Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Elusive Russell Smith - Post 4

In Post 1, I summarized the information I gathered recently about Russell Smith (born RI ca 1775), who married Esther --?--, and had at least three children, Ranslow Smith (1805->1870), Lyman Dwight Smith (1807-1889) and George Smith (1812-1876). The family history information from Old World Wisconsin, derived from obituaries for Lyman and George Smith, says that Russell Smith was born in Rhode Island, settled in Oneida County NY, and then settled in Jefferson County, New York in about 1800.

In Post 2, I summarized the sparse evidence from Jefferson County, New York for Russell Smith residing in that county, where the three purported sons first settled and started their families. The only information I found about Russell Smith in Jefferson County was a mention in a history book of an 1800 residence in or near Adams town, as recounted in Post 1.

In Post 3, I questioned if the Russell Smith mentioned in one history book of Jefferson County NY was the same Russell Smith mentioned in one history book of Oneida County NY, and if these were the same Russell Smith who was the purported father of Ranslow Smith. I evaluated all of the sparse evidence gathered to date, and decided that they might be the same person, and therefore it is worthwhile to work toward gathering more evidence, especially in Oneida County NY where the three sons were supposedly born.

To work toward that goal, I went to the Family History Center today and ordered three microfilms for Oneida County NY - Will Abstracts, Deed Grantors and Deed Grantees for the earliest years. My research will be on hold until the microfilms come in and I can review them.

I mentioned the other early families that settled near David Smith in Delta, Western and Lee in Oneida County - the Wheelock, Salisbury and Sheldon families. In the Jefferson County NY records I have, I found that the David Smith who settled in Adams town married two Salisbury sisters, and that three Salisbury males settled in Ellisburgh, just southwest of Adams. I didn't find Sheldons or Wheelocks, though.

I checked the WorldConnect database on Rootsweb, and found that the Salisbury family that was in Oneida and Jefferson Counties migrated from Glocester in Providence County, RI. By chance, I happen to have the Glocester RI probate records (Volumes 1 and 2, up to 1798) on microfilm in my drawer at the FHC. I checked for all of the Smith entries on that microfilm, and I don't see a David Smith. I did copy the probate record for my ancestor, Elizabeth Smith, however {BG}. Not satisfied with my reading (since I had to read it page by page and might have missed something in the handwriting), I found Volumes 6 and 7 of the Rhode Island Genealogical Register (RIGR) on the shelf at the FHC - and these volumes include the Glocester RI will abstracts (note that it is not all of the probate records, just will abstracts). I checked all of them, and found that I did a good job of reading page by page.

The FHC does not have all of the RIGR volumes with the will abstracts from many more Rhode Island towns, so I'll have to put that on my to-do list for my next visit to Carlsbad Library (maybe sooner than I thought!). David Smith may have resided in another town near Glocester, or he may have migrated to Glocester and been born in, say, southeastern Massachusetts. There were Smith's everywhere!

The next Russell Smith post will be in several weeks, since I have to wait for the microfilms to arrive at the FHC. I might start in on "Elusive David Smith" posts since he looks to be just as elusive, or more so, than Russell!

I just realized that I did not check the LDS Family History Library Catalog to see if there is a Dodge County (WI) Citizen newspaper for the 1845-1890 time period. I emailed a library in Dodge County last week asking for lookups, but I haven't heard a peep from them. Maybe they're snowed in...or off to Green Bay to watch the Packer game.

Another loose end is Esther --?--, born in Connecticut, who married Russell Smith. One of her sons is Lyman Dwight Smith according to his obituary - might Esther's maiden name be Dwight? It's worth checking in the WorldConnect and other databases, and in the Oneida County NY census records.

I should post my findings to date on some message boards just in case someone else has run up against my brick wall before and has done some of the research in land and probate records that I'm planning on doing.

One reader asked via email "Why do you post your ongoing research like this? Won't you be embarrassed if you can't solve the puzzle, or if someone else has solved it but you haven't found it yet?" My answer is simple - a) Writing it out this way helps me organize my thoughts; b) Writing it out may stimulate someone else to take a crack at it or offer help; and c) Writing it out may help some other researcher solve a similar problem in these localities. I'm not a good enough researcher to drive right to the solution, so I have to muddle through the way I'm doing it. I'm not embarrassed by failure or by lack of success...I just try harder and accept things as they come - even lack of success. Lack of success can always be used as a bad example in a genealogy presentation! But if I'm successful, I get to do a genealogy happy dance... and then I will try to find the earlier generations. And use the experience as a good example in a presentation or article.

One of the neat side effects of starting research in a new locality is that you need to learn the history of that place. I don't know the history, geography, settlement patterns, etc. of every county in the Northeast, but I'm gradually adding new ones to my list! Oneida County NY looks like a really neat place with lots of interesting history, especially in the late 1700's. When David Smith settled in Delta, this was the frontier - there were miles of hills, forests and streams between there and Lake Erie.

If any reader has any great ideas on where else to search for Ranslow, Russell or David Smith, please let me know in Comments or by email to rjseaver(at) Thanks!!

1 comment:

Lee said...

I imagine even the great genealogists have problems they've never been able to solve. And a lot of the time, it's not the fault of the researcher, but a lack of evidence to collect.

You keep keeping on. I like learning something new every time I visit, even if it's "what not to do."