Smiths—a lot of us have them, so how do we trace them? My late husband was a Smith. I have some family photos his mother gave me, but finding the story of these people was not so easy. I wanted to trace this line mostly for my children, and partly just to prove I could do it.
|Chester Eliphalet Smith and wife Mary Mol|
Of course I started with the present and worked back in time. I knew my husband’s grandfather’s name was Edwin, and Edwin’s father was Chester. I found Chester E. in the 1900 census in Macedon, NY. He was then a recently married man born in Michigan, his parents were both born in New York and his new wife Mary was an immigrant from Holland. The1905 NYS census showed Chester's family now included a young son named Edwin! I had the right Smith family. Looking around a little more I found Chester’s middle name, Eliphalet. This would turn out to be a real stroke of luck. There were a lot more Chester Smiths than I had bargained on, but Eliphalet Smiths? Not so many. And I figured Eliphalet just had to be a family name; why else would anyone hang that on a child?
I actually did find a few Eliphalet Smiths but none seemed likely to be Chester E.’s father. I wasn’t having much luck in New York censuses, so I turned to Michigan. That is where I found another Chester--Chester Hyde Smith and his wife Frances, and there with them was Chester E! Even better was an old history of Genesee County Michigan, wherein a Charles Lillie told the writers this about his parents--
"E. F. Lillie and his wife Sarah (Gale) Lillie were both natives of the state of New York, where they grew up and were married. He was of Scotch-Irish descent... one daughter, Frances, married Chester Smith."
Frances’ maiden name was Lillie, and her father? E.F. Lillie was in fact Eliphalet Freemon Lillie! No wonder I never found an Eliphalet Smith, it was a name from the maternal Lillie line.
I’m not sure who Chester Hyde’s parents were. From what he told the census taker, they were born in Vermont. There are an awful lot of Smiths in Vermont, and though I know Chester Hyde was born in New York in 1820, those early censuses were head of household only-- which means church records are required here, baptismal records--but which ones? From what town? Chester Hyde isn’t in the census as a child and I don’t know what his father’s name was. There was a Chester Smith living in Yates County, New York in 1830-1850 who could be his father, the 1850 census says he was from Vermont--that may be a good place to start looking for church records.
A young adult “Chester H. Smith” turns up in Calhoun County Michigan in 1850, married to a woman named Alina. The 1860 census shows him married to Susan and also shows twenty two year old Mary Carver Nettleton, sixteen year old Willie Nettleton and three year old Charles S. Nettleton in the household. By 1870 Susan is gone and Chester H. is now married to Frances though Charles is still with him, albeit with the surname Smith. It could be Charles' middle initial S. was for Smith all along and he was a nephew. The other Nettletons are not mentioned.
I don’t want to give the impression that this was a snap, it took me many weeks of digging to find the sources and piece it all together and obviously there is lots more to check out, but I’m happy to have gotten this far. And these aren’t my relatives anyway, my kids should take it from here, I’ve given them a good start right?