What’s in a name? Sometimes, an ancestor’s namesake isn’t always family

Recently, I made a discovery while I was in North Carolina doing research.

I realized that one of my ancestral great uncles, Joseph Smiley Harrison, was not nicknamed “Smiley.” It was his real name, and he got it due to a minister who died the year of his birth, 1866. Turns out, the Rev. Walter Smiley Pharr (born in 1790) was a popular Presbyterian minister in the northeast part of Mecklenburg County. My relative was one of dozens of men named for him. Some got his full name, others just “Smiley.” The minister, in turn, was named for his own uncle, Walter Smiley, who died in the 1770s.

The problem is that later generations don’t know the origin of “Smiley” as a family middle name and have attributed it to Joseph Smiley Harrison’s father all over the internet. The father, my ancestor Joseph Harrison (1809-1888), was born in another county to an Episcopalian family, so no way he had any connection at birth to the name Smiley. Once again, how do you correct the many errors online?

Another name prevalent in the same area is J. McKaimie/McCamie Wilson (1834-1896), who was a local doctor with a zillion namesakes. As time goes on, you wonder if the namesake’s descendants will even know the origin of the name, or if it will become a family name to be puzzled over. This is why it’s always good to know the area your ancestors lived in and, if you can, the names of important people in their lives and in their community.

Augusta Genealogical Society closed to research while moving

The Augusta Genealogical Society has closed the Adamson Library, its research center, at 1109 Broad Street in downtown Augusta while it packs to move to a new location. There’s a contract to sell the building and move to 1058 Claussen Road. For further updates, check the website augustagensociety.org. The monthly newsletter and meetings will continue. There are no plans for any materials to be accessible until all has been moved and reorganized at the new location by early spring 2019.

Margaret Hofmann, noted North Carolina genealogist and author, dies

Margaret Hofmann, one of the most important genealogists compiling works on North Carolina land records, especially land grants, died November 21 at 94. Her works are some of the most important underpinnings for research on the colonial and early statehood periods of North Carolina. They can be found in all major genealogy collections and the Georgia Archives. She was truly one of the “Legends of Genealogy.”

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O.Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or gagensociety.org.