Richard T Smith was born in 1829 and died in 1920 at the age of 91. I had found him in census records from 1900 to 1920 and then found evidence of his death. Now, I wanted to find records of his earlier life, which left a number of census records left to research. With such a common name, and living in a metropolitan area, I knew that in order to guarantee that I was researching the correct man, I would need to search for the family as a unit.
I started with the 1880 census and worked backwards. At least three of Richard and Rachel's known children were alive at this time, so I used the children to target the correct family. I was quickly able to find the entire family in 1880 census of Milton County, Georgia. In addition to the previously known children, there were two others: Richard and Sarah. However, these children had been born before the 1872 marriage date given for Richard and Rachel in the 1900 census. Had Richard been married before he married Rachel or could their marriage date be wrong? Also, there was another Smith, Delmus, listed just below Richard's family. Could this be a relative?
Going backwards in time, I next found Richard in the 1870 census of Milton County, Georgia. With him were two of the previously known children, Richard and Sarah, as well as four new children: Pauline, Lucresy, Dumas, and Amanda. This Dumas was very close to the same age as Delmus from the 1880 census. I'm pretty certain that it is the same person.
Interestingly, there was no adult female listed directly under Richard, where the wife is usually listed. Instead, the last individual in the household was a Rachel Garman, age 20, occupation "at home." This had to be his wife. Armed with a maiden name, I quickly found a marriage record for Richard F Smith and Rachel C Garmon from Milton County in August of 1870 (only 16 days after the census was taken). It seems that Rachel lived with the Smith family before marrying Richard. She wasn't listed as a servant, so I'm not sure why she was there.
So, I have information on Richard and Rachel's life together. I can infer that all of the children living with him in census records who were born before August 1870 were from a previous marriage. Who was Richard's first wife, the mother of Pauline, Lucresy, Dumas, Amanda, Richard and Sarah?