Dancing with the Smiths (Smyths, Smythes)



“My name is Smith!”

How many Smiths do we know or have we known?

An old song from childhood springs to mind in my attempt to answer this question: “Every Tom, Dick and Harry’s called John.” In this case, every Tom, Dick and Harry’s called Smith!!! And I have more than my fair share of them in my ancestry. According to the Wikipedia site:

“Smith is a family name (surname)[3] originating in England. It is the most prevalent surname in the United Kingdom,[1] Australia and the United States,[4] the second most common surname in Canada, and the fifth most common surname in Ireland. The surname Smith is particularly prevalent among those of English and Irish descent,[5] but is also a common surname among African Americans, which can be attributed to black slaves adopting the name during the era of slavery and after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.[6] 2,376,206 Americans shared the surname Smith during the 2000 census,[7] and more than 500,000 people share it in the United Kingdom… At the turn of the 20th century, the surname was sufficiently prevalent in England to have prompted the statement: “Common to every village in England, north, south, east and west”;[8] and sufficiently common on the (European) continent (in various forms) to be “…common in most countries of Europe.”[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_(surname)

Actually, my Smiths have quite a history.

My fifth great-grandmother was Olive Smith (1754-1839), who married my fifth great grandfather–Arthur T. M. Inghram (1746-1834). I had spent months unscrambling the Ingram/Inghram line only to be suddenly faced with the Smiths.

“This should be easy!” I thought, as I started moving through them.

It was everything BUT easy. Olive’s grandfather had two families simultaneously–one living in Connecticut and the other living in New Jersey. A river man, he traveled up and down the river, settling in with one family for a six-month period, and then he was off again to visit the other. I still don’t think the separate families knew anything about the other–but that may not be the right assumption. After the death of his New Jersey wife Olivia Clarke in 1731–my seventh great grandmother, Ralph had no reason to continue returning to New Jersey. Olivia died in childbirth with their daughter Catherine (who died as well). The other children were already on their own. So according to a note on my ancestral chart: “After wife Olive’s death in 1731 and death of daughter same day, Ralph ‘created’ his own death in NJ and returned to his other family in CT. His tombstone beside Olive later disappeared. Estate administrators/bondsmen prob. in on the ruse.” Ralph’s tombstone disappeared from his grave in New Jersey. But there is a tombstone on his real grave next to Wife No. 1 (Mary Mayo–1695-1744) in Connecticut. Instead of departing this world in 1731 as the people of New Jersey believed, Ralph lived until 1763. His epitaph reads: ” Behold all you that do pass by : As you are now so once was I : I am now as you must be : Prepare for death and follow me”

(These Smiths are chocked full of exciting stories like this! It took me several months untangling all of them and traveling back to the Carrington-Smythes of England, to the Knights Templar, and to Cressing Temple. I finally decided that my Smiths/Smyths/Smythes of Olive’s line lived for adventure! And as I recall, those Smythes constituted my summer dance card!)


Meanwhile, back at the ranch–

Still working on this line! Did I mention I’m writing a book? Started the research over twenty years ago, and still “stro-oo–lling” through the ranks. This time, I’m working on the Websters of Harford County, Maryland who intermarried with the Dallams and the Dallams and Websters also intermarried with the Smiths!

Here we go again!


Of course, my devious mine began thinking about my Smith polka last summer, and it just seemed far too interesting to me that when Olive’s father, Thomas H. Smith, Sr. (1721-1791) left New Jersey for Maryland, he went into business with the Dallam brothers, whose mother had married a Smith after their father’s death. This Smith was a prominent Smith from England.

“Grab your partner–dosey doe–“

Well, it took a few weeks trotting around with that one. I don’t know what I would have done without Baltimore Families–but they found a number of Smiths that they couldn’t place in any particular main Smith family group.

I’ll bet I could! I thought.

Finally, I grew tired of the Virginia reel and decided to start tap dancing with the Websters–particulaly the family patriarch, John Webster the Immigrant (1641-1695). Many people have decided that his wife was a Rush and that she was from the Chester County, Pennsylvania Rush Family. I spent several weeks studying all Rush documents available about the Rush family of Chester County, Pennsylvania and for the life of me, I could not find Amelia Rush. A Susanna Rush married a John Webster, but here is the problem: They married at a later period of time than the people involved in my study. Furthermore, John Webster the Immigrant was in Maryland around 1660. The Rush family of Chester County did not arrive there until 1680 with William Penn. The only thing John had in common with the Rush family? They were all members of the Society of Friends!

There is something incomplete about the word “Unknown” on a family tree. I have a number of “unknowns” on the tree I would like to resolve. This time, I removed the Rush name and typed “Unknown” for John’s wife and paused to look at it.

There must be a record for her somewhere–but where?

My first impulse was to find the identity of John’s father. Everyone seemed to have a different idea about him, so I put that information aside and started over from scratch. I had recently learned that the Harford County, Maryland Websters where cousins or distant cousins of the Websters who arrived aboard the Winthrop Fleet in Massachusetts in 1630. By looking at those Websters, I discovered Leicestershire, England (where John Webster was reportedly from), and by tap-dancing through the English parish records, not only did I find John, but I found his father Bartholomew as well! Presently, I found his close friend, GEORGE SMITH (1639-1704), John’s sister, Anne Webster (1642-1675)–who married George–and George’s sister, ELIZABETH SMITH (1636-1662)–who married John Webster! To make a long story short, Smith and Webster married Webster and Smith, and they left England for America due to persecution of Quakers in England. From there, the story unfolds–

–and the dance continues–