The Rakestraws have always been a difficult bunch to try to track down, the women in particular. Like her great granddaughter, Syntha (Irey) Rakestraw lived a short and mostly undocumented life. Also like her great granddaughter, her name is different on every record.
Syntha was born on April 8, 1803. Her father was Phillip (or Philip) Irey of Butler Township in Columbiana County, Ohio. She married Charles Rakestraw on December 6, 1821. The couple and some of their children moved to New Albany, Indiana sometime between 1832 and 1840. I’m still not sure how many children they had, but I have been able to prove eight and have leads on two more. Syntha died of consumption on December 11, 1849, and was buried at Fairview Cemetery on the 17th. I don’t know whether or not she originally had a tombstone, but she currently shares a stone with her daughter, Rebecca Dowerman, who died in 1901.
The first piece of documentation that I ever found for Syntha was the 1850 Mortality Schedule, on which her name is spelled “Sintha.” I had only “known” that she was married to my Charles Rakestraw because of a pedigree chart that my grandma had given me years ago.
With a piece of evidence in hand, Sintha is how I spelled it until someone saw it on my Ancestry tree and sent me a very nasty message about how I was spelling Syntha incorrectly and that I should have more respect for my ancestors than to spell their names incorrectly. Luckily, this didn’t turn me off to genealogy, but it did turn me off to having a publicly viewable tree on Ancestry.
The next record I came across was the marriage record for Charles Rakestraw and Sinthy Irey. Now, my grandpa always used to pronounce Missouri as miz-ur-ah and Sunday as sun-dee, so I can see how Sintha might have become Sinthy. I still couldn’t figure out where Syntha had come from, though.
The next piece of the puzzle came when I borrowed the Rakestraw box of paperwork from my grandpa so that I could scan it all into my computer. Among the papers was a copy of Phillip Irey’s will, which appears to have been part of a probate record. For some reason, whoever copied it was only concerned with the will. In the will, Phillip names his daughter, Syntha Rakestraw.
At last, I knew where Syntha had come from! One day, while working, I came across a roll of microfilm labeled Fairview Cemetery Records, 1841-1864. I thought this strange because the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society had indexed all of the Fairview Cemetery record books and their first index started in 1852. So, like any history/genealogy obsessed, mystery loving librarian, I put the roll on and started to scroll through it. I took note of some names and dates, doing a random sampling. One of the pages that I happened to stop on was an interment record for a Mrs. Rakestraw who had been buried on December 17, 1849. Even though this record said the cause of death was “old lady,” which actually made me picture an old lady beating her to death with a purse, and Syntha had died of consumption, I was sure this had to be her. I included her name and interment date on my sample list.
I began to go through the books on the cemetery index shelf to see if anything matched my sampling. I finally found matching names in Persons Buried in the Ground by the City of New Albany, which was a transcription of records for burials at the State Street Burying Ground that were later moved to Fairview, and early Fairview burials. Unfortunately, this didn’t clear up the Sintha/Syntha issue.
Then, last year, I decided to research my Rakestraw line to prove that they were here before December 31, 1840 to get a certificate from the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society’s First Families Program. In so doing, I had a hard time proving that Milton was the son of Charles and Syntha. I had to use a lot of siblings to prove connections. One of the records I used was Rebecca Dowerman’s death record. She was Milton’s sister, and her death record listed her parents names as Chas. Rakestraw and Cynthia Irey. Cynthia. Well, I guess I can see how that happened. The informant may not have really known Rebecca’s mother’s name, or they might have said Syntha and the clerk heard it differently. We all know how easily names can be butchered. I still had no second source for proving how to spell her name.
After I had completed the research for the First Families Program, I made plans to go to Fairview and try to find Syntha’s tombstone. My dad went with me. He said he remembered visiting a bunch of ancestor’s graves with his mom and he thought he could remember where they were. We did find a tombstone for Rebecca Dowerman with Cyntha Rakestraw also listed on it. So, now I also had Cyntha in the mix.
A different name for every source. In case you are having a hard time keeping track, here are the variations:
I finally settled on Syntha because, in the absence of corroborating sources, I broke the name into parts and synthesized it in the most logical way I could think to. I most frequently saw it spelled with an “S” instead of a “C.” I most frequently saw it spelled “yn” over “in.” I most frequently saw it spelled “tha” over “thy” or “thia.” So, S-yn-tha. Syntha. It coincidentally agrees with the person who had rather harshly corrected me, but that didn’t influence my decision. I’m always on the lookout for records and would be excited to see if something finally agrees with one of these spellings.