Finally Sorting Out Smiths

It took a pandemic lockdown, but I finally tackled my dad’s Smith line a couple of weeks ago. I had traced it back his second great-grandfather a few years ago, but stopped there when confronted by an entire county full of Smiths—who all share about five given names!

I knew that George Washington Smith, my dad’s great-grandfather, was the son of Daniel Smith. However, there were two Daniel Smiths of about the same age in Dooly County at that time, one of whom was named Daniel Washington Smith! For this, and other reasons, I had thought this Daniel, a son of a “planter” named William Smith, was George Washington Smith’s father when I first started researching. However, small discrepancies had caused me to doubt that theory.

Get out the sorting hats

The first thing I did, employing a strategy I had used with a pack of Benjamin Dickens, was to research both Daniel Smiths in an attempt to sort them out. This actually wasn’t so difficult once I got started on a truly thorough examination of the records. Though both Daniel Smiths were initially found in District 24 of Dooly County, Daniel Washington Smith was clearly associated with a much wealthier family who were all slaveholders. My Daniel, on the other hand, owned very little property and was not found on any slave schedule. Furthermore, after 1850, he moved out of District 24 clear to the other side of Dooly county. No, my Daniel was clearly a separate person and not a son of the William Smith referenced below.

Google it

Sometimes, just Googling turns up useful nuggets! In this case I discovered a death notice from the Southern Christian Advocate, located on an obscure archived web page.

Daniel SMITH was born in Montgomery Co., Ga., in 1816, moved thence to Dooly co., where he joined the M. E. Church, South, at Friendship, in 1838. He finally married and settled on Swift Creek in Dooly Co., where he died Oct. the 2d 1868 of congestion of the brain. He leaves a wife and ten children. J. T. Johnson, P. C.

First I established that this was the correct Daniel Smith, which I did by researching the administrator of his estate as listed in (very brief) 1868 probate record, and determining that it was the same person as his son-in-law. I then made a note of his origins in Montgomery County and moved on.

Research everyone living in the household

In 1850, Daniel and Sarah have a full house which includes three younger Harts, John T., Margaret Elizabeth, and James A., presumably Sarah’s younger siblings, and a David Smith, “student,” who is presumably a younger sibling of Daniel.

Daniel Smith’s household in 1850.

It should be noted that another coincidence that has confused researchers including myself, is that the William Smith who is the father of Daniel Washington Smith lived right next door to Barnabus Hart in 1840. It was easy to see this as an indication that Daniel-son-of-William had married Sarah-daughter-of-Barnabus. However, while Barnabus has a daughter the right age to be Sarah, he does not have children to match John, Margaret and James Hart on the 1840 census (in fact there are no young children at all), and I no longer believe he is Sarah’s father.

Naturally, both Daniel Smiths had younger brothers named David, so I had to sort the Davids out in much the same way I had the Daniels. However, it was soon apparent that this David had moved to Montgomery County, Georgia after 1850. So, as moving eastward was not the usual migration path at that time, and given the death notice above, that was interesting. I turned to land and probate records to see what else I could dig up, and immediately found an item of interest.

In 1857, James A. Hart and John T. Hart, Sarah’s younger brothers, sold 200 acres apiece to David Smith in Montgomery County. Furthermore, this deed was not actually recorded until 1903, which indicates that it was “in the family.” (Montgomery County Deed Book 4, page 114 at Family Search.)

John and James were both in their early 20s in 1857, and so presumably had received the land as an inheritance from a parent or grandparent. This deed therefore means that both the Smith and Hart families came out of Montgomery County to Dooly County. I am still working on exactly who the father of the four Hart siblings was, however, there are a couple of Harts in Montgomery who are candidates, and one William Hart who owned land very nearby to Daniel Hart in Dooly County in 1849. He may well be their father, as he is not found on the 1850 census: if he died in 1849-50, this would explain why Sarah’s younger siblings moved in with her.

Digging deeper into land records

With this knowledge, I zeroed in on Montgomery County Smiths who lived near Harts. Census records are sparse for Georgia during this period, but by looking up Hart deed, land plat surveys, and tax records, I found a Robert Hart who sold land to Peter Messer in 1791. I then looked up Smiths (fortunately, there weren’t too many in Montgomery County), and found an Archibald Smith who lived on Messer’s Creek in 1798. Now, this is a creek, not a river, so the Harts and Smiths had to have known each other. I just had a feeling about the guy and kept digging.

Archibald’s land as surveyed in 1815.

Archibald Smith is found on the 1820 Montgomery County census with a son the right age to be Daniel. He is found on tax records through 1829, living on Messer’s Creek on land originally granted to “A. Smith.” His widow, Elizabeth, as established through later tax records also placing her on Messer’s Creek, is found in 1830 and 1840, again, with a son the right age to be Daniel, and a son the right age to be David, as well as four other boys.

Furthermore, an 1851 land plat survey shows “Dave” Smith’s land as being 250 acres adjacent to William T. Smith on, you guessed it, Messer’s Creek.

There’s gold in them probate records

The loop finally closed with this rather touching note found in the Montgomery County probate record for Archibald Smith Junior, who died in 1850.

We, George Smith, William T Smith, and David Smith were present Saturday the twenty-first of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty at the residence of Mr Archibald Smith, single man before and at the time of his death in perfect possession of this mental faculties.

He called upon us to remember and take notice of what he was about to days and stated as follows:

I have nothing worth dividing among you all and as David has come home I want him to stay at home and take care of Mother and tend to her business and pay what I am owing. And I want George to tend to my Odom (?) lawsuit and be paid for his trouble and if he looses the case there is money here David will advance to pay the cost.

I believe Mother has done the best she could to raise us up in the fear of the Lord and I want her to have all the rest of my estate.

Shortly after breathed his last.

September the 27 1850

George Smith
William T Smith
David Smith

Note that David Smith has “come home.” This is because earlier in 1850, he was living with his older brother Daniel! And BAM, there it is, Daniel is almost certainly the son of Archibald Smith and Elizabeth, and has brothers named David, Archibald, William T, and George, as well as one more likely older brother named John who acted as “agent” for his mother after Archibald Senior’s death.

1836 tax list showing John Smith, Elizabeth Smith and Archibald Smith, deceased.

As further evidence, adding all these sons to the family tree instantly led to many Thru Lines DNA connections on Ancestry. I always verify these connections, however, it certainly looks like many people have traced their trees back to these six sons, but have simply not managed to connect them all back to Archibald yet.

My next tasks will be to:

1.) Verify these cousins

2.) Straighten out Sarah Hart’s tree, determining which Dooly and Montgomery County Harts are her father and grandfather.

3.) Determine whether a second Archibald Smith found on the 1805 and 1806 Montgomery tax lists is, as seems very likely, the father of my Archibald.

If this earlier Archibald is my Archibald’s father, then I will try to establish whether he is the Archibald Smith, Scots Highlander who emigrated to Cape Fear, North Carolina in 1770. Because that would be pretty cool. 🙂



4 thoughts on “Finally Sorting Out Smiths

  1. Great job of research combing through the various records and whittling down the choices. Researching common names is always a quandary. I wish you luck with your Scots Highlander research.


  2. Wow, you’ve done some impressive sleuthing here. You wouldn’t think in less populated areas way back when that there would be overlapping names but I’ve run into it with my family lines too.


  3. How great that you were able to sort those Smiths out! My family also lived in Montgomery County, Georgia before part of it became Johnson County. Also, I love your Are We Cousins? in the sidebar! May I borrow that idea for my blog?


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