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1 May 2016

1881 census to Facebook: Smiths are easy you know

Prologue
On the run from demon headmistress, I slunk onto the 2pm coach to Wales, July 2011.

A few days later I was in Merthyr Tydfil and this time I was the hunter.  Margaret Jenkins last seen alive with grandma, 1861.  Jennie Newman's wonderful BMD index for Merthyr sitting pretty in the library.  I snatched the data and ran off to the record office, hoping to learn her fate and still stalk the halls of the iron (Crawshay) kings before sunset.

I hopped from one leg to the other playing a verbal dance with the registrar's clerk, elsewhere reported.  Suffice to say I walked away with the name of her husband, Job Smith, and still had time to admire Merthyr's old buildings, pass Trevithick's statue and see Cyfarthfa's mountainous halls.  After a burger in the Wetherspoons of course.

Like the dead swan in the Taff's salmon-run, poor Margaret only flapped her wings once before death beckoned.  And she produced just this:



1881 census to Facebook
My initial vigour waned, as I noted not a single British trace of James Smith after 1881.
His half-brother is on an Ancestry tree as having died in Queensland, and I decided (in 2016) to investigate the siblings by the simple measure of clicking on their names in the census.  It showed at least two of them died in Melbourne.  Time to see if the whole family emigrated.

Yes - they arrived 2 April 1883, in, surprising place alert - Townsville, Queensland.  The older boys are listed separately on the same page.  All except James, that is. But he didn't die in Wales 1881-3, so where did he go?



 Turns out he did come out to Oz as well.  The death record of James Jenkin Smith (1931) with father Job and mother Margaret Jenkin leads inexorably to this, and other, electoral rolls, revealing two findings:
 

1) the house name, Hirwain, after his place of birth, and
2) he had a wife Margaret (which research shows was from the marriage of James Smith in 1893)
3) he worked on the railways, befitting his training working with iron

Later electoral rolls show his son (source BMD indexes) living in the area, as a manufacturing chemist and a granddaughter, who is shown as dying in 2000, according to The Age newspaper.

Great nephews and nieces are listed in the newspaper, but with no surnames how was I to find them on Facebook?  I had a street address but was keen to get an electronic connection - quicker and easier.  By re-googling the names of the great-nevry, 'Sonia, Michaela and Alister' I spy a further reference yielding their paternal grandfather's last name which they, naturally, share.

By plying this new information into Facebook up comes the whole family network, revealing the Smiths had become Hackett-Smiths, no wonder I'd found them hard to find.

Gratifyingly, the upward trajectory had continued.  The chemist had given way to the architect, whose sons are in design, and plastic surgery.

So Margaret, Swan of Aberdare, who flapped so briefly, and whose story we nearly lost, has helped build the City of Lights 10.6 thousand miles away. 
Creative Commons - flickr.com

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