African American genealogy is not easy. Having an enslaved family makes it so difficult to trace your family, but I have been blessed to discover that they my family knew branches of the family back then. They kept in touch without the modern-day technology that we have today. I am more blessed to realize that my strong desire to piece my family together does not go unnoticed by those unseen visits I get when I am in the middle of figuring the relationships out. I am not alone in this research, and I am indeed grateful that I can prove it using historical documentation. This extra help, I believe, can be had by you if you so desire.
How wonderful that I now could figure out who the children of my 2nd great uncle and aunt, Henry and Mary Smith. I could trace these children forward a few generations. I know my grandfather, Emory Wallace Vance, Sr. communicated with their children and grandchildren because of the letter he wrote Katharine Johnson Holland in 1972 that was given me by the Gilbert’s. In that letter, he confirmed the Henry Smith and Jane Smith Johnson McCoy were brother and sister. This is the way I know Henry Smith is my 2nd great uncle. I was only seven years old then, and he would die one year later. In addition to that, I had the rest of the interview of Rev. Ulysses Rice which he had sent me before his death.
The rest of the transcription of the interview of Rev. Ulysses Rice is here:
According to the transcript, Henry and Mary (from Ireland) Smith had the following children: Elizabeth, Minnie, Tom, Gene, Lula, Annie, Marie, Belle, Howard, Floyd, and John. Enoch and Gregg were two sons that Mary gave birth to outside of her union with Henry. They were white. They left home at an early age, possibly married black women, and changed their name to Smyth.
I decided to use the census to find the children of Henry and Mary. Remember, I already found them alone in 1870 living near Basil Smith, son of John Skinner Smith, Henry’s former enslaver. Basil is listed first, and Henry and Mary Smith (white) are listed three doors down. This would have been Henry’s first time being listed as head of his own house and free on the federal census. John Skinner Smith died before 1870, but he was still living in 1860 with Basil and the rest of the family. Basil never married.