Budding genealogist delves into history of the Smith Farm
McALISTERVILLE — One man’s love for discovering his family tree has grown into a potential side business opportunity at his farm.
Dan Smith is a high school biology teacher, farmer and now a budding genealogist of sorts.
Other than eggs and produce, the farmer is offering the service of researching family members for others.
The McAlisterville man has been intrigued by the history of the Smith family since the age of 13, right around the time he started assisting on the family farm.
Smith grew up knowing his great-grandfather, Banks Smith, who was a wealth of information about the family history and devoted to the farm of what is now 50 acres.
His grandmother would often tell the young man how he was related to various people in the community.
“So I wanted to know how I was related to all of these people,” Smith said. He first began asking questions and soon collected deeds, census records and wills.
Banks Smith gave his great-grandson a family German hymnal from 1813 and a Bible published in 1787.
The first Smith to settle at the property was a Jacob Smith in 1792.
Even as Smith was away at Penn State University as a biology student, he spent free time at the library going through microfilm. At this time he was also actively farming the property, driving home from State College one to two times a week to tend to the work.
He learned that the Jacob Smith who purchased the property did so from the individual who bought it directly from William Penn, Pennsylvania’s founder.
He also learned Jacob Smith was a popular name in the family. Two more Jacob Smiths lived on the property over the years.
One of them died at age 45 of typhoid fever. This information was discovered in a biographical encyclopedia in Altoona. This then led to the discovery that one of Jacob’s sons, Samuel, became a doctor because of his father’s young death. Samuel Smith was featured in the encyclopedia, which mentioned his father, Jacob Smith, a direct ancestor to Dan Smith.
When Jacob Smith died, his children were dispersed, Smith said, because that is what was done in those days when a parent died. Samuel was one of those children, and Smith said it is very difficult to find genealogy on those children who are sent away from the home.
The third Jacob Smith (brother to Samuel) is the father of the first Daniel Smith who built the farm house in 1885.
“He wrote his name on everything,” Smith said. Smith and wife, Cori, remodeled the farm house in 2013 and moved in. While gutting the home, they found many boards that said “Daniel Smith built this,” or just simply his name.
Daniel Smith also left behind a grain bag that had “D. Smith” engraved on it. Smith kept it and framed it.
Some other interesting finds in his family tree included a statue of a family member in Ohio. Fifteen years ago Smith said he did some graduate work in Ohio and decided to drive three hours where he knew there was a link to someone in his family tree. On the way to his destination he saw a statue of an Ephraim Longenecker. Smith knew this name. Ephraim’s mother was a Smith in his family lineage.
In 2014 Smith resumed farming the property, built a greenhouse for raising lettuce and moved his chickens from his former home to the Smith Farm.
Smith and his wife set out a roadside service in front of their driveway.
“This was important to me because of my family providing food here,” Smith said of the previous generations.
“A lot of people came here to buy food like eggs and ham. There was a root cellar to store apples, and they sold apples out of there.”
The house has sentimental value as well, as the current Smiths have been settled in to the home built in 1885 for the past few years.
Three to four generations lived in the house at the same time throughout the course of the family history.
Smith teaches biology at West Perry High School and manages the farm. He hires out help to do crop/field work.
In his free time he has enjoyed putting together the family history. Smith had thought perhaps he could offer his services to others. For more information, Smith can be contacted via http://smiths.farm/historical-research or on the farm Facebook page: Smith Farm.