Winter Research Project: Mary Smart McMurry – Analyzing Sources

The next step in the Research Like a Pro process is compiling all collected evidence into a timeline and analyzing these sources.

Like many female ancestors, Mary Smart McMurry appears in few records. Any records she might have generated were probably lost in an 1886 fire that destroyed the Winn Parish Courthouse and all its records. Therefore, I must rely heavily on federal records instead of local ones, and records generated by her husband and sons.

I constructed the following timeline detailing what is known about Mary Smart McMurry.


  • Before 1866 – Birth of Mary Smart
    This calculated date is 16 years before the birth of her oldest son. She could have been born in Texas (recorded birthplace of sons’ mother on 1900 census), but it is unknown who provided this information and if it is accurate. I have my doubts about its accuracy since two of the sons’ birth years are off by one year, and Texas as Mary’s possible birthplace does not appear on any other record. Louisiana is most frequently reported as her birthplace on her sons’ census enumerations, but Mississippi, Alabama, and even Ireland are also reported once each.
  • Between April 1880 and Early 1882 – Marriage of Mary Smart and John McMurry
    Mary Smart has not been located on the 1880 census, but her husband John McMurry appears in Jackson Parish, Louisiana, as a single man. Therefore, John and Mary married sometime after the 1880 census enumeration date (1 Apr 1880) and about a year before her oldest son was born (3 Oct 1882). They probably married in Winn Parish; the lack of a marriage record can be explained by total record loss for the parish in 1886.
  • 3 Oct 1882 – Birth of Son, Robert Franklin McMurry, in Winn Parish
    Although the 1900 census reports Robert’s birth date as October 1881, his self-reported birth date on his World War II draft card and Social Security application, as well as his grave marker, consistently show his birth date as 3 Oct 1882. Robert reported his birth place as Winn Parish on his draft card and as Winnfield, the parish seat of Winn, on his SS application. It is on this SS-5 form that Robert provided the only official, known answer for Mary’s maiden name: Smart.
  • 13 Mar 1884 – Birth of Son, James J. McMurry, in Gaar’s Mill, Winn Parish
    The 1900 census, self-reported birth dates on his two draft cards, and grave marker all agree for this birthdate. James reported his birthplace as Gaar’s Mill on his WWII draft card.
  • 10 Dec 1888 – Birth of Son, George Washington McMurry, in Gaar’s Mill, Winn Parish
    Although the 1900 census reports George’s birth date as December 1887, his self-reported birth date on his World War I draft card and his grave marker match with a 10 Dec 1888 birth date. George reported his birthplace as Gaar’s Mill on his WWI draft card.
  • Between 10 Dec 1888 and 1 Apr 1900 – Death of Mary Smart
    John McMurry’s marital status is listed as widowed in the 1900 census; therefore, Mary died sometime after the birth of her son George, but before the 1900 enumeration date (1 Apr 1900).

One final record provides evidence of Mary’s origins. In a November 1992 letter to my father, family genealogist Agnes McWeeny Johnston wrote, “…Wallace McMurry [son of Robert Franklin McMurry] says that his grandmother was a sister to Jim Smart and Alma and Georgia.” I have not seen any other mention of an interview with Wallace McMurry in Agnes’s research, but these names are all familiar to me. Whereas Mary Smart is in my father’s maternal line, Alma and Georgia are in my father’s paternal family. Both Alma and Georgia married in Winn Parish; Alma in 1888, and Georgia in 1890. They were also located near Mary at the same time period.

With this timeline and information, it’s obvious Winn Parish, Louisiana, is key to my research. On to Step 3: Locality Research.

One thought on “Winter Research Project: Mary Smart McMurry – Analyzing Sources”

  1. Looking good! I was looking at Barb’s info from the 1870 census; it didn’t seem to add up to me. This family is still hard to pin down, to me!

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