Thursday, June 26, 2008

So, What Do You Think? Please Advise ...

I'm writing this post with the hope that some of the more experience genealogists will be able to advise me or give a suggestion. The problem I am trying to solve is outlined below:

Although I have written about my Civil War ancestor, Adam Oswalt, before, the posts have always been fairly brief. For this post, though, I plan to write up a little bit on him and his possible siblings. I am hoping that more experienced genealogists will either be able to confirm for me that I am right in my analysis or what I should do to make links. So, here is where I am at: I'm trying to figure out if Adam had brothers named William and Benjamin. I have circumstantial evidence that suggests that they are, but I don't have actual documents yet that confirm this link. What I do have, though, are a death certificate, a Civil War pension file, a couple of marriage records, and some census records that imply a relationship.

I think I'll start with the death certificate and Civil War pension file. On Adam's death certificate, his parents are listed as Benjamin Oswalt and Mary Rough, and his birthplace is given as Pennsylvania. From Adam's Civil War pension file, I learned that he was born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. He did mention that his parents were illiterate, but unfortunately, he did not name them. Of course, when I did a census search for Huntingdon County, I was able to find Benjamin and Mary Oswalt. (They were the only Benjamin and Mary Oswalt couple in the county. Sometimes their surname is spelled Oswald.) For the 1850 census, the children listed in the household were: Solomon, William, Margaret, Benjamin and Nancy. The only problem was that Adam was not listed in this census. Nor could I find him in the 1860 census. In fact, I could not find Adam in the censuses until the 1870 census, and by that time, he was already living in Three Rivers, Michigan. (The only census that suggests he was living in Benjamin and Mary's home was the 1840 census, but as most genealogists know, the 1840 census only lists the name of the head of the household.)

To make things even more interesting, in the 1860 census, I found a Solomon and William Oswald living in Saint Joseph County, Michigan, although they were living in different households. William Oswald, though, was living with a Daniel and Margaret Black. Originally I did not know Margaret's maiden name was Oswalt until I just happened to find the marriage record for her second marriage. When she married David Elsey, she listed her parents as Benjamin and Mary Robb. Outside of having William living in Daniel and Margaret's household, the significance might not be much, except that when Benjamin Oswalt married Elizabeth Freelove, Daniel Black was listed as one of the witnesses, suggesting a family relationship.

Up until I found Margaret's second marriage, I really did not have anything to connect Adam to William and Benjamin other than the fact that they lived at some point in the same county. And I only had a land record where Adam sold some land, that listed an Elizabeth Oswalt as a witness. (Benjamin had married an Elizabeth Freelove, and William had married an Eliza Mosier. I suspect that the Elizabeth listed might have been Benjamin's wife. Although I don't have the marriage record yet for William and Eliza, I do know what her maiden name is from her second marriage record.) Of course, outside of those two records, I don't have much to connect them to Adam, and to make things worse, both William and Benjamin's death records list the names of their parents as unknown. I have not yet checked William or Benjamin's pension files, so I might find a connection still.

As for searching church records, I am still trying to figure out which church Adam might have attended. Other than the fact that he was a Protestant, I don't know what his religious beliefs were. To make things more difficult, when he married Barbara Detwiler, he was married by a justice of peace and not a minister, so I'm still trying to figure out what his religious beliefs might have been. As you can see, I'm having some trouble with this, especially since I don't have any family traditions, of what might have been his religious, to go on.

So, what do you think? Do I have enough to connect Benjamin and William to Adam, or are there other sources of information I should seek first before I list them as brothers? What do you think should be my next move? Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks.


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

You have enough to connect them - provisionally. If it was me (and there are many that disagree with my methods!) I would link them in my file, all as children of Benjamin with notes as to why I believe this is the right family group for Adam and that the relationship is unproven. By linking them I find it easier to remember what I was thinking months or years later. I would next try and find the death certificates for Benjamin & William, although the MI death index ( doesn't show any info on their fathers the actual certificates may.

Adam was in Blair Co, PA for both the 1850 and 1860 censuses, Blair being next to Huntingdon. If you have trouble pulling them up email me and I will send them to you.

Jessica's thoughts said...

Hi Apple,

Unfortunately, the Adam Oswalt in Blair County is not my Adam. That Adam is too old. My Adam was born about 1836.

Thank you for looking, though,