I’ve been researching John M. Smith for years. YEARS! He definitely falls into my “Madness Monday” category!

Here’s what I know about John M. Smith

  • I know that John was listed in the Russell County tax records from 1827 – 1835.
  • I know that John was listed in the 1830 Russell County Census.
  • In the census, John had in his home: 1 male aged 10-15, 4 males aged 20-30 and 1 male aged 50-60.  1 female aged 15-20, 1 female aged 20-30 and 1 female aged 50-60.
  • If I assume that all of the younger people in this census are children, then the oldest would have been born around 1800.
  • I know that John’s estate inventory was submitted to court in October 1835.
  • Based on land records, I know that John had 5 children, 4 of which I can follow:
  1. Sarah Smith who married Henry Payne and died before 1845. She is married before 1830, so she is not included in John’s census.
  2. George A. Smith 1805-1890 (these dates are on his tombstone.  This is my ancestor.)
  3. Elias Smith abt. 1810-1853
  4. Jane Smith abt 1813 – 1880.  She married Thomas Simpson in 1838.
  5. Solomon Smith – the only thing I know about Solomon is that he received some of John’s land after he died, but he was listed as deceased by 1842 in another deed. George and Elias submitted John’s inventory and took over his tax listings, so I assume Solomon was not the oldest son.

Last week, we had three days of no school due to icy weather so I decided to follow up this little clue that I had found.  In a published biography for one of John’s great-grandsons, there was a line that stated that the great-grandfather (John) was an early settler of Danville, Kentucky.  I had a note tucked away in my files that on another genealogy site, another great-grandson had a descendant who stated that he was told that one of John’s sons was born in Virginia and came to Kentucky with his parents and settled near Danville where his father (John) and brothers (John’s brothers?) operated a trading post. The printed biography corroborated the location in the story I’d read so I thought, Yeah!  Something new to research!

Danville is right on the boundary between Mercer and Lincoln County.  And of course, John Smith is a rather common name so I thought it might be best to start with what I could find in Danville itself.

In the book, “Early Days of Danville”, there was a John M. Smith mentioned for the formation of a Baptist church, but how can I know if this is MY John Smith?  I can find mentions of “John Smith” in other Danville books, but nothing that I’d call “proof”.  I was hoping to find a John Smith mentioned in regards to a trading post since that would be the only way I can think of to feel pretty sure I was on the right track. However, I see information on alot of John Smith’s with a middle initial and I’ve never seen more than 1 John M. Smith, so I did make a copy of this page.

I decided to try a different tactic.  I know that John M. Smith shows up in the Russell County tax records in 1827.  Was there a John Smith in Mercer County tax lists that disappeared about the same time?  The first bio I had read stated that John’s son had followed in the footsteps of his father and “became a planter whose broad acres were tilled by slave labor”. The Mercer County tax lists show about 3 different John Smiths in the time frame I’m looking for, but 2 of them had no land.  The other had 450 acres and several slaves. I followed the tax records from 1811 to 1828.  This John Smith disappeared from the tax records in Mercer county after 1824.  If my ancestor had an uncommon name, I’d be excited by this information, but with the name John Smith?  I could probably find a John Smith in just about every county in Kentucky!

Maybe I would find a lightbulb moment with the census records.  My biggest challenge is that John Smith died in 1835, so that means I can’t use the children’s information to tell one John from another.  And all of the known children of John came of age in Russell County, so I don’t expect to find their names anywhere else. I made a chart – in Excel of course – to help me compare the different Johns and I can say which ones I think are most likely, but I keep coming back to the fact that there are probably John Smiths in every county and there would probably be several that COULD fit the information that I have, so it’s purely a wishful, barely educated guessing process.

I also found a newspaper online from Mercer County in 1804 in which a Lincoln County man lived “six miles south of Danville”.  That reminded me that I have to consider Lincoln County as well to cover all of the Danville area.

I think my next step is going to have to be land records for Mercer County.  I ordered them on Saturday. I’m not holding my breath for a deed that says “John M. Smith, who is moving to Russell County, now sells this land to so and so…” so again, how will I know for sure?

I’m also looking at records at the Allen County Public Library for Wayne County, Kentucky.  John’s land was partly in Russell and partly in Wayne, and Russell County was formed in 1826 so perhaps the clue will be in Wayne Co. I’ve searched the tax records for a John Smith with land entered in the same name as the land listed in the Russell County tax lists – so far, no luck.  Just before leaving the library Saturday, I also found 2 books of records for early Mercer County – court orders and marriages.  It’s at the top of my list to look at next Saturday (or next school snow day, whichever comes first!)

So right now, my strategy is to collect and collect and collect.  Anything that seems likely based on locations and dates.  Keeping track of witnesses and neighbors and such and then hopefully, when the land records film does arrive, maybe something will click.

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