Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Smedley Family Lore - Where it all Began


Mansfield branch record
My great-grandfather Thomas Joynes Smedley was known throughout the Bear Lake Valley as the "Pioneer Brickmaker".

My grandmother who was his daughter-in-law wrote a history about him primarily based on her memory of him and information from my great-aunt Lillian (T. J. Smedley's daughter). I remember her telling me how he lived in Delaware and did business with Quakers.

Aunt Lillian also wrote a history about him that was published in the History of Bear Lake Pioneers. When it came to Thomas Joynes' father, Thomas Cotton Smedley, neither one of them got it quite right. They both reported his death as 1851.  Further research by two Smedley cousins and myself revealed that he immigrated in 1857 with his son and daughter-in-law.

After finding the passenger list and knowing that Thomas Joynes Smedley went back to England in 1896 to obtain genealogical information, I couldn't understand how the 1851 death date came about. Why wouldn't aunt Lillian know that her grandfather came to America with her father?

Just recently I finally discovered where that death date came from, thanks to my cousin and FamilySearch. She added a story on FamilySearch that was also written by Lillian Smedley Beck. It's not just a story, but more like research notes within the history. This writing is probably where the history published in the History of Bear Lake Pioneers came from. The following excerpt explains where the myth of Thomas Cotton Smedley's death came from:
"The last mention I found of Thomas Smedley Sr. was May 1852 in the Mansfield Branch Record. So he must have died shortly after that date."
 The image above is a copy of the Mansfield Branch Record she was referring to. And the "last mention" she found was March 27, 1852, the date he was cut off from the church:

Since Lillian couldn't find anything else on T. J.'s father, it looks like she just assumed his death happened shortly after. However, for some reason the baptism date of 1851 became the death date in the histories (an error, or attempt to deny the fact that he was cut off from the church?) and then naturally from there into numerous family trees. Thankfully some of them have been updated.

With help from some of the folks from the Facebook group Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - RAOGK USA I was able to decipher the reason for his cut off.

"for immoral like conduct"
It could have been for something as simple as not following the Word of Wisdom, such as drinking coffee or tea, using tobacco, or consuming alcohol of some kind.

Referring to Thomas Joynes and his bride Ann Eaton, Lillian wrote the following:
"He was married to Ann Eaton and came to America sometime in 1857. I have not found their shipping record, but in the New Radford Branch Record it gives the record of Ann Eaton born 5 October 1834, Oxtow, baptized 11 Jun 1849, Mansfield. She emigrated March 26, 1857. So he must have emigrated at the same time."
So we know that she was never able to find a passenger list for her father's first passage to America, but for the life of me I still can't understand why he wouldn't tell her himself of such an eventful part of his life which would include the fact that her grandfather shared this voyage!

From reading her words it is clear that he shared a story or two of his childhood as well as from his time in New Jersey and Delaware, but nothing from a 24 day voyage across the Atlantic?! Maybe he relayed some stories to his older children with Ann and grew tired of retelling. Or maybe he was so out of sorts with his father and/or the trip that he never wanted to bring it up. I don't know. It just eats at me!

As for Thomas Cotton Smedley's actual death date, that remains a mystery. 

So tell me, have any of you discovered the beginnings of any of your family lores?


Leslie Ann

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