A while back I was researching my paternal mother's maternal lineage. I was able to locate and verify my great grandmother and my great-great grandmother through census and vital records. They are as follows:
Lucy Stroggins-Callins b. 1872 - d. abt. 1936 (born and died in Dallas County, Alabama)
Cely Smith-Williams b. abt. 1850 - d. 19 Jun 1933 (Born in Dallas County, AL and died in Bessemer, Jefferson County, AL)
Because Smith is such a common surname, I felt I had no chance on ever finding any of Cely Smith-Williams siblings or any of her other relatives. I did research any Smiths who were living nearby Pierce and Cely Williams in Dallas County.
While conducting research on ancestry.com, I came across a One World Tree in which the name and birth year of my great-great grandmother appeared. I added the information to my tree in order to save it for later research. The Smith Family tree I located went back to a Charity Smith and her enslaver Baxter Smith of Dallas County, Alabama. According to the notes, she and her three children were emancipated in 1825, presumably at the time of Baxter Smith's death. Being that this was 3rd person type of information, I didn't give much credibility to its validity in relation to my research. This could've easily been someone else's family information. I just didn't have enough evidence to verify the information.
Thank goodness for divine ancestral intervention! Recently while speaking to one of my cousins about the most recent Callins-Clay family reunion, I was referred to a distant cousin related to the Smith family of my paternal lineage. After speaking to cousin Philip, it was clear that the Smith family tree on Ancestry was indeed my family. As a matter of fact, Philip personally knew many of my first cousins who lived in Michigan and was always told that they were cousins. However, my specialty in my research is locating ancestors who lived during the 19th century and prior. So Philip referred me to cousin Margaret, who has been researching the Smith family since 1982. I spoke to Margaret for two hours by telephone and she is definitely an old school researcher.
Margaret explained that she came into her genealogical research because the Smith family had property that they own through various family members in Dallas County, Alabama. She started off curious about who the various family members of her grandmother Phoeby Smith were. She quickly made acquaintances with several of the people in Selma, AL and Dallas County, AL who worked at the court house and the city library who assisted in her research. She spoke to several of Smith descendants, including my grandmother Lucy Callins-Lanier. All of her years of work have paid off! She was able to get documents tracking the Smith family's journey to Alabama from Georgia, both black and white. She was also able to get original photographs of some of the Smith children dating back to the late 19th century. I have to give proper due to Margaret who is still working full time, but gives genealogy lectures and African American historical displays in her spare time. We are DEFINITELY related!
This is the story that Margaret relayed to me of the Smith family:
Baxter Smith, a white slave owner brought several slaves from Georgia to Dallas County, Alabama. Included in the inventory of people he brought were Charity Smith (b. 1788)and three mulatto children Harriet, Theodrick and William Smith. In 1825, Baxter Smith's estate freed Charity and her three mulatto children, leaving her other two children by Tom Smith Malinda and Sarah Smith enslaved. Also in the will the white Smith children were the 'guardians' of Harriet, Theodrick and William as blacks in antebellum Alabama had to be sponsored by whites in order to reside in the state as 'free'. Interesting. Harriet (b 1809) was the mother of Elvira, Elizabeth, Candace and Ann Smith (b. 1827). Ann Smith was the mother of Harris, Alice, Namie, Sellie/Cely (b.1852 - d. 1933), Phoeby (b.1860) and Elmira (b.1861). Margaret the granddaughter of of Phoeby Smith and I'm the great-great granddaughter of Cely Smith-Williams.
The confirmation of Charity Smith in the ownership of Baxter Smith and her birth being recorded as 1788 makes her the oldest known relative in my family tree. Currently the Smith family genealogical chart is 40 pages long which documents about one third of Charity Smith' direct descendants.