Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Smith Cousins on Fire Island in 1857

I like to go off on genealogical tangents which means I like to explore the lives of indirect relatives. Cousins are the best gifts ever! I mean, think about it, if there are several kids in a family maybe you are not directly descended from the one who inherited the family history. Maybe some distant far off cousin out there got the good stuff; the info, the heirlooms. Thus I like to poke around the tree.

This past summer I came across the administration papers of Rebecca Raynor's estate. Rebecca Raynor was my 6th great-grandmother. She was born in June of 1769 and died February 14, 1855 in the city of Hempstead, New York.

She was married to Jacob Raynor; my genealogical nemesis. I have been searching for some sort of real records on that man for years; he is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Jacob and Rebecca had to have been cousins, though, of some degree as she too was born a Raynor.

In any case, upon reading through the administration it names her two surviving children and all of her grandchildren. What caught my attention was the granddaughter, Hannah Smith wife of Benjamin Smith of Fire Island Beach.

Fire Island Beach? Who would have lived on Fire Island in the 1850's. Fire Island is part of the barrier islands along the South Shore of Long Island, New York. Nowadays it is a pretty hip, happening place; most noted for the large homosexual community that takes up residence there in the summers.

Why was this cousin living there in the 1850s? Well a little poking into the census and I found that Hannah Smith's husband, Benjamin Smith, was actually the Fire Island lighthouse keeper. In fact, he was the first keeper; appointed there in 1853.

I wonder what life was like for the lighthouse keeper and his family back then. I know some of the older boys were listed as lighthouse keepers assistants back in the 1860 census. From that census I know Hannah and Benjamin Smith had at least 8 children: Willet Smith (born circa 1835), Samuel Smith (b.c. 1839), George Smith (b.c. 1843), Phebe Smith (b.c. 1845), Miles Smith (b.c. 1849), Bedell Smith (b.c. 1852), Franklin Smith (b.c. 1853), and Josephine Smith (b.c. 1855).

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