Jacqi Stevens, blog author of A Family Tapestry has shared this blog with us as part of our “How I Solved It” Series.

Here, Jacqi tells us how she was inspired by another genealogical blogger to revisit some records she had filed away 20 years ago. With a fresh pair of eyes, she found the parent’s names of an ancestor that extended the tree back another generation and confirmed the surname she thought was right.

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 FamilySearch.org.

If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.

Jacqi Stevens
It is my contention that, after a lifetime, one of the greatest needs people have is to be remembered. They want to know: have I made a difference? I write because I can't keep for myself the gifts others have entrusted to me. Through what I've already been given--though not forgetting those to whom I must pass this along--from family I receive my heritage; through family I leave a legacy. With family I weave a tapestry. These are my strands. Visit Jacqi's Website
Jacqi Stevens

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