Just before Thanksgiving, I found myself with a couple of hours available between job interviews to run a few errands downtown and to drop by the county library intending to look up a few things on film that were not available in the probate records online yet and to search through some old texts in the genealogy department. I love libraries and have spent a good portion of my life inside various library walls from the very instant that I received my first library card. The thing that I appreciate most is the silence and the anonymity that allows one to become totally involved in the task at hand, whether that be reading, studying, researching, or writing. You might appreciate my quiet exasperation then when I was approached by a person who sat down in the chair across from me and asked me what I was doing. I glanced up briefly and said that I was doing a little family researching and looked back down at my book. My visitor then asked me how long I’d been “doing genealogy” and when I replied that it had been over 30 years I was greeted with a (loud) rundown of this person recounting how two months ago they had finished their family history in two weeks on Ancestry.com, how easy it was, how they were related to two Kings of England and one of France, and how they were now here waiting on a computer so that they could do their next-door-neighbors genealogy today. [sigh] Even though I figured that I still had about half an hour that I could spend there, I politely and quietly, said “How very nice of you, but I really need to leave now.”
I didn’t find any of the records that I had been looking for on film and did not find what I was looking for in the books that I was pouring through, but I did find out that there were certain reference books that I could check out and take home and I was pretty happy about that. I am always amazed when people ask me when I’m going to be done with the family history (and I get that a lot). I am equally amazed when people say that they found all of their family information at Ancestry.com because, of course, we all know that it’s not as easy as that.
The wonderful thing about Amy Johnson Crow with her 2015 version of the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge is that she has provided optional themes for each week. When I first thought about accepting the challenge, I figured that this would force me to focus on some of those “brick walls” that I had been ignoring. They’re brick walls for a reason; either because there is very little information to be found because of the date, area, and record-keeping, because you’re dealing with a very common name, or because you’re dealing with a woman. How many times have you been cemetery stomping and ran across a stone that said “Wife of…” and the man’s name? A lot, I bet. No mention of the woman’s name.
So when I saw that this week’s theme was “King”, I thought that I’d tackle Rebecca Jane KING, one of my supposed paternal 4th great-grandmothers. I pulled up Rebecca in my software and…nothing. No date of birth or death. No date of marriage to Abraham GRAY. Hmmm…
I have no idea where or how I even obtained this name. It is a very, very rare instance where I might use someone’s tree at http://www.ancestry.com as a source. The name is not sourced in my software as having come from there, although it is apparent that there are no less than 9 others who have Rebecca Jane KING as the spouse of Abraham GRAY. I have spent the past week trying to find Miss Rebecca and have come up empty-handed. Times like this are when I start moving forward in time and checking everyone in my tree that might yield up information on the questionable person. The first thing that I did was check out Abraham GRAY. Sometimes, the more fact-checking you do, the more doubt it causes. According to an entry at www.findagrave.com, Abraham GRAY was born in 1754 in New York State and died in 1846 in Belmont County. That he was a Revolutionary War veteran, 3rd Regiment, Ulster County Militia from New York and I did find record of his service at www.fold3.com. It also states that he was living with his son, John at the time of the 1840 census and he was living with John GRAY, but I haven’t found any “proof” that this was his son (but am certainly hoping so). This entry also states that Abraham was buried on John GRAY’s farm and that the bones were moved to a nearby cemetery, Benson Hill Cemetery, when the remains were found by a company digging for coal on that land. This entry also notes two women who were wives of Abraham, and neither of them were Rebecca Jane KING (and no sources mentioned). Besides an Abraham GRAY appearing on several censuses between 1790 and 1820 in New York, I don’t seem to have much “proof” on Mr. Abraham GRAY either. I expected to find a land record for Abraham because of his military service, but a search at www.glorecords.bblm.gov turned up nothing in Ohio. What it did turn up though, are a lot of land records for the GRAY surname, especially in Belmont, Monroe, and Noble counties. Hmmm…
I moved on next to John GRAY, born about 1784, suspected son of Abraham GRAY. What I do know about John GRAY is that he married Elizabeth BREECH on 10 February 1834 in Belmont County, Ohio.
What I also know, is that I have found him and Elizabeth on the 1850 Belmont County, Ohio census and on the 1860 Noble County, Ohio census. It’s not clear to me if they actually moved to Noble County or if the change is due to county boundaries being changed between Belmont and Noble counties because I realized that a lot of people with trees on Ancestry’s site, had John’s death date as 29 March 1868, which is most certainly not correct. That death date does belong to one John GRAY, but not “my” John GRAY. The 1868 death date belongs to John GRAY, the last living Revolutionary War veteran – who also happened to live in Noble County, Ohio, but not Stock Township. This information cause me to spend a good amount of time reading about this Revolutionary War veteran because there is a huge amount of information available about him online, including old texts, and photographs! Secretly, I was hoping to find some kind of a connection through this John GRAY to my John GRAY. Was he Abraham’s brother? Probably not since he was born in Virginia, but quite possible considering the amount of movement of families going on during that time frame.
I spent a considerable amount of time reading about the early settling of Ohio and, in particular, the early histories of Belmont, Monroe, and Noble counties in Ohio. I also went back and had a closer look at my DNA results with Ancestry because I remembered that one of my “circles” was connected to Elizabeth BREECH. Not yielding any new conclusions, I went to a different part of my tree on my mother’s side. Her sister had married into a KING family that were fairly early settlers in Carroll County, Ohio. The earliest known KING ancestor that I had listed in this county was a Nathan KING, born about 1788 in Virginia. I did a quick check of names, trying to find a naming pattern that might indicate that Nathan may have had a sister named Rebecca or Jane – but I will admit that this was just grasping at straws. You never can tell,though, when families meet up and separate while following migration paths.
Reluctantly, I went back to my entry for Rebecca Jane KING and marked an asterisk in front of her name. In my mind, she probably does not belong attached to my tree, but because I cannot remember where this information came from, I’ll leave it in with the asterisk. Brick walls that have been there for years probably are not going to come tumbling down within a week of researching, but it did feel good to tackle one without veering too much off of the path. I have a habit of getting lost in the history of a place rather than just tracking down names and dates and plugging them into my tree. For me, knowing the history is what keeps me interested. There have been many times while visiting an old, obscure cemetery where kin are buried that I have just stood back and recalling what I know of the history of the place, have tried to imagine what those ancestors felt and how they lived, and how their own experiences may have helped to form who I am today. So…why am I not “done yet”? These are some of the many things why.