Diggin' up Dead People

A Genealogy Blog

Week 30: Challenging: Smith: Thomas and Charles

on July 24, 2015

This weeks post for the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge is focused on the theme: challenging. I have a lot of ancestors that are challenging to research, but probably not on more challenging than my Smith ancestors.

Smith is the name that pops up a couple of times and my tree, unrelated (at least as far as I know!).

The first time I encountered a Smith, it was in Brooklyn, New York. The record was a marriage between Mary Louisa Smith and Benjamin Bourne.

490 Bourne Smith marriage-1

Her parents names were identified on the marriage certificate: mother was Harriet Vitty and father Thomas D Smith. Great, Thomas Smith. Well I suppose it could’ve been worse; he could’ve been named John! I was grateful to see that Mary Louisa had been born in Olive, Ulster County, New York. Surely Ulster County couldn’t have that many Smiths. And to even whittle it down further I had a town! It was my good fortune that I was able to find the correct family fairly easily in Olive. That wasn’t too bad. However, several of the oldest children had been born in New York City. And after finding them in Olive in the censuses for 1850 and 1855, in 1860, there they were, back again, in the city! So, after my elation that Mary had been born in a small town in upstate New York, relatively easy to find, here I was again looking for Smith in the city. Nearly the entire family disappears after the 1860 census. Mary Louise and her mother Harriet both reappear first in the marriage record of Mary to Benjamin in 1872 and then in the 1875 census. The rest of the family as a complete unit is missing or separated after the 1860 census. Thomas and Harriet were parents to at least 9 children.

Mary Louise is my line and I have been able to follow her forward.Here is the post about her.

One daughter, Jane, is with Harriet in 1880, then, she too goes missing. It is possible she married in the time period between 1880 and 1900 US census.

In the 1880 US census, I have found Harriet and Thomas’ son (and Mary Louise’s brother) George Smith. It appears he likely married in Brooklyn in 1873.

The other six to eight children are a mystery.

In addition, I have no idea what happened to Thomas. Did he die? Did he move away? Could he have possibly even returned to England? Cross-referencing city directories to censuses it appears Thomas may have died sometime between 1862 and 1875.

Ancestry.com, New York, State Census, 1875 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013), Ancestry.com, Record for Clara Bowen.

Ancestry.com, New York, State Census, 1875 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013), Ancestry.com, Harriet is a widow and a boarder in the household of Edward Clarke.

Finding Thomas D Smith before 1845 has been equally challenging. I have made little headway finding out who his parents were, where he was before he married Harriet, or when he came to America from England. Census records report he was born in England. It appears there is a Thomas D Smith indexed as being naturalized in 1838. This bears further research.

For what I have found about Thomas so far:

Thomas Smith



Where is Thomas has been difficult to research, my other Smith is been proving near impossible to find. Benjamin Bourne (first husband of Mary Louise Smith), mother’s name was Sarah Maria Smith. (There is no evidence at all that Mary and Sarah are related.)   Sarah Maria names her father both on her church marriage record to Benjamin Aaron Bourne and on her marriage license for her second marriage to Daniel Van Brunt. In both documents she provides the name as Charles Smith. On her death certificate, her son-in-law provides the name John Smith as father to Sarah. It is more likely Sarah herself knew the correct name of her own father, so it is likely Charles Smith.

Sarah also provides in several censuses that she was born about 1830 in Florida. Specifically, Pensacola, Escambia County. There is a Charles Smith enumerated in the 1830 census at that place. The information asked and provided in the 1830 census is scant, and it is not possible to definitively say that is Charles, father to Sarah. I’ve not found any additional records for Charles in that place.

Charles was in some way gone by the 1850 census. The Brooklyn schedule shows Sarah’s mother, Eleanor (Ellen) [nee Hardenburg] is enumerated with her second husband John Bonner. Eleanor, and her other children were born in New York. Why does Sarah have a Florida birthplace? Was Charles from there? Was he involved in some sort of transportation or shipping occupation? Again, the Smith man leaves more questions than answers!

So in addition to being my submission for the theme “Challenging” this post is blatant cousin-bait. If you think you may be related to my Smiths, or if you think you may have found info on my Smiths while in process of researching your own, I’d love to hear from you!

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