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.
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.