Monthly Archives: January 2019

Family History: Jill Sheard

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by history. I like to read the stories of what people have done in the past. Even better, I like to visit historic sites and imagine what life would have been like for the people who lived there.

That interest in history has lead to an interest in genealogy. It is fascinating to place family members in their historic context. What did they do? How did they live? What part may they have played in the big events of the past?

I fully realize that most people do not have big parts to play in history. Most just live, work, and raise families. I am going to start writing some posts about some of those people in my family. I want to get what I know out there for other people who are interested in genealogy, and to preserve the past.

I am blessed to have people who have passed their genealogy work on to me. Most of it is on paper and needs to be digitized before it disappears. I also have a decent amount of older pictures that I would like online since they are fragile.

I don’t know if anyone else will be interested in this work, but having it on my blog gives me easier access to it later.


My first story is about my great, great grandmother. She was the mother of my mom’s, dad’s, dad.

Family history said that she was part Indian, and died when my great-grandfather ( William Earl Smith) was very young. William Earl was then abandoned by his father William Joseph Smith soon after her death. William Earl ended up being raised by some of his Smith relatives. He didn’t know much about his mother, so little was passed on.

Recently, my mom did a DNA test to see what it showed of her heritage. We know little of the Smith side of the family so we expected some surprises. The one thing we knew though is that some Native American heritage would be there.

We received quite the surprise when my mom received her results. There was 0% Native American, so how did family stories end up labeling my my great-great grandmother as an “Indian”? There also a couple of unexpected additions, namely a tiny amount African and a larger amount Eastern European.

Yesterday, I started out to clean my garage in preparation to move. In my garage, I found a box with pictures and family trees my mom had given me. For some reason I didn’t know it was there. One of the pictures was of my great-grandfather with his parents.

On the back is written the family story.

It says:

Great grandpa “Dude” William Joseph Smith

Wife – Jill (part Indian)

Grandpa William Earl Smith

Grandpa Smith was born in West Virginia and his mother died when he was very young and his father came to Tonawanda where grandpa was shuffled around and raised by his Grandmother Smith and Aunts and Uncles.

So the wording on the picture just confirms the family tradition. I did learn a little new information. My great-grandfather was born in West Virginia, and his mother was named Jill.

For some reason I decided to do a search on West Virginia genealogy and I got an auto fill of vital statistics added to that. The first link was to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. That state has uploaded birth, death and marriage records to the internet.

I searched for William Smith and got 302 results. Smith is much to common a last name. I scrolled through the results, looking at a few promising names, then I found William Earl Smith.

Interestedly, my great-grandfather applies for a delayed certificate of birth 57 years after his birth. His birth certificate gave me a maiden name for his mother, Jill Sheard. Further searches on the West Virginia site showed no birth or death certificate for a Jill Sheard.

It is great to know more then I did, but now I have new questions.

  1. Did my great-grandfather get his mother’s name right? It was decades after her death and he was young.
  2. Was she born in West Virginia or did he just put that because he didn’t know?
  3. If she wasn’t Native American then what was she? Was that used because there was something else that was considered worse then that?

I am afraid that I will never fully learn about Jill Sheard. There really isn’t much information about her that I know. Hopefully, I will find more as I work on my family’s genealogy.

-Joshua

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