Jeremiah and Hannah Smith pioneers…

For the most part, when you are researching your ancestors, you don’t very often find much information about their personality or character. Sometimes it can be sussed out from certain types of court or probate records, or land deeds that have special dispensations, or if you are lucky a historical biography is found for them.

In the case of my Michigan Smiths it was a couple of newspaper articles in the paper that shined a sliver of light on their lives. The church history in the article below doesn’t actually say much about Jeremiah or Hannah Smith’s personality per se, but it does tell me about certain aspects of their lives that I would otherwise have to guess at, for example – their faith was important to them.

Jeremiah was born in 1790 in the state of New York. He was the descendant of German ‘Schmidt’ ancestors who emigrated to America in 1709 and Palantine Germans. The family was never well to do, so Jeremiah and his wife Hannah (Houghtaling) had to work hard to feed and cloth their family. At one time Jeremiah, unable to pay his bills, spent a few months in debtors prison when the family was living in Cayuga County, New York. Possibly in an attempt to avoid their debts, or just to try to make a better life for themselves, the Smiths packed up their trunks and headed to Michigan in the early 1840s. Their eldest son, Michael, had moved out there a year of so earlier.

The family seemed to be able to make a better go of it in their new home in Berrien County, Michigan. By 1844 they were meeting in a small log school about one mile west of Coloma, with other pioneers from the area, as the Mount Hope Methodist Society. Both Jeremiah and Hannah are mentioned as members of this first meeting in local historical records.

newspaper_smithjeremiah_MIhistchurch

In the article below we find a fun little tidbit out about Jeremiah – when the local school in the 1990s celebrated Pioneer Day, Jeremiah Smith appeared as a trapper and teller of ‘tall tales’. Just those two words bring to mind all kinds of images and possibilities to the kind of life the family might have had.

newspaper_smithjerimiah.png

Maybe a descendant, still living in the area, has passed this story of our grandfather down to each successive generation, or an old-timer remembered his grandfather talking about old man Smith and his crazy stories. I so would have loved to have been able to hear those tall tales.

gerthuntingcamp

Gertrude Cain John, sitting on the far right, Jeremiah and Hannah Smith’s great grand-daughter, at a deer hunting camp up in northern Wisconsin. She must have had some of that trapper blood.

I am always excited to find articles like these as they help to better visualize Jeremiah and Hannah’s, (and other ancestor’s) lives. They become more than just names on a page with birth and death dates. Something that is easy to forget in the data gathering of ancestors to ones family tree.

 

Just another Smith…

Stratford_upon_Avon_church_SWAbout a month ago I received my American Ancestors magazine in the mail and last weekend I decided to finally get it off my reading pile. The magazine is part of my membership in the NEHGS (New England Historical and Genealogical Society), along  with The Register. It is very rare that any surnames of interest to my particular research ever pop up in these publications. So imagine my surprise when I am reading along in the ‘Genetics and Genealogy’ section, when the combined surname and location they are writing about starts bells dinging in my brain. I pulled out my trusty iPad, loaded my ‘Reunion’ app, and searched away. Sure enough there they were, exactly as I thought.

Once again Esther Newell brings some cool factoids to the Shaw line.

As I have mentioned before to my reader, we have at least four ancestral Smith lines in my family, (maybe even five, I keep losing count). The particular Smith line I was reading about in this article was in regards to the Smiths of Hartford and Farmington, in Hartford County, Connecticut.

Esther Newell’s mother was Abigail Smith. Abigail’s parents were John Smith and Abigail Wadsworth, and it appears that this John Smith was the great grandson of the Quaker emigrants Christopher Smith and Agnes Gibes who had emigrated and settled in Rhode Island.

In my own research on this particular line I could only find as far back as William Smith b.1617 who married Elizabeth Stanley[?] in 1644 in Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut. This new information gave me another generation and place of origin, proven by DNA and church records. Hence the title of the article I had been reading ‘Genetics and Genealogy.’

Of course none of that is the really cool part. It appears that these Smiths came from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. If the place seems familiar, how about this – Shakespeare anyone? In fact, Christopher and Agnes were married on the 1st of May, 1616, in the same church that William Shakespeare had been buried about a week prior.

Warwickshire, Stratford upon Avon, Trinity Church

Church in background where the Christopher and Agnes were married.

So what was this article about? The focus of the article I was reading was connecting two Smith families, the Hartford Smiths of Connecticut and the Providence, Rhode Island Smiths. Were they related? And if so, how? There is a SmithConnections Northeastern DNA Project found at FamilyTreeDNA that is trying to sort out the many different Smith lines that show up in New England. Christopher’s line is labeled NE18 in this database, and it appears that 23 different participants match his yDNA. The descendants of the Hartford Smiths match each other, and Christopher’s yDNA, so Christopher must be of some kinship to the Hartford matches. It was assumed he was a cousin.

This is where documentation comes to save the day. One of the authors of the article had learned of the marriage record of Christopher and Agnes found in The Registers of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the County of Warwick Marriages, 1558-1812, and it was online. They proceeded to check on the baptisms and burials in the book and found two of the known children of Christopher and Agnes, so no surprise there. But then was shocked to find all the Hartford Smith names listed in the book too, as children of Christopher and Agnes.

Their eldest child, William Smith, bap. 1627 in Stratford-upon-Avon, is our line of descent from Christopher and Agnes. (William’s sister Mary married a Partridge, and his sister Susanna married a Wilkinson, both surnames that are also in our tree.) So the mystery of the connection of the two families was solved.

Apparently, the most curious question about the family, that hasn’t been answered to anyones satisfaction, is why were Christopher and his wife Quakers, and none of their children had any such affiliation. Well, that and the fact that the two generations appeared to have separated, with no documented connections appearing in the records in America. Maybe their religious differences split them up.

I guess there will be more to read about this family in a future publication. I look forward with great anticipation to reading it.

Source:
Genetics and Genealogy: William Shakespeare and the Christopher Smith Family, by Kathleen Cooper Smith and Christopher Child; American Ancestors, volume 17, no. 1, page 50-53.

Looking over the family tree…

This morning I was looking over my family tree chart to get a feel for how it was looking these days,  (and I must say, my efforts have filled it out pretty well in the last few years), when I realized that my great great grandparents Elza Shepard and Jane Buchanan were second cousins. Susan Smith, who married Hartley Shepard, was the daughter of Catharine Atkinson, William A. Buchanan was the son of Rebecca Atkinson, sister of Catharine. Susan’s son Elza married William’s daughter Jane.

That also means we descend from James Atkinson and Margaret Brown twice. Not an unusual occurrence at all, but one I just realized.

Elza Shepard and Jane Buchanan, 2nd cousins, my great great grandparents on my maternal size. They are sitting on chairs that are on an incline. Hilly country in West Virginia.

A mystery possibly solved…

I don’t know if I can say enough times how important land records are in genealogical research.

Case in point.
I have been slowly transcribing the digital images I took of land records from my last trip to SLC. I am currently working on land deeds from Monroe County, Ohio. The surnames I am interested in are SMITH, MOBLY, MILLISON, BUCHANAN, and ATKINSON.
Monroe County, Ohio map 
Joseph Smith and his wife Catherine were the parents of Susannah who married Hartley Shepard. Rebecca Atkinson married William Buchanan.
I have never known the name of Catherine’s parents, it has never been stated in any of my research. However, it is possible that I have found it out.
One of the land records I transcribed for Joseph and his wife, spelled Katherine in this particular deed, indicated a tract or parcel in Section 7 of Township 4, Range 4, I believe it was the SW 1/4. Okay. Cool. I marked the position on my hard copy. Then, a while later, I am transcribing a land record for William Buchanan and Rebecca his wife, remember she is an Atkinson by birth. The tract or parcel described is the exact same one described in Joseph and Katherine’s deed, the Buchanan’s had acquired the property through the decease of Rebecca’s father James Atkinson. Both couples were selling the land to the same person, John Adams.
The property was described as some type of inheritance in Joseph’s deed, but James’ name wasn’t mentioned.
The only reason I could see for the property description to be the same, was if Katherine was a daughter of James and had inherited her portion of the estate. And if that isn’t interesting enough, there is a Jeremiah Smith who married an Atkinson girl living in the same area, and involved in land transactions related to the same Atkinson family.
My belief is that Jeremiah and Joseph are SMITH brothers, who married ATKINSON sisters. Of course, it is possible that I am wrong and Joseph is somehow related to James Atkinson, but I have my doubts, because he would have to be a pretty close relative to be inheriting part of the estate, when there are children and a wife getting their portions also.
Well, that’s my theory so far.

Drowning in Brooks…

Almyra Brooks

Okay, it was a bad pun. But when you have a surname like Brooks in your family you have to have a little fun with it.

I have been doing a lot of research on Almyra Brooks’ family. Why? Because she is one of those women’s lines that has been pushed to the side in other people’s research because it required a little too much effort to figure them out.

But not me. I am very persistent and tenacious when it comes to these kinds of puzzles, and I love a good challenge.

When I started this research all I knew about Almyra’s parents was mostly just their names and a few other details. So what have I been able to find out so far? Almyra’s father John, jr. was born in Albany, Albany County, New York a week after his father John, sr. died of illness in the Buffalo area of the state (after having joined the Army to fight in the ‘War of 1812’). John, jr.’s mother, Diana Smith Brooks (who was born in England), was left with five children to raise on her own. The eldest of those children was Peter, and he was not even her own. Peter was born during what I am quite sure was John’s first marriage. What’s that you say, John Brooks, sr. had a previous marriage? Oh yeah. And I am the one who figured it out.

The guardianship file for John Brooks, sr. indicates all the children along with their ages. Using a wonderful device called a calculator, I was able to figure out that Peter was born before Diana and John were married, a good indication that John was married previously to Diana. The guardianship case also named a Peter Brooks, Diana’s brother-in-law, as guardian. So not only do I now have the names of all the children of John, sr., I have a brother for him too.

While in Salt Lake City, I looked at a film of burial records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany on the off chance it might have something of interest for me. I found two intriguing records. One was ‘John Brooks’ child’ burial costs and the date of August 1802, the other one was an entry for ‘John Brooks’ wife’, burial costs and a date of October 1805. These entries were intriguing because of the dates, both of which were before John married Diana in 1807 which strongly suggested a connection. So I made note of the entries.

When I came home and started going through my research data, I looked over the above records and decided to check other online databases of the Reformed Dutch Church records. I found three very interesting entries in the marriage and baptismal records. The first was a marriage for a John Broocks to a Hannah Groesbeck in 1801. The second was the baptism of a daughter Elizabeth in 1802. The last and in my mind most convincing evidence that this marriage was my John, sr.’s first one, was a baptism for a Peter in 1804, the same year that the eldest son Peter was born.

Put together with what I already know, I am convinced that John’s first wife was Hannah, they had a daughter Elizabeth who died at a few months of age, and then had a son Peter. Hannah died about 10 months after Peter’s birth. John then married Diana. They named their first born Elizabeth after John’s first daughter.

So my next question is, who are the parents of John, sr. and Peter Brooks?

The best source would be the same Dutch Church records I looked at previously online. These records along with a website dedicated to the history of Albany have given me information that makes me lean towards the theory that John Brooks b1783-d1815, brother to Peter Brooks b1780-d1825 are both the sons of Peter Brooks and Frances Wendell. I know Peter and Frances had a child named Peter, as I found a baptismal record for one in 1780. John Brooks named his eldest Peter. John had a brother named Peter. (There are not a bountiful amount of Peter Brooks in the directories or census records.)

If indeed this connection is true, it has been indicated that Peter Brooks who married Francis Wendell in 1772, was the son of Jonathan Brooks and possibly Rebecca Tatten, (Jonathan’s will names his wife Elizabeth, so I am unclear about this information). Jonathan is considered the patriarch of the Brooks of early Albany.

There is still research to do on this line, but it is starting to look up. It is still unclear if the Brooks are of Dutch or English descent. But I am looking forward to finding out.