Brick Wall Case Studies #17: Identifying a Pennsylvania woman's family without a document that names her parents

No document had been located that named Sarah's parents. Studying families in the area where she married, information from tax lists, probate records, land deeds, church records, and census records pointed to her probable family.

What We Knew

  • Sarah Love married George Hackett on 8 February 1825 in a Presbyterian Church in Turbett Township, Juniata County, Pennsylvania. The marriage record didn't name her parents.
  • George Hackett was listed in the 1830 census in Richland County, Ohio. Only the head of household is named but he had a wife and some children listed with him in the tally marks.
  • Sarah's tombstone had been located in a cemetery in Richland County, Ohio, and she died in 1839.
  • The 8 children of George and Sarah had been identified.
  • After Sarah's death, George remarried and the children of George and Sarah were listed with him in the census records.
  • There was a James Love living in Mifflin County in the 1820 census. There was a William Love and a John Love living in Turbett Township, Mifflin County, listed in the 1821 tax lists. Though these seems to be potential family members since they were living in the same place as Sarah, no firm connection had been made between these families and Sarah.

Records We Located

  • We first looked at the Newberry Historical Atlas of County Boundaries to identify where Turbett Township was located. Turbett was in Mifflin County until 1831 when it became part of Juniata County. It was also close to the Perry County line so it seemed very likely that Sarah's family was from Mifflin or Perry County and would likely be listed in the 1820 census since she married in 1824.
  • We looked for Love families living in the 1820 census in Mifflin and Perry counties. We found just one Love family and that was James Love of Milford, Mifflin County. Sarah and George named their first son after George's father. They named their second James so the second son could have been named after Sarah's father.
  • We examined the 1821 tax lists for Mifflin County. Only William Love and John Love were listed. James Love was not listed however. It appeared to be a possibility that James Love died between the 1820 census and the 1821 tax list and then his two sons William and John were listed in the 1821 tax list. In the 1820 census James is over 45 years old and has 4 males living with him that are ages 16 through 25; two of these could potentially be John and William. He also has 3 white females living with him who are ages 16 through 25; one of these could potentially be Sarah Love. There were no Love families living in the area in the 1830 census.
  • We located marriage records for William Love and for John Love in Mifflintown in a Presbyterian church. John was married in that church in 1823 and William in 1824. This seems to match the theory that William and John were younger men and potentially sons of James.
  • We located what looked like the same James Love in the 1810 census in Cumberland County who had children of the same ages.
  • We examined the probate records for Cumberland County and found some probate records pertaining to a John Love of South Middleton, Cumberland County who wrote a will in 1814. In his will John named several of his family members including a son James and James's son John, and his daughter Rachel Johnson, wife of Samuel Johnson. John Love left some land to his son James which was located in Westphalia.
  • We located a probate record for John Love in 1820 where he was given permission to administer the property of a deceased John Love.
  • We located a land deed of John Love selling land located in Westphalia. The deed said that John Love was selling land which had been granted in a will from another John Love. John Love had left a will (the one previously located from 1814) where he deeded some land to his son James. James hadn't disposed of the property beore his death so now James's son, John, was selling the land. This connected the fact that James Love did appear to die in about 1820 and then his son John sold his land.
  • We located a marriage record for Rachel Love to Samuel Johnson in a Presbyterian Church of Carlisle. In these church records of about the same time it indicates that James Love married Mary Passel. Since they married in the same church around the same time, they are likely siblings.
  • DNA testing is in progress to find more proof that Sarah Love belonged to this Love family group.


Sarah's parents appear to have been James Love and Mary Passel of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of Sarah Love and her family members in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID G9BL-BLJ.

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