Uncertain ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #21

Uncertain signI know that everyone has at least one ancestor that they are “Uncertain” about. I have 2 that have driven me crazy for years. The first one I have written about a few times before. Pleasant Smith is my maternal Great Grandfather. He was born February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Johnson County, MO and he married my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page (1860-1938) on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, MO. They had my Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith Sr. on September 8, 1882. This is basically all I am positive about. In the 1900 Census it has Sarah and my Grandfather living with John’s brother whose name is Pleasant. So, I can guess that Pleasant Sr. had been married before and had a son that was named after him. He is also missing from all Census records after 1880. This is what I know as fact, everything else is uncertain!

 My second uncertainty is also on my maternal side. Francis McGowan was born in Francis McGowan Common PleaCounty Dublin, Ireland in 1794. I don’t know when he arrived in America, but I do know he made a “common plea for naturalization” in Philadelphia, PA on March 3, 1811 at the age of 17. Sometime before 1830 he married Margaret L. “Peggy” Divine. According to the 1830 Census he was living in Monroe County, TN and he was a farmer. Each Census after this states the same. In the 1862 U.S. IRS, Tax Assessment Lists he owned 245 acres of land. Francis died in April 1871 at the age of 77.


Brick wallIn 2010, my husband and I made a trip to Missouri where I met my only McGowan cousin. She had been researching Francis for many years and she gave me a packet with lots of information concerning him. Most of it was transcripts of court cases in Monroe County, TN in which Francis was accused of fraud, selling his property to 3 different men over the course of 4 months and him being sued. I was fascinated by what I read! It wasn’t until I started to do a more comprehensive study into Francis that I realized that my cousin hadn’t sited her sources for all of the lawsuits. I have spent a multitude of hours looking through court records looking for proof, but none has been found. I contacted my cousin and she said she would send the sources to me, but since that was 7 years ago and I still haven’t received them, I won’t be holding my breath! So, at this point I am uncertain about the accuracy of the information I received and I will have to keep chiseling away at this enormous brick wall.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday Dilemma ~ One Less Brick in this Brick Wall

Brick wallA week ago Wednesday I wrote a blog for the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks about my favorite discovery. I wrote how, after over 20 years of searching I finally found information on my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. I also express my frustration with the fact that I still had no leads on my Great Grandfather Pleasant Smith. It is amazing what a difference a week can make.

I am still missing a huge amount of documentation and facts about Pleasant but last Pleasant Smith burgalar 22 March1890 Lex Intelligencerweekend when they offered the free searches on Newspapers.com, I took advantage of it. Let me tell you a little background before I move forward. I have Pleasant’s date of birth because it was written in my baby book. I know this is not evidence nor proof however all of the other names and dates have proven correct, so I believe this one is also. I do have my Great Grandparents’ marriage records and his name on my Grandfathers death certificate. I also have the wild tale my mother had told us when we were growing up. It was that Pleasant had been a Creek Indian and he was murdered, dismembered and placed on the railroad tracks because he had left the tribe. His remains were found before the train came. No time frame was given so from Sarah’s marriage to her third husband in 1894 I assumed he must have died prior to that.

Pleasant Smith burgalar 25 Jam 1890 Lex Intelligencer CaughtNow to my latest discovery. I knew that my Great Grandparents had lived in the Dover Missouri area. So, I looked in the Lexington Intelligencer newspaper for his name and gave it a 10-year window from his death date estimation for searching. Imagine my surprise when a Pleasant Smith popped up. I read the short article and thought this can’t be him. This person had been arrested in 1890 for burglary and larceny of a store in Waverly, Missouri. He was being sentenced to 3 years at the Missouri State Penitentiary. I started to “turn the page” when I noticed one of the men who were also named in the article. The name was John Page. I realize this isn’t solid proof, but Sarah had a brother named John! I kept searching and found 2 more articles about the burglary and sentencing. I then went to the website for the State Penitentiary and found his intake information. Again, not proof but it described Pleasant as fair-skinned with blue eyes.  My Grandfather and my mother had fair skin and blue eyes. At least I have a lead I can try to follow.

I contacted the Missouri Historical Society which holds the Penitentiary files and theyPleasant Smith Prision Record discharge date told me they will send me all the information they have on him. I am excited to see where this may lead. Now I am thinking that the “story” my mother told us was either part of her mental illness or it may be that the family was so embarrassed by Pleasant’s actions that they made up the story. I also am thinking maybe Pleasant and Sarah got a divorce before she got remarried and he wasn’t dead.

I anxiously await the information from the Historical Society and now I believe I have been able to knock one more brick off Pleasant’s wall.

My dilemma is: where to go next in finding his death information. Any Suggestions?



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Fresh Start ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks


I decided to participate in the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge this year. I tried it a few years ago and although I enjoyed it I didn’t complete it. Let’s see how far I get this time!

The theme for this week is “Fresh Start”. I have hundreds of Ancestors who had fresh starts. Many came to Colonial America looking for a better life, and many more of my family moved west for the same reason.  Some remarried after the death of a spouse. So, the problem was, which one should I write about? After much thought, I decided to take a different look at a “Fresh Start”.

You see, I have one brick wall in my maternal line that has driven me batty since I first began researching my lineage. I have tried every method that could find and I did make a few minor finds, but I still only have minimal information on him.


I decided to make a “Fresh Start” in the hunt for my Great Grandfather, Pleasant/Plesent Smith born February 14, 1853, in Hazel Hill. Missouri. My goal is to revisit all the information I currently have and to start thinking outside the box, looking for new ways to obtain what I need.

I have also made the decision to release my quest for trying to verify the family lore concerning him. I believe this may be what is hindering my searching.  The following is the story my mother told us about him when we were young children.

creek indianPleasant Smith was a Creek Indian Chief who left the tribe to marry my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. They had one son John Pleasant Smith. Sometime after this, he was found murdered. His body was discovered dismembered and placed on the railroad tracks to make it look like he had been hit by a train. He was found before the train was to pass through town. The murderers were never found. A few years after his death my Great Grandmother received a letter from the Creek Tribe addressed to Pleasant Smith, but she never opened it. She sent it back to the addressee.

Let the journey to find the real Pleasant Smith begin!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

The Broader Technique

My Maternal Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith has always been a mystery. When I first broaderstarted my research over 20 years ago, I only had his name, date of birth and the name of my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page. I had a few stories that my mother had told me about him when I was younger, but I couldn’t find anything that would validate them. So, I continued to search in hopes of a breakthrough.

I would love to report that the solid cement wall that blocked me from finding any shred of information had fallen down and the life of Pleasant had been revealed. But I can’t. What I can say is I do know a little more about his life thanks to the broader technique.

Sarah Jane Page ML James Newhouse 2It all started when I was trying to break through my Great Grandmothers brick wall a few years back. She was 22 years old when she married Pleasant. Back in the mid-1800s, that was a little late for a woman to get married. I decided to take a second look at the “hints” that came up when I entered her information. I discovered she had gotten married and had a daughter when she was 16.  Her husband died when she was 21 and she then married Pleasant who was 29 years old. Once I had her previous marriage info, I was able to find her parents, her grandparents, etc. I also found her siblings names. As a result, I found that one of her younger sisters had also married a Pleasant Smith! As a matter of fact, after Sarah became a widow she got married again and, on her marriage license, I found that the ceremony had taken place at the home of  Pleasant Smith.

I began to broaden my search into this “new Pleasant Smith”. That is when I found that he was the son of my Great Grandfather and his first wife Charity. I still felt like I did not have sufficient proof that the two Pleasants’ were father and son. I continued my search and found the younger one’s death certificate. His parents were listed, and they matched. However, it was solidly confirmed when I saw that my Uncle was listed as the informant on the certificate.

I am still looking for more records on the elusive Pleasant Sr. I know someday I will find what I am searching for. Because of this experience I have applied this “Broader Technique” to some of my other brick walls with great success. When I find any name that is listed on marriage licenses, wills, deeds etc. I make a note of them along with any dates or where they lived. Then I take the time to research that person. You never know who your ancestor may have crossed paths with. You can also use the U.S. Federal Census as a guide. Research your ancestors’ closest neighbors. Sometimes they have had interactions that have been documented and it may lead you to new discoveries. Sometimes we need to broaden our search field to find the hidden treasures!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



This Is So Frustrating!

FrustratedHave you ever been frustrated trying to find information on a critical ancestor? I have. I am also surprised that I can find 10+ documents/sources on an ancestor who came to America in the early 1600’s but I can only find 3 on my Great Grandfather who was born February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Missouri. Oh, but his wife, my Great Grandmother, has over 20 documents/sources!

I have been searching for information on Pleasant (Plesent) Smith for over 20 years. pleasant ml 2Here is what I have found thus far. He married Sarah Jane Page (McDowell, Farris/Parris) on April 13, 1882. She had been married twice before Pleasant and once after. My Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith was born September 8th, 1882 so apparently, she was pregnant before they got married. I have John’s Social Security Application and he states that Plesent and Sarah were his parents and it has their dates of birth. I also have a Census Record which I will explain about later.

I can find no birth or death records. In John’s 1920 Census he states his Father was born in Texas. I know this information can vary depending on who answered the door and gave the it. So, there is no proof of where he was born. In my baby book the date and place of birth was given as stated above but again no solid proof.

The legend or oral history passed down from my Mother was that Pleasant was a Creek Indian. He had deserted his tribe and married Sarah. Sometime after the marriage some of the tribesmen found him, killed him and dismembered his body. They then placed the parts on the railroad tracks, so it would appear the train ran over him. A gentleman found the body before the train came. This occurred sometime between 1882 and before 1894. My Mother also told me that some after Sarah married her last husband James Newhouse in 1894 that Sarah got a letter from the Creek Tribe addressed to Chief (she couldn’t remember the name). She said Sarah sent the letter back unopened. Does this prove that he was Creek Indian? I don’t think so.

census 2On Sarah’s marriage license to James it lists her last name Parris/Farres. So where is the name Smith? This brings me to the Census record I mentioned above. In the 1870 Census it has a Pleasant Parris working on the farm of Norman Wyckoff in Lincoln, Putnam, Missouri. He was 17 years old same as my Pleasant. The last name matches the marriage license. So, could it be that this is my Pleasant?

Does anyone have any wisdom, ideas or good advice of where I can go from here? No wonder my hair is turning white and I am getting black rings under my eyes.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2015 – Week #1 My Great Grandmother: Sarah Jane Page

Sarah Jane Page HS with James NewhouseI am already late on the first one. Not a great start to this challenge, however, it motivates me to do better.

For the first week, the challenge was “Fresh Start”. This is very appropriate since I finally broke through a brick wall recently and I can give my Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Page a fresh start.

I wrote a blog about her in June 2014. At that time I knew very little about her and I asked for any hints on discovering more. Thankfully some of my great readers did just that!  So I have spent the last 6 months researching further and several entire generations unfolded before me.

In the blog ( http://tinyurl.com/kujaxr8 ) I told about the 8 mysteries surrounding Sarah.  The first Mystery was what happened to her first husband James R. McDowell? I have discovered that James was still alive in 1895 as he signed and gave permission for their 16-year-old daughter Leona to get married.

For Mystery #2, I will have to assume that my Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith must have been murdered sometime between 1882 and 1887. This is much earlier than I had originally thought.  Also for this Mystery, I found that there may indeed be some truth to how Pleasant died. Over the past 4 months, I have found 5 Smith cousins that I didn’t know existed. It has been great. In talking about the family history I heard the same story as I told about his death from 2 of these cousins. They brought it up first so I feel it has more merit than before.

For Mystery #3, I discovered the name of Sarah’s’ 3rd husband. It was John Carter Farris and they were married in 1887. John Carter Farris died in 1892 and they had no children.

Mystery #5 was who Pleasant Smith married to before my Great Grandmother? I found that he had married a woman named Charity Smith in 1869 and that she is the mother of my 2x Great Uncle Pleasant Smith Jr.

In Mystery #7 we find that Sarah was listed as “divorced” in the 1900 Census. Upon further examination, we find that her Step-son/Brother-in-law gave the information and it was incorrect. James was found in Southern Missouri working for a coal camp in 1900. They were just separated by necessity.

There is still a lot of mystery surrounding this small branch of my tree but I know if I stay diligent I will continue to fill in those little blanks a little at a time. Unfortunately, this is not how I typically do things. I prefer the “bulldoze your way through” method. I guess I am learning patience.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.comYour Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

HELP!! Who is Pleasant Smith?

There is always at least one Ancestor who has hidden themselves so well that it seems impossible to find them. This is the case of my Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith.

Lafayette County, MissouriWhat I do know about him is he was born February 14, 1853. This information came from my baby book. All the other names and dates in the book are correct so I believe this one is too. In the book it says he was born in Hazel Hill, Missouri. However in all the US Census’ my Grandfather participated in it states that his father was born in Texas. I know his name is Pleasant as he named one of his sons Pleasant and the other John Pleasant. Also this is the name listed on my Grandfathers Social Security Application. The spelling on this application is different. It is spelled Plesent.

I know he lived in and around Dover, Lafayette County, Missouri. He married my Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Page on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, Missouri. The marriage license says he was living in Mayview, Lafayette, Missouri. They had one son, my Grandfather John Pleasant Smith.

I know he was married once before Sarah but I don’t know who it was. They had one son (that I Marriage Licenseknow of) named Pleasant Smith.

Sarah got remarried in 1894. This leads me to believe that Pleasant must have died sometime before this.

Growing up, my Mother told us this story about Pleasant. “He was a Creek Indian Chief who deserted his tribe. Someone murdered him and chopped him into pieces leaving the pieces on the railroad tracks. Whoever it was figured a train would come along and everyone would think he got hit by the train. Before the train came someone found his body and reported it to the police. His murderer was never found. A few months after his death a letter came to Sarah’s home addressed to Chief (Unknown). Since she didn’t recognize the name it was returned to sender unopened.” Considering this tale came from my Mother who had a mental breakdown when I was 12 I have a lot of doubts about it. She never gave a place or a time frame for this incidence. I have searched newspapers in the area that he lived for any train accidents from 1882 to 1894 with no luck.

I hope someday to find that one crucial piece of this puzzle that will complete the story. After 20 years this happened with Sarah and it was an exciting day. Does anyone have any suggestions on where else I should search for Pleasant?

I appreciate any hints, tips or suggestions!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.