Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happenstance, a Mistake, and a Whim

I’ve been plodding through the land records for Cayuga County, NY, in search of any clues on my paternal Murray and Snow lines. I decided to hand off the effort to a local researcher because I felt the online searching had a tunnel vision effect—I might be missing things that could be found if only there was the larger perspective that comes with seeing a record book in its entirety.

Having uncovered some interesting things through the NY land records, I thought I’d revisit some maternal lines in NY, with the hope I could learn more about the Browns (first mentioned here). My approach was to search Tioga County for the line I already knew a lot about, Gaskill. I was certain I'd find something.

I was pleased to uncover a few records, including one for James and Elizabeth (Brown) Gaskill selling to a Solomon Brown. It was a small clue (father, brother, uncle, cousin, who knows?), but a clue nonetheless. I read through the recorded sale and as I finished, I saw that the very next deed was a transaction between Solomon Brown and John Brown. My immediate reaction was to think of my mom’s story of a family connection to John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame. I’d already discounted that specific connection, but thought there was a possibility the name itself was accurate. I popped over to to find three John Browns as a possible father to Elizabeth in the right place, right time with a female of the right age. Time for some probate record searching.

However, before I moved on to probate, I thought I’d take a look at land records in Tompkins County, NY, looking for my Hinds line. Based on 1820 census records and other info, I had hypothesized that Joseph Hinds moved from New Jersey to Tompkins County and that his son, Solomon, moved from there to Tioga a few decades later. My first foray into Tompkins County records found nothing. Then, by accident, I selected Tioga County for second search, thinking I was still searching Tompkins. I found some records for Joseph Hinds and then was shocked to realize it was in Tioga County and for a time period before the census records in Tompkins County. He was selling land in 1818 and my first census record for him is 2 years later in Tompkins County. It now looks like he went first to Tioga, then to Tompkins before his son went back to Tioga. I have a whole new angle to try for uncovering more about the years between 1790 and 1820.

Finally, on a whim, I decided to check for George Ditmars in the Tioga County land records. (George’s daughter married Solomon Hinds, Joseph’s son.) I had a similar hypothesis for the Ditmars as I had for the Hinds family—New Jersey to Tompkins County. It was really unexpected when I found him in Tioga County in an 1837 record because he was in Tompkins County in 1840. It’s looking like the pattern was like the Hinds pattern—just not the one I hypothesized!

These are all very promising clues and I’m really looking forward to making some progress on these family lines. And I'll continue to hope for more happenstance, mistakes and whims to add to the adventure.


  1. I wish I there were some happenstance, mistakes, and whims in my family history adventures. Perhaps soon....

    I have been sorting through some family history papers (piles and piles of them) and came to your name on a note regarding my post about deciphering a number on a PA death records index for Fred Gerner. I couldn't read the number and asked others to offer their eyes and tell me what numbers they saw. The certificate came a while ago but because I just not uncovered this note, I realized that you (of all others) had the best eyes! The number you suggested was the right one. Thank you for taking the time to look and suggest. I appreciate it.

  2. must be all those years I spent in the printing industry...or something. Anyway, glad to help sort it out, even if only in a small way.