Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Virtual Research Trip: In Search of Isaac Kizer

Heading down the Information Superhighway

For my virtual research trip, I decided to head out in search of my 3x's great-grandfather, Isaac Kizer (or Keizer, Kysar, Kyser, Kyzer, Keiser, or Keyser, as I was to learn). Isaac's branch had been dangling on my family tree for over 25 years. In fact, I can't remember ever doing any research on him.

Sorry, GGG-Grandpa Isaac. [Hangs head in shame.]

I actually knew very little about Isaac to start with. My Aunt had left notes that he was born c. 1800 in Virgina, and married a woman named Mary. Together they had at least 9 children, including my gg-grandmother, Susannah. To my knowledge, all 9 children were born in Tennessee. Not much to go on, but thankfully he had that unusual name thing going for him... or so I thought.

So off I went, cruising down the Information Superhighway.

My first stop was at Ancestry.com. I put Isaac Kizer's name - and what little I knew about him - in the search boxes, and I was directed to exit at the 1850 U.S. census. There, in Washington County, Tennessee, was 50 year-old Isaac Kizer living with Mary, and 8 of the 9 presumed children, including Susannah. Isaac was indeed born in Virginia, was working as a carpenter, owned $1,000 worth of real estate, and apparently could read and write. Mary and all the presumed children were born in Tennessee. I did not see any other Kizers in the immediate vicinity; however, there was a James Keys a few doors down who might bear further investigation.

Prior to this trip, I had known absolutely nothing about Isaac's wife Mary. I could now glean from the 1850 census that she was born in approximately 1806 in Tennessee. So I decided to take a detour, and headed over to Ancestry.com's Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. There I found an entry for Isaac Keizer and Mary Bradly, married 30 April 1825. Oddly, there were two entries for this couple: the first entry seemed to be signed by a witness, and the second entry by the Justice of the Peace. Strange, but apparently this particular clerk found the double-entry method to be the most efficient because he did it for quite a few other couples on the page. Anyway, the date of marriage seemed appropriate, and the name Isaac Keizer wasn't exactly common in the area, so I was convinced that this was my guy. Oh, and now I (hopefully) had a maiden name for Mary... Bradly. And the witness was named Jonathan Bradley. Father? Brother? Hmmmm.

Kizer-Bradly Marriage Records (click to enlarge)

My next stop after the detour was the 1860 U.S. census. I found the family still living in Washington County, Tennessee: 60 year-old Isaac was living with 51 year-old Mary and 5 children, including a 9 year-old Virginia, who I did not previously have in my database (she'll be important later). Susannah was no longer in the household, which made sense because she married Albert T. Swanay in 1855. This time, Isaac was listed as a farmer, owning $3,300 worth of real estate and $770 in personal property. Again, no Kizers nearby, but a few doors down was another Keys family. Interesting.

The Keizer Family in 1860, Washington County, Tennessee

I did not find Isaac in the 1870 U.S. census, so I suspected that he may have died before then. I did find 62 year-old Mary J. Kizer living alone, owning $2,000 worth of real estate and $350 worth of personal property. She was listed as "keeping house," but with that much land, she would certainly need help taking care of it.

When I find a widow living alone, I always check the neighboring households to see if one of her children is living nearby. Right next door was a John Sellars, living with an 18 year-old Virginia. John was a farmer, but did not seem to own any land. Could this be the mysterious Virginia who showed up in the 1860 census?

I checked the Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002 database and found an 1868 marriage for Louisa V. Keizer and John W. Sellers. Could Louisa's middle name have been Virginia? Made sense; Virginia would have been 17 years old in 1868, so she certainly could be the same 18 year-old Virginia living with John Sellars in 1870, next door to the widow Mary. At least, I was convinced.

So... that would mean Isaac must have died some time between 1860 and 1 June 1870.

Nothing turned up on Ancestry.com, so I hit the road again and headed for one of my fave places: the Tennessee GenWeb. I suspected that Isaac would have died in Washington County, where he had been living for at least 35 years (that I knew of), so I exited at the Washington County, Tennessee, GenWeb site. I had been there many times before, but had never taken the time to look for Isaac Kizer.

After wasting time looking at a few random pages, I finally got serious and started putting names into the search box. Kizer: nothing. Keyser: nada. Kyser: zip. Keizer: BINGO.

The first hit was for Isaac Keizer's obituary from the Jonesboro Herald-Tribune, 1869:

Keizer, Isaac
Isaac Keizer, an old and respectable citizen of the vicinity of Cherry Grove, departed this life on Wednesday, August 11th, 1869. We have known him for many years and can say that he was a good neighbor, and no doubt is gone to a better world to reap his reward. Vol. I. #1, Thurs., Aug. 26, 1869

Well, that made sense. He did, in fact, die before the 1870 census was enumerated. Seeing this, and finding "closure" on Isaac's life, made me so emotional that I almost missed the other gem that had turned up. In the search results, right under the listing for Isaac's obituary, was a link to Mary's listing in the Pleasant Grove  United Methodist Church Cemetery index:

Keizer, Mary J.
b. 2 Mar 1808
d. 9 Nov 1890
Wife of Isaac Keizer

And you know what I found as I was scrolling through the index today while writing this post? At the bottom of the list of K's was Isaac Kyzer! I had thought it odd a few nights ago that I did not find Isaac buried "next to" Mary, but obviously I did not look hard enough. Which once again proves that you should always double-check your work!

I got back on the Highway again and headed over to Find A Grave. Finding no Kizers, Kyzers, Keizers, etc. listed in Pleasant Grove United Methodist Cemetery, I added Isaac and Mary myself, and requested photos for both. Hopefully their graves are marked, and a nice volunteer will post pictures of them. Soon. Hint, hint.

So now I knew when Isaac died... perhaps he left a will. I hopped back on the Highway, this time heading to FamilySearch.org. I exited at Washington County, Tennessee, Probate Court Books, 1795-1927, and found that Isaac Kizer did indeed leave a will, proven in September 1869. While it was mostly filled with the usual boilerplate, I did learn something important: he addressed his wife as "Mary Jane," so I now knew Mary's middle name. Unfortunately, he only named one child, "Manda," who was still single and living on the farm, and only addressed the others as "his heirs." I was hoping he might have mentioned Susannah, but... Ah well... we can't have everything we want.

A portion of Isaac Kizer's Will (from FamilySearch.org)

Isaac signed his will with his mark, but in previous censuses, he indicated that he could read and write. I can't help but think he that must have been quite ill at the end of his life. I'll probably never know.

*   *   *

So that marked the end of my virtual research trip. Arriving home, I organized my swag and my thoughts, and decided that a few things would bear further investigation:

1) Finding no other "Kizers" (or other name variation) in the area makes me wonder if those folks named Keys might have dropped the "zer" at one point. Based on the numerous phonetic spellings I found, I can't help but think the name was pronounced "Keezer," so shortening to "Keys" would make sense.

2) "Manda" (or Amanda, as she was found in the censuses) was not in Mary's household in 1870, nor was she found nearby. I wonder where she went? She was obviously very important to Isaac, since she was the only child he named.

3) If Mary's maiden name was Bradly, who was Jonathan?

4) Isaac's will was witnessed by Lewis Cooper and Adam Cooper. Who were they?

5) Isaac seemed to own a bit of land... a review of the deeds is in order here. And tax records, to figure out when the Kizers came to Washington County.

*   *   *

So, where did you go on your virtual research trip? Bring back anything worth sharing?

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

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6 comments:

imagespast said...

Great idea, and an interesting post, Elizabeth - enjoyed accompanying you on your trip! I should do a virtual trip in Scotland. Jo

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Thanks, @Jo. Maybe I should ride along on your trip to Scotland! :-)

Mariann Regan said...

I enjoyed reading this post, Elizabeth! You seem to have a number of databases for Tennessee that you use customarily. How many years did it take you to find which ones were your favorites? I'm a relative newcomer to real genealogy--despite the amateur research that I did for my new family history memoir. I'm floundering a bit among South Carolina databases, which seem to have many gaps ... in some cases, whole counties are omitted. It must take years of experience to judge reliability in databases.

Your hunch that Kizer was shortened to Keys sounds right to me. Our ancestors certainly did try out many and various spellings of their surnames! : ))

Shelley Bishop said...

Thanks for the fun road trip, Elizabeth. I can just imagine riding along with you, with the top down and the radio playing. Am sure we'd have a good time! And you did a great job tracking down your Kizers. Let's see, who could I pursue on a virtual road trip? You've given me food for thought...

Jana Last said...

Great post!

I love the term "virtual research trip."

I have so many "virtual research trips" I need to make all around the world like Norway, Sweden and Portugal to name a few.

And what would be even more fun? To make a real visit to these countries. Ahh! Maybe someday!

robert kiser said...

cousin, we need to share info.


kiser.robert@gmail.com