Long Lost Daughter

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.

Smith, Richard original baptism

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.)

Smith, John married McIntyre, Elizabeth original
St. Peter’s Church Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania

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:

Smith, John on cousin match

So I clicked on Margaret and found this:

Smith, Margaret on cousin match

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:]

Smith, Margaret dc cropped

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.




Last Call for Alcohol

My father was an alcoholic. He died from cirrhosis of the liver 28 years ago.1

I recently watched the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (US) that featured Sean Patrick Hayes, and was fascinated by the trail of Irishmen who drank too much and ended up leaving families behind to cope that they documented for him. It inspired me to take another look at the topic in my family.

I have enough distance from the issue now to be more objective about what I’m seeing when I analyze my ancestors. It turns out what I found wasn’t at all what I expected to find. When I looked at the evidence from the perspective of a genealogist instead of a descendant, the vague beliefs were clarified. I knew I had other alcoholics in my lineage, but to be truthful, they weren’t really where I thought they’d be, and it led me to form an entirely new conclusion.

You see my father’s father was not an alcoholic. His vice was cigars. However, his father, John Wesley Basford did have a drinking problem, that was the death of him.

John Wesley owned the first Barber shop in Ravenwood, Missouri.

Basford, John Wesley inside barber shop no note

Family lore, brought down through multiple branches of the family, states that John was alone in the Barber shop, attending to the fire one night. He passed out drunk on the floor and took a chill that became pneumonia. He died of pneumonia a few days later.2 He was only 37 when he died and left behind a widow, Anna, and 4 children ages 15, 10, 5 and 1. Anna was a dressmaker. The two oldest children (Nellie and my grandfather) are shown in the 1900 census as strippers in a cigar factory (that my grandfather would later own).3

Basford Cigar Company

It is unknown if John Wesley’s father Ransom had a drinking problem; we know one of Ransom’s brothers did. Ransom died at age 28, probably of tuberculosis, leaving John Wesley an orphan at age 8. John Wesley was raised by his grandparents Jonathan S. (previous post) and Guly. I’ve found no evidence of drinking being a problem in any of the previous generations. As things stand now, I’m going to speculate that alcoholism was an aberration in my paternal line.

Taking a look at my maternal line was an eye-opener. The women didn’t drink, but the men they married all had problems with booze. That doesn’t happen by accident.

My mother didn’t know her father Francis all that well. When she speaks of him, she basically spits out the words. She was petrified of him because he was a mean drunk. She lived with his parents for a few years during her childhood, and spent most of her time hiding from him in the barn when he came around. Her parents weren’t married, so most of her childhood was spent with her mother and grandmother. Her encounters with her father left a deep and lasting impression on her, and I’m convinced that unconsciously influenced her attraction to my father.

But what influenced my grandmother Doris’ attraction to Francis, a mean drunk who was unfaithful to his wife Marie?


He was a blond-haired, blue-eyed German. Like most alcoholics, I suspect he mastered the charming child presentation, which any woman shopping around for a father figure to fix would find irresistible. Near as I can piece together, it was a pretty intense romance. He even left his wife briefly to live with her when Doris was pregnant.4 [Insert Soap Opera script here.]

The root of Doris’ need for an alcoholic in her life leaps off the death certificate of her father, Clyde Francis Watson: Chronic Nephritis at age 57.5

These days that diagnosis tends to be attached to renal failure caused by overuse of Tylenol and/or ibuprofen. Family lore likes to sugar coat this diagnosis by calling it Bright’s Disease, but back in the 1930’s it was code for chronic alcohol abuse.

Watson, Clyde photo portrait
Clyde Francis Watson

There’s Clyde, a blond-haired, blue eyed, charming Scotch-Irishman who was unfaithful to his wife. I could point out that his father, William M. Watson also has a death certificate that reads Chronic Interstitial Nephritis,6 but because he saw action and was injured in the Civil War, and I need to learn more about his life, I’m going to give him a pass if he abused alcohol (he was in pain his whole adult life). Instead I’m going to focus on the previous statement, “…who was unfaithful to his wife.” Wow, did that cause a lot of problems for a lot of descendents over the years. Now we’re to the real reason why this cycle began.

Here’s the culprit:

Carl Gustav Johnson
Carl Gustav Johnson

See what I did there? I deliberately picked the most nefarious look for him. Yes, it was a studio picture, and those weren’t his clothes, but it’s emblematic of his rough and ready, hard-drinking railroad worker he was. His drinking did a number on my great-grandmother, Julia. He died at the age of 55, and yes, it says Nephritis on his death certificate.7 That’s backed up by family lore that he was a drunk.

One of the key characteristics of children of alcoholics is a hyper-sensitivity to betrayal. My great-grandmother was an extreme example of someone who exhibited a self-righteous lack of forgiveness–to the point of vindictiveness–toward anyone she perceived as causing her to feel betrayed. Julia was set up by her father’s drunkenness to choose a mate who drank. She not only never forgave her father, but she never forgave Clyde, and by extension all males as a result. After Clyde divorced her and married his girlfriend, Julia never remarried. To my knowledge, she didn’t even date. She basically swore off men for the rest of her very long life. She must have held some kind of record back then for years as a divorcée—50 years.

The main conclusion I drew from this exercise is that non-drinkers are just as capable of being the carriers of this destructive disease as drinkers. Carl messed up Julia with his drinking > Julia married an alcoholic who messed up Doris > Doris hooked up with a mean drunk who messed up my mother > my mother married an alcoholic who…well you get the picture.

There is a silver lining to this cloud, though. None of my parents’ descendents have issues with alcohol. The cycle has been broken. Just like Sean Patrick Hayes who learned he could forgive his father after learning about his family’s pattern of abandonment, I learned to forgive as well. Sometimes family history can help us heal.


1 Texas Department of State Health Services death certificate

2 obits from Nodaway Democrat 2 Mar 1899 and Ravenwood Gazette from unpublished Arza Bozwell obit collection

3 1900 US Census, Missouri, Nodaway, Maryville, Ward 4, ED 123, pg 15A, ln 33

4 Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

5 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Death Certificate.

6 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Death Certificate.

7 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Death Certificate.

Jonathan S.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a number of ancestors with unique names. Jonathan Sanborn Basford used his middle initial to distinguish himself from his father Jonathan Basford. In the two principle counties where he lived, I can be assured that any records from the right time period with Jonathan S. or J.S. Basford on them belong to him. That’s a luxury; I never have to worry if the many records I find for him belong to someone else. There are a lot of them, too.

If I were limited to two words I could use to describe Jonathan S., those two words would be: Land Deals. I’ve spent a few hours at the Family History Center recently pouring over a reel of microfilm of deed indexes from 1845-1870 for Nodaway County, Missouri and just for the time from 1858-1870, there are 30 deeds, mortgages and patents listed with his name on them. I still have 25 years left to search! That doesn’t include the numerous deeds from his time in Edgar County, Illinois. His father had a similar penchant for buying and selling land. I’ve begun to see evidence that Jonathan S. was teaching his sons the “family business” for lack of a better term.

Jonathan S. was born 8 Jun 18111 in Franklin, Vermont.2 In 1826, when Jonathan S. was 15, his parents moved the family to Edgar County, Illinois.3

The first thing of note that he did was sign up to fight in the Black Hawk War along with his brother-in-law Samuel Jones. He served as a Private in Captain Jonathan Mayo’s Company of the 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the Illinois Mounted Volunteers.4

This company was organized at Paris, Edgar county, on the 10th day of May, 1832; took up the line of march for Hennepin on the 4th of June, the place where it was ordered to rendezvous, and reached that place on the 11th of June, and was mustered into the United States service at Wilbourn on June 19, 1832. — J. Mayo, Capt.5

Jonathan S. spent his 21st birthday on a 186 mile march from Paris, Edgar, IL to Hennepin, Putnam, Il. Look who re-enlisted on June 16th at Fort Wilbourne.6

Fort Wilbourn Historical Marker

I’m not saying Abraham Lincoln and my 3rd Great Grandfather were buds or anything, and Mr. Lincoln could have well been out on a scouting detail when my Jonathan S. mustered in, but they could have been in the same area at some point. I’m allowed to imagine that they were.

The closest I can come to speculating about action Jonathan S. might have seen is near the end of the war. Jonathan Mayo’s company served under Colonels Blackburn and Archer. This entry is from August of 1832.7

pg 224

On Aug 15th the name Bassford, Jonathan S. appears on a muster roll as having been mustered out. It’s significant to me that when Captain Jonathan Mayo was interviewed for the History of Edgar County, Illinois, he recalled by name those who served in his company. His recollection included Sanborn Basford and Samuel Jones.8

Shortly after he returned home, he married Guly M. Allen on 23 December 1832 3 Jan 1833, and then straight away they began their family.9 It was an inauspicious beginning. Their first child, a son, Delana was born 6 October 1833. Less than 10 weeks later he died. Four of their twelve children are buried next to one another in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Edgar County–all boys. We only know of 10 of the 12, and only 2 of them are girls. We know from obituaries and census records that this couple also raised 6 of their grandchildren; both the daughters died in their twenties leaving behind 5 of those grandchildren. In addition to all these children, they also raised two adopted children. I’m thinking they liked children. Even though Guly could not read and write, Jonathan S. could, and between them they made certain all their children and grand-children could as well. Sadly only two of their children survived them.

In 1856, with six of their known children in tow, they moved to Nodaway County, Missouri,10 presumably for the cheap, fertile land. He was, after all, a farmer.11


And a hotelier, and a merchant, a self-styled attorney (seriously, I get a chuckle from him being shown as an Esq. I didn’t think he was that pretentious), a land wheeler-dealer, and overall entrepreneur. The whole real estate, owning a hotel, selling crops, self-promoting…these are all business ventures and qualities I can assign to my own father over his lifetime.

I get the feeling I’m just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding this man. He certainly left enough paper behind, only a small portion of which I’ve gathered so far. I’m still waiting, for instance, to see if NARA can find and copy the pension he filed in 1890 for his deceased son David Calvin, who died young and as a result of illness contracted during the Civil War. Jonathan and Guly had three sons in that conflict, and Jonathan served in the Home Guard for Nodaway County during its brief existence.

I have grown to admire this man. He was married to the same woman for more than 60 years. I can find no evidence that he didn’t pay his bills. He provided for a lot of children and even though he had reversals of fortune, he seems to have been honest and forthright and a good citizen. He passed on 17 May 1895 at the age of 83, and was survived by his wife Guly and two of his sons. I can think of no more fitting tribute to this interesting man than this comment from the above cited obituary: He was a man of an iron constitution and will power, full of wit and humor and was well and favorably known by every old settler in the Northwest Missouri.


1 Find-A-Grave memorial 15391984

21850 US Census, Illinois, Edgar, District 19, 165A, ln 33

3 United States. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, State Volumes. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/. Springfield, Virginia: Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, 2007. Accession # IL0340__.074

4 Elliot, I. (1902). Record Of The Services Of Illinois Soldiers In The Black Hawk War 1831-32 And In The Mexican War 1846-48 (p. 33).

5Elliot, I. (1902). Record Of The Services Of Illinois Soldiers In The Black Hawk War 1831-32 (p. 34). Chicago, Illinois: Journal Company, Printers And Binders.

6 http://www.historyillinois.com/files/Markers/marker.php?marker_id=138

7 Stevens, F. (1903). The Black Hawk War: Including a Review of Black Hawk’s Life (p. 224). Chicago, Illinois: Self Published.

8 Le Baron Jr, W. (Ed.). (1879). The History of Edgar County, Illinois (p. 228). Chicago, Illinois.

9 Dodd, Jordan. Illinois Marriages to 1850 Ancestry.com His pension file from NARA #521714 and 458132

10 Basford, J.S. (1895, May 17). An Old Pioneer Sleeps. Nodaway Daily Democrat. From Arza Bozwell’s Collected Obituaries from Ravenwood, MO area, unpublished.

11 (1876, September 21). Nodaway Democrat, p. 1. Repository: The State Historical Society of Missouri.

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