By: Carter Smith
My name is Carter Smith, I am 13 years old, and I am currently attending Anderson County Middle School. I’m involved in various activities such as Academic Team, Band, and Choir, but as you can probably guess my school’s genealogy club is one of my favorites.
Reasons for My Interest
I’m interested in genealogy for various reasons, but my main reason is that most of my ancestors went through great tragedies such as: war, epidemics, and times of economic downfall and I believe that at the very least they deserve respect for what they went through. I do not remember my earliest times of interest in genealogy because all my life I’ve heard of many ancestors of mine and their stories to the point where I almost feel as if I know them and I always remember wanting to hear more of those stories. My love for genealogy really began to fester when my Uncle Robert Truitt wrote a book filled with numerous stories of the family and I loved it! I was so happy in 7th grade when I heard that there was going to be a genealogy club at my school and I am forever grateful to Dr. Anissa Davis for hosting it. Recently I have been doing research at the Anderson County Clerks Office with a lot of gracious help from my Aunt Nancy Monroe. Also, I have been researching at the Martin F. Schmidt research library thanks to Dr. Anissa Davis.
Some Genealogical Achievements
In my genealogical adventure I have found some very interesting ancestors. My personal favorite is Benjamin Allen Wash I (1738-1819), a revolutionary soldier. He interests me so much because he is the only reason my family lives in Kentucky and because he makes me the 9th generation of my family in Anderson County, KY. He was a Corporal and spent the winter at Valley Forge. He received a large land grant that brought him to KY. I have found many Civil War veterans as well such as Allen Benjamin Wash (5th KY Calvary), Ambrose Easley (29th ILL Infantry), and Gottfried Bareis (4th MO Infantry). Another one of my ancestors, Arthur Middleton Belt, was in the War of 1812 and died at the battle of New Orleans.
Techniques I Have Found Helpful
In my research I have found many techniques helpful, but here are some that I would like to share. One approach to researching is going through a relative. My great-great-grandfather’s name was James Smith. I could find no record at home of his parents or anywhere else I looked for that matter. Since James and Smith are the two most common names in the U.S., I wasn’t having much luck finding any record of them. One day, I was looking at a census record of James’ household when I saw in the record that his brother Hartford Smith was living with James’ family. I was ecstatic! You don’t hear a name like Hartford everyday so it didn’t take long to find his parents were George Smith and Mary Carrier. Soon after that I found a record of birth for James to a George and Mary Smith. A similar experience was that my great-great-grandmother, Lucy Hawkins’, mother died when she was about a month old and her father couldn’t take care of a baby properly so she was raised by other family members, but again, I couldn’t find any record of her parents. In the 1900 Census, I discovered that she was living with her Uncle Lister and Aunt Edna Houchins. So I began looking for siblings of both Lister and Edna and found that Lister had a sister named Emma Kate Houchins who married Benjamin Beebe Hawkins and soon after, I found that Lucy was born to them.
Another technique I have used is using a nickname or variation of a name. My great-great-grandmother, Rita Belt, used many variations of her name so if I was looking up a record for her I might have to search a couple of times using a couple of variations before I found it, such as Ritt or Rittie. Also, when I looked up James Smith in the 1920 Census, I found him listed under the nickname Jim.
One tip I would give to a beginning genealogist is to stay on task. When you start researching know what you’re looking for. Don’t just dive head in and start looking up names. Stick to a list or plan or you will never get anything done. Another tip is to organize your work. That can mean anything from charting your family tree to putting documents in some sort of filing system or binder for each subject or family line. Another tip is to verify your findings. You should always strive to find primary documentation that can prove your findings, such as vital, military, and cemetery records.
One last approach I have used is an oral interview. I recently interviewed my great-great-aunt Elizabeth Bryant and not only did she help me learn about searching for the correct names, but she also gave me stories to go along with my research that I really enjoyed hearing. These can be great help for researching family in rural areas where documentation may not have been made.
I hope that this may be helpful in some way to your research and I would like to leave you with a thought. If you let your ancestor’s stories be forgotten they’ll be lost forever, your ancestors are out there: GO FIND THEM!
Editor’s note: To celebrate Family History Month, Carter was asked to give some advice to others who may be getting started in their genealogical journey. When breaks in school work occur, Carter can be found at KHS researching or volunteering in various capacities. As Carter has proven, it’s never too early or too late to begin your ancestral search!