Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Linchpin Who Links an 18th Century Family Together

During three decades spanning 1781 to 1812 and across two states, one man repeatedly appeared in records for my Kirk family.

John Beard is the glue holding a cast of characters together, and may prove to be the key to identifying the parents for my fifth great-grandfather Thomas Kirk.

In fact, John Beard is the common denominator - the linchpin - helping me to infer family relationships among a handful of Kirks where the traditional paper trail offers no surviving evidence to confirm family bonds.

John Beard: 1753 - February 1814

A published Beard family history says John was born in 1753 in Ireland, married a woman named Margaret Kirk, and died in February 1814 in Licking County, Ohio. He was buried in the Beard-Green Cemetery in Licking County, Ohio.

John Beard grave, Beard-Green Cemetery, Licking County, Ohio
(photo by author)

In an application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution that was submitted by Cora Beard Williams - a great-granddaughter of John Beard - she stated that John married Margaret Kirk who was born April 12, 1758 and died July 7, 1850. Some Beard family histories suggest that she, like John, was also born in Ireland.

Sadly, Margaret's headstone is no longer standing. I presume it is the crumbled heap of stone beside John's memorial.

Likely remains of Margaret (Kirk) Beard's headstone, Beard-Green Cemetery,
Licking County, Ohio (photo by author)

In 1970, the Johnstown Genealogy Society conducted a census of the Beard-Green Cemetery and recorded the most basic bio-data from the memorials still surviving in that year. Fortunately, Margaret's headstone was still upright and legible. Her marker once indicated that she was born in 1758 and died in 1850 and was the wife of John Beard.

Excerpt of Beard-Green Cemetery headstone inscriptions, highlighting
John and Margaret (Kirk) Beard

Margaret's relationship, if any, to my Kirk family is unknown.

Aside from the curious shared surname between my kin and Margaret's maiden name, the Beard-Green Cemetery is an important beginning to the role John Beard played in the lives of my Kirk family. Just yards from John's burial is the grave for my fifth great-grandfather Thomas Kirk (1778-1846).

John's eternal resting place is also near Mary (Kirk) Geiger (1774-1832) - a woman who I speculate was the older sister to my Thomas. Unfortunately, her headstone no longer survives. However, thanks again to the dedicated efforts of the Johnstown Genealogy Society, I know that in 1970 her memorial was still upright and indicated that she was born in 1774, died in 1832, and was the wife of Anthony Geiger.

Excerpt of Beard-Green Cemetery headstone inscriptions, highlighting
Mary (Kirk) Geiger

The paper trail links John with both Thomas and Mary.

John Beard in the Records

I first heard of John Beard when I found a land deed for my Thomas Kirk. In January 1812, Thomas purchased 100 acres in Licking County from John and Margaret Beard.

Thomas Kirk buys land from John and Margaret Beard - January 25, 1812

After discovering the record, I didn't think much of John Beard and carried on merrily with my research narrowly focused on Thomas.

It wasn't until some years later, when a fellow blogger and descendant of another 19th century Licking County resident, Mary (Kirk) Geiger, turned me on to the possibility that Mary and Thomas were siblings, that I happened upon the Beard name again.

Researching Mary Kirk, I discovered that she and her husband, Anthony Geiger, had married in Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

A marriage bond, dated September 1797, was signed between Anthony Geiger and [drum roll, please] ... John Beard.

Anthony Geiger and Mary Kirk 1797 marriage bond with John Beard as surety

A review of Berkeley County land records confirmed that there was indeed a John and Margaret Beard living in the area. In June 1786, "John Beard and Margaret his wife" sold 25 acres to a William Roberson.

John and Margaret Beard sell land in Berkeley County, Virginia - June 1786

With a John Beard now affiliated with both Thomas Kirk and his alleged sister Mary (Kirk) Geiger, and all three buried in the same small Ohio cemetery, I continued to dig into Berkeley County records.

Geiger family histories stated - without corroborating evidence - that Mary Kirk was the daughter of Joseph and Sarah Kirk.

Fortunately, land and tax records confirmed that there was a Joseph and Sarah Kirk in Berkeley County.

In 1781, Joseph Kirk was required - like all area farmers - to provide grain to Virginia's Continental troops in support of the Revolutionary War effort.

Joseph Kirk received a certificate detailing his contribution. The certificate, numbered 486, was Joseph's receipt which he could use for later reimbursement with the government.

1781 Public Service War Claim for Joseph Kirk, #486

The certificates appeared to have been issued in the sequential order that they were received from area farmers. Certificate number 487? It belonged to [drum roll, please] ... John Beard.

1781 Public Service War Claim for John Beard, #487

Did Joseph Kirk and John Beard go to submit their war claims together? Perhaps it's a faint hint that there was in fact a relationship between the two men.

By 1784, it appears that Joseph Kirk was gravely ill or had died. The Kirks were hauled into court for falling behind in payments on their leased farm. Sarah Kirk was called into court. Joseph didn't accompany her. Instead, she was represented with, you guessed it, John Beard.

1784 Replevy Bond - Fairfax vs. Sarah Kirk and John Beard

A Theory

With John Beard's reoccurring appearances in the Kirk family records, I'm reminded of Elizabeth Shown Mill's recent admonishment that anyone connected to our family is someone we need to get to know well.

Could all of John Beard's appearances be a coincidence? Sure, of course.

But I suspect there's something more at play. John's multiple appearances have helped me stitch together this theory:

  • Perhaps Thomas Kirk and Mary (Kirk) Geiger were siblings. 
  • Maybe their parents were Joseph and Sarah Kirk. 
  • Maybe Joseph died when both of his children were still minors, and John Beard stepped in to play the role of male guardian. 

Why would John do such a thing? Perhaps he was compelled to look after his family. Was John's wife, Margaret Kirk, a sister to Joseph Kirk thus linking the Beards and Kirks?

Although documentary proof has yet to surface, there's certainly enough here to chew on and ponder. What do you think? Is there anything to this notion?


  1. Great work with the glue, Michael - until the documentary proof surfaces. I'm also taking another look at my research after Elizabeth Shown Mills' webinar. I wish I had her talent for writing up research reports. I know it's an acquired habit (experience) in her case. Isn't she a wonderful role model?

    1. She is pretty fantastic. If only she and I shared ancestors - I could use some of her brainpower! ;)

    2. My brother has shared DNA with three of her Mills kits on Gedmatch with the highest being "only" one segment with 26.1 cMs. I haven't figured it out yet but it is a segment I am looking into as I suspect it's coming from one of my brick wall ancestors. [I'm waiting for my results. Analysis finished yesterday.]

    3. Oh, now that is exciting! I hope you'll keep us posted.

  2. It makes sense to me that all this could fit together. Have you found any of John Beard's descendants? Might DNA be a way to Margaret Kirk and Thomas Kirk together?

    1. I have found a couple descendants, but I haven't found DNA autosomal DNA matches. I think that's going to be tricky given the number of generations passed, but I'm still on the hunt! I seem to accrue more on my to-do list than cross off of it.

    2. That seems to be the way it goes in genealogy as in most things!

  3. The Beard surname is my main genealogy focus for the past 20 years. I am a descendant of Benjamin Beard (1875-1956) but there is much confusion in my research. If any set of eyes would like to help, you can find me at familysearch or ancestry (not a paid member) for Beard Family Tree. I often wonder if there is a connection. Finley Beard was Ben's son. Arkansas & Oklahoma connections in late 1800s-early 1900s. Dust bowlers, farmers, service men (ship cook)...etc.
    Thank you for reading!

    1. Thanks for sharing your line, Dee. I'm not familiar with your Benjamin Beard and his line, but I do wonder if there's a link between him and my John Beard. If you learn more, please circle back.