Have you ever tried to find William Smith?

For the past two years, I have been working on putting together my family tree. I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that I’m from Missouri. The Smiths are the last branch of the tree that I’ve not yet traced back to the 1700s. (Another branch goes back to the 1600s.)

My mother’s side of the family has been relatively easy to put together. The Spillman, Grimes, Fulkerson and Hoskins families have been documented rather well over the years by various sources. The Claassens, my father’s mother’s family, has been more difficult, and they are by far the most recent immigrants to the U.S. But the trickiest has been those Smiths.

Eston Voyd Smith, my grandfather, died in 1982. I remember him a bit. He had two brothers, Amos and Cecil, and their father was Pearl Wilson Smith. That’s where the not-so-common first names end. Pearl’s parents were James Madison and Ardilla May Lovell Smith; I found them thanks to Pearl’s death certificate. James’ parents were William Noah and Mary Elizabeth Rowland Smith; I found them thanks to James’ death certificate and census records. But that’s where the trail stopped. Missouri’s death certificates from 1910 to 1959 are online. William died in 1921 in Missouri (according to the 1920 census, he lived in Missouri and I found where he was buried in Missouri ), but I couldn’t find his death certificate.

Until today, when I had the smart idea to stop trying to search through all of the Smiths, looking for an abbreviated or misspelled first name, and tried searching through the Williams, looking for an abbreviated or misspelled last name. Sure enough, he’s the only “William Snith” in the state database (although I think “Smith” looks pretty clear on the death certificate).

Now I know that William’s father was Joshua Smith; his mother’s name is not listed. Joshua Smith, my fourth great grandfather, was born around 1808 in Tennessee. Based on the 1860 census, he had at least five children (Andrew, Nancy, Sarah and Martha, in addition to my third great grandfather William) and lived in Collin County, Texas. A wife is not listed, so I assume she died before 1860. William was married and also lived in Collin County, Texas, with my third great aunt, Francis, who was about 1 year old at the time. That’s all I’ve found so far; the hunt continues.

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