Originally Posted HERE on Monday, April 11, 2005
Everyone who does family research will surely come to a dead end, reaching a point where they can't get back any farther, or where they can't seem to find out very much about a particular person. I have lots of them. And every once in a while, one of those dead ends becomes a mini-obsession. Right now, I'm concentrating mainly on my great-great-great grandfather and mother, James P. Skiles and Martha Hair. After all my research, I know what state they were born in. I know about when. I know where they lived most of their lives, and I know where they were buried. I also know who their children were, or at least I think I do. What I'd really love to know is who their parents were!
What I usually do in cases like this is try to fill in as much info on their children, grandchildren, etc. as I can find! You never know where a clue might come from. Since I have my database online, I get emails all the time from people who are related to these collateral lines, and sometimes those people have information about our common ancestors that I might not have found on my own. The more information I show about those people who were my cousins, the more likely someone will find my information and recognize their ancestor!
An example of this is how I was able to determine Martha (Hair) Skiles' maiden name. For years, I didn't have a clue. But in 2004, while on a trip to Salt Lake City, I was browsing through delayed birth certificates for Washington County, Pennsylvania, which are archived on microfilm at the Family History Library. Sometimes when I don't feel focused, I just browse through a source of information from a place where my family lived. (Note: This is usually helpful for me, since my family didn't move around very much and I have lots and lots of cousins all in the same area of the country. It doesn't work as well for my husband's family, since almost every generation migrated to a different state!). One of the delayed birth certificates was one for my grandmother's aunt, whose name was Maude (Skiles) Emery. In the information she provided in order to get a delayed birth certificate was her father's full name, James Hare Skiles. James H. Skiles was my great-grandfather, and was a son of James P. and Martha. I realized that often people would give a son his mother's maiden name for a middle name, and I started investigating the name "Hare." But just a day later, I got confirmation that I was on the right track. I received the following information from a woman researching the family of the man who married two of James H. Skiles' sisters:
Before PA raised the price for a death certificate I sent away for a batch of them, one was for Martha Skiles Lesnett - according to the certificate she was born in PA, a daughter of James P. Skiles and Martha Hair. Both the parents are noted on the certificate as being born in PA. The informant for the certificate was Martha Lesnett's step-daughter, Ella Lesnett Templeton. Martha Skiles Lesnett is buried at Melrose Cemetery in Bridgeville, Allegheny Co PA. Also buried at Melrose is husband William and 1st wife Rachel J. Skiles, who after looking at your genealogy info I believe Rachel is the older sister of Martha - and both are sisters of your ancestor James H. Skiles.
But so far, it hasn't led me to any real information about Martha Skiles' parents. But a web search just a few days ago gave me a place to look. The cemetery partially transcribed here: Old Claysville Cemetery - Washington County, Pennsylvania, shows several people named "Hair" and one woman with the surname "Skiles" who were interred there. A coincidence? Maybe, but might be a real clue!
As for James P. Skiles, I feel very certain that I DO know who his father was, but I cannot, at this time, confirm it. In the early 1800s, a man named Gideon Skiles moved from Lancaster County, PA, in the eastern part of the state, to Washington County, which is in the far western part of Pennsylvania. The early US census records only show the names of the heads of household, unlike the census for 1850 and later, which show every member of the household by name. So until 1850, there is no way to know for sure, from the census, who the other people living in Gideon Skiles' home actually were. By 1850, James P. Skiles was married and had his own home. But he lived less than 10 miles from where Gideon lived, and Skiles is a very uncommon name. So far I have had no luck with wills or with secondary sources, but I just KNOW that somewhere out there someone is holding on to a family bible, or a letter, or some other record that will tell me that James P. Skiles' father was named Gideon.
Below is a link to most of what I have collected over the years about James P. and Martha (Hair) Skiles, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Take a minute to browse thru, you never know where you might see a familiar name!