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12 December 2008

A Note From Beyond the Grave

If you are a regular reader of the CGSL blog you already know that serendipitous finds are a regular occurrence around the society library. My blog reporter self is always on the lookout for another good story so I tend to keep my antennae up when I visit CGS and my camera is always in my bag.

So last Saturday I immediately investigated when I heard one of those laughs of delight and discovery. Our newest member was crouched in the stacks with an opened book in one hand and a small slip of paper in the other. Barbara Schenck Wilcox was part of the visiting DAR group from the Berkeley Hills-Oakland Chapter. After the meeting Barbara stopped by the desk to fill out an application and join CGS and had settled in to do a bit a research in some SMITH family books. The whoop I heard was her reaction to finding this:

The note is the size of a post-it but it predates those ubiquitous stickies since its author, Anna Tangier Smith, died in 1933. Miss Smith's hand-written correction reads:

The date of the birth of Col. William Smith of St. George's Manor is incorrect. It should be 1655 instead of 1652, the date of his birth given in his own handwriting in his journal still in the possession of his descendants.
- A. Tangier Smith
The note was slipped into the Wills of the Smith Families of New York and Long Island, 1664-1794: Careful Abstracts of All the Wills of the Names of Smith recorded in New York, Jamaica, and Hempstead, Prior to 1794: with Genealogical and Historical Notes by William S. Pelletreau. New York : F.P. Harper, 1898. xiii, 151 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. How this book found its way into the CGS Library is unknown but it is possible that it was donated by the note-writer.
Anna Tangier Smith was Barbara's great-grand aunt, the sister of her great-grandmother. The note had been placed in the book more than seventy-five years ago, just waiting for another descendant of Col. William "Tangier" Smith to find it. Smith had once been mayor of Tangier, Morocco and many of his descendants carry the Tangier moniker. Because SMITH is such a common name, the family is often called "Tangier Smith" to distinguish it from the others.

Image of Anna Tangier Smith (1863-1933).

Barbara knew that her great-grandmother's sister had been a member of the California Genealogical Society and she was looking forward to spending some time at the society library. She is very familiar with the research done by Anna Tangier Smith and with her handwriting. This is a sample Barbara had from another Smith history.

Barbara was pleased at another find in the library – a copy of The Tangier Smith Family: Descendants of Colonel William Smith of the Manor of St. George, Long Island, New York by Ruth Tangier Smith and Henry Bainbridge Hoff [New York]: Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America, 1978 vi, 102 p., [1] leaf of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.

Barbara informed me that only 300 copies of the 1978 publication had been printed and it had taken her some time to track one down for purchase. She was very surprised to find one on the CGS library shelves.

A happy Barbara Schenck Wilcox posed with the note.

So I offer up this story as another reason why you really should visit the the California Genealogical Society Library. I can't guarantee that you will find a note from your great-grand aunt, but you will find something!

Photographs by Kathryn Doyle, 12/6/2008, Oakland, California.