Charles Rakestraw: Beginning Again (52 Ancestors #22)

Charles Rakestraw is my Floyd County, Indiana pioneer ancestor.  I registered for First Families of Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties through him last year.  This year, the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society asked me to talk about him at their July program, Stories of the First Families.  They also asked me to provide a photo of him or his tombstone for their display board.  I have no photo of him or his tombstone, which makes me wonder what I could give them instead.  The first family member of his for which I have those pictures is his grandson. I really want to represent him with a photo of some kind.  Since he was a ship carpenter, perhaps a New Albany steamboat that he could have worked on, or something to do with carpentry. Charles Rakestraw is an ancestor about whom I know a lot and nothing at the same time.  How is that possible?  He had a lot of new beginnings, but the details of his life after one beginning and before the next seem to be non-existent.

Birth – The Very Beginning

Charles was born circa 1800 in Pennsylvania to Joseph and Rebecca (Gilbert) Rakestraw.1,5,8  Joseph and Rebecca were Quakers, which ordinarily would mean that the Meeting minutes would have a record of Charles’ birth.  However, Joseph and Rebecca were also second cousins and were disowned by the Society of Friends for marrying a close relation. Currently, the chain of evidence I have that Charles was indeed the son of Joseph and Rebecca, and for his birth year and place, is:

  • Charles Rakestraw lived in New Albany, Indiana in 1840.  He was between the ages of 40 and 50.  There is a mark in the 30 to 40 column on the female side, which is presumably his wife.3
  • A 44-year-old “Sintha Rakestraw” appears on the 1850 Mortality Schedule.6  In 1850, Charles is living with a daughter and son-in-law.5
  • Charles Rakestraw married “Sinthy Irey” in Columbiana County, Ohio in 1821.7
  • Charles and Syntha are living in Hanover, Columbiana, Ohio in 1830.2
  • Most of Charles and Syntha’s children were born in Ohio; the others were born in New Albany.2,3,4,5
  • Rebecca Rakestraw’s last will and testament, dated July 5, 1841, lists a son Charles as an heir.8
  • Joseph and Rebecca moved to New Garden, Columbiana, Ohio before 1829.1
  • Rebecca gave birth to nine children in Northampton County, Pennsylvania and two children in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania sometime before she and Joseph moved to Ohio.1

It’s a work in progress, but I haven’t given up the search.

A Move to Ohio

Certainly, the Rakestraws were in Ohio by 1829 because Joseph died in the spring of 1829 and was buried in New Garden Friends Cemetery.1 According to William Walton, a cousin of Rebecca, Rebecca married Joseph in 1786.  They settled in Northampton County, where nine children were born to them.  At the least, they would have lived here seven years, if Rebecca would have had baby after baby.  More likely they were born every one or two years, so averaging that I’m using fourteen years, which brings us to 1800.  They then moved to Lancaster County, where they lived for about twenty years, which brings us to 1820.1 Depending on how long they actually did live in Northampton County, Charles would have been a teenager or young adult at the time of the move.

A Marriage

Assuming 1820 as the year for the Ohio move, Charles would not have been there long before his first marriage.  He married Syntha Irey on December 6, 1821.7

A Move to Indiana

Charles and his family moved to New Albany, Indiana sometime between 1835 and 1838.2,3,4,5  This is based on Lucinda, the youngest of the Ohio-born children, having been born circa 1835, and Elizabeth, the oldest of the Indiana-born children, having been born circa 1838.  They were most definitely here in 1840.3

A Death

Syntha died of consumption on December 11, 1849, which caused Charles to adjust his living situation.6  With three younger children, Charles needed to be sure they were taken care of.  His son William, age nine, was sent to live with an older brother, Milton.4  Charles and his two young daughters, Elizabeth and Minerva, went to live with his daughter Adeline and son-in-law, Henry Hardy.5

A Second Marriage

Charles wasn’t long in this situation before he re-married.  He married Dorothy Houston on October 19, 1850.9

The End, or Maybe Another Beginning

I lose Charles after his marriage to Dorothy.  He is not listed on the 1860 Census, which leads me to believe he died before this time.  I cannot find any obituaries or other records of death for him.  An obituary for Dorothy shows that she was still going by Dorothy Houston and does not mention Charles at all.10  There is a rumor that he was buried out at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, but cemetery records have yielded no results and I can find no tombstone for him.


1.  Walton, William, and Frank H. Severance. “Memoirs of the Captives.” The Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, 1780-83. Reprinted from the Original Edition of 1784. Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1904. 177-78. Print.

2.  1830 U.S. Federal Census, Hanover, Columbiana, Ohio, p. 486,

3.  1840 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany, Floyd, Indiana, p. 255,

4.  1850 U.S. Federal Census, Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana, pp. 313-314,

5.  1850 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany, Floyd, Indiana, p. 421,

6.  1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule, New Albany, Floyd, Indiana, p. 325,

7.  Columbiana County, Ohio Marriages, Volume 2, p. 103,

8.  Last Will and Testament of Rebecca Gilbert Rakestraw, 5 July 1841.

9.  Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Volume 3, p. 305, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

10.  Obituary, Dorothy Houston, New Albany Daily Standard, Wednesday 13 December 1871, p. 4, column 7,

3 thoughts on “Charles Rakestraw: Beginning Again (52 Ancestors #22)

  1. I love your idea of honoring him with another object or picture! Photography was rare and expensive a long time ago, and I really wish that I could see images of some of my ancestors. Did Charles own his own farm? Sometimes people were buried in small family cemeteries on their land.

  2. Minerva’s obituary mentions that she is the youngest of 13? children. It also says that her father died in 1853. Another tidbit I need to try to find. I did record where it was. Obituary for Minerva Ennis (The Mitchell Tribune), 16 Jul 1914.

  3. Like you, I have a few questions about Charles.
    1. Who are the extra children in the 1830 census?
    The 1830 Census finds him in Columbiana County and the following people are living in the household:
    Males <5 – 1?
    Males 5-9 – 1 (Milton 1850:27)
    Males 10-14 – 1 (Charles Jr. 1850:29 [his name, if not Charles his name was Chalkley. Nickname Chocklick)
    Males 15-19 – 3 ? (who are these boys?)
    20-29 – 1 (Charles)
    Females <5 – 2 (Adeline & Rebecca)
    5-9 – 1 (Hannah?)
    20-29 – 1 (Syntha)

    The 1840 census finds him in Floyd county
    Males <5 – 1 ? (William Arlie/Arley/Arvine? – he was supposedly born in 1840 so shouldn't have been counted)
    Male15-19 – 1- Milton
    Male 40-49 -1- Charles
    Females <5 -1 – Elizabeth?
    Females 5-9 -2 – Lucinda, Susan
    Females 10-14 -2 – Rebecca, Adelaide
    Females 15-19 – 1 (Hannah ?)
    Female 30-39 – Syntha

    There is no male in the 1850 census except William Arlie that fits the one male in the 1840. Of course, it is possible there was a child who died.
    Who are the 3 males born 1815-1820? All of Syntha's children should be under 10 (but maybe that is why Phillip Irey's will doesn't sound like he likes Charles very much).
    Joseph, Charles' father died in 1929 but all of his children are grown so he wouldn't have inherited younger siblings.
    Syntha has some sisters. All but one outlive her. In the 1830 census there are 4 unknown children.
    We know from Minerva she was the youngest of 13. (most of the years are guesses based on records)
    Charles 1821
    Milton 1823
    Hannah 1825
    Rebecca 1827
    Adeline 1828
    Susan 1831
    (space for up to 2 children)
    Lucinda 1836
    Elizabeth 1838
    Caroline 1840?
    William Arlie 1840?
    Minerva 1842

    2. According to the 1850 census, Charles was born in VA. Either that means we are wrong about him being a part of the Joseph line and he is actually part of the Southern Rakestraw line that weren't Quakers or for some reason, his father, Joseph, had a reason to go to VA (Syntha was also from VA).
    Through location and deduction, the Rakestraw researchers eliminated all others named Joseph and decided it was Joseph (Charles' grandfather) who worked on Mt. Vernon. We were eventually able to verify it when one of the researchers discovered Joseph Rakestraw's ledger glued under her grandmother's coloring book. In it was a list of jobs payable to the estate of Joseph Rakestraw and it included a couple of entries for money owed by George Washington.
    The letters mentioning the work on Mt. Vernon starts in 1784 (about Rakestraw being suggested to make the locks for the doors). In 1787, Washington writes to Joseph Rakestraw to ask if he will design and make a weathervane for Mt. Vernon – the Dove of Peace. Joseph Rakestraw died in 1794, his oldest surviving son was Joseph Rakestraw (married to Rebecca Gilbert). Could Joseph and Rebecca have had to go to VA to finish some work his father left unfinished? He did die intestate from yellow fever. Is that why Charles was born in VA?

    Sanford always wondered if Charles fell overboard and there was no body to bury. He also found a couple of years of records were missing that might have told us where he was buried.

    This is my favorite family to research.

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