A father for Nehemiah Smith

Last week I decided to tackle my husband’s Smith line.  His ancestor Nehemiah Smith was born 1788, married Polly Stickney and died 1841 in Vermont.  To aid in this project, I turned to Ancestry’s Thrulines.  My husband had two matches on Thrulines attached to Nehemiah.  One said the father of Nehemiah was Ebenezer the other said it was Ezekial.  Which one was right?

Using the evalute button, I saw the Ezekial had no sources other than other Ancestry trees.  Ebenezer had a lot of sources, but when checked, turned out to be a different line.  Ebenezer was born 1756 in Granby, Massachusetts and died there in 1827.  Fortunately, original birth records for Granby are available online where they list Ebenezer’s seven children.  The writing is light and difficult to read.  The name for the child listed as born in 1788 (Nehemiah’s birth year) is difficult to read and could be interpreted as Nehemiah.  Except for the fact that it says daughter of Ebenezer before the name.  Since Nehemiah was a son, this could not be him.  There was no other child listed for Ebenezer with the name of Nehemiah so this in not my Nehemiah’s father.  So off to do research.

A preliminary search turned up 4 Nehemiah’s in the same age group as my husband’s ancestor, three in Vermont and one in Massachusetts.  The man in Massachusetts was included because he married a woman named Polly who as it turned out was Polly Stewart.  Many records later, I had a chart distiguishing all of the Nehemiah’s as individuals (birth death, wives, census, etc.)  None of it helped find Nehemiah’s father, but it did help me keep track of who was who and where they were during my next search phase.

Census records showed my Nehemiah was living in Fairfax, Franklin County, Vermont. As I do sometimes when I run out of traditional places to look on Ancestry and Family Search, I Googled the names Nehemiah and Polly Smith in Fairfax, Vermont.  Up popped a list of Vermont marriages on Genealogy Trails.com.  I already had Nehemiah’s marriage information, but what was interesting was that there were only 4 men by the name of Smith who were on the list, and only two from Fairfax – Nehemiah and Polly Stickney married 23 June 1811 and a Peter Smith who married Sally Hall the year before on 18 February 1810.  Assuming these men would be close in age, could they be brothers?

Sometimes looking at siblings of your ancestor can give you new information.  Such was this case.  I did research on Peter Smith and found a birth record for him born 1787 in Fairfax, Vermont that named his father as John Smith.  This name was totally out of the blue since it didn’t match either of the names given by DNA matches.  But you follow the evidence where ever it takes you.

Since both Nehemiah and Peter were married in Fairfax, I assumed there was a good possibility the man, John Smith would have died in Fairfax.  I checked the online Vermont Vital Records to see if I could find a death record for a John Smith. Bingo.  I found a record card for John Smith in Fairfax, Vermont who died 28 February 1833 age 85. I checked on Find A Grave where I also found John.  Using Find A Grave I looked for other Smith’s buried in the same cemetery and I found a Sarah Smith who died 18 September 1831, a possibility for John’s wife.  Original probate records for Franklin County available on Family Search were viewed to see if there was a will for John.  No will or probate records existed for a John Smith in the appropriate time frame.

The death card listing John as age 85 at death meant his birth year was 1748.  I plugged this information into Ancestry and found John Smith in Fairfax, Vermont for census records of 1800, 1820 and 1830.  There were  no John Smiths in Fairfax for the 1810 census, but there were 4 John Smiths in Franklin County.  However, I was unable to distiguish which of those four might be the one I was hunting.  The ages and family makeup for the Fairfax censuses seemed to fit with what I knew about John.

The 1800 census showed John with his wife, 2 sons and 4 daughters.  I needed to find the daughters names, so I returned to the Vermont marriages on Genealogy Trails to look for brides with the surname of Smith married in Fairfax.  I found four with marriage dates that fit within the time frame to be siblings of Nehemiah: Ruth, Polly, Hannah and Phebe.  Now I needed to research them to see if their birth dates correlated with the census information.  It did and the results are posted in a chart below.

  1800 1820 1830
John b. 1748 Over 45 (age 52) Over 45 (age 72) 80-90 (age 82)
Males: 2 under 10    
Peter b. 17871      Age 13 married  
Nehemiah b. 1788      Age 12 married  
Sarah b. abt 1758 Over 45 (age 42) Over 45 (age 62) 70-80 (age 72)
Females: 3 under 10    
Phoebe b. 1791     Age 9 married  
Polly b. 1795     Age 5 married  
Hannah b. 1797    Age 3 married  
Females: 1 age 16-25    
Ruth b. 1787     Age 13  died  

The ages for the two boys don’t quite match the census, but that is not an uncommon occurance.  There could have been another Smith family with the same number of male and female children  But the odds of having the same number all having the correct ages would be pretty slim.  Giving that and the fact that there were no other Smith families living in Fairfax for the time, this answers the question of who was Nehemiah’s father.  It was John Smith b. 1748 married to Sally who died in Fairfax in 1833.   Finding the father of John Smith will be a project for another day.


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