Monday, November 20, 2017

Easing Into the Week

It may sound strange to hear that I consider this upcoming week to be an easy one. ("What?! This week?") You may be thinking of the endless shopping list, the multi-day preparations ahead, the hordes of company about to descend on your altogether-too-small humble abode—or the many miles you will be driving (in the snow, uphill both ways). After the schedule our family has been through in the past few weeks, though, this week will seem like a vacation. And it will be.

You have to remember: I've had a rocky relationship with this holiday called Thanksgiving. Not that I'm ungrateful; on the contrary, my family and I have been overwhelmingly blessed over the years. It's just that, ever since I was a child, Thanksgiving was a lonely holiday for me. In later years, it also marked the time of sad memories of family members lost. Yet, even approaching one Thanksgiving season, there was the surprise of some particularly welcome genealogical news, when a fellow researcher pointed out my relationship to a line reaching back to the landing of the Mayflower.

Putting my Thanksgiving angst in more recent context, this has been a hectic month. Our family owns a small training company and several times in this past year, my husband has been privileged to speak internationally. The only down side is when he is gone for long periods of time to locations which are not exactly politically stable.

Let's just say it was good to pick him up at the airport this past weekend.

For just this small while—this upcoming week leading up to Thanksgiving—it will be nice to set aside all the classes that need to be taught, all the scheduling obligations, all the papers needing to be reviewed, and all those incessant meetings. While we love what we do, it's nice to have a break. Just cooking a turkey and "all the fixin's" will be a welcome reprieve.

As for our visits here at A Family Tapestry, it will be a time to sit back and relax, as well. Those frustrating Rineharts aren't yielding me anything further of interest—it is almost looking like I will have to go wrestle the truth out of that family in person, either in Ohio or Pennsylvania at a later date. Meanwhile, nothing exciting has appeared on the research horizon, as far as other family stories are concerned.

That doesn't mean I'll be doing a disappearing act, though. With the change of responsibilities at our local genealogical society, I've been doing a bit of thinking, and perhaps the fireside-chat mood this holiday week evokes will be the perfect setting to just sit back and start a conversation on the note of those thoughts.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ahead of the Holidays

It's almost time for that dreaded event: Black Friday. Yes, I know, it would be nice to actually celebrate a holiday (Thanksgiving, in case you—like commercial America—hadn't noticed) instead of sweeping it out of the way so a more "profitable" season could be ushered in, but that is how our culture currently works.

Despite the caricature that the gift-giving season has become, I've noticed some backlash. For one thing, the stores themselves are devising ways to encourage people to get their holiday shopping done early—ostensibly so the impact of frenzied shoppers won't hit the front doors all at once next Friday. After all, this American rite of passage can't be easy on the employees, who sometimes even have to leave their own Thanksgiving dinners early to appease the "demand" for early shopping.

The other trend is that shoppers are looking for ways to escape the crush, themselves. This is, after all, an insane way to go about purchasing well-thought-out gifts for cherished family and friends.

At the same time, for a culture in which many have more than they could possibly need—or use—it makes sense to divert the gift-giving urge to items other than commodities. It's been an interesting trend to observe: that of replacing the gift of gadgets with presents providing experiences or non-consumable entities.

Perhaps that is what is behind the groundswell of people gifting each other with subscriptions to services like or "unique" items like the ethnicity reports that come with DNA test results. It's no surprise to see many genealogy-related companies join the clamor with pre-holiday sales; one of my best DNA matches from last year only tested because her husband gave her a DNA test just for fun the previous Christmas—he liked the holiday commercial. She had no tree posted online, but when responding to my email (one of the rare non-tree customers who actually did respond), told me she was willing to work with me on figuring out our impossible mutual ancestry. If it weren't for the lark of giving something "different" for the holiday season, I would have lost that opportunity.

Already, my count of DNA matches has leapt almost double the usual biweekly amount at one company—Family Tree DNA. It couldn't possibly be on account of the holiday sales; that company only announced their flash sale last Sunday night. What went into that forty six person jump to give me 2,531 matches at FTDNA for today's tally? My husband's FTDNA count only went up by twenty five to total 1,613. I'm holding steady with that biweekly rate of eight new matches at AncestryDNA, as is my husband; where I currently have 769 matches, he now has 383. (I won't even go into the issue with my shrinking results at 23andMe, where once again, I lost eleven matches to drop to 1,138 matches; at least my husband only lost two this time.)

No matter how many matches I might have at a DNA company, one thing is sure: after the holiday bulge hits the lab at these respective companies, there will be a lot more matches than we've seen in the past several weeks. Sales certainly make it more interesting to explore those matches, mainly because in the increased number comes a greater possibility of finding a close family member whose tree actually parallels some of my family surnames.

In preparation for that—as well as a result of the research I've been tackling for projects on current branches of interest—I've been expanding the number of descendants' lines I can add to my database. Since I've been focused on my mother-in-law's Pennsylvania Rinehart line and its related Gordons, you'll find it no surprise to learn her tree was the recipient of most of my research attention this time. Right now, I've got 13,395 in her tree, up 186 from two weeks ago.

In comparison, my own mother's line went up a measly thirty eight to total 11,682. And absolutely nothing happened over on my father's line and my father-in-law's line. The problem with that is: if I'm hoping to find a link to help resolve those lines where I'm stalled, I'm going to need a more robust tree to start with.

In a way, right now, we are getting ready to "harvest" the holidays. Eventually, those anticipated DNA test sales will materialize as matches for all of us. The trouble is, unless we're prepared with records and tools to determine how those mystery test-takers match us, all we're left with are guesses. And I've spent a few years struggling with DNA guesses. From experience, I can tell you there's nothing more frustrating in genealogy than getting close enough to a breakthrough answer, knowing you have a DNA match but not being able to figure out why that person matches. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Partnering to Augment Our Reach

In the midst of the rainy weather that blew through my stretch of the west coast last Thursday, our genealogical society happened to have the privilege of hosting probably the most important speaker ever to appear in our local lineup: Crista Cowan, corporate genealogist for

Of course, we bemoaned our fate of having our biggest day turn into our soggiest day, to date, of this season. Everything we had planned so meticulously to insure we were ready for the crowd that was sure to materialize for this learning opportunity seemed futile. There's no competing with yukky weather.

Things did not bode well for us from the minute, in mid-morning, that my power went out. A weather-related outage, it was an unscheduled annoyance which wouldn't be resolved, according to the utilities company, until after I had to leave my home to set up for the evening's meeting.

On the other side of the equation, our fearless speaker, traveling to us from her last engagement hundreds of miles away, had to scramble when her flight was diverted to another airport on account of the weather—and then landed later than anticipated. Hello, Bay area rush hour traffic. This was not in the itinerary.

Still, everything worked out, and we can now safely declare the event a success. In retrospect, I'm realizing this was an occasion which could not possibly have happened without one element—and facing the uncooperative weather has reminded me of the true support which bolstered our efforts. That key element was partnership.

Here's the thing: we are a small society—less than one hundred members. We may be situated in a city of three hundred thousand, but we have a lot of growing to do. More to the point, the facility which hosts our membership meetings provides a room which holds about thirty five people. A room that size would never do for a guest speaker of that magnitude. Nor would the facility's less than adequate technological capabilities; there is no way the wifi in that building would be up to handling a live demonstration of the Ancestry website.

What to do? The answer to that question—and likely to many challenges genealogical societies will face in upcoming years—is to seek innovative answers through partnerships. I'm not talking about formal, long-term arrangements, but simply the teamwork to put together an event that meets the needs of multiple organizations.

In our case, the answer to our quandary came quickly. We are a city which celebrates its ethnic diversity, and one such group had approached our society almost a year ago, asking us to help teach their members how to preserve their ethnic heritage through the skills inherent in family history research. Now that their native-language-speaking ancestors were all but gone, this association wanted to pass their heritage down to subsequent generations before it was forgotten entirely.

Once we had shared that educational opportunity with this other organization, we got to know them better—well enough to feel comfortable asking them if they were interested in partnering with us in other educational outreaches. Can anything make more sense than blending groups which seek to preserve their heritage with genealogical societies mandated to preserve local family history?

It was thanks to this ongoing partnership that we were, months later, able to bring in a well-known speaker and host her presentation in a top-notch facility (a lecture hall at a university in our city).

Every group is different, of course, and the potential for partnership must be viewed on a case by case basis. But it is as clear to me as the next day's sparkling sunshine against the raging storm of our event's evening that the only way our event could have been a success was if we were able to pool our resources and talents with another group sharing mutual goals.

Friday, November 17, 2017

If You Can't Find One Family,
Look for Another

Granted, I'm chasing myself in circles, trying to piece together the story of Sarah Rinehart Gordon, my mother-in-law's second great grandmother. Sarah's father, Simon, supposedly came from Greene County, Pennsylvania, but Sarah herself was born in Kentucky—and we found the tax records to confirm her father Simon (or at least someone with that exact name) was in Bracken County there. By the time I found Sarah in Perry County, Ohio, the home of my mother-in-law's family, she was married with several children.

So how did that Kentucky girl find a Greene County Gordon to marry? And what brought them all to Perry County, Ohio?

All of Sarah's first seven children were born in Pennsylvania—Greene County, specifically, was listed as the birthplace for some of them. Only with daughter Sarah, born in 1832, did the rest of Sarah's children report their birth as happening in Ohio.

It's obvious that, despite a birth in Kentucky, Sarah and her parents returned to Greene County. That was, after all, where she met her future husband, James Gordon.

In fact, Gordons were there aplenty to chase in that county in Pennsylvania, and the same book in which we searched in vain to discover Simon Rinehart's place in the Rinehart lineage in Greene County just happens to have plenty of Gordons to talk about, too. At the bottom of page 436 of Howard Leckey's The Tenmile Country and its Pioneers, we can easily spot James Gordon, firstborn son of William Gordon and Mary Carroll. As for James' marriage, the book simply reports that he "married Sarah Rinehart."

It would have been a nice gesture, in the midst of all that genealogical detail, if he had chosen to extrapolate on that entry just a little bit more. After all, in a county full of Rineharts—not to mention, full of women named Sarah Rinehart—one would think it would help to differentiate between two people claiming the same name in the same place.

Perhaps that's what makes this chase called genealogy so challenging—and yet so compelling. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Scoring a Triple D

If I can't find any further documentation about the Simon Rinehart I'm seeking—no, not the one ambushed by Native Americans back in Greene County, Pennsylvania, but the one who moved from there to Perry County, Ohio—I'll try a different approach. I'll look for any records which can verify that at least two of his children had his name and his wife's name mentioned in their own death records.

Of course, I'm still trying to make this second approach work. Despite finding Simon's daughter's death record, it contained a name for her mother which did not agree with a published report of that daughter's brother's parental names. And then, I couldn't even find the actual death record for that same brother, leaving me to wonder about editorial inaccuracies in published works.

Thankfully, though, Simon had more than two children. In his later years—like, those years when the census enumeration actually included the names of all family members, not just the head of household—Simon's census record included the name of three younger Rinehart women: Hannah, Lucinda, and Charlotte.

The difficulty was that these three thirty-something spinsters had some marks against them. For one thing, in the 1850 census, the blot on Charlotte's name was that she was listed as "idiotic." Likewise, that same label persisted in the 1860 census. While I can't yet locate the three sisters in the 1870 census, the one sister I can find in the 1880 census, Lucinda, was labeled as "insane."

Realizing that family members of an ancestor were seen in a less than sterling way can be a deflating discovery. Of course, the wide variety of diagnoses that could have been lumped into such labels in that time period don't necessarily constitute our understanding of those labels today. In addition, options left open to family members for dealing with such health issues in that century were drastically limited and often not adequate to address the individual's treatment needs.

A timely blog post by professional genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, "Do You Have a Defective Ancestor?" addresses such issues from both a historical and genealogical perspective. One suggestion was to look for the special census schedule that expanded upon that category focused on health issues. That schedule was known as the "Special Schedule of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes"—handily shrunken down to the abbreviation, the DDD Schedule.

Though poor Charlotte, the "idiotic" daughter of Simon and Ann Rinehart, was nowhere to be found by the time of the 1880 census, her sister Lucinda was listed that year, so I thought I'd check out her entry in the DDD Schedule.

Unfortunately, as I found out, not all states provided the federal government with their records from the extra schedules taken along with the regular enumeration. Still, I gave it a try since includes a copy of the 1880 DDD Schedule in their holdings. Yet, in browsing the collection's holdings, after selecting the state of Ohio, the listing of available counties that popped up did not include Perry County.

It would have been interesting to see what additional information could have been found for Lucinda in the DDD Schedule, but I have to remember my original reason for pursuing additional documentation: I wanted to find a record of her parents' names. Of course, I'd also like to find an entry for either Hannah or Charlotte, as well—though finding the right Hannah will be a challenge, since that was one of the favorite names in the extended Rinehart family.

Even if Lucinda was the last of the remaining Rinehart siblings, it was difficult to locate a death record for her. My first clue was an entry at Find A Grave—without the customary headstone photograph—but for dates it included only years and one of them seemed wrong. However, the entry also indicated the burial was in Perry County, in a section of the cemetery reserved for charity or "infirmary lots." The dates given were a birth in 1820 and a death in 1900.

Remembering the death records in the holdings at FamilySearch, I went back there to see if I could find an entry for Lucinda Rinehart. Under the spelling for Lucinda "Rhinhart," the entry contained the same year of birth (1820) but a full date of death: June 2, 1900. Her place of death was given simply as "infirmary." No marital status was indicated, so I didn't even have that hint to help determine if I had the right Lucinda Rinehart. And her place of birth was listed as "U.S.A." Clearly, there was no close relative available to provide the details of this abandoned woman's connections to family life.

Appreciative, at least, for the exactness of the full date of death, I followed the line for Lucinda's entry to the point on the second page where her parents' names would be listed. Sadly—and I had noticed that trend when I was searching for her brother Jesse's entry in the 1880s—it had been a habit in that county to omit collection of this information, despite a heading on the form clearly provided for that purpose.

So, was this the right Lucinda? Or not? Once again, history's record-keepers have cheated me out of an answer to my family history questions. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

About Those Old Genealogies

What is it about things that are claimed to be "old" and therefore more valuable than the same item from our own time period? Perhaps that makes sense to value an antique piece of furniture or artwork from a prior period of history. But family trees? Though some people get excited to find an old genealogy about their family, I've learned it is quite possible for diligent genealogists of prior centuries to make just as many mistakes as those of our current century.

The only difference, in finding an "old" genealogy of a family I'm researching, is that I can check out what my fellow researchers of a hundred years ago might have heard about their roots. But those grandmothers of the early eighteen hundreds, say, who passed along the family lore to their younger generations certainly didn't have the opportunity to check out those family legends against the proof in the digitized documents we can so easily call up today.

Your eyes may have lit up when you saw me mention discovering an old history book about the families living in western Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. After all, the Rinehart family which still keeps me in the dark about their origins were once from Greene County, Pennsylvania. And other researchers have also felt sure that my Perry County, Ohio, Rineharts were indeed once residents of Greene County.

Taking a look at the entry about the Rinehart family in this book—The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families—does show us one useful detail, at least. Looking over the Rinehart genealogy detailed in those pages, beginning at page 322, gives us a clue that that family liked to re-use the same names, generation after generation. They nearly wore out the use of names like Simon and Jesse. Cassa, Sarah, and Hannah were winners in the name-after contest, too.

The difficulty was how hard it made it to sort out which Rinehart family might be the correct line for this Simon Rinehart I've been seeking. Yet, if I kept my bearings by insuring that other details about our man were also represented, it would still be possible to not be led astray by all those same names in the Rinehart extended family.

The trouble with all those Simons, however, was not in how many of them there were, but in how nobody among the whole of them shared the same details our man would have to have. For instance, there is no Simon listed with a wife named Ann. Furthermore, if this Simon was father of our Sarah Rinehart Gordon, he would have to be a man born at least twenty years before Sarah's arrival in the late 1790s. As far as I can tell, no Simon mentioned in The Tenmile Country contained the full complement of those requirements.

What complicates matters is that this same Greene County is the one in which I found several of our family's Gordon relatives, too. It is obvious the Gordons from Greene and the Rineharts from Greene lived close enough to each other to know each other well. In addition, despite the distance between the two counties—Greene, where the families once lived, and Perry County, Ohio, where some of the Gordons and Rineharts eventually settled—I am able to find a cluster of those same families in Perry who once were neighbors back in Greene.

There are so many names, it almost makes me want to sketch out this Rinehart family line, as detailed in The Tenmile Country. Better yet, to enter it all into a test tree database in my account. I've got to come up with a way to examine the narrative for gaps. After all, Bruce Anderson found some missing segments, as I mentioned yesterday. There may be more.

The most glaring false start is the Simon Rinehart reported in Tenmile who lost his life during an ambush out on his frontier property. Obviously, he couldn't be the one who ended up in Perry County. None of the other Simons mentioned in the book would match the age and dates, though. Could there be other branches of this family who were not included in the genealogy in this book? Or does our Simon Rinehart coincidentally come from the same county, but not the same Rinehart family at all?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Never Try to Reinvent the Wheel

The beauty of those old online genealogical forums was that they became a gathering place for like minded researchers to puzzle over the same challenges. There, we could hash things out together and find out who had already tried an approach without gaining any answers. Eliminating those failed attempts before repeating them, we could collectively spend our time focusing on solving the problem through newer—or at least untried—approaches.

The best of those ideas lay, harvested, in my old file folder for Rinehart. After having that resource tucked away for nearly twenty years, it was time to stop spinning my wheels and review how others had already attempted to solve the problem—and failed—and avoid those paths, while checking out the ideas rendered on possible better approaches.

Although the collection of ideas I had stashed in that folder presented a mishmash of several researchers' notes, the review was worth it. Among other things, one man pointed out what he felt were some glaring errors about our Rineharts in those published histories of the late 1880s.

In a 1981 paper which the author, an Ohio man named Bruce Anderson, entitled "The Rineharts of Perry County, Ohio," the comparison was made between what was known about those Perry County Rineharts and the Rineharts back in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The author prefaced his observation with this explanation,
I was tracing my family tree and had come to a dead end on Thomas Rinehart. I noticed that there were only four Rineharts in Perry County in 1840 and none in 1830.

The conclusion the author came to was that those hard-to-find Perry County Rineharts were back in Greene County in 1830. Granted, the material Bruce Anderson was able to access at that time probably didn't afford him as many varied resources as the documents we can now find online, so he didn't provide a completely satisfying argument. But he did reintroduce one resource I had forgotten about: Howard L. Leckey's The Tenmile Country and Its Pioneer Families.

While it is true that Anderson compared several details similar in the families of both locations—Ohio and Pennsylvania—he still didn't point out exactly where he would have placed Simon on the Pennsylvania Rinehart pedigree. However, what notes he did provide helped me get inside another researcher's head and explore his insights into our common research problem.

In some ways, I do miss the camaraderie and exchange of ideas between researchers during that earlier phase of online research. Those emails we exchanged allowed us to bounce research ideas off each other. While I may not have any research partners for this current Rinehart quandary, just having that thick file folder in which I saved all those twenty year old comments may help me figure out how to resolve my research question on how my Ohio Rinehart family connected with the ones in Greene County, Pennsylvania. At least it will keep me from being tempted to try reinventing the research wheel on this problem. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

In puzzling over possible misreporting of a mother's maiden name on an ancestor's death record, there is always the option of cross-checking by looking up the answer on a sibling's certificate. Thus, I thought it would be an easy matter of finding Sarah Rinehart Gordon's brother Jesse listed in the not-yet-indexed Perry County, Ohio, records. After all, I already had the date of death for Jesse—March 1, 1880—and even the township in which he lived, thanks to a report in the 1883 publication, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio.

Looking up the death entry in the microfilmed collection, "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001" would be a snap. Yes, the collection has not yet been indexed, but it is logically laid out. First, I clicked on the county and the volume I wished to peruse. Then, since it was arranged in date order, I made an educated guess and plunged in.

I noticed the pages were set approximately by date, and—thankfully—also in alphabetical order, separated by townships. I went to the section for 1880 deaths, found the entries for Pike Township, where the Jesse Rinehart property was situated, and let my eyes scan the entries for "R" along the left hand column.


I went back and noticed a few further details. For one thing, I discovered that most of the entries were in alphabetical order. Not all. To complicate matters, occasionally the clerk would get mixed up and, instead of using the last name, first name format, would reverse the order, so I had to go back and search for any misplaced entries in the J section.

Still no Jesse Rinehart.

Next, I noticed that the date entered in the far left column of some pages was not the date of death, itself, but just the date in which the Assessor of the township had made his entry. And each set of entries could span nearly six months or more of deaths for that locality. In fact, there were several pages I discovered in which the range of dates spanned two years—say, 1880 and 1881. I went back and checked an even farther date range, just in case.

After still no sign of my Rinehart man, I began to wonder whether the history book had made a misprint of Jesse's date of death. Perhaps he didn't die in 1880, but maybe in 1881. Or, what if that "fact" was gleaned, mistakenly, from that left column, which was really the date of the assessor's entry, not the date of the event itself? I extended my search backwards in time, too, in case it was merely the entry that occurred in March, 1880.

This Jesse Rinehart was not cooperating.

"Forget this," I told myself. "Go look up his will."

If you think that provided me any relief from my frustration, think again. Nothing is ever easy.

Perhaps our Jesse died, not only in a different township—and believe me, I checked the whole of Perry County—but in a different county altogether. And I'm not game for a search of Licking and Muskingum and Fairfield and Athens and Morgan counties. There's got to be another way.

It's just that I haven't exactly come up with it yet. But I will. Meanwhile, back to the drawing board. There are a good number of other notes in my twenty-year-old Rinehart file still to review. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Getting Back to the Paper Trail

If I couldn't figure out what family stories—even published ones—might have been thinking of when talking about those once-upon-a-time "three brothers" (or four), my best bet was not to try and crash the genealogy party, but insure that dull and dreary due diligence in locating some solid governmental records. So, in seeking what I could find about my puzzling Simon Rinehart of Pennsylvania—no, Kentucky, no, maybe back in Pennsylvania, no, now it's Ohio—was to see what else was stored in the records in Perry County, Ohio, the place of his death.

What I did know for sure—at least if I even had the right Simon Rinehart—was that, upon his death sometime in either 1852 or 1853, he appointed his son as executor of his will. That son's name, we've learned, is specifically Jesse Rinehart. (Thankfully, he rated much more of a mention than merely "my beloved son"—although the insertion of the words "my son" almost appeared to be an afterthought by his aging father.)

So what can be found about this Jesse Rinehart of Perry County, Ohio? Quite a bit from census records, thankfully, but there was another source I had forgotten to consult. There it was in my file folder from the 1990s, though, finally uncovered from its file-cabinet exile after all these years.

That source was one of those county history books which had been so prevalent in the late 1800s. We had already looked up the Rinehart family in the history book for Greene County, Pennsylvania, the place from which the family had emigrated earlier in that century. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me to consult the same sort of resource for any mention of the family in the county where they eventually settled.

There it was, though, in the biographical sketches included in History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, the 1883 publication compiled by A. A. Graham: an entry regarding Jesse Rinehart. In that report—if the information provided there was correct—that Jesse was born November 26, 1806, in Greene County, Pennsylvania. We also receive confirmation that his father was, indeed, Simon Rinehart, although his mother's maiden name was listed as Ann Wise, a variation on the name Wiley we had seen in Jesse's sister Sarah's death certificate.

Of course, discrepancies like that tamper with my sense of security that I've finally accessed the confirming documentation I crave. Do I believe an Ohio governmental death record? Or prefer the biographical sketch memorializing a man who had passed away barely three years before a book's publication? I'd say the next step would be to locate Jesse's own death record first, then pursue any other records I can find on Jesse and his sister Sarah Rinehart Gordon, and records of any other siblings I can locate in the meantime.

Above: Excerpt from biographical sketch of Jesse Rinehart, found on page 523 of the Perry County surnames within the 1883 book, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio, compiled by A. A. Graham and published by W. H. Beers and Company of Chicago.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

About Those Brothers

There is a reason I hesitate when I run across family "histories" which include reference to the proverbial three brothers who were immigrants to this country. In some cases, that very scenario could not be corroborated with documentation at all, though in other cases, there wasn't any way the details could be proven. Usually, this involved a narrative in which one or two of the brothers either disappeared, or had some grave misfortune befall them at the beginning of the story.

In the case of the enigmatic Simon Rinehart, that migrating farmer who showed up in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio in the early 1800s, his might well have been part of the family history I mentioned yesterday about three brothers. But when I look back at my notes and pull up another story from a different source, starting out vaguely the same, I start to see caution signs flash before my eyes.

A four page collection of notes sent in 1999 to a Rinehart researcher with whom I had been collaborating bore the heading, "Reinhart Genealogy; the John Reinhart/Rinehart Line." The originator of the note explained,
From a handtyped document, stamped "from the collection of Rev. Fred Cochran," a copy of which was obtained from Cornerstone Genealogical Library, Waynesburg PA on July 9, 1996.
All well and good to this point. But not for long. The next section began with the sentence of which I have an objection:
It has been legend that four brothers left their home in the farming region of the Rhine River Valley in Germany because of wars there.

Four brothers? What happened to three?

I know, I know: when it comes to family "legends," details can be strewn all over the place. Perhaps I shouldn't be so insistent on getting things right. But there might just be another dynamic to consider in this situation.

Yesterday, on my way to Houston to attend Family Tree DNA's conference for their volunteer group project managers, I did my customary travel routine: wait for my flight to take off, then pull out a book to make the time fly.

For yesterday's book, I pulled out a volume I've been trying to finish for the last two months: The Invisible Gorilla. (I can hear you snickering about my yet again not finishing a book I said I was going to read, but hey, I got a bit overzealous with my Fall Cleanup Project and didn't get around to finishing the book.)

In the second chapter—after authors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons finish their explanation on what gorillas have to do with anything in modern American life—they discussed something they call "the illusion of memory." They gave several examples of the phenomenon—from two eyewitnesses of the same crime having wildly divergent recollections of the facts only fifteen minutes after seeing it take place, to several people in the same office remembering, quite differently, what happened when they all, together, first heard the news about the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

That, it turns out, is not only the case for what cognitive psychologists refer to as "flashbulb memories" of high-stress situations, but also for the more mundane experiences we endure on a daily basis.

By the end of the chapter, the reader comes away with a sense of marvel that any two companions sharing the same experience could remember it the same.

And then we genealogists blithely try to replicate the lives of people who lived one hundred years ago or more. What repercussions of the "illusion of memory" might there be when the recollections are distorted over the iterations of several generations?

Friday, November 10, 2017

There Were Three Brothers . . .

You may have thought I was kidding when I mentioned the reason why I'm struggling to specifically identify this Simon Rinehart of Perry County, Ohio, as father of Sarah Rinehart Gordon, my mother-in-law's second great grandmother. As you will see, I'm not.

It is only conjecture at this point, of course, that the Simon Rinehart who died in Perry County was one and the same as the Simon Rinehart who paid taxes in Bracken County, Kentucky, and who might have hailed from Greene County, Pennsylvania. At least, the part about his origin in Greene County may have some validity, if only because Simon's daughter had to meet up with her future husband at some point. Sarah's beau, as it turns out, was part of the extensive Gordon family from Greene County.

Along with the Gordons, the Rineharts also maintained a presence in that same county, thus adding yet another reason for why I need to get my Simons right. There were, over time, several Simon Rineharts in the vicinity—along with several Rineharts named Thomas and John. There may have been good reason for this duplication of names: with three supposed progenitors bearing those same given names, not to mention the propensity to name children of the next generation after their revered ancestors, there were eventually a lot of Simon, Thomas and John Rineharts living in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

The explanation may have been captured in Samuel P. Bates' 1888 History of Greene County, Pennsylvania. In a chapter on the history of that county's Franklin Township, stuck right in the midst of the narrative, the author inserts a quote of four paragraph's length. There was no explanation for the source of the quote, though it was clearly set apart from the rest of the chapter by the encapsulating quote marks.

Still, the proverbial phrasing at the start of the entry makes me wonder not only about its source, but its veracity. There is something about those "three brothers" legends that prompts me to hold them suspect.

At any rate, the tale provides an explanation for the ensuing multitudes of Simons, Thomases and Johns in the Rinehart pedigree. See for yourself whether this entry is once-upon-a-time worthy:
Three brothers, Simon, Thomas and John Rinehart, Germans, fresh from the Rhine Valley of Faderland, occupied the Coal Lick Run region, and held it by priority of right.
As it turned out, both John and Simon were subsequently killed in clashes with the native population in the sparsely-populated (and disputed) borderlands of early Pennsylvania. Though the narrative provides no time frame, it does reveal a glimpse of how many subsequent generations bore those names of John and Simon Rinehart in honor of those young parents who had lost their lives.

My task now is to set aside any legend-building and see if I can reconstruct the family line to explain what place, if any, our Simon may have held in the bigger picture.

Above: Excerpt from the 1880 book, History of Greene County, Pennsylvania, providing an account of three Rinehart brothers who may—or may not—have been part of an earlier generation of the Rinehart family which included the Simon Rinehart who died in Perry County, Ohio. Image courtesy Internet Archive.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

About That Son Jesse

Perhaps I sounded a bit too petulant when I groused about the 1852 will of Simon Rinehart, the man I hope was the third great grandfather of my mother-in-law. I certainly am grateful for all the kindly-offered help. Still, it's not that I don't know the name of Simon's wife; I've already found that in both a census record for Simon and his beloved, and in the death record for his supposed daughter, Sarah Rinehart Gordon.

The reason I wanted that beloved wife named in the will was that I believe in collecting evidence. And not just a little bit of evidence; I want a lot of proof. Especially when it comes to high-stress scenarios like reporting hard-to-remember details like mother's maiden name on the heels of a loved one's death. So, you see, I really wanted that will to gush on a wee bit more and say, "my beloved wife, Ann."

But let's set aside the issue of Ann and the will for a moment, and shift our attention to one other detail in that same document: the mention of an executor with not only the same surname as Simon's, but a descriptor, thankfully revealing the man's relationship to Simon. The will mentions the man as "my son, Jesse."

The reason I was particularly gratified to see that name mentioned in Simon's will was that I had, last week, noticed a strange entry just above Simon's in the 1840 census enumeration. The surname was the same as Simon's—Rinehart—but I couldn't quite make out what the first name was. At first, looking at it with twenty-first century eyes, I thought it looked like "Lebec," but what proud American father would name his child something like that?

Though the image wasn't very clear, I had to approach it with a nineteenth-century mindset. Remembering that, back in yet an earlier century than that, when writing the letter "s" twice, the first letter—at least to our modern thinking—would be rendered by a letter that looks like an "f." Checking that 1840 census image, I noticed there was a faint line descending from what I had originally thought was a "b." If that were the case, then the name, other than that first sloppy letter, could possibly be spelled e-s-s-e-c.

To guess at what that first letter might have been, I had to survey the rest of the page. Though there wasn't anything that looked exactly like that capital letter at the beginning of the mystery Rinehart's name, I thought the "J" in Jacob Ashbaugh's entry looked vaguely the same. At least the descending portion of the "J" didn't reach below the line. Checking another James and then a Joshua still further above on that page, it was obvious that this enumerator didn't have a standardized style of handwriting for rendering that letter "J."

If that then left me with a spelling that began J-e-s-s-e, it would make sense to conclude that this enumerator—whose handwriting already appeared to be facing some challenges—may have struggled with a blob in his ink delivery system, and that last "c" might actually have been a second "e."

At any rate, the name in the 1840 census appearing just above Simon Rinehart's would likely be that of the son he named, thirteen years later, as the executor to his will. Notice, too, how the name just above Jesse's turned out to be exactly the same as that of one of the Rinehart will's witnesses, Matthew Brown.

Though the 1840 census didn't specify which township in Perry County contained the two Rinehart households, both Simon and Jesse appeared in the 1850 census in Pike township, though not on contiguous properties. And, after both Simon and his wife Ann were gone, in the 1860 census, Jesse's household was enumerated right before the household which names the three Rinehart women who had appeared in the continuation page under Simon's household, back in 1850.

While it's gratifying to locate material actually linking these members of the Rinehart family, I'm still missing one more detail: any record or records which can demonstrate that this Simon Rinehart and his son, Jesse, are related to the focus of my search, my mother-in-law's second great grandmother, Sarah Rinehart Gordon. Because there wasn't any mention given in Simon's will of other children, we'll trace what we can find about this one identified son, Jesse, and see if later records provide any clues.

Above: As it turns out, the original copy of Simon Rinehart's will included that exact style of handwriting, in regard to the double "s" for Jesse's name, showing that at least in Perry County, Ohio, that style was still in current use at the time in which Simon drew up his will in 1853. Image courtesy, from "Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996," images, FamilySearch ( : 1 July 2014), Perry, Probate case files 1820-1885 no 1-299, image 1907 of 3089; county courthouses, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Unto My Beloved Wife"

Why don't those wives mentioned in nineteenth century wills have names? Even if they do get all the riches left behind by their doting husbands, the legal document referring to them does me no good if it doesn't confirm their name.

Because I'm not yet entirely sure this Simon Rinehart from Perry County, Ohio—originally from Pennsylvania, then Bracken County, Kentucky, if he is the right one—was the father of Sarah Rinehart Gordon, my mother-in-law's second great grandmother, I felt the need to poke around other records to look for confirmation that I had the right man. It would have been helpful to find something encouraging like his wife's name alongside his, with their daughter Sarah mentioned in the same breath, for good measure.

Perhaps that was too much to hope for.

I thought looking up a Perry County will for someone named Simon Rinehart might deliver the goods I was seeking, so I took a look around. Correct that: I took a shortcut, in case the probate records for Perry County were not already searchable online; I visited website of W. David Samuelson, otherwise known as SAMPUBCO. For a long time, I had known he kept up on locating the type of legal documentation genealogists are keen on finding, and that his site included Perry County information.

Sure enough, in a long alphabetized list for Perry County documents, there was one lone Rinehart listed: Simon, thankfully. Along with his name, the entry included the volume and page number for his will, along with a link to the file at FamilySearch. In the subsequent subdirectory, I selected "Wills, 1852-1877, vol. 1-2" and started looking through the tiles until I arrived at page 27.

The May 23, 1852, will was a bit too simplified and uncomplicated for my genealogical taste. I was hoping for something a little less sentimental and more specific; his wife's name and a catalog of all his children's names—with a few married daughters' spouse's names thrown in for good measure—would have helped.

That, however, was not what I got. It started out simply:
I, Simon Rinehart, of the County of Perry and State of Ohio do make and publish this my last will and testament...

After a brief mention that he intended his executors to settle all his debts, he got to the main—and apparently only—point:
I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife all my lands, tenements + accoutrements wheresoever situated, together with all my personal property, moneys, credits and assets, in short, all my property both real + personal of whatsoever kind or nature it may be, to have and to hold the same forever.

Too bad he didn't take as much care in describing the people he was leaving behind. There was one glimmer of hope for me, however. Wills require executors. This is where I fervently hoped Simon didn't follow suit and appoint that responsibility to "my beloved wife."

As it turned out, there were two executors named. One was a man named Isaac Brown; no explanation was offered for who he was or if he was related somehow to the Rinehart family. The other executor, thankfully, was listed as "my son, Jesse Rinehart."

At last, I had a name to connect to this Simon Rinehart's family. While it wasn't the name of his wife, at least it was a solid identity which could hopefully lead me to other family connections—both within Perry County and back in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where I suspected the Rinehart family originated.

Above: Excerpt from the Perry County, Ohio, will of Simon Rinehart, drawn up on May 23, 1852, presented under oath on March 8, 1853, to probate judge William Brown by the two witnesses to the will, Peter Long and Matthew Brown; image from "Wills, 1852-1877 vol. 1-2," page 27, courtesy

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The One Good Thing About Taxes

Put simply: taxes create a paper trail. While they may be painful to pay at the time, participation in that historic event, say, two hundred eighteen years ago can leave us now with enough governmental budget dust to sway a genealogical opinion about an elusive ancestor.

One such ancestor, in my family's case, was the third great grandfather of my mother-in-law, a man by the name of Simon Rinehart. According to reports from other researchers of this family, Simon's daughter Sarah was born in the late 1790s in a state newly-admitted to the Union: the state of Kentucky.

I've always looked askance at such reports of a woman from that time period and place subsequently marrying a man from back in Pennsylvania, and then moving to Ohio to raise their family, but it may turn out that the simple—albeit painful—act of paying one's taxes might just have been the trick to confirm this one part of a crazy eighteenth century itinerary.

Of course, there's no way I could have found any such documentation through dint of will or my own research powers. Only thanks to online search capabilities could I run across any record. But there it was: from a collection at labeled Kentucky Tax Lists, 1799-1801. Dubbed the "second census" of 1800 Kentucky—itself a brand new state missing that first United States census by the time of its formation—the searchable list is transcribed from original tax lists now in the holdings of the Kentucky Historical Society.

If Sarah Rinehart was indeed born in Kentucky, as census records in the later decades of her life asserted, it was possible that her father's name could be showing on such a tax list. It was worth a look.

The reassuring entry—Simon "Rineheart" in Bracken County, dated 22 November, 1799—confirmed which of two previous self-published genealogies contained the correct information. Not only can I confirm the family's presence in the state, I can now safely rule out the possibility of Sarah's birth farther south in Somerset, Kentucky.

The discovery also sent me scurrying to the FamilySearch wiki to learn all I could about additional resources for Bracken County. To my dismay, I learned that marriage records for this county were only available from 1797 onward; that county would not provide me any information to help confirm or rule out a Kentucky marriage for Sarah's father Simon and his bride, Ann Wiley. My only possibilities for resolving that question would be to look to records from where the family likely emigrated, back in Greene County, Pennsylvania—or hope that the county from which Bracken was carved (either Campbell or Mason counties) would have holdings that predated Bracken County's formation.

Knowing the possible scenario from later census records—with Simon born in Pennsylvania and Ann coming from New Jersey—it seemed unlikely, in that era, that Simon would have traveled from Pennsylvania with an unmarried Ann to set up housekeeping in distant Kentucky. While it seemed the most logical approach to look for their marriage record in Pennsylvania, though, finding the right Simon Rinehart in Greene County, Pennsylvania, would turn out to be a search with challenges of its own.

Above: Yes, it was Bracken County in Kentucky where Sarah Rinehart Gordon's parents had settled—at least for the decade in which her Kentucky birth occurred. Excerpt from digitized image of transcribed tax records from the state of Kentucky courtesy

Monday, November 6, 2017

Where Simon Says He Is

When self-published family histories all seem to be screaming different details as fact which couldn't possibly co-exist with the others, the only solution to resort to is that of hunting up the original documentation. With the pursuit of Sarah Rinehart Gordon's family story from the late 1700s, the challenge might turn out to be that records from those pioneers' Kentucky wilderness may not even be in existence. Let's see what we can find.

We've already found one record—thanks to a comment by reader Marian Koalski—listing Sarah's parents as Simon "Rineheart" and Ann Wiley. Still, that was Sarah's own death record from 1876, found in Perry County, Ohio. What about earlier records?

The difficulty with tracing Sarah's earlier years is that this woman apparently didn't stay put in one location. In fact, the narrative of her story's locations makes her sound like a child of a much more modern era. Reports consistently gave her state of birth as Kentucky, not the Ohio location where she was resident as a married woman, according to the census records for 1850, 1860 and 1870. And yet, she married a man—James Gordon—who, with his extended family, moved to Perry County from Pennsylvania, not Kentucky.

Since families back then, if moving at all, seemed to migrate within a group, I wondered whether Sarah's parents—still back in Kentucky at the time, for all I knew—might have moved with their daughter. Since Rinehart was a popular surname in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where the Gordons once lived, it was worth testing that hypothesis.

I took a look at what I could find in the earlier census records for Perry County. While it is a matter of guesswork to determine whether any given head of household in a pre-1850 census is the right individual, at least I could see whether the hypothesis could be ruled out entirely. If no Simon Rinehart in Perry County, Ohio, then I get to nix that theory.

Getting a running jump with the 1850 census for Perry County, it turns out there was a Simon Rinehart listed. Added bonus: living with him was (presumably) his wife, named "Anne." In addition, on the following page, three more names were added to the household: Hannah "Rhinehart," Lucinda, and Charlotte. Of course, given the limitations of the 1850 census, I can't just presume they were daughters of Simon and Ann, but there is that slim possibility.

The 1850 census listed this Simon Rinehart's age as seventy six, giving a potential birth year of 1774. Ann's age was given as sixty eight. While Ann's birthplace was reported to be New Jersey, I was particularly interested to see that Simon's birth location was stated to be Pennsylvania. Despite his daughter's claim to have been born in Kentucky, I happen to know there were a good number of Rineharts in the same Pennsylvania location where Sarah's husband's family once lived: Greene County. At this point, I am envisioning a scenario in which Simon meets and marries his bride, Ann Wiley, in Greene County, rather than any romantic tryst on riverfront real estate in northern Kentucky.

The 1840 census for Perry County, while lacking the detail of the 1850 record, did include a head of household named Simon Rinehart. While the household did including a puzzling young male between the ages of ten and fifteen, it also showed an older man, aged somewhere between sixty and seventy. Encouragingly, the household also included a woman between the ages of fifty and sixty, as well as four younger females, one in each of the age divisions from five to ten, ten to fifteen, fifteen to twenty, and twenty to thirty.

If Simon and Ann reported their ages, in 1850, as seventy six and sixty eight, then the age slots for the 1840 census would match up with their presumed earlier ages of sixty six and fifty eight. With the three younger women, in 1850, aged thirty eight, thirty five and thirty two, respectively, things didn't fall as neatly into place—one would expect three tick marks in the category for ages twenty to thirty, not one—but knowing how iffy age reporting could be in those older enumerations, I can't rule that entry out entirely at this point.

What the 1850 census does give me, though, are three additional names to trace, in my effort to determine whether this Simon and Ann Rinehart in Perry County were parents of—and had migrated with—the Sarah Rinehart Gordon who had claimed she was born, back in the 1790s, in Kentucky.


Above: Excerpt from 1850 U.S. Census, showing household of Simon and Anne "Rhinehart" of Perry County, Ohio; digitized image courtesy

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Things That Count

For a seemingly never-ending task like "completing" one's family tree, it helps to keep track of progress. Most likely, it's because I need the encouragement that I do a bi-weekly count of how many names have been added to my family trees and our DNA matches at three separate companies. I like the fact that the numbers keep going up—well, everywhere except the DNA match count at 23andMe, where customers apparently didn't take the test to work on their pedigree—and it helps me gauge my progress.

For instance, lately I've been working on a puzzle regarding my mother-in-law's Rinehart ancestors. It's easy to see that is where I put my focus in the last two weeks' work, for her tree has jumped from 12,822 names to 13,209—387 names added in a mere fourteen days. Correspondingly—since I can't keep up a blazing pace like that on all four of the trees I regularly maintain—my own mother's tree simmered on the back burner, adding only twenty six names to bring the new total there to 11,644.

Sometimes, I hit a fluke in my progress—like realizing I had forgotten to add in all my husband's cousins' families—and a quick straightening up can add a tidy increase. For my father-in-law's Irish family, that means adding thirty nine names to boost the total up to 1,392. (I even managed to add one more name to my own father's tree with an accidental discovery of an obituary, so now there are 452 in that tree.)

But it's all on account of those DNA tests that I'm pushing the margins on those four family trees. I can't very well trace the connections to fourth cousins in our DNA results if I don't know the most recent common ancestors—in that case, third great grandparents—that connect us. Given how so few DNA test takers seem to have built their trees to that depth, I also like to build my own trees out in the opposite direction—what people now call "reverse genealogy."

The idea is that, having contacted those DNA matches, we can all work together to fill in the missing parts of the branches in the family tree. Of course, the flip side is that it becomes irritating to see a viable match show up on the list, yet discover the person has no interest in participating in the genealogical side of the process. That is what makes the disappearing match numbers at 23andMe so bothersome for me. I can only imagine the amplified sense of frustration for adoptees who are hoping for a breakthrough with this last-ditch DNA effort.

Perhaps that is the throbbing pain point that AncestryDNA jabbed this past week in issuing their blog post entitled, innocuously enough, "Continued Commitment to Consumer Privacy and Control." Considering the 270 reactions to the Ancestry post—most of respondents, especially adoptees, protesting the change—this is not simply a matter of people disliking the prospect of change.

Perhaps I'll just have to resign myself to seeing shrinking match numbers at two companies now, instead of just one. After all, I lost three more matches this week at 23andMe—in the face of what surely must be an overall increasing count for their business—to total 1,149. Similarly, for my husband, the count at 23andMe was down by eleven to 1,183. With that company, we started the year with 1,198 and 1,256, respectively. The down trend will likely replicate itself at AncestryDNA with this new change.

Hopefully, the other company we've tested at—Family Tree DNA—will not follow suit. There, I have 2,485 matches (up 26 for the past two weeks), and my husband currently has 1,588 (up 20)—with the major holiday sales about to boost the numbers well into the new year.

It's understandable, with the litany of naysayers taking their complaints to the pages of digital news outlets, that direct to consumer DNA testing companies are seeking to pro-actively protect themselves, legally. Privacy is an important issue, and there are no guarantees that current legislation designed to protect consumers in this instance will continue to remain on the books in an unaltered form. Perhaps we don't realize how good we have it, as genealogical researchers, with the current testing atmosphere. If only there were a way to pedal faster.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Now Indexing:
More New York Immigration Records

Two weeks ago, held one of their Worldwide Indexing Events. With all the hoopla they could muster, they encouraged volunteers everywhere to try their hand at transforming already-digitized historical records into a form allowing computers to do the heavy lifting for us family history buffs still on the hunt for missing ancestors.

Since I already try—hoopla or not—to index at least a batch or two of records each month, I figured I could join in the fun on the designated weekend. Turns out, I was in good company. According to a recent report on the indexing site, nearly eighty thousand people joined me in the effort. Better yet, we all managed to index seven million names and add them to the search results at Not bad for one weekend.

And now, it's November. You know me: my philosophy is to keep working at a goal—take it slow and steady. So, hoopla or not, it's a new month and time to index, once again.

This month, I decided to go back to the same collection I had been working on in October. It was gratifying to see, this time, that the collection—naturalization records for New York—has jumped to ninety nine percent completion from the puny few percentage points it had registered at the beginning of the Worldwide Indexing Event.

I had a few reasons for revisiting that collection. Besides the fact that it had barely started showing participation last month, New York is home turf for me, as it was for my immigrant ancestors. I may seem to be altruistically helping others when I index, but the truth of the matter is that I have some skin in this game. Who knows? I might end up indexing the very record of a relative who has eluded me all these years.

That's not all. Indexing naturalization records, whether in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, makes me quite aware of the resources which are daily becoming accessible to all of us who use online resources like FamilySearch. I hear from students all the time that they can't find a trace of their immigrant ancestors—while I know from my indexing experiences that, bit by bit, these documents are getting added online, where they are accessible by a lightning-quick search protocol. It does pay to go back and revisit those ancestors' files which had us stymied in the past.

That's not to say that indexing is a snap. This month's session did present some challenges for me. But what I like about the newly reformatted indexing program is that there are help guides at every step of the process, there to answer questions that might pop up while the indexer is in the midst of the task. If you can follow step-by-step instructions, you can do this. If you are unsure, the FamilySearch people have even provided a sample tutorial so people can try their hand at it. Besides, for the less experienced indexers, each batch is rated by level of difficulty; you can choose to start out at a very simple level until you gain confidence.

Since the records I worked on this time were nearly completed, I doubt I'll be able to work on this same record set next month, but I'm sure I can find an immigration-related batch from another city. There's always more to work on, whether in the United States or another country, whether in English or another language. The sheer vastness of the digitized holdings at never ceases to amaze me.

Friday, November 3, 2017

It Pays to Look Twice

I'm wrestling with the question—again, after a twenty year hiatus—of just how my mother-in-law's second great grandmother could have been born in Kentucky but grew up in Pennsylvania and possibly got married there, then raised her family in central Ohio. All, of course, occurring before the 1850 census could shed much light on the family situation.

I'm not particularly fond of relying on the older census records predating the expanded data included with the 1850 enumeration. Granted, even that record was a stripped-down version, compared to later enumerations. Still, I'll take what I can get—and when it comes to families fond of re-using the same names as were appropriated in the previous generation, it's nice to see a well-rounded snapshot of just which Simon Rinehart family we're talking about.

Of course, when I last was tackling the issue of the origin and parentage of this particular second great grandmother—Sarah Rinehart, wife of James Gordon of Greene County, Pennsylvania—I was doing it, well, over twenty years ago. Things were different then. While I couldn't access many records online for Greene County, Pennsylvania, it just so happened that the Gordon family's home in later years—Perry County, Ohio—was a mere hour's drive from the home of relatives whom I visited nearly every year.

You just can't pass up chances like that for some hands-on research. I'd find myself wandering the cemeteries of Somerset, stalwart husband and captive daughter in tow, or visiting the county courthouse in New Lexington to peer through old records.

At that time, the courthouse holdings were accessed in the form of typewritten indices, by type of record: birth, marriage, death. Because of the index set up, records were listed alphabetically. It occurred to me, given the distance traveled to even get to Ohio from my west coast home, that it might be more expeditious to have the clerk photocopy not one, but every record for the surnames I was seeking. Thus, I received copies of all the pages for the Flowers surname, for Gordon, for Metzger, and for Snider. Once at home, I could glean the basic information and insert it into my database at my leisure.

That seemed like a viable plan at the time. It spared me the agony of realizing I might have missed something, once back in California—and then have to either mail away for the missing piece, or wait (and remember) for the next year's trip.

Once entered into my own records, the index copies were filed out of sight and out of mind. Meanwhile, twenty years slipped by, and it never occurred to me that there might be something more to be discovered in ensuing additions to online holdings. After all, I had the dates I was seeking, attached to the right names. With the exception of those few frustrating name-afters, where I couldn't determine which of two cousins with the same name, for instance, was the correct one to enter into my records, I considered the task complete.

What I was reminded of, thanks to reader Marian Koalski's comment following yesterday's post, is that there is always more that can be discovered. We just need to remember to go back and check the holdings at our favorite repositories.

Because what I had used, twenty years ago, was the available index to the death records, it only supplied me with a few key data points—but not all that were available in the original record. My mistake was assuming that there was nothing more in the original ledger than was collected for the indexed summary.

Apparently, taking a look at the link Marian shared yesterday, I saw there was just enough more to be quite key in assisting me to step back one more generation in the case of our Sarah Rinehart Gordon. In addition to what I already knew—name, date of death, confirmed state of birth—the original record provided confirmation that Sarah Gordon's parents were Simon "Rineheart" and Ann Wiley.

Granted, there are many times in which family members, under stress in the event of a loved one's passing, blurt out the wrong name in reporting the deceased's parents. I'll keep searching for a corroboration of that Wiley for Sarah's mother's maiden name. But it was nice to see this record—in the very place where I thought I had already gotten all that was there to be had—providing documentation of just who might be peopling the previous generation in this family history.

Above: Parents' names for Sarah Rinehart Gordon as found in 21 May, 1877, entry for Record of Deaths, Probate Court for Perry County, Ohio; digitized image courtesy

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Picking Up the Pieces

After surviving a month of earnest effort in my Fall Cleanup project, I've left a scattering of family history notes in my wake. That, of course, reminds me of my duty to clean up the mess I've unearthed in the process.

In particular, I've been reminded that there are two family branches for which I'd like to find some resolution. Both of them are from my mother-in-law's line. One was the Snider family, a name so common in the state of her roots—Ohio—as to make conclusive closure a near impossible feat. The other—and the one I'm more likely to pursue right now—was the Rinehart line.

Where the Rinehart surname entered into my mother-in-law's line was at the point of her second great grandmother, Sarah Rinehart. Sarah, of course, was a mystery—otherwise, why would I be writing about her?—and thus she's been left unattended, a name with very little detail, on our family tree.

I do know a few things about her, of course—and by using the word "know," I mean that I've managed to find some documentation on these few facts. Details about the end of her long life were easier to come by than those of her origins.

Like most of my mother-in-law's forebears, for instance, Sarah found her way to that rural enclave in central Ohio—Perry County—where her progeny eventually saw their genetic material interwoven with that of many other families. Thus, when I tackled this research problem back twenty years ago, I had plenty of online company with whom to commiserate over our collective lack of progress.

Because Sarah died in Perry County in 1876, she could conveniently be found in the three previous census enumerations. Notwithstanding the error in the Find A Grave entry for her year of birth—"in the 80th year of her age" would not yield the 1786 date rendered in her memorial—each of those census records seem to provide a similar record of her birth, which helps. The enumeration closest to the date of her death showed her birth to be about 1797. The 1860 census concurred, though the 1850 census placed it at 1798. Still, close enough.

What was interesting was that all three enumerations indicated her place of birth as Kentucky. Not unusual, you might think, for a pioneer family of that era. The difficulty, though, was that she married a man—James Gordon—who was supposedly a native of Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Of course, it doesn't help that I've not been able to unearth any record of the couple's marriage. Still, their oldest child—son Basil Albert Gordon, born in 1818—was consistently reported to have been born in Pennsylvania, as were the next six children. Only with the arrival of namesake daughter Sarah in 1832 was the birth reported as occurring anywhere else—in this case, in Ohio, not Kentucky.

In fact, the extended Gordon family once seemed to all live in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Perry County families being Perry County families, it may come as no surprise to learn that my mother-in-law's family had more than one Gordon in their roots, and this other Gordon, as well, hailed from Greene County, Pennsylvania.

My primary question, then, has always been: how did a Gordon from Greene County, Pennsylvania, end up deciding to marry a woman from Kentucky?

You would think, with a surname like Rinehart, that that would be an easy question to answer, but that has not been the case. For one thing, immigrant ships belching up endless streams of refugees from the embattled German Palatinate included many claiming that very surname—Rinehart—or its various spelling permutations. Secondly, earlier family histories—as we researchers twenty years ago discovered while compared notes—included family legends which may or may not be verifiable. Some of those stories were along the lines of "there were three brothers...."

Included in some of those earlier self-published histories were assertions that Sarah was daughter of a Simon Rinehart and Ann Wise—while still others insisted the mother's name was Wiley. One reported that Sarah was born in a place in Kentucky called Somerset—which is now in Pulaski County, deep in the southern portion of the state—and another claimed her birthplace was in Bracken County (which makes more sense, considering its original borders extended north to the Ohio River).  Sometimes, I wondered if those narratives were even talking about the same Sarah Rinehart as mine.

Since my Fall Cleanup has unearthed a file well over an inch thick with Rinehart resources and communication, my first step will be to review what others had shared about their research findings. I can consider that material to be trailblazing efforts; with today's online resources, it will be fairly easy to confirm—or reject—those twenty year old theories.

I suspect I may be tracing an immigration pattern for the proposed Rinehart families. Perhaps they started out from Greene County to settle in a promising area in Kentucky—then, seeing it, decided it made more sense to return home to Pennsylvania. While it may seem like a disjointed story to us from this two-hundred-year-removed perspective, it likely was a narrative that made sense to those entangled in the problem at the time. Hopefully, I'll be better equipped with this go-round to discover a timeline that makes sense to us, as well.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Day Thirty-Two: Photo Finish

It all ended with "Y" for Y2K. It's a good thing there was no "Z." I really needed to be finished. I suspect you needed it, too.

Projects like a Fall Cleanup can be wearying. The tedious multiple decision points reassert themselves all too often. In the face of indecision, that resolve to steadily advance can strip gears—or at least wear some tread off the tires of progress.

To think that my file cabinet was crammed full of printed copies of twenty year old emails was sobering. Running into a folder still in my possession labeled "Y2K" gives you an idea how badly needed this errand had become.

Granted, much of the information was, at one point, valuable material to people groping blindly in the ether of the newly-minted online genealogical scene. As research opportunities rapidly unfolded over the years, who wanted to stop tap dancing long enough to review—and toss—the already-filed tidbits which might, by then, have become stale-dated. I certainly didn't.

Looking back at this month of re-discovery—hey, I had that in my files?!—drew out some moments to reflect on the vastly changed state of online genealogical research, sure, but it also reminded me of a kinder, more cordial time in which fellow researchers of all stripes, professional or avocational, responded to each other as colleagues pursuing a fascinating mission. It was a time when fellow researchers aired their well-reasoned discussions publicly on the pros and cons of a given theory of ancestry, in the hopes of mutually assisting others pursuing the same family lines.

This month of the Fall Cleanup also reminded me of the friendships forged during that process, and caused me to wonder whether any of those researchers with whom I shared extensive discourses on our mutual ancestors might still be out there. Are they still researching? Did they ever find the answers to the questions that frustrated their progress? I'm tempted to try and contact some of them and see if there is a twenty-years-afterwards story to be found. After all, these were—and still are, hopefully—all distant cousins. Sadly, I already know some of the seniors whom I wrote back then are no longer here. But for those of us who were then young moms juggling home life (and possibly a simultaneous career) while pursuing our genealogical passions, there is a chance that we can still reconnect.

There is, of course, more work to do on my file cabinet. Yes, I cleared out the bottom drawer and then conquered the top drawer full of genealogical treasures, but there are two other drawers filled with material yet to be vanquished. Those two drawers, however, belong to different compartments of life—slices of life outside the realm of genealogy, where I put on such masks as home educator or nonprofit organization newsletter editor. No role was as satisfying as the one which was my first childhood call and most lasting heart's desire: to preserve the stories of the family members who've gone on before me.

I suspect routing those other two drawers won't be as taxing as the ordeal of the last month. While there might have been some sentimental attachment to a first newsletter published for a fledgling organization, that comes in a distant second to the passion of family history; it will be easy to chuck what needs to be tossed there. I won't feel the need to talk about it, pine over the times long gone, or mourn the passing of a connection, so don't expect a blow-by-blow report on progress.

Eventually, I'll face the need to make decisions about what to back-fill in the spaces now liberated from their twenty-year-long burden. I have more genealogical files in storage which need to see the light of day—and face their day in "court." But I doubt I'll either substitute one set of files for another or create a whole new stash with the research I accomplish in the future. Times are changing and the research methods of the early twenty first century are already a far cry from those of the 1990s—who's to say how things will change in the next twenty years? I certainly won't want to create the next era's monster mess.

Looking back, it was probably a good experience to go through all these files. From nostalgia to exhaustion to sheer grit, the month evoked a wide range of emotions—but these were all feelings that probably should have been dealt with about fifteen years earlier than they were, if I weren't so busy living the life I led back then. There is always something to face, however, and there is no time like the present to get a job done. I guess this October was just the time for me to do it.

Above: "Boulevard Clichy in the Snow," 1886 oil on canvas by French Impressionist Paul Signac; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Day Thirty-One: Scary

One month in on my Fall Cleanup project, and I am just now hitting the folder for "S." Scary. There's not much month left in this marathon.

Notwithstanding the fact that my own surname begins with that letter, thankfully, the folders I'm routing from my old file cabinet contained papers from my earliest years of online research for my family's roots. Back then, I had started with my mother-in-law's lines; the pursuit of my father-in-law's Irish roots came much later.

Still, my mother-in-law had her own fair share of surnames beginning with that popular letter of the alphabet. Snider, for one. Then Stine.

The first of those names claimed a thick file. A very thick file. I've heard it said that Snider is one of most common surnames in the state of Ohio, and I believe it. Finding the right Snider was a challenge that many of us addressed in online forums, back in the 1990s, apparently. And I was the one to insure that all those threads got printed up and preserved for posterity.

Well, my progeny can now heave a sigh of relief. I tossed almost all of the Snider speculations—plus a good handful of other people's family group sheets and IGI leftovers. Anything I'd want to add to my own database, I'd first want to have accompanied by some solid documentation, thank you.

Stine was a different matter. It may have taken me twenty years to get up to speed on Snider, but Stine had definitely been reserved a permanent seat on the back burner. Like Rinehart from yesterday's cleanup, Stine was a name oft talked about, yet not really successfully pinned in the right spot on the genealogical database. Like Snider, Stine was a name which many people in Pennsylvania and Ohio claimed, but few aligned with my family's story.

When I began this project at the beginning of October, it wasn't as if I had decided to complete it all in one month. But I thought it would be nice. At least, it would make a tidy package: all wrapped up in one month sounded inspiring.

When I got mired in the Flowers part of my family's surname alphabet, though, I gave up hope on that prospect, forgetting that letters like "I" or "K" might not present as daunting a heap of work to conquer.

Now, facing that last stretch from "S" to the end of the line, the rest of the day may yield me the prize: an empty file cabinet drawer, ready to be filled with all the rest of the genealogical files I've currently relegated to storage boxes tucked away in the far reaches of the house. I already know that the folder for "T" will not contain any Tully information, because I hadn't yet tackled that research problem—though it does also include a file for Taliaferro, that surname which gained me entrance to Daughters of the American Revolution.

Maybe, just maybe, since I've already overcome the hump that is "S," I can reach the goal of making it to "Z" before the day—and the month—is out.  

Above: "Glen Birnam," oil on canvas circa 1890 by English artist Sir John Everett Millais; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day Thirty: Wait! Thirty?

I thought this month would never finish, but now that it has—nearly—I'm wishing for more time.

Today, in my Fall Cleanup project, I squarely faced the task of dispatching all the files in the folder for "R." Yes, that meant double-checking each of the issues of the Rootsweb Review before tossing it—mainly a perfunctory exercise. But it also meant uncovering an equally hefty folder under the heading for one surname I've yet to conquer: Rinehart.

The contents of the folder included genealogies offered up by several other researchers on this particular Rinehart line—from Greene County, Pennsylvania, some of whose descendants migrated to Perry County, Ohio—including their speculations on just what the roots of this family might have been.

I say "speculations" because that is all we were left with: guesses. No one seemed—at least, back in the 1990s when I last addressed this puzzle—to have found any documentation for any of the assertions which had been flung across the nascent Internet with abandon.

At least one of the people in on this Rinehart discussion was a woman who had a copy of her grandfather's journal, in which he had been careful to note his recollections of various long-gone family members. That was about the closest we could come to knowing anything for sure.

When you think about it, someone recalling, in the 1990s, a by-then deceased grandfather might have been referring to someone born in the 1890s. That grandfather, in turn, might have been able to remember stories of his ancestors which stretched back another hundred years. It might be feasible to conclude that such a person might have had enough time on his hands to actually be accurate in recording his memories.

Or not. We all know how family legends evolve.

Finding the Rinehart file and all the conversations surrounding this one root in my mother-in-law's heritage made me wonder whether I could now piece together all these hints and assumptions and draw up a tentative proposal for a family tree. That, in turn—somewhat like search angels might do for an adoptee hoping to find a birth family—might be a solid enough hypothesis to run through some stringent tests to see if supporting documentation can be located. After all, it's been almost twenty years since I addressed this research issue. A lot has materialized in digitized records—and even in finding aids for local collections.

With that in mind, I ended up keeping about seventy percent of the Rinehart file I originally started out with. It's still a sizeable stack. I assuaged my organizing alter ego by means of a reminder that I had just tossed an entire folder of like size not one hour previously. Surely that would count for something.

Above: "Farmhouses with Autumn Colored Trees," undated oil on cardboard by German landscape painter Walter Moras (1856 - 1925); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.
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