Elijah, Elisha, Let’s Throw The Whole Thing Off, Part 2

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes perseverance pays off. And if you can persevere long enough, you might manufacture your own luck. Below is the second in a series of posts about solving a genealogical whodunnit, a whodunnit that at least in part, helps resolve a vexing question about the identity of Elijah Staats’ father. This post is really just a summary of the first and throws in some tables and images. The full proof argument regarding the identity of Elijah’s father is something that I’m still working to organize, write, and hopefully have published. This is just a small, but important part of the overall picture.

“Signs, Signs, everywhere he signs, except for two deeds and an application for letters of administration within a year’s time. “
Okay, maybe that doesn’t work very well lyrically, but that fact is important when trying to make sense of the information stated in a Mar 1808 petition for partition, May 1808 deed, Aug 1808 deed, and an application for letters of administration in Jun 1809– all supposedly executed by Elijah Staats.

An important question to ask when correlating information is, “Are there patterns?” I’ve already mentioned these patterns in the previous post, but let’s look specifically at the documents establishing them:

Elijah Staats “of Fayette County, Pennsylvania

Elijah signs documents in three different states and five different counties over a forty year span:

Not only is it noted that he signed the deeds referenced above, but his actual signature appears on two documents– the 1798 receipt and the 1814 Ohio land entry record. Having his signature not only helps establish the pattern, but establishes the fact he was physically capable of signing his name both before and after the 1808-1809 events in question.

Receipt from Elijah Staats to Ephraim Cutler, 19 Mar 1798; Ephraim Cutler Family Collection; Marietta College Library Special Collections, Marietta.
159.64 acres to Elijah Staats of Fayette, PA; Book of entries (credit system), 1810-1816, Volume H; Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Original signature appears at the bottom of the entry.
Comparison of the two signatures shown above. Despite a few minor differences, the comparison shows that the same man signed both of these documents. Note the slant, letter formations and connections (in particular, the “j” that doesn’t connect, and the shape/formation of the ending “s”), and also the underlining and line crossing both “t”s.

Also of note, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania tax enumerations where an occupation is given, Elijah is listed as a schoolmaster. He could and did sign his name.

Elisha Staats “of Appoquinimink Hundred, New Castle, Delaware

Having established the fact that Elijah signed every document referenced above, let’s examine the four documents filed in that Mar 1808-Jun 1809 span. The first is the 1 Mar petition for partition filed to partition the property of John Richardson, who had died 25 years previously in 1783. Oddly, in the petition Elijah states that he is “of Appquinimink Hundred.” No evidence supports the existence of an Elijah Staats in Appoquinimink at that time, and when the resulting interest is sold, the deed lists Elijah as “of Frate [sic] County, State of Pennsylvania.” The petition also states that David Staats is Elijah’s father. I won’t get into the complex arguments as to how that can’t be the case, but suffice it to say that Elijah had not resided in Appoquinimink for over twenty years at the time of this petition. At the time he would have left Appoquinmink in 1787-1788, his STEP-father was David Staats (who is also his uncle), who married his mother sometime between 1781-1783. Who his father was is irrelevant to the matter at hand, as he has inherited this interest from his mother, Sarah Richardson. Another interesting thing about this petition is the language in the opening paragraph. With minor updates, it is exactly the same wording used in a 1792 petition for the same property by Richardson’s son-in-law, Robert Johnson. In any event, shouldn’t Elijah know who is father was? He probably did, but analysis of the other three transactions provide solid evidence that Elijah was not the person who executed these deeds and administered the estate of his half-brother, Benjamin Harman. Throwing in another document in which Elisha figures prominently, administrator of the estate of Richard Smith, strengthens the connections of Elisha to all the other participants in these transactions. Not only is Elisha linked via social/familial/business relationships to these players, he’s also physically involved in each of them:

Elisha signs as a witness to both deeds. Other than the entry in the docket book, there’s no other direct evidence to show that Elisha participated in the Mar 1 petition, but a revelation is soon to show that he likely was. A comparison between handwriting in the estate of Richard Smith (1808) and the estate of Benjamin Harman (1809) reveal his involvement in Harman’s estate, and ultimately blow his cover. In the next and final installment, the prosecution (me) will present evidence proving Elisha’s involvement beyond a reasonable doubt.

Elijah, Elisha, Let’s Throw The Whole Thing Off, Part 1

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes perseverance pays off. And if you can persevere long enough, you might manufacture your own luck. Below is the first in a series of posts about solving a genealogical whodunnit, a whodunnit that at least in part, helps resolve a vexing question about the identity of Elijah Staats’ father. The full proof argument is something that I’m still working to organize, write, and hopefully have published. This is just a small, but important part of the overall picture.

An odd sequence of documents supposedly executed by Elijah Staats between 2 Mar 1808 and 9 Jun 1809 set up a confusing scenario for researchers, including myself. A petition for partition filed in New Castle Couny, Delaware kicked off the sequence.1  It’s one of two documents that name a father for Elijah Staats, the other being a deed in 1800 which names a different man than the petition.2 Neither one is correct. And that’s where it gets tricky—identifying Elijah’s actual father while also dealing with the heavy burden of proof that two court documents are both incorrect and demonstrating why. The petition was particularly challenging to an alternate theory. If a man shows up in court and states the name of his father, it would be considered a pretty reliable source right? The dude presumably knows who his own father was, and here he states it plainly in a court document. Not so fast, though.

I say the sequence was odd because after exhaustive research, those transactions didn’t make sense for a number of reasons. There is no evidence that Elijah Staats ever left his Fayette County, Pennsylvania home and moved 300+ miles back to New Castle County, Delaware for a couple of months, then moved back again. That wouldn’t make sense for a single man, much less a man with a young family with more on the way. Elijah was in the 1808 Fayette County tax records, yet the petition dated 2 Mar 1808 claimed he was “of” Appoquinmink Hundred, New Castle, Delaware.3 Two months later, the deed resulting from the partition states that Elijah was “of Frate [sic] County, State of Pennsylvania.”4 So this guy, who was in the Fayette County tax lists that year, ran back to Delaware, executed a petition, was back in his home county (which he incorrectly named) two months later?

A second deed was executed by Elijah three months later on 10 Aug 1808, again listing Elijah as “of Fayette County.” This deed sold Elijah’s interest in property he inherited from his half-brother, Benjamin Harman. The deed contains a wonderful description of the blended Harman-Staats family:

“Abraham Harman…died intestate leaving three sons, namely John Harman, Abraham Harman, and Benjamin Harman, to whom the said land and premises descended according to the intestate laws of this state… and the said Benjamin Harman died intestate and without issue (his aforesaid brothers being also deceased) whereupon, the above described land descended to his two half brothers to wit, Richard Staats (who is since dead intestate and without issue) and Elijah  Staats”5

Elijah’s step-brothers, John and Abraham Harman, are also deceased and without issue, which is how Benjamin’s interest became vested in his half-brother, Elijah.6 Both Elijah and Benjamin were sons of Sarah Richardson, therefore grandsons of John and Latitia Richardson.7 Benjamin was a son of Sarah and Abraham Harman. Both John and Abraham were children from Abraham’s previous marriage.8 Elijah and Richard(son) were sons of Sarah and…well, we’ll get there eventually. The deed sold Elijah’s interest to Lydia Smith. She’ll come back into play later, too.

Speaking of odd, the final document in the series is the probate file of Benjamin Harman. A document in the probate file states that Benjamin Harman had “died in Philadelphia about four years previous to his taking out Letters of Administration, which he did merely for the purpose of receiving the sum of Thirty Dollars which was due for Rent from Lydia Smith for about Eighteen Acres of Land in Appoquinimink Hundred…”9 This was the same land, and same Lydia Smith, from the deed a little less than a year earlier.

In all of these 1808-1809 documents, the thing that stood out most, though, was the fact that all of them were signed with a mark, not a signature. The clerk in both deeds and in the original estate file are marked with an “x” and Elijah’s name written in by the clerk. This doesn’t fit the pattern of other evidence left by Elijah. Over a 40 year span between 1798 and 1838, every.single.other.document Elijah executes is signed. He’s listed as a schoolmaster in the tax records for crying out loud.10 Not only are they signed, but his actual signature appears on a 1798 receipt11 and an 1814 land entry record. Why aren’t these three documents signed, too? Surely, he didn’t just forget to sign them. Maybe all the running back and forth across the length of Pennsylvania wore him out? (That’s sarcasm) And why doesn’t Elijah ever appear in court proving these deeds? Both deeds were proven by witnesses, not Elijah himself.12

But another pattern emerged. Although the second witness was different for the two deeds, Elisha Staats was a witness to both. My theory had long been that Elijah was never actually in New Castle doing all this business For many years, the only evidence I had to offer was showing that these documents didn’t fit the pattern, contained curious mistakes,  and that there were some obvious logistical challenges involved in executing them. But I kept coming back to Elisha. Why was he so involved in those deeds? And what about the hand-written statements in Benjamin Harman’s estate file? If Elijah couldn’t sign his name, who wrote the document? Then, completely by accident while looking for something else, Elisha was elevated from “person of interest” to prime suspect.

The will of Richard Smith, whose widow was the Lydia Smith who purchased the Benjamin Harman interest from Elijah, left a will. The will was witnessed by none other than Elisha Staats.13 The same Elisha Staats that also witnessed the deed to Lydia.  In addition to witness, Elisha was one of the men doing the inventory, and was owed money by the estate.14 And that signature as witness to the will? That looked really familiar.

NEXT: A look at the patterns and connections of both Elijah and Elisha

Warrants to Weddings: Margaret Chandler vs. Elijah Staats

Note: Footnotes will be added once I can remember how to use the footnote add-on 🙂

In the November Term of Fayette County, Pennsylvania’s Civil Court, Margaret Chandler had a capias warrant issued for Elijah Staats. Although the case file for this case no longer exists, the information in the Appearance Docket entries combined with Quaker church records potentially offer an explanation of the case’s origins. The November 1799 docket entry states that the defendant, Elijah, was required to post bail in the amount of $500. Note that $500 did not actually change hands, only that sufficient surety be guaranteed. The Justice of the Peace (or whoever served the warrant) travelled 12 miles, and secured the bail. The entry notes this as “Writ paid C C B B, 12 miles.” What in the world does CCBB mean? CCBB is an abbreviation for the legal term cepi corpus, bail bond. CCBB is one of the potential answers to a Capias Ad Respondendum: “A defendant arrested upon this writ must be committed to prison unless he give a bail bond to the sheriff. In some states, (as until lately, in Pennsylvania) it is the practice when the defendant is liable to this process…” The purpose of this type of bond is to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. A note indicates that the case was continued to the March Term, 1800.

This case is helpful in that it definitely places Elijah Staats in Fayette County in 1799, but why was the capias issued? Although there is no other reference to any case involving Margaret and Elijah, some facts surrounding what was happening at that time allow for an educated guess. The exact date is unknown, but at some point between this case and 4 Jul 1800, Margaret and Elijah married. Their eldest son, Benoni, was born sometime in 1800. Benoni is an interesting choice for a name, given that it means “son of my sorrows.” That Elijah and Margaret were married before 4 Jul 1800 is evidenced by an entry in the Redstone MM records that sheds additional light on a potential reason for this case:

“The Commitee in Margaret Chandler’s case report the service is performed & have returned the Testimony being as follows:
Whereas Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler hath had a right of membership amongst us the people called Quakers but for want of taking heed to that which would have preserved her in time if Temptation hath so far deviated from the Dictates of Truth as to be guilty of Fornication which was manifest by having an illegitimate child for which reproachfull conduct she has been treated with, But not being in a suitable disposition to condemn the same, we therefore disown her from Membership with us until she be enabled to make satisfaction to this meeting which that she may is our desire. Given forth from Redstone Monthly Meeting held the 4th, of the 7th month 1800 signed order thereof by

Henry Troth
Rachel Cattell “

Society of Friends, Redstone MM, “Minutes of Men’s and Women’s meetings, 1793-1862” . p. 164, FHL film #382817.

The entry for the March case cites the case as “Margaret Chandler vs. Elijah Staats & John Lawrence. John Lawrence adjoined the property of Enoch Chandler, Margaret’s father. In 1802, Elijah would buy property from John Lawrence, so was presumably living as a tenant on Lawrence’s property in 1799 given his connection to both parties in this suit. But why was John Lawrence named in the second suit? Under Pennsylvania law, as a freeholder, John Lawrence likely signed as the surety for Elijah’s bond. A summons was issued for Elijah and it was served, but the entry goes on to state that the plaintiff’s attorney was “charged on this and original suit.” There is no further reference to Margaret or Elijah in any known Fayette County court records.

Given the surrounding facts, timing of the case, and that Margaret had filed suit in her own name, the likely conclusion is that this had to do with her then-unmarried pregnancy with Benoni. Although there is no reference to bastardy, given the timing, it seems like where this was headed, but was settled prior to actual charges being filed for that cause. There is no record of their marriage, so it may never be known whether they were married before the March 1800 case, but given there is no reference to “Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler,” or something similar, it seems unlikely that Margaret would again appear in a legal record with no notation of that fact. The most probably date for their marriage then is sometime between 3 Mar 1800, the summons issue date, and 4 Jul 1800, the date she was disowned as “Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler.” Not a bad haul of information for just a few sparse lines in a docket book, huh? And what a weird way to kick off your life together. Fortunately for me, their descendant, they managed to work things out and lived together as husband and wife until Elijah’s death in 1844.

My website re-construction is underway!

A few years ago, my website was hacked and nefarious hyperlinks were inserted throughout numerous posts. Upon further review, the affected posts spanned years of content. I learned of this when I got a cease and desist email from a consumer watchdog agency alerting me to the issue. Since I couldn’t possibly locate every link in every post and was nervous about a the possibility there was still a back door to my website open somewhere, I decided to wipe the site clean and start over. I thought I backed up the content before I did it, but I was wrong.
Today I decided to start the process of recreating the blog one post at a time using the Wayback Machine. Many posts are dated because of technology, some are just bad, others just meh, so I am trying to weed through them all and just post what interests me, keeping the original post dates as a sort of historical record of my site.

If you’re not familiar with the Wayback Machine, give it a go to try and find now-defunct websites and their content!

The Misadventures of “Dirty Dog Harry” Staats

Originally published 14 Apr 2017

Among the many Staats photographs I’ve inherited over the years is this photograph labeled “Harry Staats, son of Millison Staats.” That makes Harry my second cousin three times removed. For years, the only record I could find of him was in the 1880 census as a five-year old boy. The picture is clearly of someone in their late teens or early twenties, so surely there must be more to his story? Most definitely.

Harry was born on 19 Jan 1875, probably in Ralls County, Missouri. He was the oldest son of Elisha Millison Staats and Mary Ann Headley. By that 1880 census record, they were back in Caldwell, Noble, Ohio.1 The family would also live in Marietta and Cambridge Ohio, but Harry didn’t appear in any of those records. What had become of him?

While I have yet to discover all of the details, Harry has turned out to be quite an interesting character! He was married to Elizabeth Smith in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 26 Mar 1894. Underage? No problem, Harry just made his birth year two years earlier, 19 Jan 1873, and was now magically of age! Interestingly, his bride was of age, but consent was given anyway.2 Five months later, their daughter was born in Elwood, Indiana, explaining some of the urgency of the marriage.3

Harry played semi-professional baseball. For two or three seasons, Harry played for the Elwood team, but signed with Terre-Haute in March of 1896.4 By May, Harry was playing second base for the Logansport Ottos5, about 50 miles north of the Staats’ home in Elwood. Apparently baseball wasn’t the only thing Harry was playing in Logansport. The season ended, but Harry had not returned home. On 21 Nov 1896, the Logansport Pharos-Tribune reported “Mrs. Staats, wife of the ballplayer, was in Logansport yesterday in search of her truant husband.” According to the paper:6

“Staats, who has been in the city for the past month shinin’ around a certain young woman, gave out that he had never married the woman who claims to be his wife, but she brought her marriage license with her also newspaper clippings announcing when and where the marriage was celebrated.”

Whoops! Two weeks later, his wife was back and filed an affidavit charging him with desertion and a warrant was issued. Harry was found at the flat of his mistress and her mother, taken into custody, fined $10, and released to his wife. The details were dramatically reported the next day:

“Dirty Dog Harry and his faithful wife left police headquarters and were walking about to kill time…Staats picked up his child and was carrying the little one when Lottie [the mistress] emerged from the house of a mutual friend … and took hold of her lover’s arm. This bit of brazen impudence enraged Mrs. Staats, and picking up a stone…threw it at her hated rival. The missile hit the giddy creature on the back and caused her to retreat.”

According to the paper, Dirty Dog Harry briefly gave his wife the slip to hug and kiss Lottie goodbye. Even Lottie’s mother got in on the action, calling Elizabeth [Staats] a “dirty trollup” before police intervened. But in the end, Harry returned to Elwood with his wife, who was far more forgiving than I imagine I would be under the same circumstances.7 That lasted two weeks, when Harry returned to Logansport, his wife reporting to Logansport police that she no longer wanted anything to do with him.8 He signed the following spring to play in Lexington, Kentucky, although it appears he instead signed on to an Indianapolis’ team.

In March of 1898, he went to work for the Mutual Telephone company. On his first day on the job, he felt the pole he was climbing was falling, so he jumped. The pole was fine, Harry was not so lucky. He shattered his ankle, crippling him and ending his playing career.9 In 1899, Harry underwent several surgeries to regain mobility, eventually having three toes amputated. He briefly managed the Logansport team, but never played again.

There is a gap in the online Elwood papers for 1900, but amazingly given his indiscretions, Harry appeared in that census with his wife and daughter, listed as a bartender. In Jul of 1901, the Elwood Daily Record reported that Harry had resigned his bar-tending position at the Stevenson House in order for he and his family to return to Ohio. At some point before July 1904, Harry and family returned to Indiana, Harry once again making news. This time, he was arrested in a gambling raid. Other articles mention him as a breeder of fox terrier. The last mention of Harry is a July 1905 blurb mentioning that his brother, Allen, was in town visiting.

In 1910, his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter are in the Marion County, Indiana census, living in Indianapolis with Elizabeth’s mother. Elizabeth is listed as a widow. What was Harry’s fate? Was Elizabeth actually a widow, or had Harry run off for good? Only more research will uncover those answers.

  1. 1880 U.S. census, Noble, Ohio, population schedule, Caldwell, enumeration district (ED) 195, p. 166 (stamped), dwelling 159, family 178, Weedon Heady household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Oct 2009. His parents were living in Ralls County in the 1870 Census); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll T9_1055. []
  2. “Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885 – 1950,” database and images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 14 Apr 2017), Staats-Smith (1894); Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, Marriage Dockets 29:99, 1894. []
  3. Social Security Administration database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017), entry for Irene M. Fox, 1989, SS no. 315-34-9037. []
  4. “With Terre Haute: Harry Staats Will Play Baseball This year,” Elwood Daily Press, 20 Mar 1896, p. 8, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017). []
  5. “City News,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 6 May 1896, p. 21, col. 1; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017). []
  6. “A Deserted Wife,”  Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 21 Nov 1896, p. 13, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017). []
  7. “Disgusting Was the Conduct of Lottie Guinup,”  Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 2 Dec 1896, p. 13, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017). []
  8. “Staats Is Back,”  Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 15 Dec 1896, p. 24, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017).   []
  9. “Harry Staats Breaks His Left Ankle Yesterday,”  Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 15 Mar 1898, p. 6, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 14 Apr 2017).

1800 Federal Census of the Northwest Territory on Ancestry? April Fools!

Thanks to Mary Milne Jamba for asking this great question!

Mary was concerned about her citation to an 1800 census image for the Northwest Territory found in Ancestry.com’s “1800 United States Federal Census” database. Ancestry’s source information for this database says:

“Ancestry.com. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Second Census of the United States, 1800. (NARA microfilm publication M32 [emphasis added], 52 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C”1

However, the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio does not appear anywhere in NARA’s listing of those 52 rolls.2 It’s not part of that microfilm publication.

If it’s not part of the cited source, where did it come from? It actually comes from a different NARA microfilm publication, “Second census of the United States, 1800, population schedules, Washington County. Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; and population census, 1803, Washington County, Ohio (M1804) [emphasis added]”3

Ancestry has merged this record with the M32 publication. They do mention in the record description, “Lost schedules include those for Georgia, Indiana Territory, Kentucky, Mississippi Territory, New Jersey, Northwest Territory [emphasis added], Virginia, Tennessee, and Alexandria County, District of Columbia. Some of the schedules for these states have been re-created using tax lists and other records. [emphasis added]”4

NARA added to the confusion by naming the M1804 publication something that it is not– a federal census. Nor is it a population schedule.

So how did it end up at NARA?

According to a description published by the Washington County chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, the film was compiled by Claire Prechtel-Kluskens of the National Archives and Records Administration in 1994.5 Quoting the introductory matter on the microfilm, the page states:

“In 1962, all of the schedules reproduced on this roll of microfilm were in the Campus Martius Museum, Marietta, Ohio.  That year they were loaned to the National Archives for microfilming through the courtesy of the Museum, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Commissioners of Washington County, Ohio.  At that time, the negative microfilm was turned over to the Marietta College Library, while the positive was placed in the Microfilm Reading Room of the National Archives, Washington, DC.”6

Now that we know how it got there, WHAT IS IT? Below is a sample image from this collection (click for full-size):


Ancestry identifies the source of this image as “Year: 1800; Census Place: Newtown, Washington, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; Roll: 1,” and cites publication M32 as the original source. But this isn’t Roll 1 of M32; it’s Roll 1 of M1804. For original image, see: http://tinyurl.com/m8935gt

The answer to that lies in statutes, specifically, statutes of the Northwest Territories.

Chapter 102 of the Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory Adopted or Enacted From 1788 to 1833 Inclusive details:
“An act to ascertain the number of free male inhabitant of the age of twenty one in the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio and to regulate the of representatives for the same.”7

Passed in 1799, the statute provides that:

“The enumeration shall commence on the first Tuesday of May next [1800], and on the first Tuesday of May every second year afterwards and shall be closed within thirty days after the commencement thereof. The several constables shall within forty days after the commencement of the enumeration, return to the clerk of the peace of their respective counties, accurate returns of all free male inhabitants of twenty one years of age within the townships allotted to them respectively, which returns shall be made in a schedule distinguishing the several families in which may be found a free male inhabitant of the age of twenty one years, by the name of their respective master, mistress, or other principal person therein, in manner following, to wit:
‘The number of free male inhabitants of the age of twenty one years within my township of _________ consists of _______ as appears in a schedule hereunto annexed. Subscribed by me this ____day of ________ AB constable.”8

The statute also provides the form of the schedule, worded almost exactly as you see in the image above:9


So the images on Ancestry are actually a territorial census, not a federal population schedule, taken to establish the number of eligible voters for representation purposes. While it’s obviously a valuable record set, it’s not quite the record set that the source information indicates. It’s a shame that this census AND the federal census for Washington County aren’t BOTH still around.

Nevertheless, learning as much as we can about  why a record was created and the laws that governed its form and function help us extract as much information as we possibly can. If nothing else, it makes for great conversation-starters at parties…assuming it’s a genealogical party.

The next question: Did NARA ever return the originals they were “lent” in 1962, and if so, to whom?

  1. Ancestry.com, “1800 United States Federal Census,“  Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7590: accessed 1 Apr 2014),  ”Source Information.” [↩]
  2. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, “1790-1890 Federal Population Censuses – Part 2,” National Archives (http://www.archives.gov/research/census/publications-microfilm-catalogs-census/1790-1890/part-02.html). [↩]
  3. See FamilySearch Catalog entry– https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/720623?availability=Family%20History%20Library. [↩]
  4. Ancestry.com, “1800 United States Federal Census,” “About 1800 United States Federal Census.” [↩]
  5. Washington County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, ”Washington County, Ohio, census description 1800 and 1803,” Washington County Chapter Ohio Genealogical Society (http://www.washogs.org/18001803.html: accessed 1 Apr 2014) [↩]
  6. ibid. [↩]
  7. Salmon P. Chase, The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory, Adopted or Enacted From 1788 to 1833 Inclusive: Together with the Ordinance of 1787; the Constitutions of Ohio and of the United States, and Various Public Instruments and Acts of Congress, Illustrated by a Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio; Numerous References and Notes and Copious Indexes (Cincinnati: Corey & Fairbank, 1833), 239; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=zpk4AAAAIAAJ&vq=census&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false: accessed 1 Apr 2014). [↩]
  8. ibid. at 240. [↩]
  9. ibid. [↩]

Overcome Genealogical Isolation– Attend A Conference!

I’m in my mid-40s. Even now, I don’t quite fit what many people consider the typical genealogical demographic. I certainly didn’t fit it over 15 years ago when I first started researching. Two-thirds of my research career was spent in relative isolation (no pun intended). I had never even thought about the possibility of connecting with other family history enthusiasts who weren’t my cousins. I had no idea why I would want to do such a thing. Thinking back, I don’t know why I wouldn’t. 

This post is for all of you that are in that same boat, regardless of age. I couldn’t have been the only one, and I would be willing to bet that it’s even more common now. 

In 2009, I decided to attend my first genealogy event: the Ohio Genealogical Society’s annual conference. Held at Sawmill Creek near Huron, Ohio, it was close enough for me to commute daily rather than commit to spending big bucks for several nights in a hotel. I can’t tell you for sure all the lectures I attended. I’m pretty sure I saw lectures about Pennsylvania genealogy and Virginia genealogy. I went to one about Irish research. I think I attended one about researching women ancestors. I know for sure that I attended a lecture about Civil War research.

I know this not because I remember the websites and other resources mentioned during the hour. I remember it because it was at that lecture that my genealogy career really began. I met Brent Morgan. And so it started. Brent and his wife, Sharon, were sitting next to me in this lecture. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but after the lecture we were talking. Upon learning I lived in Cleveland, Brent told me that I should go to the next meeting of the East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society. He said they were having a great speaker that night. I asked who, and he replied that he was the speaker. I did go to that meeting, and then I joined the group. And I’ve never looked back.

I didn’t attend many meetings that first year, but I also joined the Lake County Genealogical Society to attend some of their programs. I started blogging. At first, I blogged about whatever came to mind, but it quickly evolved into a genealogy blog. Later that year, Lake County hosted Elissa Scalise Powell. I had seen her speak at the 2009 conference, and blogged about the fact that she would speaking at Lake County. I didn’t even think about it at the time.

Enter the 2010 OGS conference in Toledo. By that time, I had gotten serious about genealogy. Just prior to the conference, I joined the waiting list to be part of a ProGen group. I asked if I could attend the ProGen lunch gathering at the conference.  At that luncheon, I met a number of people, including local genealogist, Carla Cegielski, as well as not-so-local folks like Harold Henderson. The conversations were enlightening. Never before had I met so many people who were not only passionate about genealogy, but knowledgeable. After introducing myself, Carla told me that a number of people had attended Elissa’s talk because they had heard about it from my blog post. WHAT?? Someone actually found and read the blog? I had no idea.

My application to the First Families of Ohio was also accepted that year, and I planned to attend the banquet. One of the lecturers I saw at this conference was Craig Scott. Earlier that winter, Craig was speaking in Pittsburgh, but a winter storm prevented me from attending. In the lobby on my way to the banquet, I saw Craig, introduced myself, and told him that I was sorry to have missed his Pittsburgh appearance. He sat down in a chair and asked me what I wanted to know. He spent so much time talking one-on-one with me that I ended up being late for the banquet. I hate being late, but that was well worth it! At the banquet, I sat next to Jean Hoffman, who I had met somewhere along the line, probably having been introduced by Brent.

That conference was yet another mile-marker in my genealogical progression. The people I had met were so inspiring. We shared a common passion, and I jumped at the chance to completely immerse myself in genealogy, even if only for a few days, and with money I really didn’t have. Sitting in the lobby at that conference, I also joined APG.

Over the next two years, I kept my feet moving. I picked up a number of new volunteer commitments, and even started doing some client work. That summer I was put in contact with Margaret Cheney and– much to my horror at the time– launched my speaking career. I was now a member of East Cuyahoga, Lake County, Great Lakes APG Chapter, and the Western Reseve Historical Society’s Genealogical Committee.

The 2012 OGS conference was in Cleveland, my hometown! …and I couldn’t go. Not being able to get the time off work, I was relegated to manning the WRHS table for a few hours here and there. Enter Sunny Morton and Family Tree Magazine. While on my way to the vendor hall, I ran into Sunny. She offered to introduce me to her editor. Have you heard of the “elevator speech?” You know, where you have 30 seconds to tell all about yourself and how awesome you are? Not my strong suit anyway, I totally panicked. I was sure I sounded like a complete dolt and had totally tanked.

After the conference, I was glum, having only been able to spend a few hours there, all in the vendor hall. Even in that limited time, I managed to blow my chance at writing for publication. And a month later, out of the blue, I got an email from Family Tree. And a week later, another email. I went from thinking I’d blown my chance to suddenly having two articles with actual deadlines, almost like a real writer. Though I wasn’t even registered for that conference, it turned out to be one of the best ever, business-wise.


I could go on and on about the 2011 conference in Columbus, or the 2013 conference in Cincinnati. Each was spectacular, and each spectacular for its own reasons. But it’s really those first few conferences that set my life on its current path. Now I don’t expect you all to suddenly decide to become professional genealogists…especially if you like to eat, live well, etc.  However: are you passionate about genealogy and not yet made a connection with the larger genealogical community? Are you are a newcomer looking for information and direction? A serious researcher looking to see top lecturers, immerse yourself in genealogical conversation, and make new connections? A conference can open doors to worlds you never knew existed.

That sounds cliche, but for me, it was totally true. I’ve met so many wonderful people since that conference in 2009– too many to name them all here individually, though I wish I could. I can’t even begin to imagine my genealogical life existing in total isolation. Many of you have provided me with milestone moments equally as important as these conference slices-of-life. Between conferences, institutes, and social media, my genealogical life is SO much richer with you all in it. I can’t thank enough.

So give it a shot. If you’re not sure and have some questions, drop me a line. I’m getting excited for this year’s OGS conference and would love to see you there. You can find the info at http://www.genex2014.org/ and register. Heck, make a long vacation out of it and head down to Richmond, Virginia to attend the 2014 National Genealogical Society conference: http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/.

Help Wanted: Calling All Staats males from the DE, Albany, or NJ Staats families!

Okay, so this gig doesn’t pay much. In fact, if you’re looking for cash, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, if the satisfaction of helping to sort out the origins of the Staats family in America floats your boat, you’re in luck. Colleague and potential cousin Dottie Staats Kerns has done a fabulous job getting a large number of Staats males from the West Virginia families to test. Purchasing the kits with her own money, she has gotten enough samples from each of the early WV branches that you can start to see the patterns– which line is more closely related to which. You can also see that they are all related to each other, although the exact relationship can’t be determined from the test. None of this replaces the paper trail and traditional research techniques; it’s just another tool in the toolbox. I don’t view these tests as an “answer,” but rather as a way to help guide us towards more evidence that will help guide us to evidence with which to draw a strong conclusion.

All of the WV DNA samples closely match the samples submitted by descendants of Jan Pieterszen Van Huysen family of Gowanus, (the patriarch of the Gowanus Staats family). So far, only one person from the Albany branch has tested. That test did not match the Gowanus branch tests even remotely. However, one test for comparison is simply not enough to draw any theories or conclusions. I won’t get into the details of how yDNA testing works, but at its most basic level, yDNA is passed from father-to-son, essentially unchanged. Ultimately, after analyzing certain “markers” along the DNA strand and how many times a pattern at that point is repeated, it’s statistics. By comparing data between tests, you can estimate 1) whether or not two males are related, and if so, 2) The number of generations within which they likely share a common ancestor.

No one from my branch, the Delaware branch, has tested at all. I don’t think anyone from the New Jersey branch has tested, either, but I could be wrong about that. I would love to get someone from my same DE line to test to help get a better idea where I fit in, but I am ultimately interested in helping build a database of ALL of the Staats families as a tool to help sort out the origins of each. I am especially interested in the Delaware branch, and have reached out to descendants of those families individually. However, I can’t write to everyone, and posting here is my way of hoping to cast the net a little wider.

What’s the catch? There really isn’t one. I have two testing kits at the ready. If you are a Staats male from any of these families and willing to help, I will send you the kits and instructions (it’s just a cheek swab that you rub around, stick in a plastic container, and mail it back to the company in the provided envelope. There’s no charge to you, and you can test anonymously. If you have any other question, please feel free to ask me.

Is Your Genealogy Hearsay?

I am always looking for parallels between legal research and genealogical research. In my evidence and torts class this week, we studied Ohio’s Rules of Evidence regarding the admissibility of hearsay evidence. It was a loooong stretch of class, and then suddenly we got to what I mentally labeled the “genealogy exceptions.” I woke back up. The “genealogy exceptions,”  as I call them, are hearsay statements that are admissible in court, and they include a large sampling of records that we normally use, or should be using as genealogists.

We’ve all heard “Objection, your Honor. Hearsay!” on TV, but what does it really mean? According to the Ohio rules, ”‘Hearsay’ is a statement1, other than one made by the declarant2 while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”3 In other words, hearsay is a statement by someone without first-hand knowledge of an event, that is given as evidence to support a specific claim.

Start with the general presumption that hearsay is inadmissible. As an example, assume Witness A saw a van run a red light, causing an accident. Witness A then tells Person B (who was not at the scene, and had no personal knowledge of the incident) what they saw. In general, the testimony of Person B will be inadmissible, at least when it is offered as evidence of the truth of the matter– in this case, as evidence of the cause of the accident. There are exceptions…there are a lot of exceptions, but in general, if you didn’t see, hear, or otherwise personally experience something, and you’re not the one making a statement, your statement is not admissible as evidence.

What are some of the exceptions that allow statements by someone other than the declarant to be admissable? Here are a few from Rule 803 I think you’ll recognize:

(8) Public records and reportsRecords, reports, statements, or data compilations,
in any form, of public offices or agencies, setting forth (a) the activities of the office or agency,
or (b) matters observed pursuant to duty imposed by law as to which matters there was a duty to
report, excluding, however, in criminal cases matters observed by police officers and other law
enforcement personnel, unless offered by defendant, unless the sources of information or other
circumstances indicate lack of trustworthiness.

(9) Records of vital statisticsRecords or data compilations, in any form, of births,
fetal deaths, deaths, or marriages, if the report thereof was made to a public office pursuant to
requirement of law

(10) Absence of public record or entryTo prove the absence of a record, report,
statement, or data compilation, in any form, or the nonoccurrence or nonexistence of a matter of
which a record, report, statement, or data compilation, in any form, was regularly made and
preserved by a public office or agency, evidence in the form of a certification in accordance with
Rule 901(B)(10) or testimony, that diligent search failed to disclose the record, report, statement,
or data compilation, or entry.

(11) Records of religious organizationsStatements of births, marriages, divorces,
deaths, legitimacy, ancestry, relationship by blood or marriage, or other similar facts of personal
or family history, contained in a regularly kept record of a religious organization.

(12) Marriage, baptismal, and similar certificatesStatements of fact contained in a
certificate that the maker performed a marriage or other ceremony or administered a sacrament,
made by a clergyman, public official, or other person authorized by the rules or practices of a
religious organization or by law to perform the act certified, and purporting to have been issued
at the time of the act or within a reasonable time thereafter.

(13) Family recordsStatements of fact concerning personal or family history
contained in family Bibles, genealogies, charts, engravings on rings, inscriptions on family
portraits, engravings on urns, crypts, or tombstones, or the like.

(14) Records of documents affecting an interest in propertyThe record of a
document purporting to establish or affect an interest in property, as proof of the content of the
original recorded document and its execution and delivery by each person by whom it purports to
have been executed, if the record is a record of a public office and an applicable statute
authorizes the recording of documents of that kind in that office.

(15) Statements in documents affecting an interest in propertyA statement
contained in a document purporting to establish or affect an interest in property if the matter
stated was relevant to the purpose of the document, unless dealings with the property since the document was made have been inconsistent with the truth of the statement or the purport of the document.

(16) Statements in ancient documents. Statements in a document in existence twenty
years or more4 the authenticity of which is established.5

Notice that almost every exception contains the language “statements of fact, ” and any of the documents listed here will contain them. What we can’t tell from any single individual document is whether or not a given statement of fact it contains is correct. If I’m a lawyer, I’m most interested in winning. The “correct” statement is whichever one most benefits my client. If other statements disagree, I’m going to be looking to keep them out of evidence or otherwise explain them away however I can. As genealogists, though ,we want to bring as many of these “statements of fact,” from as many different admissible sources as possible.6 We need to be able to examine and cross-examine (forgive the pun) each source to see what information it contains. We need to look at the information that each source contains, and what sort of evidence that information provides to help solve our case. Then we need to correlate all the various pieces of evidence from all the different sources7 to come up with the best possible argument to “prove” our case. As genealogists, we only win when we are the most accurate we can be given the all evidence available.

What does all this have to do with genealogy? It means that, in general, all those Ancestry, FamilySearch, WikiTree, or family history books are hearsay. Don’t admit them to your personal Court of Genealogy. The author or compiler of that tree, in most cases  1) did not have first-hand knowledge of the events about which which he is making a statement, and 2) is making that statement in order to offer evidence evidence to prove an assertion. The assertion in this case is kinship, asserting the correctness of a pedigree chart or family group sheet. What evidence IS admissible are all those sorts of documents that we should be using– the exceptions listed in Ohio Rules of Evidence.

Astute readers may point out a flaw here: I claimed that evidence from online or published family trees is not admissible, yet under exception 803(13), genealogies are admissible. True enough, you can admit them if you choose. But our goal as genealogists is truth, and we are looking to find and admit as much evidence as possible to get that goal. In the process of collecting evidence from all those other documents, that online of published family tree is either going to become superfluous to your argument, or it is going to be shown to be incorrect. If all you have is that genealogy, your chances of winning a case aren’t real good. That’s not to say that the genealogy won’t, in some cases, save you time building your case by pointing you to the actual admissible evidence from which the genealogy was compiled, but that is something better left in your notes than in your finished argument.

You ARE going to write out your proof argument, right? Not many court cases are won by plopping down a stack of papers on the judge’s bench and hoping that he has time to analyze it all and come to the same conclusions you did. Similarly, no matter how carefully a genealogist enters information into a database, no matter how meticulous and correct the source citations are– no one will be able to automatically divine how you determined that John, not Joseph was the father of your ancestor, or that he was married to Mary Williams, not Mary Smith. With three different documents giving two different dates, how did you conclude that the one that didn’t match was the correct date? You need to explain how all that evidence and its analysis fit together to arrive at the sound conclusion you’ve reached.8 It’s this written process of analysis and correlation that helps separate sound research from document-collecting.

  1. defined as “(1) an oral or written assertion or (2) nonverbal conduct of a person, if it is intended by the person as an assertion.” Ohio Rules of Evidence, Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio Judicial System (www.supremecourt.ohio.gov: accessed 7 Dec 2013); Rule 802(A). [↩]
  2. A “declarant” is a person who makes a statement. Ibid., Rule 802(B). [↩]
  3. Ohio Rules of Evidence, Rule 801(C). [↩]
  4. …nice to know that my own marriage record is an “ancient document.” [↩]
  5. Ibid., Rule 803(8-16). [↩]
  6. This is the first piece of the Genealogical Proof Standard– a reasonably exhaustive search. For all GPS references, see “Genealogical Proof Standard,” Board For Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html: accessed 10 Dec 2013). [↩]
  7. Parts 3 and 4 of the GPS– Analysis and correlation of the collected information and Resolution of conflicting evidence. [↩]
  8. Part 5 of the GPS–Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion. [↩]

Wrestling With FamilySearch Record Collections That Use the Russell Index

The Russell Index. Just mentioning the name causes some to shudder. The skeleton key symbol emblazoned with its cryptic “l-m-n-r-t” message. The dreaded columns and rows.  Letters and numbers all over the page. Noooooo! If you do research in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, among others, you are going to have to master this index. I’m here to tell you, though, folks – this is one of my favorite indexes. With just a little bit of practice, I guarantee you’ll learn to love it, too. There are different variations of this index, but each revolves around the use of five key letters that follow the first letter of a given surname.

Russell index books are organized into individual volumes, according the initial letter of a surname. You may also find volumes that combine several initial letters into one volume. For example, you might find a single volume that contains all those surnames beginning with H, I, and J. Once you have the volume in hand that contains the surname you are interested in, ignore the first letter of the surname and identify the first key letter contained within that name. The Russell system uses five key letters: L, M, N, R, and T. If I am looking for the surname “Johns,” I first select the volume that contains the “J” surnames. Next, I need to identify the first key letter in “Johns.” That key letter is “N.” Once we know the key letter, index entries are going to be organized by first letter of the given name. If the surname doesn’t contain any key letters, use the “Misc.” column. Simple enough, right?

Using the chart below, what section would contain entries for Samuel Johns?1 (answer in the footnote)


This all seems rather complicated. How can I claim this is one of my favorite indexes? While not a true “sounds-like” index, the use of key letters groups similar-sounding surnames in the same section. This makes it easier to search for alternate spellings of names, as they are all in one place. For example, if I am looking for transactions for Rueben Summers, I will find them all in section 152, regardless of whether the name is spelled “Summers,” “Sommers,” “Summer,” or “Sommer.” What if I don’t know the given name that I’m looking for– only a surname? The Russell Index simplifies that search, too. Using the index above, if I’m looking for entries for an unknown Summers, I can start at section 12, go to 22, then 32, etc. In a general index that’s organized by surname, then by first name, and then chronologically by date, you would likely have to scroll through many, many more pages to find every entry of interest.

So how does this work online with FamilySearch record collections? Many of the collections that have been digitized and put online are not indexed, and you have to browse through them similar to the way you would scroll through using the actual microfilm. Many of the films (and therefore the digitized images of that film) contain more than one volume. Therefore, the inside cover of each index book – the page that usually contains the index key- might be found anywhere within the digital collection.

*Most* collections start at the beginning of a volume, in which case it’s fairly easy to find the index key, as it is usually within the first few images of the collection. If that’s the case, be sure to note the number of the image that contains it so you can go directly back to it if necessary. I’ve also found it useful to print out a key for the Russell Index variations that I most frequently use rather than have to keep going back and forth when searching for different names; it’s a real time-saver.

Need more Russell Index practice? Use the Russell index above to look for the following folks– the first few governors of Ohio.

Edward Tiffin?2
Thomas Kirker?3
Samuel Huntingdon?4
Return Meigs?5
Othniel Looker?6
Unknown Worthington?7

Just to make sure you don’t cheat and look directly at the answers, below is a Russell Index variation that uses two key letters instead of one. It works exactly the same way, but breaks the indexes down into more manageable chunks when there are lots of entries.


See? The Russell Index is NOT that scary. Take a deep breath, read the instructions, and then show Russell who is boss!

  1. Section 153. The only key letter is “n.” Following that column down to given names that start with “S” gives us the answer. [↩]
  2. Tiffin, 53 [↩]
  3. Kirker, 164 [↩]
  4. Huntingdon, 153 [↩]
  5. Meigs, 146 [↩]
  6. Looker, 124 [↩]
  7. Worthington, all those sections ending with 4 [↩]