Where to start…at the end, maybe?
I’ve been back from my genealogical adventure to Ohio for a few weeks now, and my big news is that I did NOT achieve my goal of finding out who John Kelley’s parents were.
I literally stumbled over a huge piece of evidence in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere.
The first thing you should know is West Central Ohio is beautiful. These photos flatten out how hilly it is there. Pictured is Mt Tabor Church and Cemetery due east of West Liberty, Ohio, in the middle of nowhere. The church is no longer in use, and the cemetery is small and very old.*
I went there to find Elizabeth Enoch’s grave and to find out who was buried near her. Quick recap (to save you the trouble of reading the previous 14 posts in this series): Elizabeth, whose maiden name was Kelley, was the wife of a prominent man in the area. In the 1850 census, she and her husband employed a farmhand named John Kelley, who I suspect was my 2x great-grandfather. I believe this because my John Kelley ancestor was definitely married in this county four years after this census was taken, the age listed matches the age I believe he was, and my father and I have DNA matches to the Enochs.
I found a dozen or so Enoch family graves in this cemetery, most of them clustered toward the front right side as you’re facing the church. Many gravestones around them were tipped over or broken.* Engravings were worn down so much that you could barely tell what they said.* John and Elizabeth Enoch had the tallest monument. Plaques for them were mounted on either side of it, and five of their children were buried next to them in a row.
When I was backing up to take the picture of the Enoch monument, I stumbled over a gravestone—it was a little thing, just ankle high. It couldn’t even fit a full name on it, just the initials “JTN.” It looked like a toadstool compared to the large edifices of the wealthy Enoch family. I was curious so I checked out the larger gravestones next to it, and I found these graves:
The shadows on these photos are distracting, but descendants of John Kelley and his wife, Eliza Hurd, will recognize the last name right away. They are Philip and Rachel Nitchman. Philip and Rachel are the parents of Eliza Hurd’s stepmother. Let me say that another way: Eliza’s mother, Mary Reynolds, died young, and her father married Mariah Nitchman when Eliza was 10 years old. Mariah helped raise Eliza. Philip and Rachel are Mariah’s parents.
What are the odds that Eliza’s family just happened to be buried DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF the woman I suspect is Eliza’s husband’s relative in a cemetery of maybe a dozen families three miles outside a tiny farming community in rural Ohio?
This confirms a few things. The Nitchmans passed in the 1860s, Elizabeth in the 1870s, and John in the 1880s. That means the Kelley family that I suspect were John’s relatives DEFINITELY knew Eliza’s stepmother and her family. Eliza’s father and Eliza herself probably attended this church. Eliza may have even met and/or married John here. If not, she probably met someone who knew John here.
Now I’ve already mentioned the Enochs I found in this cemetery. I also found a few Kelleys here.
These are the graves of Griffith Evans Kelley, Jemima wife of Abraham Kelly, and Robert M. Kelly. I have DNA matches with all three of these people. I’d like to point out that Griffith Evans Kelley shares his name with the original land donor of the church mentioned in the Mt Tabor Historical marker sign in the first cluster of photos. These families have deep, deep roots in this area.
So everything about my trip to this cemetery had me thinking I was right to think that my John’s family lived in this county and not in Erie County, Ohio, like so many of my family researchers on Ancestry claim. And then I went to the local library and discovered even more evidence…
More to come!
*Did you notice the asterisks? They mention facts about the cemetery that will come into play in my next post.