User talk:Ljmills


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About William H. Smith [23 June 2009]

Leslie, I sent you a lengthy email about an hour after receiving your first one -- and then a second short one a little later. Both went to <>, the address you gave me. You didn't get those? In the event you didn't, I'll copy the body of both of them below. (I can't attach the photo mentioned in the second email, but I'll get that to you at the first opportunity.)


Hi, Leslie---

I can't tell you how thoroughly delighted I am to hear from you! I've been hoping for years that if I only publicized the "Mystery of William H. Smith" sufficiently far and wide online, some living descendant would eventually see it and get in touch.

I'm a retired librarian -- 33 years with the Dallas Public Library system, the last dozen years as History Specialist and then as Head Archivist -- so I've been doing this stuff more or less professionally since the 1960s. Actually, I started in grad school, when I still had a number of living elderly relatives whom I could pester. When I retired, I remarried and moved to south Louisiana, where my wife is from (she's like 85% Acadian). But my father was a career army officer and I lived for awhile in the early '60s in Marin, so I have a long-time attraction to the Bay Area, even though most of my adult life has been spent in north Texas.

I used to be a Sysop on Dick Eastman's old ROOTS forum at CompuServe (so was my wife, which was how we met -- online), and I've been a genealogical journal editor for ten years. And my wife and I were both involved in the design and testing of The Master Genealogist a decade ago, and we teach Adult Ed classes and do seminars and such on a regular basis. She retired (finally) last fall, which was when we started a subscription to Ancestry, since she now can devote the time she wants to family research. We've also gotten involved more recently with a new genealogical wiki site -- WeRelate, at, where I've been posting much of my newer information. (Ancestry has problems with what they call "evidence". . . .)

William H. Smith has been especially frustrating (partly because that's my surname line, of course) because he seemed to have no previous history before his marriage to Caroline Rowles. Then we made a research trip up to Iowa about eight years ago, the first I had been able to go since retiring in the late 90s, and I was able to crank through the Iowa state censuses. And lo and behold, there were William & Caroline in the 1856 census, living in the household of her father, David H. Rowles, with a bunch of *younger* Smiths, who were obviously related in some unknown way to William. Then I found the full text of David Rowles's will at the courthouse in Albia, which deepened the mystery still further. All this is laid out in some detail at my "real" (non-Ancestry) "Booksmith" website, at There are Register reports on my eight great-grandparents, the first one being the Smith/Rowles line. There's material there that I haven't put on Ancestry, including a couple of essays on William Smith & Hayden Smith. I wrote those largely to organize the data in my own mind. You might find information in those that will answer some of your own questions -- or, vice versa, you may find you have answers to some of my questions.

Note that my grandfather, in his letter to the GAR, mentioned having seen a photo of William in his Civil War uniform. My grandfather died in 1952 (and my grandmother in 1963, when I was a sophomore in college), so I was never able to ask them about that, and my father couldn't recall ever having seen such a thing. I suspected that one of William's daughters might have inherited the photo -- plus the family Bible, if one existed -- since that's the usual pattern. The daughters are the "family memory-keepers."

William is buried next to Caroline, by the way, at Oakview Cemetery in Albia, with a brass GAR marker on his stone. We walked all over Oakview, taking pix of headstones (I have a lot of family buried there), but I'm not sure at the moment which CD I have all those saved to. When I find it, I'll send you a copy.

I've been a little puzzled, too, that Caroline didn't seem to do much through all her years of widowhood, 1863 to 1906. It's a bit surprising that she didn't remarry, which was the common thing in those days. I'm sure there are family dynamics involved that I don't know about. In the censuses, Caroline generally has one of her kids living with her in Albia (especially Wilbur, my gr-grandfather, who was the youngest), but I doubt her widow's pension was sufficient to support her. And I've never been able to turn her up in the 1900 census, either. Maybe she was living with relatives out-of-state that year. . . .

When you've have a chance to peruse what I have posted at the Tripod site, I would really enjoy comparing notes with you in a lot more detail. We can figure out what you know that I don't, and what I know that you don't. I would also (naturally) like to beg a scanned copy of that photo of William, whenever you might have the opportunity. If you own a scanner, just do it at the highest resolution your machine is capable of; I want to see ALL the detail! If you don’t have a scanner, I would be more than happy to cover the cost of a high-rez scan at Office Depot or Kinko's.

I look forward to hearing from you again---


Michael K. Smith Smith Editorial Services

    Editor, Louisiana Genealogical Register

work =
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     THESAURUS (n.): An ancient reptile with
                     an excellent vocabulary.

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Hi again, Leslie---

After replying to your email earlier, it occurred to me that I have some things readily available that you may not have seen. One is a photo of Caroline Rowles's brother & sister/law, Oliver Perry Rowles (1821-1913) & Louisa A. Lower (1826-1911), of which I'm attaching a copy. I'm guessing it was taken c.1890. Do you think he looks anything like Caroline? And I forgot to ask if I could beg a copy of the photo you have of Caroline.

You'll find lots of cross-connections between the Rowles, Lower, Massey, Nebeker, and Webb families in Monroe County, by the way. And to a slightly lesser extent, the Smiths. They were all each other's multiple inlaws and cousins, and I've been in touch with several descendants of David Rowles who still live in and around Albia.

Also, have you seen Caroline's application for her CW widow's pension? She apparently tore out the family info page from the family Bible and sent that in as proof of her children's existence. I can pull that file and scan all the contents for you as well. (I've been meaning to do that anyway, so I can post the docs to Ancestry and WeRelate.

You realize you've made my weekend, right?

Mike--Mike (mksmith) 16:26, 23 June 2009 (EDT)