Uncertain ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #21

Uncertain signI know that everyone has at least one ancestor that they are “Uncertain” about. I have 2 that have driven me crazy for years. The first one I have written about a few times before. Pleasant Smith is my maternal Great Grandfather. He was born February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Johnson County, MO and he married my Great Grandmother Sarah Jane Page (1860-1938) on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, MO. They had my Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith Sr. on September 8, 1882. This is basically all I am positive about. In the 1900 Census it has Sarah and my Grandfather living with John’s brother whose name is Pleasant. So, I can guess that Pleasant Sr. had been married before and had a son that was named after him. He is also missing from all Census records after 1880. This is what I know as fact, everything else is uncertain!

 My second uncertainty is also on my maternal side. Francis McGowan was born in Francis McGowan Common PleaCounty Dublin, Ireland in 1794. I don’t know when he arrived in America, but I do know he made a “common plea for naturalization” in Philadelphia, PA on March 3, 1811 at the age of 17. Sometime before 1830 he married Margaret L. “Peggy” Divine. According to the 1830 Census he was living in Monroe County, TN and he was a farmer. Each Census after this states the same. In the 1862 U.S. IRS, Tax Assessment Lists he owned 245 acres of land. Francis died in April 1871 at the age of 77.


Brick wallIn 2010, my husband and I made a trip to Missouri where I met my only McGowan cousin. She had been researching Francis for many years and she gave me a packet with lots of information concerning him. Most of it was transcripts of court cases in Monroe County, TN in which Francis was accused of fraud, selling his property to 3 different men over the course of 4 months and him being sued. I was fascinated by what I read! It wasn’t until I started to do a more comprehensive study into Francis that I realized that my cousin hadn’t sited her sources for all of the lawsuits. I have spent a multitude of hours looking through court records looking for proof, but none has been found. I contacted my cousin and she said she would send the sources to me, but since that was 7 years ago and I still haven’t received them, I won’t be holding my breath! So, at this point I am uncertain about the accuracy of the information I received and I will have to keep chiseling away at this enormous brick wall.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Uncertain ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #21

  1. I had a cousin give me a pile of court documents insisting that our ancestor had been in all this trouble with the law in Indiana. Never mind that by then he was a very old man living in Missouri! Just someone else with the same name – apparently not uncommon. I no longer try to convince people they’re on the wrong track. Not that your suit documents aren’t valid, but not knowing where they really came from is almost as bad.

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