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.

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