John M. Smith case study #7

(Note: all of this research was based on the Oscar M. Smith biography before I took another look at the Clarence Smith interview note. I’m trying to think through how Clarence’s information might help me, but unless it gives me a specific idea of a new place to look, I’ll just be keeping what I already had in my notes through the years. For example, if Elias was born in Virginia as Clarence indicated, then a lot of the information I collected really doesn’t help anything. But it’s the path I’ve been following, so that’s what I’m publishing.)

After publishing “A Man with Two Counties”, I received a comment and then an email from a fellow Smith family researcher, Reid Harrod. Reid offered to send me a scan of a letter than had been written to his great-grandmother, who was the great-granddaughter of John M. Smith. Research revealed that the author of the letter was a great-granddaughter of Elias Smith (1853) and Elizabeth Meadows. Reid only has 1 page of the letter, but that page also mentioned Danville, Kentucky, giving me even more confidence in the research theory that I have been following. Collaboration is a wonderful thing!!!

Danville, Kentucky

Danville was an important city in early Kentucky history. Danville was part of the settlement around Harrod’s Fort, which was first settled in 1774. Between 1784 and 1792, ten conventions were held in Danville to create the local government and to secure independence of Kentucky from Virginia.

Before the formation of Mercer County, the Danville area was part of Lincoln County, Virginia. In 1786, it became part of Mercer County and Danville was part of that county until around 1842 when boundary changes put it in Boyle County. For my research time period, Danville was in Mercer County.

If Elias Smith (1853) was born in Danville (taken with a grain of salt and expanded to all of Mercer County) around 1810, I decided to look at the tax records for 1810. The records are difficult to read, but I found 2 entries for men named John Smith.

  • John Smith with 350 acres in Mercer County[1]
  • John Smith with no land living in Mercer County[2]

Taking a look at the census records, there are 3 different John Smiths in the 1810 census for Mercer County.

Looking at these 3 families, I have to wonder if the first John Smith is the oldest. It would appear to be a married couple with 3 family members, perhaps children, over the age of 16. This John Smith has 14 slaves. The children here appear to be too old to make this the family of my John M. Smith.

The second John Smith appears to be a widower. The children in the home are younger which is what makes me think he might not be as old as the first John. But it could be that the second John Smith is the oldest and the children are living with him to help with work on the farm or home. John is listed just before a Humble Smith. I have never run into a Humble Smith in my research (he’s not not in the 1809 or 1811 tax list), so that doesn’t help, but it is something to keep in mind if I DO see the name somewhere else. This John Smith has 1 slave. If Elias Smith (1853) was born in 1810 in Danville, there should either be an infant or an expecting mother for this to be the correct John Smith.

The third John Smith seems to be a single man and it could be the John Smith with no land that I found in the tax records.

At this point, I don’t see a John Smith that could be my John Smith, but I have no other locations to research, so I will continue on with this line of research since I have 3 pieces of evidence that point to the Danville area.

Clearly, I need to find a way to keep the different men straight. I am a visual person, so I will be making tables to track information. The charts will evolve over time to keep track of all the information that I find.

If John M. was an “early settler of Danville”, and Elias was born around 1810, I decided to start with the assumption that John M. was married there as well. I know this may not be true, but it’s a place to start. Knowing that there were at least 2 older children when Elias was born, I decided to look for men named John Smith who were married between 1790 and 1805. (Elias’s brother, George, was born 24 June 1805 according to his gravestone.) Using FamilySearch, I found these 2 possibilities:

  • John Smith and Elizabeth Arbuckle married 4 May 1798[3] (Aaron Smith witness to permission[4].)
  • John Smith and Sally McDaniel married abt. 28 Apr 1800. John’s mother – Judy Smith, who gave permission[5]

I began a table for each of these individuals and will add information to it as it becomes available. I am especially interested in FANs (family, associates, and neighbors) because with a name like John Smith, these are the people who will help to tell them apart. I might later create a family group sheet, but that doesn’t help me keep track of all of the different types of documents I’ll be tracking, so I don’t do that until I feel like I’m on the right track.

John Smith and Sally McDaniel

I began with researching Judy Smith because I thought it was unusual to have a mother granting permission and it would probably be “easy” to find records in her name. Unless she gave birth out of wedlock, her husband died during or before 1800 or he would have been the one to give permission. When I searched records on FamilySearch for “Judy Smith” in Mercer County between 1790 and 1800, I found the marriage record above plus 1 additional marriage record.

  • Thomas and Judy Smith, parents of the bride. Nancy Smith and William Taylor married May 1798[6] (Stephen Smith and Allen McDaniel witnesses to permission)

Clicking on the image thumbnail brings you to the permission note for the marriage. Going back 1 image on the microfilm shows the marriage bond[7]. William Taylor’s bondsman was Richard Allen. I’d imagine that the Smiths and Taylors lived near each other, so I will add Richard Allen as an associate even though he technically isn’t attached to the Smith name. I also added short notes in superscript so that if I need to refresh my memory on where the name comes from, I can find it again.

So now the chart looks like this:

Now I have a new name to research – Thomas Smith, a potential father for John M. Smith. I will begin a new table for him to help me keep track of documents I find.

Because my ultimate goal is to trace a “John Smith” from Mercer County to Russell County, I will research deeds, tax records and probate records until I find something promising or until I can rule a man out. For example, if I can prove that this John Smith died before John M. Smith died or is still in Mercer County at the time that I know that John M. Smith is in Russell County, then I can rule him out. I will keep track of anything I find in this chart to help me tell the various men apart. Any information that I find for Thomas Smith while researching Mercer County will go into the table. Focusing on Thomas Smith, here is a list of items found, in chronological order.

  • 1787 – Mercer County Deed Book 1 p23[8] – 300 acres on Cane Run from John Smith (wife Martha) to John Haggin. This was part of a land grant to John Smith in 1780. Noting here because this land was adjacent to Thomas Smith in the next deed.
  • 1787 – Mercer County Deed Book 1 p48[9]– 203 acres to Thomas Smith from Azor Reece (part of Reece’s 1000-acre preemption: Patent date 6 Apr 1785)
  • 1794 – Mercer County Marriage Loose Papers – Betsy Smith and Vincent Broor/Brower/Brewer (permission[10] by Thomas Smith, witnesses Thomas Turpin and Richard Peter, bondsman[11] Stephen Smith)
  • 1795 – Mercer County Marriage Loose Papers – Judith Smith and Allin McDonald (permission[12] by Thomas Smith, witnesses William and Benjamin Edgerton (same bondsman[13] as for John Smith/Sally McDaniel))
  • 1797 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 100 acres on Deep Creek[14]
  • 1797 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 50 acres on Deep Creek [15] (2 different men named Thomas)
  • 1798 – Mercer County Deed Book 3 p519[16] – 200 acres on Deep Creek to Thomas Smith from Samuel Peter of Washington Co, KY
  • 1799 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203.75 acres[17]
  • 1800 – Mercer County Court Minutes Book 1798 – 1803, p73[18] – Will of Thomas Smith proven
  • 1800 – Mercer County Court Order Book v3 p488[19] – Will of Thomas Smith proven (I do not see the will in the Will book or in any indexes for wills from Mercer County.)
  • 1800 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Deep Cr[20] (John Smith, no land, listed just above Judy)
  • 1800 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[21]
  • 1801 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[22]
  • 1802 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Chaplin River[23]
  • 1802 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres[24]
  • 1803 – Mercer County Tax List – Judy Smith – 100 acres on Deep Creek[25]
  • 1803 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres on Cane Run[26]
  • 1804 – Mercer County Tax List – Thomas Smith – 203 acres on Cane Run[27]
  • Note – no records found that I can tie to John Smith who married Sally McDaniel.

After collecting these records, the chart for Thomas Smith looks like this:

However, it is quite obvious that there are at least 2 different men named Thomas Smith which are fairly straight forward to untangle. The information in the chart is updated

Because Thomas and Judy Smith are the family with a John Smith as a son, and because I can find no additional information on Judy or John, I will set the Thomas Smith information aside unless something else pops up later. If this son John, “became a planter whose broad acres were tilled by slave labor”, then it doesn’t appear that it happened in Mercer County. I can find no land records where a John Smith with a wife named Sally sold any land in Mercer County. If I do run across more Thomas Smith records, I can easily add the information to the appropriate chart so I don’t have to look for something later.

Next up: John Smith, son of John Smith


[1] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1810 Tas List, p36, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 673.

[2] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1810 Tas List, p39, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 676.

[3] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage Register v1, p70, FamilySearch film #4705549, image 41.

[4] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 625.

[5] “No official approval to marry was given to those under 21 years of age unless they had the consent of their parents, grandparents or guardians.”

[6] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 654.

[7] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 653.

[8] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p23, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 18.

[9] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 1, p48, FamilySearch film #7896914, image 31.

[10] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 1173.

[11] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriages, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705523, image 1172.

[12] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 70. Smith/McDonald

[13] Mercer County, Kentucky, Marriage, Loose papers, FamilySearch film #4705524, image 69. Smith/McDonald

[14] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1797 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 154.

[15] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1797 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 154.

[16] Mercer County, Kentucky, Deed Book 3, p519, FamilySearch film #7899114, image 271.

[17] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1799 Tax List, p11, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 183.

[18] Mercer County, Kentucky, County Court Minutes, 1798-1803, p73, FamilySearch film #7901429, image 153.

[19] Mercer County, Kentucky, County Court Order Book, v3, p488, FamilySearch film #7899117, image 253.

[20] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p15, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 212.

[21] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1800 Tax List, p9, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 202.

[22] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1801 Tax List, p12, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 222.

[23] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1802 Tax List, p19, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 284.

[24] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1802 Tax List, p13, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 271.

[25] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1803 Tax List, p18, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 297.

[26] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1803 Tax List, p17, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 322.

[27] Mercer County, Kentucky, 1804 Tax List, p17, FamilySearch film #7834485, image 359.