Wednesday, June 1, 2011

INFERENTIAL GENEALOGY - Chasing the 'cosmic rabbit trail' of genealogy research


 According to Elizabeth Mills in Evidence Explained (p.824) "An inference is a 'fact' that is deduced from information that implies something that the document/research does not state outright."

          In the course INFERENTIAL GENEALOGY, (that I spoke about in the previous post) we were challenged to come up with our own definition of Inferential Genealogy  (IG) .

        My concept of IG is the idea of "chasing the proverbial bunny down the cosmic rabbit trail of genealogy research", leaving no document unturned.  I regularly make use of federal land grants and probates to discover early family connections here in rural south-central Indiana.  Sometimes, these documents run you around in circles, through various branches of families and out the other side.  When the dust finally settles, you discover that by using uncommon documents pertaining to an extended family leads you to the answer for the original question that you posed in the first place.

This past January, I received a simple query through RAOGK,

"Do you show a grave site for a John Whitaker (1799 to 1836) in Brown County?  John was my great great grandfather's brother and supposedly died in some type of epidemic there.  Also FWIW...he married an Elizabeth RIPPE...and from what I read, he may have followed his wife's family to Indiana.  Thank you"

The first problem that I saw with this request is that the man in question died in the same year that our county was formed.  Whitaker is not a common name in our county, even now, so IF he existed here prior to the formation of our county the only place to look for him was in  "Federal Land Grants of Brown County, Indiana"  and so my tale of the 'rabbit trail' beginnings.....

What follows is a reply to the original email, in which I used INFERETIAL GENEALOGY and didn't even know it...I just thought I was chasing a rabbit trail!

Gary -
This is long, but be patient, I found a 'gold nugget', not exactly the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.... but it was a little exciting for me!
I have not found any specific listing for the gravesite of John Whitaker, however, I did find him listed on the record of early Brown County Land Grants.  I am looking for the exact information.  Keep in mind that Brown County did not become a recognized Indiana county until 1836.
**More about possible grave location at the end of email, I found something else**
(About three paragraphs)
Below is an excerpt about the early formation of Brown County:
          The United States acquired the land from the Indians, part of which forms the southwest section of what is now Brown County, in the 1809 treaty of Fort Wayne. By the treaty of St. Mary's in 1818 considerably more territory became property of the government and this included some Brown County Land. No settler was allowed in the area until the government survey was completed in 1820. The first white man known to arrive was a German, Johann Schoonover, who lived for a short time on the creek later named for him to trade with the Indians, about 1820. In that same year William Elkins, the first pioneer, built a log cabin and cleared land in what became Johnson Township.

          The earliest pioneers came from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas. They crossed the Ohio River and traveled north on narrow Indian trails through dense hardwood forest with wagons drawn by oxen. Many made their way to Bloomington, then east to hilly country, or they reached Jackson County and came north into future Brown County on the Sparks Ferry Road, or west from Columbus in Bartholomew County. Pioneers who had settled on lowland near Columbus came to the hills to escape malaria. Others deliberately chose the hills having lived in mountains before they made the trip to Indiana in search of new land. By 1830 an estimated 150 settlers had arrived; the United States census of 1840 reported 2,364 people.
          By 1828 the Indiana State Legislature had divided the land of present day Brown County between Monroe, Jackson, and Bartholomew counties. In 1835 settlers presented a petition to the Legislature requesting a new county.  Brown County was formally recognized in 1836.

Gary -
In looking for your relatives in the Brown County area during this time frame, you should also look to the Monroe County Census of 1830, as well as the Bartholomew and Jackson County Census.  I would also look at the Bartholomew County Marriage Records, as well as Monroe County and Jackson County.
Given the Land Grant Information,your ancestor John Whitaker lived in the area near Story, Indiana, west of Gravel Creek Road in Section 30, Range 8, Township 3. 
John's wifes family the Rippee lived east and a wee bit south of Story.
Now back to the LAND GRANT -
Filed December 11, 1832
John Whitaker   40 acres in SE1/4, NE 1/4    8-3-30
John Whitaker   40 acres in NE1/4, SE 1/4    8-3-30
This area is located in what is now the west side of Gravel Creek Road, just west of Story, Indiana.  Gravel Creek Road actually runs along the eastern boundary of the section.  (I have access to early land records, not sure what I can find, possibly a transfer, in that he owned land, I need to also check the old Probate records at the Brown COunty Historical Society Archives, and see if a Probate still exists (doubtful due to an early fire, but there are a few old scattered records)
You mentioned the Rippee Family, and in glancing at the Land Grants I noticed several  Rippee's having Land Grants in this same area.  These appear to be Elizabeth''s younger brother's and perhaps her father. 
There is only one confirmed cemetery listing for a Rippee/Rippy relative, an Amanda (nee-Berry Rippy) Noblet, who is listed as the wife of William Rippy (married 6-30-1836, in Bartholomew County Marriage Records), there could be more information about when William died on her marriage license in 1852 to Levi Noblet in Brown County, Indiana (If this is of interest to you let me know and I will go look it up, depends on what form they used that year as to how much information is available.)
The Rippee Family - Land Grants:
NIBL= North of Indian Boundary Line (There is a treaty Line called the Ten O'Clock Line) that passes through the FAR NE Corner for Section 33.
John Rippee  Lot #1 NIBL  (containing 82.60 acres) in 8-3-33 Filed Dec. 1, 1833
John Rippee  39.655 acres in NE 1/4, NW 1/4  8-3-33   Filed Dec 14, 1833
John Rippee  40 acres in NW 1/4, NW 1/4  8-3-33        Filed Nov 9, 1835
HIram, Arthur, James, and William all have Land Grants in the area north and east of Story, Indiana along what is now State Road 135 South.  (If you want this information let me know, and I will get it for you.  Could help establish a time line for births and deaths anyway.
OK - now here is the 'gold nugget'....
In looking at the area surrounding the sections where John Whitaker lived , as well as the Rippee Family, There are four old cemeteries that contain MANY unmarked graves of early settlers. 
My first thought was the Polley Hill Cemetery, no longer accessible by car, as it is the closest to John Whitaker's original property and in fact, sits in the very far SW corner of his section.
THEN, in looking at the information on Amanda Noblet (born Amanda Berry), married to William Rippy (1836), 2nd marriage to Levi Noblet (6-9-1853)  Amanda died June 12, 1903 aged 88 y, 7 m, 29 d. on same stone as Levi  Noblet.  They were buried in the Mt. Zion Cemetery, just northeast of Story, Indiana
NEXT, I looked at Levi Noblet's grave information, He died Jan 24, 1872, aged 72 y, 8 m. (On same stone with 2nd wife Amanda M.)  Levi was married to first wife Catherine, who was buried ca. 1850 Noblet Cemetery in unmarked grave.
Never one to leave a 'rabbit trail' without exhausting all possible side trails.... I looked up the Noblet Cemetery information for Catherine Noblet, the first wife of Levi Noblet, who married Amanda Berry Rippy, who was the widow of William Rippy, who was the brother of Elizabeth Rippy, who was married to YOUR John Whitaker....  hows that for a rabbit trail?
The Noblet Cemetery was surveyed by the Historical Society December 12, 1971.  It is noted as follows:
"From Story, Indiana drive 4/10 of a mile NE to State Road 135.  The graves are on a wooded hill a few hundred feet NE of the junction if State Road 135 and the side road that runs up to Freese Hollow.  All stone are fallen and some were found under several inches of leaves and soil.  There are many unmarked graves in this long abandoned cemetery.  Levi Noblet, whose first wife is said to be buried here, entered land in this section as early as 1839." 
There were only a few gravestones that were found with enough information to identify.
Peter Headrick (The progenitor of the Brown County HEDRICK families.  This is one of the familys that founded and built the town of Story.  
Catherine Noblet (buried here, unmarked grave) appeared in 1850 census, died in 1851. 1st wife of Levi Noblet buried in Mt Zion Cemetery.
Elizabeth Tabor "In Memory of - consort of Joshua Tabor departed this life Nov 1, 1851, age 19years (Daughter Levi & Catharine Noblet)  Married Joshua Tabor April 11, 1851
THEN----- at the bottom of the listings for NOBLET CEMETERY:
"5 fallen, crude fieldstone markers, only two bearing inscriptions:

J. W. 1836    **********   I THINK THIS IS IT!!!
W     36 "

While not exactly a 'smoking gun'  I believe there is enough correlating evidence to at least assume that this is the gravesite for John Whitaker and that he died in 1836.  There were so few families living in this area at that time frame, and there are no records of anyone else even having those initials in that time frame.
So what to do now?
In that he owned land, there should have been a Probate filed at his death, I will look but due to an early fire many records were lost prior to the 1870's.
Loren Scott Noblitt, (who did the 1971 survey of the cemetery) also authored a book called "Down the Centuries with the Noblitts" published in 1956.  Not sure if it is still available.  But the Noblitt family is a highly researched family in this area, and you might discover incidental research that crosses over into your Rippy/Whitaker line. 
This was a rabbitt trail, for sure!  LOL!  but then again, I love rabbit trails.
Take some time to print this out and digest it, then let me know of there is any followup that you would like to do.

Inferential Genealogy: a broad search of varying and sometimes uncommon resources, that leads one to establishing relationships and 'facts' based on correlating and corroborating evidences.

I prefer to just call it the "bunny trail" approach!


52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Week 21 - Family Search Genealogy Education Courses


Family Search has a variety of educational courses available for FREE on there website.  Click on the word FREE and it should take you directly to Educational Resources section of Family Search. 
Everything from Beginning Genealogy: Where to Start-type courses to the more advance stuff like the study of the INFERENTIAL GENEALOGY course by Thomas W. Jones, is available for free at


If you  haven't read the previous post about "Genealogy in SECOND LIFE' take a quick look at it now.  The INFERENTIAL GENEALOGY course by Thomas W. Jones is being taught as a class in Second Life by Pat Richley-Erickson.  This is another way to get great exposure to world class genealogy teachers right from your own living room. 

Genealogy in Second Life....Really???

      Yesterday began a new adventure, something called "Second Life".  There has been some recent discussion among the "Genie's" in the Techno-Genealogy World about a Facebook Group called.  "Genealogists in Second Life"    Last week, I made a few ventures 'in-world' and found an interesting sort of medieval realm dedicated to all sorts of genealogy education, research, sharing, and well it was just plain fun.
       So, exactly what is SECOND LIFE?  Well, it is a virtual realty kingdom where one can interact with real people from all over the world. Its a little awkward at first, and can be a little intimidating while you are finding you way around, but the FB Group is a big help.
          Last night, in SECOND LIFE (SL) Pat Richley-Erickson, also known as DearMyrtle, in SL she is known as Clarisse Beaumont, (I think I have all of that correct), anyway the long and short of it is this - I was able to attend a wonderful discussion on the importance of INFERENTIAL GENEALOGY (more about the class in the next post) with at least 35 other people from all over the country, taught by one of the leading genealogy speakers in the country and I didn't have to leave the comfort of my own living room.   The potential for this type of technology is staggering, and in the genealogy world it means greater access to top level instructors, classes, there is even an APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) Chapter in SECOND LIFE.   Check out the FB page for a weekly schedule of meetings and events.  There seems to be something just about everyday.