Monday, October 1, 2012

The Elusive Rachel Smith

Last week, I published the name Rachel Smith in a list of baptisms by John H Gibbs. I wanted to look at  the ages of the converts and see if there was a pattern. There wasn't much to tell, but In the list were a few for whom there was no birthdate. Without a birthdate, I couldn't tell how old they were so I figured "how hard could it be to figure out a birthdate?"

Most of the names without a birthdate were easy. These were members of the LDS Church after all. We keep great records, most of the time. I should say, if there is a record, we will keep it. Sometimes there isn't one. That was the case with Rachel Smith.

I've had some luck with common names. Brown comes to mind. But this one was giving me trouble. First what did I know? Her name: Rachel Smith. Who baptized her: Willis Eugene Robison. Batismal Date: 27 April 1884. She was confirmed by B.H.Roberts on the same day. Parents: Wm Jerramgan and Rachel Davidson.  The spelling for Rachel's father's name perplexes me a little. It is hand written in the baptismal record and some of the letters are non descript wiggles. But at least I know she is, or was married.

But here I am fortunate. The missionary who actually performed the baptism kept a journal. Maybe he wrote down more about her. I checked the entry under Rachel's baptism date and found this...

Sunday April 27th 1884

Weather very Rainy and wet this morning looked like it might continue all day but about ten oclock the Sun came out and we had a beautiful day. we all met in the woods this morning and recieved a great deal of instruction relative to our future labors. Went to our meeting and found about Sixty people there had a good meeting and adjourned until one Oclock when we held another meeting after which a Lady by the name of Rachael Smith applied for baptism which we attended to. I baptised her.
OK, so maybe I won't get any help here. No clue to her age, her birthplace, nothing. It almost sounds like he didn'tknow her. But at least now I know where she lived. Elder Robison and Elder Roberts were attending a conference that day in Blue Creek, Humphreys County, Tennessee. B. H. Roberts diary will be no help. There is a big hole in 1884 where he didn't write at all in his diary. Yeah, I know. Of all the years he decides not to write, it is the one I would love the most to see. Sigh.

So I go back to the census for Humphreys County. I find a couple of Rachel Smiths, but nothing obvious to single one out. One is married to James Smith, the other to Thomas Smith. Could be either one, or niether one. No William Jerramgan. No Rachel Davidson.
Then I have an idea. If Rachel had decided to get baptized, it was likely she had already met the missionaries, perhaps with her husband. So I go back to Elder Robison's journal. About two weeks before the baptism Elder Robison stayed at the home of Thomas Smith where he and his companion were well received.

April 11, 1884
...about the middle of the afternoon we came to the house of W. Thos Smith where we stoped until morning. We found Mr S. and family very friendly toward the L.D.S. and passed a very enjoyable evening talking to them on doctrinal points, also sung quite a number of songs, sat up until a late hour.

Could this be the same Smith family? Using Thomas' name I go back to the census. I recall that there was a Rachel Smith married to a Thomas Smith in Humphreys county. The odds are beginning to stack in favor of this being the right person.

Then I had another idea. Her father's name could be Wm Jernigan. But that was not really much help. There were dozens of Wm Jernigans, including all the varient spellings. A few were widowed, but only one had a wife named Rachel, and none had a daughter named Rachel. I tried Rachel Jernigan and no matchs with the right parent names.

I'm close. But not close enough. I know my evidence is circumstantial. But when is circumstantial evidence close enough.

1 comment:

P Hansen said...

Hi Bruce, I lost your contact information but I finally got around to posting a blog on J H Gibbs. EVERYTHING I have on him will be posted on that blog as fast as I can type it in. here is the link: http://leafindawind.blogspot.com/

Pam Hansen