With a research objective, a timeline of known information, and a summary of available resources, it’s now time to make a research plan. This fourth step in the Research Like a Pro methodology has a few steps itself.
Step 1: Summarize the Known Facts
I jumped the gun a little on this step, as my timeline contained some of this reasoning. But here it is again — formalized:
- Mary was probably born before 1866. This date is 16 years before the birth of her oldest known child. If her age was closer to that of her husband’s, she could have been born as early as 1856.
- Mary may have been born in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Ireland, according “mother’s birthplace” data cited in her sons’ census records. The most likely locations are Louisiana (cited 5 of 9 times) or Texas (cited earliest).
- Mary married John McMurry sometime after 1 June 1880 (census enumeration date) and early 1882 (estimate based on birth date of first known son). Mary has not been located on the 1880 census, but John is listed as a single laborer in the household of G. B. Higgs in Ward 2, Jackson Parish, Louisiana.
- Mary had three known sons:
- Robert Franklin, born 3 October 1882, in Winnfield, Winn Parish
- James, born 13 March 1884, in Gaar’s Mill, Winn Parish
- George Washington, born 10 December 1888, in Gaar’s Mill, Winn Parish
- Mary died sometime between George’s birth (10 December 1888) and the 1900 census enumeration date (1 June 1900), as John is listed as widowed on this census.
- Robert identified his mother’s name as “Mary Smart” on his application for Social Security; this is the only direct evidence of Mary’s maiden name.
- George identified his mother as “Mary McMurry” on the statistical information he provided for a marriage license to Lula McKaskle in Franklin Parish on 26 December 1912.
- Genealogist Agnes McWeeny Johnston recorded in a 1992 letter that she interviewed Wallace McMurry, son of Robert Franklin, and he said, “his grandmother [Mary Smart] was a sister to Jim Smart and Alma and Georgia.”
Step 2: Create a Working Hypothesis
Mary Smart was born between 1855 and 1866, most likely in Louisiana, or possibly Texas. She married John McMurry between 1880-1882, in Winn Parish, Louisiana, and records do not exist due to that parish’s complete record loss in 1886. After their parents’ early deaths, Mary’s sons may have maintained a relationship with her possible siblings, Alma Smart Johnston McKaskle, Georgia Smart Horne, and Jim Smart. Proving a relationship among these possible siblings could lead to identifying Mary’s parents in siblings’ records.
Step 3: Identify Sources to Search
- 1860 census records for Mary Smart in Louisiana or Texas with possible parents
- 1870 census records for Mary, Alma, and Jim Smart in Louisiana or Texas within the same family unit with parents
- 1880 census records for Mary, Alma, Jim, and Georgia Smart in Louisiana or Texas within the same family unit with parents
- Marriage records of Alma, Jim, and Georgia for any shared witnesses or family connections
- Court records (conveyance/land/probate) in the following jurisdictions for any transactions among siblings: Winn Parish, Franklin Parish, Morehouse Parish, Louisiana
- DNA matches among descendants of Mary, Alma, Jim, and Georgia
- Death record of Jim Smart for identification of parents
- 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses for shared migration or proximity of McMurry sons to possible Smart relatives and Smart siblings to one another
Step 4: Prioritize the Research Strategy
- Census Records
Search 1860-1880 census records for Smart siblings in Louisiana or Texas within a family unit with possible parents.
Search census records for 1900 and forward for shared migration or proximity of McMurry sons to possible Smart relatives and Smart siblings to one another.
- Marriage Records
Check marriage records for Alma, Georgia, and Jim Smart for any shared witnesses or family connections.
Check marriage records of Robert, George, and Jim McMurry for any Smart family connections.
- Death Records
Obtain death certificate for Jim Smart; check if parents are identified. (Mary, Alma, and Georgia all died before death records were kept.)
Obtain death records for any other possible Smart siblings identified in census research; check if parents are identified.
Identify descendants of Smart siblings who have taken DNA tests and do not have pedigree collapse within their family trees.
Collect shared cM data between testers; see if cM range is appropriate for MRCA being parents of Smart siblings.
- Court Records
Search court records (conveyance, land, probate) for transactions among Smart siblings or with McMurry sons in Winn, Franklin, and Morehouse parishes.
- Naming Patterns
Compare naming patterns for the children of Smart siblings to identify similarities and possible names for Smart parents.
- FAN Club Analysis
Compile friends, neighbors, and associated (FAN) list from all sources for further analysis.
I also recorded the research plan in the following document. It has some extra information about John McMurry to aid in the project.Research-Plan-Mary-Smart-McMurry