Joseph SMITH, St Albans, born circa 1790

September, 2005

Liz Rowntree (lizzy.rowntree @t of Tasmania has an intriguing tale from Wales which she believes has a Hertfordshire connection. She writes: My g g grandfather was Henry Smith 1819-1900 Mariner. Henry was born at a farm called Wernllath which is in the parish of Bishopston, Glamorgan. His parents Joseph Smith and Lucy Williams actually eloped and his father put this advertisement in the Cambrian 3rd Feb.1809

Left his fathers house
Killay Lodge near Swansea a few days ago, Joseph Smith between 18 and 19 years of age, about five feet ten inches high, slender made, pitted a little with small-pox, pale complexion and his hair is cut close. He is suspected to have in his company a young woman named Lucy Williams for the purpose of marring her. Should application be made to any  Clergyman to unite them in wedlock by licence or bands, it is required that immediate information thereof may be given to the father, John Smith of Killay Lodge aforesaid. He is suspected to be in Carmarthenshire, and whoever can give information where he may be found, shall be handsomely rewarded.

Maybe the advertisement worked and Joseph and Lucy did not marry at this time, however it was only temporary as the couple married at St. Teilo's Bishopston 12th Sept. 1809.

She also says: John Smith took a lease on Killay Lodge, owned by the Lucas family of Southall. (The lodge was demolished in 1827 and the present Fairwood Lodge built on the site)

and (the Hertfordshire connection):  There was a small square stone with an inscription on it inside  St Teilo's Church Bishopston. It has since been removed and has weathered badly in the graveyard, however it has been confirmed that it says "Elizabeth wife of John Smith of the county of Hertford."  and the date 1809. It is believed that John left the area and may have gone to Bath, the trail has gone cold. 

She asks if her Joseph could be the Joseph Smith, baptised in the parish of St Stephen, St Albans on 14th April 1790, and whether his parents could be the John Smith who married Elizabeth Atwood on 4th November 1783 at Abbey parish, St Albans.


Clearly the link between Joseph and Hertfordshire is speculative, as taken in isolation the memorial tablet could mean that the Elizabeth Smith who died in 1809 was married to a John Smith who lived in Hertfordshire, rather that the John Smith of Killay Lodge was born in Hertfordshire. If it is assumed that he was born in Hertfordshire and that he was born around 1790 the baptism is the "best fit" on the IGI at familysearch. While it is a very long shot it is worth looking at because it illustrates a common problem.

I will start by asking whether the Joseph Smith baptised at St Stephens in 1790 is likely to have been the son of the John Smith who married Elizabeth Atwood, and a sensible question is to look at his siblings. Using familysearch and the batch number one can quickly find that a number of children were baptised in St Stephen with John and Elizabeth Smith as parents. They were:

John 21 June 1782
Caroline 19 September 1783
Amelia 8 April 1785
Harriot 15 May 1786
William Henry 23 January 1788
Georgina 1 February 1789
Joseph 14 April 1790
Simon 26 April 1791

As  it was common to call the first named son after the father this would suggest the marriage took place in about 1781 - and as the Atwood marriage took place in 1783, after John junior and Caroline were born, this marriage can almost certainly be ruled out.

So what happened to the above Joseph? Could he have moved to Wales? One test is to see if he was still in St Albans at the time of the 1851 census. A check in the index reveals the following entry for Park Street in the parish of St Stephens:

Ann Martin Head, Widow 52 Annuitant St Albans
Joseph Smith Unmarried Brother 60 Annuitant St Albans
Elizabeth Smith Unmarried Sister 45 Annuitant St Albans
William Morton Nephew 5 Scholar London

Clearly the age and place of birth match, and the sisters are younger than any of the siblings listed earlier - so could be from the same family. There are two possibilities:

  1. The Joseph Smith baptised in St Stephens parish in 1790 is the unmarried Joseph Smith living in Park Street in 1851 - and so cannot be the one in Glamorgan.
  2. There were at least two Joseph Smith's born in the St Albans area around 1790.

Another easy to apply (in theory at least) is to ask if Joseph Smith died in St Albans. I do not have access to the burial registers - so I cannot check if he died as an infant. However according to the National Burial Index (1st edition) which covers the period 1800-1850, two Joseph Smith's died in 1801, one in St Stephens and one in St Michaels, (but no age given) and more significantly a Joseph Smith was buried on 10th May, 1841, at St Stephens, aged 49, who cannot be the Glamorgan Joseph. (It should be possible to find him in the 1841 census to see if he was born in Hertfordshire.)

This means that there were at least two Joseph Smith's born in the St Albans circa 1790, neither of which could have been your Joseph

Other tests could be applied. If the Joseph was one of 8 siblings, what happened to his brothers and sisters? I note that an Amelia Smith married John Burton on 10 February 1825 at St Albans Abbey. If this was the Amelia, brother of Joseph, it suggests her family (and therefore his) were in St Albans in 1825. (More checking, possibly including the 1851 census to see it it gives her age and place of birth, is needed.)


Clearly we are in a Right Name, Wrong Body situation. We have one possible Joseph Smith baptism in St Albans, there are at least two Joseph Smith's in the St Albans areas which could be that baby - but as yet we don't know which. In addition there were undoubtedly many other Joseph Smith's in Hertfordshire at the time, as the 1851 census lists 15 (of various ages) in the St Albans area alone, while in the 1881 census there were 67 in the whole of Hertfordshire. The names John Smith and Elizabeth Smith were even commoner.

In addition there is a Joseph Smith who turned up in Wales who might have been born in Hertfordshire. While one cannot prove, on the evidence so far collected, that he was definitely not the 1790 baptism, the odds are very strongly against it.


While it is unlikely than the "Wales" Joseph is the same person as the "1790" Joseph, this example provides a good opportunity to demonstrate how the points raised in My Ancestors emigrated from Hertfordshire ... can be used to try and resolve such questions. I look at each of the points in turn.

(1) Remember that you are looking for a person.

Effectively this is what has been done above, and the result has been to show that there were several possible persons.

(2) Why did they leave England?

There is no direct evidence for the reason for the move to Wales - but for reasons detailed below, it is obvious that they had at least the trappings of being well-to-do compared with the general population.

At a time when many people spent their whole lives within a few miles of their birthplace, John moved to Bishopston from ????, and later moved away, perhaps to Bath??. There may also have been a link with Hertfordshire. The family was undoubtedly "mobile" and it is dangerous to assume that John only moved twice in his life. This means one cannot assume that his first known location is his place of birth. He may well come from a family which was equally mobile.

(3) What did they do?

The elopement letter to the paper indicates that the father, John, was highly educated, and a member of what would have been called the "Landed Gentry" class. Whether his income was from farming, from business, from investments or simply from the family, it is likely that the previous generation had a similar standing. If further work in St Albans records showed that John, father of "1790" Joseph was a labourer you could immediately eliminate him from you investigations.

Such people often left wills - and these can be invaluable in such cases. In addition they are likely to be far better identified in local records (including leases and other parish and estate documents) that the vast majority of the population.

(4) How well off were they when they arrived?

As discussed above, they had at least the trappings of being "Landed Gentry".

(5) How did they name their family?

We know the names of the "1790" Joseph family, which included some less common names such as Amelia and Georgina. If there was a link I would expect some of the names to turn up in the Bishopstone area associated with the "Wales" Joseph.  See The Inheritance of Christian Names.

The fact that the St Albans family included less common names may indicate a higher than average status in the social structure.

(6) Who did they know?

Obviously there must have been some contact with Lucas of London over the lease - and there may even be links with previous or subsequent tenants of the lodge.

There will have been witnesses at "Wales" Joseph's marriage at Bishopstone.

There may well be other Bishopstone contacts which pre-date the family arrival in Bishopstone.

(7) What did they say about their origins?

One possible source, if it exists, would be the lease for Killay Lodge - which would presumably have the previous Smith address on it.

There is a web page for St Albans

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created September 2005