James Smart: Yesterday’s Antebellum Farm is Today’s Agricultural Research Station

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Work.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Growing up in rural Louisiana, I’ve always been surrounded by agriculture. Both sets of my grandparents were cotton farmers, so I haven’t been surprised to find generation after generation of farmers in my family history research.

But our family’s farming history hasn’t been one of sweeping plantations and large-scale operations run by slave labor. For the most part, my ancestors had small family farms — fathers and sons working together to provide just enough for their immediate needs. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was their way of life.

My 4x-great-grandfather — and also possibly my 3x-great-grandfather, but that’s another story — James D. Smart, was one of these small-scale antebellum cotton farmers. Ironically, the land he owned in Louisiana is even used for agricultural research today.

Continue reading James Smart: Yesterday’s Antebellum Farm is Today’s Agricultural Research Station

William Silas & Amarentha Smart Johnston: Courthouse Research Uncovers Death Dates

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is AT THE COURTHOUSE.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Although genealogy interested me at a young age, I didn’t pick up this hobby — okay, obsession — until the internet made record access easy. I spent my early years researching from home in my pajamas, thinking all the documents I’d ever need were online. Oh, how wrong I was! As my skills improved and I moved onto more challenging research, I learned the records needed to solve difficult problems are rarely online. The most helpful evidence is often squirreled away in libraries or located at county and parish courthouses.

Franklin Parish Courthouse, Winnsboro, Louisiana (photo from Louisiana Fifth Judicial Court)

I visit courthouses around northeastern Louisiana almost every time I travel home. Because the past four generations of my family have lived in Liddieville, I spend a good deal of time at the Franklin Parish Courthouse in Winnsboro, Louisiana. The parish has not experienced any record loss since it was organized in 1843, so over 175 years of documents are available at the Clerk of Court’s office. Marriage, land, probate, civil court, and criminal court records — it’s all there. And none of it is digitized. Researching in rural courthouses like these means skimming through huge, musty-smelling books, asking staff to retrieve boxes from storage, and then personally digging through those boxes of original court documents. I love it!

One of my first big finds at the Franklin Parish Courthouse was a succession that provided death dates for two key individuals in my family tree: William Silas Johnston and his wife Amarentha “Alma” Smart.

Continue reading William Silas & Amarentha Smart Johnston: Courthouse Research Uncovers Death Dates

Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster C

This post is my third in a series about Genetic Affairs’ auto-cluster tool and using it to analyze my paternal matches at AncestryDNA. As you might recall, my father’s parents were likely first cousins, once removed (1C1R), meaning he has a high degree of pedigree collapse. I ran the auto-cluster tool on my father’s test at a range of 50 – 250 cM and previously identified four “super clusters”:

Paternal “Super Clusters” as interpreted from results of Genetic Affairs Auto-Cluster Tool, run date of 3 Jan 2019

My earlier posts examined Super Cluster A and Super Cluster B and identified a MRCA — Most Recent Common Ancestor — for each. Today we’ll look at Super Cluster C.

Continue reading Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster C

Georgia F. Smart Horne: Research Challenge Who Faced Personal Challenges

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. Continue reading Georgia F. Smart Horne: Research Challenge Who Faced Personal Challenges