Friday, November 18, 2011

Following the Schoolcraft Trail

As you will recall, the death record for my paternal 4th great grandmother Rebecca Schoolcraft Radcliff gave her father's name as A. Schoolcraft. I set off to see if I could figure out who this was and reconstruct her family.

Since Rebecca was born in Virginia in 1829, odds are that her family was still in Virginia a year later when the census enumerator came around. With that in mind, I looked for Schoolcrafts in Virginia in the 1830 census. It turned out to be easier than I expected.

In 1830, there were only six Schoolcraft (or similarly named) families in Virginia. Of those six, only one started with an A-Aron Schoolcraft who lived in Lewis County. The household includes
  • 1 male 10-14
  • 1 male 20-29 (probably Aron)
  • 2 females under 5 (one possibly Rebecca)
  • 2 females 5-9
  • 1 female 10-14
  • 1 female 30-39 (possibly his wife)
Strengthening the possibility this is the right man is Rebecca's later residences. Most census records found to date for her place her in Gilmer County, which was formed from Lewis and Kanawha Counties in 1845. Many of her children (if not all of them) were also born in Gilmer County. It stands to reason that even after her marriage, she stayed close to home.

Also in Lewis County in 1830 were two John Schoolcrafts and a James Schoolcraft. These were possibly family members of Aron.

I decided to follow Aron through the census to see what other clues I might find. I found him in Lewis County again in 1840 as Aaron Schoolcraft. His was the only Schoolcraft family in the county. It appears that one of the Johns and James from the previous census moved to the neighboring Kanawha County. Aaron's household is made up of
  • 1 male 30-39 (as the only male in the household, this has to be Aaron)
  • 2 females 10-14
  • 2 females 15-19
  • 1 female 40-49 (again, probably his wife)
It isn't until 1850 that I get any names. Aaron appears as A Schoolcraft in Gilmer County. Since Gilmer was formed from Lewis in 1845, he probably didn't actually move, but the border changed. He is listed as age 42, born in Virginia. The birthplace matches the birthplace for Rebecca's father in later censuses and the age is right to be her father. Also in the household is Sally Schoolcraft (45, VA), Mahala Schoolcraft (17, VA) and John E Ratliff (4, VA).

John's name definitely caught my eye. This brings up a couple possibilities. I know Rebecca and her husband James William Radcliff had a John E Schoolcraft in their household also in the 1850 census. It's possible this is the same child who just happened to be at his grandparent's house when the enumerator came around.

The other possibility is that one of Aaron's other daughters married a Radcliff as well, possibly even a brother of Rebecca's husband since it wasn't uncommon in those days. I checked Lewis County marriage records and found a marriage record for Thomas Radcliff and Lucinda Schoolcraft. This John may be their son. When I searched for Thomas and Lucinda Radcliff in the census records, I wasn't able to find them which makes me think they may have passed and her parents took the child to raise.

John is still with the household in the 1860 census, which strengthens this possibility. By 1860, the Schoolcrafts had moved to Ritchie County. As with Gilmer, Ritchie was formed from a portion of Lewis and other counties. At this point, the household consists of only Aaron Schoolcraft (50, VA), Sarah Schoolcraft (60, VA) and John E Rot Cliff (12, VA). John's name was not transcribed well. If you look at the actual image, it clearly says John E Ratcliff.

It appears that Sarah or Sally may have passed at some point after 1860, but before1866. I located a 1866 marriage record for Aaron Schoolcraft and Sarah Rollins in Ritchie County. The marriage record lists Aaron as a widower.

The marriage to another woman named Sarah would explain why Sarah suddenly appears younger than Aaron starting in the 1870 census even though she was always older in other census records. Apparently this marriage has been missed by other Schoolcraft researchers because most family trees I've found for the family online have only one marriage for Aaron, although they seem to be divided on what her maiden name was.

Aaron and his second wife Sarah appear in Ritchie County in 1870 and 1880, at which point they disappear. Since Ritchie County death records don't start until 1889, presumably they passed at some point in the 9 years between their last census appearance and the point when they started keeping death records. I've checked on FamilySearch for a will for Aaron in the counties I know he lived in (Ritchie, Gilmer and Lewis), but have came up dry so far.

Short of going through all Schoolcraft vital records in Virginia (and West Virginia after 1863) and hoping some name Aaron and Sarah as parents, I can't really reconstruct the family at this point. I may end up doing that before it's over.

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