Searching for William Ralston in Deeds, 1773-1886 Westmoreland County.

Re: Digitized records available at through the catalog. There is an index and then all deeds are digitized.

So we saw from the last blog post William Ralston’s 1769 and also 1786 warrant survey for his land on the south side of Sewickley Creek in Huntingdon Twp, Westmoreland County. His land of about 280 acres bordered William Boyd on the east, William Howey on the west, William Boggs to the north, William Martin, James Robinson on the south, and on the 1786 survey the land shows adjoining Henry McClintock.

Then in 1790 William sells land to Robert Ralston. He sells the land for 300 pounds. There are 299 acres, John Boyd is on the east, James Robinson is on the south, William Huey on the west, James Pinkerton on the north. The land comes with water rights, a warrant, and a map, two mares, a cow, a sow, and 9 shoats (piglets) on the 25th day of May, 1790.

I am fairly certain that this is the land William first claimed in 1769 and of which the two warrant maps show.

William Ralston Deed to Robert Ralston

Then in 1792, Robert Ralston dies. He leaves a will. Signed on the 17th May 1792.

He is Robert Ralston of Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County. He leaves half of all his estate real and personal to his beloved wife, Jean and the other half to his son Robert.

Unto his brother William’s son Jeremiah 150 acres out of the estate his father now lives on and being in the township of Huntingdon.  And the remainder of that estate he wants equally divided between William’s wife and children viz unto Isabella and Jennet, Martha and Robert. He allows Jeremiah to give unto his brother John 6 pounds as soon as he comes of age. Robert made his wife and John Cambel executors.

So Robert names William’s family in the will that he is leaving something to. Viz unto denotes a listing that will follow of whom he was speaking about prior. Since Martha is mentioned on another land record as being William’s wife, we may be able to assume that William’s children were Jeremiah, Isabella, Jennet, Robert, and John.  You will note that John is not yet of age at the time of the will in 1792, which corresponds with our birth year of 1776 for John. This does not mean William did not have other children, only that I cannot document at this time that they existed.

I will have to check on how old Jeremiah was in 1792, he is listed as being born in 1786 elsewhere, making him only 6 years old at the time of the will. William’s son John is only left 6 pounds.

Robert Ralston’s Will from 1792

The land sale and will are attempts by William to not be forced into forfeiture of his land. Robert willed William’s land back to William’s minor children and wife, which gave William legal ownership of his own land. Unfortunately, this was an unsuccessful attempt.

You will see in the deed below that upon petition of John Nesbitt, James Lawson, and William Moore a judgment was obtained in the PA supreme court on 19 JAN 1792 against William Perry, the former treasurer of Westmoreland County. And two tracts of land in S. Huntington Twp were levied in the judgment, one being 300 acres owned by John Miller and the other being 300 acres owned by William Ralston. A fieri facias was issued on the judgement 21 JAN 1792. The rents issues and profits rendered within 7 years of the judgement did not satisfy the exection and a writ of vendition exponas was issued 29 MAR 1800. The sheriff then sold William Ralston’s and John Miller’s lands to satisfy the judgment.

Sheriff’s Sale Record of William Ralston’s Land 1803

William’s land was sold to Daniel Brenniman for $1180 and John Miller’s land was sold to John Hanna. While this sheriff was in office, he did not render the deeds as Brenniman had not fully paid for the land. The final deed below testifies that Brenniman did pay in full a couple of years later and so the deeds were rendered.

Testimony that Brenniman Paid for Land

The deed to Brenniman is kind of misleading as it says that William Ralston and his wife Martha of Allegheny County sold the land to Daniel Brenniman for $1380. But Ralston was forced to sell the land by the sheriff and give whatever he still owed for the judgement. We know this is the warrant land William claimed in 1769 and which there is a warrant survey of in 1786: it is land adjoining Henry McClintock’s land. And adjoining McClintock’s is how it is described in the deeds of 1801 through 1804.

William Ralston Deed of Land Sale to Brenniman 1801

It is good to see confirmation that William’s wife’s name was Martha and now we have a residence for the couple in 1801: Allegheny County. We know that both of them were alive in 1801.

Because William lost his land it is highly unlikely that he left a will but now we can look for him in Allegheny County.  Actually, we will look in Butler County, which was formed from Allegheny County in 1800. Why Butler County? William’s son John is reported to have purchased property in 1801 in Brady Township, Butler County.

So what’s up with this William Perry, who did something and it caused William Ralston and John Miller to lose their tracts of land?

Time to search that story out.

I also noted all Ralstons who sold land in Westmoreland County through the 1810s and will check those deeds out: Allen, David Sr, Elizabeth, James, John, Martha, Robert for any connections to our William and his brother Robert.

To be continued …

The Mysterious William Ralston of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA (1750 ish to aft. 1801)

William Ralston (born about 1750) settled in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in April, 1769 according to the testimony he gave to the court. This testimony can be found in the Pennsylvania, Published Archives Series, 1664-1902, 6th series, Volume XIII, Part Two on pages 31 and 32 and of which you can read below. This is also available in full on

In February of 1786, William tells the court that he claimed land north of Big Sewickley Creek, next to the lands of Jeremiah Lochrey and John Hughes in April/May of 1769. This is the exact time when this area of Pennsylvania was opened to legal settlement by the white people.  He loses this land during the American Revolution, and the US government pays him 646 pounds on March 17, 1782 as a result of the confiscation of his estate. You can see these documents in the same 6th series, Volume XII, pages 578 and 845.q

It is important to note the mention of Jeremiah Lochrey. This connects our William to Lochrey and we can then assume with a good deal of certainty that the William Ralston in the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the company commanded by Captain Jeremiah Lochrey, stationed in Westmoreland County, for the defense of the the frontiers is our William.

William Ralston was a sergeant in this company from April 11 to October 10, 1780 and then promoted to Ensign from October 11 to December 15, 1780. He is not listed as being specifically in the company of Rangers who were under Captain William Guthrie’s Company which served under the command of Captain Lochrey. But the term “ranger” was used for the soldiers who defended the American frontier at the time of the revolution from the American Indians working in conjunction with the British.

Here is a fabulous map of Pennsylvania in 1770. If you download it you can zoom in and see all of the marked areas.


What else can we deduce with some certainty about this William Ralston?

He is not the William Ralston in East Caln, Chester County nor is William of East Caln, born about 1733, the father of my William. William of East Caln is the third son of John Ralston out of Pikeland and then Vincent, Chester County. John Sr. begins to own property in Chester County in the 1730s. William remained in East Caln, Chester County until he removed to Philadelphia and died there 18 Nov 1808 at the age of 75. Our William was in Westmoreland County with certainty. So the William Ralston in East Caln on the 1751, 1754, and 1786 census (and others) is another man. William Ralston also owned land in West Nantmeal and lists this as his residence when he purchases additional land in East Caln in 1756. See Book T-4, Page 629, Deeds of Chester County. He sold his property in East Caln to Joshua Way in 1801 Deeds Book W-2, Page 48 and he lists himself as being of Philadelphia at the time.

John Ralston Sr. came from Northern Ireland with his son Robert in 1728 and they settled in Pikeland, Chester County. Robert’s son John born in Vincent, Cester Co in 1744 and died in West Vincent in 1825. There is an entire article about these semi-famous and important Ralstons in the book Old Families of Philadelphia. Robert was an important man in the American Revolution and the listings of these Ralston men out of the Philadelphia militia in the Pennsylvania Published Archive Series are not my Ralstons, the Robert and William who lived in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. William Ralston of East Caln, Chester County had only one child, Robert, born 18 DEC 1761 in East Caln, Chester County, Pennsylvania. This Robert resided in Philadelphia by 1780 and is the reason William moved there. Same names and approximately the same ages, different family.

My William was on Forbes Road in Hempfield Township, Bedford County, PA in 1773, an area that became part of Westmoreland County.  Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration List:



He lived in or very near to the historic Old Hanna’s Town.

In 1776, his son Jon was born near Greensburg, Westmoreland County, also very near to Hanna’s Town. We know this from the book titled Butler County (PA) History.

In 1774, William’s brother Robert signs a petition of Westmoreland County at Fort Shippen. You can see this in Pennsylvania Published Archives Series 1, Volume 4, 534.



You can read more about Fort Shippen and other western frontier forts and places here.

Let’s stop here at 1776 and with William’s American Revolution service and continue next time. I have the archives to continue perusing and also Westmoreland land deeds and surveys to look up and download. We have a court proceeding to find also for William lost his land in a court proceeding in the 1790s. A court proceeding that arose due to an event during the Revolution, separate from the confiscation noted above. The Ralstons were Scots-Irish presbyterians so maybe we can find some church proceeding records on them also.

Once we find everything we can readily find on William and Robert (and I have Robert’s will) we will try and see if we can deduce from whence they came to Westmoreland County and to where William went, along with wives and children.

Make note please of the proximity of the Hanna family in Westmoreland County as DNA results show a common ancestor 12 generations back from me. Or a few more generations back from William.

William ~ John Sr ~ John Jr ~ Millen ~ William A ~ Ivan ~ Richard ~ Me.

But more on this as I cannot locate a birth record for Ivan, though he was born in 1902 when they were required at the county level in Iowa. Orphan Train baby?


Michigan Insane Asylum Records Update

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how to get or ask for hospital records under governance by the Michigan Department of Community Health.

First, you must ask for the court order to view the records from the judge in the county that the Asylum was located. Not the county your family was living in; although, sometimes they are the same county. You call the court and ask for the name of the judge who authorizes medical record releases and then write that Judge, addressing him/her properly, for a court order for the medical records of so and so at the __________ Asylum/State Hospital.  Your letter should be respectful and polite and should include your relationship to the patient, when they died, and why you feel that the records would help you (ie. to complete your family medical history). You should have a pretty good idea of when the person was there. If you are denied a court order and are willing to fight over this, then you can call back and argue with them that you will go through the process if need be to gain access to these records.

Second, the person was committed in the county in which they resided at the time and this generated probate court records. So these records fall within the county the person lived in, and this may not be the same county the asylum was in. Some counties have allowed these records to be digitized and available and you should exhaustively search the internet (including for these records before you call or bother a court. I advise finding these records first as they will tell you when the person was sent to the asylum and why.

Third, if you live in state you can call your state rep or senator to assist you, and you can complain that these records are kept under lock and key but other records with private and personal data are available to anyone- such as the 1940 census. You can emphasize the importance of having these records to complete your family medical history as mental illness has an hereditary component.

Fourth, if you live out of state, you can call the state rep or senator for the district in which the Asylum was located and explain your difficulty in getting your family’s medical records for this asylum. The records are all in the State of Michigan Archives in Lansing and are under threat of destruction.

Good luck. You will need to be persistent and the records may not even tell you much.

The Will of William Elrod of Elizabeth, Allegheny Co, PA

Below is the will dated 29 JUL 1831 for William Elrod of Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It is located on

William Elrod died 13 SEP 1831 in Elizabeth Township. 

The following heirs are mentioned in the will: son Joseph, daughter Mary Mitchel, son Thomas, son William, son Muse, son Johnson, son Robert and daughter Martha Elrod. His wife Mary is also mentioned. To Joseph he left 200 acres that lay partly in Butler County and partly in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. He also left him his rifle gun and powder horn, his volume of Ferguson’s astronomy and all of the correspondence in his desk. To his wife he left his Bible with all of his family’s records inside and then this was to go to Joseph upon her death.

Why am I now researching the Elrod family? I have a pretty good feeling that Joseph was the father of my 3rd great grandmother Nancy Ralston. Somewhere in a family record Joseph is listed as having two children: Nancy born 1814 and John F. born 1818. My Nancy was born in 1814. Also, Joseph lived in Slipperyrock, Butler County, PA as of the 1840 Census. He lived there alone. He then moved in with Nancy Ralston and her family as of the 1850 Census.

Why would Nancy’s family think her name was Nancy Agnes McLane? That is what I have to work out. I also need more evidence that Joseph Elrod was Nancy’s father. Supposedly Joseph didn’t leave an estate when he passed, but he owned a lot of land. There are records somewhere and I don’t think it is coincidental that after he passed, Nancy and her family had the money to move to Iowa. What do you think?

WmElrodWill2 WmElrodWill3 WmElrodWill4 WmElrodWill5 WmElrodWill

Mary Alice Ellison’s Biological Parents – Mystery Solved!!

Mary Alice Ellison was born 28 MAR 1848 in Cato, Cayuga County to Nathaniel P. Townsend and Betsey Welch.

Her birth name was Elizabeth (Betsey) Townsend. She had one brother at the time of her birth, Darius Townsend. Darius served in the Civil War for the Wisconsin 5th Infantry. He was born circa 1841 in New York.

On 11 APR 1848, less than two weeks later, Elizabeth’s mother died.

The Cutler family and the Townsend family had many associations in Cayuga County and Onondaga County. They formed business relationships and they married each other.

Somehow, Samuel H Cutler and his wife Amanda Davis ended up with Elizabeth Townsend and they re-named her Mary Alice Cutler. Mary Alice is living with them in Elbridge, Onondaga County, New York in 1850. I have searched and searched the Surrogate Court records for this transaction and have not found it. Since, the father was alive at the time of the adoption, I don’t think they needed to go to court.

Nathaniel P. Townsend re-married very quickly to Mary Eliza Perkins (1849.) Mary Eliza was the widow of Cyrus James Gleason of Cicero, Onondaga County, New York. Cyrus and Mary had three children: Sarah Elizabeth (b.1839), Lodawiski Lovilla (1842-1922), and Edson H. (1844-1880). These children stayed with their mother and step-father and are listed on the censuses with them, sometimes as Townsend’s.

Nathaniel and Mary Eliza moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin by 1850. They had four children together. One of them was born in Cato, New York on 31 JUL 1849 and is listed as unnamed. I have a feeling this child died. The other three children were: Charles Nathaniel (b. 1851), Adonirum Elnathan (1854-1904) and Jennie Eliza (1860-1926.) The Townsend family lived in Wisconsin for many years.

You have to be very careful when looking on about this family as people are listing the children with the wrong parents.

Nathaniel died sometime after 1880 (approx. 1894) in Ashton, Osceola County, Iowa where his daughter Jennie was living (Jennie Glazier.) There is a lot yet for me to learn about this Nathaniel P. Townsend- including who his parents were.

When Mary Alice died, her son listed her parents as being:

N.P. Townsend and B. A. Court

Which is partially true.

Her mother was Betsey A. Welch, the daughter of Maria Polly Court and John Welch. When Polly Welch died in 1863, she left her grandchildren Darius and Elizabeth (Betsey) Townsend some money. Maria Polly Court was the daughter of John Court and Lydia Wright of Cato, Cayuga County, New York. This mistake of using the Court name, as the mother’s maiden name, is actually the only reason I was able to figure this mystery out. A very good mistake indeed.

Below are a selection of the papers from Polly Welch’s estate file in Cayuga County, New York:

Welch2 Welch6 Welch12 Welch13 Welch14





John Ralston Sr’s Digitized Probate File

John Ralston Sr. of Slippery Rock Township, Butler County, PA died in Feb. 1850. His original will and probate file can be seen digitized at

Click here:

John Ralston Sr. had eleven children: William, James, Jane, John Jr., Elizabeth (Betsy), Mary Polly, Samuel, David, Susan, George and Elem.

John was born 17 MAY 1776 in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA and is buried on the Old Smith Farm in Slippery Rock. He was married to Betsey Sharp. He was an enlisted private in the War of 1812.

John Ralston Jr. married Nancy Agnes McLane and they settled in Jackson County, Iowa in 1853. Their son Millen Ralston is my great-great grandfather.

Charlevoix County Index to Deeds, 1881 – 1901

I searched the Index to Deeds, 1881 – 1901 for the following families: Ellison, Van Buren, and Robinson. Remember that Enoch Robinson was Benjamin Walker Ellison’s brother-in-law, married to BWE’s half- sister Annie Hudson. BWE’s middle son William Arthur married Anna Van Buren, her father was George Van Buren.

There was a serious fire at the county courthouse when in Boyne City on 8 OCT 1887 and many deed/mortgage books were destroyed. There are no records to replace what is burned, but we may want to check FHL’s microfilm # 965402 Abstract of deeds by township, Charlevoix County, 1861 – 1974. I know that sometimes after courthouses burned, individuals would record the land they owned in case of future disputes. This may be in the abstracts. The original deeds are gone though.

The following Deed Books were destroyed: Volumes 1 through 7, Volumes 9, 11, 12, 15 and 17.

Mortgage Books destroyed: Volumes 1 through 7, Volumes 9 – 15 and Volume 18.

Remember that Tax Assessment Rolls can replace some of this information, as in a Land Description and amount of acreage. The Tax Rolls will also tell you when someone with property, including personal property, began being taxed in a particular location. Know the tax rules to assess when you have found someone dropped off the tax rolls; it was not always due to death.

There is only one mention of Ellison in the Index to Deeds. We can, though, substitute BWE’s Land Patent from the Federal government for this missing deed. I do suspect the Ellison’s also owned property in Boyne City – the BW Ellison & Company Brewery.

A Grantor is the person who sold the property. A Grantee is the person who bought the property. A Mortgagor is the person who loaned the money and the mortgagee borrowed the money.

With this information, we can now order the correct film of the original book of deeds through the Family History Center. If any of you do this, please would you share a copy with me and I will post it for everyone? I will not be looking these deeds up anytime soon.

Index to Deeds 1881 – 1901 Charlevoix County, Michigan FHL US/CAN Film 965396

Date               Grantor                                Grantee               Sec/Twp/Range     Vol/Pg #

FEB 1882       Robinson, Enoch K & wife    Joseph R. Buster    6  32  5         8     256

FEB 1885         Van Buren, George              H. Nalford             16  32  5              13    22

MAR 1886      Van Buren, George & wife       S.S. Robert         16  32  5            14   416

NOV 1899       Robinson, Enoch K & wife       Herman Suler     6  32  5             40   35

MAY 1900      Robinson, Enoch K & wife   Paul J. Sischnewski   6  32  5    40  295

MAY 1900      Robinson, Eliza A.      Paul J. Sischnewski             6  32  5       40  295

Date              Grantee                              Grantor               Sec/Twp/Range       Vol/Pg #

NOV 1888     Robinson, Enoch K.       United States           6      32      5            23   79

NOV 1888     Robinson, Enoch K.        State of Michigan    6      32      5         21    428

APR 1891      Robinson, Annie H.         Samuel Horton       6      33       6         31    178

JUL 1899       Van Buren, Oren         Lucretia H. Powers      Lots 7 & 8          38   416

Of the Village of Boyne Falls

OCT 1900       Ellison, Mony A. (Mary)    ______ Night        12    32    5      40    519

Date               Mortgagor                    Mortgagee                Sec/Twp/Range    Vol/Pg #

JUN 1883     Robinson, Enoch K & wife   Eliza A. Robinson   6   32  5           8   152

Date               Mortgagee                 Description                                           Vol/Pg #

AUG 1886        Van Buren, George & Wife            Discharge of Mortgage     17   24

Notes: The second section of the Index with Surnames beginning with V was missing entirely.

The Charlevoix County Index to Deeds, 1881- 1901 is available on microfilm from the Family History Centers. It is microfilm number 965396.