How Difficult is it to Trace Ancestors Whose Surname is SMITH?





When I fist thought about doing some research on my family tree, I thought it would be an almost impossible task because my maiden surname was SMITH, a really common surname.

My brother’s marriage confirmed to me how difficult it could be. His father-in-law, now deceased, was named George William Smith, exactly the same name as our father, and they were both born in Liverpool around the same time, 1914. My brother’s marriage certificate does look odd with both him and his wife looking like they have the same father. It’s a good job they had different occupations to show they were two separate individuals.

In reality, the SMITH research task wasn’t as hard as it first appeared thanks to my father’s aunt and her daughters, his cousins. In my experience female members of the family seem to remember more about intricate family relationships than their male counterparts. This was certainly the case here. My dad, couldn’t remember much at all about his grandparents, but his cousins knew a lot. That was down to their mother, my dad’s Aunt Lily, telling them stories about her childhood. Aunt Lily and her family were the only relatives we had in Liverpool. We visited them every Tuesday and spent Christmas and New Year celebrations with them.

Aunt Lily provided the first picture above showing George Henry SMITH, her brother , my dad’s uncle, in the centre. He was born 2nd Mar 1885. I am still unsure who is with him. The chap on the right certainly looks a little like him while the other on the left doesn’t. George Henry SMITH didn’t have sons so maybe the other two are his brothers, William (my grandfather), and Thomas.


The child in the above picture is my dad’s Aunt Lily with her mother, Mary Jane SMITH (nee HOLT). Mary Jane’s family came over from Ireland to settle in Liverpool. Theirs could be an interesting story if I ever get to the truth of it. Other HOLT researchers on the site believe our HOLT family is connected to General Joseph HOLT of the 1798 Irish Rebellion, but that’s for another post. Today, I’m concentrating on the SMITH name.

Below is Aunt Lily with her husband Edward REDDINGTON. I never knew him because he died in 1948, when I was three. He was born in Scotland in 1893. It took me forever to find Aunt Lily’s birth record. This was because we always knew her as Lily when in fact she was baptised Rose Lily SMITH.

Beware when researching your family. I’ve had at least four instances like this where I’ve been searching for a particular name only to find it’s a middle name. It does make things more difficult.



Aunt Lily’s parents were another George Henry SMITH, born 26th Sep 1857 in Liverpool, and Mary Jane HOLT, born 1st June 1865, also in Liverpool. George Henry SMITH and a couple of his siblings were plumbers like their father, Henry SMITH, born about 1835, also in Liverpool.

I was surprised by the description of plumber for my second great grandfather, Henry SMITH, because I hadn’t realised proper sanitation was used at this time. I grew up in the 1960’s in an era of outside lavatories. My mum used to say as a child in the 1920’s, some relatives houses only had middens in the back yards of Wigan, a town also in Lancashire.

The parents of Henry SMITH (1835) were John SMITH (born 8th Apr 1811 and baptised 10th Apr 1811 in Liverpool) and Hannah, surname unknown. Going on Henry’s marriage certificate, John SMITH was a coachman who later became a coach proprietor according to the census details.

The father of John SMITH, born 1811, was another John SMITH according to the 1811 baptism record, and this John was also a coachman.

This is where I’m up to in the SMITH branch. I haven’t found anything remarkable about this family yet, but perhaps as I get further back, I might. Have they always lived in this area, or did they come from somewhere else? I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking of delving into your family tree, do remember to ask around the family for old photos; birth, baptism, marriage, or burial records; or old family stories passed down through the generations. Happy hunting!


About caroleparkes

My husband calls me a butterfly because I flit from one hobby to another. Apart from being a wife for 52 years, a mother of three sons, and a grandmother, I'm also an author, genealogist, amateur artist, a lover of most needlecrafts, and occasional poet. Of the above, my most enduring interest has been writing and I hope to be doing it well into old age.
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13 Responses to How Difficult is it to Trace Ancestors Whose Surname is SMITH?

  1. bewilderbeast says:

    Look for the book Tramp Royal by Tim Couzens. Beyond fascinating, and its about a Smith. An amazing Smith. Also about Couzens’ search for his (Smith’s) ancestry. I just loved it, maybe you will too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My great grandfather and his brother both had large families that had many forenames in common. At one point they lived next door to each other. It can be a bit complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

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