Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Family Secret Revealed

Yesterday a total stranger sent me an email that led to the revelation of another secret of the Chester Criswell Quilt.

Do you remember Block 21, Mary Trayner's eight petalled daisy?  There is a second block in the quilt of the same design.

The names on this block are Joseph Smith and Agnes C Smith, Fairview.  In the Block 21 story I wrote,
"These Smiths are related to the bride; again, more research needs to be done to find the exact relationship."

Yesterday I received an email from Linda through Ancestry.com.  I don't know Linda, but her own family history search had found some Smiths and some Criswells.  She sent me an email to say that she found my quilt family tree and told me that one of the online resources on Ancestry.com might be helpful to my research.

Smiths are always hard to research so I was pleased to follow Linda's hint and opened up 'Record of the Smith Family', written by Joseph Harris in 1906.  The record follows the descendents of John and Susanna Smith who migrated from Ireland to the Americas in 1720.  John and Susanna brought four of their children with them, one more was born on the voyage and a further ten were born in the New World.

Fortunately the 272 pages of Smiths are indexed and I quickly found Joseph and Agnes.  Their record looks like this.

Aha! Agnes was a Criswell before she became a Smith.  I added 'Criswell' to Agnes' record and Ancestry.com promptly came up with a death certificate.  On the certificate are the names of Agnes' parents.

Agnes Criswell Smith's parents are Andrew G. Criswell and Alice Carlile.

Agnes Criswell has the same parents as the bride Mary McClellan Criswell.

Agnes is Mary's older sister.

I couldn't believe it.  How could I have missed another sister for Mary?  I went back and forth between the records to confirm what I had just found.  Yes, the bride Mary had an older sister who was already married.

How did I miss this important relationship?  The 1850 census records are my starting point.  Agnes was married before 1850, and living with husband Joseph and three year old son John Dickey Smith on their own farm, close to the original Criswell farm.  I didn't know Agnes' maiden name was Criswell, I only had the initial 'C'. I was aware of all of Mary younger siblings; Margaret and Susanna were recorded in the 1850 census.  The Faggs Manor cemetery records provided the names of her other four brothers and sisters. My grandmother's notes only mentioned Mary and did not include any siblings.

Have you found the next clue yet?  The children of John Smith and Hannah Dickey are Joseph Smith and Jackson Smith, each of whom married a Criswell girl.  Jackson Smith is Jesse Jackson Smith so his Criswell bride is Mary McClellan herself.  The Smith brothers married the Criswell sisters.

Now the groom has a family too, something I had not been able to discover without this new source of information.  I have the name of a brother, his father and mother and his grandfather so I can work on Jesse Jackson's family tree.

It was hard to get to sleep last night with all these names running through my head.  Just before I went to sleep I had an amazing revelation.

If Alice Criswell's daughter Mary was not her first daughter to be married but the second one........

...... there must be another, earlier Chester Criswell Quilt.


  1. Great detective work!!

    I hope there is another Chester Criswell Quilt and you manage to find it!

  2. Oh my! This would make the bones of a great novel! Imagine the factual family tree mixed with a fictional story and a few quilt makers...
    You are so smart to make all these connections! I am impressed...😀

  3. Oh how wonderful! Truly is great detective work and such a lovely piece of your family's history and artistry. Lovely!

  4. Oh wow - the thought that there may be another quilt! I agree with Missie, the story would make a great book with pictures of the blocks throughout. I know exactly how hard it is to research Smith as this is my maiden name :)

  5. What fun to hear the story of relationships among quilt blocks - people- families unfold! How exciting. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I was just viewing the fort few pictures in this post again while checking in on your blog. What wonderful stitches the maker made! In fact, in the first picture, I was amazed the maker used a machine for this quilt, and wondered if this was your block. Upon viewing the second picture of the red block, what wonderful hand stitches I noticed. So wonderful...and such beautiful writing in the center!


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