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Category Archives: Oswalt Family History

I’m My Own Grandpa

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marriage of E Croy and J HustonA helpful reminder right up front: When researching women who seem to fall off the edge of the world, always check for marriages using their married name. Most often subsequent marriages after a spouse’s death are recorded under the woman’s married name, not her maiden name.

Because my fiction series, The Maggie Chronicles, is lifted, much altered, from my genealogy research, I find I often dig deep and discover details that help break down a brick wall or two. Such was the case as I research the fourth of my Maggie Chronicles (number three—The Legacy of Payne—comes out next year).

The ancestor in question is Duncan Croy, first-born son of Andrew Croy and Susannah Oswalt Croy—birth year approximately 1804.[i] He is brother to Jacob Croy, my great-great-grandfather. Until recently, I knew only that he married in 1827[ii]to Sally Morrison, had a boy and girl under five by 1830,[iii] was living in 1840 with Andrew Croy in White Eyes Township, Coshocton County, Ohio.[iv] From this information, I reasoned that Sally Morrison had died. The fact that he remarried in 1840 to Elizabeth Chipliver[v] confirmed this assumption.

But by 1850, Duncan Croy had disappeared, as had Elizabeth. Andrew and Susannah had two young children living with them, Susannah, age 11, and Margaret, age 5. David Croy, Duncan’s brother, had a boy named Andrew residing with him, age 19, too old to be one of David’s children. It seemed likely Duncan had died. Yet, looking back on the 1830 and 1840 census, these records account for only some of his children. What happened to the rest? And what happened to Elizabeth, his second wife.

Remember the hint at the beginning of the blog? I applied it and looked for Elizabeth CROY. Sure enough, a marriage record showed up. And what a surprise! Hence, the title of this blog: I’m My Own Grandpa. It was one of my father’s favorite songs. After a convoluted and humorous explanation, it concludes: “It seems funny I know, but it really is so, I’m my own Grandpa.”

So follow along—and I won’t try to confuse this with references, all of which can be found on Ancestry. Duncan’s mother was Susannah OSWALT before marrying Andrew Croy; Susannah’s mother was Sarah HUSTON who had a brother David HUSTON who married Susannah’s sister Rebecca OSWALT; David and Rebecca had, among other children, a son named John HUSTON. Elizabeth Chipliver Croy married him after Duncan died. The 1850 census for Elizabeth and John lists more of Duncan’s children by her and Sally. Look below for an accounting.[vi] I’ll update the family sheet later.

Hang in there—because I’m not done yet. Elizabeth died before 1860 and who should John marry?[vii] Susannah Croy, Duncan’s child by Sally Morrison, who cared for the children John had with Elizabeth, along with four more of her own. In other words, John married his nephew’s daughter, taking after his father, who had married his niece.

I’ve often mentioned the close connections between the Croy, Oswalt, and Huston families. They were very close! As an aside, I discovered the name of another of Duncan’s children by Sally: the older boy, Samuel. And he married David Huston’s daughter Margaret.

I will confuse no further. I’ve delved deeper into each of Duncan’s children and those of John Huston. If you are interested, I’d love to hear from you.

A graphic for your pleasure:Alexander Huston Mary Ann Johnson

[i]based on the Federal Census for 1830, Rose Township, Carroll County, Ohio, marriage certificate, Carroll County, and Federal Census for 1840, White Eyes, Coshocton County, Ohio including that of mother, Susannah’s birth date
[ii]14 September 1827 based on Carroll County, Ohio marriage records,
[iii]Federal Census 1830, Rose Township, Stark County, Ohio for Duncan Croy
[iv]Federal Census 1840, White Eyes Township, Coshocton, Ohio—also, through deduction, I determined a boy, born 1830-1835, and two girls, born 1835-1840.
[v]18 October 1840, based on Coshocton County, Ohio marriage records,
[vi]Children of Duncan (about 1804-1845) and Sally Morrison(about 1807-1839): Unknown female, Samuel, Andrew, Susannah
Children of Duncan and Elizabeth Chipliver (about 1812-1857): Eliza, Catherine, Margaret.
[vii]17 June 1858 based on Coshocton County, Ohio marriage records,

A Deep Dig into the Town of Morges, Ohio

Morges Marker

You’ve checked the tax records for your ancestor OR you found a deed confirming ownership—you’re done right?They lived there; it’s clear. Okay, asking the question and answering so unequivocally was a dead give away. Nope. You aren’t done. You need to check both taxes and deeds.


Samuel Oswalt, the brother of my 3x’s great-grandmother, Susannah Oswalt Croy, established the little town of Morges, Ohio, in 1831. You’ll also notice by the sign above that Jacob Waggoner, Jr. is, likewise, a town founder.

I wanted to find the original deeded document for the formation of the town of Morges. I also hoped to find Andrew Croy’s original deed for his Morges property, and maybe those of other ancestors living on lots there. Previously, I had documented all those living in Morges using the only surviving early tax records, 1833-1838.(Some wise soul rescued these few records from the waste pile during a courthouse purge.) Andrew Croy, Susannah Oswalt’s husband, appeared on the tax records for Morges, lot #18, from 1833 through 1838. Jacob Croy, his son, was listed on lot #17, 1833-1835. Numerous Croys and Oswalts littered the list.

By using the on-line digitalized courthouse records available through, I had already found one deed in which Samuel Oswalt corrected an error of location for the town of Morges.I, likewise, located a deed transferring lot #18 from Andrew and Susan/Susannah to a John Zengler in 1848. But they weren’t the originals. I found no deed for Jacob Croy.

So who owned all of the thirty-seven Morges lots? The deeds, in Stark County (the town’s home county until 1832) and Carroll County (its home from 1832 forward), were not searchable. They required that I locate names in indexes—both alphabetized and not—then go to the indicated page. Let the treasure hunt begin.


Plat Map of Morges, Ohio 1874

As I searched for the deeds using the individuals named on the tax records, Inoticed something perplexing. The property tax records and ownership records did not coincide. Why not, I asked? Land ownership and property tax should match up, shouldn’t they? The answer? Well, not necessarily.

Early taxation did not always distinguish between personal (movable) and real (immovable) property.An example is my 5x great-grandfather, Jacob Oswalt’s 1779, Bedford County tax record which taxed real property like land, grist mills, saw mills, and distilleries, along with movable goods like servants, negroes, merchandise, horses, horned cows, and sheep.[i]

Even when property was taxed separately from movable goods, determining the owner of property wasn’t always easy.A tax assessor traveling the countryside did not have immediate access to deeds nor were they always recorded with the county.[ii]The assessor often relied on those living on the land for their information.

In Morges, though Samuel Oswalt often owned much of the property, the person living on it (most often a relative) often paid the tax.For those who have an interest in the little town of Morges, a compilation of my research by lot, with occupants and owners can be found here. Morges, OH Tax and deed Records. It’s a work in progress; I’ll update it regularly.Briefly, here are my bulleted discoveries. Eight lots are still a mystery.

  • By the 1840’s (a timespan of about 10 years) Samuel Oswalt and John Waggoner, Jr. owned few of the lots.The Fetters (Casper, Joseph, and Jacob) owned 10 lots, Frederick Harple owned 5, John Zengler owned 4, Stephen Rennniar owned 4, and Abraham Fredrick owned 2. (25 of the lots)
  • Samuel Oswalt originally owned (and/or sold) at least 22 of the 37 lots.
  • John Waggoner bought two lots from Samuel Oswalt and likely owned 3 more.
  • I found no evidence that the following individuals listed on the tax records owned lots.[iii]Mathias or Peter Waggoner, Thomas Simonton, Henry Casselman, Daniel Wymer, John Oswalt, Michael Croy, or Jacob Croy, all related in some way to Samuel.

Two WOWS!I found the transfer of land from Jacob Oswalt to Samuel and John Oswalt on November 17, 1827,[iv]along with the transfer of land from John Waggoner, Sr. to John, Jr. on February 25, 1826.[v]Thus the seeds for the town of Morges were sown.

I also discovered the transfer of land from John Waggoner, Jr. to the Bishop of Cincinnati.[vi]This deeded donation was the beginnings of St. Mary’s Catholic Church located in Morges and pictured below.morges

I never found the original Stark County record filed by Samuel Oswalt for the town of Morges, though I found many deeds in which he sold lots to others.The exact page of the entry—“which is recorded in deed book J, page 417, in the recorder’s office for the county of Stark”—was provided in a correction to the town location on August 21, 1832.[vii]But, look as I might on the exact page (and in books I in case I read it incorrectly, I couldn’t find it. Any help out there?Looks like I might need to go to Canton.

I also never located my 3x great-grandfather’s original lot 18 deed. A later deed in which he sells the property for $12 to a John Zengler, recorded on May 9, 1848, indicates it is housed at the Stark County Courthouse[viii], but I couldn’t find it in the on-line records for Stark County found at Another reason to go to Canton, I suppose.

I keep finding more and more reasons for that next trip to Ohio. Oh, darn!

[i]As time passed, Bedford County tried to track land ownership by indicating who had a warrant to the land or a deed and who was simply living on the land, a difficult business in the wilds of Pennsylvania in the 1700’s.
[ii]I found examples of deed transfers, sometimes as many as 4 separate transfers with dates from the 1830’s into the 1840’s listed page after page, to complete a transfer of ownership.
[iii]The original Morges deeded record may shed more light.
[iv]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 230-234; accessed on-line through
[v]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 368-369; accessed on-line through
[vi]Deed Records of Five Ohio Counties; 1809-1902: Columbiana and Stark Counties, Deed Records, V. 51, 1809-1834, pg. 537; accessed on-line through
[vii]Ohio Justice of the Peace, Stark County, Volume 51, page 503; Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2004; accessed on-line through
[viii]Carroll County, Ohio, Courthouse Record of Deeds; Vol. 10, 1845-48, page 489; Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1964; accessed on-line through

Throw Back Thursday Tribute to Susannah Oswalt Croy

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susan 2Barely legible, Susannah’s grave marker emphasizes a simple fact–even stone wears away. First goes the body, then the memory of your mark, and finally the mark of your memory. What is left is the imperfect effort of a few people to remind us. And that reminder is fraught with imperfection.

Historical truth is an illusion. Even historians focusing on the great conflicts, people, or turning points in history cannot help but infuse their world view onto “facts” written by others with their own world view. Artifacts help–letters, certificates of birth and death, first hand accounts–but who can know motivation, intent, or the emotions behind imprints retrieved long ago.

I write historical fiction. And I frankly think all life is fiction unfolding. We make life what we will. We create our lives, as we will. Others interpret our lives, as they will.

Susannah Oswalt was born sometime in 1784 in Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In about 1800, at about 16, she married her first cousin, Andrew Croy. She could not sign her name. She was a “housekeeper” and kept that house in Rose Township, Stark/Carroll County, Ohio for about 38 years where she bore 8 sons and 2 daughters. She moved with Andrew (always with Andrew) to Coshocton County for nearly 18 years, and then moved back to Carroll County to be with her daughters and nurse her husband who died on December 20, 1859. Not quite five years later, on October 26, 1864, she died and was buried next to him.

Her stone grows lichen that eats at the etching of her life. But I feel her motivation, her intent, her emotions in my DNA. Fact or fiction–who is to say?

Progeny of Jacob Oswalt and Sarah Huston Oswalt

Maggie Carter Smith feels like one of those little wind up ducks you find in an import store, the ones that skitter along, turning and circling with no clear direction. So many things tug at her: the books stacked for reading, the list of research possibilities, the garden. Her to-do list fills her head; the ideas buzz there, near to bursting. She slugs down her handful of vitamins and minerals, an attempt to extend a meaningful life, and looks up at the multicolored India-ink drawing of Yama, the Lord of Death, hanging on the wall. His mouth opens wide, regurgitating the world, an endless wheel of compassion and suffering. Maggie stares at it, envious. Right now she wishes–almost, ‘wishes to hell’ but she won’t go that far, not with old Yama looking down on her–still, she wishes she could cough up the rumblings inside her, fling them out once and for all, a magnificent mouthful. The older she gets, the more urgent all this ‘doing’ becomes.  

(From my next book chronicling 17th century New Haven, fictionalizing a kernel from family history. But that’s another story.)

This quote expresses my feeling precisely–overwhelmed! Andrew Croy and Susannah Oswalt (3x great-grandparents) married by 1800. They were first cousins…yep, first cousins. Their fathers married daughters of Alexander Huston. Those fathers, Jacob Croy (see last post) and Jacob Oswalt, came to the part of Ohio now encompassing northeast Carroll County and southwest Stark County. This week I review Jacob Oswalt and Sarah Huston Oswalt and their thirteen children. Consequently, overwhelmed!

I delved into the land purchases in Carroll County in some depth because of my interest in the little town of Morges. The first evidence of Jacob Oswalt is when he registered for S12 T16 R7 on September 24, 1805. Using the Bureau of Land Management records, I discovered that, in 1810, Michael Oswalt (Jacob’s brother) purchased the SE ¼ of that section. The other quarters went to other purchasers. Jacob continued living in Stark/Carroll County, and in 1819 he purchased the NE ¼ of T16 R7 S17, what would one day contain a portion of Morges, Ohio.

By 1820 the Oswalt family was ubiquitous in Stark County. By 1830 the family still lived in Stark County but Jacob Sr. had moved with his son Jacob Jr. to Lexington Township, near Maximo. Jacob Jr. would live his life out there. Son Samuel acquired his father’s property in Rose Township.

Between 1830 and 1840, the Oswalt family dispersed. After his wife’s death, Jacob Sr. headed to Seneca where he purchased land in Big Springs Township and town lots in Springville, and then died in 1836. Back in Rose Township, Carroll County, Samuel worked with neighbor John Waggoner to establish little Morges. Family relations, including Croy, Simonton, Waggoner, and McClish all paid taxes on lots there (as an aside, in correction of an earlier error, Jacob Oswalt who paid Morges taxes was not the patriarch but a son of likely John, possibly Samuel.) But by 1838, most of the family had moved on and Andrew Croy and Samuel Oswalt were delinquent on taxes for their lots.

Was the death of Sarah Huston Oswalt in 1832 a catylst, unraveling family connections, or was it the natural realignment of family connections over time? Was it the lure of land farther west; the Panic of 1837 precipitated by the end of the National Bank and rampant land speculation? We can’t know. The timeline of documentation found below helps tell the story.

While I have all documentation for the narrative that follows, I did not source it here…too much…to long. One thing though, I’ve discovered my grasp of the comings and goings of the Oswalt family (thanks to a helpful cousin much removed) is pretty darn good! So I’m ready for Ohio if Ohio’s ready for me. Before I go, however, the family of Andrew and Susannah Oswalt Croy deserves one more look.

Timeline of Family of Jacob and Sarah Huston Oswalt
1805 Jacob Oswalt, a resident of Columbiana Ct, registers for S12 T16 R7, 24 Sept
1810   Jacob sells/releases ¼ of land to Michael Oswalt
1816-1825 Jacob, Stark County Tax Index
1816 Margaret marries Thomas Graden (Graton) in Stark Ct. on 10 Jan
1818 John marries Hannah Neill in Harrison Ct on 29 Jan
1818 Sarah marries Peter Waggener (Waggoner) in Stark Ct. on 25 Aug
1819 Jacob Sr buys NE1/4 of T16 R7 S17 (later Andrew Croy owns E1/2 SE1/4)
1820 CENSUS Jacob with 3 M and 5 F, John, Sarah wife of Peter Waggoner, Rebecca wife of David Huston census Rose, Stark Ohio; Susannah wife of Andrew Croy Brown, Stark Ct; Margaret wife of Thomas Graden, Ross, Jefferson Ct
1824 Elizabeth marries Thomas Simonton June 1
1825 Thomas Graden husband of Margaret, Tax Records for Ross Township, Jefferson Ct R3 T11 S14
1826-1838 Thomas Graden husband of Margaret, Tax Records (including distillery) for Springfield Township, Jefferson Ct R4 T11 S16
1826-1829 Jacob Sr., Samuel, John, Jacob Jr. Tax records for Land/Personal Prop, Rose Township, Stark Ct
1829 Mary (Polly) married Jacob Shoe in Stark Ct on 14 May
1829 Martha married Daniel Weimer in Stark Ct (Wymer) on 17 Sep
1830 CENSUS Jacob (1M and 1F), Jacob Jr., Lexington, Stark Ct; Joseph, Samuel, John, Susannah of Andrew Croy, Elizabeth of Thomas Simonton Rose Township, Stark Ct; David Huston husband of Rebecca Oswalt Census Brown, Stark Ct: Sarah of Peter Waggoner, Brown, Stark Ct;  Martha of Daniel Weimer Harrison, Stark Ct;  Margaret of Thomas Graden Clinton, Jefferson Ct
1832 Chancery Records Sarah Huston Oswalt, his wife died in Stark County 1832 Listed children in 1834 as John, Samuel of Carroll County, Margaret wife of Thomas Graton of Jefferson County, Martha wife of Daniel Wymer of Seneca Ct in Ohio Sarah wife of Peter Waggoner of Virginia and Joseph, Jacob Jr., Michael, Susanna wife of Andrew Croy on of the heirs of Mary Roberts deceased, Catharine Oswald, Elizabeth wife of Thomas Simonton, Mary wife of Jacob Shoe and Rebecca wife of said defendant David Huston son of Alexander Huston. (matches will)
1832 Jacob Jr. moves to Maximo (Lexington, Stark County, OH
1833-1838 Sons in Morges, Rose Township, Carroll Ct (Jacob’s land now in Samuel’s name)
1833 Michael marries Salome(a) Hergar (Hagar) 24 Jan
1836 Jacob Oswalt will Sept 1836 Seneca County 2 40 acre lots in Big Springs township and town lot in Springville: given to 8 daughters in equal portion. Michael, John, Samuel, Jacob Jr, and Joseph each one dollar. 29 August 1836
1840 CENSUS  Jacob Jr Washington Township, Stark Ct; Rebecca of David Huston Brown, Carroll Ct.; Samuel by sister Margaret wife of Thomas Graden in Jefferson Ct(? Thomas remarried by 1841); Elizabeth wife of Thomas Simonton in Tuscarawas Ct; Mary wife of Jacob Shoe Perry, Wood Ct; Sarah wife of Peter Waggoner Perry Wood Ct; Susannah of Andrew Croy White Eyes, Coshocton Ct; Sarah wife of Peter Waggoner Lewis Ct, Virginia
1850 CENSUS Martha wife of Daniel Weimer (Wymer) Jay, Noble, Indiana (note: child born in Indiana 1845); Jacob Jr Washington Township, Stark Ct; Sarah Oswalt Waggoner Perry, Allen Ct; Rebecca of David Huston, Harrison Ct; Susannah of Andrew Croy, White Eyes, Coshocton Ct;  Michael, Mahaska, Iowa (child born in Iowa in 1846); John, Keokuk, Iowa (child born in Iowa in 1841); Joseph, Wells, Indiana (child born in Indiana 1846)
1853 Joseph, Knottingham, Wells Ct Indiana
1854   Rebecca of Peter Waggoner Land Grant Richland Ct. Wisconsin
1856 John, Iowa census
1860 CENSUS Joseph Knottingham, Wells Ct Indiana; Jacob Jr Washington Township, Stark Ct; Mary of Jacob Shoe Hopewell, Seneca, OH; Martha of Daniel Weimer Lancaster, Keokuk, Iowa;  Michael, of Pleasant Gap, Bates, Missouri (child born in Missouri 1858)
1864   Susannah dies in Carroll Ct (returned from Coshocton after 1850) 26 Oct
1870 CENSUS   Jacob Jr Washington Township, Stark Ct;  Joseph, Wells Ct, Indiana; Michael, Keokuk Ct, Iowa;  Sarah with Peter Wagner (Wagonner) Rockbridge, Richland, Wisconsin
1873 Joseph dies in Wells County, Indiana Aug 11
1876 Michael dies Reed Cemetery, Keokuk County, Iowa 28 Jan
1880  CENSUS  Jacob Jr Washington Township, Stark Ct Maximo PO
1887   Jacob (Jr. 3rd) died, buried Beechwood, Stark County, OH
Catherine, no record except inferred in 1830 census; Elizabeth, no record after 1840; Samuel, no definitive record after 1840; Mary, no record after 1840; Margaret died by 1841 based on new marriage of Thomas Graden; Rebecca, no record after 1855; John, no record after 1856; Martha, no record after 1860; Sarah, no record after 1870 (1880 Peter widowed)

Finding Land Purchases Using Earth Survey’s PLSS and Google Earth

Alexander Huston's Land Purchase W1/2 of Section 30, Township 2, Range 6 Between the Miamis

Alexander Huston’s Land Purchase W1/2 of Section 30, Township 2, Range 6 Between the Miamis

I love maps! As I plan my trip to Ohio (in late April,) I am looking more carefully at the warrants, deeds, plat map, and census information in order to pinpoint exactly where my ancestors lived. This includes five generations of Croys, Hustons, and Oswalts and living in approximately eight locations in the state, so I’ve started early. (Really, I’m just an excited obsessive trying to make planning a trip six months ahead of time look normal.)

I’ve studied the system of land grants recorded in Ohio. The state was a petri dish of survey methods for a brand new nation. The best, most complete assessment of the various systems, nine in all, from the old metes and bounds method (you know, where the corner is five paces from the rock by the big sycamore) to the Public Land Survey System (the standardized system for US lands) can be found at the Old Fort Steuben website.

I can figure out where land is pretty well if I know the range, township, and section, but it requires some significant cross eyed head twisting on my part…and time. First, where is the land? That determines what survey system was used. Next, how where the ranges, townships, and sections set up? They are all slightly different. Finally, how do you place that information on a modern map?

Too late in the game, I started thinking…maybe there’s a tool to help, and of course, there was. I found it on one of Cyndi’s Lists (a fabulous resource most genealogists know about, but if you don’t, check it out at

The tool I found takes advantage of Google Earth and produces an overlay marking all of the PLSS lines established in the United States. You just download it to Google Earth. Easy…it appears automatically in the Google Earth sidebar. Then you navigate to the part of country in question. And there it is! Pin and label the site using the pushpin tool at the top, and print it out.

Maybe you already know about this wonder tool, but I’m spreading the word because it is TOO COOL. They give a nice tutorial as well, and you can access it by right clicking on each label in the sidebar.

What did I map out and tuck away in my trip file?

  1. If you follow my blog you know I was wondering about the exact location of Alexander Huston’s land grant Between the Miamis named in the Chancery Records as Township 2; Range 6; Section 30. [i](The map above shows the area.)With a move of my mouse, I discovered the land is now a suburb southeast of Dayton, OH. So, first trip decision…I won’t be visiting there. Driving up and down housing tracts isn’t my thing, and besides, their gravesites are long gone. Note: this is an unusual outcome for my ancestor’s land choices. Generally, their lands were (and still are) remote and insulated; it’s a genetic thing.
  2. Jacob Croy’s land originally registered at the Steubenville Land Office on August 2, 1805, Section 29, Township 9, Range 8[ii] and never finalized due to his death between then and October of 1807.[iii]
  3. Three purchases[iv] seen below in what is now Carroll County, OH including
    1. Jacob Oswalt’s land purchase, originally registered at the Steubenville Land Office on September 24, 1805, Section 12, Township 16, Range 7 and
    2. his purchase in 1820 of the w1/2 of Section 17, T16 Range 7 (the eventual site of Morges, OH written about extensively on this site.)
    3. Andrew Croy’s land purchase right next door on the east ½ of the southeast ¼

      The Land Purchases of the Oswalt and Croy Families: originally Stark County

      The Land Purchases of the Oswalt and Croy Families: originally Stark County

I have more mapping to do. Jacob Oswalt II moved from the Carroll County to Seneca County a few years before his death. Need to map that out. And Andrew Croy and his sons, including my great, great grandfather lived in Coshocton. Then there are my great, great grandparents and their daughters and seven sons (chronicled here under Civil War blogs) after their move to Washington County, OH. I’m well on my way mapping those places, but the research required different sources…and maybe a different post. [v]

[i] John Huston vs. Henry McGrath, Chancery Records; Records Center and Archives, Montgomery County Reibold Building 117 South Main Street, 6th floor, P.O. Box 972, Dayton, Ohio 45422-1110

[ii] Early Ohioans’ residences from the land grant records. Mansfield, Ohio: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1976 [accessed 8-24-13]

[iii] Mary Croy and George Roberts “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” Database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 June 2015), Columbiana > Marriage records 1803-1818 vol 1 > image 15 of 166; county courthouses, Ohio.

[iv] See endnote ii

[v] All imagery from Google Earth with Earth Survey’s PLSS program applied.

Five Hints for Transcribing Handwritten Historical Records or How John Huston vs. Henry McGrath Pickled my Brain


Survey from page 80 of Chancery Records, John Huston vs. Henry McGrath Section 30, Township 2, Range 6, Montgomery Ohio showing Lot 1: Edward Huston; Lot 2: to be divided by heirs (eventually H. Stoddard’s) Lot 3: dower of Mary Ann McGrath; Lot 4: John Huston; Lot 5: Henry Stoddard

Survey from page 80 of Chancery Records, John Huston vs. Henry McGrath
Section 30, Township 2, Range 6, Montgomery Ohio showing Lot 1: Edward Huston; Lot 2: to be divided by heirs (eventually H. Stoddard’s) Lot 3: dower of Mary Ann McGrath; Lot 4: John Huston; Lot 5: Henry Stoddard

In March of 1830, sixteen years after Alexander Huston died, John Huston petitioned the Court of Common Appeals for right to divide his father’s land amongst his father’s heirs.[i] The act set in motion a five year process involving over 95 heirs. A gift to future family historians, it outlined familial relationships, residencies, and even some clues to general birth and death dates. Last month I received a copy of the original record from the Montgomery County, Ohio Records Center.

Thirty-nine pages long and handwritten, it covered a five-year court process all shrunk during copying from ledger size onto 8×11 paper. It was a monster to read. After a quick perusal, I began transcribing the record. While I’ve transcribed many shorter handwritten records, this job proved daunting. Okay, truth be told, I hated every moment of it, only dragging my pickled brain from the brine when an occasional tidbit of historical value presented itself. But true to my gift for tenacity, I prevailed…well, sort of. Here is what I learned.[ii]

  1. Decide your purpose ahead of time. This requires two understandings: what you know and do not know about the document, and what you want your audience to know. I started out thinking I wanted every word transcribed. Ten tedious pages in, I discovered that was not true. The document was repetitive, filled with legal jargon, saith’s and aforesaid’s, and errors (the scribes even had a hard time remembering the names and spellings of all those heirs.) So I reevaluated my purpose. I wanted to summarize logically what was in the document including interesting historical information and without sacrificing the timeline and essential elements. Here is one essential I had always wondered about. Why, after 16 years, was John ready to proceed against his mother, Mary Ann?

“That great waste has been committed upon the premises by said McGraw (sic McGrath) by cutting and felling valuable timber; That said McGraw has been in the habit of falling valuable oak timber in large quantities for the purpose of providing the bark to sell to Tanners; … Your petitioner prays that said Alexander (sic Henry)McGraw and Mary Ann his wife who was entitled to dower in said premises maybe made to account for the waste and damage done to said premises, and for the rents.” Pg. 65

  1. Tackle the task in no more than three hour bursts. The words begin to blur and you get lax if you go too long. You might skip over a name, a line, or an important detail like this reference to the age of Edward Huston who petitioned the court to allow him to keep the 50 acres his father had informally bequeathed him.

“that he this defendant was twenty one years old in seventeen hundred and ninety four. His Father Alexander Huston proposed to him that in as much as the farm was new and required much labor, to improve it, and his other sons had left him being the same premises mentioned in complainants bill, that if he this defendant would stay and work for him, he would give him fifty acres off the said …of land. This defendant did then again said work for his Father six years faithfully; and his Father secondly did measure and mark out fifty acres off of said tract, and this defendant secured in the possession of the same. His said Father promised to …to deed to him foresaid premises; but in the late war (note: of 1812) this defendant was out on a …duty on the frontier and his Father died in his absence, …This defendant states that his six years labour at the time he performed it as of on said …at the bequest of his Father was well worth one hundred seventy dollars a year and his clothing was of the shabbiest kind flax and …in the summer and dear skin in winter …” Pg. 73

  1. Record pagination as you type it. Otherwise you have to go back and do it anyway. (Yes, I did.) You need that information to record evidence and revisit the document for clarification. Consequently I was able to return to page 83 of the document and transcribe the following, only alluded to in my summary. From it and the fact that the previous term was in September 1831, I deduced that my 4x great-grandmother died between September of 1831 and March of 1831, information new to me.

“And afterwards, to wit, at the March term Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, the death of Sarah Oswald one of said defendants was suggested.” Pg. 83

  1. Summarize, list questions, and outline discoveries along the way. (Of course I didn’t!) Thoughts percolated through my brain and a few stuck. But what of those that drifted out unmet? Here are two I still remember: one to research and one answered.

Where exactly are the two tracts of land owned by Alexander Huston, my 5x great-grandfather?

“to wit, the west half of section thirty in town (ship) two of range six, lying between the great Miami River and the Virginia Reservation, which tract was conveyed to him by President of the United States by patent dated July twentieth eighteen hundred and twelve. Also of another tract of land patented to him by the President of the United States on the twenty third day of October in the year eighteen hundred and six containing one hundred and forty seven acres and thirty hundredths of an acre to be laid off on the east end of the south half of lots on section number thirty of township two in range six between the great Miami River and the Virginia Reservation , both tracts situated in said County of Montgomery and together make the whole of said fractional section number thirty.” Pg. 61

And who was Henry Stoddard? This man diligently and persistently found over 50 heirs of Alexander Huston residing in Virginia, Maryland, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and counties all over Ohio and bought out their shares, thus acquiring over 180 acres of land. With a little help from the Internet, I answered that question. Henry Stoddard (1788-1869) was a founding father of Dayton, Ohio. An attorney, he was related to General William Tecumseh Sherman and often worked with Sherman’s foster father, Thomas Ewing.He was elected director of the first bank of Dayton, the Dayton Manufacturing Co. opened in August 14, 1814, and was later employed as their attorney for $50 a year beginning in 1833, concurrent with the John Huston vs Henry McGrath petition.

These connections to a larger history, found in the lives of ordinary people, always excite me. At least, when the tedium of slogging through 15,000 words is over and the analysis begins. So we come to my last recommendation:

  1. After completing the task, step away. That poor tired brain needs time to refocus and digest the information. Then, with a depickled brain, return to wonder at the history it represents.

But if YOU are interested in seeing what you might uncover, check the material below.

[i] John Huston vs. Henry McGrath, Chancery Records; Records Center and Archives, Montgomery County Reibold Building 117 South Main Street, 6th floor, P.O. Box 972, Dayton, Ohio 45422-1110

[ii] My summary can be found here. Summary from the Chancery Record of Alexander Huston filed 7 March 1830

[iii] Sherman, William Tecumseh, Memoirs of General Sherman, Library of Alexandria

[iv] History of Dayton, Ohio 1889, Chapter 17. Page 363; digital image, (accessed 2 November 2012)


Probate Records: Why Historians, Genealogists, and Writers Should Love Them

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy's death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy’s death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

How excited can one genealogy/history/historical fiction writer get…over probate records?

  • Historically, you discover what ordinary people valued and find hints regarding social hierarchies.
  • Genealogically, the records can provide answers to specific genealogical questions, from the names and relationships of heirs to the actual death date of the deceased, not to mention unveiling the personalities of those involved.
  • For writers, these records paint a picture, through the details found there, of the life they lived.

I didn’t have time to delve any new records on-line. I was busy with the “final” edits of my book of historical fiction based on my Pennsylvania family history and starting a new one on my New Haven roots. So I tried to ignore the big event, Ancestry’s grand reveal of a host of new will and probate records. I tried. I couldn’t do it, and I am so glad I gave in and took a peak!

With a special shout out to the distant cousins, and anyone else out there who follows my blog-search these records! Unfortunately, if you didn’t log on during the Labor Day weekend, Ancestry’s freebie “come-on” has passed. But the information is worth gold (well, come on, I’m a history nerd).

One caveat, the records are NOT complete, so don’t forget to contact individual courthouses and libraries. For example, of all 88 of the Ohio Counties, only eight are included.

I recommend going directly to the new information on the Ancestry site. Here’s how:

  1. After logging on to Ancestry, make sure you are on their home page.
  2. At the top you will see “New and Exclusive U.S. Wills and Probate Records.” Click “Search Now”
  3. There you may begin your search, get a quick introduction, or view a research guide. Note: you must view all this on their new site. They are encouraging those who use Ancestry to break away from the old version of their search site.
  4. Now put in the name you are interested in researching. I used surname only so I could browse with my family sheets in mind.

What did I find so far? (I say so far because it will take some time to ferret out all the wonders hiding in these records.)

  1. Probate records for Alexander Huston, Montgomery County (father of Mary Huston Croy Roberts…the heroine in my book of historical fiction), including wonderful tidbits like the fact that he owned a Rhone, Sorrel, and Bay mare and colts. Also, his wife, Mary Ann, purchase 8 yds Muslin for $5, 1 and ¾ gallons whiskey for $1.32, and 1 lb coffee for $.50. The purchases of other family members are also recorded.[i]
  2. The will of Jacob Oswalt II who married Sarah Huston. (Parents of Susannah Oswalt who married Andrew Croy, my 3x great-grandfather.) Recorded in Seneca County, where he finally ended up, it includes this comment “Michael Oswalts, John Oswalts, Samuel Oswalts, Jacob Oswalts and Joseph Oswalts…each one Dollar to be paid out of my money that Jacob Shoe Jr has in his possession…” His daughters split the proceeds from the “two forty acre lots lying in Big Spring Township, and one town lot lying in the town of Springville, Seneca County, Ohio…” (I also found the records of Jacob Oswalt’s father, his stepbrother, and his son.)[ii]
  3. The names of two of Edward Huston’s children. (A son of Alexander)[iii]
  4. The will of Mat(t)hias Croy (likely brother of Jacob Croy, husband of Mary Huston, out of Londonderry Township, Bedford PA) which included the married names of his daughters.[iv]
  5. The probate record of John Croy (again, the likely brother of Jacob Croy) where, on one of many pages, I found this: “…money on hand at the decease of John Croy on the 2nd of August 1824” (and the records of a number of his children).[v]

And then, when I didn’t think it could get any better, this e-mail arrived: “I have copied the handwritten recording of the will of Alexander Houston.  I have also copied the Chancery Record of John Huston v. Henry McGrath (40 pages).  For these copies and postage, please send $10.05” So, never let Ancestry or any on-line source be the only place you research. If you aren’t lucky enough to live where you’re researching, a letter (snail or e-version) and a stamp do wonders.

Media credit:Probate Records of Mary Moore Croy, wife of David Croy: 1 December 1899. Washington County Probate Court, 205 Putnam St., Marietta, OH. Microfilm Copies: acquired 13 August 2015.

[i] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 139, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[ii] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Probate Records, 1828-1954; Probate Place: Seneca, Ohio; Probate Date: 26 September 1836.

[iii] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 3234, Ca. 1841-1861; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[iv] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Will Records, 1804-1919; General Index to Estates, 1801-1935: Ohio. Probate Court (Belmont County); Probate Date: 9 October 1837.

[v] Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Estate Files #597-666, # 659, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.