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.


Sources

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, Ancestry.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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, NewspaperArchive.com.

Phillip Irey: What’s in a Will (52 Ancestors #18)

I haven’t done much research on my Irey line.  Syntha Irey is the only one I’ve thoroughly researched.  This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme of “Where There’s a Will” prompted me to research Syntha’s father, Phillip Irey.  I have a copy of his will from a probate record and I’ve never done anything with it other than to use it as one source for Syntha’s marriage to Charles Rakestraw.  I began to follow the other clues in the will and was surprised at how much information I found in just a few hours.

The first thing I noted was that Phillip named children and grandchildren in his will, but not his wife.  I surmise from this that she must have died prior to the writing of the will, which was on August 22, 1841.  In the 1840 Census, Phillip was between the ages of 80 and 90.  There was a tick mark in the corresponding column on the female side, which was presumably his wife.  The 1840 Census enumeration began on June 1st, so it seems that Phillip’s wife died sometime between June 1, 1840 and August 22, 1841.

The next thing I noticed was a legal description for land in “Fort Wain,” Indiana.  I’ve been working with deeds and abstracts a lot lately at work, so that just jumped right out at me.  I did find a deed for Phillip Irey who purchased land matching that description in Fort Wayne, Indiana on August 20, 1838.

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, deed for land in Fort Wayne, Allen, Indiana, Ancestry.com

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, deed for land in Fort Wayne, Allen, Indiana, Ancestry.com

I also found a deed for land that he had purchased in Bucyrus, Ohio on April 5, 1836.

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, deed for land in Bucyrus, Crawford, Ohio, Ancestry.com

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, deed for land in Bucyrus, Crawford, Ohio, Ancestry.com

Next, I decided to run through the names of the children.  All of his daughters were married by the time he wrote his will, so this gave me a bit more to go on, knowing their married names.  I managed to find marriage records for all of his children (John, Isaac, Dawson, Sarah, Susannah, Jane, Eli, and Syntha) on FamilySearch.org.

Since Phillip bequeaths a portion of his estate to the children of Susannah and Jane, I am fairly certain that they had both died before August 22, 1841.  It also appears from the language of the will that Dawson was not expected to live long.

The Quaker records pertaining to Jane and Eli were probably the most significant find of the night.  Jane Irey married Joseph Paxson, and Eli Irey married Joseph’s sister, Rachel.  Presumably, the Paxsons were Quakers, since they are the ones listed in the book and Jane and Eli show up merely as spouses.  The Meeting records give lots of good information.

U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Exeter Monthly Meeting, Berks, Pennsylvania, p. 256, Ancestry.com

U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Exeter Monthly Meeting, Berks, Pennsylvania, p. 256, Ancestry.com

U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Wrightstown Monthly Meeting, Bucks, Pennsylvania, p. 108, Ancestry.com

U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Wrightstown Monthly Meeting, Bucks, Pennsylvania, p. 108, Ancestry.com

The headers for the columns should read as follows:  Name, Date of Birth, Date of Death, Place of Burial, Marriage, Spouse’s Name, Date of Birth, Date of Death, Place of Burial.  In addition, they wrote in the names of parents where they could.

From this, I know that Phillip’s wife was Hannah Brown.  Eli Irey was born January 1, 1800 and died in August of 1882 and is buried in Hartford County, Michigan.  Not much can be learned about Jane Irey, other than she was the first wife of Joseph Paxson.  This also gives a lot of information on Joseph Paxson, his siblings, his parents, and even the names of his grandparents.  A fantastic find!

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.