Robert Nixon: The Will to Learn (52 Ancestors #44)

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If you’ve been reading my past few 52 Ancestors posts, you’ve probably picked up the fact that I had to dig deep to put together the origins of my great-great-grandmother Susan Tucker Kelley. One of the key documents that put it all together was the will of Robert Nixon, who turned out to be Susan’s maternal grandfather.

In his will1)FamilySearch.org, Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996, Robert Nixon will, Perry County Will Book vol. 2 and B, page 64; Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio. dated 5 December 1828, Robert specified his sons and daughters in birth order (grouped by gender):

  • John, my eldest son
  • Levi, Isaac, Jonathan, and Elijah, “my sons the second and third and fourth and fifth sons”
  • my eldest daughter Elizabeth
  • my second daughter Mary Ann
  • my third daughter Susannah
  • my fourth daughter Sarah

He left his sons “my plantation” and instructed them that “they are to keep and to raise my family and to support them and my dear wife Catherine.” The daughters received bequests of either thirty or fifty dollars’ worth of bed, bedding, cows and sheep.

In other words, pretty typical stuff.

I already adored Robert for specifying the order that his sons and daughters were born — and that he actually named his wife! (I get so tired of wills that say “to my beloved wife” and then never actually give her name.) But it was two stipulations in the will that gave me insight into Robert. Instructing his sons that the cows, sheep, etc., to his daughters were to be paid from his plantation, he added this:

“…and they [Robert’s sons] are to give my four daughters schooling so as they can read.”

Regarding his two youngest sons (Nathan and Elijah), the oldest sons were to give them each $100 “laid out in land for them”

“…and they are to give them learning as far as the single rule of three.”

I’ve read a lot of wills over the years. I’ve seen people stipulate that their estate was to provide for a decent burial and a tombstone. I’ve seen wills that state that if an heir contests it, that person would receive nothing. I’ve seen countless wills that leave something “to my beloved wife” and then never give her name. But this is the first time that I’ve seen a will stipulate that the daughters were to be taught to read and the youngest sons learn basic math.

"Book 8," by Brenda Clarke. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.

Book 8,” by Brenda Clarke. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.

References   [ + ]

1. FamilySearch.org, Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996, Robert Nixon will, Perry County Will Book vol. 2 and B, page 64; Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio.

More Than Their Names: William W. Tucker and Mary Ann Nixon (52 Ancestors #42 & 43)

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Finding the parents of Susan Tucker Kelley required researching numerous people and paying attention to detail. If you’ve ever heard me lecture, you’ve probably picked up on my mantra of “our ancestors are more than names.” Ironically, William’s name is part of what helped me identify him.

William Tucker wasn’t just William Tucker. He was consistently shown in the records as William W. Tucker. This turned out to be a huge clue, as there was another William Tucker — William O. Tucker — who lived in Hocking County, where William W. owned land.

He wasn’t just William W. Tucker from Perry County, Ohio. He was William W. Tucker who lived in Jackson Township, Perry County, Ohio in 1840, with a household made up of a male age 20-30, a female age 15-20, a male under 5, and two females under 5. He was the William W. Tucker who bought and sold specific parcels of land in Perry and Hocking counties in the late 1830s and early 1840s.

He was the William W. Tucker who married Mary Ann Nixon in Perry County on 4 February 1836.

Mary Ann Nixon wasn’t just Mary Ann Nixon. She was the one who married William W. Tucker on 4 February 1836 in Perry County. She was the Mary Ann Nixon whose father was Robert Nixon and who had sisters named Elizabeth, Susannah, and Sarah and brothers named John, Levi, Isaac, Jonathan and Elijah.

William and Mary Ann weren’t just William and Mary Ann. They were the parents of three children: Rachel, Greenbury, and Susan.

What happened to them between 1840 and 1848, when the children were appointed guardians by the Perry County Common Pleas court? I don’t yet know. But I do know that to find them, I’ll need to keep in mind more than just their names.

Announcing 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition

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You’ve been asking and now I have an answer. YES! There will be a 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2015!

52ancestors-2015There are a few changes. The vast majority of people who responded the survey I did a few weeks ago said that they would like to continue with optional weekly themes. So, we’re going to give it a try. The weekly themes are strictly optional. They are meant to give you some ideas on who to focus on. (Isn’t choosing the week’s ancestor often the hardest part?!)

The themes are going to be general — one might even say “ambiguous.” I’m doing that on purpose. I’m hoping to inspire, rather than dictate.

On (or around) the 15th of each month, I will post the themes for the next month. Again, the interpretation of the theme is up to you. (You don’t even have to use them if you don’t want to.)

No matter if/how you use the themes, you can add a link to your post on the weekly recap, which will be published on Thursdays.

Without further ado, here are the themes for January:

themes-2015-01Week 1, Fresh start — Seems appropriate for the beginning of the year. What ancestor had a fresh start? What ancestor has been so confusing to research that you’d like to have a fresh start?

Week 2, King — January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do either of these “Kings” remind you of an ancestor? Or, taken another way, do you have a connection to royalty? Did you ancestor flee from an oppressive king?

Week 3, Tough woman — Who is a tough, strong woman in your family tree? Or what woman has been tough to research?

Week 4, Closest to your birthday — Not too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year ;) )

Week 5, Plowing through — We will likely be plowing through a lot of snow by this time. What ancestor had a lot of struggles to plow through? Or take it more literally… It’s up to you :)

I can’t wait to read your new posts!

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 50 Recap

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I52ancestors-week50t’s time for the Week 50 recap and, despite the busy-ness of the season, I’m feeling energized about the Challenge. Maybe it’s because I have the rest of the year’s posts mapped out. Maybe it’s the unexpected story I found while compiling my most recent post. Maybe it’s because I’m about ready to announce plans for 2015…

Last week, I tackled one of the posts that I’ve wanted to do since starting this challenge. I wrote about my search for the origins of my great-great-grandmother Susan Tucker Kelley, who I affectionately refer to as “my little orphaned milkmaid.”

My other post this past week told the rather unlikely story of my 6th-great-grandfather, Joseph Dickinson, and how dried beef saved him from a shipwreck. (Yes, you read that right.)

Who did you write about last week? Leave a link in the comments below. And be sure to go and look at the posts from Week 49. There are some good ones there — just like always!

Am I Here Because of Dried Beef? (Joseph Dickinson – 52 Ancestors #41)

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There are some family stories that are so “out there” that you easily dismiss them. Then there are the stories that you desperately want to be true…

Joseph Dickinson, my 6th-great-grandfather, came to America around 1725.1)Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160. In 1732, he married Elizabeth Miller in the Kennett Monthly Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania.2)Joseph Dickinson and Elizabeth Miller marriage, Kennett Monthly Meeting marriages 1718-1821, page 56, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com. Together, Joseph and Elizabeth had nine children, including my 5th-great-grandfather Gaius Dickinson (born in 1737).3)Gaius Dickinson, Genealogy of Berks, Exeter Monthly Meeting, p. 62, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.

That part is pretty well documented. (Thank you, Quakers, for being awesome record keepers!) It’s this next part of Joseph’s story that is a bit lacking in documentation. According to A Biographical History of Lancaster County by Alexander Harris (Elias Barr & Co., 1872):

Dickinson, Joseph, emigrated to this country from Cumberland, England, by way of Ireland, about the year 1725. The ship on which he came a passenger having struck upon a rock, causing it to leak so rapidly that it was impossible to keep the vessel afloat, and was about given up as lost, and the passengers were preparing to meet their fate, when Joseph Dickinson volunteered to go down under the water, on the outside of the ship, and stop the leak, which hazardous undertaking he accomplished by inserting pieces of dried beef in the crevices.4)Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160.

Shipwreck, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1854. From WikiArt.

Shipwreck, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1854. From WikiArt.

I know how tales get taller as they go on. I know that it’s more likely that Joseph’s ship did have some trouble, maybe even with a crack, and that Joseph (or some other ingenious soul) repaired it. But diving into the water to fill the cracks of a sinking ship with dried beef? My head tells me it likely isn’t true, but I have to admit that I wish it were. Talk about an great story!

And let’s think about this for a moment. For the sake of argument, let’s say that it is true that Joseph saved the ship in the manner described. That occurred around 1725. He didn’t marry until 1732. He didn’t have my 5th-great-grandfather until 1737. If Joseph’s ship had sunk, he wouldn’t have made it to America, wouldn’t have met and married Elizabeth Miller, and my 5th-great-grandfather wouldn’t have been born…

Is it possible that I owe my very existence to dried beef?

References   [ + ]

1, 4. Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160.
2. Joseph Dickinson and Elizabeth Miller marriage, Kennett Monthly Meeting marriages 1718-1821, page 56, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.
3. Gaius Dickinson, Genealogy of Berks, Exeter Monthly Meeting, p. 62, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.

How I Found My Orphaned Milkmaid (Susan Tucker Kelley – 52 Ancestors #40)

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Susan (Tucker) Kelley

Susan (Tucker) Kelley

Finding the parents is the ultimate question in genealogy. The parents of my great-great-grandmother Susan Tucker should have been easy to trace. But the search for Susan and her origins ended up being the case study I used when I applied to become a Certified Genealogist.

Discovering Susan’s maiden name wasn’t difficult. I first found it on the death certificate of Susan’s daughter, my great-grandmother Melzena Kelley Ramsey. 1)Melzena Ramsey death certificate, certificate #41254 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org. I had also quickly found the burial place for Susan and her husband John Kelley in Hopewell Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Perry County, Ohio. 2)Susan Kelley, FindAGrave.com. The tombstone listed Susan’s date of death as 23 February 1914. Bingo! She should have a death certificate and that should name her parents.

I found her death certificate 3)Susan Kelly (sic) death certificate, certificate #10989 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org easy peasy. Her parents names, however…

Susan Kelly [sic] death certificate, Ohio certificate number 10989 (1914), downloaded from FamilySearch.

Susan Kelly [sic] death certificate, Ohio certificate number 10989 (1914), downloaded from FamilySearch.

Father: First part name unknown Tucker. Mother: Unknown.

Ok. Maybe her obituary has something.

susan-kelley-obitFinding that obituary 4)Mrs. Susan Kelly obituary, New Lexington (Ohio) Herald, 5 March 1914 was the shortest Genealogy Happy Dance in history. “Yes! I found it! Wait, it doesn’t tell me anything.” What about Susan’s marriage record to John Kelley?

John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.

John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.

That marriage record 5)John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch. was less than helpful. Hmmm, they didn’t get married until 1863. Susan should be in the 1850 and 1860 censuses with her parents.

Susan Tucker in Metzer Kindall [sic] household, 1850 U.S. census.

Susan Tucker in Metzer Kindall [sic] household, 1850 U.S. census.

Metzer Kendall household, 1860, Perry County, Ohio. [Note: this household goes across two pages; this image is a composite from both pages.]

Metzar Kendall household, 1860, Perry County, Ohio. [Note: this household goes across two pages; this image is a composite from both pages.]

Who are these Kendalls and why is Susan living with them in 1850 6)Metzer Kindall household, 1850 U.S. census, Hopewell township, Perry County, Ohio, page 384B. and 1860 7)Metzar Kendall household, 1860 U.S. census, Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 413.? It was at this point that I started calling Susan “my little orphaned milkmaid.”

What I Did Next

I researched the people who I knew were in Susan’s family: her husband John Kelley and their children. After searching through probate, land records, county histories, and other records, I found no more clues as to Susan’s parents.

Since they didn’t give me the answers I sought, I turned to the next group of people I had associated with Susan: Metzer and Sarah Kendall. Who were they? Metzer Kendall married Sarah Nixon in Perry County in 1845. 8)Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 2-3, page 117, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court. I found no earlier marriages for Sarah, which seems to eliminate the possibility that Susan was her child from a previous marriage. Susan was not mentioned in any of their probate, land records, or in their biographies in the county history.

The Tuckers, Kendalls, and Nixons

I knew three things about this group: Susan was a Tucker, she lived with Metzer and Sarah Kendall, and Sarah Kendall’s maiden name was Nixon. Are there any other connections between the Tuckers, Kendalls, and Nixons? I found one:

William W. Tucker married Mary Ann Nixon in 1836 in Perry County.9)Perry County marriage volume 1, page 183, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court. The 1840 census of Jackson Township, Perry County lists a William W. Tucker with the following household:10)William W. Tucker household, 1840 U.S. Census, Jackson Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 130.

  • 1 male age 20-30
  • 1 male age < 5
  • 1 female age 15-20
  • 2 females < 5

This looks like a young family – a young husband and wife and three small children. Susan was born in 19 March 1840, so she would fit as one of the females under the age of 5.

Following William and Mary Ann, there were no clues in their land records; they sold all land that they purchased, and there are corresponding purchases for all the land they sold. No probate records have been found for them in either Perry or Hocking counties (where they also owned a small amount of land).

The Breakthrough

It was a short record in the Perry County Clerk of Courts records that started to crack the brick wall. On 29 January 1848, it was ordered that Levi Nixon be appointed guardian of:

  • Rachel Tucker, age 11 (born c1837)
  • Greenbery Tucker, age 9 (born c1839)
  • Susan Tucker, age 7 (born c1841)

Further, Isaac Nixon and Solomon Nunamaker were sureties with $100 bond.

Now we have even more of a connection between Tuckers and Nixons. Further, the age of the children exactly fit the ages of the children in William W. Tucker’s 1840 household. Also, the age for Susan in this January 1848 record is consistent with my Susan, since she wouldn’t have had her 8th birthday until March 1848.

The Final Piece

The next phase of research was into Levi Nixon and Isaac Nixon, the guardian and the surety. The History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio (1883) noted that Levi was the son of Robert and Catherine Nixon.

Robert Nixon’s will, dated 1828, was probated in Perry County. It names the following:

  • wife Catherine
  • sons John, Levi, Isaac, Jonathan and Elijah
  • daughters Elizabeth, Mary Ann, Susannah, and Sarah

All of the Nixons who have a connection with Susan Tucker are in this record. Guardian Levi. Surety Isaac. Foster mother (for lack of a better term) Sarah. Knowing that things like guardianships and sureties typically were not carried out by strangers, my conclusion is the following:

Susan Tucker was the daughter of William and Mary Ann (Nixon) Tucker. Something happened to William and Mary Ann between 1840 and 1848. They had no outstanding property in 1848, so there was no probate. The legal interests of the Tucker children were small, accounting for the small amount of the surety. Susan’s guardian was her uncle Levi, with surety provided by her uncle Isaac. Susan actually lived with her aunt Sarah.

No one piece of documentation states that Susan Tucker was the daughter of William Tucker and Mary Ann Nixon, or that Susan was the granddaughter of Robert Nixon. But taken as a whole, this conclusion fits the facts.

References   [ + ]

1. Melzena Ramsey death certificate, certificate #41254 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org.
2. Susan Kelley, FindAGrave.com.
3. Susan Kelly (sic) death certificate, certificate #10989 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org
4. Mrs. Susan Kelly obituary, New Lexington (Ohio) Herald, 5 March 1914
5. John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.
6. Metzer Kindall household, 1850 U.S. census, Hopewell township, Perry County, Ohio, page 384B.
7. Metzar Kendall household, 1860 U.S. census, Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 413.
8. Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 2-3, page 117, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court.
9. Perry County marriage volume 1, page 183, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court.
10. William W. Tucker household, 1840 U.S. Census, Jackson Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 130.

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 49 Recap

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52ancestors-week49As we get closer to the holidays, are you still blogging? It’s easy to get caught up in all of the “busy-ness” of the season. It’s also the perfect time to make the time to remember and reflect on those wonderful family stories. I do hope you’re recording yours.

Last week, I wrote about two of my ancestors:

Leave a link to your latest 52 Ancestors post in the comments below. Also take a look at the ones from Week 48. Happy blogging!

Henry Kingery: The Spelling Lesson (52 Ancestors #39)

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I have to admit that I just know the basics about Henry Kingery, my 3rd-great-grandfather. He was born in Virginia in 1806. (Some people list his birth as being in Franklin County, Virginia, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the family there yet.) He married Nancy Dillon in 1832 in Lawrence County, Ohio. After their marriage, Henry and Nancy lived in Windsor Township until Henry’s death in 1872.

Henry Kingry and Nancy Dillon marriage record, Lawrence County, Ohio, downloaded from FamilySearch.org.

Henry Kingry and Nancy Dillon marriage record, Lawrence County, Ohio, downloaded from FamilySearch.org.

Pretty basic stuff.

Yet researching Henry and his family has taught me a lot about being flexible with spelling. Here are just some of the ways I’ve seen his surname spelled:

  • Kingery – 1840 census, 1860 census (population and agriculture), 1870 census
  • Kingry – his marriage record and tombstone
  • Kingers – 1850 census
  • Kingra – on his daughter Mary’s tombstone
  • Kingrey – on some of his children’s census records

“Kingers” on the 1850 census was just bad handwriting, in my opinion. The surprising one to me is Kingra. If you weren’t familiar with the family, you might see the name and sound it out with a short “a” (King-ruh). But knowing the family, you can “hear” how it would actually be pronounced with a long “a.”

Long story short: Don’t get hung up on spelling.

Charlotte Danison Ramsey: The Two Missing Children (52 Ancestors #38)

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You can learn a lot from two little numbers. In the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses, there were two questions asked of women: Mother of how many children and how many are still alive. For Charlotte Danison Ramsey, those numbers were 8 and 5.

I can identify six of her children:

  • Mary, born 1854
  • James Martin, born 1856
  • John (my great-grandfather), born 1860
  • Harriet, born 1862. She died in 1872 of spinal affliction.
  • Emma, born 1866
  • Louisa, born 1869

Who are Charlotte’s other two children? Charlotte married Samuel Elliot Ramsey in 1851. Did they have a child before Mary in 1854? Was there a child between James and John? Was there a child between Harriet and Emma? Was there a child after Louisa?

Ohio didn’t begin civil registration of births and deaths until 1868. I have looked through the records for Perry County, Ohio, where Charlotte and Samuel lived their entire lives. Unless we find a tombstone or a church record for the other two children, we will likely never know who they were.

Charlotte was born in 1832 and was the daughter of Abisha and Mary (Deffenbaugh) Danison. She married Samuel in 1851. After John’s death in 1906, Charlotte lived with her daughter Emma and her family. She died in 1911 and is buried in Mount Perry Cemetery.

Charlotte Ramsey 1910 census

Charlotte Ramsey, 1910 federal census, Hopewell Twp., Perry Co., Ohio.

52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 48 Recap

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52ancestors-week48Thanksgiving has passed. Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what celebration comes after that ;)

In the past week, I wrote about three of my ancestors:

Be sure to take a look at what was posted in the Week 47 recap! Also, leave a link to your post from this week in the comments below. Happy blogging!

Only four more… :)