John M. Smith case study #10

In last Monday’s post, I discussed finding 5 men named John Smith in the 1800 tax list. I am trying to find either John M. Smith, my 4x great grandfather, who may have married Elizabeth Arbuckle or John Smith the father of this John Smith, to eliminate them as potential matches for John M. Smith. I eliminated 2 of the 5 men in the tax list because 1 was the son of Judy Smith and I could find no further information on him. The other was found to be John Harrison Smith who I have also come across in other research and have ruled out. To help sort the remaining 3 men, I created tables to begin sorting all of the documents I could find for any “John Smith” in Mercer County based on hints within the documents that would point to a specific John Smith. Here’s where I stopped last week.

Land records seem to be key since 2 of the 3 John Smiths I’m following were landowners. I created a land sheet and began to collect all of the information that I could on any land transaction that involved a John Smith.

Remember working on logic puzzles in elementary school? Figure out which school subject each boy likes best. 1) Joe like Reading better than any other subject. 2) Neither Carl nor George enjoy Math. 3) Abe’s favorite subject is either Reading or Recess. 4) George enjoys Writing more than the other boys…you get the idea. Sorting the land records is like a logic puzzle. I would find one item – such as the name of a wife – and sort based on that information. Often, I would find at least one record that contained a wife and a water course, so those were added to the chart. If I found a witness or neighbor who appeared in the sorted documents, then additional document could be added based on those names. I always keep in mind that if I find some information later that would make me feel a document should be moved to another person, I could always do that. But by keeping the charts, I no longer have to worry about wondering, “now where did I see that name before?”.

There were a few key items that jumped out at me.

  1. The “first” John Smith received a land grant for a total of 1400 acres in 1779. He was “the assignee of James Wiley”. This phrase shows up in several deeds.
  2. There were land sales mentioning wives Martha or Elizabeth during the same time frame, so any deed that mentioned a wife could be assigned to the correct John Smith.
  3. Land was either on Cane Run or on Harrod’s Run.
  4. Both John Smiths who were landowners received their land before Kentucky became a state.
  5. There was a connection of some kind to Barren County, Kentucky.

(Words in red indicate a reason that I assigned a record to a specific man.) I began with searching through the Mercer County, Kentucky deed books. However, seeing how early the land grants were given for this area, I also need to think about what might be available in deed books before Mercer County was formed. Originally part of Virginia, the area was first part of the Kentucky district of Virginia. From 1780 – 1785, Danville was part of Lincoln County. Mercer County was formed in 1786 and then Kentucky became a state in 1792. By searching in Mercer County deed books, I know I won’t be finding records between the land grants and 1786, so I will add that to my “to do” list for additional research.

These charts are too long to see in a screen shot of the chart, so the blog contains images of the first few lines, but the full table can be read (and commented on if you see something I’ve missed) in Google Drive. Click on the name in the header to open the land tracker in Google Drive.

John Smith #1 land records

John Smith #2 land records

The information was added to the appropriate John Smith chart. You can view the entire updated chart by clicking on the “Scoreboard” at the end of the post.

I found it interesting that the land records for John Taylor Smith seemed to end in 1807 while the records for Capt. John Smith continued for quite a while. I thought John Taylor Smith must have either moved away or passed away. So in my next post, I will take a look at wills and probate records.


  1. John Smith & Elizabeth Arbuckle
  2. John Smith & Sally McDaniel
  3. John Taylor Smithupdated
  4. Captain John Smithupdated