Further developments on the Smiths in Ainstable

Posted on 23rd March 2015

Research in to my Smith ancestors from the village of Ainstable in Cumbria has been particularly fruitful in the last few months; six months ago I knew nothing beyond my 4th great-grandfather Henry Smith. I knew he was an auctioneer, innkeeper and yeoman in the small Cumbrian village of Ainstable in the early-to-mid 19th century, but as he was born in London, I didn’t really expect to find much on his predecessors with a surname of Smith!

That all changed when I received an email from a distant cousin in New Zealand. With her help, and by looking over some previously dismissed records, I discovered the identiy of Henry’s parents Joseph and Elizabeth, and his siblings Horatio, Harriet and Elizabeth.

I also got in touch with the current owner of my ancestor’s home, Beckside, in the village of Ainstable. He informed me that there was a date stone in the house that read “Rowland and Mary Smith, 1704”. This name was familiar to me as Henry Smith and his wife Agnes had had a son called Rowland (who sadly drowned at the age of 16), and their daughter Ann also named her own son Rowland. It makes sense that the young Rowland Smith was named after his ancestor who built the family home of Beckside, and he in turn was the namesake of his nephew.

I now had to find the link between Henry’s father Joseph and their ancestor Rowland Smith. I had one clue for the missing link; a reference to a record I found on the Cumbria Archives website; a “Memorandum of agreement on exchange of land” dated 1760. This record mentioned a John Smith of Beckside, Ainstable.

I had previously found a Death Duty Register record for Joseph Smith dated 1826, but this doesn’t not prove that he died in that year (only that he had died previously and his executors had to pay inheritance tax). This record does state Joseph’s age at death, so I cannot calculate when he was born. At this point, I believed to get any further with my research, I would have to view the Ainstable parish records themselves to find out when Joseph was born, or find his gravestone at the churchyard. Either way, that would mean making a trip up the Cumbria.

However, a couple of weeks ago, a new lead came in the form of an email I received from another distant cousin. She was descended from Horatio Joseph Smith – Henry Rochat Smith’s brother – and had stumbled upon my previous post that mentioned him. She kindly sent me a photo of Horatio’s gravestone at Lazonby churchyard, and a week later also sent through some copies of some monumental inscriptions taken from Ainstable churchyard that she had obtained via the Cumbria Family History Society.

These inscriptions were very enlightening; next to family plot of Henry Smith (which I have known about for a few years), there were some further Smith graves. The inscriptions of which were as follows:

Joseph, of Beckside, died 20 August 1818, aged 45. Elizabeth, his wife, died 27 September 1844 aged 65. John, son of Henry & Agnes SMITH of Beckside, died in infancy (age not stated). Joseph, their son, died 25 July 1832, aged 2.

…and on the reverse…

Sarah, wife of Thomas SMITH of Beckside, departed this life 28 July 1774 aged 23. The above Thomas departed this life 17 July 1806 aged 68 [plus 6 lines of verse].

With the mention of Beckside, and of Henry and Agnes Smith, it was obvious that these Smiths were related. First of all, it confirmed that Joseph Smith died in 1818, and therefore he would have been born in 1772-73. It also introduced an earlier generation of Smiths; Thomas and Sarah. It would be safe to assume they were Joseph’s parents.

A quick search of baptism records revealed one distinct possibility: a Joseph Smith baptised on 28th March 1773 to Thomas and Sarah Smith, in Edenhall, Cumberland. Edenhall is about 12 miles south of Ainstable. The dates and the parents names both match, and the location is feasible so I think this could well be correct.

Regardless of whether the above record is correct, I still think it is safe to assume that the Thomas and Sarah buried in Ainstable were Joseph’s parents. The gravestone shows that Sarah died in 1774 aged just 23. This would have been not long after Joseph was born. Perhaps Sarah died giving birth to another child.

A search for a marriage between a Thomas Smith and a Sarah in the 1770s in Cumberland yet again revealed one strong possibility; Thomas Smith and Sarah Ewart, married on 30th April 1772 at Ousby, Cumberland. This village is about 6 miles from Edenhall, and about 10 from Ainstable, so it all fits in fairly well.

Thomas dying in 1806 also ties in with a record of a will I previously found on the National Archives website (but at the time did not know the connection). The will was dated 1811, and “Thomas Smith of Ainstable” leaves his effects to a Joseph Smith. Viewing the entire will might help clear up some answers and whether this is in fact the will of my 6th great-grandfather.

The gravestone indicates that Thomas was born around 1738. A search for his baptism revealed a Thomas Smith baptised in Ainstable on 28th February 1739 to a John Smith and Jane. Could this be the John Smith living at Beckside in 1760? After a little searching, I uncovered a marriage record for a John Smith and a Jane Hodgson on 15th April 1727 at Ainstable. There a number of Smith births – including Thomas’ above – from 1729 onwards with a John Smith listed as the father.

If Rowland and Mary Smith built Beckside in 1704, and John married in 1727, it looked like I could have closed the gap between them. To confirm this, I searched for John’s baptism. One possibility stood out: a John Smith, baptised at Ainstable on 22nd May 1695 to a Rowland Smith. This all fit quite well, apart from one discrepancy: I had previously looked up a marriage for Rowland Smith and Mary, and only one that matched – Rowland Smith and Mary Nichelsen at Hesket-in-The-Forest (a miles from Ainstable), on the 28th May 1698. This is a few years after a John Smith was baptised to a Rowland Smith. Upon searching for more baptisms with Rowland Smith as the father, there were a number from 1670 to 1704. Either the children born before 1698 were all illegitimate, there was another Rowland Smith before the Rowland that built Beckside, or Rowland Smith was married twice – first to the mother of the children born between 1670 and 1695 and then to Mary Nichelson. I’m inclined to go with the latter.

It seems a little more research is to be done before I can completely clear this up. I was lucky enough to find a reference to Rowland Smith’s will on the Cumbria Archive website. Getting the full version of this will could really help.

  • Stephen Holden

    Hi , interesting . Erm theres a mention of “Tom Smiths stone” in Ainstable , not on a boundary of sorts (unless it be tween lands . Its incribed with K W A C neatly in letters. Any ideas?

    • That is interesting. I’ve not heard of that before. Where did you hear of this mention? I wonder if it is indeed my 6x great-grandfather Thomas Smith. Do you know where the stone is? As for the initials, I am not sure yet. K for Kirkoswald maybe?