Preconceived Notion

One of the things I love about doing family research is that it forces me to challenge my thinking about even the most obvious things. Question everything. Force the brain to work. I’m lucky to not have to be confronted with facts about my family that force me to cope with cognitive dissonance. This is because I don’t have long-held, deeply rooted beliefs about who my family is/was. It’s all been new to me for the most part. That said, I’m not immune to accepting the interpretation of facts by others, unchallenged. I realized today, after processing some records I gathered, that one particularly thorny problem I’ve been working on had a glaringly obvious blind spot. I had simply accepted what others believed without breaking it all down to fundamental facts and evaluating it with fresh eyes. The reward, though, is getting an aha! moment. One of those jarring: How did I not see that before? episodes that forces us to laugh at ourselves.

Earlier I wrote about how I had misinterpreted the Will of John Wood Jr.  Today I was able to see that even seasoned researchers miss stuff. All this work I’ve been doing on this family is directly related to the interpretation of this part of that Will by a genealogist at the DAR.

The DAR allows members to submit what are called Supplemental Applications for additional Patriots they are descended from. A member submitted one, and got it approved for John Wood Jr. I’m grateful for that; he and his father John Wood Sr. are deserving of the recognition for their contribution to securing our freedom. I’ve been working for awhile now trying to prove that John Wood Jr. and Sr. are in fact my ancestors, not hers.

lemuel-signature
Witnesses for Will of John Wood Jr.

One of, if not the  only, deciding factors that the DAR accepted to allow this connection to the other family is one of the witnesses to this Will: Lemuel Stephenson. Lemuel Stephenson is the proven father of Sarah Stephenson. Sarah Stephenson is the proven spouse of one William Wood, born in Fayette County, PA in 1792. Sarah Stephenson was born in 1796 in Fayette County, PA. (From other Supplemental Applications.)

1850-census-william-and-sarah-wood
1850 US Census, Illinois, Edgar, District 19, pg 180A

What everyone accepted was that Lemuel Stephenson was related to John Wood Jr. as a result of the marriage between his daughter to a William Wood, listed as a son of John Wood Jr. How is it that in all this time that I’ve been gathering data to prove my belief that the DAR approved the wrong family line for this Patriot did I miss examining that basic assumption that Lemuel Stephenson was related to John Wood Jr. by marriage?

Timelines are Everything.

Without timelines we cannot truly put things into context. Timelines expose blind spots in our thinking. Timelines help us pinpoint when people move from one place to another. In this case it was critical that I fix when Lemuel Stephenson and his young family moved from Fayette County, PA to Clermont County, OH. I finally got close enough today.

Lemuel Stephenson appears in Georges Township, Fayette County, PA in 1800.1  This makes sense; he was married to the daughter of an established resident of the township, Enoch Abraham. The Clermont County History book says Lemuel moved to Clermont in 1802.2  Silly me, I never challenged that. Turns out…not so much.

Amazing what you can learn when you look at original records. Here he still is in Georges Township, Fayette County, PA in 1802.

1802-lemuel-in-fayette

He’s still there in 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, and oh look here he still is in 1807.3

1807-lemuel-in-fayette

Earlier years in this data set show that the taxes were collected in January of any given year. That puts Lemuel Stephenson and his daughter Sarah (b. 18 Nov 1796) aged 11 in Fayette County in January 1807. We know from the Will of John Wood Jr. that Lemuel Stephenson was present in Clermont County, OH, 18 months later, on 8 Jul 1808. By then Sarah Stephenson is 12 years old. Her future spouse, William Wood, is 16 years old (location as yet unknown). Who believes Sarah and William were already married by the date that Will was witnessed? She was twelve!

If the relationship between John Wood Jr. and Lemuel Stephenson was family on day that Will was signed was the reasoning for accepting William Wood married to Sarah Stephenson as the correct descendants of John Wood Jr., then isn’t that whole argument flawed on its face? How could they possibly have been related by marriage on 8 Jul 1808 when the marriage hadn’t taken place, and wouldn’t for a few more years?

It can be demonstrated that John Wood Jr. had been living in Mason County, KY from at least 1793 to 1798-9, then in Clermont County, OH from about 1800 till he died. The earliest possible time he could have met Lemuel was 18 months before he died. More likely the acquaintanceship was even newer than that.

They did know each other; there is no denying that. John Wood Jr. was an associate judge, as has been proven by court records. One of his fellow judges was William Buchanan. William Buchanan was married to the sister of Lemuel Stephenson’s wife. The Buchanan family had a long association with the Abraham family. Both families owned property in Georges Township, Fayette County, PA. The Buchanans moved to Mason County, KY for a few years before locating in Clermont, so they would have also known the Wood family.4  None of this changes the fact that at the time of John’s death, Lemuel Stephenson WAS NOT RELATED TO JOHN WOOD JR.

The other witness on the Will was Joshua Manning. He WAS related to John Wood Jr. They were brothers-in-law. Not all witnesses to Wills are related to the author of the Will. I hope I don’t ever allow myself to accept that reasoning without challenging it again.

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1 1800; Census Place: Georges, Fayette, Pennsylvania; Series: M32; Roll: 38; Page: 552

2  Everts, L. (1880). Washington Township. In History of Clermont County, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers (p. 365). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Company.

3 Fayette County (Pennsylvania). Board of County Commissioners; Georges Township, 1787-1819; FHL# 1449307

4 Everts, pg 363

The Click Bait of Its Day

I was recently contacted by the spouse of a cousin asking why I had someone listed as a spouse of E. H. Taft on my tree.  I looked and scratched my head. No earthly idea why I put that woman as his spouse, so she got removed. This was the first time a descendant of my William Watson and Annabelle Gibson had contacted me, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.

E. H. Taft is actually Charles H Taft. He was married to Rebecca Walker Watson. Rebecca Walker Watson was named for her maternal grandmother Rebecca Walker. Among the information I was given about Mr. Taft was a juicy tidbit about his death being reported on the front page of many newspapers because, it was claimed, he was a second cousin to President William Howard Taft. Intrigued, I scoured Newspapers.com for more information. At first I didn’t get any results, so I turned to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection. There I had better luck.

taft-charles-h-obit-san-juan-prospector-21-aug-1909-pg-1
San Juan Prospector 21 Jan 1909 page 1

The above piece was picked up by a number of Colorado newspapers. I realized from these that my search on Newspapers.com had the wrong parameters. Armed with a specific date, and dropping the middle initial, I began finding results.

The following piece caught my eye because it put the storm in context.

taft-charles-lead_daily_call_thu__aug_19__1909_-page-001

This one is the clincher, though. The Hearst News Service got their hands on this story and applied some creative license to make the story more sensational. A tactic we recognize today as click bait.

click-bait

Of course no one would have cared about any of this except for the claim that Charles H Taft was the 2nd cousin of President Taft. We know how common it is for these kinds of claims to be made by and about family. I have a biography of an ancestor published in a ‘brag book’ where the claim was made that the subject was related to Leonard Wood, and his wife a full 1st cousin to Samuel Houston. Neither panned out.

To be a full 2nd cousin, both people need to share a set of great-grandparents. I don’t know how well-vetted this is, but if it had glaring errors in it, I’m pretty sure some knowledgeable genealogist would have challenged it. Here’s a Wikipedia entry that outlines the ancestry of President Taft. His father was Alphonso Taft, grandfather was Peter Rawson Taft, and his great-grandfather was Aaron Taft (1743–1808).

Let’s take a peak-see at Charles H Taft. Charles married Rebecca 8 Jun 1904.1  As we see above, he died in 1909. He does not, then, appear in any US census as married to Rebecca. We learn from the 1900 Census that he was born Apr 1874 in Wisconsin to a father born in New York and a mother born in Pennsylvania.2  

1880-census-taft
1880 Census Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, ED 239, pg 265A 3

There he is with his father H.L. Taft (born NY) and mother Mary (born PA), and widowed grandmother E.H. Taft (born CT).

1870-henry-taft
1870 Census, Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, pg 295A 4

Now we learn that H.L. is Henry. Mary’s birth state is given as New York rather than PA.

1860-henry-taft-combined
1860 Census, Albion, Oswego, New York, pg 168-169

Now we find Henry living with Mary in what looks to be his father’s household. Mary is again listed as NY, and Henry’s mother Eliza H (E.H.) was born in CT. On the face of it, Henry’s father, is John L. Taft, born in CT. Oh look…at his age: 49. Born about 1811.

1850-census-john-l-taft
1850 Census, Albion, Oswego, New York, pg 141A 6

This census places John L Taft’s birth year at 1809. His Find-A-Grave Memorial lists his birth year as 1811. I’ve seen it suggested he was actually born in 1810.

I don’t know who is the great-grandfather of Charles H Taft. Given that Aaron Taft, the great-grandfather of President Taft, died in 1808, two to three years before John L Taft was born, it seems unlikely that Aaron Taft is John L’s father.

Were Charles H Taft and President Taft cousins? Entirely possible. Were they 2nd cousins? Highly unlikely. As much fun as it would have been if the newspaper reports were accurate, I’m going to chalk this up to ‘another family lore bites the dust’.

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1 Colorado, County Marriages and State Indexes, 1862-2006

2 1900; Census Place: El Moro, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: 126; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0068

3 1880; Census Place: Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin; Page: 265A; Enumeration District: 239

4 1870; Census Place: Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, Page: 295A

5 1860; Census Place: Albion, Oswego, New York, Page: 168-169

6 1850; Census Place: Albion, Oswego, New York,Page: 141A

Open to Interpretation

In my previous post I made mention of the Will of John Wood Jr. One of the sticking points with trying to prove the correct son of this patriot is the Will. More specifically the fact that the DAR genealogists claim that Will is open to interpretation. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what they meant. It seemed clear-cut to me.

To get to the bottom of this, I asked an acquaintance who is unfamiliar with the family or the challenge to analyze the Will so I could get her unbiased thoughts on what it says. While I’m waiting for her to finish, I decided I wanted to try my hand at it myself, then see how our results compare. In part this is an exercise in critical thinking. Can I strip away as much of my bias as possible and see this Will as an uninterested by-stander?wood-john-jr-will-page-1

My first step is to deconstruct this Will by making a series of statements of fact about what I see. No assumptions allowed. I do get to correct for modern spelling to preserve my sanity.

  1. It appears to be a photocopy of the original Will (as opposed to a transcription from a Will Book)
  2. The handwriting on the signature differs from the body of the Will
  3. This is the Will for John Wood
  4. He states he is from Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio
  5. He states he is infirm of body but of perfect memory and judgment
  6. This is his last Will and Testament
  7. He leaves his burial ‘in a Christian like manner’ up to the discretion of his Executors
  8. He does not name his Executors
  9. He does not name his wife
  10. He Wills and bequeaths the whole of his estate both real and personal property to his wife (Except what is hereinafter mentioned)
  11. 1st exception: “or until my youngest son becomes of age if she should live so long”. He does not indicate who this youngest son is.
  12. He allows for the provision that his wife is able to sell the land for the benefit of the family as she “may think most proper”.
  13. He wills that his wife is to retain this privilege for her lifetime with a reservation.
  14. 2nd exception: From that property he excludes the horses he had previously given to his sons named in this order: Joseph, Absalom, William and John. He means for them to have these horses as their own.
  15. He names a granddaughter, Marget, but does not indicate who are her parents.
  16. He bequeaths $25 to Marget when she reaches age 18.
  17. He specifies that the $25 can be paid from the sale of the land if that sale takes place.
  18. He makes a provision for the land and its proceeds if his wife dies. It is to be sold and equally divided between his sons and daughters.
  19. He mentions daughters, plural. There are more than one. They are not named.
  20. The Will was written on the 8th day of July, 1808.
  21. The Will is signed by John Wood with his ‘seal’
  22. The Will is witnessed by Joshua Manning and Lemuel Stephenson

Let’s leave the probate aside since it doesn’t speak to the issue of the Will being open to interpretation.

I wonder how many people would look at this Will and think item #11 was the sticking point? I certainly didn’t. Not until I did this exercise was I able to see what part of my argument the genealogists were refusing to accept.

William is the son who is in contention. I claimed that the son of the patriot they previously approved was a minor at the time this Will was written. We know from census records that ‘proven’ William was born in 1792. He was only 16 at the time of this Will was written. My William was born in July 1787 (from a Bible record). He either just turned 21 or was on the cusp of turning 21.

They are saying that this Will does not make it clear that the minor-aged son isn’t one of the four named sons: Joseph, Absalom, William and John. Here’s the thing: They’re right. Based solely on the Will, there is no proof that there is a 5th son.

This Will hints that John Wood Jr. considered the age of inheritance as 18. He does not indicate what age equals ‘of age’. I’ve found guardianship records in Clermont County, OH that show guardians remaining in place until heirs reached aged 21, so it is possible that anyone under the age of 21 could still be considered a minor. This Will wasn’t proven until October 1808. By then there would have been no question that my William was 21. It can be proven John (III) was 18. Joseph was already married for 3 years; it can only be surmised he was at least 21. It’s been speculated he was born in 1783, making him 27. There are specific dates for Absalom, but I don’t know their source. Taken at face value, he was 25 at the time of his father’s demise. If these ages are correct, then John Wood Jr. named his sons in birth order. Using the guardian until 21 argument, the minor-aged son would actually be John (III). Since one was never appointed, that issue is moot. The ‘of age’ qualifier relies on popular and accepted belief at the time. This Will is maddeningly non-specific; it relies on the people who witnessed, proved and administered it to already know the identities of the wife, son and daughters. In the rugged frontier, guardianship laws don’t appear to have been rigidly enforced.

My argument was based on my belief that there is a 5th son. And indeed there is a 5th son. His name is David and he was born in the year 1799; making him about 9 years old at the time of the Will. We know his birth year from the mortality schedule, where he is listed as having died of rabies in 1849.1 It remains incumbent upon me to prove this. I think I can, even in the absence of direct evidence (no guardian was appointed to him). Doing so requires its own proof.

While frustrating, they are right to question my assumptions about this Will without proof that my argument is valid. I’m learning a lot from this process. Wills don’t always say what we think they say, or want them to say. Documents in general don’t always say what we think they say. I like this exercise. It forced me to look at this document and all its components with a more critical eye.

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1 Non-population Census Schedules for Illinois, 1850-1880; Census Year: 1849; Census Place: District 19, Edgar, Illinois; Page: 213

The Forgotten Widow

I’ve written about John Wood Jr. before, back when I was first trying him on as a possible ancestor for my William Wood. Recently I’ve been immersed in studying this family as part of that thorough and exhaustive (code for expensive) search genealogists require for an analysis. The recurring theme I’ve noticed during this research is that no one who has worked on this family seems to have cared about his widow Margaret. It’s as if she ceased to exist the moment John Wood Jr. died.

Let’s look at how Margaret became a widow.

“John Wood, the eldest of the brothers that came to Manning’s Station, was one of the early associate judges, and while attending court at Williamsburgh fell ill, dying the next day after he was brought to his home north of Neville.”1

Evidence suggests he was about 49 when he died. Luckily, for all his descendants, he left a Will. Being an associate judge (and he was; there is ample evidence to support that claim), one would think he would have known how important it was to name his executor/trix. He does say he was infirm, so if the above is to be believed, he wrote it in haste, and possibly before he got home. He doesn’t mention his wife, daughters or youngest son by name. He does name his adult sons in this order: Joseph, Absalom, William and John (to whom he leaves horses), as well as a little grand-daughter Margaret (to whom he leaves $25). The remainder of his estate, real and personal, is left to his wife. “…or untill my youngest son becomes of age if she should live so long–But and if my Wife should think it to be best to make sale of my land for the Benefit of the family she is so to do as she may think most proper this previledge I will to remain with her during her Life…2” He goes on to make the provisions of what is to happen after his wife’s decease: the usual boilerplate language of dividing what remains equally among his sons and daughters.

Here’s the thing: she doesn’t die for a very long time. She lives at least another 32 years. Near as I can tell, she remains a widow for that entire time. With regard to the land, she probably couldn’t have sold it even if she wanted to because the family never had a deed to it. The property, situated on the Smith Survey No. 866 was tangled up in legal wranglings for decades, and was finally settled by a land patent granted by the Van Buren administration.3

Margaret Wood, her son Absalom Wood, Joshua Manning and Lemuel Stephenson appeared in the October 1808 session of the Court of Common Pleas. On the 18th of October they collectively put up a $600 bond for the administration of the estate. Margaret and Absalom were named as administrators of the estate.2

Margaret Wood begins appearing in the tax records in 1809.4 She continues to appear in available tax records from 1816-1819 in Clermont County, Ohio.5  Even though she couldn’t sell or partition the land, she was not without means. On 12 May 1817, she purchased 70 acres in White Oak Township, Highland County, Ohio for the sum of $165. This land was on the Francisco survey no. 2042.6 It is unclear when she actually moved to Highland County, since she’s still paying taxes in Clermont County until 1819. Next she appears in the 1820 Census in Highland County. This is tricky because ancestry.com has it transcribed as being Concord Township, Fayette County, but the top and side of the page clearly says Highland County.

1820 Highland County Census

Notice I have arrows pointing to two names: Margaret Wood and Godfrey Wilkins (among several important names on this page). Godfrey Wilkins is later found as the neighbor of and witness to the Will of my William Wood, Margaret’s son, in the 1840 census in Edgar County, IL.

By this time 6 of Margaret’s 7 children are still alive. Absalom has married the widow Buchanan; William married Elizabeth Houston; John Wood III married Margaret Buchanan, the step-daughter of his brother Absalom. All are living in Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio. Hannah married David Jones and is living in New Richmond (he later becomes the Mayor). Nancy and David are still unmarried and presumably living with their mother in Highland County, even though the census says she has two females aged 16-25 living with her instead of a male and female. (Drives me crazy that it reads that way.) Anyway, just like the history book read, David married Margaret (Peggy) Graham, and Nancy married Peter Collins, both in Highland County.

Wood, David and Graham, Margaret marriage cropped

Collins, Peter and Wood, Nancy Marriage cropped

On 1 Mar 1828, David and Peggy purchase 2 plots of adjoining land to comprise 55 acres on the Spear Survey no. 2047 directly south of Margaret’s land.7

Returning to the 1820 Census, here is the bottom part of the page:

1820 Highland County Census bottom

John Graham is married to Elizabeth Partridge, daughter of Robert Partridge. After the death of John Graham, Elizabeth Graham married Godfrey Wilkins (mentioned above). Christenia Collins (widow of Isaac) shows signs of being the mother of Peter Collins, husband of Nancy.

I do have a theory about what brought Margaret to Highland County. See John Partridge on the above census? He was married to Jane Grimes, who is believed to have died around 1816 because he remarried. I’ve seen Margaret Wood as having the maiden name of Grimes on several ancestry trees. Haven’t found anything that proves it yet, but it is intriguing, and dovetails nicely with the known information. Did she move there to be near her own family?

1830 rolls around and things shake up a bit. David is shown on the 1830 census for White Oak Township.8 On 12 Sep 1830 he and Peggy sell their 55 acres.9  Margaret can’t be located on any census in 1830. She sells her land on 1 Oct 1831.10  Absalom has died; his widow Jane remains in Clermont. Hannah stays in New Richmond, Clermont. Margaret and four of her children: William, John, David and Nancy all move to Brouillettes  Creek Township, Edgar County, Illinois. Some of that was documented in my earlier post; there’s lots more I could say, but this post is, ultimately, about Margaret.

1840 Edgar Census David Wood cropped

Above is Margaret’s son David Wood in the Edgar County, IL 1840 US Census, pg 75. Way over in the female 80-89 column is a tick mark I believe represents Margaret: 32 years after her husband died. Remember, David’s mother-in-law Elizabeth is married to Godfrey Wilkin, who appears on page 77, so this can’t be her. Pretty sure it’s Margaret, who lived to be at least 80, still with her family. Her story just needed to be told; I needed for her to no longer be forgotten.

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1 Everts, L. (1880). Washington Township. In History of Clermont County, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers (p. 363). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Company.

2 Will and Probate records of John Wood of Clermont County, Ohio. Copy from Circuit Clerk’s office in Batavia, OH.

3 Everts pg 47

4 Ancestry.com. Ohio, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.

5 familysearch.org: Duplicate tax records of Clermont County, Ohio 1816-1838 Images 63, 205 and 338.

6 Transcribed Deed Book 3, pg 474 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

7 Transcribed Deed Book 2, pg 375 and 377 Highland County, Ohio Deeds (some of the deeds are transcribed out of order)

8 1830 US Census, Ohio, Highland, White Oak Twp, pg 52

9 Transcription Book 4, pg 300 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

10 Transcription Book 12, pg 400 Highland County, Ohio Deeds

11 1840 US Census, Illinois, Edgar, pg 75

His Middle Name is not West

I’ve been aware for some time that there are trees that have the middle name West for Francis Gibson who was born in 1779 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania and died 2 Dec 1858 in Neshannock, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. I wondered about this so I did some research, and discovered that Francis Gibson and Francis West Gibson are two different men.

Francis Gibson is the son of Charles Gibson who died in 1828 in New Wilmington, Mercer, Pennsylvania, and Esther Graham who died after 1810 in Mercer County (now Lawrence), Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Moorhead, probably before 1799. His Will is found in Lawrence County in Will Book 1 pg 396.

Gibson, Francis Will pg 1 cropped

Francis West Gibson, born 27 Mar 1774 in Silver Spring, Cumberland, Pennsylvania and was the son of Col. George Gibson born 10 Oct 1747 in Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Ann West born 1750 in Sligo County, Ireland. He married Frances Harriet Greenwood born 7 Jan 1785 in Pennsylvania. His obituary reads: “Died on the 18th instance, Mr. Francis Gibson of Perry County near Landisberg, in his 82nd year. American Democrat, Friday, March 21, 1856.” He also left behind a Will that can be found Perry County Wills, Vol C-D, 1854-1880 pg 38-9 (Available on ancestry.com). Here is his Find-A-Grave memorial.

I’d like to see people honor both men by making this correction so that future generations know the difference.

Okay, So I Got THAT Wrong

In an earlier post on this blog titled Brick Wall Paper, I thought I had discovered a census record for my great-grandfather James H. Myers.1

Possible parents for Amarilla Cox

I speculated that the enumerator just dittoed the Cox surname onto some grandchildren. Wishful thinking on my part. Turns out the James H Cox is actually James Hamilton Cox. I discovered this in the best way possible. I got a DNA cousin match on Ancestry.com that proves I have the correct family for my Amarilla (Winnie) Cox!

Oddly my first reaction to this was, Be Careful What You Wish For. This new cousin match had Martha G and John Cox on it, but with a lot of other unknown siblings to the James Hamilton Cox. I was sad that I no longer had an early census record for James H Myers, but thrilled that I had proof I had the right family. I got to work correcting my tree and researching this James H Cox.

My first clue that he is the real deal was the 1880 US Census for James.

1880 Census James Hamilton Cox
1880 Census James Hamilton Cox2

He named his first son Jerome Benjamin, which is his older brother’s name. I haven’t found James Hamilton Cox in the 1900 or 1910 census yet, but he does show up in the 1920 census in Cambridge, Washington, Idaho.3 This is the same location his brother Jerome Benjamin lived when four of his many children were born. Other records suggest James Hamilton Cox was divorced even though he is listed as single in this 1920 Census. He was working as a laborer in a pool hall.

I even have a theory on where the middle name Hamilton came from: a friend and neighbor with whom John and Martha Cox bought and sold land in Putnam County, Missouri: Hamilton Davis. I’ve been combing through a deed index for that county and have found multiple entries for land exchanges between the Cox family and Hamilton Davis.

Bless the heart of the woman who had her DNA tested on Ancestry.com and had this Cox line on her tree! I don’t mind being wrong on who I thought James H was…especially since now I know I have the correct family. Yay!

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1 1860 US Census, Missouri, Putnam, Liberty, pg 346, HH# 35

2 1880 US Census, Missouri, Chariton, Wayland, ED 163, pg 437A, HH# 142

3 1920 US Census, Idaho, Washington, Cambridge, ED 182, pg 1B, HH# 20

The Facebook of Their Day

I enjoy searching online newspaper archives. It is interesting to see mentions of family in context with what was going on in those moments in time. Newspapers might have relied on advertising for revenue beyond subscriptions, but they relied on their readers for some of their content, free content, the same way Facebook does. It’s a pretty good business model.

Since I’m all about Putnam County, Missouri these days, I’m especially grateful for the Putnam County Library’s online newspaper archive. It uses optical character recognition for search terms; the accuracy rate is good enough for my purposes.

Anyone who has spent time reading these old newspapers is familiar with how people used the paper to tell their friends and neighbors about their comings and goings, about who came to visit, who was ill or recovering from an illness, even marriages and births. The mini-announcements were usually two or three lines of pertinent details that included names, locations and very often relationships. Joe Smith’s uncle Rudolph Smith came to visit from Oregon yesterday. Jane Doe’s mother Barbara Gold is home recovering from a stroke. That sort of thing. These gossipy items are what would be called ‘click-bait’ today. It’s the relationships that fascinate researchers…they are golden because they appeared while these people were still alive.

I was searching for mentions of Jacob Myers known children from the 1850 Census, as well as mentions of their children. The youngest known daughter from Jacob’s first marriage was Sarah Rebecca Myers. She married James P Delay in Iowa in 1872.1 Their son Fred Delay was born in 1873.2

Searching the archive netted me this:

Nutt with nephew Delay pg 5 - Copy Nutt with nephew Delay pg 9 - Copy

“Mrs. Mollie Nutt and nephew Fred Delay went to Glennwood Saturday” and “Fred Delay and sister Ina and George Nutt drove over to Mystic, Iowa Monday to visit relatives.”

Wait. What? Who is Mollie Nutt?

I was in an interesting frame of mind when I discovered these tidbits. Just the day before I had been staring at the profile page for Jacob Myers on Ancestry and was wondering if there were any more Myers children after the 1850 census was taken. I know Jacob married my Amarilla Cox in 1856. No one knows when his first wife Elizabeth (Minick) died, but it was presumably before he remarried. I was prepared to ask myself if Mollie Nutt was born after the 1850 census and before the second marriage.

Lucky for me the answer to my question was right in front of me. I clicked on the Ancestry Family Tree link I had used to add Fred Delay to my tree. I clicked through to that person’s tree and they had a Mary Jane ‘Mollie’ Myers born in 1851 and an Angeline Myers born in 1855 as sisters for Sarah, but none of the rest of the family. Two questions came to mind. What happened to these girls if their mother died before 1856? Where have I seen the name Angeline before?

In my previous post I mentioned I would write about a discovery I made about the Breedlove children listed in the 1860 census for Linn County, Missouri.

1860 Census Susan Breedlove
1860 Census Breedlove Family3

I wasn’t looking at the older children on the census because I just assumed that they were the children of James Breedlove since they were born before the marriage to Susan, and James was old enough to be their father. Yet there they are: Sarah, Mary JANE, and Angeline! Once again, Myers children appear in the census with the same last name as the male head of household. They are living with their oldest sister Susan and her husband and new little nephew Jacob. I didn’t take this at face value, of course. I verified all of it. All the records support that Mary Jane “Mollie” Myers and Angeline Myers really are daughters of Jacob and his first wife Elizabeth. I’m thrilled to have more Myers children! I’m up to (if I include the possible twins I found) 11 children from four wives. I’ve been in genealogy heaven lately. This so totally makes up for the frustration of other parts of family research. I’m so grateful for all the records that still exist on this fractured family. It has been so much fun putting them back together again.

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1 Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1809-1992

2 U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

3 1860 US Census, Missouri, Linn, Township 59, Range 18, pg 625, HH# 169