For today’s 52 Ancestors post, I am setting out the information I have about my ex-husband’s 2x great grandfather James Smith, and how I have come to the conclusion that he was born 8 April 1841 in Pennsylvania, United States.
The first record I had for James was a family history compiled by one of his descendants in 1979. This showed that James had been born in April 1844, and had grown up at Kilbirnie, Scotland, that he had two sisters, one named Jean, and the other’s name was unknown. This history also stated that he came to Australia around 1860 on the “Utopia”, and he had spent 3 years in Queensland.
A later family tree from the same descendant gives his date of birth as 8 April 1844.
James’ marriage certificate showed he was 26 years old at the time of the marriage in February 1873, indicating a birth year of 1846-1847, and that he was born in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. His son’s birth certificate from November 1873 showed he was 27 years old, and that he was born in Pennsylvania. The birth years from these two certificates indicate he was born between March and November 1846. However, I found that the age for his wife Dora was not accurate on the marriage certificate. She was listed as being 24 years old, indicating a birth year of 1848-1849. I have found her baptism record, and she was baptized in 1844.
James’ death certificate showed that at the time of his death in 1938, he was 94 years old, indicating a birth year of 1844, and he had been born in Ayrshire, Scotland. This also showed that he had spent 3 years in Queensland, and 73 years in Victoria. This indicated that he had arrived in Queensland in 1862.
I found an immigration record for a James Smith, age 20, on the “Utopia”, arriving in Queensland in November 1862. This indicated he was born around 1842. James was a ploughman from Ayr.
The 1861 Scotland Census shows a James Smith, age 19, was a ploughman, and was a servant in the household of John Gray at Ardeer Mains, Stevenston, Ayrshire. This was consistent with the information from the immigration record.
James’ death and marriage certificates both list his parents as Thomas Smith and Rachel Wilson. I have only been able to find one marriage for a couple named Thomas Smith and Rachel Wilson in Scotland: Thomas Smith married Rachel Wilson on 4 March 1837 at Stevenston, Ayrshire.
The 1851 Scotland Census shows a James Smith, age 8 (born about 1843) was in the household of Rachel Smith at Schoolwell St, Stevenston, Ayrshire. The census shows he was born in Stevenston, Ayrshire.
The 1841 Scotland Census shows a James Smith age 1 month was in the household of Thomas Smith, age 30, and Rachael Smith, age 25 at Stevenston, Ayrshire. The census showed he was born in county.
The 1841 Census was held on the 6 June 1841. A birth date of 8 April is consistent with James Smith being a month old at the time of the census.
This leads me to conclude that James was born 8 April 1841.
The above was from documents I had in my possession, but I decided to have a look at a family history that was sent to me by a descendant of James’ sister Jean. The family history provided information from a Poor Relief Application Rachel made in 1860 (dated 10 April 1860). The Poor Relief Application lists a son James Smith, unmarried, farm servant, Ardeer Mains aged 19. This matches the James Smith on the 1861 census, and the immigration record, and this would confirm that if he was 19 years old in 1860, then he was born in 1841. This provides further evidence that James was born 8 April 1841.
As to where he was born, that is harder to determine. The census records all show he was born in Stevenston, Ayrshire, but James lists his birthplace as Pennsylvania, United States on his marriage certificate, and his son’s birth certificate. James’ sister Jean was born in Virginia. The voyage from the United States to Britain took a little over a month, so it is possible that James was born while the family were passing through Pennsylvania, on their way from Virginia to Boston or New York, to board a ship to Britain, and that they had just arrived back in Scotland at the time of the census. It is not known who provided the information to the census taker for each of the censuses, while James provided the information on his marriage certificate, and his son’s birth certificate. He grew up in Stevenston, and if he had been born in Stevenston, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why he would say he had been born in Pennsylvania.
This leads me to conclude that he was born in Pennsylvania, United States.