Some mis-associated Smith families of colonial era Virginia

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Surname/tag: Customer Smythe Lawrence Smith Snelson Hanover Wililamsburg Fountains Creek
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Copyright 2021 by Christopher Smith

Contents of this page, and all others associated to my work which are unique and of my own creation, are protected under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).


To start off, I wish to make it very clear that I am researching some other Smith families from which I do not (knowingly) descend. I have had to do this for a number of reasons, and they will be made clear. Any use of information from other websites will be done under the provisions of the "Fair Use" clause of the DMCA.

The goal of this project is to detail how a very specific, widely accepted, and published Smith family tree is errant, and how we can differentiate the involved families into unique groups.

I will be first providing a summary of my findings and then adding appropriate sources where available. I will encourage you to independently verify my claims which have been derived from a use of quality primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, many of which are available, via subscription, on I will be continuously revising this page to add sources where applicable. Some research is my own.

I have exclusively avoided the use of precompiled trees as sources of fact for this effort.

We will also be able to document earlier books that published incorrect information.

Right now this project just has one member, me. I am Christopher Smith. I will, however, state that there have been many others who have provided pieces of this research through other, unrelated efforts. I do deeply thank them as I know they have labored and toiled.

If there is one thing you can do for me, it is peer review my work and attempt to identify the trees relevant to your research that may contain the errant information so that it may be corrected to the benefit of all.

Will you join me? Please post a comment here on this page, in G2G using the project tag, or send me a private message.


Christopher Smith

DNA Group for Smiths R-M269-9


The widely cited book "Ancestors and Descendants of Smiths", by Linda G. S. Cheek, attempts to connect the lives and descendants of three very old Smith families: Christopher Smith known as a "Merchant of Hanover", Maj. Lawrence Smith of Gloucester Co, VA and Thomas "Customer" Smythe of Westenhanger Castle/Hall in Kent. These connections can be demonstrated to be errant.

Further, an alleged brother of Maj. Lawrence Smith's, a man found online as "Lt. Christopher Smith", taught English to the Native Americans at the College of William and Mary. This "Lt. Christopher Smith" has been incorrectly associated to both a Christopher and Ambrose Smith of Fountains Creek, VA and to the man described as the "Merchant of Hanover". All of these families are unrelated.

Further, earlier publishings, prior to Cheek, associate an Arthur and Thomas Smith of Blackmore, Essex to the Customer Smythe family. This, again, can be proven to be errant.

To summarize the Smith families being discussed:

  • Thomas "Customer" Smythe of Westenhanger, Kent, England
  • Xpofer Smith m. Elizabeth Townley Halstead of Burnley, Lancs, England, likely parents of
    • Christopher Smith m. Lydia Broadribb of Williamsburg, VA
    • Lawrence Smith of Gloucester Co, VA
  • The Smiths of Totnes in Devon
  • Christopher Smith m. Catherine Snelson of Hanover Co, VA
  • Christopher Smith m. Mary Fairbanks of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • Christopher and Ambrose Smith of Fountains Creek, VA, who may be related to...
    • Arthur and Thomas Smith of Blackmore, Essex and later of Isle of Wight Co, VA

Early sources of confusion

Cheek, and others much earlier before her, claimed (incorrectly) that Maj. Lawrence Smith was a great-grandson of Customer Smythe, the first secretary to The East India Trading Company. There have been a few variants of this narrative involving other Smith lines, but the one I will be discussing here is the most prolific.

Additionally, Sir Bernard Burke (The College of Arms in London) who wrote the "Burke's Peerage" volumes claimed that Maj. Lawrence Smith was of "The Smiths of Totnes in Devon". I believe it was Mr. Burke who sowed the initial seeds of confusion regarding this Smith line way back when.

Later, I believe Louise Pecquet du Bellet was the first source (that I have found at least) that claims Lawrence and an Arthur Smith (of Isle of Wight Co, VA) were brothers, and that Arthur was a nephew to Thomas Smythe (1st Viscount Strangford), the Treasurer for The Virginia Company.

We'll begin with the earliest families first.

Customer Smythe

The wills of Thomas Smythe-577 and his wife Alice Judd Judde-2 are available online for examination. I deeply thank the WikiTree profile managers for the information on the above pages. It is of very high quality. Further, we can see that Customer's son Thomas Smythe-97 did not have a son Christopher as many of the errant family trees online purport. It was this fictitious Christopher that has been associated with the very real Xpofer Smyth of Burnley, Lancs, England who married Elizabeth Townley Halstead.

Xpofer Smyth

While there is still ongoing research about the Smiths of Burnley Parish and Stone Edge in Briercliffe Upon Hill cum Extwistle, it is likely that a Christopher Smith Smyth-713, whose name appears as "Xpofer" in the vestry records in places, was the father of a man found online by the name "Maj. Lawrence Smith" Smith-1217. I believe, but others may contest, that this Smith family's earlier history is discussed in the book ["The Lancashire Which Conspiracy"] by John A. Clayton. This Smith family's ancestral seat was a member of The Honour of Clitheroe. I deeply thank John A. Clayton for his excellent research, which even involves archaeological exploration of the involved areas.

Maj. Lawrence Smith

Lawrence's parentage is based upon a connection to the family of Augustine Warner Warner-97 through the Townley family, as well as vestry birth records. Lawrence lived in Gloucester Co, VA along the Rappahannock River. Most accounts associate a "Lt. Christopher Smith" to him as a brother. An outstanding matter pertaining to the coat of arms of Lawrence is also able to be addressed with a Wikipedia page.

Smiths of Totnes in Devon

According to Bernard Burke, Lawrence's family bore the arms of the Smiths of Totnes in Devon. You will find their coat of arms [here].

We know from [the tombstone of Mildred Smith Jameson] that Lawrence's coat of arms were "three acorns, slipped and leaved". This information should definitively clear up this matter.

The arms of the Smiths of Totnes bore three barnacles where as Maj. Lawrence Smith's family's arms bore three acorns. I can see how they may have been confused.

Lt. Christopher Smith

Based upon this Christopher's proximity to the Taliaferro family, I believe it is not impossible that he was a brother of Lawrence, but I do not believe it has been proven definitively. This Christopher Smith was likely brought to Virginia by a Livesay man and he later married a widow named Lydia Broadribb. There are two issues with proving descent from him. First, we do not know if he was married prior to Lydia Broadribb, and Lydia was very old when she married Christopher as her second husband. She very likely did not bear him any children. Second, there does not exist a will for this Christopher Smith. To date, I do not believe anyone has proven descent from him and it is not certain from what is known about him whether he had any children at all. It is this Christopher Smith that is incorrectly listed online as the father of a Christopher Smith of Hanover County, Virginia. He is also incorrectly listed among online personal webpages and trees as a relative of Roger Smith of Fountains Creek, VA. We'll get to this family in a moment.

The Merchant of Hanover

It is well proven that a [Christopher Smith married a Catherine Snelson]. A descendant of this family has done [yDNA testing]. However, there is some disagreement about who this Christopher's father was. I wish to clear up this issue here.

While not definitive, we do have information that this Smith family's crest was a "nag's head and bridle". There are two sources that mention this, one deriving the information from a tea cup that was passed down in their family. We do not find a similar armorial element in the arms of Lawrence Smith. This said, it is not a certainty to exclude relationships based on armorial elements alone, so this bit of information is not conclusive of anything in and of itself.

Earlier published trees had this Christopher descending from a line of Christophers. It usually appears as "Christopher Smith I, II, III" and sometimes a "IV" shows up. The incorrect line of descent is thus:

Christopher Smith m. Elizabeth Townley, and their alleged son was

Christopher Smith m. Lydia Broadribb, and sometimes we'll see their son listed as

Christopher Smith m. Mary Fairbanks, and then we usually find their son listed as

Christopher Smith m. Catherine Snelson

  • Massachusetts Bay Colony

Christopher Smith Smith-10534 m. Mary Fairbanks lived in Massachusetts. They are not in any geographic or social proximity to the Smith/Broadribb or Smith/Snelson story and thus can be removed from this errant pedigree.

As a result, in conjunction with the doubt that Lydia Broadribb had any children, we have now broken any alleged connections between the Smith/Snelson family and the Smith/Townley line via this purported lineage.

Further, we can correct this errant pedigree with the following information.

[VIRGINIA MIGRATIONS – HANOVER COUNTY] By Eugenia G. Glazebrook, Preston G. Glazebrook

The contents of this book detail a number of legal cases involving Christopher Smith who was associated with the trading company "Smith and Anderson". The author can definitively conclude that Christopher's father was a Charles Smith, Sr.. Further, this Smith family is suggested to be descended from a John Smith of Gould Hill.

These Smiths may be related to Susannah Smith Preston, the woman for whom Smithfield Plantation in Blacksburg, VA is named. A member of their board of directors also claims descent from Maj. Lawrence Smith's family through Susannah Smith Preston. I find this research interesting, however, as [a family bible] states Susannah was descended, through her father Francis Smith, from a "Dr. John Smith" who married an "Elizabeth Ballard". A family researcher for this group later decided that a "William Smith" was a better fit for the identity of the husband of Elizabeth, but I have not dug into this research to identify why this was done. This William is their suggested connection to Maj. Lawrence Smith's family.

I do know that Charles Snelson and Francis Smith were at least acquainted with each other per the land deeds.

Christopher Smith of Meherrin Parish, VA

Among the wills of the Brunswick Co, VA records, we can find the family of Roger Smith who lived near Fort Christian. He likely lived near what is today "Dry Bread Rd". It used to be known as "the old fort road" before the Revolutionary War.

Roger is shown to be in close geographic and social proximity to a Christopher and Ambrose Smith. This Smith group, based upon land record analysis, is likely descended from an older John Smith who bought land on Fountains Creek in the 1720's.

I believe, due to the fact that the "Merchant of Hanover" had a proven son "Ambrose Joshua Smith", it was assumed that this Christopher and Ambrose of Fountains Creek were related. They are provably not.

It is because of Henry Smith's Smith-58084 proximity to Andrew Jeter, a son-in-law to Roger's son Eades Smith, have I had to explore this Fountains Creek family in detail.

Thomas Smith of Blackmore

Thomas Smith of Blackmore did not have a copy of his will survive into modern day. As a result, it would be very difficult to prove, definitively, who his children were. Thomas, by all accounts, was a descendant of the Smiths of Blackmore in Essex, England. They in turn were descendants of the Smiths of Rivenhall, Essex. Thomas' identity, as well as his suggested brother's, is based upon the presence of a Jennings family descended from a sister of Arthur's and they can be traced back to Blackmore in England.

Closing thoughts

An earlier video summary I made of this information can be found [here]. The content on this page is more current, however.

While this is still a preliminary draft of my findings, I believe they lay a sound framework for further unambiguous analysis of these families free of confusion of whether they are related or not. If you can find error with anything I have stated above, please leave a comment and I will attempt to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

To everyone who spends their hours researching genealogy and history, I thank you for your energies that go towards recovering and preserving the stories involved in the early origins of the United States of America.

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