Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Cousins You Meet Online

When I first began researching my family history, I knew very little about researching beyond my own family. I was fortunate to live in a city housing one of the country's best genealogical libraries at the time. I grew up in the South and just assumed I came from a deep line of Southerners. Imagine my surprise when I found a census record with my maternal grandfather in it which identified his place of birth as Illinois. I then began to get the family stories. 

My great grandfather who was of Amish-Mennonite heritage married a woman who grew up Methodist. They began attending the Christian Church after marriage. Her line was an interesting one to me. Her mother's line was clearly New England. The only information I really had about her father's line was something published in one of those "vanity" publications. While parts of it were greatly embellished, it identified her father Stephen's father as Stephen and her grandfather as Isaac. It was said Stephen Sr. went off to fight in the War of 1812 and never came back. Some people say he died in Michigan. No records of his War of 1812 service exist. Stephen Sr. was in Washington County, Ohio by 1804 when he married Lovica Rathbone. Stephen Jr. was born in February 1814. Most people say Stephen Sr. died in 1814 in or near Detroit. We do not know exactly when Stephen Sr. was born, but it is estimated as being around 1780. Stephen Jr. said his father was born in New York. (Some accounts say it was in Little Hoosick, Albany County.)

I was intrigued by my connection to New England and New York. I began to communicate with other researchers via the various mailing lists and message boards that began to crop up. One person answered my query about Stephen, Stephen, and Isaac. He was descended from Isaac's son Cornelius and had been researching the line for many years. Cornelius and Stephen had a sister Debora who married Edmund Rathbone, Lovica's brother. 

My newly found cousin told me about the Taylors and Rathbones ownership of a mill in Ohio County, Virginia. (See the Find a Grave story about Private Edmund Rathbone.) This cousin was never one to share everything he knew. I think he wanted to see if you reached the same conclusion he did. However, he provided hints. Where was Isaac in 1790? My newly found cousin had researched all of the options and was leaning toward Isaac being the one in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania that year. He later concluded that was the case. He never provided a proof argument to me for this. It doesn't really go all that well with Stephen Jr.'s alleged birthplace in New York State.

My distant cousin Edgar Rives Taylor, Jr. died January 31 of this year. His son Gary contacted me earlier this week with the sad news as he was going through his father's email correspondence. When I resume work on the Taylor line, I need to go through my correspondence to pick up any clues or hints provided over the years. The proof argument will be my own, based on my own research, when I am able to clearly identify my ancestor. I will, however, miss Edgar's knowledge and the ability to ask him if he found anything that would negate a conclusion I make. His son Gary posted a lovely tribute to his father which includes part of his father's autobiography.

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