This is my second post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. As genealogists we face so many challenges in our pursuit of family history. One of which is the challenge of a common name. How can we be sure we have the right individual? Even 250 years ago there were individuals of the same name in the same location. My 5th great grandfather was John Smith; yes likely the most common of common names. What I have written here is the little I have been able to learn about him and support with documentary evidence.
WHAT HAS BEEN SPECULATED BUT NOT PROVEN
- John was born about 1718 in Maryland, supposedly Somerset County.
- This is an estimate only and is based on the speculated birth dates of his children.
- John married Patience Bland also supposedly in Somerset County, Maryland.1
- By 1760 John and Patience were living in Prince William County, Virginia.2
- By 1769 John and Patience had moved to Chester District, South Carolina.3
- John moved his family to Chester District, South Carolina sometime before the Revolutionary War.4
- When the war broke out, John and at least one son, Joshua returned to Prince William County, Virginia. After the war John and his family returned to Chester District, South Carolina.5
- John married a second time as an old man to “Sarah.”
- Various undocumented family trees on Ancestry state this but no evidence has been found to support this claim.
CHILDREN OF JOHN SMITH
- John Smith, Jr.
- Moses Smith
- Caleb Smith
- Abner Smith
- Amasa Smith
- Patience Smith
- Margaret Smith
- Joshua Smith
FACTS KNOWN ABOUT JOHN SMITH
- In 1765 three individuals named John Smith were listed on the Prince William County, Virginia tax list.6
- Joshua Smith, youngest son of John and Patience Smith was born 5 May 1765 in Prince William County, Virginia.7
- In 1767 John Smith and Patience Smith were listed as new members of the Chappawamsic Baptist Church, Stafford County, Virginia.8 Stafford county was the southern border of Prince William County during this time period.
- In 1782 a John Smith purchased land in Chester District, South Carolina.9 It is believed this is my John Smith.
- 19 Apr 1786 a John Smith was listed as a juror in Chester District, South Carolina for the grand and petit jury.10
- Oct 1787 there is a land record for my John Smith to Joshua Smith a known son of my John Smith.11
- In April of 1790 a deed of conveyance between a John Smith and his wife Sarah to Joshua Smith was executed in Chester District, South Carolina.12 Is this John Smith the father or John Smith the brother?
- In Jun of 1791 an intestate probate for a John Smith was administered by James Smith.13 This is not John Smith the father as he died in June of 1795 as established by his will.
- 8 Jun 1793 Last Will and Testament of my John Smith which names his children.14 These children correspond with the children named in Wesley Smith’s 1895 book.
- My John Smith died 28 Jun 1795. Executors were his sons Moses and Joshua.15
CHESTER COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA LAND RECORDS16
May 1787 John Smith to Joshua Smith. Also same date John Smith to Moses Smith.
Feb 1798 Moses Smith to Abner Smith 100 acres, also 116 acres.
Feb 1798 Abner Smith to George Tucker 100 acres
Apr 1799 Joshua Smith to Wm. Morgan 15 acres.
WILL OF JOHN SMITH – ABSTRACT17
I give and bequeath unto my well beloved son Caleb Smith five shillings sterling – likewise I give & bequeath unto my well beloved son Abner Smith five shillings sterling, I give unto my well beloved daughter Catherine Calbird five shillings sterling, I give and bequeath unto my beloved daughter Mary Ann Land a certain negro wench named Mill, I give and bequeath unto my well beloved grand daughter Patience Land the increase of said negro wench named Mill, I give and bequeath unto my well beloved grand son Richard Smith five shillings, I give and bequeath unto my well beloved grand daughter Mary Land a young negro girl named Gay & her heirs, I also give & bequeath to my well beloved son Moses Smith a negro girl named Flora, and the Deed of Gift which I made to my two well beloved sons Moses and Joshua Smith I leave to stand good and in full force & virtue. I do confirm the said deed by this my Last Will & Testament. But all other gifts, deeds or wills what ever before made by me I do utterly void and of non effect and the remainder of my property to be equally divided between my two sons before mentioned viz Moses and Joshua Smith. I make and ordain them the said Moses & Joshua Smith my sole executors of this my last will and testament. His mark was made and his name listed as John J. Smith.
From this will is can be hypothesized John was a widower as there is no mention of a wife. It can also be hypothesized the name of his wife was Patience as a granddaughter appears to be a namesake. Since John Smith Jr. is not mentioned in the will it maybe the intestate estate of John Smith in 1791 was in fact John Smith Jr. No deeds have been found between John Smith and either Caleb or Abner.
In an autobiographical sketch James Anderson Smith names himself as a son of Joshua Smith and Mary Anderson and a grandson of John Smith of Maryland. He states the family emigrated to Prince William County, Virginia in 1760 and then to South Carolina in 1769. This information correlates with the known records for my John Smith and actually narrows the years in Virginia and South Carolina somewhat.
CHALLENGES TO OVERCOME
Fifteen volumes of land records pre-1861 and five volumes of probate records pre-1861 have been lost due to the burning of the courthouse during the Civil War. The Library of Virginia has a series of land record abstracts in book format for the correct time period, however they are not digitized. Research must be onsite in Virginia. Unfortunately I live in Arizona. That is a long research trip.
The challenges to complete this research project are what is so very very enticing to me. The detective work needed to separate the various John Smith individuals will be slow and methodical but his wife Patience is my ace in the hole. Patience is not a common name and she will hopefully be able to help me solve this puzzle some day.
The burned records are an obstacle but there are usually ways around obstacles even though the route may be a long and twisting road. A research trip to the Library of Virginia is now on my bucket list.
1. Wesley Smith, author, A Family History and Fifty-Two years of Preacher Life in Mississippi and Texas; Family History Library, (FHL) Film 1429814 item 8 (Texas Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church South, Abilene, Texas, Sept 1895).
2. George Jackson, author, Sixty Years in Texas, (Wilkinson Publishing, Dallas, Texas, 1908), p. 103-107, James A. Smith; digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org : accessed 10 Jan 2018).
4. Smith, A Family History and Fifty-Two years of Preacher Life in Mississippi and Texas.
6. Greg Mason, “Peyton List Tithes 1765,” abstracts, Prince William Public Library (http://eservice.pwcgov.org/library/digitallibrary/ : accessed 24 January 2014), Smith and Bland individuals.
7. Smith, A Family History and Fifty-Two years of Preacher Life in Mississippi and Texas.
8. Richard Slatten, “Early Records of Chappawamsic Baptist Church, Stafford County, 1766-1844: Part 1: November 1766-October 1770,” Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, 27, 1 (February 1989), Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : downloaded 14 December 2011), p. 38-40, list of new members, John Smith and Patience Smith.
9. Deed South Carolina Chester County, Chester County South Carolina Land Deeds, Bk. A, p. 156, Arthur Hicklin to John Smith, 150 acres, 10 December 1782; South Carolina Dept of Archives, Columbia, South Carolina.
10. Brent H. Holcomb, Chester County South Carolina Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799 (N.p.: Southern Historical Press, 1979), p 22.
11. Holcomb, Chester County South Carolina Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799, p 118.
12. Holcomb, Chester County South Carolina Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799, p 180.
13. Holcomb, Chester County South Carolina Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799, p 225.
14. Chester County, South Carolina, apt 62, packet 731, John Smith Estate; FHL film 361724.
16. Holcomb, Chester County South Carolina Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799, index listing.
17. Chester County, South Carolina, apt 62, packet 731, John Smith Estate