Brick Wall Case Studies #7: Verifying the family of a Pennsylvania man with a common name

There were online trees that showed Jacob's family, but few original source documents to prove it and many men of the same name lived in the area. In addition, Jacob lived before there were vital records kept in Pennsylvania or census records that listed all family members by name. Land deeds, census records, court records, marriage documents, tax lists, and probate records gave proof of his family members.

What We Knew

  • There were parents, spouse and children for Jacob Bowman in online trees, but none of them had sufficient original source documents which proved the information was correct. There were also multiple men named Jacob Bowman living in the same geographic area.
  • Family tradition was that Jacob Bowman belonged to a Pennsylvania Dutch family with an original spelling of Bauman.
  • The tombstone of Jacob Bauman had been located in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. It stated that Jacob Bauman died 29 Sep 1844 in the 84th year of his age, making birth year about 1760.
  • There were many Jacob Bowmans found in Pennsylvania in the census records clearly representing several families of the same name and approximate age. Since he died before 1850, the census records only listed the heads of household and no other family members to help clearly distinguish the Jacob Bowman families from each other.

Records We Located

  • We searched the Clearfield County land deeds and learned that after Jacob's death in 1844, his children sold his land. In the deeds for each of them, it stated where they were living at the time and that they were selling the land of their father, Jacob Bowman. The married names of his daughters were listed as well. These land deeds proved who the children of Jacob Bowman were with certainty.
  • We then located the deeds where Jacob Bowman purchased that same land in Clearfield County which his children sold after his death. The deeds stated that Jacob was living in Chapman Township, Union County, Pennsylvania, at the time of the purchase. This told us that Jacob Bowman had come from Union County before moving to Clearfield County.
  • We located Jacob Bowman in the 1830 census in Chapman, Union County, Pennsylvania.
  • We searched the court record in Union County and located a document in which Jacob's wife, Ann Bowman, was requesting a divorce. She listed the exact date of their marriage.
  • We located a newspaper death notice for one of Jacob's sons which stated that the Bowman family had lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, indicating that Jacob Bowman had also lived in Lancaster County.
  • We located a marriage record between Jacob Bowman and Ann Wohlegmuth in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania which had the very same date as listed in the court case. So this gave evidence of the name of Jacob's wife. It also showed that Jacob Bowman had come from Lancaster County previous to going to Union County. The marriage document stated that Jacob Bowman was "of Hempfield Township" indicating he was living in Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, at the time he married his wife.
  • We looked at the tax records for Hempfield Township for the time period when Jacob got married. We found 2 men living in Hempfield Township with the surname Bowman/Bauman: Jacob Bowman and Peter Bauman. We presumed that Jacob Bowman was our Jacob and that Peter Bauman could be his father.
  • We looked at the probate records for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Peter Bauman of Hempfield Township left a will. He listed his wife as Mary Bowman. He also listed his 6 children by name including his son Jacob. So then we knew that Peter Bauman was in fact the father of Jacob Bowman. The will was written in German, indicating that Jacob Bauman was of German origin.


Using the land deeds, probate records, court records, and marriage records, we were able to verify who the children, spouse, and father of Jacob Bowman were from original source documents. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of Jacob Bowman in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID LZNC-SNM.

Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory which has more than 1.3 million sources to help you more easily locate the available records.

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