Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Sister Emerges From the Shadows

Although he's not my direct ancestor, George W. Geiger is an important source of information that is helping me pole-vault over my patrilineal brick wall.

Born in 1841, George Geiger was the grandson of Mary (Kirk) Geiger (1774-1832). Mounting evidence has led me to speculate that Mary was the sister of my fifth great-grandfather Thomas Kirk (1778-1846).

George is indispensable to my research because he compiled details about his immediate family's history. Those records endured over time when many others were lost to fire or poor record keeping.

Among his research were exacting details about his grandmother:

Mary (Kirk) Geiger was born in Virginia in 1774. She was of Irish descent and daughter of Joseph and Sarah Kirk. She had two brothers and one sister.

Pinpointing Joseph and Sarah Kirk as Mary's parents has allowed me to infer that they were also Thomas' parents.

If Thomas and Mary were siblings born to Joseph and Sarah Kirk of Virginia, who was the unnamed sister?

Finding family

Although George Geiger's surviving notes do not name Mary's three siblings, there is a candidate up for consideration to be the sister.

When Thomas Kirk died in December 1846, the Licking County, Ohio probate court appointed three men to appraise his estate. One of them was Hugh Ford.

Court-ordered appraisal of Thomas Kirk's estate, names Hugh Ford
March 13, 1847

At the time of Thomas' death, Hugh was his neighbor and lived on a farm to the north in Monroe Township, Licking County.

Detail of 1847 Monroe Township, Licking County, Ohio map
highlighting land owned by Thomas Kirk and Hugh Ford

Fifteen years earlier, on November 29, 1831, Hugh and his wife Ann bought their Monroe Township farm in two separate land transactions. According to their son Hugh Ford Jr., the Ford family moved to the farm in 1832 from Belmont County, Ohio, where they had lived since about 1803.

Curiously, the two deeds were witnessed by, drum roll, please...

Thomas Kirk!

Monroe Township, Licking County, Ohio land deed, purchased by Hugh Ford
witnessed by Thomas Kirk

In 1831, at the time of these transactions, Thomas Kirk lived in Licking Township. He didn't move to Monroe Township, south of the Fords, until seven years later in 1838.

Why would Thomas Kirk be a witness on two land deeds for Hugh Ford who lived ninety miles to the east in Belmont County?

Was there a relationship between the two men?

Identifying the unnamed sister

I began digging into the identity of Hugh's wife Ann.

Again, according to son Hugh Ford Jr., Ann Ford "was born December 26th, 1777, and was married to Hugh Ford September 18th, 1800." Ann lived to be enumerated in the 1850 US Federal Census, which gave her birth location as the state of Virginia (just like Thomas and Mary!).

Junior also wrote that his mother was the daughter of a man named Joseph Kirk.


Ann's maiden name was Kirk!

Ann's father, like Mary (Kirk) Geiger's and likely Thomas', was named Joseph Kirk!

What were the odds that Thomas would be a witness on two land deeds for a man who lived ninety miles away and was married to a woman born in Virginia who was the daughter of a Joseph Kirk?

Prior to his appearance in Belmont County, tax records placed Hugh Ford across the Ohio River in Brooke County, Virginia. Hugh appeared on Brooke County tax records from 1797 to 1802.

It's worth noting that Thomas Kirk was also in Brooke County from 1799 to 1803. It was here that he met and likely married his wife Sarah Bonar.

A brief notation from a Brooke County minister confirmed that Hugh Ford and Nancy Kirk were married on December 18, 1800 [note that this date is three months later - to the exact day - than the marriage date given by their son Hugh Jr]. Also, Nancy was, according to FamilySearch, a common diminutive nickname for Ann.

1800 Brooke County, Virginia marriage of Hugh Ford and Ann "Nancy" Kirk

Presumably Hugh and Ann (Kirk) Ford moved from Brooke County, Virginia to Belmont County, Ohio in about 1803.

According to Bonar family history, Thomas and Sarah (Bonar) Kirk moved to Captina in Belmont County after they left Brooke County. Did Thomas and Sarah follow his sister and brother-in-law into the burgeoning Ohio frontier?

It's also worth flagging the naming patterns employed by all three Kirks:

  • It appears that Hugh and Ann Ford named their first four children after their parents. Two of the four were Henry and Rachel - the names of Hugh's parents. The other two were Joseph and Sarah. We know Ann's father was Joseph, so can we infer that her mother was named Sarah? If yes, that would suggest Ann was also the child of a Joseph and Sarah Kirk just like Mary (Kirk) Geiger and Thomas Kirk. Furthermore, Ann's last child, a son, was named Thomas Kirk Ford (middle name Kirk!). Was this an homage to her brother?
  • Mary (Kirk) Geiger's first two children were named Joseph and Sarah.
  • Thomas Kirk also had children named Joseph and Sarah.

The paper trail seems to suggest a family relationship. What do you think? How off the wall are my interpretations?

Next up is to try and find DNA matches - if possible at this distant relationship level - to help prove that Thomas Kirk and Mary Geiger were siblings with Ann Ford. The research journey continues.


  1. It's all lining up nicely, Michael. Hope you find your DNA evidence.

    1. Thank you, Dara. It’s slow going but hoping some matches eventually turn up.

  2. Wow. The work you have done is very impressive.

  3. You are the proof that no one should give up on a research! :)

    1. Dogged determination yields results, sometimes... :)

  4. I can just imagine your excitement with each step in your research bringing more and more evidence that Ann was the sister of Thomas and Mary. You write so clearly and so expressively that I felt like I was along for the ride. And yes, I think you have sufficient evidence to support your conclusions!

    1. Thanks for the concurrence, Amy. I appreciate having the extra set of eyes providing validation. It's easy to get caught up in a line of thinking, so it's important to have an objective review.