Monday, April 7, 2014

Mystery Monday ... But Where Is She Buried?

As I have been researching the Smiley family, I'm been taking the time to see that I have sources and citations for the facts I have recorded.  Things were going smoothly until I tried to verify the death date and burial information for my 4GGrandmother Nancy Tucker Smiley.

First stop was to see if anyone had photographed her grave marker.  Imagine the shock to find two different grave markers.  In two different cemeteries.   In two different states.

Exhibit A: actually had two memorials for Nancy Tucker Smiley which referred to a burial in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Hilliard, Franklin County, Ohio.  One of the memorials was for a Nancy Smiley who was born in 1761 and who died 30 Nov 1856.  The second memorial listed the name of Nancy Tucker Smiley, born 22 Jan 1762, died 10 Nov 1856.  Fortunately both memorials included a picture of the same gravestone.  The stone pictured below is inscribed "Nancy, wife of the Late Rev. Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30 1856, aged 95 years."

Grave marker, "Nancy Smiley"
findagrave memorial #26406212, photo by dave

The information on the grave marker pointed to this being the burial location of my 4GGrandmother Smiley, the wife of my 4GGrandfather Thomas Smiley.  Thomas Smiley had died in 1832 so it was possible that Nancy Tucker Smiley had moved from Pennsylvania to live in Ohio.  But did she, and if so when?  Where?  And why?

It took looking for information about all of Thomas and Nancy Smiley's children to come up with a possible answer. had a digitized copy of one of those interesting community history books, Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800.(1)  Included in the brief biographical sketches was one for Thomas and Nancy Smiley which listed the names, birth dates, some death dates, and marriage information for their eight children.  According to the book, son David Smiley "removed to Ohio".

The 1850 census listed a David Smiley living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio, but there was no mention of Nancy Smiley living with his family.  Instead Nancy was listing as living in Norwich, Franklin County, Ohio but with her daughter Harriet Smiley Laird, Harriet's husband, and their seven children.  At least, Nancy being buried in Franklin County, Ohio had started to make some sense.

Exhibit B: had one more memorial for a Nancy Smiley, death date 1856, this one in a Pennsylvania cemetery.  The Pennsylvania memorial indicated a burial at White Deer Baptist Church in Allenwood, Union County, Pennsylvania.  White Deer Baptist Church just happened to be the church where Thomas Smiley had been the minister for a number of years.  In addition, the grave marker for Thomas Smiley, or "Elder Thomas Smiley" as inscribed on his marker, is located in the White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery.  The marker for Nancy is inscribed "Nancy, wife of Elder Thomas Smiley, died Nov 30, 1856, aged 95 years".

Grave marker, "Nancy Tucker Smiley"
photo by  miranda, findagrave memorial #36898736, 

Two grave markers in two different cemeteries in two different states with essentially the same inscription.  Surely, one is just a memorial marker while the other actually marks Nancy's grave.  But which?

The White Deer Baptist Church still is an active church in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, celebrating its bicentennial in 2008.  An article in the Williamsport Sun Gazette told of plans to celebrate the historic event, but there was no mention of anyone placing a memorial stone in the cemetery in memory of Nancy Smiley, wife of the founding pastor.  Nor was there mention of a memorial stone in details of their White Deer Baptist Church Cemetery tour.

There are several plausible explanations for Nancy's two grave markers.  Perhaps after her death in Ohio, she was buried in Ohio but her remains were later moved to Pennsylvania.  Or maybe the Pennsylvania marker was added at a later date near that of her husband's grave marker as a memorial to this early husband and wife.  Or possibly someone (family, the church perhaps) added the Pennsylvania marker at a later date, thinking that Nancy had been buried there in an unmarked grave.  I'm sure there are other suppositions that haven't crossed my mind yet.

So for now, Nancy Tucker Smiley's actual final resting place remains a mystery.  Until I actually know the burial site, I'll have to contend with having two different Burial "facts" listed for Nancy Tucker Smiley in Family Tree Maker.  Maybe I should just call them Burial "possibilities".

(1)  Heverly, Clement Ferdinand.  Pioneer and Patriot Families of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1800, Towanda, PA : Bradford Star Print, 1913-1915; accessed


  1. I wonder if it's worth writing to the cemeteries to see if they have records of the burial(s)? Also, might there be contemporary newspaper articles that might shed light on Nancy's burial?

    1. Thanks for the suggestions. The chance to tap the collective brains of other genealogists and family historians is one great thing about blogging. Luckily, there are some newspapers from the Pennsylvania area that might be accessible.

  2. David Smiley, son of Elder Thomas and Ann (Tucker) Smiley, had moved to Franklin County, Ohio. His mother was later brought to Ohio and died in Franklin County.

    James Hayes Laird was 18 years old living with his parents, John and Harriet (Smiley) (Geddes) Laird at the time the 1850 census was enumerated in Norwich Township, Franklin County, Ohio. Also living with his parents at that time was his grandmother, Nancy Smiley, aged 88 years on 25 September 1850.

    Rev. James Hayes Laird, (half-brother of Jane McCann), included the following in an autobiographical sketch, "Grandmother Smiley remained by the home five or six years and then went to Philadelphia to live with her son Dr. Thomas Smiley. After two or three years her son David brought her in a carriage from Philadelphia to his home, six miles north of Columbus, Ohio, on the Scioto river. My father and mother had removed from Pennsylvania in 1838 and settle within four miles of Uncle David’s home. Between our households grandmother lived, and died at my sister, Jane M’Cann’s house in 1857, in the 96th year of her age... While my grandfather was living, my mother in 1823, in the 24th year of her age, became the wife of James Geddes, a widower with several children. To her by this marriage was born my sister, Jane M’Cann now living in Hilliard, near Columbus, Ohio, and my brother, James Smiley Geddes, now dwelling in Toto, Indiana. Mr. Geddes died while these children were quite young... It was a real migration… our family joined in 1838, when I was six years old, seeking a home near Columbus, Ohio... After a short stay at Uncle David Smiley’s on the Scioto river, the Ridgway farm was bought..."

    1. Thank you for sharing this information about Nancy Tucker Smiley's later years. Sometimes we forget just how mobile some of our ancestors actually were.