Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.

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This Old Tree, October 2013

This month’s column is about piecing together a family using the census records for 1820-1880.

My grandfather Lee McConnell’s mother was Manevra L. H. Smith 1853-1927. She was the daughter of William Henderson Smith 1824-1887 and Julia Ann McCleland 1829-1870 from Scott County, Virginia.

This was as much as I knew about this line until about a year ago. I contacted a man named Willie who had posted that he has the marriage books for Scott County and would do look-ups. I asked about some different relatives marriages. He answered the first couple quickly, so I asked if there was any information on William and Julia’s marriage. He told me the date when William married Julia, it was December 25, 1847. There were no parents listed for them.

After Julia’s death in 1870 William had married a woman named Nancy. Willie told me that William had married Mrs. Nancy Brown on May 17, 1876. This time the clerk listed the first names of the parents. William was the son of Benjamin & Nancy Smith. Mrs. Nancy Brown was the daughter of Leander and Winny. I found that Nancy was illegitimate daughter of Leander Jackson and Winifred Hargis and the former wife of Alfred Brown.

Since William Henderson Smith was born in 1824, I looked in 1850 census for Scott County, Virginia for a Benjamin Smith. There only one born about 1793, but his wife’s name was Rachel born about 1804.

I checked the family of Benjamin & Rachel for their years of birth in 1860 & 1870 census. They still worked out to 1793 and 1804.

I then looked at 1840 census for Scott County, Virginia and there was only one Benjamin Smith. The censuses before 1850 only have the name of the head of household.

In the 1840 census Benjamin falls in the proper age bracket as the gentlemen in 1850 does.

Benjamin age 40-49 born between 1791-1800;
The female is most likely his wife also age 40-49, meaning she was born between 1791-1800;
There are 3 males & 4 females in household who were most likely their children.

The 1830 census there still only one Benjamin Smith in Scott County, Virginia.

Benjamin age is 30-39

Female age 30-39 most likely Benjamin wife

There were ten males in the 1 to 29 age bracket,

and three females in the 1 to 14 age bracket

living in the household.

It appears that some older males may be farm worker or perhaps relatives of Benjamin or his wife.

The 1820 census there are two Benjamin Smiths in Scott County, Virginia.

The first Benjamin in age bracket of 26-44;
A female 45+ in age;
A male and female both in age bracket of 0-9;

The second Benjamin Smith has a middle name of Cooc.

Benjamin in age bracket 26-44;
Female in age bracket 26-44;
Three males ages 0-15;
One female ages 0-9

I have piece together Benjamin Smith family. I think that Benjamin was married three times

  1. Unknown wife died before 1821
  2. Nancy Gardner 1798-1846 d/o William Gardner and Elizabeth Palmer
  3. Rachel Droke 1804-after June 1870

There was a Son in the 1850 household of Benjamin named Mitchell b. 1818. I get the feeling that Mitchell mother was not Nancy. Nancy was born in Virginia. Mitchell always listed that his mother was born in Tennessee. The death record of Benjamin daughter Eliza lists her mother as Nancy Gardner.

Benjamin’s children by unknown first wife:

Mitchell b. 1818
Benjamin’s children by Nancy Gardner, second wife:
Charles Benjamin b. 1822,
William Henderson b. 1824
John b. 1827
Eliza b. 1834

Benjamin’s children by Rachel Droke third wife:

No known children