Milton Rakestraw: Circumstantial Evidence and Corroboration (52 Ancestors #37)

As I was researching to apply for a First Families of Floyd County, Indiana certificate last year, I came across one ancestor in the line who proved difficult.  Milton Rakestraw.  I always “knew” he was the son of Charles and Syntha (Irey) Rakestraw simply because my grandparents had said so.

When I gathered all of my documentation, I had very few actual facts about him.  He was born circa 1825 in Ohio.1,2  He was a ship carpenter.1  He married Mary Susan Henderson on March 8, 1845 in Floyd County, Indiana.3  They had three sons, Francis Marion, Charles H., and George William.1  Milton died circa January 1855 in Little New Orleans (now Orleans), Orange County, Indiana and was interred in Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana on January 26, 1855.2

Luckily, Milton was born into a large family and I was able to research his siblings for more information.  I began with the one census record he appeared on.  In 1850, he was living with his wife and three sons in Jeffersonville, Clark County, Indiana.  A William Rakestraw was also living with them.  Based on William’s age, birthplace, and location on the record, I believe this is Milton’s brother, William Arlie Rakestraw.

I looked for information on William Arlie and found a marriage record.  He married Mary C. Neighbors in Floyd County, Indiana on November 3, 1867.4  I then found William and Mary C. Rakestraw living in New Albany in 1870.  An Elizabeth Flora was living with them.5  This could be his sister, but there is an age discrepancy.  Additionally, Elizabeth seems to have disappeared after 1850, when she appeared on the census with her father and three of her sisters.

I came across an obituary for William Arlie, which indicated that he died in Clark County.6  The Archivist/Indiana Room Librarian at Jeffersonville Township Public Library was kind enough to e-mail a copy of the death record to me.  Unfortunately, his parents were “unknown.”7

I decided to look for the daughters of Charles Rakestraw that were listed on the 1850 Census.  I started with Adeline.  From the census, I know she married Henry Hardy.8  I found their marriage record, dated August 26, 1847 in Floyd County, Indiana.9  Henry and Adeline lived in Lawrence County, Indiana in 1860.  Also living with them was Arvine Rakestraw.10  Based on occupation, age, and name similarity, I believe this is William Arlie.  I have been unable to find William Arlie in the 1860 Census with his first or middle name, which lends credibility to this theory.  The 1860 Census also shows that Henry and Adeline have a son named Milton.10  Presumably, this son was named for Adeline’s brother.

I moved on down the list and looked for Susan Rakestraw.  Susan married John Flora on March 6, 1851.11  I couldn’t find any information that would link her to Milton.

I looked for Minerva next.  Minerva married Charles Ennis on June 12, 1864.12  Again, I found no evidence linking her to Milton.

At a loss, I decided to compare the make-up of the 1830 and 1840 Charles Rakestraw household to what I know of his family.

I first filled in Charles and Syntha, and then all of the children I could prove.  Next, I added the children I couldn’t prove.  They all fit, with no children left over.13,14

My speculation on the Charles Rakestraw family in 1830 and 1840.

My speculation on the Charles Rakestraw family in 1830 and 1840.

There is other evidence, or perhaps lack of evidence, that I believe confirms Milton as a son of Charles.  I searched the 1840 Census for all Rakestraws living in both Floyd and Clark counties.  Charles is the only one.  I performed the same search for 1850.  Charles and Milton are the only Rakestraw patriarchs in both counties.  From this, I think it’s safe to say they are at least related.

When taken individually, none of these pieces of information can prove Milton’s lineage.  However, taken as a whole, they make a pretty compelling case.  It’s often difficult for my analytical mind to keep all of these abstract details together, so I created a logic diagram of the circumstantial evidence and how each piece corroborates the rest to form the conclusion that Charles Rakestraw is the father of Milton Rakestraw.

Milton Rakestraw logic diagram.

Milton Rakestraw logic diagram.


  1. 1850 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 12 Jun. 2011. Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana. pp.313-314. Family #256, lines 40 and 1-5.
  2. Ang, William, Marguerite Ang, James Thornton Eiler, Jackie Murray Nance, and Shirley Wolf, comps. Fairview Cemetery: September1, 1852 to November 18, 1865. Vol. 1. New Albany, Ind. (P.O. Box 665, New Albany 47151): Southern Indiana Genealogical Society, 1989. Print. The Indiana Southern Counties Collection. p.62.
  3. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume B (1845): p.147.  Accessed 23 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  4. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 6 (1867): p.372.  Accessed 13 Jun. 2011, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  5. 1870 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 17 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.9. Family #70, lines 20-23.
  6. “Local Gatherings (Death Notice).” New Albany Evening Tribune 21 November 1904, Monday ed.: 4. Print. column 2.  Accessed 18 Aug. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  7. Clark County Health Department. Microfilm. Clark County, Indiana Death Records, Book H-28 (1904): p.16.  Accessed 03 Sep. 2014, Jeffersonville Township Public Library.
  8. 1850 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.421. Family #549, lines 5-12.
  9. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 3 (1847): p.101.  Accessed 09 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  10. 1860 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 09 Sep. 2015. Shawswick, Lawrence, Indiana. p.126. Family #858, lines 1-8.
  11. Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 3 (1851): p.332.  Accessed 09 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.
  12. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 August 2014), Charles Ennis and Minerva T Rakestraw, 12 Jun 1864; citing , Lawrence, Indiana, county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,317,626.
  13. 1830 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. Hanover, Columbiana, Ohio. p.486. Line 18.
  14. 1840 United States Federal Census., 2009. Web. 09 Sep. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.255. Line 16.

Mary Susan Henderson: Not Forgotten (52 Ancestors #26)

One of the things I find interesting about genealogy is how easy it is for me to develop tunnel vision.  I find that I focus so much on one person or one line that I forget one of the basic rules:  research your collaterals.  What is more discouraging for me is that I often forget to research my matrilineal ancestors.  A case in point is Mary Susan Henderson.

I don’t know why, but I’ve just never thought to myself, I need to research her.  She’s always just been on the periphery.  I have a tendency to think of her as Milton Rakestraw’s wife who remarried after he died, which is crazy.  She is my fourth great-grandmother by blood.  I have certainly researched more tenuous relations, why not her?

I had done a minimal amount of research on her that was required for the First Families project.  Once I had moved on to her son, the rest didn’t matter to me.  Until she came up again…

On May 25, 2015, my dad and I visited a few cemeteries for Memorial Day.  While at Fairview, Dad said he would like to find Mary Susan Rakestraw’s grave.  Knowing she had remarried to James Hand, I looked her up on the very handy (no pun intended) Find A Grave app on my phone.  Dad had a vague memory of where she was and the app confirmed the location.  Even so, we could not find her.  Perhaps the stone is no longer there, or perhaps we couldn’t find it because the rows aren’t clearly marked.  Either way, we left a little disappointed.

We next visited Mt. Tabor Cemetery.  I checked the app and saw an open photo request for a Jacob Stites Hand, so I filled it.  The requester contacted me, which sparked a conversation that caused me to finally realize that I had done almost no research on Susan after her first husband died.  At this point, I really felt as though Susan was saying to me, “Don’t forget me.”

On the way home from the cemeteries, I looked at the entry on the Find A Grave app again.  A partial transcription of her obituary was on her memorial page with the source citation NALS 28 Feb 1879 (Thanks, Sue!).  That citation might not mean anything to most people, but I happen to work at the library in which the microfilmed newspapers are housed.  The next time I had a break at work, I looked up the February 28, 1879 issue of the New Albany Ledger Standard and found her obituary.  I saved a copy to my flash drive to look at later.  I also saved a copy of the marriage record for James Hand and Mary Susan Rakestraw.

Then, as I prepared to write this post, I thought about what else I could possibly turn up on Susan.  Working backwards, as I was taught to do, I considered death records.  However, Susan died in 1879 and Indiana didn’t require death records until 1882.  There were a handful of records before that date, but none were Susan Hand.  I had her marriage records already, so I moved on to births.  She was born circa 1830 in Kentucky, and the earliest recorded Kentucky birth (according to was in 1852.

I thought about census records.  The earliest I had for her was 1850.  I am unlikely to find any earlier without knowing her father’s name, since 1850 was the first year that recorded everyone living in a household and she was married by that time.  The latest I have is 1870 and she died in 1879.  It then occurred to me that I had not checked the Fairview Cemetery indexes.  I found her, though it yielded little new information.

As I read over all of my information to see how complete a story I had for her, I really focused on her obituary.  It broke my heart a little.

Susan Hand, Obituary, New Albany Ledger Standard, Friday, 28 February 1879, p. 3, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Susan Hand, Obituary, New Albany Ledger Standard, Friday, 28 February 1879, p. 3, column 4, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

“A poor woman named Mrs. Hand.”  Did nobody know her given name?

I looked at her Fairview record.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume 2, p. 41.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume 2, p. 41.

She was buried by the county in a grave owned by her former father-in-law and former brother-in-law.  This all gave me the feeling that she was poor and friendless at the end of her life.  Although, one would think that since she had so many children that somebody would have taken care of her.  I’m sure there is much more to Susan’s story than I will ever know, but I’m glad I finally took the time to research her.

Mary Susan Henderson

Born circa 1830 in Kentucky.3,5,6

Married Milton Rakestraw on March 8, 1845 in Floyd County, Indiana.1,2

Children with Milton:  Francis Marion (1847), Charles H. (c.1848), and George William (c.1849).3

Married James Hand on April 16, 1857 in Floyd County, Indiana.4

Children with James:  Elza (c.1858), Alice (1860), Annie (c.1861), Julia (c.1864), and Mary (c.1869).5,6

Died on February 27, 1879 in New Albany, Floyd, Indiana of consumption.7

Buried at Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Floyd, Indiana on March 1, 1879.8


1.  Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume B (1845): p.147.  Accessed 23 Sep. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

2.  “Matrimonial Matters” New Albany Public Press 01 March 1882, Wednesday ed.: 8. Print. column 3.  Accessed 12 Aug. 2014, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

3.  1850 United States Federal Census (database-online)., 2009. Web. 12 Jun. 2011. Jeffersonville, Clark, Indiana. pp.313-314.

4.  Floyd County Clerk. Microfilm. Floyd County, Indiana Marriages Volume 4 (1857): p.340.  Accessed 09 Jun. 2015, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

5.  1860 United States Federal Census (database-online)., 2009. Web. 16 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.134.

6.  1870 United States Federal Census (database-online)., 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2014. New Albany, Floyd, Indiana. p.72.

7.  “Deaths (Obituaries)” New Albany Ledger Standard 28 February 1879, Friday ed.: 3. Print. column 4.  Accessed 09 Jun. 2015, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room.

8.  Clipp, Mary Cuzzort, Richard Clipp, Jackie Murray Nance, Wanda Perkins Stepp, and Shirley Wolf, comps. Fairview Cemetery, January 7, 1866 to December 31, 1880, New Albany, Floyd County. Vol. 2. New Albany, Indiana: Southern Indiana Genealogical Society, 1991. Print. The Indiana Southern Counties Collection. p.41.

The Importance of Re-checking Your Old Documents

My grandparents had been working on our genealogy for pretty much their whole lives.  I didn’t really get into it until about twelve years ago, when my grandma gave me several pedigree charts for different lines of the family.  At that point in time, having just graduated from high school, I was content to just have that.  Of course, now that I’m working at the Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room, I know the importance of sourcing everything.  My grandparents have several cardboard boxes full of documents, some original and some copies, from which they have gotten the genealogical information.

A couple of years ago, I sat down with my grandpa and we discussed my plans for documenting everything.  He agreed to let me borrow a box to start with to digitize everything and sort it a little.  He said the boxes had originally been separated by which line of the family the information pertained to, but as the years went by, things just got tossed into whichever box was most convenient or least full at the time.

The first box he gave me was the “Wiseheart” box, but there were some Rakestraws, Von Allmens, church history, and several other things in there as well.  I just scanned everything and labeled it as best I could, even if I didn’t know what it was or how it fit.  I then returned the box and borrowed another.  At that point in time, I was just learning how to use my scanner with my new Mac.  Everything I scanned got saved to a default location and I, for some reason, haven’t looked at it since, until today.

Here, I will digress for a bit, to give some context as to why this is significant.  In October of 2013, the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society (SIGS) held its first First Families of Floyd County program.  Basically, if you can prove that your ancestor was in Floyd County, Indiana on or before December 31, 1840, you qualify for a First Families certificate.  I wasn’t anywhere near ready for the deadline for that one, but they announced that First Families would continue the following year.  I researched the Rakestraw line of my family because I knew Charles Rakestraw was on the 1840 U.S. Federal Census, which was enumerated on June 1, 1840, thus before the requisite date.

After tracing my family pretty far back, I hit a snag.  I couldn’t find a way to link Milton Rakestraw to his father, Charles.  The 1840 Census only lists head of household with tallies for people of certain age groups in the household.  By the 1850 Census, Milton had married and moved out.  I decided to use siblings to prove his relationship.  In the 1850 Census, Milton’s younger brother, William Arlie, was living with him, while his father, Charles, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Minerva, were living with his brother-in-law and sister, Henry and Adaline Hardy.  I looked for William Arlie’s death record, to see if his parents were named.  They were not.  In the 1870 Census, Elizabeth Flora is living with William Arlie Rakestraw.  I “know” this is his sister Elizabeth, but I couldn’t find any record of Elizabeth Rakestraw having married a Flora, or anyone, for that matter, in either of the two counties where she had lived.  I needed this to close the connection circle.  All of this was enough for SIGS, but it wasn’t enough for me.  Having completed the application for the program, I set the Rakestraws aside to give myself a break and decided to focus on the Springers for a while.

This brings us back to today.  I found the default folder in which my scanner had saved everything.  One image was labeled “Flora, Marion Elizabeth – Cemetery Record,” which had meant nothing to me at the time.  I had no idea then that the Floras were in any way related to us.  Now, however, this could be a big clue as to why I couldn’t find a marriage record for Elizabeth Rakestraw to a Flora.  If her name was in fact Marion Elizabeth Rakestraw, the marriage record might have been filed under Marion Rakestraw.  The “Cemetery Record” is page 49 from Fairview Cemetery, Volume VIII, January 1, 1930-December 31, 1934, published by the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society.  The whole thing is quite lengthy, as it includes two obituaries, but the important part is:

FLORA, Marion Elizabeth; 20978; 78 yrs; res L. A. CA; d. 13 Aug 1933; bur 19 Aug 1933; ; ; P 2 R 8 Lot 21 G 5; Charles Rakestraw and Henry Hardy trans. to Susan Flora; Chr. Myocarditis; Frank W. Webb; Elmer H. Dieckman; 20978–Former Local Woman Dies in Los Angeles–Mrs. Marion E. Flora, 78, widow of William Flora, a former New Albany resident…

I know from this that Marion Elizabeth Flora is from New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, that her husband was William Flora, that she is approximately the same age as my Elizabeth Rakestraw, and that she is in some way related to Charles Rakestraw, Henry Hardy, and Susan (Rakestraw) Flora.  Now I need to go back through the marriage records for Floyd County to see if a William Flora married either a Marion or an Elizabeth Rakestraw.

This is a prime example of why it is important to re-check your old documents periodically.  Something that doesn’t seem to fit now might turn out to be the missing puzzle piece you’ve been beating your head against the wall for months to find.