Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again – SNGF and Smith Family Sunday: Brickwalls and Maps and Worksheets, Oh My!

Okay, on top of mentioning Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun and some sort of new-fangled day-of-the-week-related theme, I’ve combined a C&W song with a takeoff on a line from the Wizard of Oz – so sue me.

The thing its, having finally started to recover from summer-heat-induced doldrums in my research, I have been taking care of some of the items on my Brick wall To-Do List. And Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings has challenged us in his latest SGNF to write about our brick walls. Well, I could have written about someone other than my “biggie” – Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee – so that I wouldn’t bore people with the same old information I have been posting, because I DO have plenty of other brick walls (aren’t all the end-of-lines-as-far-as-we-know-them brick walls?), but it would distract me from my main task right now. Instead of repeating this information, I’ll just link to all the related articles below.

- My Brick Wall: Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee
- Tearing My Hair Out Tuesday: More Information on my Brick Wall
- Family Newsletter Friday: Brick Wall Week!
- Featured Family Thursday: Hiram Brinlee and Susan Elizabeth Smith
- Smithquest
- Lizzie Smith Timeline
- Timeline Portrait of Lizzie Smith: Stitching the Gaps Together

And then I’ll tell you what I’m doing about this doozy-of-a-brick-wall.

My approach to the solution of Lizzie Smith has three main avenues:

1. Finding out everything I can about her during the “known” part of her life (= life with Hiram Brinlee, her second husband), to include trying to find newspaper items that might mention visits by relatives from Tennessee.

2. Investigating Bonner families in Tennessee to find candidates for Lizzie’s first husband. I actually already have a family in mind, based on a marriage certificate I found on Ancestry for a W.T. Banner (I believe it is W. T. Bonner) to a Lizzie Smith at the right time for Lizzie to have been 17 (the age she listed for her first marriage on the census). The marriage took place in McMinn County, Tennessee.

3. Preparing, categorizing, and researching candidate Smith families connected to Tennessee. These candidates were identified by a process of examining Smith families on the 1870 and 1880 censuses who had a daughter with the right name (Susan, Elizabeth, Lizzie, or even initials), born ca 1866-1870, correlating them between censuses (some could be matched, others could not), and sorting them into categories from 1 to 4 based on closeness of fit.

For #3, and keeping the location of McMinn County in #2 and Lizzie’s reported birth in Knoxville in mind, I am subjecting these Smith families to a two-pronged map attack:

1. Paper map (mediocre picture below). This is a 18” by 24” historic map reprint of A.J. Johnson’s 1865 map of Kentucky and Tennessee. For category 1 and 2 families (closest fits), I am using little red tags with the number assigned to the family to show their location on the 1870 census (or 1880 census if that is the only information I have on the family).

2. “My Maps” on Google Maps to show the location of each of the above families on both the 1870 and 1880 censuses (size can be increased by clicking on it).

I like the paper map because it gives me the best overview and the Google map because I can put the most detail on it. While I don’t know that Lizzie was actually born in Knox County or that she married a Bonner in McMinn County, locations near those counties are like “plus points” in my system of calculation.

Then I made two worksheets – one for category #1 families and one for category #2 – in table form to sum up what I knew about each family: number assigned family, parents, location in 1870, location in 1880, siblings, and other information. Below is the table for Category 1 (size can be increased by clicking on it).

Right now there are eight families in Category 1 and ten in category 2. Originally there were more, but a little bit of checking of some databases and online family trees eliminated several families when I learned that the Elizabeth/Susan/Lizzie Smith in question had: died young, never married, married someone not named Bonner or Brinlee. I would like to reduce the numbers even more. Inspired by the success I have had in getting other researchers to contact me on the families that I post for Surname Saturday, I am going to be posting these Smith families on Sundays in the hope that someone familiar with a particular family will contact me with information that will either rule out that family or will perhaps make it an more likely prospect. The first Smith Family Sunday has already been posted (see preceding post).

This may seem like a lot of trouble, but I think finding Lizzie Smith’s family is worth it. And it’s like chicken soup: it may not help, but it couldn’t hurt.

(Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering? - I think so, Brain, but don’t you think it’s significant that Genealogy, Geek, and Greta all start with “G”?)


  1. A triple G, or GGG. Now that is scary.

  2. Hah! The geek factor is high tonight!

  3. Hi Greta, this is great. You are doing it exactly how I would do it. The hardest part is keeping up with the families that you eliminate and the correspondence you have with the researchers/families of these lines. I think it's great you are successful in having people respond back to you about these families. I think you will have your ancestor placed before you know it!

  4. Thanks, Ginger - It means a lot to me to have encouragement, because sometimes I think it's a hopeless quest! But you never know where that essential clue is going to come from.