This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series. This week’s prompt is CHALLENGE. To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index.
Ask any genealogist, and they’ll have a story (or several) about their “brick walls” — those ancestors who are the most challenging to research. We spend years, maybe even our entire genealogy career, searching for clues about these elusive family members. My “brick wall” and greatest research challenge is my own great-grandmother, Georgia F. Smart.
The Known: Records
My first records of Georgia F. Smart are her marriage bond and license to my great-grandfather. John Thomas Horne obtained a marriage bond in Winn Parish, Louisiana, on June 28, 1890, with himself as principal and H.S. Johnston as security.¹ The bond was attested by J.E. DeLoach and D.F. Dunn. John Thomas Horne and “Miss Georgia F. Smart” were married the next day by officiant J.L. Hatten, MG.² Witnesses were H.S. Johnston, R.A. Johnston, and a signature I cannot yet decipher.
Georgia next appears on the 1900 census in Beat 1, Sunflower County, Mississippi.³ She is listed as “Georgia F. Horn,” wife, and married to John Thomas Horne for 10 years. This census asked women to report the number of children they had birthed and the number of these children living. Georgia’s entry reports she had four children, and two living, referencing the two children in the household: John Thomas, Jr., and William G. (Dewey), my grandfather. Also living in the household were her husband’s maternal grandmother Malinda Johnston, and boarder Charley Riles, who was Malinda’s nephew.
The final known record for Georgia is her appearance in the 1910 census in Veasey Township, Drew County, Arkansas.⁴ She is listed as the head of household and widowed. Also appearing in the household are three sons: John Thomas, Jr., Dewey, and Charlie.
The (Possibly) Known: Family Stories
With only three identified records, I’ve had to rely on family stories for clues about Georgia’s life.
Genealogist Agnes McWeeny Johnston first heard a story about Georgia in her 1990s interviews with descendants of William Silas Johnston and Amarentha “Alma” Smart. Their granddaughter Edna Johnston Wood recounted that her grandfather shot and killed a man. The man was John Thomas Horne, and William Silas murdered him for beating Georgia while pregnant. Edna’s telling of the story indicated Georgia was often the victim of domestic violence, but John Thomas beating his wife during pregnancy was too much for William Silas to ignore. The murder allegedly happened in a store or saloon in Oak Ridge, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, and William Silas did not face any legal consequences.
If the family story is true, John Thomas Horne’s murder would have occurred sometime between March – December 1902 or 1903, the nine months prior to the birth of Charlie Horne, Georgia and John Thomas’s final child.⁵ (DNA tests of two Charlie Horne descendants indicate he and Dewey Horne were full brothers.) Agnes McWeeny Johnston recorded the murder happened when Georgia was seven months pregnant.⁶ I have not found any newspaper reports or court filings in Morehouse Parish that document the death of John Thomas Horne or his possible murder by William Silas Johnston. It’s possible that handing domestic violence was a family matter and did not involve the law, leaving no record other than stories passed in hushed whispers over the generations. I have not found burial or cemetery records for John Thomas Horne either, but that’s not uncommon for a poor farmer.
My clues about Georgia’s death come from interviews with my aunts, the children of Georgia’s son Dewey. They remember Dewey telling them his older brother John Thomas, Jr., fell gravely ill and needed an appendectomy. Georgia sought medical care in New Orleans — quite a long journey — but John Thomas, Jr. died on the train.⁷ According to their report of Dewey’s recollections, Georgia died soon after, exhausted from trying to provide for her two small children as a widowed subsistence farmer.⁸ My aunts believe Georgia’s death happened when Dewey was about ten years old.
Dewey was ten years old at the time of the 1910 census on which he, Georgia, and his two brothers appear. Perhaps John Thomas, Jr., and Georgia’s deaths occurred shortly after this record. The family story holds Dewey quit school after Georgia died and supported his little brother Charlie by working for a family named Barfield.⁹ He may have also lived with the Jesse Eley family in Chase, Franklin Parish, Louisiana.¹⁰ Therefore, I’m not sure where Georgia’s death occurred — Drew County, Arkansas, their last recorded census location; Franklin Parish, Louisiana, where Dewey and Charlie ended up after they were orphaned; or somewhere in between. I haven’t found death certificates for either Georgia or John Thomas, Jr. in Arkansas, Louisiana, or Mississippi. It’s possible their deaths were never recorded. Louisiana began recording deaths in 1911, Mississippi in 1912, and Arkansas 1914, but it took several years for all counties and parishes to comply. I believe their deaths occurred during this window between the 1910 census and the common issuance of death certificates.
The Unknown: Georgia’s Origins
My greatest research challenge has been identifying Georgia’s family of origin. My family has no information about her parents’ identities, and I’ve found no direct evidence from records. However, I can draw clues from the few records we have, as well as other family stories, and — most recently — DNA evidence.
Clues from Marriage Records
The 1890 marriage bond and license lists Georgia as “Miss Georgia F. Smart” — indicating she had never been married. It is reasonable to surmise Smart was Georgia’s maiden surname, not the surname of a previous husband.
Analysis of the bond and license witnesses identifies the Johnston signees as maternal relatives of John Thomas Horne. I have not determined a link to D.F. Dunn; he served as Winnfield Postmaster during this time and could have been a random person at the courthouse.¹¹ J.E. DeLoach was at one time the Winn Parish sheriff and also could have been a random person at the courthouse;¹² however, the name DeLoach may have another connection to Georgia, one I discovered with DNA. (We’ll revisit it later in this post.)
Clues from Census Records
The 1900 census indicates Georgia’s birth date was December 1875; the 1910 census estimates her birth year as 1879. Considering Georgia married in 1890, I believe the 1875 estimate is more likely, making her 14.5 years old when she married — quite young but more feasible than 10.5 years old, as estimated from the 1910 census.
Females were also asked to provide childbearing data for the 1900 census. Because Georgia’s entry indicates she had two deceased children, I believe either Georgia herself or someone who knew her well provided information to the census enumerator. Therefore, Georgia’s information from the 1900 census may be more accurate than the information recorded in 1910. I also feel we can trust her birthplace (Louisiana) and parents’ birthplaces (father = Louisiana; mother = Mississippi) from the 1900 census more than the 1910 census which contains proven incorrect answers for her son Dewey’s birthplace and for her sons’ father’s birthplace.
Analysis of these possible birth years and locations indicate Georgia should have appeared in the 1880 census — most likely in Louisiana, but possibly in Mississippi or Arkansas. I have been unable to find a Georgia Smart meeting the criteria in these states. I expanded my search to all of the United States and have discounted other Georgia Smart matches based on race and/or other documentation. So why isn’t Georgia in the 1880 census? Here are some theories:
- She is listed with another name (perhaps with her middle name; or in the household of someone with another last name)
- She and her family’s names were recorded incorrectly.
- She and her family’s names were transcribed incorrectly.
- She and her family were skipped by the enumerator.
I’ve poured over 1880 census records for years hoping to make a discovery. But if Georgia and her family were skipped, I could search the rest of my genealogy career and never find her.
Clues from Family Stories
My dad remembers each time his family visited his oldest sister in Fresno County, California, his father Dewey would stop to see a man named Mack Smart. Somehow he was family — my dad never knew how or what relation. It’s not a big clue, but even a small clue could help solve the mystery of Georgia’s origins. Mack Smart was the son of Jim Smart of Franklin Parish, Louisiana; his paternal grandparents were Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver of Claiborne Parish.
The story of John Thomas Horne’s alleged murder could also contain a clue about Georgia’s family. William Silas Johnston, the supposed murderer, was John Thomas’s step-father; he was married to John Thomas’s mother Harriett until her death in 1888.¹³ That relationship could explain why William Silas cared enough about John Thomas’s behavior to take action. But is there an even more important connection? William Silas’s second wife was Amarentha “Alma” Rebecca Smart¹⁴ — could she be a close relative of Georgia’s? I find it more likely that a man intervene at his wife’s request on behalf of her daughter/sister/aunt/cousin than to take it upon himself to correct the behavior of his dead wife’s son from a previous marriage. In fact, William Silas and Amarentha married in Winn Parish two years before John Thomas and Georgia marriage. Could their marriage be how John Thomas and Georgia became acquainted?
Clues from DNA Matches
Results from my father’s autosomal DNA tests have been providing even more clues since 2015. He originally took an autosomal test at AncestryDNA, and I transferred the results to several testing companies and databases (GEDMatch, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage) to maximize the chances of finding Smart family matches.
GEDMatch’s Are Your Parents Related Tool? gave us some fascinating results. My father shares 120.7 cM of common DNA with himself, indicating his parents were likely first cousins or first cousins, once removed. This relationship is quite close and can be easily identified if the shared ancestors are on a known line. Since our Horne line is well-documented for five generations, I immediately suspected the connection to be somewhere within our unknown Georgia Smart family — the exact puzzle I was hoping to solve. I began a closer examination of my dad’s mother’s family, attempting to find the link.
My big break came later that year when Ancestry released the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 collection. The SS application of my grandmother’s uncle finally gave me a surname for her grandmother — none other than Mary SMART!¹⁵
I easily found Mary Smart on census records. Although transcribed as “Marcy” Smart, the source image for the 1870 census in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, shows a Mary Smart, age 11, living with parents S. Smart and Adeline P. Smart.¹⁶ Mary is also recorded as “M.E. Smart,” age 1, living with S.W. Smart and A.P. Smart in Claiborne Parish in 1860.¹⁷ Further research identified these individuals as Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver. I dug into the family trees of my dad’s DNA matches and found numerous shared connections back to this couple and to the previous generation.
Was the mystery solved? Not really. These shared ancestor links prove my father’s connection to Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver through Mary Smart, but not through Georgia. What I needed were testers descending from Georgia Smart who weren’t also related to other Smarts. Two testers emerged and have provided key information:
Tester #1 is a grandchild of Georgia Smart’s son Charlie and has no other known Smart family connections. The tester completed an autosomal test at FamilyTreeDNA and has confirmed matches to descendants of Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver, as well as Adeline’s parents Alfred Shaver and his wife Sarah.
Tester #2 is a great-grandchild of Georgia Smart’s son Charlie and has no other known Smart family connections. The tester completed an autosomal test at AncestryDNA and has confirmed matches to descendants of Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver, Samuel’s parents James Smart and Ann Jane Knighton, and Adeline Shaver’s parents Alfred Shaver & wife Sarah.
I’m working on a more technical DNA analysis comparing shared cM values with expected ranges, but I’m encouraged these matches point to Georgia’s parents as Samuel W. Smart and Adeline Shaver.
(On a side note, I mentioned the surname DeLoach, a witness of John Thomas and Georgia’s marriage bond, near the beginning of this post. My dad has a DeLoach match on AncestryDNA, and this tester is a descendant of William Earl DeLoach and Sarah Ann Emmaline Smart, sister of Samuel W. Smart. Could there be an connection between J.E. DeLoach and William? Definitely a clue to explore.)
The Newly Known: Latest Evidence
Although DNA provides valuable evidence to resolve genealogical problems, I am always reassured when traditional research corroborates the genetic clues. I probably won’t consider the mystery of Georgia Smart’s origins solved until I find some paper evidence of her family life before marriage. I may have found that first piece of evidence last week.
Before DNA analysis pointed to the Smarts of Claiborne Parish as Georgia’s possible family, I thought it more likely Georgia came from one of the Smart families in Winn Parish or neighboring Jackson Parish. Those leads did not match the DNA evidence, but I also lacked proof the Claiborne Parish Smarts were ever near Winn Parish. Placing the Claiborne Smarts in Winn Parish would build a stronger argument for Samuel Smart and Adeline Shaver as Georgia’s parents.
Over the new year’s holiday I made a quick stop at Ouachita Parish Public Library’s genealogy room for another project. It was my first visit, so I — as always — browsed for any records about my Smart family. I flipped through a scrapbook of the Sikes Historian, a newsletter published annually since 1982 by the Wolf Creek Handicraft Guild. This organization hosts an arts and crafts festival each September in Sikes, Winn Parish, Louisiana, and its newsletter celebrates the history of their village and the people who call it home.
The index indicated several Smarts were mentioned on page 5 of the first issue, so I turned to the article and read with interest. It was a reprint of an April 28, 1960, article from the Winn Parish Enterprise and recalled the discovery of a storekeeper’s journal dated 1870 – 1875. The article listed the names of people with whom the storekeeper did business, and these captured my attention: S.W. Smart, J.K. Smart, William DeLoach, B.Y. Smart, and J.O. Knighton.¹⁸
I believe these men are my Claiborne Parish Smarts! Specifically:
- S.W. Smart = Samuel W. Smart, son of James D. Smart and Ann Jane Knighton
- J.K. Smart = Jesse Knighton Smart, another son of James D. Smart and Ann Jane Knighton
- William DeLoach = husband of Sarah Ann Emmaline Smart, who was a daughter of James D. Smart and Ann Jane Knighton
- B.Y. Smart = if his middle initial was incorrectly transcribed, possibly Buckner T. Smart, husband of Susan Smart, who was a daughter of James D. Smart and Ann Jane Knighton
- J. O. Knighton = possibly some relation of Ann Jane Knighton
The storekeeper was G.W. Henderson, and he also had a Smart family connection — his wife was Margaret Smart, another daughter of James D. Smart and Ann Jane Knighton.
The article states G.W. Henderson owned the store from 1870 – 1875, and then he sold it to J.O. Knighton. The store was located in Sikes, near the Winn / Jackson Parish line — and very close to the land owned by John Johnston, John Thomas Horne’s grandfather with whom he lived at the time of the 1880 census.¹⁹
Several of these Smarts may not have stayed in Winn Parish long. By the 1880 census, J.K. Smart, William DeLoach, and their families had returned to Claiborne Parish.²⁰ Buckner Smart appears with his family in Bienville Parish.²¹ S.W. Smart and family do not appear on any 1880 census. Considering Georgia Smart is also missing from the 1880 census, their combined absence may be negative evidence of them belonging to the same skipped household.
This Sikes Historian article is evidence of Georgia’s possible family living in the right place near the right time — a breakthrough in a challenging case! It may not be direct evidence of Georgia’s birth or the identity of her parents, but it’s a meaningful clue and first new record discovery in several years.
My great-grandmother Georgia F. Smart will probably continue as my greatest genealogy challenge for many years. With continued research, careful analysis, and lots of determination, I aim to make her my greatest genealogy victory.
¹ Marriages, 1886-1916; marriage index, 1886-1971, Winn Parish Clerk of Court, Winn Parish, LA, marriage bond and license of John T. Horn and Georgia F. Smart, dated 29 Jun 1890, filed 15 Jul 1890 (pages not numbered), microfilm at Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX, roll 870594.
³ 1900 U.S. Census, Sunflower County, MS, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 48, p. 997 (penned), dwelling 239, family 244; Georgia Horn in John T Horn household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4120349_00098/36072954 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 31077_4120349.
⁴ 1910 U.S. Census, Drew County, AR, population schedule, Veasey Township, enumeration district (ED) 55, p. 2A (penned and stamped), dwelling 34, family 24, Georgia Horn household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4327239-00796/181039048 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 49.
⁵ Two possible birth years for Charlie appear in his World War II draft registration card and gravestone:
Birthdate for Charlie Horne calculated from his World War II draft registration:
U.S. World War II Draft Cards, Young Men, 1940-1947, Franklin Parish, LA Registration Card for James Charlie Horne, serial number 1066, order number 11291; digital image, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2238/004829524_01507/4831746 : accessed 18 Aug 2018); citing Records of the Selective Service System, NARA record group 147.
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13491799 : accessed 24 Jan 2019), memorial 13491799, James C. “Charlie” Horne (1903-1979), Ogden Cemetery, Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana; gravestone photograph by Ron Manley.
⁶Agnes McWeeny Johnston. The Johnston Family Tree (Green Valley, Arizona: Mrs. Roy Johnston [378 Calle de Las Flores, Green Valley, AZ, 85614], 1992).
⁷ Lillian Horne Killen, Georgia Horne Lofton, and Mary Horne Brown, daughters of William George Dewey Horne (ADDRESSES REDACTED FOR PRIVACY), interview by Jessica Horne Collins, 20 November 2018; audio recording privately held by interviewer, Houston, Texas, 2018.
¹¹ “U.S., Register of Civil, Military, and Naval Service, 1863-1959.” Database with images. Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2525/40411_1821100517_0817-00589 : accessed 10 January 2019), D.F. Dunn as Postmaster in Winnfield, Winn Parish, Louisiana, 1889.
¹² “J.E. DeLoach,” The Southern Sentinel (Winnfield, Louisiana), 4 Aug. 1904, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88064428/1904-08-04/ed-1/seq-1/ : accessed 10 January 2019), p. 1; col. 4.
¹³ Mississippi Marriages, 1800-1911; William S. Johnston and Harriet H. Horne, 3 Apr 1868, Leake County, MS; database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2ZR-R61 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing FHL microfilm 891454.
County Line Cemetery (Winn Parish, Louisiana), Harriett H. Johnston memorial plaque; photographed by Jessica Horne Collins, 1 January 2014.
¹⁴ Marriages, 1886-1916; marriage index, 1886-1971, Winn Parish Clerk of Court, Winn Parish, LA, marriage license of William Silas Johnston and Amarentha Rebecca Smart, dated 22 Jun 1888, (pages not numbered), microfilm at Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX, roll 870594.
¹⁵ “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.” Database. Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60901&h=759218984&ssrc=pt&tid=49495569&pid=20441223023 : accessed 10 January 2019), Mary Smart as mother of Robert Franklin McMurry.
¹⁶ 1870 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 1, p. 4 (penned), dwelling 29, family 29, Mary Smart in the S. Smart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4269411_00008/30614061 : accessed 10 January 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M593.
¹⁷ 1860 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 7, p. 181 (penned), dwelling 1205, family 1205, M.E. Smart in the S. W. Smart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4231221_00321/38237087 : accessed 10 January 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M653.
¹⁸ “113-year old journal of Sikes storekeeper found,” Sikes Historian 1 (18 September 1982): 5.
¹⁹Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=LA1000__.470&docCls=STA&sid=yqbj4kdz.kih : accessed 10 Jan 2019), entry for John Johnston, Winn Parish and Jackson Parish, Louisiana, no. 3703.
²⁰ 1880 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 4, enumeration district (ED) 12, p. 31 (penned), dwelling 225, family 229; Jesse Smart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241353-00425/40110042 : accessed 10 Jan 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 451.
1880 U.S. Census, Claiborne Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 4, enumeration district (ED) 12, p. 31 (penned), dwelling 222, family 226; William Deloach, Sr. household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241353-00425/40110042 : accessed 10 Jan 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 451.
²¹ 1880 U.S. Census, Bienville Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 6, p. 62 (penned), dwelling 538, family 538; Buckner T. Smart household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241285-00454/6556288 : accessed 10 Jan 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 451.