Syntha Irey: The Synthesis of a Name (52 Ancestors #15)

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.

1850 Mortality Schedule, Ancestry.com

1850 Mortality Schedule, Ancestry.com

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.

Columbiana County, Ohio Marriages, Vol. 2, p. 103, FamilySearch.org

Columbiana County, Ohio Marriages, Vol. 2, p. 103, FamilySearch.org

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.

Fairview Cemetery Records, 1841-1864, microfilm, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Fairview Cemetery Records, 1841-1864, microfilm, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

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.

Tombstone, Rebecca Dowerman and Cyntha Rakestraw, Fairview Cemetery, photo taken by Melissa Wiseheart, 1 September 2014

Tombstone, Rebecca Dowerman and Cyntha Rakestraw, Fairview Cemetery, photo taken by Melissa Wiseheart, 1 September 2014

Tombstone, Rebecca Dowerman and Cyntha Rakestraw, Fairview Cemetery, photo taken by Melissa Wiseheart, 1 September 2014

Tombstone, Rebecca Dowerman and Cyntha Rakestraw, Fairview Cemetery, photo taken by Melissa Wiseheart, 1 September 2014

A different name for every source.  In case you are having a hard time keeping track, here are the variations:

rakestraw, sintha 1850 mortality schedule crop copy

Rakestraw, Charles - Columbiana County, Ohio Marriages, Vol. 2, p103 copy

Last Will & Testament, Philip Irey, 1841

Dowerman, Rebecca - Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book H-4, page 50 - part 5 copy

2014-09-01 14.48.07 copy

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.

George William Rakestraw: The One with the Confusing Timeline (52 Ancestors #13)

George William Rakestraw was the brother of my great great grandmother, Zerilda Rakestraw Springer.  Unlike his sister, he is very well documented.  Even so, I’ve had a difficult time researching him.  He had an uncle who was also named George William, so he went by William or Willie, but he also had a son named William, who seemed to go by Willie as a child.  Willie also had a son, Charles Marion and a cousin, Charles Marion.  I understand wanting to honor family members, but at some point, it’s just too much.  After hours upon hours of searching, deciphering, and some math, I have Willie mostly figured out.

George William Rakestraw, circa 1900.

George William Rakestraw, circa 1900.

George William “Willie” Rakestraw was born on August 20, 1873 in New Albany, Indiana, to parents Francis Marion and Mary Elizabeth (Gilliland) Rakestraw.  He had dark hair and blue eyes.  He was the baby of the family, as his sister was five years older.

An article appeared in the New Albany Evening Tribune, saying that Willie had married a Mamie Haine on February 2, 1891.

New Albany Evening Tribune, Tuesday, 3 February 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Evening Tribune, Tuesday, 3 February 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I could not find a marriage record for them in Floyd county, surrounding counties, or Illinois, where I though Mamie might be from.  Willie would’ve been seventeen at the time, so he also would’ve needed parental permission to marry.

I did find that Willie married Mamie Haney in Floyd County, Indiana on October 9, 1891.  It also appeared in the paper the following day.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 55, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 55, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 October 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 October 1891, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

It seems their honeymoon period was short-lived because the paper on October 24, 1891 reports that Mamie had filed suit against Willie for support.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 24 October 1891, p. 8, columns 2-3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 24 October 1891, p. 8, columns 2-3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I couldn’t find what became of that suit, but I believe that Mamie went to Illinois without Willie and was pregnant at the time.  I’ve looked at several family trees that say Mamie gave birth to Otto William Rakestraw in Mound City, Illinois on December 25, 1891.  I have a copy of a photo of Otto Rakestraw that I got from my grandfather, but I have no proof of his relationship.  I’ve sent letters out to try and obtain a copy of a birth record and I hope to hear from someone soon.  Willie is listed as being in New Albany in both the 1890 and 1892 Caron’s City Directories, which is how I know he didn’t go with Mamie.

Here is where the timeline gets messy.  That’s right, it wasn’t messy before.  On October 8, 1893, William W. Rakestraw was born, the son of Willie by Lillian Margaret Bennett.  At least, according to both of William W.’s marriage records (1917 and 1933).  The 1900 Census and the transcription of the Rakestraw Family Bible both give October 8, 1894.  I’m inclined to believe the marriage records, as Census are often wrong and I don’t have access to the original Rakestraw Family Bible to know if there were any transcription errors.  There is no birth record on file for him, and his death record gives his birth date as October 8, 1898 (I’m thinking this was written by the informant as 1893 and misread by the clerk as 1898).  I’m still holding out hope for a primary source to prove one or the other.

In those same family trees that mention Otto’s birth, it is written that Willie and Mamie were granted a divorce from Mound City on October 23, 1893.  I have inquiries out on this as well, but it seems logical to me that infidelity would cause Mamie to file for divorce.

Willie married Lillie Bennett on April 14, 1894 in Floyd County, Indiana.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 363, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p. 363, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

There are articles (I’ll get to them in a bit) that give marriage dates of January and April 1893, but since Willie and Mamie were still married that wouldn’t be possible, or at least not legal.  I also couldn’t find any marriage records for Willie and Lillie on those dates.

Charles Marion Rakestraw was born on January 22, 1896 in New Albany, Indiana.  He is the second son of Willie and Lillie.

Things go downhill for Willie and Lillie the following year.  On April 9, 1897, Lillie filed suit against Willie for maintenance.  The suit was dismissed on June 11, 1897.

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 9 April 1897, p. 7, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 9 April 1897, p. 7, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 11 June 1897, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 11 June 1897, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Lillie then filed for divorce on December 1, 1897.  This must have been a long process.  It was listed on the court docket on January 14, 1898 and then again on October 1, 1898 and still the divorce was not granted.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 1 December 1897, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 1 December 1897, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 3 December 1897, p. 5, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 3 December 1897, p. 5, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 14 January 1898, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Weekly Tribune, Friday, 14 January 1898, p. 7, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 1 October 1898, p. 4, column 5, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 1 October 1898, p. 4, column 5, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

On February 20, 1899, Louise Rakestraw was born.  Three weeks later, Lillie petitioned to dismiss the divorce case.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Tuesday, 14 March 1899, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Tuesday, 14 March 1899, p. 4, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

On May 24, 1899, Willie filed for divorce and it was granted by the court on June 17, 1899.  He asked for and was granted custody of William and Charles.

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 24 May 1899, p. 4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Wednesday, 24 May 1899, p. 4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Public Press, Wednesday, 31 May 1899, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Public Press, Wednesday, 31 May 1899, p. 4, column 3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 17 June 1899, p. 4, column 1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 17 June 1899, p. 4, column 1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Lillie and baby Louise went to live with Lillie’s mother.  Willie, William, and Charles moved in with Willie’s parents and his niece, Mildred Springer.

On June 5, 1902, Willie married Lorena Bender in Louisville, Kentucky.  By 1910, Willie and Lorena were living in Madison County, Illinois, but William and Charles were still living with Willie’s parents.  Charles did spend some time in Illinois with his dad, as this letter, dated December 15th, indicates.

Willie and Lorena moved to Louisville at some point after 1918 (Willie’s draft registration shows he was still in Illinois).  Willie and William ran a music store in Louisville until Willie’s death in 1935.

Tombstone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, George William Rakestraw, 1874-1935, photo courtesy of Rob M, Findagrave.com

Tombstone, Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, George William Rakestraw, 1874-1935, photo courtesy of Rob M, Findagrave.com

I still have to wonder about Otto and Louise.  Why did Willie not seek custody for either of them?  Why didn’t he even acknowledge them?  With all of my grandfather’s stories that had been passed down through the Rakestraw family, I had never heard of either one until I started researching Willie.  William’s obituary said that he was survived by a sister, Louise, so I suppose he must have had some contact with her.  I guess these are questions to which I may never know the answers.

Doppelganger

I was killing time on Facebook one day, just clicking on links to 22 weirdest things kids ever said, etc., when I came across a post on old black and white photos that had been colorized.  As I looked through them, I came across this one.

The staff of Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining next to a dog, 1862.

The staff of Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining next to a dog, 1862.

The man lying down on the far left of the photo looks remarkably like my great great great grandfather, John Alexander Springer.

John Alexander Springer, photo courtesy of Susan Huber, Findagrave.com

John Alexander Springer, photo courtesy of Susan Huber, Findagrave.com

Side by side comparison.

Side by side comparison.

John (1836-1919) was certainly an adult when the colorized photo had been taken, though the man in that photo looks a little older than John would’ve been.  But, it wouldn’t have been outside of the realm of possibility, or it could have been his brother or father.  I had to know who these men were.  The photo wasn’t labeled and was credited simply as Reddit.

After some digging, I found it on Reddit and it was labeled “The staff of Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining next to a dog, 1862.”  I also found that the black and white original of the colorized version had been taken from the Library of Congress.  The Library of Congress photo was labeled “The Peninsula, Va. The staff of Gen. Fitz-John Porter; Lts. William G. Jones and George A. Custer reclining.”  So, the man in the photo is Lt. William G. Jones, who is no relation that I know of.  But this was fun, and at least I know.

Side note:  This is why it’s important to always credit your source.

Why Don’t You Just Use Ancestry?

I get asked that question a lot, and in light of what’s been going on with the proposed Indiana state budget, I thought I’d take an opportunity to discuss why local history and genealogy departments cannot and should not be replaced by Ancestry.  I’ll be focusing on Floyd County, Indiana, as that is where I am.

The first thing I want to talk about is access.  Most of our library’s (New Albany-Floyd County Public Library) patrons, and this is probably true of most people, can’t afford the subscription to Ancestry.  They come to our library to access Ancestry Library Edition.  While this service would continue without the library’s Indiana Room (for local history and genealogy), the vast majority of the patrons who use it do so in the Indiana Room.  Why?  Because the Indiana Room staff know what databases are available through Ancestry and how to perform a search to yield the best results.  It’s true that this training could be given to Reference or Circulation staff, but, as genealogists know, if you aren’t into genealogy you aren’t going to provide the best genealogical services for your patrons.

This brings me to my next point.  Patrons utilize the Indiana Room because they can get help and advice from staff members.  We offer beginning genealogy courses at our library and are just starting to implement genealogy for kids, genealogy for teens, and more specific classes, such as Irish genealogy.  This allows first-timers, or those who just want a refresher, to get an idea of what is involved in the process and get one on one time with someone has been doing genealogy for years.  We also assist walk-ins and schedule one on one time with patrons.

It may be that you are researching someone who served in the Civil War.  You’ve typed his name in the search box on Ancestry and you’ve found him listed in the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana and maybe a couple of other things.  Is that all there is?  Probably not.  At the library, we have microfilmed local newspapers with an online index.  Your ancestor’s obituary might include his military service.  We also have Floyd County Civil War soldier records on microfilm (I have yet to find these on Ancestry, but maybe someday).  In some instances, we might have an archive collection that has information or even artifacts.  These are all things you wouldn’t know if you didn’t have someone to ask, and as great as Ancestry may be, contacting them is difficult at best.  Some of these things are also things that Ancestry just doesn’t have, at least not yet.

Another issue is that sometimes you can view an image and sometimes all you get is a transcription.  I searched for “Rakestraw” in the Indiana Marriages collection on Ancestry.

ancestry1

I clicked on the marriage record for Adalino Rakestraw and Henry Hardy, and this is what it showed.

ancestry2

The problem with this is that there is no original image.  Adaline Rakestraw married Henry Hardy, as the image from the microfilm at the library will show.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 3, p.101, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 3, p.101, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Ancestry is a wonderful tool, but it really needs to be viewed as a virtual library.  The same rules apply to it that apply to libraries nationwide.  Every library is unique.  While some libraries have duplicate information, such as Census, each library has something that other libraries do not have.  In our case, we have quite a bit, but to name just a few:

  • Asylum Records, 1866-1900
  • Cemetery Records
  • Church Records, 1816-1990
  • Cornelia Memorial Orphans Home Records, 1877-1954
  • Diaries & Journals
  • Family Bibles
  • Letters
  • Newspapers, 1817-2015 (with online index)
  • Yearbooks

Should you use Ancestry?  Absolutely!  Just don’t forget to visit your local library, historical society, or genealogical society.  As genealogists, it is our responsibility to be thorough in our research.  This means we need to use all repositories at our disposal for research.  At present, no single repository contains every piece of genealogical information available.

Mary Katherine Wiseheart: Nearly Two and Too Young

Mary Katherine Wiseheart died at the age of one year and nine months.  She drowned in the neighbors’ fish pond.  What little I knew of Mary Katherine came from my grandpa.  Recently, as the family were going through things at Grandpa’s house, my uncle opened a book and found a piece of paper folded up.  The note on the outside indicated that it was a lock of Mary Katherine’s hair.  He opened it and it was indeed a lock of hair.  I find it very hard to describe colors between blonde and brown, but I suppose it would be called ash.

This discovery prompted me to want to know all I could about her, but since she died so young, I felt sure that I wouldn’t be able to find much.  As always, I began my search at the library.  I looked for a death record.  It didn’t yield any new information.  It did, however, have a note that read “coroner inquest.”  I looked for the coroner’s inquest, but she died in July of 1936 and the inquests on microfilm stop at February of 1936.  I’ll have to check with the original repository to see if they have later inquests.  I also checked the newspaper index to look for an obituary.  Nothing had been indexed for Mary Katherine Wiseheart or variant spellings.

For a moment, I was at a loss.  I thought about it and realized that I did have her date of death, 9 Jul 1936.  I decided to look for the obituary manually.  I pulled the roll for the New Albany Tribune that included July 1936.  I started with the 9th and moved forward.  To my surprise, there was a large, front page article on her death in the paper for the 10th.  I believe that the only reason she was so prominently featured was because there had been another drowning the day before.

New Albany Tribune, Friday 10 July 1936, p.1, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Tribune, Friday 10 July 1936, p.1, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

I cried as I read it, feeling only a small measure of what her family must have felt.  And I wondered at Sanford’s reaction.  For a father who just lost a baby girl, he seemed to me to be calm about it.  But the paper did say he was shocked.  More than that though, as I researched Sanford for a future post, I learned a lot about his character and the things he had been through before this point and I now understand his reaction.

Mary Katherine, though not quite two years old, touched lives in such a way that those of us who never had the opportunity to know her have still grown up hearing of her.