While playing blackjack almost three years ago, the dealer and I struck up a conversation about our lives and became fast friends. Since I was a genealogist he asked if I would help him locate his grandfather, Calvin Lewis Smith who gave abandoned his wife and his two small children were given up for adoption in 1935 in Clay County, Kentucky. Garth, my new found friend, had located his grandmother, Nancy Broaddus Smith in the 1980's and had telephone contact with her before she passed away. The only thing Nancy knew about Calvin after losing her children was that he had served time in the Indiana state prison for robbery. As Garth was asking me to research, I had many pros and cons go through my mind. The pros being my soft heart and also having a grandfather that was adopted with no clue who his father was intrigued me. The cons being Kentucky and Indiana were not my specialty and the biggest con being... a SMITH line. I had already done my stepfather's line of Smith's in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas a few years back and it was difficult to say the least. I was up for the challenge and took it on.
I started with what I knew. A letter from the state mentioning the parent's grandparent's and an uncle's name of the two small children who were being adopted. I also had Calvin's other siblings names from a family bible inherited upon Nancy's death. I started in Clay County Kentucky and found the family to be WPA workers who moved back and forth from Kentucky to Indiana. I joined a Clay County Kentucky Smith's group on Yahoo.. (a marvelous and very helpful group and I highly recommend finding any group like this to interact with others.I am hoping GenealogyWise will be like our Yahoo group.) This group led me on my initial way and I was set. After finding out that Calvin's parents were first cousin's I was wondering how I was going to break the news. I decided to go full force into the work and find out some real positives to counter what I thought the family would think were negatives. I would not sleep at night and worked my tail end off finding what I could about Calvin's parents, Jesse and Nancy Elizabeth Smith Smith. I found census records, marriage records and such but I also came up empty handed over and over. Jesse's father, James Farmer Smith, apparently died in 1900 according to a letter to someone stating that Uncle Jim died. This had been passed down for years and years. I was not convinced because I could not find a death certificate, grave or any other mention of his death. I did as much as I could in about eight months and gave up. I felt I could do all I could. I had lots of names, movements of family members and such but did I ever find Calvin? No!
Calvin was in my dreams. I wanted to find him so badly and wrote county genealogical societies, newspapers in Indiana where the family had lived etc and came up empty handed. I had told Garth over and over that I needed to get back to research. Lack of time was my problem. I home schooled my son and ran a large needlework eBay business.
I had been doing some genealogy for a cousin as a gift to her new triplet grandchildren and was checking out Ancestry a few months ago when I had a nagging feeling to make the time to see if I could find Calvin again. I was not very hopeful that there might be any new info on Calvin or his family members. I did a search for a Calvin Smith and his father Jesse in family trees and when his name popped up in front of me on the screen I thought I was going to go into cardiac arrest right there and there was no one at home to help me if I perished.
I wanted to talk to that person right then! My mind kept saying why isn't this person answering my mail at 3 AM? After I wrote about ten emails in two days, I went on a search for this person. I looked at their family tree and found she lived in Scottsburg, Indiana and her name was Smith. I assumed she would be a wife of a distant cousin. I had no first name or any other info. So I looked up Smith.... YIKES. I was going to be busy. I decided to look at each person's name in the directory and saw the name Isaac. Calvin had a brother Isaac. I started there. I cannot believe the first call was to the first cousin of Calvin Lewis Smith. I found out the person on Ancestry who had submitted the info was this man's niece and I got her father's number from his brother. I called and talked to Woody and found out so much about Calvin and the whole family. I had found family. Woody told me his daughter Lisa was digging into the family but it was almost ten there and she would be sleeping. I HAD to call her! After all, Garth had been looking for his grandfather for over 35 years and Lisa had so many answers I just could NOT wait until she woke up. I dialed her number and we talked for hours. That night she emailed photos of Calvin, his parents, siblings, etc and I found out that Calvin had died in 1960 at the age of 49. I also found out that Lisa had only been a member of Ancestry for less than a month and had only added Calvin a week before I found her.
I was sent some mail by Lisa about Calvin's grandfather James Baird Smith from North Carolina. I put it aside because Calvin's grandfather was James Farmer Smith. I made a new tree for this James Baird Smith and after deductions, reasoning and research, I figured out that James Baird and James Farmer were the same man and he had NOT died in 1900. He had gone to North Carolina to visit family from Kentucky and never returned. He remarried and had more children. I became fascinated with him and have now researched all nine of his children from his first marriage and have located at least forty of his descendants and am working on his second family.
Not only did Garth find a family but I did. This family may not be my "blood" family. They are my "genealogy" family and I love each one of them.
We now have over 7000 names in Garth's tree on his father's side and have an email mailing list of twenty cousins who are all actively researching the Smith Line. Garth and I are flying to Indiana from Utah in October to the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Lisa's parents. (the first cousin to Calvin).
My journey continues into this family I have been accepted into like I am one of their own.