It is a while since I posted a story about one of my ancestors due to an injury that has meant not too much typing and this story is a shorter one too.
I have written about common names before but no name is so common in British ancestry as John Smith. My maternal grandmother was a Smith, so finding a John Smith in my family tree was inevitable. As my research has progressed, I have found several other ancestral Smith families, but I will focus on my grandmother’s family for now.
Adding to the complications of researching the common Smith surname, when I first started my research, the information I had was that the Smiths were from Woolwich, in Kent and south of London, or Banbury, in Oxfordshire and north of London. Thanks primarily to census records, I discovered that the family had connections to both places.
This particular John Smith was born in Bicester, Oxfordshire, in 1832, and was baptised in the local parish church on 9 December that year. He was the middle of 9 children of John Smith and Elizabeth Elston*; four boys and five girls.
In 1841, young John Smith was living with his parents, siblings and grandmother, Martha Elston (nee Guntrip), in Bicester Market End. Ten years later, in 1851, not much had changed other than John having grown up to be a carpenter.
John Smith married Eliza Roberts 17 April 1854 in Oxford.
Although they married in Oxford, John and Eliza lived for the first few years of their marriage in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where their first two children, Emily and Harry (my ancestor) were born. So here is the Banbury link from my earliest research. The family were briefly back in Bicester, where daughter Mary Ann was born in 1860, before moving to Woolston, St Mary Extra, in Hampshire, where the family were living at the time of the 1861 census. Woolston was a ship building and port area of Southampton.
The Smith family soon moved again and around 1864, daughter Elizabeth was born in Sandhurst, Berkshire. By the time of the 1871 Census, the family were in West Plumstead, Kent, which is next to Woolwich, Kent, where they were living in 1881, with George Roberts, John’s father-in-law, living in the household. So I also found the Woolwich connection.
Daughter Emily married Henry James Brooker in 1875. Son Harry migrated to Australia in the 1880s. Daughter Elizabeth married John Carriss around 1890. Both daughters stayed in the Woolwich area.
1891 found John and Eliza back in Oxfordshire, this time in Headington, just outside of Oxford with 6 year old Frederick Marriott, possibly a relative, living with them. Eliza’s father had lived in Headington in 1890. Another ten years later, John, Eliza and Frederick were back in Woolwich. I think they stayed as John was still there in 1911, as a widower, Eliza having died in 1904, living with his daughter Elizabeth and her family.
I am not sure what took the Smith’s all over southern England but I suspect it was John’s work as a carpenter and joiner.
John Smith died in 1913. He was 80 years old, a good age at the time but not unusual for his family.
I am pleased that I was able to track the movements of the Smith family and show that such a common name doesn’t make research impossible.
Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > John Henry Smith > Harry Smith > John Smith
*Also Ellston, Elstone and other variations.