Monday, August 31, 2009

Just incase this “Automotive Thing” doesn’t work out…..

Alvin, Cora and the boys remained in Indiana until 1919 or 1920. Grandpa Everett told me that he graduated from High School in Roanoke. I do not know exactly how old boys were when they completed their schooling back then. I am assuming 16 or so which would have made it around 1920. He had a post card picture of the Roanoke High School in the dusty old box of pictures. I’ve been told that Uncle Fred, James Fredrick, Grandpa younger brother finished his school in Flint, Michigan…
Sometime between 1919 and 1920, Alvin must have gotten restless. There was a lot of talk about the new Automotive Industry as it began to really take off. He must have decided that he wanted to do a different line of work. He was working as a dairy farmer in Indiana.

Listen in as Alvin talks to Cora….

“They say the work is really stable.”
“I can make more money and would not have to work so hard.”
“It will be better for the boys.”
“ They will be able to work there too when they are done with school.”
“ We will have a bright future to look forward too.”
“It is not that far from Indiana.”
“We’ll be able to get our own car.”
“ We can drive to Indiana to see our family when ever we want.”

Can’t you just hear him trying to convince Cora to leave her family in Indiana and move 195 mile away to the small town of Burton, Michigan, just outside of Flint. Flint, Michigan was the location of a flourishing Buick plant with many new jobs.

Alvin convinced her so they decided to move. All their household belongings were loaded into a rail car including the "Smith Cow and the dairy equipment". As he told Cora, “We’ll take the cow and the Dairy equipment just in case the “Automotive thing” does not work out.” Alvin and James Fredrick rode in the rail car to the Flint area with the belongs and the cow while Everett and Cora rode to Burton in a motor car.

Not only did the Automotive thing work out, it brought about radical changes to society and the industrial revolution. Alvin's brother Frank is found living with Alvin on Term street in Burton in the 1920 census. Frank Smith brought his family from Indiana to the Burton area where he was able to get employment at Buick/GM. He retired after more than 30 years. Working at Buick/ GM became a bit of a family tradition. Frank’s son, James W Smith worked at Buick for more than 35 years and so did his son, Lawrence F. Smith. Eventually Buick became a part of General Motors and James W. Smith (Frank's son)transferred to a GM plant in the Fort Wayne area of Indiana which is also the location where Lawrence worked.

In 1925, tragically, Alvin died of a heart attack while working on the factory line at Buick # 3 according to his obituary. Cora, Everett and James Fredrick (Fred) remained in the Flint area. Uncle Fred worked at Buick/GM for his entire career (43 years)and live in the home build by his Mother and Dad on Term street all his life. He and his wife Hazel raised two daughters, Louise and Helen Jane. This true family story came to me through Helen Jane.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A shared school photo....

As I continued my research, family structures became defined as you look at the Census records. A Federal Census is taken ever ten years. In the early census, (1800-1840) only the male head of household’s name appears with a listing of how many females and how many Males of different age groups. Starting in 1850, the government required that the name of every member of the household be recorded. In the 1870 Federal Census for James and Oella, their first son William F is 5 months old and a Charles Smith is living with them. Charles is listed as 7 years old. (I will identify him later) In 1880 Federal Census, they have four children listed, William F., Alvin O., Della and Dora. Unfortunately the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by a fire in Washington DC so for most states it does not exist. This ten year missing census means that a person born after 1880 and who died before 1900 will not show up in a census. A family member could easily be missed. I failed to locate the 1900 Census for quite some time and by 1910 James W and Oella (recorded as Cella again) Smith are in their 60’s and living alone and their adult children have all moved on. I knew from photos in the dusty old photo box that James and Oella had atleast one more son, Francis W. Smith. Francis migrated to Michigan with Alvin and Cora. This is another story for a future blog.

While researching you can not help but come in contact with other people who are researching the same locations as you. The message board on what was is a good source of contacts for other people searching the same places. ( is a part of now) used to allow people to create family or location based websites to assist people in their Genealogy research for free. Many people took advantage of this service, including me. These sites enable you to have invitation-only private websites where distant relative or common researcher can meet and share data. It gives you a place on the internet to store family trees, photos, documents, share data and communicate. Today charges a fee but it has been so helpful to me that I pay for my site. I joined the Web site for Ossian, Zainsville, Yoder (Allen / Wells counties). Though the site has not been as active of late, I have received a lot of help from the members. I have found that I am distantly related to many of the members and have created wonderful lasting friendships with others.

One day a fellow researching uploaded a picture of a grainy Newspaper photo which was owned by the husband of a cousin of mine. It was his name which first caught my attention. It was a photo of children from the Splinter school 1895 and Grover Patten owned the photo. Grover would marry Nora Sparks, (daughter of Della Smith Sparks) my cousin who we will talk about in another story in a different blog. I asked the researcher to email it to me so I could get a better look at the kids in the photo. As I examined the photo, two of the children drew my attention, Etta and Francis Smith. I started to get that tingling in my spine and knew that I was onto something.

In the box of dusty old photos there is a photo of Frank Smith and a pretty young woman named Etta Wert. I immediately went for the photos in my box. There they were all this time waiting patiently for me to make this discovery. The names were written on the back of this photo in my handwriting.

Soon I would find a Census record for them in the 1900 Federal Census. How had I missed it the first time around? Or had it been there before this, it may not have been since it was early in the internet genealogy days. I have learned what sharing a photo can do to help someone find people that they may or may not even know that they are looking for. When I find a school photo, I share it. You never know if it is the only photo available of a child.

I now know that James W. and Oella Smith had six children not five. They include William Frampton Smith born in 1869, Alvin Oliver born in 1873, Della Smith born in 1874, Dora Belle Smith born in 1876, Etta Clare Smith born in 1882 and Francis Willard Smith born in 1887.

One shared school picture

Ette Clare Smith - Francis Willard Smith

One shared school picture

The text under the photo is as follows:

The Splinter School is located south of Zanesville and these are the pupils of 1895.
From Left to right stand back row: Cora Smuts, Joe Seamon, Miss Margaret Prough (Teacher), Sylvester Ward, Bertha Zion, Dee Sonner
Second row: Elvy Zion, Jessie Wirts, Etta Smith, Elma Zion, Dale Beaty, Sanford Zion (deceased), Peter Sink, Maude Seamon
First Row: Verna Sonner, Jennie Smuts, Dessie Seamon, Hazel Patten, Frank Smith, Frank Prough, Clinton Prough, Glenn Patten, Leo Newhouse, Grover Patten
This Photo is the property of Grover Patten, Rural Route2, Ossian, Indiana

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Placing the bits of straw and peices together...

When my husband started the search for his family, the process was very manual. You spoke to your parents, grandparents and living relatives about your family and recorded what they told you. You recorded the information written in the family bible. You visited court houses in the county in which your ancestors lived to obtain vital records (birth, death, marriage and local tax records). You visited large and small libraries looking for census records, tax records and any locally written history books. These records were likely on Microfilm which you viewed using Microfilm viewers other wise known as microfiche. You would visit a cemetery to check out tombstones and burial sites and onto churches for baptism, congregational membership records and often burial records. It was a very slow process. It is thanks to these people that we are able to find much of the data that is currently in databases online today.

Early on in my search I discovered that there were places where I could find bits of straw, clues that would help me meet the people from my family whom I did not know. The internet was a fairly new tool in family history research but it was catching on fast. The best part about it was it was mostly free and could be done from the comfort of your home if you had a computer. In 1997, I discovered three sites which would lead me on my journey. The first was the LDS website at (Mormons Website) They have the most complete marriage record database and the Mormon database is available online for free. Next was, I have had a paid subscription from them since soon after I started this journey but it is the only one I pay for. My next favorite site is This site is broken down by State and County. The local Historical and Genealogy Society volunteers play a vital role with this free site. The volunteers have donated thousands of hours of their own time transcribing records into databases so people can find their ancestors. Usually the volunteer is a family historian and understands how important this data will be to someone like me when it is found.

It was on one of the sites that I discovered who and where James W. Smith and his family were. I do not remember which one for sure. When you do a search for James Smith in Indiana on, you find 230 in 1850, 448 in 1860, 532 in 1870 and 576 in 1880. From there you break down and search by county and township. The area of my search focused on a three county area around Fort Wayne, Indiana which included the counties of Allen, Huntington and Wells. Eventually I found James but each census seemed to have a different name for his wife. It was not Celia as in the marriage license for Alvin and Cora. In 1870 in Allen County, her name was listed as Aella Smith. In 1880, the family drifted across the county border into Wells County (about three miles away) and her name is Oella. In 1890, you find them in the same area and her name is Odla. And in 1910 her name is Clella. In the family Bible, her name was Della. This would be the first of many puzzles that I would need to figure out. I would later learn that her name is Oella Denney from another area researcher who is related to me through Oella.

Bits of straw and pictures...

Oella is seated in the front, behind her to the left is Cora and Alvin with their two sons behind them, James Fredrick on the Left and Everett seen standing behind and between his Mom and Dad. To the right of Oella is Della and Virgil Smith, daughter and son of William F. Smith(oldest son of James and Oella, brother to Alvin) and Della Sparks. (daughter of James and Oella and sister to Alvin)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cora and Alvin Smith
married Dec 24,1892
Everett A Smith - 1904
Everett A. Smith - 1907
James Fredrick Smith - 1907
Everett A. Smith - 1904

I'm from Roanoke, Indiana

When I was a teenager, I remember asking my Grandpa Everett where he was born. I no longer remember the details around why we had the conversation but just that we did. Grandpa replied that he was from Roanoke, Indiana. I remember making some very immature teenage type judgment about where he had come from. My first thought was “OH, why would you want to live there?” (Indiana, I mean) as if he had made this conscious choice to be born there. This thought was due to a memory I had of riding home from a recent vacation in Minnesota thru Northern Indiana. We were stuck in traffic on the expressway. (I80/I94) It was overcast and I was seated, facing backwards in the third seat of a black station wagon with the hatch window open. The air was still, stagnate and thick with pollution. It stunk, to be honest. The air was full of fumes from the cars sitting idle on the expressway and the plumes of pollutants spewing into the air from the nearby steel mills. The gray sky was streaked with a brown haze. As I looked into the back yards of the houses along the freeway, I wondered why any one would want to live in Indiana. Fast forward 30 years or so and now, I travel the expressways from the northwest suburbs of Chicago to Michigan regularly. I chuckle at my self often when I travel the distance now. Some things never change, I am stuck in traffic often but thanks goodness for air conditioning and government regulated pollution controls. The sky is no longer brown but unfortunately the steel mills are closed.

So I began my research for my family in Roanoke, Indiana. Grandma and Grandpa’s bible told me that Grandpa’s parents were Alvin and Cora Smith. I sent an inquiry letter to the Huntington County Library. A very nice lady did a bit of research for me and found a marriage record for Alvin and Cora Smith. The record told me that Alvin’s parents were James W. Smith and Celia Dennie and Cora’s parents were John Crites and Amanda McGoogan. They were married on December 24, 1892. Cora and her family were from Uniondale, Indiana which was in nearby Wells County. John and Amanda (Emma) Crites are the couple in the picture in the previous post. The house in the picture is Emma's house in Uniondale, I would later learn from a fellow Uniondale researcher. James W. Smith was not to be found. Alvin’s parents blended into the Haystack of Smith families in northeastern Indiana. It would take me a year or more to find them about 10 miles away in Allen County. Eventually I also found out from Grandpa birth certificate that he was born in Uniondale, Indiana at the home of his Grandparents, John and Emma Crites. This was the first of my wild goose chases.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The dusty old box of photos

One summer day when I was 12 or 13, my Grandparents, Everett and Lillian Smith came to visit us in Imlay City for a picnic. Grandma brought a large box of old dusty photos with them. I noticed them but showed little interest. After eating our picnic lunch, Dad went back to work at the dime store, Mom went off to do dishes and Grandma brought out the box! She had this job that she wanted to complete at the picnic table. I moaned and groaned making many teenage excuses to no avail, she had nominated me to be her scribe and that was that!

For the next hour or two, I sat at the picnic table with Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Everett and we sorted through old photos. The Photo’s were of people from a long time ago. They were of Grandpa’s Dad and Mother, their parents, his Uncles, Aunts and assorted cousins. It was almost like a game. Grandma would show Grandpa the photo like a flash card and he would tell us who it was. It was my duty to write the name on the back of the photo. So I wrote the names that I heard; McGoogan, Wert, Sparks, Meeks, Crites, Jackson, Smith and Denney. I wrote them on the photos in my 13 year old hand writing. Some were misspelled but I was in a hurry! I had better things to do, you know!

Some time later, Grandma went thru the photos again and wrote notes on the back trying to describe the family relationships. Notes like Grandpa Crites’ sister, Everett’s favorite Cousin, Grandma Crites’ mother. All added to assist someone to understand who these people were many years from now when she and Grandpa were long gone and someone decides to look at the old photos in this dusty box.

Fast forward 20 years, I have added the people that I “know” in Family Tree Maker. My father has died and I am trying to figure out who Grandpa Smith’s parents are and where they came from. Grandpa Smith told me that he was born in Indiana, I remembered that much. I talked to my Mother and she tells me that she has this dusty old box of photos that were Grandma and Grandpas. My next visit to Michigan, we got the photos out. As I search through the dusty box, I am startled by handwriting on the back of the first photo. Chills ran up and down my back and tears began to well in my eyes. Suddenly I am flooded with the memory of the afternoon at the picnic table with Grandma and Grandpa. I am in awe as I notice that Grandma wrote on the photos too. Grandma was talking to me loud and clear.

She sent me research hints to find 20 years later. Some of the hints sent me on wild goose chases and some goose chasing were of my own doing when I spelled the name wrong but each stoke of her pencil and mine gave me a place to start. After spending an hour or so with the box, I realized that it was much smaller than I had remembered. And there weren’t THAT many photos! Oh what I would have given to be able to ask Grandma and Grandpa some questions now. I was so lucky to be able to spend “that time” with my Grandparents that day. It was a gift that I will always cherish.

If you are the keeper of your family history, make sure you find someone to share it with a generation or two younger than you. Even if they do not seem as interested in it as you would like. It is important for these memories live on. Label your photos and make sure the young children in your family hear the family stories so they can understand and experience the joy of keeping the memories of their ancestor alive.

How my Grandmother knew that I was the one who would take on this mission, I’ll never know but she knew. Thank you, Grandma Lillian! I love you too!

These are two of the photos in the dusty old box. They are photos of John and Emma (McGoogan) Crites from Uniondale, Indiana. They are my Great, Great Grandparents on my Grandfather's Maternal side. I recieved my DAR through this family. I give them a hug everytime I look at these pictures. The picture with the home will lead to future blog

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Genealogy Blog by Janet Smith

I have been actively research my ancestors since 1997 when I bought my husband Family Tree Maker for his family history data. He asked me to install if for him. (Since that is what I did for a living at the time.) So I installed it.

After installing it, I decided to just add the people that I knew from my family. It has been 12 years now. I know 3950 family members (ancestors), 1314 marriages, 14 generations and 986 surnames. An incredible journey it has been. I have traveled all over the world with these people while exploring record online, in libraries, in boxes of old pictures, at cemeteries, in horse pastures and at churches. I have grown very fond of these people, my new found family. I will share them with you too, through this blog.

As you know, I am a Smith. One of millions of Smiths and at times searching for a Smith is much like looking for a "Needle in a Haystack" which is why my blog has that name.