Monday Madness: Seeking Smith Family Information

My Smith family relations have always been a mystery. My grandparents don’t know much about what happened to them. I’ve tried researching them, but do you know how many William and James Smiths there are? Talk about overwhelming…

I was going through some papers—looking for something completely unrelated, of course—and came across some letters from my great-aunt Bonnie (Isabella Bonnington Hocker Ruder) to my grandfather and grandmother. In the letters she refers to our Smith relations and some of the problems we’ve had trying to figure out what happened to them. I thought I’d share the contents of some of them and what I’ve learned about my Smiths.

October 29th

Dear Bill and Ruth,

Searched for this all day yesterday, Aunt Bess [Elizabeth Marion (Smith) Lutz] had just a few papers, and I have just a few. Grandma Cochran’s [Elizabeth “Eliza” Craig (Bonnington) Smith Cochran] wedding license, a letter to uncle Lew asking the whereabouts of Willies [William “Willie” Smith Jr.] family, good thing you said you thought it was silver paper, address in mother’s writing no date for Willie:

Mr. John Norwood
70 Rue Massacre
Méaulte, Somme, France

Went under name of John Norwood since 1915. Spoils your dog tag theory. Also found a grave receipt for Paxtang Cemetery #23 in Range A in Hillside Lawn dated Feb. 26th 1905. Back marked Wm. Smith lot and receipt in Grandma’s name.

I had always been told he was buried in a lot given by someone. Now I’m wondering if Jim could have been buried in Paxtang. I always thought it was funny they would have to have a lot given to them, they weren’t poor.

I know Aunt Bess tore up a lot of papers. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop her.

Peter Bonnington
6 Belfield Ave.

Last address 1940, Grandma’s brother [Peter Bonnington Jr.]. Just found a picture of French children on name Jacqueline other name cut off.

Hope this is what you are looking for.


The story I always heard was that William “Willie” Smith Jr., born 28 Mar 1892,  enlisted in the army during World War I under the assumed name of John Norwood. He allegedly left a wife and child at home in Pennsylvania, but married a French woman after the war and remained in France. Nothing was said about a divorce prior to his second marriage, but it might just have been one of those things that was not discussed.

This next letter discusses Willie’s brother James (Jim):

Dear Bill and Ruth,

Decided to take a day off from fixing up and got Grandma’s papers out. Sending a copy of cemetery deed for one grave lot. Now maybe Jim’s lot is the one next because A. Bess always said someone gave them a lot, but Grandma must have paid for this one.

As for Jim, Rev. Roddy, Olivet minister [?] him, in fact he always went after him when he went off. He married a girl, had a son James, never lived with her. Amelia was her name. He claimed the child wasn’t his but A. Bess said it was the spitting image. So somewhere we have a Smith cousin in U.S.A and at least 2 in France. Great world.


So, apparently these Smith relatives were nothing to write home about, but I’d like to find out more information about them if possible. Here’s what I know:

WILLIAM1 SMITH Sr. was born 25 Sep 1851 in Greenburn, Whitburn district, Linlithgowshire, Scotland, son of James Smith and Isabella Aitken[1,2]. He died 23 Feb 1905 of pneumonia at his home on 1314 Howard Street, Harrisburg, Dauphin county, Pennsylvania.[3] He was buried 26 Feb 1905 in Harrisburg cemetery, according to his death certificate, but in Paxtang cemetery according to family. The mystery surrounding the grave site concerns William. To this date we’re not sure where he’s buried; family word-of-mouth says it’s at Paxtang cemetery, but not with the rest of the family because a cemetery lot had to be given to the family by a family friend when he died.

William was a ship’s engineer on the English ship Lady if Khirs. He was discharged from his ship on the 22nd of January 1882 after a voyage to Calcutta. He filed a declaration of intent to become a U.S. citizen in Berks county on 20 Sep 1886. He became a U.S. citizen on 12 Jan 1893 in Harrisburg, Dauphin county, Pennsylvania.[4] He owned and operated a ice factory on Howard street. The family lived at 1347 Zarker Street in 1910, likely behind the icehouse.

He married Elizabeth “Eliza” Craig Bonnington on 12 Dec 1882 in The Manse, Uphall Parish, Linlithgowshire, Scotland.[5] Elizabeth was born 2 Oct 1866 in Colinton, Edinburgh, Scotland, daughter of Peter Purvis Bonnington and Elizabeth Buchanan.[6] She died 18 Oct 1946 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was buried after 19 Oct 1946 in Paxtang cemetery.[7]

William and Elizabeth had the following children in Scotland and the U.S.:

  1. Elizabeth2 “Lizzie” Smith was born 17 Jun 1884 and died  17 Jun 1884, age 8 hours, of Atalectasis Pulmonium in Straiton, Liberton Parish, Lasswade, Edinburgh, Scotland.[8]
  2. James Smith was born 22 Jun 1785 in Straiton, Liberton Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland.[9] He may have died in 1905 and been buried in Paxtang Cemetery, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. James allegedly married a woman named Amelia (___) and fathered her son James, but he never lived with them.
  3. Elizabeth Marian “Bess” Smith was born 31 Oct 1887 at No. 3, Straiton, Liberton Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland.[10] She died 3 Jan 1973 in Willow Grove, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. She married Frank Lutz 7 May 1917 in Elkton, Maryland.
  4. William M. Smith Jr. was born 4:45 p.m. 28 Mar 1892 in Harrisburg, Dauphin county Pennsylvania.[11] He allegedly married twice, once in Pennsylvania, fathering at least one child, then again under the name John Norwood in France, possibly fathering a daughter named Jacqueline and additional children. He most likely died in France.
  5. Isabella Aiken Smith was born 11 p.m. 4 Apr 1893 in Harrisburg, Dauphin county, Pennsylvania.[12] She died 21 Jul 1962 in Harrisburg.[13] She married William Howard Hocker 13 Oct 1914 in Harrisburg.[14]
  6. Robert Thomas Alexander Smith was born 7:20 p.m. on 7 Apr 1899 at Harrisburg.[15] He died 12 Nov 1970 in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania and was buried in Paxtang Cemetery in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.[16]


  1. William H. Hocker and Isabella A. Smith, Application for Marriage, Dauphin County Marriage Book F: Page 153, Dauphin County Clerk of the Orphans Court, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  2. William Smith and Elizabeth Bonnington marriage extract, Register of Marriages, Parish of Uphall, County of Linlithgow; General Register Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, 28 Aug 2001.
  3. “Registration of Death – William Smith,” 22 May 1905, Harrisburg, Dauphin county, Pennsylvania, Book H, Number 790, Collection of Kristen Hocker.
  4. William Smith entry, Dauphin County Citizens Register Book, 1891-96, Volume 7: Page 202.
  5. William Smith and Elizabeth Bonnington marriage extract, Register of Marriages.
  6. Eliza Craig Bonnington, birth certificate no. 81 (1866), General Records Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland; extracted 28 Aug 2001, extract no. 236828.
  7. Elizabeth Cochrane, death certificate, no. 90063 (1946), Pennsylvania Department of Health, Vital Statistics, New Castle.
  8. Elizabeth Smith, death certificate no. 48 (1884) General Records Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, extracted 6 Sep 2001, estract no. 62233.
  9. James Smith, birth registration, no. 89 (1885), General Records Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, extract no. 259559.
  10. Elizabeth Marian Smith, birth registration, no. 195 (1887), General Records Office, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, extracted 9 Aug 2002, extract no.259560.
  11. Smith family bible record.
  12. Smith family bible record.
  13. Isabella A. Hocker, Death Certicifate File number 065720-62 (1962), Pennsylvania Department of Health, Vital Statistics, New Castle.
  14. William H. Hocker and Isabella A. Smith, Application for Marriage, Dauphin County Marriage Book F: Page 153, Dauphin County Clerk of the Orphans Court, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  15. Smith family bible record.
  16. Robert T. Smith, obituary, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 14 Nov 1970, page 12.

What do you think?


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