Question: Can you find William Smith of Rockbridge County, Virginia? He’s the father of Mattie Smith, who married John Wesley Duling. And William was also a Confederate soldier.
Answer: We have names and locations here but no date. However, if Mattie is the child of a Civil War veteran, I’m guessing that she shows up married to John Duling in the 1900 through 1930 censuses. And I’m going to take it on faith that you have a record that shows that William Smith was Mattie’s father and was from Rockbridge County. It is typical of Virginia marriage records in the 1800s to state that information.
My first step is to look for John Duling in the 1900 census in Clifton Forge, Virgina. If I can find John and Mattie in the 1900 census, not only will I have the year they were born, but the month they were born. I find John W and Martha Duling on the 1900 census in Clifton Forge:
Note that although John is transcribed as John N Duling, if you compare the initial with the W in Willie in line 72, this is most probably John W Duling. Martha H was born in Virginia in July 1859 and “Mattie” is a known nickname for Martha. Both of Martha’s her parents were also born in Virginia. John and Martha have been married for nine years, so they were married around 1891. If this is Martha’s first marriage, it is very likely we will find her on the 1880 census with her father.
I find a Mattie H Smith born about 1860 in Bath, Virginia in 1880. She is the daughter of William and Agnes Smith and has brothers and sisters Emmit, David, Maggie, Mary and James.
Bath County is north of Clifton Forge and west of Rockbridge County, so it is in the realm of possibilities that this is the correct family. Martha/Mattie’s middle initial is also the same.
I then search for this family in 1870. I find them again in Bath County.
You’ll note on the census that not only is the birth state given, but the county is as well, even though they are crossed out. This states that William is from Pendleton County, Virginia, and is wife is from Bath. Three children are listed as being born in Rockbridge, David, Martha and Maggie, which would mean, if correct, I will find the family in 1860 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
And sure enough, I do:
You’ll notice in 1860, 1870 and 1880, that William is listed as a tailor which leads me to believe that this is definitely the same family. You’ll also notice that on this census, Martha/Mattie is listed as M Hester, which now explains the initial H in other census records.
So is this the correct William Smith and the correct Mattie? It is possible and even probable, but it’s still not definite. If you have access to the marriage record and can verify that Mattie’s mother’s name was Agnes and/or that Mattie was born in Rockbridge County, you can feel much more confident that this is the correct family.
You stated that William Smith was a Confederate Soldier. Given that he lived in Virginia his whole life, he probably enlisted in Virginia. There is a William Smith who enlisted in Staunton, Virginia in 1861 at was the age of 45 (birth year 1816), who is listed as a tailor. This could be your William Smith, but the age is off by almost a decade, so it is far from definitive. When you examine the muster and discharge records for this William, you’ll see that this William was born in Kentucky, so it is very unlikely he is your William.
I did find a Pension Request (at the Library of Virginia site) for a William H Smith who was living in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1902, that stated he enlisted in Rockbridge County, Virginia in April of 1862. In this record he states that he is a shoemaker. However, no records can be found that indicate he actually served.
I also checked the local history “A History of Rockbridge County” which lists the different units and the men who served. William is not listed.
William Smith is a common name — he may be in the records and I may have not been able to locate him. There is a gap between Maggie Smith, born in 1861, and Mary Smith born in 1866 that supports the idea that he served in the war.
Here are my recommendations are these:
1. Find the marriage record for Mattie and John.
2. Learn more about Mattie’s brothers and sisters; there may be clues there.
3. See if you can read the pension file I mentioned or order a better copy (that one is hard to read).
Hopefully this is enough information to get you restarted on your search.