Saturday, June 11, 2011

Searching for & Hoping Not to Find Rebecca and Dobson

When working on my family history in the past, I've always sought to find and prove the existence of individuals and their relationships to others. Now, strangely, I find I'm trying to prove the lack of existence of an individual!

My g-g-grandmother, Rebecca Smith Bartley, was married to Dixon Bartley. Rebecca's and Dixon's golden anniversary newspaper article named Thomas Smith as her father. I had hoped that the 1862 will of a man named Thomas Smith in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, would specifically name his daughter, Rebecca, wife of Dixon Bartley. Instead, the will says "my daughter Rebecca intermarried with Dobson." Dobson?!

In 1860, or in 1870, was there somewhere in the country a man whose first name was "Dobson" married to a woman named Rebecca? In 1860, "my" Rebecca would have been about 43, and in 1870, about 53. Most likely they would have been living somewhere in Butler County, Pennsylvania, but I've been searching census records in all areas of the country. To my mind, not finding Rebecca and Dobson gives support to the possibility of a copying or transcription error when Thomas Smith's will was recorded into the county will book.

Using FamilySearch and Heritage Quest*, I've searched the 1860 and 1870 census records for a man whose first name is Dobson whose wife was named Rebecca. There are plenty of men named Dobson but as far as I've searched, not one of them is married to a woman named Rebecca.

This process of elimination helps but it doesn't nearly go far enough to assure me that Thomas Smith who died in 1862 in Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, is the father of Rebecca Smith Bartley.

Where else can I search? What other source can I use to support a relationship between Thomas and Rebecca? All thoughts and suggestions welcome!

If you're just now joining in on my search for Thomas Smith, you can follow my progress by reading previous posts about my search:
Searching for Thomas Smith, Sr.
The Search for Thomas Smith Continues - 1850 and 1860 Census Records
Neighbors of Thomas Smith, 1850. Neighbors of Henry Smith, 1860
Thomas Smith and 1858 Property Map of Parker Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania
T. Smith - Mount Varnum Cemetery, Washington Township, Butler County, Penna
Thos. Smith in Index to Butler County Wills, 1800-1971
Last Will of Thomas Smith
Will of Thomas Smith - His Children

*Heritage Quest is an online subscription database often available at home through some libraries' websites.


  1. Perhaps Dobson was a nickname for Dixon...I can feel your frustration like I do in my search for Olive Bowser.

  2. Claudia, I hadn't thought of that! Maybe I should keep an eye out for Dixon appearing as Dobson. Of all the bloggers I know right now, I think I identify most with you because of your challenges with Olive! We'll eventually succeed!

  3. Francis, I didn't think of trying Dobson as a last name, probably because all the other husbands were named either by first name or first and last names. A last name search sure widens the possibilities, though. (And I'm not so sure I really want to do that but I guess for the sake of an honest effort, I should.) Thanks for the suggestion.


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