Developing a Theory

Researching families is part mystery and part soap opera, which is a large part of its great appeal. I really didn’t intend to spend any time on this Smith family, but one discovery led to another and now I’m intrigued. In an earlier post I wrote about a document online that described the reasons behind the Irish immigrants’ choice to leave Reading, Pennsylvania and move to Nodaway County, Missouri. From that document I learned that many of these immigrants were members of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Reading. I discovered there is a recently published book on the marriages and baptisms for this church that covered the time period I needed.

I began by asking my librarian to request photocopies of the index page(s) for John Smith from a library that has a copy. What I got were two sets of index pages, one for baptisms and one for marriages. I looked for pages where John Smith also appeared with the names for his children who were believed to have been born in Reading: Richard, Margaret, Mary and Anna (Agnes was born in Missouri). I also asked for the index page(s) for McIntyre. It’s a good thing I did, too. When all was said and done, I had before me the baptism transcriptions for Richard, Mary and Anna (but not Margaret). I also saw that the marriage record for John Smith and his second(?) wife, Elizabeth McIntyre the mother of my Anna, might be in this book as well, so I requested a copy of the page directly from a library that owned the book because it is numbered oddly. The baptisms begin at page 1 to whatever, but marriages are numbered 1 to whatever as well. So are the confirmations. The book is in three sections, each with its own numbering system.

The very kind gentleman at the distant library obliged me and…surprise! The marriage record totally messed up my belief that Margaret (b. 1855) was the daughter of John and Elizabeth. Their vows were made on 27 January 1859.1 Ohhh-kay, oops. Why did I think Margaret was her daughter? Because Elizabeth responded on the 1910 Census that she had given birth to 4 children and 3 were still living.2 I already knew Richard wasn’t her son and the baptism confirmed that (pg 58 baptisms); it wasn’t unreasonable to guess that the four girls were hers.

At first I thought Margaret might have been hers from a previous marriage, which would mean McIntyre wasn’t her maiden name. Then I considered that Margaret was Elizabeth’s, but born out of wedlock with John. But I rejected that because too many years elapsed from the time Margaret was born until John and Elizabeth married. It seemed out of character with what I had learned about John. Now I’m developing a new theory: Elizabeth was John’s third wife, not his second.

Time to break out the handy timeline. You know…that whole correlation thing.

Richard Smith baptized 27 Sep 1847
Richard Smith baptized 27 Sep 1847 pg 58

There’s no easy way to screen grab the 1850 census for Richard because he appears on the first line of the page; the rest of the family unit where he’s living is on the previous page. What is interesting and makes this complicated is that he is not living with his father John in 1850. He’s living with two other families, the Browns and the Hocks.3 Through email correspondence with a lovely woman knowledgeable about the Brown family,  I learned that these families are unrelated. Mary Brown is the head of this family with her three children; she’s German and a Lutheran. It appears the Hocks and Richard Smith were her boarders.

John Smith married Elizabeth McIntyre 27 Jan 1859
John Smith married Elizabeth McIntyre 27 Jan 1859 pg 24
John Smith 1860 Census
John Smith 1860 Census taken 14 July

Some clerk tried to fix Elizabeth’s age to account for Richard being 13. She was 25, not 35. She was also three weeks from her delivery date when they were visited by the census-taker.4

Maria Smith Baptism 4 Aug 1860
Maria Smith Baptism 4 Aug 1860 pg.158

See how Margaret being 5 years old is a problem? (Also shows why we can’t make assumptions about relationships in these early census records.) Ideally I need to find her baptism record. Where do I begin? It’s a good bet she really was born in Pennsylvania, that narrows it some. Where was John Smith in 1850? This new theory means I don’t have to rule out men who are married. I think I can rule out for now men who have established families. I found one candidate who has a birth year in the right range.

Possible 1850 Census for John Smith.
Possible 1850 Census for John Smith.

It’s fairly obvious why I like this record. John Smith appears to be married to someone named Mary who is six years younger than he is in a household headed by William J McIntyre.5 I would have preferred his occupation to have been machinist instead of merchant. And this still leaves the question: If he was remarried, why isn’t the three-year-old Richard living with them? Him living with a McIntyre is pretty tempting. Oh how I wish Elizabeth McIntyre appeared somewhere, anywhere in the 1850 census. This Mary might be her sister. Elizabeth’s later census records state she came to America in 1850. I have not found her yet.

Whoever is Margaret’s mother, it seems clear that John is her father, and he did not abandon his children. He kept them together in a cohesive unit and continued to provide for them until his death in 1875. He named all five in his Will.6

John Smith names all five children in his Will.
John Smith names all five children in his Will.

My new theory gives me options of where to look for more information about this family. It also might explain why Mary, Anna and Agnes, according to my Uncle, never ever spoke of Margaret or Richard. Richard was certainly a half-sibling; Margaret might have been, too. Maybe the girls didn’t feel kinship toward them. I certainly have my work cut out for me trying to answer these questions.


1Zimmerman, E. (1999). St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania : Baptisms (1818-1886), marriages (1819-1874), confirmations (1835). Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, pg 24 of the marriage section.

21910 US Census, Missouri, Buchanan, St Joseph, ED 55, p 5A, ln 43

31850 US Census, Pennsylvania, Berks, Reading, NE Ward, pg 193A, ln 1

41860 US Census, Pennsylvania, Berks, Spruce Ward, p 998 ln 36

51850 US Census, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, North Ward, p 245B, ln 4

6 Nodaway County, Missouri Probate Records, Will Book C pg 147


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