Who were the parents of Benjamin Gorsuch, who died in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1851?
I’m still looking for documentary evidence to identify them. But maybe DNA evidence will uncover some new leads too!
Here’s what I know.
Benjamin Gorsuch was born in the 1770’s, probably ca. 1776-1777 (based on census records and a local history.) The 1850 census in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, says he was born in Maryland and was 73 years old, living with [his second wife] Susanna and 13-year-old [son] John. If Benjamin was the one talking to the census taker, Maryland is likely true. But if the informant was his wife, or youngest son, or oldest son Thomas next door, or Thomas’s wife—well, none of them knew Benjamin when he was just a boy; they might be wrong. Still, Benjamin’s occupation was shown as ‘none’, so it’s possible he was home to provide the answers.
One source of information for birthplace is to ask those of his children who were alive during the 1880 census: the first U.S. census to ask for parents’ place of birth. The good news is, Benjamin had eight children still alive then. The bad news is, two said he was born in Maryland, two said Pennsylvania, three said Ohio (although Ohio wasn’t a state until more than a quarter of a century after Benjamin was born), and the youngest said his father was born in England.
Wherever he was born (Maryland or Pennsylvania seem most likely), he married Nancy McGuire in Brooke County, West Virginia, in November of 1797 and then was found in the 1800 census in Hopewell, Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 14 miles away. There were no other Gorsuch (or variations of that name) in Hopewell at that time. Benjamin and Nancy had several children in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Ohio, where the family can be found in the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses.
I have found genealogy books that claim Benjamin was the son of Thomas Gorsuch and Keziah Wheeler. I have found online trees that claim Benjamin was the son of Benjamin Gorsuch and Kerenhappuch Johnson. Both state that he was born 1 Jan 1777 in Baltimore County, Maryland. But none have offered any citations explaining what evidence they have for that assertion.
(If anyone reading this has evidence, I’d love to hear from you! Contact me at DNAsleuth@att.net.)
While there is certainly more research to be done, in courthouses and archives, on microfilm and fragile paper, it’s possible DNA testing could also help.
Y-DNA testing is appropriate for those on the direct paternal line – the father’s father’s father’s father. I’m not personally on that path, but would welcome chatting with anyone who is. If you’re a Gorsuch male descended from Benjamin, a Y-DNA test could match you to other Gorsuch males, and we might learn if Benjamin is really descended from the colonial Maryland Gorsuch family that has had so much written about them.
Autosomal DNA testing (such as is offered by AncestryDNA or 23andMe or the FamilyFinder test at FamilyTreeDNA) could also open some doors. There are two or three caveats.
- When the ancestor sought is from Colonial times, it’s quite possible that two DNA testers who match may have more than one couple in common among their forebears. So a matching DNA segment doesn’t ‘prove’ that piece of DNA came from Benjamin Gorsuch’s line—we can’t be sure *which* ancestor passed down that DNA segment we share. In this case, the more people who test and match, the better we are able to ‘triangulate’ the matches to narrow it down to one person or couple, time and place.
- Benjamin Gorsuch is my great-great-great-great-grandfather. I have 64 4x-great-grandparents, but I have to confess, I don’t have ‘proof’ for all of those. Some are even missing. And that will be true for people whose DNA matches mine too. Somewhere out there is someone else who has a chromosome segment from Benjamin’s parents that might match my DNA—but if their tree doesn’t go back that far on that line, or they’ve copied info from someone else’s tree or a book that was wrong, then it’s a problem.
- Finally, if Benjamin is also a 4x great-grandfather to the distant cousin I’m hoping to match, that would make us 5th cousins. Odds are only 50-50 that two 4th cousins will share enough DNA to be considered a ‘match’. For 5th cousins, the odds are much less: 30%. On the other hand, Benjamin had a LOT of descendants. He had twelve children when he wrote his will in 1851. If each of them had even 6 children, and each of them had 6 children… by now there might be 93,000 descendants. Even if I only match 30% of them… that’s a lot of potential matches! (Of course, only a small fraction will take the DNA test. But I don’t need many.)
I’m putting together an informal project of ‘cousins’ who have DNA tested and are descended from Benjamin Gorsuch (or any Gorsuch in Maryland or Pennsylvania before 1800.) I already have found William – a confirmed 5th cousin; Margaret – a confirmed 3rd cousin once removed, and WJE – a confirmed 2nd cousin 3x removed for the project.
- WIlliam and I: Most Recent Common Ancestor is Benjamin Gorusch and his wife Nancy McGuire.
- Margaret and I: Most Recent Common Ancestor is Benjamin and Nancy’s daughter Jemima and her husband Lew Griffith.
- WJE and I: Most Recent Common Ancestor is Benjamin Gorsuch (we’re descended from different wives).
As new matches come in, I can compare them to these distant cousins. If a new person matches someone in my close family *and* a distant cousin in my Gorsuch project, then our shared common ancestor could be Benjamin Gorsuch or one of *his* ancestors. Communicating with our new match could get me closer to finding out the answer to my mystery puzzle:
Who were the parents of Benjamin Gorsuch, who was born ca. 1776-1777 in likely Maryland or Pennsylvania and who died in Tuscarawas County Ohio in 1851?
(c) Ann Raymont, 2016
 Charles Hallowell Mitchener, ed., Ohio Annals: Historic Events in the Tuscarawas and Muskingum Valleys… (Dayton, Ohio: Thomas W. Odell publisher, 1876), p. 306.
 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Wayne Twp., p. 399-B (stamped), dwelling 329, family 335, Benjamin Gossage, digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2015); citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, roll 735.
 Eight different 1880 censuses; it you really want to know the citation details, email me!
 “Marriages,” digital images, West Virginia Archives and History (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.as1px : accessed 27 Dec 2015), search for last name G* and year 1797; Benjamin Gassage – Nancy MGuire; book 1A, entry 5 [penned], pg 3 [stamped]. Brooke County.
 1800 U.S. census, Washington Co., Pennsylvania, Hopewell Twp, p. 56 (penned), line 11, Benjamin Gossage, digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M32, roll 44, FHL film 363347.
 1820 U.S. census, Tuscarawas Co. OH, Wayne Twp., p. 160 (208A, penned), line 11, Benjamin Gossage, digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M33, roll 95.
 1830 U.S. census, Tuscarawas Co. OH, Wayne Twp., p. 19, line 16, Benjn Gorsuch, digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M19, roll 141; FHL film: 0337952.
 1840 U.S. census, Tuscarawas Co. OH, Wayne Twp., p. 402 (stamped), entry 22, Benjamin Goodrich, digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M704, roll 430, citing Family History Library Film: 0020178.
 Hall, William C., The Thomas Gorsuch genealogy : being a history of Thomas Gorsuch and his descendants in America, Family History Library, CD-ROM no. 7610, p. 1,2, 311.
 SO Many trees on Ancestry.com and elsewhere…
 “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-31213-31008-31?cc=1992421 : accessed 19 October 2015), Tuscarawas; Wills 1810-1864 vol 1-4; image 160 of 561; Benjamin Gorsuch; county courthouses, Ohio; p. 250. Pages are typed [apparently copied from another source]; transcription marks shown.