The topic for good deeds literally fell into my lap just this past week. I was experiencing mondo negativity through a myriad of varied and unrelated setbacks one after another all week. It seems the Universe was pretty mad at me. When I have weeks like this, I tend to shut down and turn to genealogy for distraction. Nothing can destroy my mood when I do genealogy. Records don’t threaten you, don’t scare you, don’t break, don’t demand the impossible from you, and they rarely disappoint.
I decided it was time to re-review old correspondence with past research compatriots. I sent out a few updates to some of the more promising “cousins.” I also cast out some new fishing lines. One of those lines was to a researcher who appears to share a common ancestor through James F. Johnson (father of Rosetta). With nothing new to go on and having exhausted all digitized records available online, I turned to other trees to see what they postulated and if they provided sources. A tree on Ancestry.com named John R. Johnson as James’ father, and Sarah Rall as his mother. We’ll call the tree’s owner, KC. She had the same online sources as I did, and she also made some notes to further support some details she recorded.
I sent KC a query about her notes on John R. and Sarah’s headstones (she personally saw these headstones before they disappeared along the St. Marys river banks in the same cemetery as James’ headstone.) KC had also referenced the will of John R. which named his wife, Sarah, daughter Mary F. Bell, and son James F. What I really wanted to know was how she came to the conclusion that James F., son of John, was the same James F. husband of Elizabeth Madden. I rarely get responses through Ancestry messages, but I don’t let that discourage me. It’s like fishing. Sometimes you get a bite, and sometimes you don’t, but you’ll still go fishing.
A Return on Investment
KCs reply was much more than I expected. Yes, she has personally seen the remnants of the headstones for John and Sarah. And she had seen the headstone for James F., which is hidden in the brush along the river. AND she pointed me to a 1990-1991 publication made by volunteers that had “walked” the cemeteries and recorded inscriptions as well as verified them against the recordings of earlier similar publications. Alas, it’s only available in print. But it’s available through Amazon. Do I buy a copy or not?
This publication records James’ wife, Elizabeth, as being buried in Willshire Cemetery, probably next to James. Like John and Sarah, her headstone has disappeared, either obliterated, buried under the brush, or washed away by the river. This publication reports Elizabeth’s death as 5 May 1866, a year after James. While her headstone was never actually found, the information is presumed to have been copied from another source, perhaps an old cemetery record or an index of death for Van Wert County, Ohio. Regardless, this date helps to narrow down the “when” for targeting records. It also eliminates the elder Elizabeth Johnson I found in the 1880 and 1890 Indiana census.
But how do we know that this James F. and Elizabeth were married? Well, negative evidence points us in that direction. It doesn’t appear that many Johnson’s were buried in Willshire Cemetery before 1900 (admittedly, all I have to go on is Find-a-Grave until or unless I buy a copy of the cemetery book.) Among those that are buried there is a toddler, Isadora Johnson, whose headstone identifies her as d/o J.F. & E. We can infer that J.F. is James F. Johnson and E. is Elizabeth. James seems to have always used his middle initial, most likely to differentiate himself from other James Johnsons in Indiana. If there is a James F. and an Elizabeth Johnson buried in Willshire, there is a pretty good chance that J.F. & E. refer to the same people and, therefore, Isadora’s parents.
Updating what I know
So, is James F., son of John, the same James F. husband of Elizabeth Madden? KC is very certain, and I find her justification reasonable. As mentioned before, James F. always used his middle initial. John names his son, James F., in his will. There are no other James F. Johnsons of the right age to be John’s son in Adams County, Indiana or Van Wert County, Ohio at the time of John’s death. And they are buried in the same cemetery.
What happened to Elizabeth Madden after the death of James? It appears as though she died relatively soon after James, and was buried next to or near her husband before time fully obliterated her existence. Poor Rosetta was 15 by the time her parents died. She was 17 when she married James Truman. She was an orphan, but remained close to her siblings if the one surviving letter from her sister, Mary, is any indication.
More Good Deeds
KC made an offer that pretty much cinches her up as performing good deeds. She has offered to send me copies of John R.’s probate file and research done in Adams County, Indiana. This will save me a trip to the Indiana/Ohio border and scratches my itch during the latest rounds of COVID lockdowns. I hate to put her through the trouble, but I would be pretty dumb not to accept.
Let me just knock out next week’s topic while I am here. I feel so much gratitude to KC for her good deeds and ability, with only a simple message response, to pull me out of my funk and negate all the bad mojo that was dealt to me last week. This kind stranger could not possibly know how much small deeds can effect a person at just the right time. And for me, it was sorely needed and greatly appreciated.
Thank you, KC! If you ever read this.