Adoptive Fathers in Your Family Tree - John Alfred Sears (1860-1951)

Learning about the adoptive fathers in your family tree can help you tell your ancestral story. 

I am not biologically related to John Alfred Sears (1860-1951), that I know of. He was married to my 2nd great grandmother, Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1875-1934).

This is his story. 

John Alfred Sears (1860-1951)

In one account John Alfred Sears (1860-1951) was married five times. His Find a Grave memorial suggests that my 2nd great grandmother, Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1875-1934) was his 3rd wife. 

I've hesitated to explore much of John's earlier life, for fear of diving into a rabbit hole from which I cannot return. But, this tidbit on his memorial is quite interesting:

"James P. C. Prewitt was appointed guardian of John until 27 Dec 1877. He and David, John's father, were both in Company I of the 65th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers. David must have asked him to be guardian of his 3 young children before his death. James listed his home as Raglesville, Daviess, Indiana."

Here are couple of photos of John later in his life. Both are from the collection of my great grandmother, Ida Rhoads Sears (1900-2002). John was her adoptive father-in-law (if that is even a thing).

 John A. Sears (1860-1951)

John A. Sears (1860-1951)

 John A. Sears (1860-1951)

John A. Sears (1860-1951)

With five wives, and children from most of them, this branch of the family tree quickly become confusing. While researching John I came across this photo in The Terre Haute Tribune (Indiana) on February 4th, 1951.

This photo was taken shortly before John's death at age 90. He is pictured here with his daughter, granddaughter, great grandson, and great great granddaughter. In that order they are:

  • Mrs. Ola Roeder
  • Mrs. Genevieve Gordon
  • Curtis Gordon
  • Larain Gordon

That is an impressive 5 generation photo!

John is the adoptive father of my great grandfather, Arthur Myers/Sears (1900-1964), the husband of Ida Rhoads Sears (1900-2002).

On the 1910 census Arthur was listed as John‘s "stepson", and he was still listed as a Myers. It remains somewhat unclear, but by 1920 Arthur had changed his surname to Sears.

So the Sears name is a relatively recent addition to my genealogical line. 

I don’t believe that any of the people in this photo are genetically related to me. John was clearly not Arthur’s biological father. And John’s daughter here, Ola Sears Roeder, had a different mother than Arthur’s mother, Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1875-1934).

I believe John and Clara were married from 1905 until her death in 1934. Those shown in this photo are from a wife John had prior to Clara.

Here are a couple of photo my 2nd great grandmother, Clara, John's 3rd wife.

 Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1873-1934)

Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1873-1934)

 Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1873-1934)

Clara Rachel Miles/Myers Sears (1873-1934)

Perhaps the biggest mystery in my family tree is the story behind my great grandfather's (Arthur) biological father. His name was Oliver Edgar Myers (1873-1935). The most I had ever heard, and it wasn't often, was that Arthur was "adopted" (by the subject of this sketch).

No one in my family even knew the name Oliver Edgar Myers until I started to do our family tree.

His is a story I hope I can tell some day. Stay tuned!

As I think about John and my family tree I am reminded of the mission of The Psychologenealogist: Exploring the spaces where psychology, genealogy, and history converge - one story at a time. Here are some of the questions I have about.


  • Did John really have five wives? Was he widowed? Divorced?
  • When did my great grandfather take the Sears name, and why?
  • How far back should I explore John's family? What will it tell me about my own?
  • How do name changes impact your genealogical searches?


  • What role to adoptive fathers play in family histories?
  • Did John have a good relationship with his adopted son, Arthur?
  • Did Arthur have any relationship with his biological father?
  • What is the psychological impact of adoption on the generations that follow?

This is the 9th of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.