Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charles E. SMITH (1878-1953)

Searching for family surnames is great, unless you have a very common one like Smith, Johnson, or Williams, than the task can be overwhelming.  Throw in the first name of John, Charles or William and you can get families crossed.  Such is the case with grandma’s father, he has a common name Charles SMITH.  I know this because I found her on the 1920 census with her father and mother, Mattie.  After she passed I developed my love of genealogy and had no way of getting her family information from her, so I took to the census.
Going back in the census years Charles and his family are found in 1910, and 1900.  Going back further than 1900 was futile because there were five Charles SMITH’s in Illinois and I couldn’t ask anyone who Charles’ parents were to make identifying him easier.  Even the Social Security Index wasn’t helpful because of the seven possibilities there.  When the 1930 census came out I jumped on to see if it would reveal any new information about Papa Charles, what I found only gave me more puzzlement.  He was listed as a widow with four children, where did Nana Mattie go?  And where did the older kids move to?  I only knew where my grandma was but what of her siblings and with a name like SMITH that’s no easy task to work out.  Once I did develop a possible identity to a Charles in Illinois, but that proved to be a false lead.
In 2011, a laptop is purchased for exclusive genealogy use.  My desktop had crashed so I had to re-enter information that I couldn’t transfer out to a gedcom file.  The software that I had been using was outdated so I also learned a new family software program.  So sitting on my new laptop I began to explore and bookmark some websites and made my first search on  Typically when I search either my SMITH or DECKER surnames I get no hits, but I figure why not, it’s worth a try.  I enter grandma’s name and there is her headstone with grandpa’s.  There is a link to her parents.  I take a deep breath and exhale.  Is it possible, I anticipate as the page downloads, that I’ve broken through my wall?  That brick wall crumbled in milliseconds, there before my eyes is the tombstone of Papa Charles and Mattie SMITH.  Papa Charles has links to his parents and the parents have links to other children.  Copies of obituaries are there too and I’ve increased my family tree from a sapling to an oak.  Now knowing the names of Papa Charles’ parents, I find him in the 1880 census.
Here’s a little bit about Charles SMITH.  He was born 28 Sep 1878 to William and Jean SMITH, the youngest of ten children, growing up with five of the ten.  He lived his life in Boone County, Illinois only moving from LeRoy to Capron in 1930.  He helped his father farm the land and upon being married around 1906 he owned his own farm, where his family grew to seven kids.  In 1900 a KAZONE family lives near Charles, what’s interesting is that a Hattie HASKINS is the stepdaughter of the head of household, John.  Could this be Mattie whom he marries in 1906, or is it her sister?  Is Clara, the mother, also Harriet C.?  These are all questions to be explored later.  In 1920 Charles’ widowed father-in-law, Mier HASKINS, is living with the family and six of the kids.  In 1925 Mattie has passed away from illness, but it doesn’t explain why widowed Charles is renting a house for $7 month in 1930, what happened to the farm?  Only four children remain in the house at that point and he seems to be supporting the family as a Chauffer in the Transfer industry, meaning he was a driver.  His obituary says he died in the hospital, after suffering a stroke at home.  There are questions still needing to be answered:  Where did he marry Mattie?  Where is he living in 1940?  What happened to the farm?
Through my aunt’s site at I find additional information on this SMITH family and fill in gaps and click through information that gives a better picture of my family.  I even confirmed a few of Charles and Mattie’s children from a trip in 2008 to the LDS Family History Library, a surprise birthday trip my husband had planned.  He even sat in the library while I rummaged among the shelves.  Definetly a trip worth taking again!

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