Solving a family history puzzle is the opposite of all of those things. You probably know you don't have all the pieces, and you probably never will. The picture on the box may not have been labeled properly, and when you do find clues, they may add up to give you three or four different answers - sometimes, even the right one!
If we're lucky, we can find enough evidence that matches the pieces we have to tell us where to look for the next several pieces. And that's the game. You will find a lot of information, and some of it is obviously wrong. But some of it is right — and how do you know what to hold onto, and what to let go?
Today, I'm taking a fresh look at the family of Elizabeth Berlin, rebuilding the case I made in a post from 2016.
The Callin Family History
According to the Callin Family History, Elizabeth Berlin is my 3rd-great-grandmother. Here's what we have to work with from the CFH:
Record of William Callin, 3rd son of John Callin, who was 2nd son of James 1st.
Born May 10, 1813, died Nov. 9, 1881, at Bowling Green, O.
Married to Elizabeth Barlene 1837 who died Nov. 14, 1903, at Bowling Green, O., aged 86 years.
The William Callin-Elizabeth Berlin marriage record
One guiding star in any kind of historical research is the rule that tells us to always look to original and primary sources. The CFH is not a primary source, but a marriage record would be. We can see the image of the original record here:
|Detail from Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993|
Despite the florid handwriting and odd line break, it is easy enough to see that "Mr. Wm. Cal-lin and Mifs Elizabeth Berlin" were married on the 29th day of Sept. in Richland County, Ohio, in 1836. (I had to crop the part of the image that showed the year, but if anyone needs to see that to believe it, I can send the whole page.)
Notice the way things add up, yet are different. The CFH says William married Elizabeth Barlene in 1837, and the marriage record says he married Elizabeth Berlin on 29 September 1836. It's easy enough to accept this record as proof that corroborates the CFH, but even though they aren't exactly the same. The year is definitely close enough, and the spelling of the surname suggests that a combination of pioneer illiteracy and varied pronunciation could complicate things for us.
If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you may remember an early post, Silk or Satin, in which Elizabeth's granddaughter, Rosemary (the youngest daughter of George Callin, the writer of the Callin Family History) recorded her memories of Elizabeth after her death in 1903. Even Rosemary wasn't sure how to spell Elizabeth's maiden name, and she titled her memoir, "Things I Have Been Told About My Grandmother, Elizabeth Berlien (Barline) Callin."
That confusion in what, exactly, Elizabeth's maiden name was makes it difficult to find Elizabeth's family in the Census because there are many households with similar surnames in the 1830 and 1840 Census records for Ohio. Without more information, it would be impossible to track them down.
The Wood County history
Pages 923 and 924 of the Commemorative Historical and Biographical Record of Wood County, Ohio have a biographical sketch of my great-great-grandfather, John H. Callin, son of William and Elizabeth. In its description of William, it says: "In 1835, he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Barlin, of Ashland..."
The Wood County book is definitely not a primary source, but that statement may help us find one. At least we have two more crucial clues: a father's name, John, and a location to hunt in: Ashland. (Also, with that source, we are now up to five alternate spellings of the surname.)
|Detail from the 1840 U.S. Census for|
Mifflin, Richland County, Ohio
The U.S. Federal Census
In the 1840 Census, we find a John Barlean listed as the head of a household in Mifflin, Richland County. Mifflin is near enough to Milton that the Barlean and Callin families likely knew each other. The 1840 Barlean household is enumerated as having one male between the ages of 50 and 59 (presumably John, putting his birthdate between 1781 and 1790), one female between 50 and 59, and one female between 15 and 19. This could be a younger sister of Elizabeth's, with a birthdate between 1821 and 1825.
Further searches failed to turn up records for 1850 or 1860, but in 1870 we can see an 83-year-old John Barlean listed with his wife, Mary A (age 79), living in the Young household in Vermillion, Ashland County, Ohio. The head of that household is listed as Catherine Young, 50 years old, and born in Pennsylvania. Not only do the estimated birthdates of John (1787, in Pennsylvania) and Mary A (1791, also in Pennsylvania) fit with their 1840 record, but Catherine Young (estimated birthdate of 1820) could be the younger female in that 1840 record, too.
|Detail from the 1870 U.S. Census for|
Vermillion, Ashland County, Ohio
The Ashland County History
Catherine's eldest son, Samuel, is featured in a biographical sketch in A. J. Baughman's History of Ashland County, Ohio, which says (emphasis is mine):
He is a son of Michael and Katharine (Berlean) Young, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania as were the paternal grandparents, Mathias and Mary Young. ... The maternal grandparents of our subject were John and Mary Ann Berlean, who were likewise born in the Keystone state and died in Ashland county. ...John Berlean served his country in the war of 1812 and was at Baltimore during the hostilities there. The Berlean homestead, upon which the mother of our subject [the same Catherine we see in the 1870 Census] was born, was situated in Pennsylvania on the Maryland state line.
...Michael Young ...accompanied his parents on their removal to Mifflin township about 1829 and Katherine Berlean arrived about a year later. They were married here and became residents of Mifflin township, taking up their abode on a farm within its borders immediately after their marriage and remaining there until called to their final rest.
A War of 1812 Pension record
So, we now have another clue that tells us where to hunt for primary sources on John Berlean: his military service in the war of 1812. But this is also where I think I made a mistake; look at what I said in 2016, in the post "Great-great-great-grandpa William Callin," specifically this part:
"John Berlin turns up in the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815 and from that record we learn that he served from 21 April 1813 to 22 November 1814, in both Captain William Craig's and Captain Jonathan May's companies in the Pennsylvania Militia. The record also shows that he married his second wife (the widow claiming his pension) in 1830 in Columbiana county, Ohio. (Happily, his first wife, Anna Coy, is also named.) It also lists residence dates for Van Wert county, Ohio (1851-1856) and Canton, Stark county (1871); he died in Stark county in 1874."
When I wrote that previous post, I ignored some problems with that record that probably indicate it does not identify our John Berlin/Berlean. First, that pension record says nothing about Ashland County, or any of the neighboring counties that became Ashland later on. Second, the name of the widow given in the pension record was Catherine Landis; this means that even if we assume some scenario where the John Berlin in this record lived in Mifflin in 1840 and in Vermillion in 1870, the name of his wife in the 1870 Census does not match the name of his widow on the pension record.
I suppose it is possible that John and Mary Ann lived in Ashland in the 1840s, moved to Van Wert County during the 1850s, then back to Ashland in time for the 1870 Census, moving finally to Stark County by 1871. But there are problems with that theory. I find it unlikely that "Catherine" would use the name "Mary Ann" only when living in Ashland County. (Mary Ann is not Anna Coy, either, because Anna Coy died before 1830.)
The Ashland County History also specifically states that John and Mary Ann Berlean "died in Ashland county." Unfortunately, I have been unable to confirm this with records of any kind. They do not appear on the 1880 Census, and I can find no death records in Ashland county during the 1870s. I do see a Find-A-Grave memorial for John Berlin and Catherine, both of whom died and are buried in Stark County. It is possible that the writer of the Ashland history confused the location of their deaths, but that seems unlikely, as the two counties are about 60 miles apart.
When all is said and done, I don't think the John Berlin in this pension record is the same as the John Berlin who lived and died in Ashland County.
The Westmoreland County history
George Dallas Albert's History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania holds two more clues to the origin of our John Barlean (again, emphases mine):
pg. 611 -
"THE BERLIN FAMILY
"In 1794 one of the soldiers who came from Eastern Pennsylvania in the army to put down the "Whiskey Insurrection" was Jacob Berlin. He got a furlough in Pittsburgh to come out to that part of Franklin township now included in Penn, to visit his uncle, Jacob Berlin, who had settled there some twenty years before. He so liked the country that in the spring of 1795 he returned with his wife, formerly Miss Eve Carbaugh.
"He finally settled between the Fink and Lauffer farms. His children were four daughters and six sons, viz.: ...John, Frederick, Joseph, Samuel, Powell, and Elias, of whom Powell removed to Forest County, Frederick to Clarion, and John to State of Ohio. Col. Elias Berlin, the youngest son, was born in 1803...His brother John served in the war of 1812."
And there is this about John's likely bride:
pg. 668 (within the biographical sketch of Jacob Baughman)
"After his marriage Adam Baughman settled on a farm in Armstrong County, about seventy miles up the Allegheny River, and here four children, viz.: Catharine, Michael, Polly, and Jacob, were born. Upon the death of his brother Henry...he sold his place in Armstrong County and returned to Westmoreland, and became the owner of and occupied the homestead until his death. Here the following children were born, viz.: Elizabeth, Margaret, Peter, Anna, Henry, Christian, and Lydia...Anna, wife of John Berlin, six sons and three daughters..."While none of the places associated with Jacob Berlin are places that I would describe as "situated in Pennsylvania on the Maryland state line," I'm inclined to think that the other details fit with our John Berlin; I'm even willing to think that because the biography of Samuel Young (which names his wife as "Mary Ann") might be more accurate than the biography of Jacob and Adam Baughman (which calls her merely "Anna") because the Samuel Young biography was written by a descendant of the Baughmans! (How's that for history rhyming?)
While I would prefer to have solid, primary sources to prove the relationships here, I think it's reasonable to say that I have enough evidence to assert that we know the key facts about Elizabeth Berlin:
1. William Callin married Elizabeth Berlin on 29 September 1836 in what was then Richland County, Ohio.
- Ohio marriage record (primary source)
- Callin Family History (secondary source; last name given as "Barlene" and date as 1837)
- Wood County History (secondary; last name given as "Barlin" and date as 1835)
2. Elizabeth's father was John Berlin, "of Ashland County" (Ohio)
- Wood County History (secondary; last name given as "Barlin")
3. Elizabeth's sister was Catherine (or Katherine) Young
- Ashland County History (secondary; last name given as "Berlean" and Elizabeth not named)
- 1870 U.S. Census (primary; shows Catherine Young and John & Mary Ann Barlean living in same household)
4. John Berlin's origins were in Westmoreland County
- Ashland County History (secondary; gives name as "Berlean," identifies Pennsylvania, mentions 1812 service)
- Westmoreland County History (secondary; gives name as "Berlin," identifies wife as "Anna," places him in Ohio)