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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Trust Family Lore as Absolute Fact

Teresa's Question:
I need help finding the parents of this couple.

Christopher Sheets b. About 1818 in OH - d. About 1851 Adams Co., IN
He married Margaret Perkins b. About 1823 in OH d. ???? Adams Co., IN
They were married Mar 30 1843 in Root Township, Adams Co., IN

Margaret remarried after Christopher's death. She married William McKendry b. May 16 1817 - d. Aug 3 1858.

I have all their descendants but have hit an innumerable amount of brick walls trying to find where they came from and who their parents, siblings, etc. Were.

The oral family history states that this particular Sheets family came from Germany and settled in Pennsylvania, then in Ohio, and then in Indiana.

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Teresa, Oral family history can be correct, or it can be quite inaccurate. Sometimes it is a mixture of two family lines with their stories merged into one. So use it for clues but don't count on it being 100% correct until you can verify it.

Your first goal should be to gather all the information available from Indiana. When did Christopher die? Where is he buried?

Check Adams County wills & estates for both Christopher and Margaret. If he died when his children were still young, look for records in Orphans Court, or the Indiana equivalent of Orphans Court. Look for guardianship records. In many states, children came under the jurisdiction of Orphans Court even if their mother was still living.

Look at the real estate transfers for property owned by Christopher.

And of course, check local newspapers for obituaries. And check as well for "social notes" near their wedding date. You can search newspapers in and in

The 1850 census for Christopher has a David Sheets listed: he is younger than Christopher and may be a brother. Follow him; he may have lived longer, and had an obituary which gave parents names or (at least) a hometown in Ohio. Look to the neighbors: are there any other Ohioans nearby? Any Perkins'? I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

The Adams County USGenweb has a directory of cemeteries online, and an Adams County death index in the works.

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