Make Your Puddle a Little Bigger

The farther back I get in my tree, the harder it is to find the “right” ancestor. When I first began working on my ancestry, I lived in Ohio where there was very little information about West Virginia. The internet was in its infancy so “online searches” were still a thing of the future. Thank goodness I found the Greene County Library in Xenia where there was a good bit of information to be found, not only in book form but microfiche from the LDS. And there I learned a tip from one of the best. I wish I could remember her last name but she was a prominent figure in the Historical Society. Nevertheless, Julia P. said, “make your puddle a little bigger.”

What does that mean? Quite simply, trace the inlaws of your ancestors, too. Seldom did one individual physically move his family to a new location, for instance, to a new state, all by his lonesome. Often, you’ll find that a brother or a brother-in-law also moved to the area as well. That’s not to say they all moved on the same day or within the same time frame, although there is safety in numbers, but, at least two families eventually wound up in the general vicinity of one another.

I have found that the children of Martin McGraw I (senior) intermarried with people from the same families in Greenbrier and Monroe Counties of West Virginia: The Anderson, Bryant, Wood, Withrow, and Skaggs families to be precise. Of course, all those marriages occurred after 1796 when Martin McGraw Sr first appears in the Greenbrier County Tax List. Robert Withrow, who fathered at least one of the inlaws, also came from Pennsylvania and appears first in the Greenbrier County Tax list for the year 1788. Working to figure out where exactly in Pennsylvania he moved from is challenging, mostly because the available records show a Robert Withrow still living in Pennsylvania after 1788. There’s more than one Robert Withrow in Pennsylvania. This is not to say that the McGraws and Withrow’s were associated in Pennsylvania but it is a clue.

Apparently, there is more than one Martin McGraw as well. There is one living in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania whom I cannot confirm is my ancestor but since he is still in the Westmoreland County Tax list in 1798, I seriously doubt that he is. “My” Martin McGraw had already taken up residence in Greenbrier County. As we all know, a person can’t be in two places at the same time. So, were there 2 Martin McGraw’s in Westmoreland County, PA? To my great disappointment, there is only one ever listed in the tax records even though the Township changes from year to year. More questions than answers.

The search – the dig – continues. When you get stuck on a particular ancestor, start looking at the inlaws, the spouses of his or her siblings: Where were they born? When did they arrive in the vicinity? I think you’ll find they traveled to the area at some point from “back home.” Seasoned genealogists call this the “FAN” club – friends, acquaintances, neighbors.

I know: Easier said than done.


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