“The Mitchell Papers”Feb 4th, 2009 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: How-To, Questions & Ancestors
Never neglect the in-laws. That’s the lesson learned from a recent excursion into the much maligned (by me) world of Ancestry.com.I’ve mentioned before how I’m suspicious of anything I find in the way of family history online. An awful lot of it is plagiarized from someone who didn’t cite their sources or know what they were doing in the first place. But once in a great while, I find a golden ticket. Willie Wonka would’ve loved it.
Because Family Tree Maker connects directly to Ancestry.com and uses any information you’ve added on an individual to go find that individual in other family trees, I occasionally click the “Web Search Resources” button. In this case, I was looking for info on Luzanna Leonard, daughter of Daniel and Lucretia (Jennings) Leonard, who stayed in Pennsylvania with her aging mother while Lucretia’s only son William and most of his family moved to Ohio.
Turns out Luzanna married a David Mitchell after everyone cleared out and that David Mitchell is a distant ancestor of one Jerry Zollars. Yes, that Zollars family, of Zollarsville fame. Jerry had a family tree on Ancestry and the good sense to include an email address where I could reach him. We carried on quite the digital conversation.
To make a long story short… (too late?)… Jerry had recently received four storage containers full of Mitchell family history from a Mitchell widow, including one entire binder on the Leonards. Seems the Mitchells and the Leonards liked each other very much. They intermarried at least four times and probably more. But Jerry had, in turn, delivered the material to a Mitchell family member in Irving, Texas.
Tracking that Mitchell down was easy enough, and he was kind enough to ship the Leonard binder to me, provided I promised to ship it back when I was finished reviewing it. Done deal.
Wow! That’s all I can say about William C. “Bill” Mitchell’s research. It spanned several decades, dozens of families, and he was meticulous about citing his sources. There is some evidence he may have even corresponded with Jennie Leonard Hutchinson before her death. Bill did fall victim to an erroneous biography that said Lot Leonard descended from Henry Leonard rather than Solomon, but over all, the binder spot on.
Among the new leads I picked up for future followup… 1) Caleb Jr. left a will in Washington County Orphan’s Court (none of us had ever thought to look there), 2) Luzanna left a will in Uniontown, Fayette County (who would expect a will, let alone in the “wrong” county?), and 3) Caleb Jr., Silas, and Abner all signed a petition seeking an independent state of Westsylvania.
Oh, and two of the Burt sisters (who married Leonards and Mitchellls respectively) died of typhoid within hours of each other and were buried in the same grave. I know. Macabre.
William inspired me to go out and buy a copy of Lecky’s The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families on Ebay… and puzzled me with a reference to source material called the “Horn Papers.” It sounded vaguely familiar, though I had never cited that source, so I did what every good researcher does and Googled it. Turns out the “Horn Papers” were an elaborate genealogical hoax and one that might be the subject of another article somewhere down the road. Needless to say, this revelation did little to change my opinion of undocumented family history.
An-n-n-ywa-a-a-y… I made copies of all 216 pages in that binder, if you’re interested. Fair warning that they’re all in William Mitchell’s not-so-great handwriting and he could write smaller than anyone I’ve ever known. You’ve been warned.