Drowning in Records!

I am a collector. A collector of records. When I am looking through a book of records, whether it’s deeds, taxes, or vital records, my thought is usually, “As long as I’m here, I might as well collect everything for this surname.” Until the day comes that you really start looking through what you have and you realize that you have more than 1 person with the same name in the same location…again…

I’m pretty much in the same situation as I was with John Smith – yet not surprisingly, I’m not anxious to jump through the same hoops as I did for him. At least, not on the blog. This year has not been an easy one. I’m emotionally and mentally tired and my brain is feeling the brunt of it.

Genealogy has been my escape. I have a great DESIRE to write for the blog, but no motivation. Does that make sense? Instead, I’ve been falling back on collecting records and now I’m starting to analyze what I have and what I should be looking for. Smoke is coming from my Excel file as I enter information for aaallllll the land records I have. Entries…surveys…patents…deeds…but how to assign a record to a specific person? Sound familiar? Different tabs for different people, different counties, tax lists and theories. Color coding to see what I’ve downloaded and what I need to go to the library for; what has been confirmed to a certain individual and what is still in a holding pattern.

And I’m fighting with the information that I’m collecting and THE family history that everyone has in their tree. Because THAT history was published a long time ago, therefore it MUST be right – RIGHT? I just can’t make it work the way “they” say it does.

So, I’ve started organizing (re-organizing?) the records – the INCREDIBLE number of records I’ve collected over the years and the new records I’ve been collecting more recently. Some items were well labeled, and some were not. I keep changing the file system where I have the records stored on my computer to help me make sense of it all. And every time I rearrange something, I discover a pattern that I haven’t noticed before. THAT record can’t go with THAT guy because he was over here in THIS county at that time – or do I have those records matched with the wrong guy? I started making timelines of what I have, but it didn’t take long to realize that those people with the same names – the John’s and the William’s – just aren’t going to cooperate. And as much as I want to put together a nice, organized series for the blog as I’m figuring things out, I remember how long it took me to put together the John Smith series and I don’t think I’m up to it right now.

Writing does help me think things through. So I’m planning to jump back in whenever I feel that I can. For those of you who are wondering, this is for my Stephens line. And there are several of you out there who I’ve emailed with in the past about this line. I would LOVE to hear from you guys as I muddle through my analysis, whether through the comments on the blog or by email or by starting a Facebook group dedicated to this family – I’m open to it all! I need the distraction of my genealogy and I would love to have as many brains as possible working with me!

The person I’m going to start with is my 5th great-grandfather – Welcome Stephens. A nice, unique name – thank you very much! It won’t take long to get into the John’s and the William’s, so maybe this will be a good way to get my toes back into the water of writing. We’ll see!

I’m starting by posting an image of the group sheet that I’ve had for Welcome for quite some time. Future posts will talk about the problems that I see with it and then we’ll see where my search takes me.

Barren County Research

John M. Smith case study #17

Based on all of the research that I’ve done so far, my theory is that John Smith (the Taylor), who I label as John Smith (1809), is the father of John M. Smith. I know that John Smith (1809) was the father of John Smith who married Elizabeth Arbuckle.

Moving on to a new county is hard. Hard for me to stay disciplined and not make too many assumptions. It means starting research “from scratch”. Deeds, taxes, court records…all of it. I need to start new charts to collect information until I can confidently combine charts into their correct lineup. But I also want to be smart. I often find myself collecting information for John Smiths just for the sake of collecting. Because of the sheer number of John Smiths in Kentucky, I can’t fall into this rabbit hole for too long.

A lot of this information is from documents that I have been collecting over time. But I have never organized it using this format, so I’m hoping to be able to discover new clues and to weed through the various John Smiths to see if any of them line up with John M. Smith.

Let’s start with a quick reminder on the will of John Smith (1809):

Barren County Will Book 1 – pg. 117

In the name of God Amen

I John Smith (Taylor) of Mercer County of sound mind and memory do make this my last Will and Testament.

To wit,

I direct that my just debts shall be first paid and that my wife Elizabeth Smith shall have one third part of the money arising from my whole Estate after paying my just Debts I Give to my Daughter Martha and Keziah fifty pounds each to be paid as soon as the same be collected from the sale of my Estate

I Give to my Daughters Mary Elizabeth Susannah and Fanny fifty pounds each they first give my credit for such articles as they have received in part of their different portions

I have Given to my sons Aaron and John and to my Daughter Ann their full portions

I Give to my son Michael all the remainder of my Estate of every kind and sort soever including my out standing debts and do appoint my said son Michael to be Executor of this my Last Will and Testament and I desire that my said Executor shall make a Title to Aaron Smith or his assign for fifty Acres as laid off at the south End of my land and that he also shall carry in to effect the bargain I have made with John Rochester or cancel or alter it or he shall think proper and Make a Title to the land where on I leave if [necessary?] witness my hand and seal 5th June 1806.

Here is a portion of my family group sheet for John Smith (1809). These are the children of John and Elizabeth.

Why would John Smith (1809) move to Barren County? Recall that Capt. John Smith also had a couple of land transactions in Barren County. (Captain John Smith’s chart)

Prior to Kentucky statehood, Virginia had reserved all the land in Kentucky south of Green River for soldiers who needed payment for their service in the Revolutionary War. Until 1797, no person could enter a survey within this area except for a soldier. Around this time, Kentucky enacted new legislation opening up this land to “any persons possessed of family and over twenty-one years of age.”[1] These people were entitled to 100-200 acres of land but must have been a bona fide settler on the land for one year before they came into possession. As the land was surveyed, they became known as the Grants South of Green River. Barren County falls in this area. Among the list of grants for Barren County are Michael Smith, John Smith, and John Arbuckle.

Barren County in the area South of the Green River (the yellow area is the Green River Watershed – not related to the land grants)

Military District which later became the area South of the Green River

What is my goal for Barren County? Can I connect M. Smith to John Smith (1809)? How many family members can be found in Barren County? If the children are not in Barren County, can I track where they are? I need to look for

  • John Smith (d. 1809)
  • Michael Smith
  • Aaron Smith (wife, Rebecca)
  • John (M) Smith (wife, Elizabeth)
  • Ambrose Barlow (wife, Sarah Ann)
  • John Garr (wife, Mary)
  • Jacob Fry (wife, Elizabeth) – according to FamilySearch, Jacob died in 1808. No source.
  • John Arbuckle (wife, Susannah)
  • Thomas Doke (wife Fanny)
  • John Saunders (wife, Martha)
  • Maybe Uriah Taylor (wife Sally, dau. of Zach)

When I began researching Barren County, I started with tax lists to see if I could discover how much land John Smith (1809) had when he died and who started paying the taxes for that land after he passed away.

I began looking for John Smith and any potential children in the tax records around 1808-1810. In this chart, I am not listing anyone with no land to save space.

Of course, the name John Smith jumped out at me. But why would his land be taxed in his name after 1809? I thought perhaps the land shifted from John Smith (1809) to John Smith, the son. But after examining additional tax records, I believe this John Smith is the son-in-law of Francis Lattimore who died in Barren County in 1817. (I am labeling him as John Smith “153” because of the amount of land he had in these records.) Francis Lattimore was also a recipient of land through the Grants South of Green River. This John Smith was one of the executors of the Lattimore estate[2]. There are many deeds which deal with the division of the land among the various families after Francis passed away. I probably did not find them all because of concentrating only on John Smith. But once I started putting information in the chart, I was able to connect other records that I had already collected. Note: The “Notes” section contains notes that I was writing while trying to connect this John Smith to other records. I’m leaving them for anyone who might happen to be researching this John Smith.

Bottom line – I have not found any specific deed for land in Barren County that I can tie back to John Smith (1809) and I am still puzzled by the land records for John in Mercer County.

If I start with 243 acres and subtract all of the sold land, I end up with 4 acres. However, I can find no record of Ambrose Barlow selling his 50 acres. Did that land go back to John Smith? I recently purchased the book, “Kentucky Ancestry” by Roseann Reinemuth Hogan. In the book, she discusses various types of grants and deeds and she states, “Deeds were not necessary when land was sold, given, or devised via a will, to a son, daughter, or spouse. Deeds could be, and were, made to relatives for “love and affection” but were not always recorded. If heirs kept the property, they could retain ownership for generations without having a deed made.” So it may be that I will never solve this particular puzzle, but I will be keeping my eyes open.

Another question: why did Aaron Smith pay for land purchased by Frederick Dayhoff?

I would love to solve this because of a specific line in the 1809 will, “and I desire that my said Executor shall make a Title to Aaron Smith or his assign for fifty Acres as laid off at the south End of my land and that he also shall carry in to effect the bargain I have made with John Rochester”.

Where was this land? Was the 50 acres that was given to Ambrose Barlow the same land that was to be given to Aaron Smith? In 1806, John Smith (1809) sold 89 acres “it being the tract of land whereon the said Smith now lives” on Harrod’s Run to John Rochester.

So I will research Aaron Smith to see what I can find for him.

I am beginning a “Barren County Records Collection Sheet”. In this document, I will keep track of any document I can find for members of this family. I have gone through through Deed Books, the Surveyor Book, Court Records, and Will Records, but it is (as always) a work in progress.

Barren County Collections Sheet

And so, the search continues. I will continue to make posts about my search, but I don’t know that they will be weekly. As the weather gets nicer, there is more work to be done in the yard, and our business has been getting increasingly busy in the last month. I am just not able to spend as much time researching as I did over the winter.

So I’m going to say once again…I’d love to hear from anyone researching the family of John M. Smith!

[1] Jillson’s Kentucky Land Grants, page 9

[2] Francis Lattimore will – Barren County, Kentucky, Will Book 1, p430-435, FamilySearch film #4818752, image 231.

What does the DNA say?

John M. Smith case study #16

In 2016, I asked my mother and 3 of her siblings to take DNA tests for me. I also asked one of their 1st cousins on my Smith side to test. I have been working to get as many of the Smith matches into my tree as I can. But other than my own family, very few people have John M. Smith in their tree. If they do have John, they do not have a wife with documentation. How to proceed?

I am NOT a DNA expert. Give me some steps to follow and I can do that. I have watched webinars, listened to podcasts and read books and still feel like I only have a very basic idea of what is going on. But I decided I’d take a leap and see the results.

My theory is that John M. Smith is the John Smith in Mercer County, Kentucky who married Elizabeth Arbuckle in 1798. I know that trying to connect “John Smith” to anyone else’s tree can be overwhelming, so I decided to see if it was possible that my family has DNA connections to the Arbuckle family.

I added Elizabeth Arbuckle to my tree in Ancestry as the wife of John M. Smith. I added a profile picture of the word THEORY so that anyone looking at my tree would know that I had not proven the relationship. I also added Thomas Arbuckle as the father of Elizabeth.

John M. Smith is my mother’s 3x Great Grandfather, making Thomas Arbuckle a potential 4x Great Grandfather. As I understand it, getting beyond a 4x Great Grandparent is next to impossible with DNA, so I’m not sure if any of this will be considered conclusive proof. I am certainly open to input in the comments!!

Using Ancestry’s ThruLines, I’ve been working through the matches and confirming the connections. If you can add the people in the “chain” to your tree, you can connect the DNA match to your tree as well. I only add people in the “chain” if I have records to confirm the relationship. For example, in this portion of my ThruLines matches with Thomas Arbuckle, any boxes with solid lines show people who I already have in my tree. Boxes with dotted lines are not in my tree but are in the DNA match’s tree or in the trees of other people researching Thomas Arbuckle. In other words, Ancestry is looking in the trees of my DNA matches for any Arbuckle names and then tries to tell me how the connection might be made based on other trees in Ancestry and they are showing that this is a hint by making the dotted line around the box. If you click on the boxes that say “Evaluate”, you can see all of the records that others have attached in their tree. I try not to do that because I don’t want to make assumptions that something is correct unless I’ve done the research myself.

An example of my process would be to go to Ann Arbuckle in my tree and see if I can find a marriage record to someone with the last name Lowe. From there, I begin to fill in as many of the family as I can. I try to fill in the family as completely as I can (all of the children for the marriage – not just Vincent) so that I have a better chance of pulling in additional DNA matches. As I get closer to the match, if records aren’t found easily for all family members, I focus on the line of the person who gets me to the match. I continue the process all the way down to the DNA match. Occasionally, I find incorrect information and I’m able to rule a match out, but the majority of the time, the matches work. Sometimes, if I get stuck on finding a marriage from that long ago, I will start with the DNA match and try to build their tree “up” to see if I can make the connection that way. As I update my tree, the Thrulines boxes change from dotted lines to solid lines.

While showing my results here, I do not want to run the risk of revealing anything that would be considered private, so I’m not going to give any specifics. I’m going to show a chart with the matches and the number of cMs shared. My uncle’s kit is not on Ancestry, so he is not in ThruLines and will not be included on this chart. Confirming these DNA matches is still a work in progress, so the chart may update over time.

Matches to Thomas Arbuckle (removing my own DNA testers) as of Apr. 5, 2021:       

Thomas Arbuckle had 2 wives and at least 9 children. All of the DNA matches in Thrulines so far come from 3 of Thomas’s children. And 2 of the 3 children are from Elizabeth Arbuckle’s stepmother. I don’t know if that means anything, I’m just trying to get all of the information together.

Everyone in my chart is either a 5th cousin (5C) or a 5th cousin once removed (5C1R). The majority of these people are actually ½5C or ½5C1R, but the charts I’m looking at don’t have the half relationships for that distant of a relationship. But the lower threshold on all of these distant relationships is 0, so for the sake of this post, I’m lumping them all as 5C or 5C1R.

According to the ISOGG wiki[1], there is a 70% chance that you will share NO DNA with a 5th cousin, so I feel pretty good about the number of matches I do have in my list.

Looking at the 6 cM matches, the Shared cM Project tool shows a 64% probability that the relationship is a 5C or 5C1R. Moving up the scale to the highest cM match, 19 cM has a 59% probability that the relationship is a 5C or 5C1R.

So does this prove anything? I don’t know. I think the probability numbers are encouraging. And the fact that I have this many matches to people who have Arbuckle in their tree is also encouraging. But now, I need to see if I can confirm that these people have the Arbuckle branch that Ancestry is filling in for everyone. And that takes quite a bit of time! But I’m working on it.

Bottom line, I see nothing in my DNA results to prove that Elizabeth Arbuckle is NOT part of my Smith line.

What about DNA matches with John Smith (1809)? I feel less confident about these “trees” because there are several DNA matches who Ancestry has listed as potential matches through children of John Smith who were not listed in John’s will. For this table, I’m only including the matches for children mentioned in the will.

There are soooooooo many things I’d like to do and learn about using DNA for matches this far back. I need to look more at my Uncle’s test, which is on another site that I’m not nearly as familiar with as Ancestry. But I suppose I never will be familiar with it if I don’t get into it! When I think about really getting into the DNA side, I feel overwhelmed. So for now, my purpose is just to see if I could disprove a connection based on my theory. And so far, I think the theory is still a possibility.


Barren County, Kentucky

John M. Smith case study #15

Several weeks ago, I posted about finding the gravesite for Ambrose Barlow (son-in-law of John Smith the taylor) in Barren County, but before jumping to a new county, I wanted to go ahead and collect the Court and Tax records from Mercer County for the charts, which I’ve already posted about.

NOW to Barren County!

The Findagrave memorial for Ambrose Barlow is an interesting one. He is listed in the Munford-Crenshaw Cemetery (Memorial ID 142492507), but it turns out he wasn’t buried in this cemetery. What IS there is a plaque or “cenotaph marker” listing “Revolutionary War Soldiers Honored Here by Descendants”. I can see that Ambrose Barlow is listed as being born in 1755 in Virginia and died on March 13, 1839 and was a Sgt. in the Infantry of the Continental Line.

The Findagrave biography section indicates that he is actually buried in the Bush-Barlow Cemetery in Fountain Run, Kentucky and that there is an additional cenotaph marker in the Glasgow Municipal Cemetery. I have not been able to find a Bush-Barlow Cemetery, but there is a Bush Graveyard. It looks like it’s a family cemetery in the middle of a farmer’s field and it contains 6 graves. There is an Ambrose Barlow Bush and an Ambrose P. Bush, but no Ambrose Barlow. I checked the Fountain Run Cemetery, but he is not there either. I suspect that Ambrose was buried in a family cemetery, but there was never a stone or it is missing. If anyone has further information, I’d love to hear it!

The memorial in the Glasgow Municipal Cemetery (Memorial ID 52054966) has a marker on a memorial stone. It states, “In memory of Ambrose Barlow born in Culpepper Co, VA. July 1766 died Aug. 13, 1839.”

So the birth date between the 2 cemeteries differs by 11 years. Which date of birth makes more sense? If Ambrose was born in 1755, then he would have been 21 in 1776 (military service) and 32 when he got married. That seems a bit old for a first marriage, so if this is correct, perhaps there was a first marriage. If Ambrose was born in 1766, then he would have been 10 years old in 1776 and that seems unreasonable for military service. But he would have been 21 when he married Ann Smith.

The plaque in the Glasgow Cemetery is an official plaque on his memorial stone placed by the Edmund Rogers Chapter of the NSDAR. Does that give it more weight? Hmmmm…..I’ve seen the name Edmund Rogers in the deeds for Capt. John Smith… Does that mean anything?

But WAIT! There is another angle for the marker that is a little easier to read.

Looking through the other names on the Munford-Crenshaw cenotaph marker, I see Edmund Rogers listed and JOHN SMITH. Could this be Capt. John Smith? I know that he had land transactions in Barren County. It is difficult to read the plaque, but I believe it says that John Smith was born April 1748 in Virginia and died on Feb 21, 1809 in Kentucky, so no, this is not Captain John Smith because he died in 1825. This John was an ensign in George Rogers Clark’s Regiment. There is no memorial in this cemetery for John Smith, so I decided to take a look for any probate for a John Smith in Barren County.

Barren County Probate Records

When looking at the index for Barren County probate records[1], I see a John Smith will and inventory for 1809 and 1810. Bingo!

The will[2] for John Smith begins with, “In the name of God Amen I John Smith (Taylor) of Mercer County…” Found him! What can I glean from the will?

Barren County Will Book 1 – pg. 117

In the name of God Amen

I John Smith (Taylor) of Mercer County of sound mind and memory do make this my last Will and Testament.

To wit,

I direct that my just debts shall be first paid and that my wife Elizabeth Smith shall have one third part of the money arising from my whole Estate after paying my just Debts I Give to my Daughter Martha and Keziah fifty pounds each to be paid as soon as the same be collected from the sale of my Estate

I Give to my Daughters Mary Elizabeth Susannah and Fanny fifty pounds each they first give my credit for such articles as they have received in part of their different portions

I have Given to my sons Aaron and John and to my Daughter Ann their full portions

I Give to my son Michael all the remainder of my Estate of every kind and sort soever including my out standing debts and do appoint my said son Michael to be Executor of this my Last Will and Testament and I desire that my said Executor shall make a Title to Aaron Smith or his assign for fifty Acres as laid off at the south End of my land and that he also shall carry in to effect the bargain I have made with John Rochester or cancel or alter it or he shall think proper and Make a Title to the land where on I leave if [necessary?] witness my hand and seal 5th June 1806.

John Smith (seal)


Uriah Taylor

Sally Taylor

Arnold Cain

Wyatt Martin

Jas Speed

Barren County to wit, October County Court 1809

The foregoing Instrument in Writing purporting to be the last Will & Testament of John Smith Deceased was produced in Court and Uriah Taylor and Sally Taylor two of the subscribing witnesses being sworn deposeth and saith that the said John Smith died in their presence deliver the said writing for his Will and that they believe him to be in his proper sense and memory when he died the same & thereupon the said Writing was order to be recorded as the true last Will & Testament of the said John Smith Dec’d.

Test: Wm Logan Clk

Lisa’s note: I’m not sure if the marks around Taylor are meant to be commas or parentheses. Here’s an image of what is written in the will book:

Moving forward, rather than noting this man as John Smith (Taylor), I’m going to begin noting him as John Smith (1809) because based on tax records we’ve looked at previously, I believe this is his occupation which is included to tell him apart for the other John Smiths in the area and because none of the other John Smiths died in 1809.

The marks around “Taylor” are the same marks that I see in a deed around the words “to wit”. Many transcriptions that I read have “(to wit)”. But in more modern transcriptions, I see commas.

And now, back to what I can learn from the will:

  • His wife is Elizabeth
  • He has daughters: Ann, Mary, Elizabeth, Susannah, Fanny, Martha and Keziah
  • He has sons: Aaron, John and Michael
  • “I have given to my sons Aaron and John and to my daughter Ann their full portions”
    • Based on the Group Sheet I have put together for John Smith (1809), these 3 may be the 3 oldest children.
    • Does “full portion” mean land? Money?
    • I know that Ann was married to Ambrose Barlow
  • Everything else goes to son: Michael. Michael to be the executor.
    • I have no birth or marriage information for Michael.
    • Does this mean Michael was the oldest? Or the child that lived nearest?
  • Michael is to give Aaron a title for 50 acres “as laid off at the south end of my land and shall carry into effect the bargain I have made with John Rochester”
    • Where is this land? Mercer or Barren County?
  • Written June 5, 1806, produced in the Barren County Court October 1809 session.
  • Witnesses to the will: Uriah Taylor, Sally Taylor, Arnold Cain, Wyatt Martin, James Speed.
    • A quick search for Uriah Taylor reveals that he married Sally Smith, daughter of Zachariah Smith, who gave permission[3] on June 28, 1793. I suspect that Zachariah Smith and John Smith may have been brothers. That would make Uriah and Sally Taylor John’s niece and nephew, but that relationship is not proven.

There were two inventories taken for John Smith – one in Mercer County and one in Barren County. These[4] provide additional information.

  • The Barren County inventory includes farm animals, farming tools, and various pieces of furniture, among other things, which seems to indicate that he had a home in Barren County.
  • The inventory was submitted on Dec. 19, 1809 by Harden Trigg, James Franklin and Dan Curd.
  • But on the very next page (page 131), there is also an inventory from Mercer County. There are only 2 animals and a corner cupboard. This inventory was collected by John Miziner, William Threlkild and Lawrence Garr.
  • On page 132, there is an entry that says, “Barren County, To wit, October Term 1809, ordered that Jesse Smith John Mison William Threllkill & Lawrence Garr or any three of them…do appraise in current money the personal estate and slaves, if any, of John Smith deceased which property is remaining in the County thereof to the County Court of Barren”
    • Jesse Smith was the son of Zachariah Smith
    • John’s daughter, Mary, was married to John Garr, so Lawrence Garr was probably related through him.

The estate was settled on March 18, 1822[5]. This is a reminder to me that you can find records for an estate many years after the time of death!

Now, to update the chart based on the will, inventory, and marriage records:

My theory is that John Smith (1809) is the father of John M. Smith.
If true, that would make Elizabeth Arbuckle the wife of John M. Smith.


  • How much land did John have left when he died? Where was it?
  • Did Michael (or anyone else) pay taxes on the land in 1810 or 1811?
  • The plaque in the Munford-Crenshaw cemetery indicates that John was an Ensign in George Rogers Clark’s Illinois Regiment. What else can I find?
  • Are there other records in Barren County that would give me additional clues?

So where am I with all of this at this point? I think I’m down to one most likely option.

1) I believe John Smith who married Elizabeth Arbuckle is the son of John Smith (1809)

2) I found no records tying John Smith who married Sally McDaniel to the Danville area, so I don’t believe he is John M. Smith

3) John Smith (1809) had a son named John. I believe he is the father of #1.

4) Captain John Smith did not have a son named John in his will, so I don’t believe he was the father of John M. Smith.

5) John Smith who died in 1812 cannot be John M. Smith because he died too soon.

6) John and Elizabeth Smith who were probated together in 1820 did have a son named John, but so far, I have found very few records for this John Smith.

7) If John M. Smith were the son of Colonel John Smith, I feel like that information would have been passed on in the family lore – at least to Oscar Smith’s generation.

So where to turn next? Research is going to have to turn to the children of John Smith (1809) to see what I can find. But before I do that, I feel like this would be a good time to take a look at DNA to see if this theory is even possible.

Next week: My DNA matches


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle – (son of John Taylor Smith)
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel – no information found
  3. John Smith (1809) – updated – (Could be the father of John M. Smith)
  4. Captain John Smith(not the father of John M. Smith)
  5. John Smith (d. 1812) – (cannot be John M. Smith)
  6. John Smith (d. 1815) and Elizabeth (d. 1820) – (not John M. Smith, not John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle)
  7. Colonel John Smith

[1] Barren County, Kentucky, General Index to Deeds, p318, FamilySearch film #4818751, image 337.

[2] Barren County, Kentucky, Will Book 1, p117, FamilySearch film #4818752, image 73.

[3] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 799.

[4] Barren County, Kentucky, Will Book 1, p130, FamilySearch film #4818752, image 80.

[5] Barren County, Kentucky, Will Book 2, p150, FamilySearch film #4818752, image 374.

Analyzing the Tax Lists

John M. Smith case study #14

Tax Records of Mercer County

While in Mercer County, we still need to cover one more big record group. Tax records. I know you’re thinking, “BORING!”, but when you are studying people named John Smith, you can’t just stick with the “fun records” because then you’ll lose some potential clues.

I often say that tax records are my favorite and here are a few reasons why:

  • The tax lists are like an annual census
  • They can help you to figure out when a young man comes of age, helping to zero in on an approximate date of birth
  • The way the names are grouped together can help to show you family groups
  • Significant changes in the number of acres owned can signal a deed that you haven’t found yet
  • Seeing a woman’s name in the tax list usually means that her spouse has passed away allowing you to search for probate records
    • A woman had one year to go through the sadness of her widowhood, then had to start paying taxes. However, sometimes she had someone else in the family or a neighbor pay those taxes. You will find the entry under the name of the person paying, but it will state who the taxes were being paid for.

The tax lists change quite a lot over time. I read through a resource[1] written by Kandie Adkinson years ago detailing how to use tax and land records. I tried to pull out specifics that are helpful for me. This is a list of changes specific to Kentucky that I keep nearby while looking through the lists:

  • 1792 – Kentucky became a state. Tax lists before this date will be found in Virginia. All free males above the age of 21 to be included in the lists.
  • 1793 – Landowners were now allowed to pay their taxes in the county in which they lived, even if they owned land in other counties. (But the counties in which the land could be found were noted in the lists.)
    • If there are multiple tracts of land listed, I believe the line with the numbers (tithes, horses, etc.) shows which tract the person lived on (but that’s just my theory).
  • 1794 – A standard form was designed for the Tax Commissioner. Now included: watercourse.
    • This is a great help for telling apart men with the same name with land in different areas.
  • 1795 – The tax lists added columns for the name of the person who originally entered the land, had the land surveyed and who had the land patented. More hints for previous deed records.
    • A lot of these records include a small map showing the shape of your ancestor’s land.
    • If the name is not the same as the taxpayer’s name, then they purchased or inherited the land.
  • 1797 – “all male persons of the age of 16 and upward” were considered “tithables”. The tax commissioner now had to keep a written list of all tithables in the family.
    • In my experience, the tax lists always seem to have a column for Tithes above 21 as well.
  • 1804 – a two-year grace period was given for the payment of delinquent taxes.
    • If your ancestor was missing from the list, check the court records for entries showing when he may have come to court to pay the overdue taxes.
  • 1810 – Tax commissioners were selected “in the bounds of each militia company” to take in all lists of taxable property “within the same”.
    • Taxpayers had to travel to the militia company’s place of muster and file their tax lists between the months of April and June. This was not an indication of military service.
  • 1811 – The above was amended. Taxpayers weren’t bound to participate in the muster.
  • 1821 – An additional column added to show the number of children in each school district between the ages of 4 and 14. (But it doesn’t appear that it was consistently recorded.)
    • In 1840, this changed to number of children between 7 and 17.
  • 1840 – The columns for Entered, Surveyed and Patented were removed.

Additional hints:

  • Ditto marks were used to indicate the information remained the same horizontally, not from the row above.
  • Persons may not have owned land, but if they were over 21 and if they owned a horse they should be included in the tax lists.

Let me show you a few examples of the kinds of hints you can find.

  • In 1795, there are 5 men named John Smith. FIVE!
    • John Smith (Col.)
    • John Smith (Capt.)
    • John Smith (Taylor)
    • John Smith (Blacksmith)
    • John Smith (Son of James)
    • This is how the names appear – with the words in parentheses.
    • This particular tax list is for personal estate, not real estate, so there is no information to help divide the men based on the amount of land they owned. (I believe there is a tax list with real estate available through inter-library loan from the Library of Virginia, but I have never done that. Perhaps if I make it back another generation.)
      • Because I’ve taken a look at deeds and probate, we know who Captain John Smith and John Smith (Taylor) are. (I now believe “Taylor” is his occupation just like “Blacksmith”). John Smith “son of James” only shows up in 2 tax lists and has no land in either of them. And John Smith (Blacksmith) disappears after 1797. That doesn’t mean he isn’t there, it just means there is no John Smith labeled as a blacksmith. County boundaries were changing as Kentucky organized itself as a state and land was being granted to men who fought in the war, so he could be anywhere. But the hint we are following is that John M’s son, Elias, was born in the Danville area in 1810, so that does rule out a few of these men.
  • The following year, in 1796, we see
    • John Smith (son of James) – no land, but followed by James Smith with LOTS of land
    • John Smith (Taylor) with 232 acres
    • John Smith (Captain) with 700 acres (300 of which was in Bourbon County)
    • John Smith (Col.) with 200 acres in Mercer County and 5200 acres in various other counties
    • John Smith (Blacksmith) with 500 acres in Lincoln County, but listed in the Mercer County list.
  • By 1799,
    • John Smith (Col.) has 8950 acres, none of which appears to be in Mercer County. This is the last time he is listed in the Mercer County list. He appears in the 1800 list in Shelby County, Kentucky and his Findagrave entry says he died in Shelby County, Tennessee.
      • There is one 1802 deed in Mercer County[2] for John and Chenoe Smith selling 420 acres to Joseph Thomas. Doing a Google search for John and Chenoe Smith shows that this is Colonel John Smith. Chenoe was the first white child born in Kentucky and her name is the Native American word for “Kentucky”. You can see a brief biography at valleyviewfarm.online/history.html. His Findagrave memorial is #8494261. The Findagrave information says that he was married to Chenoe Hart in 1797. While the marriage date and the amount of land and slaves would match the clues I collected from the Oscar Smith biography at the beginning of this study, he was not in the Danville around in 1810 when Elias Smith would have been born.
    • John Smith (Captain) still has 700 acres
    • John Smith (Taylor) has 230 acres
    • John Smith Jr. appears with no land
  • A last word about the tax lists. The Kentucky tax lists for many years asked in whose name the land was entered, surveyed, and patented. The earlier the tax records, the more likely a person was to remember the history of the land. If I see that a piece of land was entered in the name of Azor Reece, I’ve got a pretty good idea of who that tax entry matches. Land was not always entered, surveyed, and patented in the same name, so there are great additional leads in the tax lists – especially if you’re looking for a deed when the number of acres changes. I’m not going to go through my reasoning on all of the tax lists, but future charts will contain that information – but no endnotes. That’s just too many!

I originally wrote all of these John Smith blog posts months ago. As I prepare to move each chapter to the blog, I always re-read with fresh eyes and try to think of new avenues to research. What did I learn from these tax lists? By looking at the various tax lists and seeing the water courses and in whose name entered, I have been able to move a couple of things from the Captain John Smith chart to the Colonel John Smith chart. This will be an on-going process as things are analyzed. If I didn’t have these charts that allow me to quickly connect names from the various types of records, I would probably never be able to sort these records out. I need to really take some time to do more analysis. I will also be looking for deeds based on changes in the amount of land each man was paying taxes on. However, I know that deeds were not necessary if a landowner was giving land to a family member and sometimes, deeds were made, but not recorded. To try to track land in these circumstances, I would need to begin following tax records for every child. And that’s a topic for another post.

I AM interested in trying to figure out why the amount of land John Smith the Taylor was paying taxes on changed so much from 1803-1805 and what happened to the land after that. So far, I have no clues for that and therefore, I’m thinking he may have been giving land to his sons or sons-in-law.

The tax lists also help me to pinpoint where a specific person was living at a certain time. When a person disappears from the tax list, I know that I need to look for clues as to where they might have moved or begin to search probate records to see if they had died. If a person had more than one tract of land, the tax list tells the county that each tract was in. Colonel John Smith had land in many counties, so when he disappeared from the Mercer County tax list around 1800, the tax list gives clues of where to search next.

Colonel John Smith does not appear in any of my future research, so I’m going to go ahead and combine his 2 charts into one. He will remain in the “Scoreboard” and if I do come across any additional information that helps me assign specific records to a man, I’ll update his chart, but I won’t be referencing them in the blog. If I decide to move a record from one chart to another, I plan to include reasons in the chart so that I won’t be confusing myself. All updates will be made to his chart in Google Docs.

Next Monday – how does Barren County, Kentucky fit into this puzzle?


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle – (son of John Taylor Smith)
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel
  3. John Smith – Taylor – updated
  4. Captain John Smith(not the father of John M. Smith)updated
  5. John Smith (d. 1812) – (cannot be John M. Smith)
  6. John Smith (d. 1815) and Elizabeth (d. 1820) – (not John M. Smith, not John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle)
  7. Colonel John Smith & ___ Little – most likely a first marriage for Colonel John Smith below, so charts are being combined
  8. Colonel John Smith & Chenoe – updated

[1] https://www.sos.ky.gov/admin/land/resources/articles/Documents/Tax%20Lists%201792-1840%20(rev).pdf

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 5, p4, FamilySearch film #7896915, image 12.

Colonel John Smith

John M. Smith cast study #13

While I’m going through the Court Records, I need to start a chart for Colonel John Smith. I have not paid a lot of attention to Colonel John Smith in my research because I think I ruled him out pretty early in my Mercer County research, but I remember feeling like there may have been more than 1 Colonel John Smith, although I’m not certain why I thought that. I know NOTHING about military research, so is it even possible to have more than one Colonel in the area militia? It’s time to start the chart.

The court order which gave Colonel John Smith guardianship[1] of John Little, orphan of James Little, made me wonder about the relationship between the 2 families. So I looked for the will of James Little. When looking at the online index for probate records, names of witnesses, executors, administrators, etc. are not listed. I would not have found Colonel John Smith in this record using the index. If not for the court record, I would not have found this important record giving information on Colonel John Smith’s family.

On November 25, 1794, the will of John Little was proven by James Graham, Andrew Shelody and Samuel Graham with John Smith being granted administration of the estate. The will[2] itself was written by John Little (not James Little) on July 7, 1794.

In the name of God Amen I John Little of the county of Mercer in state of Kentucky being in perfect health of body and in perfect mind and memory but calling to mind the mortality of my body and that it is ordered for all men once to die to constitute make and ordain this my will and testament in Manner and form following viz first of all I resign my body to the dust from whence it came to be buried decent Christian burial nothing doubting but that at the last day I shall receive the same again I also give and bequeath unto Miss Molly Smith daughter of Colonel John Smith there by 5 pounds and likewise on to Peggy Smith 25 pounds and likewise to Betsy Smith 20 pounds and undo Patsy Smith 15 pounds a none to Jenny Smith 10 pounds and on to Sally Smith 12 pounds and on to John Smith and his brother William sons of John Smith the plantation containing 125 acres to be equally divided between the two and all the rest of the property and money and to Samuel Daughtry my wages if I never return after paying my debts of such part thereof as my executors think best I do also constitute and appoint Robert Mosby with Coln John Smith Executors to this my last Will and Testament In witness whereof I have hereunto set hand and fixed my seal this the seventh Day of July one thousand seven hundred ninety four

Sign seal in the presents (sic) of
James M. Graham                                                                                                John Little (seal)
Andrew B Shiledey
Samuel Graham

Mercer County                     November Court 1794

This last will & testament of John Little Deceased was exhibited into court & proved by the oaths of James Graham Andrew Shiledey and Samuel Graham witnesses thereto and order to be recorded

Tho Allen CC

This will appears to give the names of all of the children of Colonel John Smith, which will now be added to the chart. A few additional thoughts –

  • I did a quick Google search for Colonel John Smith of Kentucky and found a short “biography” at http://valleyviewfarm.online/history.html. It discusses the history of the farm which Colonel John Smith and his wife, Chenoe, purchased in 1795.
  • The most likely reason that John Little is giving his estate to Colonel Smith’s children would seem to be that they are his grandchildren. Which would mean that John Smith’s wife’s maiden name would be Little. I think this is the reason that I felt like there was more than 1 Colonel John Smith. Because of this, I will be splitting the Colonel John Smith chart into 2. The only record I have that mentions Chenoe is a deed, so all additional information is based on a quick Google search.
    • After looking at the 2 charts, I decided that they COULD be the same man with 2 marriages. The dates of birth for the children could indicate that he had a family with Miss Little who may have passed away between 1790 – 1797. John and Chenoe were married on October 17, 1797[3] with their children being born between 1798 – 1818. Interesting that the website above says they purchased the farm in 1795 when they weren’t married until 1797. Perhaps they are making an assumption for John’s wife in 1795?
  • Although I do believe these records apply to the same man, I will keep the chart separate for now. Any record that comes after 1797 will be added to John and Chenoe’s chart.
  • Robert Mosby was also named as an executor of the will. I recognize the name Robert Mosby as being a neighbor of Captain John Smith. Because of this, I think that Colonel Smith and Captain Smith lived near each other. That could mean that some of the records that simply say “John Smith” that I attributed to Captain John Smith may in fact belong to Colonel John Smith.
  • I do notice that John Little’s will mentions a John Smith listed among the children of Colonel John Smith. Could this be John M. Smith?

One more important point. At the end of the will, I can see that the will was proven in a November 1794 court session. If you look for this in the Court Orders book it provides even more information that I would not have picked up if I hadn’t found the actual court order[4].

The Last Will and Testament of John Little Deceased proved by the oaths of James Graham, Andrew Shelody and Samuel Graham three subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be Recorded. John Smith one of the Executors therein named who made oath as the Law directs ~ certificate is granted him for obtaining a probate thereof in due form he giving security whereupon he together with Thomas Hanna and John Hale his securities entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of three hundred pounds Conditioned as the Law directs ~ ordered that John Smith, David Mosby, Jeremiah Telford and John Haggin or any three of them being first sworn do appraise in Current Money the personal Estate and Slaves if any of the said Decedent and that the Executor return an Inventory thereof to the Court.

The interesting additional piece of information here is the names of those who gave security with Colonel John Smith: Thomas Hanna and John Hale. Looking back at the table I made for marriages where John Smith was the father shows a Thomas Hanna. So now Thomas Hanna and Margaret Smith will move from the table for John (Taylor) Smith to Colonel John Smith’s table.

I have this little voice in the back of my head that keeps saying that if John M’s father was Colonel John Smith, that would have been documented somewhere so that may be why I never put a ton of time into researching him. So my plan for now will be to collect information if I come across it, but I don’t think I’m ready to begin investing extra time into researching him at this point. That may be a mistake, but that’s where I am right now.


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle – (son of John Taylor Smith)
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel
  3. John Taylor Smith updated
  4. Captain John Smith(not the father of John M. Smith)
  5. John Smith (d. 1812) – (cannot be John M. Smith)
  6. John Smith (d. 1815) and Elizabeth (d. 1820) – (not John M. Smith, not John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle)
  7. Colonel John Smith & ___ Little – new(could this be the father of John M. Smith?)
  8. Colonel John Smith & Chenoe – new

[1] Mercer County, Kentucky, Court Orders v3, p481 ,FamilySearch film #7899117, image 542.

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 1, p187, FamilySearch film #4818857, image 102.

[3] Lincoln County, Kentucky, Marriage Extract, p243, FamilySearch film #7733960, image 148.

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, Court Orders v3, p141, FamilySearch film #7899117, image 79.

Marriage and Court Records for the Charts

John M. Smith case study #12

At the end of last Monday’s post where I was going through Mercer County probate records, I talked about needing to make a decision. I could continue researching my original John Smith trio (John (Taylor) Smith, John Smith Jr. and Captain John Smith) who I had found in the 1800 tax list, or I could do more research for John and Elizabeth Smith who had their inventories taken together in 1820 even though John had died around 1815. I had found quite a bit on Captain John Smith and I had a decent start on John and Elizabeth’s chart, so I decided to focus a little bit on John (Taylor) Smith’s chart before he got left in the dust.

I notice that there is just one name in the family section and that is Ambrose Barlow. In 1790, John had “sold” 50 acres to Ambrose[1], but the amount paid for the land was not given and John’s wife was not included in the transaction. I would have expected the wife to have been privately asked if the sale was agreed to by her. Perhaps the land was given to Ambrose because he was related in some way.

On Sept. 1, 1782, Zachariah Smith was granted 880 acres in Mercer County on Harrod’s Run[2] and on Sept. 18, 1790, Zachariah sold or gave 243 acres to John Smith.[3] No monetary amount was given in the deed and no wife was mentioned. The land transaction from Zachariah to John occurred on the same day as the transaction between John and Ambrose. Those lack of compensation and wives’ names made me wonder if Zachariah, John and Ambrose could be family. The name, Ambrose Barlow, is fairly unique – at least, waaaayyy more unique than John Smith! So I decided to look into Ambrose to see if I could figure out the connection between these men which could give me more information on John (Taylor) Smith.

Ambrose Barlow

I went to FamilySearch and did a search for historical records for Ambrose Barlow in Mercer County between 1780 – 1800.

The very first record in the list is for Ambrose Barlow, groom, married in Mercer County on April 30, 1787 to Ann Smith. John Smith gave his permission for Ann to be married to Ambrose. This confirms that Ambrose was the son-in-law of a John Smith, but is it John (Taylor) Smith? I want to do a real quick check of the land records that I have noted in John’s chart.

The land that began with Zachariah was located on Harrod’s Run and additional deeds from John (Taylor) Smith show that his land was also on the waters of Harrod’s Run. So based on these things, we know that Ambrose Barlow’s father-in-law was John Smith and it makes sense that the John Smith who owned land on Harrod’s Run would be that John Smith.

Marriage Records

What if I do a search for John Smith and look at all of the marriage records where John Smith was the father? All of these would be potential children for John Taylor Smith.

Mercer County marriages with John Smith giving consent

Ambrose BarlowAnn SmithJohn Smith[4] (consent)Peter Huffman Jesse SmithJames Taylor30 Apr 1787
John GarrMary SmithJohn Smith[5] (consent)Ambrose BarlowAaron Smith16 Sep 1794
Jacob FryElizabeth SmithJohn Smith[6] (consent)Aaron Smith John Smith JrJesse Smith18 May 1797
Thomas HannaMargaret SmithJohn Smith[7] (consent)Polly Smith J.H. DavisJoseph Davis16 Mar 1797
John ArbuckleSusannah SmithJohn Smith[8] (consent)Michael SmithJohn Smith21 Feb 1801
Thomas DokeFanny SmithJohn Smith[9] (consent)Aaron SmithMichael Smith31 Dec 1804

Pretty interesting! I see Ambrose Barlow, Aaron Smith, Michael Smith, and John Smith (Jr) in quite a few of these documents! I noted Aaron Smith and Michael Smith mentioned in deeds in the chart I’ve been keeping for John Taylor Smith.

And recall one of the first John Smith charts I put together:

Because of the name Aaron Smith on this marriage permission, the times that Aaron Smith appears in the Mercer County marriage permissions chart, and the John Arbuckle marriage to Susannah Smith, I believe that John Smith, husband of Elizabeth Arbuckle, probably belongs in this family group as well.  Could this be my John M. Smith? I’m going to add Elizabeth Arbuckle as a potential daughter-in-law for John Taylor Smith in the updated charts at the end of this post.

But another VERY interesting thing that I see in my search for Ambrose Barlow is his Findagrave listing[10], for a cemetery…..in Barren County, Kentucky. Another Barren County connection? Recall that Captain John Smith had a couple of deeds that involved land in Barren County.

So I’m off to Barren County, Kentucky!

No….wait! It’s easy to take off as soon as you get a new hint. I have a few more record types to look through for Mercer County. And a big set of records would be the Court Records. And here, I give a huge SIGH…

Mercer County Court Records

The Mercer County Court Records that are currently available online are a project and a half. There are 7 different sets of records – County Court, District Court, Circuit Court….Order books, Record books, Judgements, Minute Books… Sounds like a great opportunity to discover lots of details! BUT, many of the books have no index, at least not online. And if they do have an index, it isn’t an every name index – just the names for the main subjects (which would leave out witnesses, etc.) So I approached this set with a bit of trepidation. To consider going through the microfilms page by page is one strategy, but I have to give a shout out to the wonderful people who compile abstracts of records like this and publish them in books. In this case, Michael Cook has published 2 books with abstracts of Mercer County records focusing on Court Records and Marriage Records[11]. These books are LIFE SAVERS! Michael Cook has abstracted the first 3 volumes of the County Court records. In the books, every person’s name in a record is in all caps, so over time, I have been paging through the book looking for the name “John Smith”. And I believe that every time I go through a section of the book, I find a new mention that I didn’t notice before (or possibly didn’t make a connections for so I didn’t write it down.) I will be making a list of every mention of a John Smith (and any other name that jumps out at me as relevant) and then use the same approach that I used with land records to try to figure out which record goes with which John Smith. This is an ongoing project because the book is quite long and I haven’t focused on it the way that should have because I knew the microfilms were available online. But you can’t skim through the microfilms as easily as you can these abstracts.

A few things that I’ve determined based on Court Records I’ve been able to find so far:

  • It appears that John Taylor Smith, Zachariah Smith and Adam Smith are related.
  • John Taylor Smith does not appear at all in the Mercer County, Kentucky Court Orders volume 1 which covers 1786-1790. This may indicate that John was not in Mercer County before he obtained land from Zachariah.
  • Captain John Smith was involved in the estates of David Woods, John Harbison and Matthew Jeffries and therefore, might be researched further to see if those are a result of family relationships as well.
  • I believe Captain John Smith was sometimes referred to a “the lesser” to indicate the difference between Captain John Smith and Colonel John Smith.

Click on the links in the Scoreboard at the end of this post to see the most up-to-date charts with the court records I’ve been able to assign.

I still have more to do in the Court Records, but really, I wonder if I’m going to find anything that directly links people together. I do want to go back and do a little researching in Lincoln County before Mercer County was formed. And I want to try to figure out the relationships between Captain John Smith and Matthew Jeffries, David Woods and John Harbison, but that could take quite a while.

One John Smith I haven’t talked about yet is Colonel John Smith, so he will be the topic next Monday. There may be an additional post later this week if I find anything new in Lincoln County research.


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle – (son of John Taylor Smith)
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel
  3. John Taylor Smith updated
  4. Captain John Smith(not the father of John M. Smith)updated
  5. John Smith (d. 1812) – (cannot be John M. Smith)
  6. John Smith (d. 1815) and Elizabeth (d. 1820) – (not John M. Smith, not John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle)

[1] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p221, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 118.

[2] Kentucky Land Grants, Book 1, p638, obtained from the Kentucky Secretary of State Land Records site, https://web.sos.ky.gov/land/settlements.aspx, preemption warrant #147 (accessed 8 Mar, 2021)

[3] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p222, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 119.

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 94.

[5] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 1059.

[6] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 307.

[7] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 291.

[8] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705525, image 709.

[9] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose Papers, FamilySearch film #4705526, image 51.

[10] Findagrave Memorial ID 142492507 – Ambrose Barlow.

[11] “Mercer County, Kentucky records”, Michael L. Cook, ACPL 976.901 M53CO v.1 and v.2.

Finding Kentucky Land Documents

Quite often, when looking for early land records, you’ll see recommendations to go to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website at glorecord.glm.gov. That site is great if you are researching in a Federal Land State. Federal land states survey their land in neat little squares. The survey begins with a square township, 6 miles on each side. Each township is divided into 36 section of 1 square mile (1 mile on each side). A piece of land was surveyed within these squares and given notations like “The Northeast Quarter of Section 14”, abbreviated as NE1/4. Or “The Northeast quarter of the Northwest quarter of Section 14”, abbreviated as NE1/4 NW1/4. It’s a very organized way to plat out land and you can read more about that on the FamilySearch Wiki.

But Kentucky is one of the State Land States, which survey land in metes and bounds. “Metes” are the landmarks such as trees, rocks, riverbanks, or stakes at each endpoint of a boundary. “Bounds” show the direction and distance of the line drawn to the next landmark. You can’t find the original land documents for State Land States on the Bureau of Land Management site.

To find the early land records for Kentucky, we need to go to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website. This site holds a TON of information for us – if you know where to look. But here’s the thing…every time a new Secretary of State comes into office, they seem to want to change the website around! So keeping track of links is nice, but don’t be surprised if they change. Now here’s the moral of this story – If you find a record for someone you are researching, even if it’s not your direct ancestor, DOWNLOAD IT! Perhaps you’ll find a record that mentions your ancestor as a neighbor. DOWNLOAD IT! Perhaps you find a record where your ancestor assigns his rights to another person. DOWNLOAD IT! Be sure you have your file naming system set so that you will be able to find it easily within your digital files. The amount of time you will spend looking for that record again could lead to some inappropriate language flying around your desk, so save yourself the headache and DOWNLOAD THE FILE! Don’t want all those records taking up drive space? Put them in the cloud or on an external drive. But if you do that, make sure you have a way of keeping track of what you have. And I have a form you can download to help keep track of the information as you find it. See yesterday’s post for more details on using the form. You can download 3 versions of the form in the Downloads tab at the top of the blog.

I try to keep a stack of blank forms nearby when I’m doing land research. I add any information as I find it and I use the blank box as a place to write down “unknown” information. For example, I might see a number in a margin or on a map, but I can’t figure out what it’s referring to. Later, if I decide to keep a digital version of the sheet, I add any survey maps or maps I’ve made myself in DeedMapper to the empty box.

Confession time: I have written this post at least 5 times over the last couple of years. I have drafts of several uncompleted posts, but I always end up stopping because I get confused myself! Which index? Was that a book or a website? After finding a listing, where do I search for images? Where did I get that record from? Many of the resources used for finding these records either look exactly alike, have very similar names, or are just plain labeled incorrectly! So I decided to make an outline instead of a narrative. This is the outline that I will keep in my own digital folder to pull up any time I want to do land research. I’ve included the outline in my Google Drive and you can access it here. There are many more resources on FamilySearch, but they can only be viewed from a Family History Center or Affiliate Library. My library IS an affiliate library, but they currently have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the computers due to Covid restrictions. As I discover more about these resources over time, I will update the document in Drive. You can also download the current outline in the Downloads tab at the top of the blog, but that version won’t be updated as often as the Google Drive version.

Quick refresher: there are 4 steps to obtaining land through a land grant program:

  1. Warrant (or Certificate)
  2. Entry – an intention to file for a patent and get permission for a survey
  3. Survey
  4. Patent (or Land Grant)
  • Military Warrants were recognized for service in the French & Indian War and Revolutionary War. No Military Warrants for service in the War of 1812 or later.
  • Warrants & surveys could be traded, sold, or reassigned anytime during the patenting process. Pay attention to the back side of documents.

Just like in regular genealogy – it may be helpful to search “backward” beginning with the land grant then moving backward to find the other documents.

Indexes and Links to Images of Land Records

Step 1: Warrants or Certificates

  1. Was the individual a French & Indiana War or Revolutionary soldier?
    1. Images: Revolutionary War Warrants Search – Link
  2. Do you have a Warrant Number?
    1. Use the number to search Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
  3. Feeling lucky?
    1. Where to search – Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
    1. Perform a search for the name (one word search is best – if you search “Edison, Thomas”, you will get every Edison and Thomas in the database, including assignee (Thomas Smith), watercourses (Edison Creek) or notes (3 miles east of Edison).
    1. If the watercourse was not too large (i.e., Kentucky River), search for the watercourse and scan the list. (Remember, if you search for Smith Creek, you will see every Creek listed on a warrant.)
    1. Right now (2/21), I get an error message if I try to un-check any of the boxes (Search notes, Search watercourse, Search assignees) to narrow down the search.
  4. No luck? Could be due to spelling variations. Use the indexes below.
  5. These links are for early warrants. Before Kentucky became a state or in Kentucky’s early years. There are later warrants, but so far, I have not been able to find their location. This outline will be updated as more information is collected.

Step 2: Entry

  • See Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds (Jillson) for an index – viewable on FamilySearch – Link
  • Fayette County Entries Index (1782 – 1817) – Link
  • Search the SOS site for images of Lincoln County Entries – Link 
    • Using this site gives you the cropped image. Using the FamilySearch site (FHC or affiliate library only) allows you to see the entire page.
      • Note: The SOS site gives the Entry # in the information box. That is not seen in the image and I’m not sure where it comes from but it’s worth noting. (County Entry books usually include the number.)
  • Images: Fayette County Entries (1782 – 1783) – Link (beginning with image 125)
  • Images: Fayette County Entries (1783 – 1817) – Link
  • Later surveyor entry books are housed on the county level. (Search FamilySearch under the county name > Land records)

Step 3: Survey or Plat or Survey Certificate

  • On the FamilySearch website, there is a group of records titled “Kentucky land warrants, 1815 – 1844” with the author being the Kentucky State Land Office. HOWEVER, these books are actually the surveys! Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library) There is a similarly named group of records called “Kentucky land warrants, 1816-1873” with the author being the Kentucky Governor. This set of records contains the warrants. Link included below in the Kentucky Land Warrants section.
    • If you have a copy of the land grant (see below), look in the margin for the survey number. It isn’t labeled, it’s just part of the margin notes.
    • The book is arranged numerically by survey number. However, be sure to check different books in the same number range if you don’t find it in the first book you look for. Here’s a list that I compiled of the survey numbers by book:
      • Book 1: 1-1022 (there is no Book A)
      • Book B: 517-1899 (notice the overlap in numbers)
      • Book C: 1095-3133
      • Book D: 3134-4093
      • Book E: 3229-4542
      • Book F: 4543-5237
      • Book G: 5238-5854
      • Book H: 5248-7748
      • Book I: 6738-8714
      • Book J: 7795-9450
      • Book K: 8853-10262
      • Book L: 9043-11729
      • Book M: 10263-11336
      • Book N: 11592-16121
      • Book O: 11822-16115
      • Book P: 11776-13524
      • Book Q: 14075-24872
      • Book R: 14167-15178
  • Images: Land grant surveys south of the Green River, Kentucky, 1796-1825 (includes a book for index) – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
  • Images: Land grant surveys south of Walkers line, v1, no. 1-904, 1825-1829 – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
  • Images: County court order warrant surveys, 1836-1844; survey warrants for headright, 1827 – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)

Step 4: Land Grants (Patents)

  • Note: these images may not include the warrant certificates. To see those:
  • Images: Certificate of Settlement and Preemption Warrants – Link
  • If there is an SOS option, I did not include FamilySearch links because most of them cannot be viewed from home. I may update later to include these links as well because they are easier to scroll through as opposed to going directly to an image. Sometimes, it is helpful to view the pages before and after a specific grant.

(1782 – 1792) Virginia Series  

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link 
    • Begins on p15
  • Master Index to Virginia Surveys and Grants (KHS) –  Link (downloadable) Link (I have not tried to download.)
  • Images: SOS site – Link (Select Virginia Patent Series in the dropdown)

(1793 – 1856) Old Kentucky SeriesLink 

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p140
  • Index for Old Kentucky Surveys and Grants (KHS)
    • Kentucky Historical Society – Link 
    • FamilySearch (microfilmed version of the book, but easier to skim than the link above) Link 
  • Images: SOS site – Link (Select Old Kentucky Patent Series in the dropdown)

(1797 – 1866) South of Green River Series (often known as “Headrights Claims”)

  • after Kentucky became a state, they opened the former Military District to settlers meeting certain requirements: 21 years or older, resident on the property for at least 1 year, an improvement: planting a crop or building a cabin
  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p256
  • Index and Land Grant books on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)

(1803 – 1853) Tellico Seriesland is primarily located in southeastern Kentucky

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p443
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1816 – 1873) Kentucky Land Warrant Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p451
  • Images on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library)
    • Includes an index (1812-1836) and books A-R2 (1816-1873)

(1822 – 1858) West of Tennessee River Military Claims (Jackson Purchase) – 242 patents

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p783
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1822 – 1858) West of Tennessee River Series (Non-Military)

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p783
  • Images on the SOS site – Link

(1825 – 1923) South of Walker’s Line Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p892
  • Images on FamilySearch – Link (available to view at a FHC or affiliate library) Are these grants or surveys?

(1836 – 1924) County Court Order Series

  • Index to Kentucky Land Grants (Jillson) – (downloadable) Link
    • Begins on p952
  • Images on the SOS site at Link

Land Parcel Information Collection Sheet

I have been spending a ton of time working with land records over the last few years. Land records help to create a timetable of locations and have the possibility of giving relationship information that is found no where else. After some time, I realized that I needed a better way of keeping track of the information I was finding – especially when trying to separate different men with the same name. So I created a half sheet form to help me keep track of everything. Over time, I created 3 variations of the form. They are all identical except for the Notes section. Here is the original form.

Land Parcel Information Half Sheet long notes

I have never been able to find all of the information in one document – and that is what spurred the creation of the form. I might find a deed that mentioned that John Smith was the assignee of a specific person and the warrant number might be included. Or the land grant itself might give the date of the survey. Or tax records would show me in whose name the land was entered, surveyed and patented. I needed a way to start keeping track of that information.

The top half of the form is pretty straight forward. The only thing that may need explaining is the section that I have for “Identifier”. I created that because I was chasing John Smiths and many of them were assignees of other men and that information would show up in later deeds. If I know a relationship, I might use “son of James Smith” as an Identifier. You can edit that cell title to be whatever you want.

The bottom half of the form is for notes. If a county border changed during my ancestor’s lifetime, I like to make note of that. Sometimes, I would notice that family members were chain carriers for the survey, so I started keeping track of the people who were involved with the survey. Sometimes, I needed to write down mystery dates or numbers that I would see in margins or on the back of a document until I could figure out what they represented. For example, going through 3 pages of records for one individual, I found the following list of information:

  • 1865 (you’d think this was a date, but it wasn’t!)
  • Treasury Warrant #975
  • 19 Oct 1780
  • 20 Mar 1784
  • 6 Apr 1785
  • 21 Dec 1781
  • #529
  • 28 May 1783
  • Page 65
  • Recorded Book 2 page 301
  • Grant Book Page 5:157

Some of this information had an obvious place in the collection sheet, but some, I had no clue about. By writing these unknowns on the collection sheet, they gave me clues of where to look for other parts of the puzzle. If I am able to find a map on the survey, I take a screenshot and include that in the blank square. If I don’t have a map, I use platting software (DeedMapper) to draw the parcel and take a screenshot of THAT map to include. (Which revealed to me that the maps they included on surveys were often rotated to fit better on the page!)

Sometime, I wanted to keep track of all of the land border descriptions (S46E 150 poles) so I made 2 additional versions of the forms, to split the notes cells into columns for me to keep track of that information.

Land Parcel Information Half Sheet split notes
Land Parcel Information Half Sheet 3 col notes

At the bottom of the form, I decided to add the 4 steps because I kept looking up if a “Certificate” was a Warrant or a Grant and to help me make sure the dates I was tracking at the top were in the correct order. I also added a footer so that I can quickly flip through the sheets to find a specific one. Sometimes, this footer is the name and identifier and sometimes, it’s the warrant number.

There are 2 forms per page. I tried to space them so that I could cut the sheet in half and hole punch the forms to keep in my day planner. If you need the space, you can always delete the bottom form in order to keep additional notes on the bottom half of a page. It’s all editable.

You can find all three forms in the Downloads tab at the top of the page. I hope you find them helpful!

Adding Wills and Probate information

John M. Smith cast study #11

I went to FamilySearch and looked at the Mercer County, Kentucky, General Index to Wills, 1786-1946[1] to see if there were any records for John Smith. There seem to be a few candidates:

  • 1812 – John Smith Guardian Account (Wills 5:28)
  • 1820 – Elizabeth Smith Inventory (Wills 6:295)
  • 1820 – John Smith Inventory (Wills 6:296)
  • 1822 – John Smith Account (Wills 7:69)
  • 1825 – John Smith Will (Wills 8:1)
  • 1831 – John Smith Settlement Account (Wills 9:448)

Because I was hoping to find some family connections, I went straight to the only will[2] for a John Smith.

In the name of God Amen I John Smyth of Mercer County Kentucky being weak in body but of sound mind and disposing memory do make and ordain this as my last will and Testament in manner and memory do make and ordain this as my last will and Testament in manner and form following To wit I give and divise to my grand son John Rodes Smith the plantation and Tract of Land where on I formerly lived after that part which I shall hereafter give to my daughter Nancy Woods But it is my wish and desire that my son Harvey Smith should have in addition to what I have heretofore given him the use and benefit of the said farm during his natural life and at his death to be enjoyed by my said Grand son his heirs and assigns forever I give and devise to my daughter Nancy Woods who has intermarried with John Woods the following Land (To wit) all that part of the tract on which I formerly lived lying on the East side of a line to begin at the south East corner of my settlement two cherry trees and to run South to Robert Mosbys line also my Negroe boy Wells in addition to those heretofore given to her and her heirs forever I give and devise to my daughter Magdaline Britt who intermarried with John Britt the following Land (to wit) all that part of the Robertson tract on the North including the farm on which the said Britt now lives also the following slaves (viz) Anthony Winney and her child Alexander? And their future increase in addition to those formerly given to her and her heirs forever I give and devise to my daughter Harriet Mosby the following Land to wit all that part of the Robertson tract on the south including the farm on which she now lives also my Negroe man Simon my alderman chesnut sorrel mare and my riding horse Also my Negroe girl Isabella and her future increase to her and her heirs forever I give to my Grand son John Miller my Negroe boy named Bill and my mountain leader mare and saddle & bridle to him and his heirs forever It is my wish and desire that my Executors take into their possession all the money that may be on hand and immediately divide the same Equally Between Buckner Miller and my three daughters Magdaline Britt Nancy Woods and Harriot Mosby also collect the money due on notes Bonds etc and where collected divide the same Equally Between Buckner Miller Magdaline Britt Nancy Woods and Harriet Mosby as aforesaid And lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my friends Edward Worthington Buckner Miller and James Tilford Executors of this my last will and Testament hereby revoking all other or former wills by me heretofore made In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 12th day of April 1825

Signed sealed and declared as the last will and Testament of John Smith in presence of us

William Leonard                                                               John Smyth (seal)

Robert Mosby

Francis Lewis

Mercer County Sct May County court 1825

                The foregoing last will and Testament of John Smyth Deceased was this day produced into court and proved by the oaths of Robert Mosby by William Lewis and Francis Lewis three subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be Recorded

Attest Thomas Allen CC

Based on this will, I now know:

  • John had a grandson named John Rodes Smith. This grandson received “the plantation” so I should be able to follow the land records in order to tell this John (Rodes) Smith from other John Smiths.
  • There is an additional grandson – John Miller
  • John had daughters: Nancy Wood who has “intermarried with John Woods”, Magdaline Britt who “intermarried with John Britt” and Harriet Mosby (no husband named, but a Robert Mosby witnessed the will). I can now add daughters and sons-in-law to the appropriate chart.
  • John had son: Harvey Smith – this allows me to add an additional deed record to the correct John Smith. A deed in which personal property is given to a son named Harvey. Mercer County Deed Book 11 p226.
  • John gave money to be equally divided between Buckner Miller (father of John Miller?), Magdaline Britt, Nancy Woods and Harriet Mosby. I’d assume that since money was given to daughters, but also to Buckner Miller, there is probably a deceased daughter who was married to Buckner Miller.
  • Executors: Edward Worthington, Buckner Miller and James Tilford
  • Will witnesses: William Leonard, Robert Mosby and Francis Lewis. Looking at the charts I have so far, I see that Robert Mosby is listed as a neighbor of Captain John Smith.
  • Regarding land, John mentions Robert Mosby’s line/border and the “Robertson tract”.
  • If I can find the marriage records for the children, this could help me locate additional locations that might be worth researching. I will add this to the “To Do” box.

Based on the family members I already have in my chart, I can see that this is clearly Capt. John Smith with son-in-law Buckner Miller. So now I have an approximate date of death to add to the chart along with the new family information. The will was written on April 12, 1825 and the will was produced in a May 1825 court session. I made a note in my “To Do” box to follow up with court records. Interestingly, no wife was mentioned, so I assume that Martha had died before John. The will record reference is also added to the chart. Notice that no son named John Smith was mentioned. While it is possible that John Rodes Smith could be the son of an un-named son, it seems more likely that he is the son of Harvey. I should follow up on that just to make sure. So, I don’t believe this was the father of John M. Smith, but I have to continue to collect records for this John Smith so that I can tell him apart from other John Smiths.

I cannot neglect that fact that I now have an additional John Smith – John Rodes Smith. That means I need a new chart.

What can I discover in the other John Smith probate records?

  • 1812 – John Smith Guardian Account[3] (Wills 5:28)
    • The 1812 record that was indexed as a guardian account is actually an inventory and appraisement. The date given on the inventory was August 15, 1812. The appraisers were John Gabbert, Micah Gabbert and Thomas Egers. The court ordered the inventory to be recorded in the October 1813 Court Session. That is something to look up to see if I can make a connection to a specific John Smith in Mercer County. (I did enjoy reading about the number of pantaloons and stockings he had listed in the inventory! I tend to think of all of my ancestors looking more like Daniel Boone in the wilderness than wearing jackets, pantaloons and stockings!)
    • I don’t yet know who this was, so I started a new chart.
  • 1820 – Elizabeth Smith Inventory[4] (Wills 6:295)
  • 1820 – John Smith Inventory (Willis 6:296)
    • This is an interesting inventory listing in that it is for 2 individuals who were obviously married. Both of the inventories were given by Austin Slaughter, John Slaughter and Abraham Chapline on the same date – August 7, 1820. The administrators of the estates were John Smith and James W. Smith. This will require some more digging!
    • Court records are not available online beyond 1801, (at least none with an index or book of abstracts) so I looked through the Minute Books[5] and found the entries for the Administrators.
  • 1822 – John Smith Account[6] (Wills 7:69)
    • This record is the accounting from John Smith and James W Smith for the estates of John Smith and Elizabeth Smith. Within the accounting are some payments all around $98. They went to Solomon Trower “one of the heirs”, David McEven? (smeared), Sally Smith, John Smith “one of the administrators and heirs”, James Smith ”one of the administrators and heirs”, and James Smith “also executor of Ambrose Smith another heir”. I wonder if these are sons-in-law and children?
      • The will for Ambrose Smith was written January 29, 1820 and was produced in court in April 1820.[7] He mentions his wife and their 5 children, but no names are given. It was written January 29, 1820 and was produced in court in April 1820. He appointed his brother, James W Smith, to be his executor.
    • Searching for a marriage between a Smith female and Solomon Trower revealed an 1805 marriage between Solomon Trower and Nancy Smith in Orange County, Virginia[8]. In the column for the place of birth for the wife, the name John Smith appears. I believe this column was used to indicate the father or whoever gave consent.
  • While looking at this register, I decided to also look for any John Smiths because I know that sooner or later, I’ll be wondering “now where did I see that”? I stopped when the dates became too late to have a child that married in 1805.
  • After the inventory, there is a paragraph that says, “The undersigned being appointed by the County Court of Mercer to Settle the accounts of John Smith & James W Smith admrs of John Smith decd and also admr of Elizabeth Smith Decd have this day proceeded to said settlement It appears to the undersigned that after the death of John Smith by consent of all the Heirs the whole property was left in the hands of Elizabeth Smith until her death we have therefore not found it necessary to Settle separate accs for the two administrators. The foregoing is respectfully reported to the Court as the Statement of the account. We presume the Inventory will Shew the amount with which they are chargeable. We hear no evidence upon this subject the vouchers supporting this acc are also returned
    Given under hands this 26 of April 1822”
    • I decided to take a look at the tax records to see if I could tell when John Smith may have died by finding Elizabeth in the lists. Based on this, I believe John may have died around 1815. As the tax records show no land, there would be no deeds to follow.
    • The chart for this John Smith is updated with the new information.
  • 1831 – John Smith Settlement Account[9] (Wills 9:448)
    • This record is an accounting from Edward Worthington and Buckner Miller. This record goes with Captain John Smith who died in 1825. This will be recorded in the chart at the end of this post.

Now there is a decision to be made. Should I continue to search for records for my original John Smith trio (John Smith Taylor, John Smith Jr. and Captain John Smith) or should I try to find out more about the John and Elizabeth Smith who had the inventories taken in 1820? I have ruled this man out as John M. Smith, but it could potentially be the father of John M. Smith. I should begin a new chart. Because I need a way to identify this John Smith from the other John Smiths, I will list his brother – James W – at the top of the chart instead of a spouse until more information is collected. For now, I will collect records for John and James W Smith.

One name that intrigues me in the John Taylor Smith chart is Ambrose Barlow. That seems to be a pretty unique name (or at least more unique that John Smith!) so should I follow up on him? The court records for Mercer County are a challenge to research – at least from home. There is a “General Index to Suits” but that doesn’t apply to the day-to-day proceedings of the courts. The various court books don’t contain indexes, so I decided to take the easy route and do a quick search for Ambrose Barlow. But sooner or later, it will probably have to be done.

Next week – Ambrose Barlow, Marriage Records and Court Records.


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle – Link
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel – Link
  3. John Taylor Smith – Link
  4. Captain John Smith – (not the father of John M. Smith)Link
  5. John Smith (d. 1812) – new (cannot be John M. Smith)Link
  6. John Smith (d. 1815) and Elizabeth (d. 1820) – new (not John M. Smith, not John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle)Link
  7. John Rodes Smith – after research, this John Smith has been eliminated, but giving this link to see his chart. Will not continue to have him in the scoreboard.

[1] FamilySearch film #4818856

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 8, p1, FamilySearch film #4818859, image 4.

[3] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 5, p28, FamilySearch film #4818858, image 21.

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 6, p295, FamilySearch film #4818858, image 541.

[5] Mercer County, Kentucky, County Court Minute Books, 1818 – 1823, p102, FamilySearch film 7901429, image 620.

[6] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 7, p69, FamilySearch film #4818859, image 52.

[7] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 6, p226, FamilySearch film #4818858, image 506

[8] Orange County, Virginia, Marriage Register v1, p67, FamilySearch film #4810100, image 201.

[9] Mercer County, Kentucky, Will Book 9, p448, FamilySearch film #4818860, image 33.