I’ve been researching the Smith family in the Harrodsburg, Kentucky area. Fort Harrod was the first permanent settlement in Kentucky and several Smith men were there from the beginning (based on land documents). My theory is that my “brick wall” – John M. Smith, from Russell County, Kentucky – was a descendant of one of these men.
So I’m turning to land deeds to see if I can make a connection. I ordered 5 microfilms of land deeds from the FHL and received them this week, but one of those is on backorder. I still may not have all of the information I need for what I want to do. Fort Harrod was settled around 1776 and land grants started being given around 1780, but the films that I ordered begin with deeds in 1787 because that’s when Mercer County was formed. So I may need to order at least 1 more film from Mercer’s parent count, Lincoln County, but the FHL site is giving me an error whenever I click on the film link so that will have to wait.
I’m attacking these deeds from both ends. Beginning in 1787, I’m scanning every deed with a land transfer involving a Smith. I can only spend a couple of hours at the library at a time and each scan takes quite a bit of time, so I feel like it’s going to take me a year to get through these. Yesterday, over a 2 hour visit, I scanned 11 deeds (about 30 pages). As I scan, I take a break every 10 scans or so and print out what I have. As I continue to scan, I write the film info on the back of each page and do a quick read through to see if anything jumps out at me. So far, I have wives names for 4 Smith men. The wives names are widely available on other genealogy sites, but I like having a source from an actual document as opposed to “so and so said so”. Some Smith names in the deeds, I don’t recognize – perhaps because they weren’t in the Harrodsburg area of Mercer Co, but I need to analyze the area more. Lots of analysis ahead!
From the other end of the time spectrum, I found a deed for a John Smith selling land in 1826, just before MY John Smith appears in Russell County. I plan to follow this piece of land backward to see if I can find any Smith relationships mentioned that might help me make a connection.
The timing for this is pretty good for me. This is exam week at school, which means no lessons to prepare in the evenings. Most of my Christmas preparations are complete, so I can spend an hour or so at the library each evening. I can read the deeds while students take the exams and I can write all kinds of notes and questions to follow up on. It isn’t often that you’re forced to sit in a silent room for 2 hours at a time!
This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted to gather information on every person with a certain surname and the challenge always becomes, How do I organize this? A file folder for every family? A binder with all of the deeds and some type of table of contents? What about the digital images? I have to rename each file, but again, how to organize? Family folders? Chronologically? Perhaps I’ll have time to ponder that during exams!