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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

William Baldwin

I have many projects in process that are using my DNA connections to solve roadblocks in my family research. One recent breakthrough using my method of analyzing DNA relationships was William Baldwin.


Some time ago I had used a pile of clues to formulate a theory for the parents of my 2nd great grandmother Ella Baldwin Simpson. She was born in 1869 in Adams County, Illinois, but her family was badly fractured by the mid-1870s, which made reconstructing their family history difficult. But I had determined (and DNA later supported) that her parents were William Riley Baldwin and Amanda Baugher, married in 1851 in Shelby County, Illinois. Amanda's family were plentiful and comparatively easy to trace back a couple of more generations. William Riley's family, however, remained a mystery to me for several years. I'd gathered enough other clues to posit that he must have been the son of an elder William Baldwin who died in Shelby County around 1860, but the trail dried up and it remained unsolved as I worked on other goals that yielded more success. Eventually this project came back around in my rotating system of failed goals, and I vowed this would be the time I solved it. The elder William's limited census records said he was born in Virginia or Ohio. His children (and presumed children) on later censuses would offer that their father was born in a variety of places, including Illinois, Indiana, and Alabama. He was married in Illinois in 1846--when he was about 60--to a woman in her 20s named Teresa Eveline Bryant. He could have been married before, due to their age difference. "Eveline" was only about 10 years older than William Riley, and he could therefore be her step-son. But I couldn't find any William Baldwins from anywhere who seemed to connect solidly to this one. William owned land in Shelby County at the time of his death, which made me wonder if he received it as bounty for military service. Following that theory, I found a bounty land application from the 1850s for service in Ohio during the War of 1812. The application states that William Baldwin was born around 1785-1786, and that he enlisted in the Army in Washington Court House, Fayette County, Ohio, in 1814. There was a Baldwin family active in Highland Co., Ohio--adjacent to Fayette, where William enlisted--around this time. There was a William in that family, born around 1785-1787, the same as "my" William. However, he belonged to Uriah Baldwin as outlined in Quaker records. I had I tracked that William and Uriah a while ago to discover that William had a long and full life in Ohio, a few counties north of Highland Co. That William could not have been mine. Uriah Baldwin had a long list of siblings, but their descendants were well accounted for in a couple of different genealogy books from the late 1800s. I had looked through Baldwin (and every misspelling I could think of) marriages throughout the Midwest for a swath of years around 1814, the year my William enlisted in the Army. But they all were accounted for, it seemed. My William could be nowhere among them. All I had were 8 to 10 DNA matches descended from Baldwins in Ohio. None knew who their ancestors were past about the 1830s or 1840s. And more recent generations from William Riley and Amanda had no DNA samples at that time, so I couldn't be certain that this isolated Baldwin group would intersect with anyone from my branch. Something kept pulling me back to Uriah Baldwin's family. They were in Ohio in the very early 1800s, so early enough to have been settled there at the time of the War of 1812. His family were Quakers, and their records are generally a goldmine of information when looking for families who relocated from place to place. Uriah Baldwin was born in 1764. His birth, and that of the 10 other children of William and Elizabeth Baldwin, is recorded in the meeting minutes of Guilford, North Carolina. William and Elizabeth's son Jesse Baldwin was born in Guilford in 1759 and married Hannah Thornburgh there in 1780. I had looked at that couple before. I have dozens of distant matches to the Thornburghs of Guilford. However, I also have two other branches of my family all from Guilford, and the wives of two patriarchs are unknown. The Thornburghs were plentiful, and some married into my known lines, so perhaps the connection would ultimately not have anything to do with the Baldwins. Plus, North Carolina was never among the half-dozen different birthplaces that was connected to my William Baldwin. Jesse Baldwin and Hannah Thornburgh had a son named William, born August 7, 1786, in Guilford. Those old and complete family genealogy books said that Jesse and Hannah's son William was living in Ohio or Indiana in 1875. I had discounted him as my William for a long while, as my William died in 1860 in Illinois. Additionally, the Williams descended from these Baldwins--and there were many of them, each son naming a son of theirs after their father William--seemed well-explained. But getting frustrated and quitting hadn't solved this puzzle yet, and I had vowed to solve it this time around. I meticulously reconstructed the family tree of William and Elizabeth Baldwin of Guilford County. The Quaker records provided the framework, and I layered in census, marriage, land, and tax records. Doing that revealed that the William Baldwin who remained in Ohio--and whom is assigned in family histories as Jesse's son--had to be Uriah's son. Jesse's son William was born in Guilford in 1786, the same location but a couple of years earlier than Uriah's son William. Jesse and Hannah's Quaker membership got transferred many times, from North Carolina to Tennessee to Virginia and then to Ohio in 1804. Searching for the correct marriage was the next step toward progress. There was a marriage for a William Baldwin and Amy Crooks in 1805 in Ohio. Their marriage record had been attributed in transcriptions to be the same as a William Baldwin and Anna Croo who married in Highland, Ohio, in April 1806. William Baldwin and Amy Crooks were people whose life existed elsewhere, so I had discounted them in earlier searches. However, the original marriage records prove that Amy Crooks and Anna "Croo" were in fact two separate women who married two different William Baldwins. William Baldwin and Anna Croo were married on the same day by the same minister who married Caleb Croo and his wife. Quaker records say Anna Crew and Caleb Crew were siblings, and they had a sister named Sarah Ladd Crew. I had earlier researched a man named Hosea Wright, as he had enlisted in the war on the same day and in the same city as my known William Baldwin and I figured there could very well be another connection between them. He had disappeared after the 1820s, and at the time I hadn't been able to connect him to William Baldwin in any other way. Only this time I connected the fact that Hosea Wright had married Sarah Ladd Crew. My William Baldwin surely could have enlisted in the War of 1812 with his brother-in-law, and I think he did. A deed now attributed to this correct William Baldwin proves that he was already a landowner 14 miles from Washington Court House when he enlisted there in 1814. Anna Crew was born February 8, 1786, in Sussex County, Virginia. Her parents, John Crew and Judith (also born Crew), were married in Charles City, Virginia, in 1773.


Anna is mis-attributed in every tree in which I have found her. However, after straightening out the facts, the rest fell into place. I am indeed related to a long line of Crews, as well as the Ladds and Binfords from whom Anna Crew's parents descended. As more and more DNA samples have been tested, the Baldwin-Crew connections are dovetailing exactly like they should with the matches to William Riley Baldwin, Ella Baldwin Simpson, and down to my little twig of this boundless tree. This is definitely one case in which DNA was the only hope of solving it with confidence. It didn't help that I failed to enforce two major rules I've established for myself: 1) Don't place a high degree of trust in pedigree and family history books. They generally have no sources. They have mistakes. Just like our modern research, they are a product of people putting together the very best account based on the information to which the authors have access. However--just like our modern research--information is often filled in because it looks like it fits, or "I have extra pieces and I have to wedge them somewhere." Doing your own research and using original sources is meticulous and frequently leaves us with lots of tidbits that aren't ever useful, but it is always the key. [Of course, I don't cite my sources in this blog, either, in part because people should independently seek and verify any information they collect.] 2) Don't be a quitter. Frustration is inevitable. Taking long breaks and putting the research away for a while is essential. Some mysteries will be never be solved. But for this roadblock, I had easily quit and moved on to something more solvable. I didn't initially search every detail of every person in the web in the methodical way that I know it takes to make progress. Finally. A solution to the puzzle of William Baldwin, my 4th great grandfather. There are many facts about his son, William Riley Baldwin, that I still don't know.. But I now know how it began.

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