Rhoades WikiTree Dilemma

While in the process of pouring over my new Coomer DNA test results, I paused to catch up on some blog reading by other bloggers – on the topic of Genealogy of course…what else is there, right?

Anyway…I came across a most interesting article that introduced me to WikiTree.com (thank you, Anne Young!). Distraction accomplished.

I have now signed up on WikiTree and have begun to explore the site and how to use it. Low and behold, as I was comparing the Rhoades GEDCOM file against the ancestor profiles already uploaded, I get to Henry Rhodes (1759-1828) which brought my comparison to a screeching halt. Now I must pause while I contemplate how to proceed (he is the last one, along with his wife Catherine).  

The creators and managers of WikiTree strongly advocate for not creating duplicate profiles. The idea is WikiTree is meant to be a OneWorld Tree. I wholeheartedly agree.

Here is the problem. It seems that Henry’s affiliation as a Revolutionary War patriot is experiencing a resurgence. The DAR had previously flagged this patriot for additional evidence, but it has since been lifted and members are once again joining under this patriot as late as July 2020. In my own research, I have determined that Henry Roth/Rhoads, who migrated to Westmoreland County in 1800 with his whole family, is inconclusively the same man who served in the Chester County, PA militia. I lean towards “it’s not the same man.”

Many people who subscribe to Henry as a patriot repeatedly refer to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) membership and patriot rolls. The DAR lists Henry Roads (A095988) as a man who served in the Chester County Pennsylvania Militia in 1770 as a private under “Capt Holman, LCol Thomas Bull”. Furthermore, the patriot is attributed to the birth of 23 January 1754 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA, and the death of 23 January 1828 in Westmoreland County, PA.

As an aside, I am curious to know, what are the chances that a person was born and died on the same day 74 years apart? It’s plausible, sure. But what are the chances?

DAR member #381462, the first member to join under this patriot in 1947 did so based on three sources of evidence.

  1. Pennsylvania, Published Archives Series, 1664-1902, Volume 5, Part 5, Muster Rolls and Papers Relating the Associators and Militia of the County of Chester, pages 527 (image 79), 539 (image 91), 544-545 (images 96-97) on Ancestry.com $$)
  2. The Hough Genealogy by Elmer Hough of Fort Meyers in 1936
  3. The Smithton History 1800-1950 by Ethelclaire Rhodes Smith in 1950, also published as The Smithton Story before 1950 

The Pennsylvania Archives leaves no doubt that there was a man named “Henry Roads” who served and is named in the muster rolls for Capt. Holman’s Company for the 2nd Battalion of Chester County Militia Commanded by Col. Thomas Bull. BUT…

There is no evidence that Henry Roads from Chester County is the same Henry Roth/Rhoads who died in Westmoreland County.

In 1935, Elmer Hough appears to be the first person to associate Henry Rhodes as a Revolutionary patriot (page 25 of his publication) by referencing the Pennsylvania Archives as his source. He also predates DAR member #381462 for assigning a birth date exactly 74 years to the date of death. He further states that “Elizabeth Warner’s grandfather, Henry Rhoades, at the age of 46, in 1800, came from Charleston Twp., Chester Co., Pa., with a large family and settled in and around Smithton, Westmoreland Co., Pa.” His publication does not offer any source citations for reference.

Based on similar language used by Mr. Hough, he most likely based his English claim on a 1912 publication Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (1912), though source citations were not provided in this publication either. This source places both Henry and Joseph Smith as originating from Germantown (a suburb of Philadelphia) and is the source for English origins. This 1912 publication is the source of all the misattributions.

In 1950, Ethelclaire herself reported that Joseph Smith came from Bucks County to Westmoreland County. And she simply writes that Joseph’s father-in-law, “Henry Rhodes and his wife, Catherine, and a large number of grown offsprings – four sons, John, Henry, Michael and Peter – and four daughters of Henry Rhodes” came with him. Ethelclaire may have had the same reservations as I have today.

  • 1912 publication – origin is from Germantown near Philadelphia in Philadelphia County
  • 1935 Hough publication – origin as Charlestown Township, Chester County
  • 1940 DAR Application – origin Philadelphia City, Philadelphia County
  • 1950 Smithton History publication – origin is not directly stated, inferred Bucks County based on origins of son-in-law

The Birth Date

How did we come up with a birth date of 23 January 1754? Elmer Hough appears to have taken the age at death on Henry’s headstone literally. His headstone reads “In Memory of Henry Rhoads, Sr who departed this life Jany 23d 1828. In the 74th Year of his age”. Because the headstone didn’t measure out months and days, he assumed he died at exactly 74 years old. That is the only evidence to give 23 January as an exact date of birth. Here is the rub. The headstone was carved 74 years after his birth. And the informant was probably his children, who were not present at his birth, they just estimated. Finally, the headstone does not provide a place of birth or the name of his parents.  

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27617944/henry-rhoads : accessed 26 September 2021), memorial page for Henry Rhoads Sr. (22 Mar 1754–23 Jan 1828), Find a Grave Memorial ID 27617944, citing Hoffman Cemetery, Smithton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Glen Swartz (contributor 46889224) .

The Place of Birth and Ethnic Origins

Elmer Hough and the 1912 Fayette County History editors either never found or ignored evidence that his Westmoreland ancestors attended church in a German-based congregation, are all buried in a German-based graveyard, associated with German-descended families, and that his Smith cousins came from Bucks County. They totally missed the German connection.  Instead, they asserted that Henry’s ancestors were from noble English stock and misattributed the line to the wrong Roads family from Chester County.

Since Joseph Smith came from Bucks County with his blushing bride, it is a reasonable supposition that his in-laws came from Bucks County as well. And we do find a baptism for Joseph’s wife in the Bedford Township Tohickon Reformed Church rolls (Bucks County) under Roth. Also baptized in this church is her father as John Henry Roth and two siblings. Roth is the same surname recorded for the family in Westmoreland County’s Greensburg First Lutheran and Reformed Church, and Zion (Alverton) Lutheran and Reformed Church. And I have since established DNA matches with descendants of other Bucks County Roth lines. See my posts on Henry Rhoads here, here, and here.

  1. John Henry Roth was baptized on 22 September 1754 in the Tohicken Reformed Church of Bedminster Township, Bucks County, PA to Jacob and Charlotte Roth. His birth date was not recorded.
  2. Henry’s first known child, Anna Maria Roth, was baptized on 4 August 1773 in the same Tohickon Reformed Church as her father who was recorded as Henry and Catherine Roth. “Jacob and Charlotte Roth, grandparents” were witnesses.
  3. Anna Maria’s father-in-law, John Smith was buried in the Old Graveyard of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Springfield Township, Bucks County, as is her mother-in-law.

    All are highly suggestive of German origins.

My Concession

Here is where I admit the flaws in my own assertions. While I feel that the stars are aligned that Henry Roth/Rhoads was born in Bucks County, PA some time before September 1784, it is still plausible that he served in some militia during the Revolution. According to the only remaining evidence that a Henry Roads of Chester served in the 2nd Battalion PA militia, he was on a tour of duty 24 September 1781 for an undisclosed amount of time – the same year that Henry Jr. was born in Bucks County. There are gaps large enough between Henry Jr’s previous (1779) and next (1783) siblings to suggest Henry Sr was separated from the family before and after his birth.

But. While Henry’s neighbors were proud to advertise their involvement in their twilight years by filing land grants or pensions based on their service, Henry of Westmoreland County did none of these things. He lived until 1828 and died in his 74th year! He was old and infirmed. He had plenty of time to claim any benefit due to him as a veteran of the most important military conflict of his time. Aside from the Pennsylvania Archives naming Henry Roads in the Chester County militia, there is no evidence, traces, or hints that this man died in Westmoreland County, PA.

Stalled Progress

As far as accepting that Henry Roth/Rhoads of Westmoreland was the Henry Roads of the Chester County Militia, there is not enough evidence for me to say definitively who Henry Roads of Chester County was. So I will not be submitting a supplement to the DAR for my lineage from Henry Roth/Rhoads of Westmoreland County, PA.

As far as accepting that Henry Rhoads in the WikiTree is the same man who has been badly blurred between two different men, I am not sure how to proceed.  

  1. The Henry entered on WikiTree shares a date and place of death and children.  
  2. The parents and wives (there are two listed, which is a whole different debate for proof) are misattributed.  

So, do I accept the match as-is and work with the existing profile or create a new profile with a whole different birth location (with baptism date), wife, and parents? As I see it, this profile has a 50/50 chance to go in either direction.