the question, "But what should I write?" The answer always is, "Write what you know." Even if, today, that is all I know.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Back to the Books


While source documents are vitally important as we push our way back in time to more distant ancestors, I keep comparing notes with those trailblazing genealogy books. Since we discussed my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandfather William Ijams yesterday, I thought I'd hop over to the pages of Harry Wright Newman's 1933 book, Anne Arundel Gentry to see what else could be found in addition to the 1734 will of William Ijams we already reviewed.

Sure enough, the names we saw included in William's will lined up exactly with those mentioned by author Harry Wright Newman. The book included a few more details about William Iiams' children, which will also need to be verified. No descendants were missing, though, to my relief.

Noted also were the names of this William's parents: William and Elizabeth Cheyney Iiams—or Eyams, as Newman put the spelling in his introductory comments to that section of the family's chapter. Newman portrayed this earliest William as "the Pioneer," though he also mentioned that any arrival record for the founding settler William had not yet been found.

Newman's best guess is that William Eyams—or Iiams, or Ijams—arrived in colonial Maryland by 1665, not long before his marriage to Elizabeth Cheyney before 1670. The author also noted that this earliest William drew up his will in 1698, but that it wasn't probated until November 10, 1703, in court in Anne Arundel County.

Having that date handy now, let's pop back to the digitized court records for that time period to double check which names William mentioned before his passing in July of 1703. 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Finding Yet Another Generation


No matter how much family history research I've done, it always seems incredible to me to realize I'm looking at a document drawn up by an ancestor who lived in the early 1700s. In today's case, that ancestor was named William Ijams, the sixth great-grandfather of my mother-in-law. Said to have been born in colonial Maryland about 1670, William drew up his will in "Ann Arundell" County (as the clerk put it) in 1734.

For our purposes almost three hundred years later, William Ijams' will serves to help us find the names populating another generation in the Ijams line. While we will look at the names of the siblings of John Ijams, William's son in my mother-in-law's direct line, first we need to recall the spelling challenges of researching such a surname as his. Ijams, as it turns out, was not always spelled in the same manner as we've found it in more recent documents. In the case of this particular will, the surname was actually written "Jiams," similar to how we found the name written for William's son John in his will nearly fifty years later.

So who was mentioned in this 1734 will? The first mention went to William's wife Elizabeth, who was to receive much of his personal estate—if she chose to remain unmarried after his passing. Then, in order of mention, William designated legacies for his son John, his son Plummer, and his daughter Ann. Later in William's will, he also mentioned another son, William, plus his sons Richard and Thomas. Included in the mention of names were three additional daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Charity—with that last daughter's name a guess on my part, due to the faded nature of the digitized record.

Equipped with that list of names of the children of William and Elizabeth, we can see how those same given names made a fair showing in the generations to follow. We can take our cue from that, now aware of how easily one William Ijams could be confused for a cousin. The same will likely be true for the names Plummer, Elizabeth, and Ann. As we dig further into researching descendants of that extended Ijams family, we will likely find those names echoing through subsequent generations, as well.

As surprised as I was to discover the Ijams line remaining in colonial Maryland to such an early date, this William did not turn out to be the founding Ijams ancestor. That designation was apparently to go to William's father. And, seeing how the family had such a penchant for namesakes, you will find it unsurprising to learn that my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandfather was the son of yet another man by the name of William Ijams.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fishing for Another Line


I'm still holding out hope that I'll discover a new branch of my mother-in-law's matriline which will lead me to the "ah hah!" moment when I realize just how this family tree stuff all connects. But after the failed attempt to find such a matriline descending down to present time, it looks like it's time to reel back in and start fresh by casting my line from a higher vantage point. Instead of looking at each descendant of Rosanna Jackson Mitchell, as we've been doing this past week, we'll need to move back a generation or two.

In the meantime, we'll return to Rosanna's maternal grandfather's line to move back another generation there. That grandfather was William Ijams, who had been born in colonial Maryland, yet with two of his younger brothers, along with his wife Elizabeth and several children of their own, had moved to what was then the frontier of Ohio. We had found mention of his name in his father John Ijams' 1783 will. Now, it's time to step back another generation to John Ijams' parents, also named William and Elizabeth Ijams.

While the challenges of finding a story line to bring these ancestors to life seem insurmountable, we'll give it our best shot, examining the local history of Anne Arundel County during the colonial period of John Ijams and his parents in the coming week. Just knowing these ancestors are findable, despite their being my mother-in-law's sixth great-grandparents, is awesome in my book.The line just keeps going back, yet still remains in North America. Knowing that we are a nation of immigrants reinforces the assumption that  eventually, we must have come from somewhere else, but here we are, still looking at last wills and testaments which were drawn up in Maryland in 1734.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

When the Calculations are Slightly Off


I have an ongoing tiff with the ThruLines gang at Ancestry. Yes, I'm quite sure that "gang" is really a collection of computers hazarding guesses about family relationships based on majority rule—the more trees that say so, the truer it must be, right?—but let's call it my little lovers' quarrel, nonetheless. The point being: no matter how much I appreciate the ThruLines tool, those calculations are slightly off. And it bugs me.

I decided to get over my petulant ways and go back to review the ThruLines matches for my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandparents, William and Elizabeth Ijams. Last time I visited that neck of the Ancestry woods, they had assured me that my husband had fifty six DNA matches linked to William Ijams as a common ancestor, and fifty eight attributed to William's wife Elizabeth. Only problem was: when I open up the report for either William or Elizabeth, there are matches attributed to "children" of the couple whom I somehow haven't been able to identify as their children, despite serious searching through documentation.

In other words, I didn't think those names belonged in that branch of our family tree.

After reconsideration, I decided to take a closer look. After all, I have missed entire branches of that tree before—and mended my ways specifically because of what the DNA test told me.

What I saw, when I examined those possible names a bit more closely, was that the lines of descent offered up by ThruLines calculations sometimes contained names that I did have in my mother-in-law's tree. Only problem was that I had those names in different places, For instance, one DNA match had Richard Daniel Ijams listed as son of William and Elizabeth, when he really was son of a different William: the original couple's own son by the same name.

I can see how someone could make such a mistake. Seeing the same name in two separate generations can happen in a lot of cases—a father naming his son after himself—but there are other contributing factors that may come into play, as well. In this case, the senior William had specifically mentioned Richard in his will, but he also noted that Richard was his grandson, son of his own son, William. Perhaps because the will was transcribed in such a way as to separate the word "grand" from the word "son," someone may have missed that fact and entered it into an online tree incorrectly—but was that mistake replicated so many times as to fool the algorithm into thinking it was correct to skip an entire generation?

I decided to go back to all those DNA matches which ThruLines had misattributed to the wrong ancestor, and rework the suggested tree from the most recent descendant I could find in my tree. After all, I've spent years building out the collateral lines in this family; at some point all that work is going to pay off. 

In this case, it is. I'm updating and making the connections—hopefully outlining the right path to the most recent common ancestor for the record. Perhaps at some point, the genealogy tide will turn and those busy tree-copiers will pick up my lead and replicate the right Richard Daniel Ijams in their own trees. Give us time—and some convincing documentation—and we'll outnumber 'em.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Looking Sideways to Move Forward


Sometimes, in order to move ahead with a family history research project, we need to look sideways before we can take our first step forward. In the case of finding more on the newly-discovered matriline of Rosanna Jackson Mitchell, that is exactly what we need to do to learn anything more on her middle daughter Martha.

Martha Mitchell was easily found in the family's listings in the 1860 and 1870 census enumerations. Raised in Chickasaw County, Iowa, where her family had settled after leaving their Ohio home, Martha's appearance there was predictable—until, at least, she came of age to marry or leave the home. At that point, a possible marriage to someone by the name of Frank Lehman may have been what removed her from the home of her father, Walter Mitchell.

I say "possible," because it was a derivative record in which I found the information—one, unfortunately, lacking any identification of that Martha Mitchell's parents. But that roadblock didn't keep me stumped for long. It was barely another six months until an entry at Find A Grave intimated the rest of her story: that she had died on October 27, 1875if, that is, the headstone's listing for Elisabeth Lehman was one and the same as the married woman Martha Mitchell became.

Could Elisabeth have been Martha's middle name? Having no way to know from actual documents, I decided to "sidestep" the issue by turning to the records of her brothers. A family member's collateral lines have often been one way to find otherwise hidden clues.

First, I turned to her next-older brother,Thomas à Kempis Mitchell. A volunteer had posted Thomas' obituary to his memorial at Find A Grave. Easy enough, I thought, until looking over the 1937 newspaper clipping, I noticed Thomas' only surviving sibling was his sister, Mrs. Sarah Nugent. I needed an earlier date of death among the siblings if I were going to find any sign of their sister Martha.

Step by step, I went through the older brothers. William, who died in 1924, had a lengthy obituary which honored his character and documented the current residences of his seven children, but made not one mention of his siblings—not even his sister Sarah, who would definitely have been a survivor at that earlier date.

Moving to the next oldest brother, Joseph, I found an obituary which reminded me of the hard life so many of our ancestors faced—he died at the age of seventy three on account of injuries suffered when he was gored by a bull while working on his brother Thomas' farm. Though he had no children of his own, the obituary did mention his surviving siblings. Besides Thomas, there were William and Sarah, plus an unnamed brother "residing in the East." But no Martha.

Whether Martha was one and the same as the young, deceased bride of Frank Lehman, I can't say. But seeing no mention of this sister in the obituaries of three of her brothers, I think it is safe to conclude that there is no further possibility of another matriline descending from her mother, Rosanna Jackson Mitchell.  

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Another One Who Didn't "Daughter Out"


If there is anything a researcher in search of matrilineal descendants wouldn't want to see, it would be to discover that the line of interest didn't "daughter out." That, however, is exactly what unfolded as I looked at what became of the two daughters of Sarah Mitchell. Sarah, if you'll recall, was herself a daughter of the recently-discovered extra matrilineal descendant, Rosanna Jackson Mitchell, who in turn was daughter of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother Sarah Ijams Jackson.

With that youngest daughter of that newly-discovered matriline, Sarah Mitchell, I was at first elated to discover she had had two daughters of her own. Anna Nugent was the oldest of Sarah's daughters, born in 1881 in Chickasaw County, Iowa, where Sarah's parents had originally settled after their move from Ohio. 

After her widowed mother moved the family to nearby Wright County, Anna met and married a twenty eight year old railroad man from Indiana by the name of Orville S. Carr. Their wedding was performed by a Justice of the Peace and recorded in Wright County on December 12, 1900.

As had many of the rest of Anna's family, Anna and Orville Carr moved from Iowa to California. They can be found in the 1910 census in San Joaquin County, on Roberts Island, just outside the city of Stockton, along with their two sons, Cecil and Leo. Ten years later, Anna, though still listed as married, had moved with her children to live with her mother in nearby Sacramento County. Though she now was mother to three children, not a one of them was a daughter. Checking her obituary, published only months after her mother's passing in 1939, we can see that Anna was confirmed as having been survived by three sons: in addition to Cecil and Leo, there was third son Bernard. No daughters.

Anna died at the home of her sister in Roseville, Placer County. Her obituary mentioned that she had resided with her sister for the past three months. It is quite possible that illness obligated her to reside near someone who could care for her in her last months of life.

Her sister, Mary Elizabeth, had married someone before 1918 who was alternately referred to as Thomas F. or Francis T. Harrigan. Though this will come as no surprise to learn at this point, Mary's 1947 obituary confirmed that this daughter of our matriline also died leaving only sons: Virgil and George Harrigan. Where were those daughters we were hoping to find in that next generation?

Striking out on our matrilineal tour with this youngest daughter of Rosanna Jackson Mitchell, Sarah Mitchell Nugent, we still have one other option among Rosanna's daughters: the middle daughter Martha. Tomorrow, we'll see whether we can hold out hope for potential mtDNA matches from any descendants of Martha Mitchell.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

About Sarah


Sometimes a bird-in-hand moment makes for better research progress than searching for a more advantageous starting point. Right now, that's my situation with Rosanna Jackson Mitchell's youngest daughter Sarah. While I am not sure about the other two Mitchell daughters, Sarah was the one who was most findable, so we'll look at a few details about Sarah to start us down our path of exploring this newly-found matrilineal descent from my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Sarah Howard Ijams.

While it is true that Sarah Howard Ijams' newly found daughter Rosanna had at least three daughters, Rosanna's youngest daughter, presumably named Sarah after her maternal grandmother, could be found in every federal census record from the one following her 1862 birth to the one just preceding her 1939 death—something I can't exactly say for the other two. Just those documents alone tell quite a bit of this youngest Mitchell daughter's life story. Whether this daughter had daughters of her own to continue that matriline to the next generation will be our task to discover today.

Born in Chickasaw County, Iowa, Sarah's life remained in that same county for decades afterwards. She appeared with her father in the 1870 census after her (presumed) mother's death in 1862. By 1880, she had been married to Arthur Nugent for nearly three years and already had a son named William. While the gap left by the loss of the 1890 census cost us some missing segments of Sarah's story, with the 1900 census, we can see Sarah listed as a widow with six children, by then living in Wright County, Iowa.

Even bigger changes awaited Sarah in the subsequent decade, for she and several of her children moved from Iowa to California. The 1910 census showed her living in Sacramento with her youngest three children. There she remained for the 1920 census, as well. It was only by the time of the 1930 census that Sarah, still in Sacramento County, had moved to live with her son Francis and his growing family.

One specific detail jumps to our attention when examining all those census records: the fact that Sarah, youngest daughter of Rosanna Jackson Mitchell, had daughters of her own. That detail resonates, as our purpose in this exploration of the Mitchell family is to trace all possible lines of descent from the matriline tying Rosanna's daughters to the daughters in my mother-in-law's own ancestry. According to Sarah Mitchell Nugent's obituary, she had two married daughters to survive her: Anna, wife of Orville S. Carr, and Mary Elizabeth, wife of Francis T. Harrigan.

Our next task, then, will be see if we can trace that same matriline through yet another generation, in search of possible matches to the mtDNA test results representing my mother-in-law's own line. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Three Chances — Maybe


The research task this month has been to follow the matriline leading from my husband to his mother, to her mother, and on up the line from daughter to mother through the generations. The reason for this search has been to sketch out the possible other descendants of that as-yet-unknown matriarch to determine the connection between my husband and his mtDNA matches.

Finding yet another ancestral sister in that matriline has opened up possibilities to help determine just how these mtDNA matches connect to my mother-in-law's line. This month, we discovered another sister of my mother-in-law's second great-grandmother, a woman born in Ohio about 1821 by the name of Rosanna Jackson. Having found her, I discovered Rosanna had married Walter Mitchell, and the couple eventually had three daughters: Mary, Martha, and Sarah. But before you assume that gives me three chances to find the path to those matrilineal matches, there is one caveat I need to introduce: youngest daughter Sarah was most certainly daughter of Rosanna's husband Walter Mitchell, but we'll have to look closer at the records to see whether she was actually Rosanna's own daughter.

Why? Because about the time Sarah was born, Rosanna had died. At least according to her headstone, Rosanna had died in Iowa on October 14, 1862. According to the earliest census in which I can find Sarah's entry, the U.S. Census for 1870, Sarah was listed as eight years of age, giving a year of birth around 1862. But in that enumeration, we also realize that the wife in the Mitchell household was not Rosanna, but another wife by the name of Bridgett. Since Bridgett was sixty eight years of age at that same time, it is unlikely that she would have been the mother of Sarah, but a lot can happen in the undocumented years in between decennial enumerations—not to mention reporting errors and other possible recording mishaps. I'd feel more confident in that assertion of Sarah's birth to Rosanna in 1862 if I could find records affirming that maternal connection.

Another problem with the assumption that we have three chances to locate possible matrilineal matches through Rosanna's line lies with the identity of oldest daughter Mary. While Mary appeared in the 1860 census as an eight year old in the Mitchell household in Chickasaw County, Iowa, she was not listed in the subsequent census. True, by the time of the 1870 census, Mary could have been married and starting a household of her own, so it is no surprise to see her missing from her father's household. But there was one other troubling clue, and it came inscribed on her mother's headstone.

If Mary Mitchell, born in Ohio in 1852, was one and the same as the "Mary G." listed on Rosanna Mitchell's headstone, she apparently died in December of 1862. Thus, no possibility of any children—let alone daughters—from Rosanna's daughter Mary. Admittedly, as many families of the time did, Walter and Rosanna could have named a subsequent daughter by that same name, and if so, we can still search for a descendant named Mary. I'll leave that possibility open, but I tend to doubt that was so, based mainly on Rosanna's own death about that time.

Those discoveries leave us with two main tasks in searching through this matrilineal connection: determine whether baby Sarah was indeed daughter of Rosanna, and search for signs of any other sister named Mary Mitchell. Once we clarify those two details, we'll be off to start building a descendancy chart for each of Rosanna's remaining daughters, whoever they turn out to be.  

Monday, May 13, 2024

Still Looking for Daughters


Discovering a previously-missed daughter in the Ijams line I'm working on this month put another task on my research to-do list. Daughters mean possible connections to my mother-in-law's matriline, and the discovery this month of another daughter for Sarah Ijams and John Jay Jackson means more work ahead.

Sarah Ijams was my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother. As for DNA significance, Sarah was ancestral to my mother-in-law's matriline, which means any of her daughters could have passed along that same mitochondrial DNA signature. In the case of that newly-realized daughter, Rosanna Jackson, her marriage to Walter Mitchell produced at least three possibilities: her daughters Mary, Martha, and Sarah.

Our task this week will be to explore the lines of descent for each of those three daughters, looking particularly at the daughters of the next generation, those girls born to Mary, Martha, or Sarah. Once we find any candidates, we'll proceed with the same process for the next generation, and then the generation following that, looking only at daughters of daughters.

Once we arrive at any remaining daughters in that long line of female-only descent, the next step will be to see whether any connect to the mtDNA matches we have for my husband's own mtDNA test. Remember, though we are restricting our search to daughters of daughters, mothers do pass down their mtDNA signature to their sons, as well—it's just that sons cannot pass that same result to any of their children.

Thus, though we may need to peek at some genealogical clues for Rosanna and Walter Mitchell's sons, that would only be to guide us regarding their sisters—such as married names. Other than that, we'll need to be sure to keep strictly on task exploring those candidates who can pass along Rosanna's matrilineal code.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

There's Always Something


When I hear people say that they are "finished" building their family tree, I always have to re-translate that idea in my own mind. Someone like that might have tired with the process of searching for ancestors, but you and I know there is always something—or someone—more to find. Whether that is owing to a new insight regarding an intractable mystery ancestor, or revelation of a previously missing clue, new discoveries bring more research possibilities. 

It will be no surprise to learn that, in the past two weeks, I've added 348 names to my in-laws' tree, which now holds documentation for a total of 34,831 individuals. Since I've been concentrating on my mother-in-law's Ijams ancestry—the descendants and, hopefully, the ancestry of her fourth great-grandfather, William Ijams—progress had been hampered as I tried to push backwards to previous generations specifically using documented resources. But then, a surprise discovery thanks to the ThruLines tool at broke opened an entirely new source of distant cousins—and another matrilineal route to explore for mtDNA purposes.

Following that, another surprise discovery that I may share ancestral Broyles connections with a fellow member of our local genealogical society has sent both of us on a chase to discover just how close that connection might be. Since our most recent common ancestor may point us to the level of seventh cousin or possibly a connection more distant, it's no surprise to see that the initial sketches of the connection have already added an unexpected sixty names to my own family tree, which now contains 38,366 names. And even though my research goal this month is to focus on the Ijams line in my mother-in-law's family, I'll continue working on this Broyles project behind the scenes. It's so fun to discover our friends and neighbors can also be relatives.  

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Missed an Entire Branch


Drove right by that fork in the road, I did. Didn't even see it. The sense of being blind to something so obviously staring me in the face can be startling to realize. And that, essentially, is how I felt when I discovered I had missed an entire branch of my mother-in-law's family tree.

That "fork in the road" was an additional daughter whose life story fell into the cracks in a century when married women were almost as invisible as they were as unmarried daughters. Being born, marrying, and dying all before the 1850 U.S. Census could have called any attention to their existence, these women can be hard to find on paper. That is pretty much what happened to William Ijams' granddaughter Rosanna.

Born to one of William's youngest daughters—Sarah, wife of John Jay Jackson—Rosanna arrived during the early years of Ohio statehood. Since she was born about 1821 and married in 1840, I had entirely missed her existence. It was only thanks to a DNA test at—and a tip from the ThruLines tool there—that one of Rosanna's descendants showed up as a match to my husband, beginning the head-scratching process of examining available documents in hindsight.

Perhaps because the process began with a DNA test, it made sense to bolster the data I'd need for any future possible cousin matches. Since that discovery, I've been working on adding all the descendants of Rosanna and her husband, Walter Mitchell, as collateral lines on my mother-in-law's family tree. My real focus at this point is the matriline leading up to Rosanna, since her female descendants will also be passing along the same matriline that my mother-in-law passed along to her son, my husband. And right now, I'm still stuck with some mtDNA matches whose connection to that most recent common ancestor—whoever that ancient mother might have been—is still a mystery. 

At least now I've got a few more resources to help point to the answer.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Taking Time for Family


Keeping track of the stories of past generations, we family historians sometimes seem to become focused more on those who are long gone than those family members in our current circles. Though my research has lately transported me to centuries past and homes across the continent, this month I'll be taking time to be with more recent members of our extended family.

Thoughts like these were running through my mind yesterday as we made the long drive south to attend the funeral of a cousin's husband—the same cousin whose brother's grandchild will bid us fly to the midwest for a wedding at the other end of this month. Yes, I spend lots of time getting to know seventh great-grandparents on the east coast, but taking time to be with current family is far more important. Ancestors are fun to get to know, but there are no connections quite like the loved ones in our immediate circle.

While posts for the next few days will understandably be quite understated—there won't be any time to put into research tasks while away—you know those thoughts of family will still be running through my mind. How can we compare anything to family? Such a mix of ambiguities and unexpected outcomes as each of us morph and reinvent ourselves and our relationships as quickly as the decades fly by us. Each of us is a study in enigmas. It can take a lifetime just to say we know even one of our relatives—let alone the ancestors we've never met. But if we don't take the time to be present and absorb their ambience, how can we ever begin to understand?

Thursday, May 9, 2024

According to the Book


Discovering a book dedicated to the recounting of one's own family line can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, we need to proceed cautiously, if we do consider the book's contents at all, just in case the published researcher has committed the same errors so many of us unpublished researchers are prone to making. On the other hand, since some of those family history volumes have the added advantage of being written by researchers one hundred—or more—years closer to the ancestors in question, they may contain personal knowledge of which those in our current century may not have been aware. My personal view is to find a reliable published researcher and use him or her as a trailblazer: someone who is pointing out the path back to more distant ancestry. For this, I adopt the motto: Trust, but Verify.

Now that we're tackling the ancestry of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather, William Ijams of Maryland, for starters, I may as well proceed according to the book. "The book," in this case, would be Harry Wright Newman's Anne Arundel Gentry, a book published in 1933.

We've already seen from the Newman book that William was the eldest son of John Iiams and Rebecca Jones. The book provided the dates at which John Iiams' will was drawn up (October 9, 1782) and probated (April 21, 1783). Taking those dates to the FamilySearch Labs Full Text search engine, I was able to pull up the actual will and confirm what Harry Wright Newman had listed in his book.

It's time to move on to the next generations, so I'll test that process again for each new step. According to Newman's book, John Iiams was son of William Iiams and Elizabeth Plummer. Since the name Plummer seems to echo through subsequent generations of the Iiams and Ijams family, I'm keen to see what I can find on this maternal branch—but also mindful of my goal of following that Ijams line as far back as possible during this month.

Peeking ahead yet another generation, our William's grandfather William Iiams was in turn son of yet another Iiams by the name of William—you see now why that given name seems to have ricocheted throughout the generations of the Ijams family. This elder William—we're now talking about my mother-in-law's seventh great-grandfather—was married to another Elizabeth. (Not that we want to make this more complicated or anything....) 

The maiden name for this ancestral Elizabeth, wife of the elder William, has been alternately entered as "Cheyney" or "Cheney." She was apparently daughter of Richard Cheyney, born about 1652, according to Newman's calculations.

As for her husband William—listed as William Eyams—he was the founding immigrant ancestor of this line in my mother-in-law's ancestry. Though his name is not included in any records of arrivals to the colony of Maryland, we do have a date for his will, which was drawn up in 1698 and presented in court in Anne Arundel County—another document to verify through the FamilySearch Labs Full Text search.

Thus, the trailblazer—in this case, Harry Wright Newman—has laid out specific dates to guide us in confirming the Ijams family's story, once they arrived in the North American British colonies. Now, we'll begin tackling the search for documents and start reading between the lines to see what other information can be uncovered.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A Process Break to Reminisce


It may be the middle of the week in the beginning of a research month which is far, far from my stated end goal, but today I need to take a process break. Why? On this day, thirteen years ago, we were celebrating Mother's Day. How do I know? Because thirteen years ago, I flung the first of 4,687 blog posts out into the ether, with the idea of sharing the family stories I inherited. I wanted to serve as genealogical guinea pig, reporting on my escapades as they unfolded. And I thought it might be a good idea to launch such a series on a family-friendly day like Mother's Day. After all, it was my mother's ancestors who were careful to pass down so many of those stories I knew from childhood.

After the nearly two million page views—both human and, I suspect, AI-initiated—and 15,636 encouraging comments from fellow family history aficionados, I hope to continue stringing together enough words to resonate every day. But one never knows which posts will wend their way to someone who will find them helpful, or inspiring, or even amusing. Sometimes, even years afterwards, I do hear from people researching the same lines as I am—added bonus if they are actual cousins—but that is not the case for most of the top posts here over the years.

When I look at the posts which snagged the most eyeballs, they seem to fall into a very few basic categories. Some were retrospectives on recent genealogy events, but others involved reflections on the current status of local genealogical societies, or the pathos we unexpectedly uncover as we plod along our research pathways. Then, too, there were the rare moments when genealogical pursuits or skill sets collided with breaking news. On a lighter side, even my orphan photo rescuing projects seemed to resonate. 

It's always hard to determine which posts will connect with readers. Cousin bait has been a prime motivator, at least on this writer's end, but that doesn't mean the same will motivate readers, themselves. Above all, the process of blogging about family history demonstrates our innate desire to find commonalities through family connection, no matter how distant—not just that we are family, but that seeking family is more a team sport than an individual endeavor. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

When the Family Stories Don't Add Up


There are times, when we work on our family's history, that we realize some things just don't add up. Here I am this month, working to push back the generations on my mother-in-law's Ijams line, when I find myself distracted by something that falls in that category: it just doesn't add up right.

Face it, my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather William Ijams, was a child of colonial Maryland. Born in 1748, William was oldest son of a couple living in Anne Arundel County, whose father was a member of the exclusive old South River Club. Looking closely at John Ijams' will, it is clear the man was also a slave-holding planter.

Though William was John Ijams' eldest son, he was not the one named to inherit the prized family property when his father passed away in 1783. That privilege went to the two youngest sons in the family, Thomas Plummer Ijams and Isaac Ijams. To William was granted just one bequest: two of his father's slaves—"and no more."

What was ironic about that abrupt documented dismissal was that William's two youngest brothers eventually sold their inherited residence in 1796—a property which had been held by family members for the prior five generations—and moved with William to the Northwest Territory.

Unless you are deeply involved with the politics which established that Northwest Territory, you may not be aware that two of the men who were instrumental in framing the Northwest Ordinance were both from Puritan-influenced New England, and insisted that the new territory be established as a free territory. In other words, no slavery allowed.

So, my question: what did William do with his sole inheritance, once he decided to move to the frontier which became Ohio? Furthermore, if he did come from a slave-holding heritage, why would he have chosen to remove himself from that position of privilege and move to the edge of civilization, especially with such a restriction?

There is another piece of the Ijams story which can be interwoven into the narrative at this point. While in the previous month, we were able to connect the surnames which married into the Ijams family, we can now see that that research effort will yield us some benefits.

Remember Walter Teal, William's son-in-law, husband of William's daughter Mary? His father, Edward Teal, was one of the first settlers in Fairfield County, Ohio, at about the time of the Ijams family's arrival there. Edward, as it turns out from old history books, was among those who established the first Methodist Church in what eventually became Fairfield County—as "class leader," as one 1901 history book recounted. Other members of that early congregation represented family names of William Ijams' future sons-in-law, demonstrating the close association of William and his family to that early "religious society."

The question at this point may be whether William Ijams came to the Northwest Territory, then converted, changing his entire outlook on slavery as well as other matters of life, or whether he already had bought into those principles before leaving Maryland. Going back to the passage on the first Methodist congregation in Fairfield County, Ohio, author C. M. L. Wiseman noted it was "composed of Methodists who had emigrated from near Baltimore, Maryland." If that early group included William Ijams' family, they likely were of that religious persuasion before deciding to move to Ohio.

While many people who migrated westward went for the promise of a better opportunity in that new home, William Ijams seemed to have chosen to leave his "better" opportunity behind when he made his decision to move. Whatever was involved in that decision, it called for a radical departure from life as he had experienced it through his family's heritage.

Or perhaps John Ijams knew that about his eldest son before he even drew up his will. 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Sorting Out the Family Names


When it comes to tracing the extended Ijams family, it's been a challenge to sort out all the family names. Some given names appeared to be favorites over the generations. My main interest has been William Ijams, my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather, but it didn't take long to discover that he wasn't the only William Ijams in his family's home back in colonial Maryland. In order to make sure I didn't accidentally slip across family lines and stumble into the wrong collateral line, I had to first diagram the relatives as I found them.

Thankfully, we've located William's father's will, which provides a basic road map to guide us through the lines of descent. Though that showed us William's brothers—which, according to the will of his father John, also included sons John, Isaac, and Thomas Plummer Ijams—the document also provided us advanced warning of name twins ahead. Witness to John Ijams' will, for instance, noted John Ijams "of Plummer"—presumably son of the Plummer Ijams who also served as witness. And in the codicil dated March 15, 1783, there was mention of a William Ijams "son of George."

Fortunately, the will provided some guideposts to help us roughly estimate age ranges. John Ijams had drawn up his will on October 9, 1782, then added that codicil on March 15, 1783. The document was presented in court in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on April 21, 1783, so we have an estimate regarding John's date of death.

The document listed four married daughters: Elizabeth Lyons, Ann Stockett, Mary Ijams—likely deceased by that point, though her two children and inferred husband were mentioned—and, almost as an afterthought at the close of the document, Margaret Sunderland

As for the sons, John Ijams specifically noted that his eldest son was William. Also named were sons John, Isaac, and Thomas Plummer Ijams. It was to the final two sons that John bequeathed his property and—thankfully—made mention of stipulations, in case either, or perhaps both, died before they came to  "ye age of twenty one."

That was the only device left us to help determine dates of birth for any of John Ijams' children. Since John died in 1783 sometime between his last codicil dated March 15 and the presentation of his will in court on April 21, we now can say his youngest two sons had to have been born after at least mid-April of 1762. Further, since the will specified that youngest son Isaac would be permitted to "act for himself at ye age of sixteen," his birth was likely after April of 1767.

Those dates are only estimates, of course, but may become useful as we move forward in this exploration of William Ijams and his siblings, some of whom moved with him when he left Maryland for the wilds of territorial Ohio around the turn of the upcoming century. 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

A Brand New To-Do List


Starting a new project always throws the unexpected into one's path. That, at least, is my story, now that I've jumped into the collaborative possibilities at WikiTree. Well, let me amend that. "Jump" is too strong a word. How about "seeped" or "oozed"? Something more like molasses in January.

Speaking of January, that is usually when I assemble my research to-do list, and that becomes my working plan for the entire upcoming year. No room for detours, usually. This weekend, though, I made an exception—and ended up with a brand new to-do list to merge with the current one. 

My hope was to be more collaborative with the discoveries I've uncovered in the past kazillion years of chasing my family's stories. Another instigative shove I owe to the lonely fact that there aren't too many of my relatives out there, at least on some of my lines. Perhaps someone else is puzzling over those same family history mysteries, as well.

Once I crashed into the realization that uploading my thirty five thousand name GEDCOM into WikiTree was not the best of ideas—even if I used my stripped down version—I settled down to the drudge work of starting from scratch, one name at a time. Of course, that meant uploading information on references, too. But what do you do when some of those documents were obtained pre-Internet via snail mail (and its obligatory six-week waiting period)? 

That's where my weekend got hung up. It was a simple footnote to my paternal grandfather's date of death. Fortunately for me, those New York City records are now supposedly uploaded to various online genealogical resources, so I took what I thought would be a quick peek to see if online searches would once again save me some time.

Wrong. Once again, my ancestors found a way to hide in the cracks, so back to the notebooks it was to pull up the stored hard copy of my grandfather's death certificate. Granted, those old three ring binders did not age well in the past, um, forty years since I've first been at this paper chase. But that didn't matter; of all the records in those multiple binders, the entire file on that specific family was not in that storage collection.

In the meantime, I cleaned up all those stored files on the other family lines, tossed duplicates of records I've already noted, and digitized documents I still needed to add to my records online. And then, there were just a few more minutes left to compose profile entries on WikiTree for three ancestors: my dad, my mysterious paternal grandfather of the top-secret origin, and his wife—none of whom have matches within that vast WikiTree database.

Let's just say I've managed to get a jump on my spring cleaning chores. But not much else.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


How do you take a 35,000+ name family tree and merge it with another one of the same size, then edit it down to less than five thousand names? That's what I had planned spending the rest of this weekend doing—but believe me, it wasn't what I had in mind when I first got the idea to sign up for WikiTree.

Yes, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I had been exploring the profiles posted on that universal tree, mainly to examine resources that other researchers had discovered on my family's hard-to-find ancestors. I'm not above being nosy when it comes to well-conceived proof arguments or even the serendipitous footnote.

It was while puzzling over my mother-in-law's matriline that I spotted a note on WikiTree regarding lack of any participants sharing their mtDNA results for that particular ancestor. "There's something I can share," I thought, and decided right then to sign up. I believe in collaboration and in giving back to the genealogy community, and this was the perfect open door.

After reading all the important statements and signing up to be a "member" (WikiTree is free, but does have standards), I got down to the business of uploading my tree. Only problem: WikiTree has a limit of how large a tree can be uploaded via GEDCOM. Depending on when my search engine drops me into the history of volumes of internal conversation on this touchy topic, the number of profiles permitted can be up to five thousand, or down to a much more modest amount. And the drawback is totally understandable: it's hard to police a community tree when there are far more new members doing data dumps than WikiTree volunteers checking for unsourced information.

There is, however, one problem not addressed in the conversation about unsourced material: as I understand it, no matter how well-documented my source tree might be (mine is on, taking it through the GEDCOM process may automatically remove some of the hard-won documented details I might have added into the original tree. Though facts, notes, and sources are usually retained through the conversion process if text-based, media may be lost in the transition.

Of course, I say this after spending an afternoon and evening collapsing two different trees into one stripped-down pedigree in preparation to convert it to the necessary GEDCOM. Now what? Perhaps the participants in that WikiTree conversation were right: far better to just hand-enter each record one ancestor at a time. A better idea, perhaps—until one realizes the reality of my actually getting around to doing that becomes a rapidly-shrinking "maybe." 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Using Trailblazers to
Chase Down the Documents


When a genealogy book conveniently tells all about an ancestor's family, for some that might be the end of the story. For me, it's just the beginning. I need to chase down the documents to confirm the author of the book got those details right.

Fortunately, in the case of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather William Ijams, I have one of those handy books: Harry Wright Newman's 1933 volume, Anne Arundel Gentry. Among the twenty two pioneer settlers of that colonial Maryland county mentioned in the book, William Ijams' founding immigrant ancestor claimed a spot. This month, I'll be using the Newman book as my trailblazer to check out what legal documents had to say on his assertions.

According to the Newman book, William Ijams—Newman has his surname spelled Iiams—was son of John and his wife Rebecca Jones. Conveniently, the book mentions John Iiams' date of death to have been in 1783. Armed with my new favorite genealogical search engine, the Full Text search now available from FamilySearch Labs, I located the 1782 will for John Iiams in the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, records, presented to the court there on April 21, 1783.

Unsurprisingly, John's will contained mention of a son named William. Well, let me amend that: if you can buy the idea that the will for "Jhon Jiams" was really the last testament of a man named John Ijams, we are in business. If so, our William had brothers named John, Isaac, and Thomas Plummer Iiams, as well as married sisters Elizabeth Lyons and Ann Stockett. In addition, he had a sister Mary who died before her father's death, who apparently had married a paternal cousin—likely the Thomas Iiams also mentioned—for her two children were named in the will with that same Iiams surname.

Having the family constellation outlined in that document helps as we move forward—or backward in time, as we soon will be doing. Collateral lines will come in handy as we move farther along in the extended family, for this was a family which believed in recycling favorite given names, as we will soon see. Our William was not the only one to have been given that name in his family line.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

A Lesson in Spelling Creativity


This month, I'm tackling William Ijams' heritage—that fourth great-grandfather of my mother-in-law. One of the pillars of her Ohio roots, William Ijams may have died in Ohio in 1815, but he certainly wasn't born there. His roots came from Maryland—but don't think it will be easy to search for him there. Before we do that, we'll need to exercise our spelling "creativity."

I've heard wry comments from genealogists about how "creative" spelling was once considered a mark of intelligence. I don't know how true that concept was—though I can vouch for how aggravating it can be to search for several iterations of the same person's name.

Apparently, William grew up in a community which bought into that concept, for there are almost six ways to the Sunday of spelling his surname. While later generations may have settled on Ijams, we also will need to search for records under several alternate spellings: Iiams, Iams, Ijames—and even variations in which the "I" and the "J" have, for some strange reason, reversed position.

Thus, in my first tentative steps to locate a will of William Ijams' father in hopes of confirming that generational link, I had to consider a document which I am positive was drawn up by a court clerk with dyslexia: the surname was spelled "Jiams."

Okay, I'll give the overworked clerk a slight break. After all, in the document, William's father's given name was spelled "Jhon." Either that, or the man was doubly intelligent.

If I have found the right document, then it will be well worth our time to decode the record and see what information we can glean from it. The name of William's father, according to other sources, was supposed to be John Ijams. This month, I want to verify such details through court documentation, rather than simply taking the word of others—even if those others are respected, published researchers.

Beyond that, though, if I am reading between the lines correctly, there just had to be more to the story of why William Ijams and his wife, Elizabeth Howard, chose to move their large family from what was then the comforts of an established settlement in Maryland to the wilds of what was then the American frontier in territorial Ohio. We'll take a closer look at the 1782 will of "Jhon Jiams" tomorrow—and if that isn't the document for the right man, we'll begin our search for John Iiams, or Iams, or Ijams, or...well, you get the idea.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

More About Maryland


My May 2024 self is looking at my December 2023 self and saying, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

At the close of the previous year, when I was outlining my research projects for the new year, I had selected William Ijams as one of my Twelve Most Wanted to be tackled this year—this very month, in fact. Now that I re-read my post announcing that plan, and see how excited I was then about "more Maryland material" being added to online resources, I realize that was only the beginning. After that addition I referred to on December 30, regarding the Maryland Archives bonanza thanks to Reclaim the Records, we've since had another research gift in the form of FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search.

As it turns out, that might be exactly the boost I'll need to pick up on my ongoing struggle with William Ijams. As unusual as that surname might seem to be, back in Maryland, where William was born in 1748, there were plenty of aunts and uncles, cousins, and other kin bearing that same Ijams name. It will take some persistence to ensure that we're following the right William Ijams from Maryland this month.

Since I've worked on this Ijams line before—William's wife Elizabeth and daughter Sarah were included in my Twelve Most Wanted last year—I've already got a running start. Since William was my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandfather, a minimal amount of his DNA shows up in my husband's ThruLines results at, providing an extra research boost.

Researching William Ijams does present some problems, though. He and his wife—the same Elizabeth Howard whom we focused on last month—were born in Maryland but chose to move "west" to Ohio at the very end of the 1700s, before Ohio attained statehood. Records for that time period were scarce.

On the plus side, William apparently fought in the War of 1812, a detail which should generate some records for us. On the down side, William and his family belonged to a religious group which may not have kept records—at least, not the ones we usually like to consult for family history details.

William Ijams' half-sunken headstone in Fairfield County, Ohio, was one of the first tokens I had found on the way to learning more about his story. Like the condition of his headstone, the shape of the rest of his partially-hidden past may make the research path this month a bit rocky. The goal will be to confirm William's parentage and then see how far back in time we can push this family's story. Hopefully, between the Maryland Archives and FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search capabilities, we'll discover far more about William, his siblings, and his parents—and then some.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...