Sunday, February 17, 2013

Remembering John Smith

Besides my obsession with the stories of the children of John Gillespie's first marriage (the story that includes Greer's and emigration to NY before migration to MI), my other focus is usually associated with the lives of Robert and James Gillespie, the two brothers who emigrated to Quebec and from whom I descend.  But there was another character in the story of the children of John Gillespie's second marriage, the older sister of Robert and James whose name was Sarah.  Sarah Gillespie married John Smith in Ireland and had one child there before also emigrating to Quebec.  Whether the Gillespie's and the Smith's emigrated together, we don't know but we suspect it is possible since the two families appear in the New World about the same time.

I'm not sure of John's occupation, but he lived in the area of Portneuf and Levis in Quebec.  He and Sarah had at least five more children, and it appears they were associated with the Church of England in Bourg-Louis.

Sometime after the 1881 census, John and Sarah's oldest son, George Arthur Smith, moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  There we find a death record for Sarah in 1901.  She is buried in the Hamilton Cemetery with other members of her son's family.  But what happened between 1881 and 1901?  And whatever happened to John Smith?

One of the things I appreciate about ancestry.com is how it has connected me with family members, and not just ones that I didn't know I had (though that is true), but with those family members who also have some degree of interest and passion about our family history.  So I have ancestry to thank for connecting me with a descendant of John and Sarah Smith's line, who today, magically, lives in Hamilton, Ontario.  We've been corresponding off and on for a few years, and he is one person who also cares about the question Whatever Happened to John Smith?

Well, our Canadian cousin came through!  He located the church records telling us that John died shortly after the 1881 census was taken.  The church record gives us John's age, which also updates our records making him older than we thought he was.  And the most interesting thing, is that we already had this record in our possession.  It so happens that John's daughter, Ann Jane Smith Price, also died late in 1881.  The image of her death record includes two pages from a book where the minister was recording the deaths.  On the page directly opposite of Ann Jane's burial record is the burial record for her father!  They died exactly a week apart, and one has to wonder if there was not an illness in the area or family at that time that caused them both to perish.  We still don't know where either of them were buried, but that is a question that can be answered another time.

So now we know what happened to John Smith, one of the Irish pioneers who made the journey with his young family to Quebec.  We can wish that we knew more about the Smith family, whether he was English or Scot-Irish, where and how he met Sarah, why they too decided to emigrate.  But this discovery is also trying to tell us to keep paying attention!  The answer to this question has been in front of us for a long time, and none of us can quite understand why we didn't see it.  We've done a whole lot of looking, but that doesn't mean we always see what's in plain view.  So thanks to Canadian cousin for looking, and to Uncle John for reminding us to slow down and see!

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