Friday, March 30, 2012

Familial connections in a strange place

For starters let me give you all some background information about myself.  I grew up here in the Chicago suburbs & never in a millions years thought I'd leave Illinois to go to college.  When that time actually came around I turned down schools in Illinois to pursue my dream of becoming a Forensic Chemist at Ohio University in Athens, OH.  The campus was everything I could have ever pictured a college campus to be & strangely it felt like home.  Little did I know that almost 3 years after leaving my beloved OU,  I would find out why I felt so at home in the little town of Athens, Ohio.

This all started with the dream of being able to tell my maternal grandfather where his family came from.  I knew so much about both my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandmother that I felt really bad we never were sure where the Meeks side of my family came from.  Little did I know that I would be fighting and uphill battle to find my ancestors on my maternal grandfather's side of the family.  Through the beauty of learned that my 3rd great grandfather was William Dalton & he was married to a Millie (Smith) Meeks, which led me to his father William R & his wife Rebecca.  That is where I hit my first of many speed bumps.  William R wasn't around for very long and I was at first confused as to where he could have gone.  I then looked at the dates and realized that he disappeared during the Civil War.  Some Google searches and lots of research later I discovered a family website belonging to a distant relative of who else? William R Meeks & his wife Rebecca!  Lucky for me I had some other family members off of Ethel's branch who were just as interesting in our ancestry as I was.

On this website there was information pertaining to William R., the Civil War, and surprisingly enough; his parents.  I learned William R joined the Union army in February of 1864 where he we in the Atlanta Campaign with none other than Major General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Unfortunately he was wounded in Atlanta and died in Effingham in October of that same year.  Now this family website listed William R.'s parents as a Ichanenstean and Mary Meeks.  When I contacted the owner of the site she couldn't remember where she had gotten that information from, so the trail went cold.

Recently I tried to give it a go again at figuring out where William R Meeks and came from.  I had an 1860 census from Effingham in which he was living with his wife Rebecca's family and it listed them as being born in Ohio.  I knew where to start but narrowing down all the information I had was not going to be easy.  I knew he was 25 in 1860 so he had to have been born about 1835 some time.  I started looking for an 1850 census in Ohio with William on it with no luck.  Then I cam across 3 Ohio census records from 1840 that had a William Meeks that was about the right age on every single one!! I was so confused and not even sure where to start.  Then I got a bright idea.  Lets look for that same family in the 1860 census and if William is still with them, then it's not my William.  Well am I ever happy I did that because, I found him!  I couldn't believe it.  An enumerator of the census had typed in that his father's name was Johnathan & his mother's name was Mary.  Upon further inspection it seemed pretty obvious to me that the census in fact said Ichanenstean not Johnathan, but maybe that was the "American" name for him?

I couldn't believe my luck.  There he was, my 4th great grandfather in the 1850 census with his father & family.  On top of all that, I couldn't even believe where in Ohio they were.  Hocking County, which for those of you who don't know, is the county over from Athens (where I went to college).  I did some more looking & found his parents and 4 siblings had actually came to Effingham with him and were there in the 1860 census.  Now this census gave me some interesting information.  I found out my 5th great grandparents, Ichanenstean & Mary, were bother born in Virginia.  I also learned that William R. had NINE brothers and sisters.  Next came the hardest step, finding an 1840 census.  Those of you who are knew to this may not know but in 1840 when the census was enumerated they only listed the head of household.  All other people, black or white, living in that household were tallied and placed into categories.  Luckily since I had the 1850 census I could figure out who would have been on the 1840 and under what age/gender category they would have fallen.

I almost jumped out of my chair when I found it.  I couldn't believe that all of my hard work was paying off.  I didn't even stop to look at where in Ohio the census was from; just that I found a record for "I Meek" and that there were 9 other people living in the household that all fell under the right age categories.  The next thing I looked for was to see if there were any black residents of the house, and to my great excitement, there were none.  What I saw next really blew my mind.  There it was, in the top corner of the census document, the County where my 5th great grandfather and his family was living in 1840.  I couldn't believe my eyes . . . ATHENS! My family lived in ATHENS!! The county I called home for the greatest 4 years of my life was where my 4th great grandfather was born!

Unfortunately I have been unable to find anything back further than that, but just knowing that I have more than a collegiate connection to Athens is good enough for me at the moment.


  1. I may be telling you old news but the surname Meeks is known in The Netherlands, predominantly in the southeastern province called Limburg. In one of the most well known genealogical sites in Holland, they start showing up as early as 1803. It is likely that they will also show up elsewhere as this site does not show all sources.
    Hopefully to your pleasant surprise there are also 3 mentions of Meeks family members with a background in New Amsterdam (NYC) in the early 18th century. Two of them are ladies married to Jesaias Bartlit and Richard Hoppe respectively. The 3rd one is a daughter to the 2nd couple.
    They were all members of the Collegiate Church of New York.
    All this may be found by searching Punch in 'Meeks' after 'Familienaam' and hit de 'Zoeken'-button.
    Since I did not see any reference to the ultimate origin of the Meeks name, I felt this information might be of interest to you.
    If you need further assistance, pse let me know.
    Good luck!

  2. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"

  3. Wow, that is neat. These are the stories I love to hear! Gives you what you need to keep moving forward.

    Carrie @ Not Your Mother’s Genealogy
    a.k.a “DearMYRTLE’s daughter

  4. Such a cool story. I also felt strangely comfortable at my college, but I have yet to find ancestors there! Thank you for sharing and good luck finding more Meeks!