Sometimes the only path to a solution is to wait for it to present itself. Many people with Irish ancestors learn fairly quickly that the first place to start learning more about the ancestor’s family is to find out in which County the ancestor was born, then narrow it down to a Parish. I had given up believing even the County would become known for my John Clark Smith born circa 1814 in Ireland. He was married three times that I know of. His first wife was Catherine. Nothing is known about her except that she is listed as the mother of John’s son Richard in his baptism on 10 Oct 1847 at St. Peter’s Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The second known child of John Clark Smith was his daughter Margaret. I’ve written about trying to learn more about her before (2015). I was frustrated by the lack of a baptism record for her and my inability to find a marriage record for her. She just disappeared.
No one in my family knew of the existence of Richard or Margaret. They both appeared in the 1860 census in Reading, Pennsylvania and then the 1870 census in Jackson Township, Nodaway County, Missouri. Both were named in the Will of John Clark Smith in 1875. As covered in the previous post, the 1860 census was confusing; at first glance it appeared John’s wife, my ancestress, Elizabeth McIntyre was the mother of Margaret, aged 5 in 1860. Then I discovered the marriage record for John and Elizabeth dated 27 Jan 1859 (the date appears in the transcription, not this cropped version of the original.)
Margaret’s mother was most likely someone else then. Poor Margaret became the victim of my neglect. Then one day came a miracle in the form of a DNA cousin match on ancestry.com. At first I paid no attention to the common surname Smith in this individual’s tree that she had attached to her results. I see the Smith name in the list of common surnames frequently, as would most people of British/Irish extraction. Then I scrolled down her tree and saw this:
So I clicked on Margaret and found this:
My first thought was: She survived!!! I am pretty darn happy about that. I have enough experience researching people in Missouri that the next thing I did was go looking for Margaret Blakeley’s death certificate. Missouri has an awesome database of original death certificate images from 1910-1967. [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here:]
Now I know who John’s second known wife was and…the County where he was born!!!!!!!
I still can’t find Margaret’s marriage record. I did find her future husband Robert Blakeley in the 1880 Census living a few miles from the Smith family; he was a saloon keeper and 23 years older than Margaret. The family seems to have done well; four of their eight children survived to adulthood. Apparently they moved to Cass County, Missouri then on to Lafayette County, Missouri.
It is very nice to know what happened to her; the added bonus of finding what County John Clark Smith came from is pretty great, too.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
I know, I know, I’m supposed to have a research plan; I just can’t ever seem to make one or follow one. I get side-tracked easily for that very reason. Sometimes, though, that actually works in my favor. Like yesterday, for example. I’m working on a couple Pioneer Certificates for Missouri and Illinois. That means I need to go back and document information I had already done for the DAR. I was in for a little surprise when I started tracking down what I needed. In the interim years since I last documented this line, certain things are no longer on my computer. Like an important obituary I need. Lucky for me, I have a resource now that I didn’t have back then: Newspapers.com. Moments later I had the needed obituary.
I got a whole lot more than that. For some reason, this time, I added the middle initial for this person in the search box, and goodies appeared that haven’t in past searches. It was lots of fun and, of course, very distracting. Sure I got the obituary right off, but I didn’t want to lose these results. I set about reading them all to see what I might learn. Near the end of the results these two obituaries lined up like little presents from the genealogy gods.1
I had already learned Clark was the middle name of John Smith; it was nice to have it confirmed by these obituaries for two of his daughters, Agnes Doran and Mary Drum. I knew he had moved with his family to Conception, Nodaway, Missouri from Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania, but I didn’t know why. I’ve done a modicum of research on John Clark Smith–I have his Will and know where his remains are, and learned a little about his second wife. That’s about it. He represents a mental black hole for me: John Smith who came to America from Ireland during the Potato Famine. Yeah, I’m not touching that. I have too much fun with other lines in my family.
Even still, this was too tantalizing to pass up, so I turned to the Google machine and asked it to tell me about the Reading Colony in Conception. Strangely I chose to purposely use the misspelling from the Doran obituary, Redding, just to see what might appear. I’m very glad I did, or I wouldn’t have found this delicious history paper (PDF) written about this very topic. From what I can tell it is an extract from the Master’s Thesis written by Father Joachim Schrieber, O.S.B. in which he outlines in great detail a history of what Catholics got up to in Reading, PA, the conflict between the German Catholics and the newly arrived Irish Catholics at St. Peter’s Church in Reading, the solution to begin a new colony out West to resolve the conflicts, and the very complex land dispute in Missouri that resulted beginning in 1855.
History isn’t my strong suit. I know just enough to appreciate it and keep things in some kind of context, so to read about a specific place and time with this level of depth was a treat. It is not often we get to have such a clear illustration of what prompted an ancestor to migrate from one place to another…to learn what the push and the pull were that motivated someone to pull up stakes and move to another part of the country.
I did learn that my ancestor was not among the original group of people who left Reading for Nodaway County. There were only about a dozen adults and a few children who completed the journey. Most of the first wave of colonists got as far as St. Joseph and decided to stay there. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t part of the effort, though. A plan was hatched to buy land out West…government land being sold at very reasonable prices. There was a subscriber list to help finance the venture. I now want to see that subscriber list to see if my John was on it.
In 1860 John, his second wife Elizabeth, his son from a previous marriage and daughter with Elizabeth were living in the working class neighborhood of Spruce Ward in Reading.2
He was fairly well off compared to his neighbors, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspect that he might have given money at some point to support the creation of the colony even though he didn’t move there until after 1864, the year his daughter Anna was born. A deed search is in order here since he left a nice amount of land to his widow when he died in 1875. Now I really want to know when the family moved to Missouri.
There were more than conflicts with the German Catholics that made life in Reading unappealing. Labor problems and unemployment were rife, especially where the railroads were concerned. Even though there was a strong Catholic presence in Reading, they were not always welcomed. Religious intolerance played role in pushing these parishioners westward. The struggle to purchase the land played itself out against a backdrop of the battle for Missouri to keep it a free state rather than a slave state. In the end the colonists prevailed and carved out a slice of freedom from the fertile northern Missouri landscape. To which my ancestor John Clark Smith was drawn.
I was studying the history paper more and made a connection I didn’t see before.
Seventeen of the fifty-eight original members of the expedition persevered on their plan of establishing a colony. They parted from their companions at St. Joseph at 10:00 am on Friday morning, April 16, 1858; the colonists consisted of the following:
William Brady, John McCarthy and his wife and two boys, four and one respectively, Philip Growney and his wife, Jeremiah Sullivan and his wife and their three children, Michael Fagan and his wife Margaret; John Growney and the two brothers, Thomas and Edward Reilly. (pg 23)
Philip Growney and Thomas Reilly are two of the witness on John Clark Smith’s Will.3
So at the very least they knew each other.
1The Maryville Daily Forum Doran: 15 Apr 1937 pg 1; Drum: 28 Jan 1936 pg 1.