Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Difficult Mystery Solved!

So…….  it’s been a long time since I have taken the time to blog.  Although I solve genealogical puzzles all the time; I just solved one that I am especially proud of.

The Story Begins

A while back, I was contacted and ask to see if I could find the parents of a fellow by the name of James SMITH.  Of course, doing research on such a common name is never easy.  But, it can be done!.

What we knew when we began

When I began my search; I knew that James SMITH was born about 1798 in Virginia.  He married Elizabeth LUGAR on the 29th of Sept. 1821, in Giles Co., VA.  In fact; the 2 of them may have already have been sharing a household before that, since James was found in Giles Co. on the 1820 census; and seemed to have a wife in his household with him.  It is entirely possible that they had been married by a local preacher prior to having actually gotten their marriage license in 1821.  So… I knew James was in Giles Co. sometime before the 1820 census.

We had only one other piece of information to work with when I began this search for James’s father.  On 7 Dec. of 1820; in Giles County; James received a land grant along with a Samuel SMITH.  Samuel SMITH also appeared on the 1820 census of Giles County.  Both Samuel and James were in the 16-25 age category.  Because they received this land grant together; and were certainly close in age; I knew it was likely that these two men were brothers.  I knew I might need to use Samuel to help find the father of James.  

As I normally do; I began my search by looking at the other SMITH’s in Giles County; particularly looking for any that might have lived near James.  Should I find one or more SMITH’s living near James in 1820; it might provide a clue for me.  Unfortunately; there were no SMITH’s living near James.  No what?  I searched wills in Giles County to no avail.  No clues came from those.  As I often do; I then decided I need to do a thorough search of the deeds in Giles County.  I was hoping to find deeds that might have involved James; but might also have included another SMITH; or maybe was witnessed by a SMITH.  That could also provide clues to aid me in the search.  Although I did find a couple of land transactions involving James; there were no clues found in those.  I must admit that I was getting pretty frustrated; and was feeling like I might not be able to solve this mystery.  But; I wasn’t ready to give up.

Follow Samuel

Since I knew it was likely that Samuel was a brother of James; I decided to see what I could find on him.  Searching the Giles County deeds again; I focused hoping to find a land transaction or two on Samuel.  Once again, I struck out.  There was nothing in the deed records for him!  Since Samuel was in Giles County in 1820; and had the land grant together with James in 1820; I decided to find him in 1830; and try to follow him in census records to learn more about him.  Once again; I strike out.  There was no Samuel SMITH on the Giles County census record after 1820.  What could have happened to him?  Where might he have gone?

Although it is a common surname; I decided to do a search for the name Samuel SMITH; in the 1830 census; in all of the State of Virginia.  There were 33 Samuel SMITH’s in Virginia in 1830.  Since I knew this Samuel was 16-25 years of age in 1820; he would be somewhere between 26 and 35 in 1830.  Actually; I could narrow that down a bit more.  Since Samuel and James received the land grant in 1820; they likely would have had to have been at least 21 years old at that time.  This means that Samuel should have been between 21 and 25 at the time of that 1820 census.  So…. in 1830, he should be in the 30-39 age category.  Armed with this information, I was able to weed out a lot of those 33 Samuel SMITH’s found on the 1830 census of Virginia.  I then made note of the counties in which the remaining Samuel SMITH’s were found.  After spending some time studying my VA map; I realized that one of these Samuel’s was in Monroe Co., VA (Now WV); which bordered Giles County.  This fellow has my attention!

The New Direction

After finding a Samuel SMITH in Monroe County, VA; knowing Monroe bordered Giles; I decided to do a search of the Monroe County records to see what I might find regarding this Samuel.  Could he be the same Samuel that received that land grant with James in 1820; in Giles County?  Possible.  But I needed to know more.

At the library, I searched all of the various records we had for Monroe County.  After much searching, I came across an 1809 will of a John Smith.  In his will, he mentions his wife, Catharine; “her three children” Christopher, Charles and Margaret; and then mentions his “under age children”, Samuel SMITH, James SMITH, George SMITH, William SMITH and Joseph SMITH.

Okay….. so now I was getting excited.  Everything seems to fit.  First of all; this John SMITH had died in a county which bordered Giles County; where James was found by 1820.  Also; this John has sons named James and Samuel!  I also knew that James and Samuel would indeed have been “Under age” in 1809.  So…. this all fits perfectly. 

Although I felt pretty good about these findings; and certainly felt that it was likely I had found the father of James (as well as his mother and siblings); I still hoped to find something to make my case airtight.  Since John had willed land to his children; I knew that they could not have done anything with the land until the youngest reached legal age.  Joseph was specifically referred to as the youngest child in John’s will.  Since James was apparently the second of the 5 children (likely named in order in John’s will); and I knew he was born in 1798; that indicated to me that Joseph was likely no more than 2 or 3 years old when his father died in 1809. After all, James; having been born in 1798; then George, William and Joseph after him.  This tells me that if the children sold their inherited land (which they often would do); that it likely could not have been done until sometime close to 1830.  “If” the James mentioned in John’s will, was the James I was after; any deed regarding a sale of that land would be found in the Monroe County records.  It makes no difference where the person lived at the time.  A deed will be found in the county in which the land is located.

Time to Search the Monroe County Deed Records

Since the library does not have any Monroe County deed records; I ordered the Monroe County deed index film from LDS.  It arrived about 2 weeks later.  When it arrived; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and investigate further,  As I went through the film; I suddenly noticed a couple of SMITH listings that I knew were the those children of John, selling land in 1830.  The deed index showed that collectively, the following people sold 60 acres of land to a Thomas Dunbar.  The individuals selling this 60 acres were Elizabeth, Joseph, Lucy, Peggy, William, George, Molly, James, Peggy and Samuel SMITH.Notice that all five of John’s sons are included here.  I knew that the women were likely wives of these men; but would have to see the deed to know which wife belonged to which man.  I also knew that the James I was after had married Elizabeth LUGAR; and an Elizabeth is included in this deed.  I still need to see the deed to know if the Elizabeth in this deed was wife of James.  That would strengthen my case tremendously.

There was also another entry in the deed index that showed Joseph, Lucy, Samuel, Elizabeth, Molly, James, William & Peggy SMITH selling 90 acres of land to George SMITH.  It appeared that 4 of those sons of John were selling their shares of a 90 acre plot of land, to their brother, George.

Time to See Those Deeds

Since I now had the Deed Book numbers and page numbers of those deeds; I would now need to order another roll of film from LDS to obtain those original deed records.  At this point, I am quite excited, feeling like I am on the verge of finding “absolute proof” that the James in Giles County was the son of John.  I ordered the film and waited about 10 days for it to arrive.  I received an email notice informing me that the film arrived Wednesday.  I had already had plans to go to the library in Fort Wayne on Thursday; as I had plenty of work to do.  However; I was now more excited about going.  I was going to get to see those deeds; and would hopefully get the confirmation I wanted regarding James.

As I carefully read and analyzed these two deeds; the picture became clear.  One deed begins as follows: “This indenture made this 18th day of November 1830 between Samuel SMITH and his wife Lucy, Joseph SMITH and  Molly his wife, George SMITH and Peggy his wife of the County of Monroe; James SMITH and Elizabeth his wife, and William SMITH and Peggy his wife of the County of Giles”. This confirmed that the James SMITH listed in this deed was indeed married to an Elizabeth.  Better yet; the deed proves that he was the same James SMITH who was living in Giles County.  Later in the deed, when describing the land; it states that the land was willed by John SMITH, to Samuel SMITH, James SMITH, George SMITH, William SMITH and Joseph SMITH.

I won’t bother with the details of the other deed; but it was similar to the first.

A Happy and Excited Client

After emailing my client yesterday afternoon to inform him of the good news; and to provide him with the details and copies of the original deeds; I received a very kind email from him in which he expressed to me that he; as well as several other people had been searching for the parents of James SMITH for many years; and that I had accomplished something that no one else had been able to accomplish.  I have to admit that I was very proud of myself; and was so pleased that I had been able to break down his brick wall.  He not only knows the father of James now.  But; he also knows the mother’s name; as well as the siblings of James.  How great is that?!

Please feel free to leave your comments.


Posted by on March 22, 2013 in General Genealogy