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 Rootsweb.com is a good source of contacts for other people searching the same places. (Rootsweb.com is a part of ancestry.com now) MyFamily.com 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 MyFamily.com charges a fee but it has been so helpful to me that I pay for my site. I joined the Myfamily.com 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.