Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Common Surname, Common Location

In the course of working on the descendants, and trying to discover the correct ancestry of John Brewer of Scioto County, Ohio, I have been reminded of the pitfall of assuming that all persons with the same surname, who are then found in the same general location, are not necessarily related. Original records for John Brewer are very few in number, yet compiled accounts of John Brewer's family, and ancestry, have been in circulation among interested descendants for over 100 years. Much of these accounts were based upon the work of early researchers, most of them motivated by either seeking membership in D.A.R. or trying to show a descent from the fabled Anneke Jans and her imaginary fortune. I have  reviewed these early compilations, and used them to get an initial start on John Brewer. It now has become apparent to me that in at least two cases, sons were assigned to John Brewer, based solely on the fact that they had the surname, BREWER, and because they were found in the same county as either John Brewer or some of his descendants.
The first case is that of Jacob Brewer, who was possibly born about 1782 (based upon the date he was married). A record for the marriage of Jacob Brewer and Mary Rinley (called INLEY in most accounts) is found in Scioto County, Ohio in 1807. No other record for Jacob Brewer has been located, and most importantly, he is not named in an 1818 deed by which some of the heirs of John Brewer sold their interest in his property in Scioto County. It is apparent that Jacob has been included as a son of John based solely on the fact that he was married in Scioto County.
In the second case, claimed son William Brewer, who lived for much of his adult life in Vermilion County, Illinois, was included as a son of John Brewer, yet no record has been found to link William to John. As with Jacob, William is not mentioned in the 1818 deed. Other descendants of John Brewer did live in Vermilion County during the same period in which William Brewer lived there (mid 1800s). However, so did a number of other Brewer families. Just looking at the 1850 census for Vermilion County, Illinois, I have counted at least three, possibly four BREWER household, who have no known family relationship with each other. In addition, a published biography of William Brewer's son, John W. Brewer, describes William as having come to Vermilion County from Indiana (not Scioto Co., Ohio) and that William's father (also named John Brewer) lived his last years in Miami Co., Ohio (not Scioto Co.).
Relying upon a common surname and being found in the same location, can at times, point to a family relationship between the two persons n question. However, in such situations either the surname is very rare or uncommon, and the location contains a very small population with many intermarriages. The surname, BREWER, and the location of both Scioto Co. circa 1807, and Vermilion Co. circa 1850, do not fit the conditions just mentioned. As soon as the Ohio Valley region opened up (after the Revolutionary War) many families from the east moved in and through. Included among them were numerous families named BREWER. These Brewers had their origins variously with Adam Brouwer, Jan Brouwer, Hubert Brower, Henry Brewer of Bedford Co., Pa., and some of the Brewer families originally found in Maryland and Colonial Virginia. The new comers crossed paths and lived in the same counties, even the same townships, as each other, all while possessing a common surname, but not a common ancestry.
I believe the earlier researchers of John Brewer of Scioto County, Ohio, made an error when including Jacob Brewer and William Brewer as sons. Until now I have propagated that error myself by including the two in accounts of John Brewer's descendants that I have placed online. The online accounts of John Brewer, the Family Group Sheet, Descendant Chart, and Descendant Report, have now been updated and all previous editions are superseded. Both Jacob and William Brewer are no longer included as sons of John Brewer. Links for the three can be found at the right under Notes, Research, Reports. Expect them to be updated again, once more descendants are included.

Update of September 15, 2011: Richard Brewer, has pointed out that Jacob Brewer is mentioned in the settlement of the estate of Meshack Plowman (file 4718, Scioto Co. Probate Court). Apparently, John Brewer's sons, Edward, Charles and Jacob, had previously sold their shares in John's property. Therefore, Jacob is a son of John Brewer. There remains no mention of a son named William. See Richard Brewer's account of John Brewer for more.

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