Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surname Saturday - Can I Conclude That These Oswalts Are Related? - Part One

I've never participated in this meme before, but I did learn about the meme from reading Randy's post. Instead of just writing about where I've researched a certain surname, I thought for my first post in this meme series I would write some more about a research problem I have. Since I will be posting on all of my research on my Oswalt ancestors up to this point, I'll have to split this Surname Saturday into two or more posts to make the reading more manageable.

I did write about my problems trying to connect Adam Oswalt to Benjamin Oswalt and William Oswalt, but I only wrote about my research in general terms. I am hoping that by writing in more specific terms will generate more of a response on whether or not those three Oswalts are related. (I am hoping that other genealogy bloggers will comment; and give advice or suggestions on whether or not I can conclude that they were relatives, or where to continue my research.) In other words, would including Benjamin and William as brothers of Adam be acceptable? Do I have enough evidence to prove a relationship? How would a professional or experienced genealogist view my research? These are all questions that I am hoping other genealogy bloggers might be able to answer or at least suggest what I should do next in my research.

As you probably already know, I am descended from the Civil War veteran, Adam Oswalt. From Adam's pension file, I learned that he was born outside of Huntingdon, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania on May 15, 1836. (I have not yet confirmed this information with any primary sources yet, but hopefully, I will uncover church records some day.) Adam did not name his parents or any other relatives, but mentioned that his parents were illiterate. (1). Census records from 1880 through 1910 indicate that he was born about 1836. For some reason, the 1870 census suggests a birth year of 1837. His marriage certificate and muster-out military papers also suggest a birth year of 1837. (I do not know if those years are a mistake, or if the earlier records are correct. Again, I am hoping church records will resolve that issue.) (2). Adam married Barbara Ann Detwiler in 1861, and his age was given as 23 years old. His parents' names are not listed in the county marriage record as they were not required at that time. (3). The first record that gives Adam's parents' names is Adam's death certificate, and the certificate lists a Benjamin Oswalt and Mary Rough as his parents. (4). As to whether or not the informant is related, I do not believe he is, although there is always the possibility. What I do know about the informant is that he worked at the Old Soldier's Home Hospital as a clerk. Where did he get the information, if he was not related? It's probably very likely that he got his information from Adam's daughter, Myrtie, as she was listed as his nearest relative in his admission papers to the home. (5).

After uncovering the names of Adam's parents, I looked for them, and found them in the 1850 Census in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Among the children living with Benjamin and Mary were a Solomon, William, Margaret, Benjamin and Nancy Oswalt. Adam does not show up in the household. (6). Of course, the absence of Adam in the 1850 census does not mean that he was not Benjamin and Mary's son, and there are probably multiple reasons as to why Adam did not show up in the census. I also found Benjamin Oswalt and Mary living in Huntingdon County in the 1860 census, but Adam is not listed in that census either. (7). To this date, I have not been able to find Adam in the 1850 or 1860 census, even though Adam stated on his admission papers that he had been living in Michigan since March of 1859. (8). There is another Adam Oswalt living in Blair County (which was once part of Huntingdon County), but that Adam is too old to be my ancestor. It is completely possible, though, that this Adam is a relative of Benjamin Oswalt. I have yet to determine whether or not that Adam is a relative, though.

While I haven't been able to find Adam in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, I do know that he was living in Pine Grove Township, Van Buren County, Michigan at the time of his marriage in 1861. (9). Whether or not Adam began living in Michigan in 1859, I have yet to determine. It is possible that tax records for those years will help me narrow down when and where he was living in Michigan at that time. Although I haven't been able to find Adam, I did find a Solomon and William Oswald living in Saint Joseph County, Michigan in the 1860 Census. Solomon was living in the household of John Heinback in Park Township, while William was living with a Daniel and Margaret Black in Fabius Township. (10). The odd thing about Solomon was his age. He was still in his twenties in this census like he was in the 1850 census. Oddly enough, the age given was about the same age as Adam would have been. Could Adam have been living in the same household as Solomon but missed or mixed up? (11). All I can do is speculate until I go through the tax records of Saint Joseph County for those years. Of course, I do know Adam lived in Saint Joseph County after his marriage in 1861.

As for the Solomon Oswalt who was living in Park Township at the time of the 1860 census, he was not living there in the 1870 census, nor was I able to find a Solomon Oswalt that fit the previous censuses in Pennsylvania. (There is a Solomon Oswalt in Pennsylvania in the 1870 census, but that Solomon does not appear to fit the Solomon Oswalt in the 1850 Census.) (12). Originally I believed that he had died in Saint Joseph County after the 1860 census, but after looking at the Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania newspapers and Civil War records for Pennsylvania, it appears that Solomon returned to Huntingdon County. How was I able to determine that fact? Well, the newspaper, Huntingdon Journal, carried a marriage notice for a Solomon Oswalt who married a Mary Morningstar on February 14, 1861, and since the only Solomon Oswalt around the Huntingdon County area was the Solomon connected to Benjamin and Mary Oswalt, I think it is safe to assume that it is him. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Archives has a Civil War Veteran's index file, and it lists a Solomon Oswalt who served in September of 1862. This Solomon enlisted at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and I suspect that Solomon is Benjamin and Mary's son. (13). In 1869, a Mrs. Mary Oswalt is listed as marrying a Jno. Westbrook in a marriage announcement, which suggested to me that Solomon had died some time before the newspaper published the announcement and that his widow had remarried. To confirm my theory, I searched the 1870 census for a John Westbrook living in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania with a wife named Mary, and I found the couple. Included in the household were two children: William and Ann Oswalt. (14). Of course, my connection to these children and Solomon are tenuous, and I still have to confirm the relationship with some other form of documentation. Additionally, I only have the 1850 census to connect Solomon to Benjamin and Mary Oswalt.

Benjamin Oswalt (the father) died sometime before 28 September 1861 when his widow, Mary, renounced her right to administer his estate. She requested that their son, John, take care of his estate, but unfortunately, only John's relationship is stated in the will book. (15). When I looked at the Orphan Court's records to see if any further documentation might list Benjamin's heirs, I did not have luck. The court records only mention that the estate had been assessed and that the administration of it had been approved by the Orphan's Court. (16). Short of finding any other court records, I'll probably have to look for church records, but at the moment, I am not sure as to what my Oswalt ancestors religious beliefs were.

In the next post, I'll continue with my research into this Oswalt family by analyzing the information I have on William and Benjamin Oswalt. If I have rambled too much, I apologize for any confusion.

So, what do you think so far? Do I have enough information to conclude that Adam and Solomon are brothers? Any advise or suggestions are welcome. Thanks.

(Some of the citations are not complete due to the fact that I do not have all of the documents in front of me at this time. I am relying upon my memory at the time of this writing.)

  1. "1907 Statement." Civil War Pension File of Adam Oswalt.
  2. U.S. Federal Censuses of 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910. (For the first three censuses, Adam is living in Saint Joseph County, Michigan. For the 1910 census, Adam Oswalt is living in Kent County, Michigan.)
  3. "Marriage of Adam Oswald to Barbary Ann Detweiler." Saint Joseph County, Michigan Marriage Records. Book C, page 307.
  4. "Death record of Adam Oswalt." Kent County, Michigan Death Records. His death certificate can also be viewed online at
  5. "Admission papers of Adam Oswalt to the Michigan Old Soldier's Home." Microfilm at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Admission number 5205.
  6. U. S. 1850 Federal Census, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, Walker Township, household of Benjamin Oswalt.
  7. U. S. 1860 Federal Census, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, Juanita Township, household of Benjamin Oswald.
  8. See record in source number 5. Page 2.
  9. See record in source number 3.
  10. U. S. 1860 Federal Census, Saint Joseph County, Michigan, Park and Fabius Townships, households of John Heinback (sic) and Daniel Black.
  11. See record in source number 10 for Park Township.
  12. U.S. 1870 Federal Census for Saint Joseph County, Michigan and Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.
  13. "Marriage of Solomon Oswalt to Mary M. Morningstar." Huntingdon Journal. 20 February 1861.; "Solomon Oswald." Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866. Pennsylvania State Archives. Between Oswald, John P. and Otis, Ora L. Item 17.
  14. "Marriage of Jno A. Westbrook (sic) to Mary M. Oswalt." Huntingdon Globe. 3 March 1869.; U. S. 1870 Federal Census, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, Township, household of John Westbrook.
  15. "Administrative letters for the estate of Benjamin Oswald." Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania Wills, 1787-1918, Wills v. 5-6. FHL US/CAN Film 854233. Will Book 6, page 142.
  16. "November 1861 Session." Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania Orphan's Court Dockets, 1788-1866. Volume I, FHL US/Can Film 900592. Page 59 (?).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Update to Looking For 2010 Hosts ...

As you probably remember, I posted a few requests within the past month or so for hosts of the 2010 editions of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy. A couple of people have already offered to host a few of the editions, but there are still some months available, if anyone still wants to host an edition. The months still available are:
  • May
  • July
  • August
  • October
  • November
  • December
If you are interested in hosting one of these editions, please contact me at jess_history at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Light Blogging Ahead!

Well, I'm back at school again, and after looking at my schedule, I have come to the conclusion that my workload will be greater for this semester than the previous semester. Thus, I do not know how often I will be able to post in the upcoming months. I'll try to post some articles, but I cannot make too many promises. So, if my blog is inactive for awhile it is because I am busy with schoolwork. I just thought I would let everyone know. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January Issue of the Shades Of The Departed Magazine Posted!

The January issue of the Shades Of The Departed Magazine has been posted! You can read it here. Enjoy!