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Finding The Unknown Child of John Van Buskirk of Pickaway Co Ohio and Madison Co Indiana  

The Beginning Of The Story

 In 1999 I started on my quest to find the parents of my great great grandfather, William L Van Buskirk. I knew that William was born in Ohio about 1821. This was my first clue. I also suspected that the Morris Van Buskirk, that was always near him in adulthood, must be a brother. They were next door to each other in 1850 in Appanoose Co Iowa. Morris was also near in 1860, being in Appanoose Co Iowa, and William nearby in Davis Co Iowa. It was an assumption on my part that they were brothers, but it seemed very compelling to me. I was fortunate to have an unusual name like Morris to work on, as William was going to be a difficult name to pin down. I found that some descendants of Morris had posted data on the Internet, and they too assumed William and Morris were brothers. I later found that William had a brother named Henry, who by 1860 had also migrated to Appanoose Co Iowa.   Later, I discovered that Susannah Van Buskirk Cockrum (Cochran) also migrated to Appanoose Co Iowa with her husband Thomas.  Susannah and Thomas were apparently the first of the family to go to Iowa and the rest followed, as was typical in the days when families stayed near each other.

 The fact that William, and his brothers Morris, Henry, and Michael named their first sons John was a significant clue to me. In the mid 1800's (and before) it was a tradition to name the first son after the father's father. Not all followed this tradition, of course, but with three in the same family naming their first son John, it seemed like a good clue to me. Checking records in Ohio revealed that a John Van Buskirk of Ross Co Ohio married Juda Clifton on 12 Feb 1807. The part of Ross Co Ohio where they lived became Pickaway Co Ohio in 1810. There was quite a bit of information about this couple published on the Internet, and among the claims, was that they had a son named William born about 1821. As soon as I saw the name Juda - I was struck with the fact that my grandmother, Goldie Van Buskirk, (1896-1962) named her adopted daughter, Juda. It is a fairly unusual name, and I often wondered if my grandmother found the name in a family Bible, or from a family story she had heard? The thought was not really relevant to my search, but, was in my mind none the less.

 At any rate, with all of the information on the Internet pointing to John and Juda being my 3rd great grandparents, I more or less decided this was as far as I would ever get to solving this case. I still didn't feel very confident, as the other researchers could never produce any real evidence. With the vast amount of assumptions prevalent on the Internet, I was uneasy about the scenario. With most "brick walls" I only bang my head against them for so long and then move on to more co-operative ancestors.

The Breakthrough

It was 1 September 2006 that I received a message from Robert Van Buskirk of Indianapolis, Indiana. Like so many others, he stated that William's parents were John and Juda. I responded by asking if he had found any real evidence about the children of John and Juda. Imagine my delight when he responded with real evidence, in the form of the deeds that settled John's estate, by seven heirs, selling his 200 acre farm! 

The John Van Buskirk Farm

 The two hundred acres were in what later was designated as Jackson Township.   John Van Buskirk began his land purchase in 1836, of 80 acres, from David Cochran. In 1838 he bought 80 more acres from Joseph McCormack. In 1839 a lady named Juliann Van Buskirk bought the last 40 acres from David Cochran. The 40 acres was bought in the name of John Van Buskirk -- but I have yet to figure this deed out. John's wife was Juda, unless Juda died and he remarried to a Juliann?  The 200 acres is located on the very western edge of Madison County and the border with Hamilton County Indiana. The principle town in Jackson Township is Perkinsville. What I have found is that Morris Van Buskirk was living on the home farm in 1840. He is "next farm" to Peter Young, who bought son, Henry Van Busklirk's 1/7th part of the farm in January 1842. The next month, Morris Van Buskirk, William Van Buskirk and Susannah Van Buskirk Cockrum deeded their part of the farm to brother Henry Van Buskirk, who the next month sold those 3/7th part to Henry Anderson.  In 1847 John Van Buskirk's son Michael, sold his share of the farm to Henry Anderson and in 1848-1855 the four children of daughter, Mary Van Buskirk Boggs, sold their share of their mother's interest in the farm.  It took Henry Anderson until 20 February 1877 to finally have all seven heirs accounted for and have the release of their share of the farm. 

Henry Anderson

 Henry Anderson was living in Hamilton County Indiana in 1840, but in 1850 he is in Madison County and living neighbors to several of Morris Van Buskirk's neighbors in 1840. This is how I pinpointed the location of the farm as being in Jackson Township, by analyzing the 1850 census. On the same page with Henry Anderson in 1850 is David Cochran and John Ryan. John Ryan is the father of Davis Ryan who married Hester Ann and became the last of the heirs to quit claim their share of the farm in 1877!  Is that a coincidence?  Something tells me it is not. Henry Anderson died in 1888, and is buried in Perkinsville Cemetery in Madison County Indiana. Henry moved back to Hamilton County Indiana about 1870 and his son, Henry Anderson, Jr continued to farm the Van Buskirk farm until the 1920's.

The Deeds

 I was excited about the deed that named my ancestor, William Van Buskirk, and quickly ordered the microfilm that this deed was on in Madison Co Indiana. Robert had done quite extensive research twenty years ago, and had all of the deeds that involved that 200 acres. He sent me a nice, thorough report of his research from so long ago. It was quite interesting to see the progression that the buyer, Henry Anderson, had to go through to obtain the full 200 acres. The quit claims began in 1842 and continued until 1877, when the final person sold his/her share (either Davis Ryan or Hester Ann Ryan). The final 1/7th part of the estate was quit claimed by seven people that were not familiar to me. Robert said he had tried to find out who they were, but had been unsuccessful. Obviously they had to be children and perhaps even grandchildren of an unknown child of JohnVan Buskirk. But who??

I was delighted to finally solve the puzzle of William's parents. Finally, I felt confident that I had the correct information. I had a few other questions for Robert, but he had quit his research efforts many years ago. Like so many other times, I moved on to other ancestors, and put the Van Buskirks back in their manila folder for another day.

The Seventh Heir

That "other" day happened in June 2007!  Periodically I would go (vicariously of course) to Pickaway Co Ohio and see what I could find out about the Van Buskirks and Cliftons. However, as I was reviewing and analyzing this information, I discovered another fact that had previously alluded me. Among the Van Buskirk marriages of Pickaway Co Ohio was an Elizabeth Van Buskirk that married Charles Bannon on 1 Jan 1817. If she was age 17 at marriage she was born in 1800 and if age 19 at marriage she was born 1798. Then, an Elizabeth Van Buskirk married James Davis in Pickaway Co Ohio 1 Jan 1822. Could this be the same Elizabeth and her first husband died before 1822?  It suddenly struck me that I had seen the name Bannon before -- as one of the 1/7th heirs to John Van Buskirk's estate! Without Robert's data the name meant nothing - but WITH his data I had a whole new research project. I was on my way to finding the unknown child of John Van Buskirk. I was willing to bet anything that it would turn out to be Elizabeth. If so she would have been the child of John Van Buskirk and his first wife Jane Workman. It was very possible that he had two children with Jane, we already knew about his oldest son, Michael. Perhaps Jane Workman had migrated to Ohio with him and died there after 1800. Next to nothing is known about Jane Workman except that she married John Van Buskirk on 30 Jun 1793 in Allegany Co Maryland.

The Last 1/7th Part of The Farm

The seven people mentioned in the final 1/7th part of the estate were:

(1)Sarah E and Harrison Jones of Auglaize Co Ohio. I found her maiden name was Bannon.

(2)William Bannon of Auglaize Co Ohio, the only son of John Bannon and Margaret Hesser of Mercer Co Ohio.

(3) Jacob C and Nancy Harper of Huntington Co Indiana. I found her maiden name was Bannon and she was a daughter of John Bannon and Margaret Hesser, of Mercer Co Ohio.

(4)Mary A and James Tanner of Mahaska Co Iowa. I found her maiden name was Bannon and she was a daughter of John Bannon and Margaret Hesser, of Mercer Co Ohio.

(5) Sarah A Harris of Warren Co Indiana. I found her maiden name was Bannon. I believe her mother is Elizabeth Van Buskirk Bannon Davis.

(6) Nancy Jenkins of Effingham Co Illinois. I found her maiden name was Davis, although her death certificate says her father is Michael Davis, I believe she is the daughter of Elizabeth Van Buskirk Bannon Davis.

(7) Davis and Hester Ryan of Madison Co Indiana. Hester's maiden name is Johnson, and I have no idea why she or Davis Ryan would heirs to John Van Buskirk's estate.

 I took them one by one and found all that I could about them. During the months of July and August 2007 I was engaged totally in studying this family, extended as it was. My first breakthrough, and the first indication that I was on the right track, was when I received William Bannon's death certificate (#2 above) from Mercer Co Ohio. He died in 1922 and his father was listed as John Bannon and his mother as Margaret Hesser. John Bannon, in 1850, had the right number and gender and the right names of children to fit the final settlement of John Van Buskirk's farm. All but one, Nancy Jane Bannon Harper. Nancy wasn't born until August 1850, after the census taker had been at her father's house in Auglaize Co Ohio.  Fortunately for me, Nancy Jane Bannon Harper was the informant on William's death certificate, and she knew who their parents were.

 The next death certificate was of Nancy Jane Davis Jenkins (#6 above). She died in Fayette Co Illinois in 1914. Her death certificate was not quite so thrilling, as it said her father was "Michael" Davis and her mother unknown by the informant. At least the last name was correct, and perhaps James Davis had a middle name of Michael, or perhaps the informant had a memory lapse of what her mother had told her. At any rate, I wasn't too disappointed in this death certificate, just mildly surprised. It definitely tied Nancy to the John Van Buskirk farm. The informant was Nancy's daughter and her grandparents had died many decades before she was even born. I later communicated with Kathy Barber, a descendant of Nancy Davis Jenkins. The family story is that Nancy's parents (James and Elizabeth VB Davis) died when Nancy was about age 5. This would be about 1831.

 The most devastating death certificate was that of Hester Ann Ryan (#7 above). I was positive I would find her maiden name was Davis.  In the beginning, Davis and Hester Ann Ryan were the last two people to quit claim their interest in the John Van Buskirk farm in 1877. I eliminated Davis as the connection to the Van Buskirk family as I found he had a brother still alive in 1900 -- and if he were the heir, his brother would have shared equally with Davis. This caused me to concentrate on Hester Ann as being the heir. I was reasonably sure she was a Davis, and descendant of Elizabeth Van Buskirk Bannon Davis. When I finally received her death certificate and it stated her father was William Johnson, I left the world of reality, momentarily, and chalked it off to simply an error in reporting by the informant. But at the same time, a little voice whispered in my ear, "You had better check out this new name and make sure her father CAN'T be William Johnson." Dragging my feet, and with great apprehension, I started double checking the area of Madison Co Indiana where Davis and Hester lived most of their lives.

There was a William Johnson, with a daughter named Hester Ann in the same neighborhood as Davis Ryan in 1870. Matter of fact he lived "just one page" away from the Ryan family on the 1870 census. Davis and Hester married about 1872 in Madison Co Indiana. So why would Hester be involved in the John Van Buskirk farm? Perhaps she was a child of William and another wife before Vilena Johnson? No, William and Velina were married by 1850 and living in Rush Co Indiana. Hester Ann was born in 1853. Also Hester Ann Johnson had 4 siblings and outliving all of them in 1877 seemed very unlikely. They were all younger than she was. She was the oldest child of William Johnson, and the next child was 4 years her junior. If the Van Buskirk connection was Hester, why wouldn't her siblings be heirs as well?

I may never discover the answer to this mystery.  I must be content to have learned about and proven who the 7th heir of JohnVan Buskirk is. Elizabeth Van Buskirk Bannon Davis. Another mystery is the George Young that quit claimed his part of the Van Buskirk farm in 1867.  His father, Peter Young, bought 1/7th part of the farm in  1842.  I concluded that George was the heir of Peter and sold his father's share of the farm after Peter died.  It seems that not all things are meant to be known about this farm!!                                             

About JohnVan Buskirk

John Van Buskirk was the father of 7 children, and someone knew who they were when he died in Madison County Indiana. He was born in Alleghany County Maryland about 1775. He married Jane Workman there in 1793. By 1807 he was in Pickaway County Ohio where he married Juda Clifton.  In 1836 he and wife "Judith" sold their land in Pickaway County Ohio. They moved to Madison County Indiana in 1836 where they bought the first 80 acres of their final 200 acres. Both John and Juda (or is she known as Juliann now?) are dead by 1840. There are no older females living with any of the Van Buskirk sons in Madison County Indiana in 1840. Thanks are due to Robert Van Buskirk for my success in this endeavor. Without his excellent research and reporting of his results I would not have been able to figure it out. Also his patience in answering my many questions is deeply appreciated.

Thanks as well to the many people that did lookups and went the extra mile to help me. People from Smith County Kansas, Warren County Indiana, Madison County Indiana, Mercer County Ohio, Auglaize County Ohio, Whatcom County Washington, and Berrien County Michigan helped me in many ways.  

The Journey

The investigation of this family has been one of my most enjoyable genealogical journeys. I am happiest when I am helping identify a long lost female -- even if she is not my direct ancestor. So often forgotten by history, and by their descendants, women of the early 1800's are inspiring to me and when I can help them come alive, I feel good about it. One of the nicest rewards is the wonderful people I meet along the way. Of course, this is an ongoing project and I may discover many more surprises as I continue. To check on my progress, you may visit my genealogy blog at

Patricia A Johnson

PO Box 1973

Fort Collins, Colorado 80522

© 2007