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I have been investigating my ancestor, Vestus/Sylvester Blackstone with a goal of getting an accurate timeline for some of the major events in his life. I am trying to resolve a number of contradictions, and in particular I would like to figure out where he was born.

The Daughters of the American Revolution has a nice database online. Sylvester is found in the DAR descendants database with the following information:

Sylvester Blackstone born on (c) - - 1812 at PA
died at Fairfield Co OH on 9 - Nov - 1854 and his ( 1st ) wife Matilda A White born on (c) - - 1818 at VA died at Fairfield Co OH on (p) - - 1850 married on 7 - Dec - 1837

The wife, marriage date and death date match up nicely with my ancestor Vestus, which is why I believe that they are the same person. This also matches nicely with this gravesite which gives the name Vestus and the same death date.

A number of Vestus' children were alive for the 1880 US Census which asked for the father's birthplace as one of their questions. All the children that I've located in that census given Vestus' birthplace as Ohio.

Vestus' birthdate is also hard to pin down, but for the purposes of this question you may assume that it is between 1809 and 1812.

I have not thus far been able to locate any sort of official record of his birth on ancestry.com. It may be there, but I've not found it though I've done some extensive wildcard based searches. Given that, and given that I would like to establish his birthplace, what are some other resources I should consider?

Note: Those of you who recognize my name may remember that there is some evidence of the Blackstones of this era being Quakers. I've not been able to find anything there, either.

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Like published histories and Ancestry Public trees, DAR/SAR databases are compiled sources. They may be useful as guides, but the question I always have is what primary sources did the compilers draw from when that entry was created?

If you have not already done so, I recommend that you write out a biographical sketch and timeline for Vestus and his family, along with a list of all the records you have collected about him so far. Sibling records can be especially useful for filling in gaps in the family timeline and providing clues to migration.

The next step is to make a checklist of what specific primary records you might be able to find to verify the events in his life from your biographical sketch.

One useful checklist is Sources of Genealogical Information. So far you have been searching for an official birth record. Consider branching out to other types of records as well.

The Ohio Hypothesis

The FamilySearch Wiki article How to Find Ohio Birth Records is rough and needs a lot of work. However, it has this pointer:

In 1803, Ohio was created from Ohio Territory. Statewide registration of births began in 1908 in Ohio. Records before 1908 are found in the Probate Court in the county where the birth occurred.

Another factor to consider is coverage. It's not uncommon for coverage to be incomplete in the early years immediately after statewide registration is imposed, so even after 1908, it may be easier to find records searching at the county level. This means that if you don't have a good guess as to what county the family might have lived in, or where Vestus' mother might have been visiting at the time the birth happened, it might be worthwhile to back up and look for more records about the family later on, to find more clues.

The Pennsylvania Hypothesis

The FamilySearch Research Wiki's article on Pennsylvania Vital Records says that statewide registration began in 1906, so it is even more imperative that you locate what part of the state the family might have lived in, in order to pursue local records.

Once you have narrowed down possible locations for this family, see the question How can I determine what records are available in a particular locale? for more ideas about how to find records.


Another thing to consider: for effective searching, it helps to understand the nature of primary records and to learn about what you can expect to find out from them. For Ancestry.com, one way to learn more is to go into the Card Catalog and look at each individual record set. In the "about the database" notes on U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1994 Ancestry says:

What Can I Expect to Find in Quaker Records?

There are generally two types of monthly meeting records, minutes taken during the business meeting, and separate registers of births, marriages and burials. Later in the 19th century many meetings began to keep membership registers which incorporated more comprehensive information. Each meeting kept records for individuals and families as long as they remained faithful members of the meeting and within its geographical boundaries. When a family moved from one meeting to another, a letter (certificate of removal) was sent to the new monthly meeting they would be attending. Notice of the transfer was written into the minutes of the original meeting, and was also noted as received in the new meeting. (emphasis mine)

Meeting minutes contain a recording of all business conducted in the meeting. These include approvals of marriage intentions, records of discipline, disownment, requests for burial in the meeting burial grounds, and removal. Monthly meeting minutes rarely include information about births and deaths.

You may not be able to find information about births and deaths in these records, but a certificate of removal and the family's arrival in the new area could be an important clue that would lead to other records. Note that not all names in this kind of record will be indexed, or indexed correctly, so browsing the images often yields far more information than you can find in any index.

Ancestry.com has 17 databases in the card catalog specifically pertaining to Fairfield County, Ohio. All seventeen of these are categorized as "Newspapers and Publications" or "Stories, Memories & Histories", which shows that Ancestry.com doesn't have any official records on the county level, only those which were collected statewide. So it might be more productive to look at research guides like the FamilySearch Wiki article on Fairfield County, Ohio or the Ancestry's Wiki from The Source on Fairfield County, Ohio. Examine any record collection you search, not just for the obvious question "does this database have my ancestors or not?" but also to understand the nature of the records, and to look for what clues it might give you to other records.


If you find your family in abstracted records (on Ancestry, via Google Books, Hathi Trust, Internet Archive, etc), try to get a copy of the original records if you can -- they may have more information than what appears in the published abstracts. Thomas C. Hill's work Monthly Meetings in North America: A Quaker Index has been made into an online searchable index -- see www.quakermeetings.com An example of an entry from the print version can be seen in the FamilySearch Research Wiki article U.S. Quaker Research (Society of Friends).

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  • This pretty much answers my question. Ironically enough, I was hoping to use Vestus' birthplace to point to a location for his father so at this point I have nothing more than vague guesses as to where they could have been in Pennsylvania. There are only a couple of Ohio counties that could be a possibility, so perhaps that is the next step. Establishing his birth in Ohio wouldn't really help me with the more pressing problem, though, as I already have his father living in Athens county, Ohio from 1817 on. – DaveBlackston Jul 27 '14 at 15:20
  • Have you mapped out the events you know about? See this post on the Ancestry blog about the most recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2014/07/25/… – Jan Murphy Jul 27 '14 at 16:00
  • I have, to the best of my abilities. The problem is that the first record of Vestus' father that establishes a location is his 1810 marriage in Marietta, Ohio. After that, we have him arriving in Athens County, Ohio in 1817, where he played a minor role in the early formation of York Township. He may have fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe, as family lore says so and there was a soldier by his name who participated. There's no firm evidence suggesting where he came from, though there's some secondary evidence about Pennsylvania. – DaveBlackston Jul 27 '14 at 16:32
  • Re Jan's mapping out events suggestion: have you seen the 1850 census record? Vestas Blackstone, Rush Creek, Fairfield, Ohio, born 1812 Pennsylvania [familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MX3B-612 ] Informant of course unknown, but recorded while Sylvester/Vestas still living – bgwiehle Jul 27 '14 at 17:56
  • @DaveBlackston -- Have you seen Vestus Blaxton enumerated in Falls, Hocking, Ohio in 1840? familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XHYV-N1W – Jan Murphy Jul 27 '14 at 18:57

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