Darke County Genealogical Researchers > Preponderance of Evidence part 2

PROVING Your Ancestors in
Darke County, Ohio
[or Anywhere!]

Written by Corinne Hanna Diller,
of Houston, Texas

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Many researchers won't take census into account.

Census is notorious for errors. But it has some advantages, too. For one thing, everyone was supposed to be included. I have some ancestors in Pickaway Co. who were *so-and-so* and they wouldn't cooperate with the govermnment if they could avoid it. Hence, when they do show up on census, it was probably information the census taker got from neighbors.

But they couldn't be away from home every time the census taker came. Get all census, for all ancestors, and all their neighbors. It shows that they exist, and haven't gone west. There is a whole lecture on the use of maps with census records. It can make a real difference.

I believe the 1790 census for Bedford Co., Penna. is the most illiterate, innacurate census that I've ever seen! For many years before, and many years after, I can prove the inhabitants of Bethel/Belfast Twps. by tax records and census records. An entire township is missing in 1790. I couldn't say that without having researched all the neighbors before and after 1790. Hence, instead of saying that an ancestor was not there by 1790, or had left by 1790, I curse at the census taker who missed them.

On the 1850 census, the land value will give you a clue whether to look for an estate later. In 1860, Democrats were selected as census takers! In 1870, it's estimated that 1.2 million people were missed in the South.

It's not a complete census search, unless you copy the complete neighborhood, and all persons of the same surname in the County. Census prior to 1850 are not used to prove anything, however the clues they provide can be priceless. Before 1850, there are fewer records of all types. Hence, what you can find, will be even more important.

What can you do by studying neighbors on census? My ancestor Valentine STEPHENS was born in 1813 in Penna. Per records of their children, he was married probably 1831 in Ross Co., Ohio. I read through all STEPHENS on the Ross Co. census for 1830, looking for a family with a son about 17 years old. I also did Pickaway Co., because I know there are a lot of families that have connections between those two counties. Much to my surprise, I only found one STEPHENS / STEVENS who fit. (There was one other family, but I quickly proved they were black; my ancestor was white.)

Studying more census of Ross Co., I learned that Joseph STEPHENS (the probable father) was born circa 1789, and that Valentine was his oldest child. He was not in Ohio in 1820. Reading through all Penna. census for 1820, I only found one Joseph the right age, with a son the right age. On the 1830 Ohio census, he had a half dozen neighbors who matched names of neighbors in Luzerne Co., Penna., where I found him in 1820.

Joseph Stephens apparently died in the 1830's. In 1840 there is a widow Elizabeth STEPHENS born 1790's. Then in 1850, in Perry Co., Monroe Twp., page 247, there is again Elizabeth STEVENS, age 55, living with Henry and Rebecca Palmer family. Sure enough, looking back through marriages, there is a marriage in 1838 of Rebecca Stevens and Henry Palmer, in Perry Co. And to carry the associations even farther, In 1820 and 1830, Joseph Stephens has an elderly neighbor named Elizabeth GEORGE. Back to Luzerne Co., Penna., he has a neighbor named William GEORGE, old enough to be his father-in-law.

You are saying, NONE of this is proof. Very true. But this gives me exact places and times to look for further records. Sure beats researching every STEPHENS inOhio and Penna. hoping to get lucky!

Another case of what you can do with census : My husband's ancestor, John Diller Sr., (1787-1875) had a child born in Germany in 1819, and was found on the 1820 census in this country. His naturalization papers were found in an attic many years ago : he renounced allegiance to the King of Germany. Well, that doesn't help any. I can not find his marriage, birth, or birth of the first son on any L.D.S. records. (It's probably a village they haven't done yet, perhaps was behind the Iron Curtain.)

Lutheran church records from Perry Co., Ohio, give information on all the rest of the children, marriages, deaths, etc. But, where did they come from? Some children were living in 1880, and 1900. I also checked children of the eldest son born in Germany, also in 1880 and 1900. Out of 3 living children and 7 grandchildren on these two census years (a total of 20 answers) all but one said father born PRUSSIA. The one who differed, was the one who lived in another state hence not in communication with the others as much. He said Bavaria in 1880, and Germany in 1900. Hence a very strong concensus that the family came from Prussia. I still have a lot of work to do, but at least I don't have to search all of continental Europe for this family.

On the 1870 census for Solomon DAY, Darke Co., Patterson Twp., page 287, he apparently says he was born in Saxonland. Solomon was born in Virginia in 1812, and his father was born in Virginia in 1782 however, this is an important clue. Most likely, the census taker did not ask *Where were you born?* He may have asked, *where were your father's people from?* He may have gotten this information from a child, or a neighbor. Census takers did not always interview the actual people in the household.

By the way, John Diller Sr. in 1820 is the most RECENT immigrant I have on either my lineage, or my husband's. All my other lines came to this country long before that.

Read every census for the surname you are looking for, in the county where you *know* they are, and adjacent counties. In 1880 I find the orphaned children of James RAMSEY in 3 counties! And, list all the neighbors around your ancestor. The rule of thumb is usually about 20 names above, and 20 names below your ancestor.



More examples of what you can do by studying census: The microfilmed census we read at our libraries, is the Federal copy made from the state copy. Being a copy, it is less likely to be accurate. By studying the neighborhood, you can compensate for errors.

My FRIEND family of Miami Co. has been a bone of contention among some researchers. I studied my ancestor's neighborhood on 1810 tax lists, on 1820 census, on the 1821 property tax rolls, and again in 1830. I discovered there were a bunch of neighbors missing in 1820. I didn't think that any of them were relations, but still, I needed to know what happened to them. Reading through the 1820 census again, I found the missing people on a couple of pages labeled "Lost Creek Township". What were they doing there? Did a bunch move up there, then back between 1820 and 1821? Studying Range, Township, and Section on tax lists, I found that the people listed for 1820 in Lost Creek all owned land in Union Twp. I believe those pages were mis-labeled at the top, and should be Union Twp. in 1820. This led to the discovery that one of these supposed Lost Creek Twp. men, William FINCHER, had married 8 June 1810, in Miami Co., to Susanna FRIEND, and actually lived quite close to Jesse FRIEND, my ancestor. She is probably his sister. This tells me more about his family.

Check apprenticeships for the county. By the number of apprentice- ship records extant, probably half of the households in Frederick Co., Md. had an apprentice living there on the 1800 census. This will affect your estimate of the children.

Depending on the locality, bastards are found under Bastardy Bonds, Apprenticeships, or Sheriff's orders. The small child was often apprenticed to the natural father, which made him responsible for the child. The County Court wanted to be sure the child (and mother) did not become indigent. Usually by the age of 4 or 5 the child was bound to the father's family, with the mother's family signing a bond. It is not proof, but it is a valuable clue. Look many years later and see if that child shared in the estate of the man she was apprenticed to.

Don't be easily satisfied, and don't give up easily.



One of the main rules is that contemporary evidence carries more weight. A death certificate may tell you when the person was born, but that method of proving birth is not contemporary. It is at the end of the person's life. Was the informant a son-in-law, or a spouse?

I'll use a case study to show how we can be more contemporary. Delpha PATTY was born late 1800, in Newberry Co., S.C. She was out of wedlock, and her mother was living with the grandmother on the 1800 census, but no baby in household as of date of census. Subsequent census, and age at death, all agree she was born in 1800.

In 1984 I interviewed Mary-Helen Pemberton, of West Milton,Ohio, who told me many interesting details about Delpha. However, I have never proved many of the things she said. Obviously Mary-Helen was not a contemporary of Delpha. She did know many stories, though. She told me that Delpha's mother, Dorcas PATTY, married her own maternal uncle, Jesse MOTE, and that Jesse never would speak to the child as she grew up in his home. I can prove that Dorcas and Jesse were married by 1803, and that both died in 1814, in Ohio.

(I won't repeat the tales that had absolutely NO evidence, because once something gets into print, even with caveats, it gets spread around as fact.)

Delpha had a cousin named Minnie, who would have been her contemporary and knew her. Minnie was said to be a lover of gossip -- the dirtier the better. According to Minnie, Delpha's son Benjamin PEARSON was illigitimate, and the son of an English nobleman. Joseph Pearson was awarded large landholdings for marrying Delpha, and raising the child as his own.

Yes, Minnie knew Delpha. However, she was not there at the marriage, which means she is not a contemporary source for it. The Quaker clerk was a contemporary of the marriage and births of the children -- Delpha and Joseph were married 5 Feb. 1817 (Miami Co. Book B, page 94), and children were Elizabeth born 23 May 1821, Benjamin 8 Dec. 1824, Jane 8 Oct. 1828. Further, there is no evidence that Joseph ever owned anything more than a modest farm.

Minnie apparently did not like Delpha, and wanted the world to think that Delpha couldn't get a husband unless he was bought off. The story changed from Delpha's mother having made a mistake (and an unhappy marriage) to Delpha herself being immoral. Minnie was much younger than Delpha.

Luke Smith MOTE (1812-1898) in his "Sketch Book" of family records tells the names of the children of Dorcas and Jesse, being, * Ezekiel, Charles, Asa, James, & Jesse. They also had a half sister Delphi*. This was written in the 1850's, which is more contemporary.

So the question here is, *who is most contemporary*? And, *what reason did the person have for telling the story*?

Frederick Holsapple bought Federal Land 8 Dec. 1819, in Montgomery Co., Ohio. In the Montgomery County Deed Book Number 114, page 297 that deed is recorded on 12 March 1879. No reason is given for recording it at this time. Frederick had died circa 1831/1835. Perhaps a son had died, and his heirs wanted to be sure of a clear title. This is a tantalizing clue, which requires more research. It does tell us that there were still descendants in 1879, and that they still had a copy of the original deed. It does not tell us *why* they were recording the deed at this time. However, we would not know this if we had not looked for deeds after 1835. The 1879 recording clearly is not contemporary with the life of the original landowner. But what reason did they have for recording it? The reason could make this source carry much more weight.



March 31, 1783, Elizabeth Friend, of Washington Co., Md., married Peter Light.

This seems like a straight- forward enough statement. However, I need to prove, or disprove the above. As I began to research, I discovered that there were three men named Peter LIGHT associated with Washington Co., Md., who were roughly her contemporaries. One of them was only 16 years old when this wedding took place. The second one was married to Eve Fogler by 1785, per her father's will. He then died young, and there are many records of his estate, guardians of his children, etc., which mention the widow Eve.

The third man was more difficult to get a handle on. He is found in a cemetery, with wife Elizabeth, and 8 children (most died young). But the thing that keeps gnawing away at me is the fact that his first child was not born till 1790. It seems very unlikely a woman married in 1783 would not give birth till 1790, and then have seven more babies like clockwork after that.

The latter Peter Light spent most of his life in Berkeley Co., (W) Va., operating a ferry and Inn at Watkin's Ferry on the Potomac River. Since Virginia does not have census for 1790 or 1800, it is difficult to research the time period I want. Deeds may be of a great help, and I've already read deeds in Washington Co., Md. They show no evidence whatsoever that the Peter Light of Va. had any dealings with the Friend family, or any of their associates. Deeds in Va. will be time consuming, so in the meantime I decided to research the personal property tax lists. (I had read wills of Washington Co., Md., already.)

The tax lists begin in 1782, and I intend to read through 1823, two years after Peter's death. Why read every single year? Why not just hit a few high spots, say every 5 years? Wouldn't that tell me he was living there consistently? Look at what I found :

From 1782-1786, there is only one Peter Light, designated as "Senr". In 1786, Peter "Junr" appears with 1 white male, and significantly less property than "Senr". Hence, I believe Peter was setting up his own household about this year. If he was married circa 1786/1787, then a first child in 1790 would not be out of line. Bear in mind that when a couple married, the babies began to come right away. Most couples had the cabin built, linens sewn, and turnips planted before they were married.

Things proceed quite smoothly till 1796. Then the tax record says : Peter Light Senr. executor, no taxable males (still has slaves and horses); and Peter Junr. has 1 white taxable male. Senior probably died at this time.

In the next years, Peter Junior is now Peter Senior (same number of horses, etc.) On the 1798 list, the resident tax payers, and non-residents are listed separately. This is a great help, since so many people in the western Md. area speculated in land in Va. & Pa. This tells us if there were actually two men of a same name, or if it was one man (probably living in Md.) being taxed in two places.

Another interesting thing happens in 1799 we get the advantage of one of those quirks of record-keepers. The clerk who wrote out the taxes that year wrote down a location for each name. Hence, Peter Light is designated as "of Stephen's Neck". So are all the other Lights on the list. This tells me the LIGHT family of Berkeley Co., Va. were all living in one place without having to trace deeds for ALL of them.

Had I just skimmed the records, i.e. saving time, I would have missed the father's probable death, a clue to the son's marriage, and clues to locations. In fact, I had no idea there was an older Peter till I read the tax records!

Needless to say, these are the things I wanted. Much more work needs to be done. It is my theory that Elizabeth divorced Peter. She is supposed to be married to another man in Md. circa 1790. I don't know if I will ever prove it. But, I don't stand any chance at all unless I research every record of every Peter Light possible. Otherwise, someone will come along and spot a hole big enough to drive a truck through, and there goes my theory. If she remained married to Peter Light, I need to know which one.

In 1808, there were no taxes levied in Virginia. The government failed to enact the legislation for it. Things like this need to be taken into account. Did the courthouse burn in the county in question? Did the clerk for a certain year (or period of years) store the record books at home? It happened a lot! This is how lost records suddenly resurface many years later when someone cleaned the attic.

This is a brief digest of the work that has gone into identifying the different men of the same name in the same area. Had I just accepted the marriage record at face value, and combined all items on any "Peter Light", I would have committed some very grave sins against my ancestors.



1806-1810, Va., Augusta Co., continuing lawsuit, James Cunningham -vs- Jonathan Purcell, regarding title to land. Tract had been conveyed 1772 from George Fairfax to Charles Friend, and then Gabriel Friend, heir-at-law, and his wife Jane, conveyed it 10 March 1796, to Jonathan Purcell; latter deed recorded 17 April 1797, in Hampshire Co. . . . .

The above is a condensation of court records in Augusta Co., Va. I thought this referred to my Charles FRIEND (1733-1811) of Greenbrier Co., Va. He is found in other lawsuits over land in Augusta Co., regarding his father's estate. I did not have one reason to suspect this was not my Charles. And, the above appears to PROVE that he had an eldest son named Gabriel (a name found commonly in the Friend family), who was married to Jane.

So why question it? Gee, she is so picky! Look at what I subsequently found, in some widely scattered locations :

1759, Nov. 22, Md., Frederick Co., date of will of Gabriel Friend, gunsmith, brother Jacob; brother Charles . . . (no other heirs) (Fredk. Co., Md., Will Book A1:139-140) (WMG 2:26)

1772, Oct. 22, Va., Hampshire Co., grant to Charles Friend of Frederick Co., Md., for 126 acres on Allegany Mountain, surveyed 11 April 1754 for Richard Lean, but forfetited and now property of assignee Charles Friend. (Grant Book P:105) ("Va.N.Neck Land Grants", by Gertrude Gray, Vol. 2, page 219)

1775/77, Md., Frederick Co., Jacob Good's Company of the Flying Camp (German Regt) included Charles Friend. 1778, Md., Washington Co. Oaths of Fidelity : Jacob Friend, but not Charles. (NGSQ 6:12-21)

1784, July 21, Washington Co., deed, Gabriel Friend, yeoman son of Jacob Friend, sells to Jacob Friend, farmer, father to Gabriel Friend . . . whereas Charles Friend Sr., father to Jacob and grandfather to Gabriel, by LWT dated 24 Feb. 1751, devised to sons Gabriel, Jacob, and Charles, certain lands "Sweds Delight", 260 acres, and "Dear Bought" (sic) 25 acres which land was divided, and as Gabriel, the eldest son of Charles, died without issue, and whereas Charles the youngest son of Charles Sr. arrived to age 21 and was in possession of the land from his father, and the death of his brother, and also owned land in Hampshire Co., Va., containing 126 acres, and after Charles died intestate without issue, and whereas Gabriel has agreed to relinquish his right to any of these lands, and as heir-at-law to his uncles Gabriel and Charles, dec'd, and to make over his right to his father Jacob for L.10 . . . (Gabriel signed in a pretty hand); no dower. Witnesses, John Stull, Alexr. Clagett; rec. 20 Sep. 1784. (Wash. Co. Deeds, D:59-61) (WMG 5:25-26) (LDS # 14601)

We are talking about a whole different branch of the Friend family, one that was confined exclusively to Washington Co., Md. . . or so the conventional thinking had been. Nothing had been known about the two brothers of Jacob, other than they died without heirs. So in the 1806-1810 lawsuit, the Charles is brother of Jacob, and the Gabriel and Jane are son and dau-in-law of Jacob, of Md. One more item :

1750/1, Feb.27, Md., Frederick Co., date of will of Charles "CF" Friend, farmer, very sick; plantation to wife Gattery during widowhood, then to son Gabriel when he reaches 21, except house and 10 acres to her if she marries; my whole estate to be divided in 3 equal parts and managed by executors till my sons grow capable of taking care of theirs; to son Gabriel land where I now live, rifle, 1/3 of stock; other two sons, Jacob and Charles are of age ; To son Jacob land where Hance Bowman now lives & 1/3 stock; to son Charles upper part of "Snider's Delight", adjoining John Jack (Jacques), & 1/3 of stock; (bro-in-law) Robert Turner to divide moveable estate into thirds; executors, wife Garthery, and Robert Turner of Frederick Co.; witnesses, Edward Wyatt, Enoch Enokson, James Dickson; proved 20 March 1751. (WMG 1:3-4) 1751, March 20, Md., Frederick Co., proved will of Charles Friend. The widow refuses to stand by the will, and claims thirds. (Third will rec. in Frederick Co., Book A1, pages 3-4) (Also rec. in Washington Co., Book A , page 180)

These people got around more than we imagine. The brother of Charles Friend Sr., was Israel Friend. He died in 1753 in Jefferson Co., (W) Va. His will is recorded in Frederick Co., Md., and also is recorded in Augusta Co., Va. Sometimes we really have to dig deep.

Note: New information added in Jan. 2002:

I was given a citation for a will for Israel Friend, in 1753, in Frederick Co., Md., with a book and page number. I accepted that at face value, and repeated it many times. Because I had the copy of his will recorded on the other side of the river, in Va., I didn't think much about the will in Maryland. Then I got curious, and decided to get a copy of that recording of the will, just to be sure they matched. I discovered that there was no such book, no such page. He did not have a will recorded in Maryland, nor an inventory of estate, probate record, guardianship, and nothing at all in tax lists! Now I don't know where I got the original citation, but I've once again reminded myself to check everything myself. Now when I type a citation I include the note "copies in my files" so I know what I've verified myself, and what I still need to follow through on.



It is a contradiction of terms to *summarize* something that is titled *Preponderance*, but I will try.

For each ancestor, we must build a case, giving evidence of who they are, and even evidence of who they are not. To do this, each piece of information about a given person must be documented by more than one source. (Death certificates are often wrong!) And, in order to say you actually know this ancestor, you must research all of his relatives and associates.

By analyzing the same evidence, you can learn much more about your ancestors. A critical eye will discover errors in primary sources, and will find the truth in secondary sources. Proof is not a document; proof is the argument you create, using the evidence you collect.

Why was this piece of evidence created? If a widow was trying to get pension funds, she may stretch the truth. If a tax collector was listing all the land holdings, he was required to be accurate. One source found in three places, is still only one source. You have to identify all men of the same name, or you have identified none.

You are seeking information that is not yet known. But you are seeking it where the ancestor is known to have been. We all want to make the jump back to the immigrant, or to the state they came from, but the clues will be found where you know he was, not where you don't know he was. Never ignore any record that exists.

Follow all named persons through their entire lives. You may find that 30 years later the brother-in-law has the widow living with him. You need her. Every ancestor presents a different set of facts that need to be linked together. Connecting the links makes it a chain, instead of a pile of links.

Typing names next to each other, does not make them a family! Do not treat any detail in isolation. You have to know everyone your ancestor knew. His neighbors will tell you about him.

Elizabeth Shown Mills says : Genius consists not in making great discoveries, but in seeing the connections between small ones.

The past is a foreign country. Find out who was moving to or from that neighborhood, and why. My opinion does not count; my ancestor's thoughts do count. Even nomads had patterns to their lives, and that is how you put their chains together. What laws were in effect in that time and place? What were a widow's rights? What did he have to do to qualify to buy land?

It is not a complete search, unless you copy a complete neighborhood, and all persons of the same surname in that county. One can never prove a hypothesis -- it can only be disproved. Your job is to seek ways to disprove it. If a hypothesis has been tested in a VARIETY of ways, and not disproved, it can be accepted as a fact. And if you have shown that there is not ONE overlooked disproof left, you have reached your goal. We must never be unwilling to be *confused by facts*!

None of us has the *final* answer. What we have is research so far.

Elizabeth Shown Mills says : Genealogy is a study of people, not the gathering of names. People had friends and associates and interests; all are factors which will connect the pieces into a family.

The End and Thanks to Corinne!

For further information e-mail Corinne Hanna Diller at: Cdiller@juno.com

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