Monday, May 29, 2017

Searching for Hannah Smith's Parents in Hampshire County, Mass.

I wrote A Marriage Record, but no Father, for Hannah (Smith) Sawtell (1768-1827) on 15 May 2017 and today I had a few hours of genealogy fun trying to find a set of parents for her.  There is no success yet, but I'm just getting started.  

Because the marriage of Hannah Smith with Josiah Sartell took place in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1789, The only relationship I've proved is that she was not the daughter of Noah and Mary (Elmer) Smith of Amherst.  

I'm looking at several research opportunities in Amherst and Hampshire County:

1)  What Smith families resided there in the 1760 to 1790 time frame?  I can use the published Amherst vital records and the indexed Massachusetts Town and vital Records on Ancestry to find out which couples had babies in the 1760 to 1780 time frame.  It's probable that if Hannah was born in Amherst, that her birth was not recorded.

2)  Which Smith families resided there in the 1790 U.S. census?  If she married there at age 20, then her family may have resided there at the time.

3)  What Smith persons had probate records recorded in the time period from 1770 to, say, 1850?  There may be a record for either of her parents, but also her male siblings which name her or her children as heirs.  Ancestry has indexed the "Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records," although the indexing is probably imperfect.

4)  What Smith persons had land transactions that might have mentioned Hannah and her husband?  FamilySearch has the "Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986" available to peruse.

Today, I chose to work through the Probate Records, since they are the "richest" data set in my opinion.  I did a search on in the "Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991" collection, limited to Smith in Hampshire County, and managed to work my way from 1768 to 1830 with no positive results.  I reviewed a LOT of wills with lots of names, but none with a daughter or grandchild named Hannah Smith or Hannah Sartell.

Although I didn't find a lead for my Hannah yet, this exercise reinforced my long-held thoughts that "a whole lot of research problems will probably be solved once the probate records are every name indexed!"

A corollary thought is that "many families have complicated relationships and probate records can tie parents, siblings, and children together for multiple generations."

So onward and upward - I'm not done in the probate records yet, but I've eliminated a number of potential parents.

NOTE:  I updated the title of the post to be more accurate...


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