For the most part, when you are researching your ancestors, you don’t very often find much information about their personality or character. Sometimes it can be sussed out from certain types of court or probate records, or land deeds that have special dispensations, or if you are lucky a historical biography is found for them.
In the case of my Michigan Smiths it was a couple of newspaper articles in the paper that shined a sliver of light on their lives. The church history in the article below doesn’t actually say much about Jeremiah or Hannah Smith’s personality per se, but it does tell me about certain aspects of their lives that I would otherwise have to guess at, for example – their faith was important to them.
Jeremiah was born in 1790 in the state of New York. He was the descendant of German ‘Schmidt’ ancestors who emigrated to America in 1709 and Palantine Germans. The family was never well to do, so Jeremiah and his wife Hannah (Houghtaling) had to work hard to feed and cloth their family. At one time Jeremiah, unable to pay his bills, spent a few months in debtors prison when the family was living in Cayuga County, New York. Possibly in an attempt to avoid their debts, or just to try to make a better life for themselves, the Smiths packed up their trunks and headed to Michigan in the early 1840s. Their eldest son, Michael, had moved out there a year of so earlier.
The family seemed to be able to make a better go of it in their new home in Berrien County, Michigan. By 1844 they were meeting in a small log school about one mile west of Coloma, with other pioneers from the area, as the Mount Hope Methodist Society. Both Jeremiah and Hannah are mentioned as members of this first meeting in local historical records.
In the article below we find a fun little tidbit out about Jeremiah – when the local school in the 1990s celebrated Pioneer Day, Jeremiah Smith appeared as a trapper and teller of ‘tall tales’. Just those two words bring to mind all kinds of images and possibilities to the kind of life the family might have had.
Maybe a descendant, still living in the area, has passed this story of our grandfather down to each successive generation, or an old-timer remembered his grandfather talking about old man Smith and his crazy stories. I so would have loved to have been able to hear those tall tales.
I am always excited to find articles like these as they help to better visualize Jeremiah and Hannah’s, (and other ancestor’s) lives. They become more than just names on a page with birth and death dates. Something that is easy to forget in the data gathering of ancestors to ones family tree.
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