Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday's Obituary - Benjamin Smith (1822-1908)

I have lived on Long Island since my family moved here from the Chicago suburbs when I was two and a half.  I even went to college here, at Hofstra University in the Village of Hempstead.

We didn't move here because of any family collection - we came because my father was accepted into the Psych program at Adelphi University.  My father was born in Chicago, my mother in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  Most of my father's family lived in New England when I was little and most of my mother's was then in Quebec.  I always felt more at home in those places, and that feeling only grew as I got older.  I even referred to my trips to Canada as going home.

So imagine my surprise upon reading this obituary of my 2nd great-grandfather on my mother's side, that he was born "at Hempstead, Long Island."




We already knew that he was a politician and grocery owner in Newark, New Jersey.  My great-grandfather, his youngest son, was born and raised there before emigrating to Canada.  But we had no idea that there was any connection to New York at all, much less only miles away from my home and possibly very near the campus where I attended college.  It was almost surreal and it felt like I was...Tripping Over My Roots.

The article tells us he was born at Hempstead, Long Island and died in Newark, New Jersey.  While we are sure about where he died, I have not yet found any confirmation of his birth here on Long Island.  We know from a very short wedding announcement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that he and his wife were married in Brooklyn, and lived there at the time, but so far that hasn't led us to an actual marriage record.

I have been blessed to "inherit" a great deal of information about most branches of my family tree.  But beyond that and the documents found on Ancestry.com, very few of the over 700 people on my tree were added through my own research.  I feel like I've been amassing information about my family for a long time, but I'm really very new at this.

So, where was Benjamin really born?  Long Island has changed a lot in the last 200 years.  If he was born in Hempstead in 1822, would that exact place still be considered Hempstead today?  What were his parents' names?  Are they buried nearby?  What  is the best place for me to start looking?

I've been in touch with the cemetery where Benjamin and his wife should be burried because my mother and I want to take a trip there sometime in the next few months.  I've also left a message at the church he may have helped to found (according to the obituary) because it is across the road from the cemetery, but I haven't heard back from either place yet.

Since we know where he died, I guess my next best bet is to follow the advice of Bill Dollarhide, and get copies of Benjamin and his wife Mary Ann's death certificates, which I so hope will give me their parents' names.

In the meantime, if anyone out there has any advice or guidance to share, I will gladly take it!

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