Forward in timePaternal Great Great Great Great Grandparents Smith

The search for this Smith/Smyth/e lineAncestor Index Ancestor Index
Wife - Mrs. Thomas Smith

There may be a Norfolk connection to 'Smith' here.


March 2004

Current "Brick Walls" - information sought ...Thomas Smith or Smyth/e
who is also said to have been a cooper - probably of Bristol ... perhaps born elsewhere.

Bristol Cathedral 1837 - image adapted from 19th century bookplate.Following recent (qv) Roberts family information, courtesy of Wayne Roberts, further site research has revealed a possible solution to the mystery of Thomas Smith (Smyth), father of Francis.

The district of Kingswood (Roberts family eighteenth century roots) shows a marriage between a Thomas Smith and a Sarah Matthews on 01 April 1792. This would fit conveniently into a timeframe that could have produced (probably among other children) a son - Francis - born in 1807. Francis Smith (Smyth/e) married Martha Roberts. If Sarah Matthews had a father by the name of William Matthews, then he may well have been the compiler of the various "Matthews Directories" of the area at that time.

Another Thomas - Thomas Smyth - was also noted at this time. Thomas Smyth Esq., of Stapleton (Ashton Court family of Smyth) is listed in Matthews's New Bristol Directory, for the year, 1797: "[1797], MATTHEWS, William. Bristol Printed and Sold by William Matthews, 62, Broad-mead, And may be had of the Booksellers".

Thomas Smith (said to be a cooper of Bristol)
Proven Children - Francis Smith or Smyth who married Martha Roberts

Like his son after him, Thomas Smith was also a cooper by trade. Bristol researcher, John Butland Watts, made further enquiries about the apprenticeship of Francis Smith (qv) and tracked down the following information. Again, gratitude is expressed to him for his expertise and for collecting this information.

John writes: "I checked three indexes to the Bristol Apprenticeship Records covering the periods 1798 to 1810 (Volume v), 1810 - 1820 (Volume w) and 1820 -1830 (Volume x). 

I found a Smith/Emerson match in the last of these three, and so checked the microfiche of the relevant records.   The entry of interest to you (No.9) appears on Page (or Folio) 146 of Volume (x) and is dated 9 October 1823.  It reads as follows:

"Fra[nci]s Smith, son of Thomas Smith of Bristol, cooper, put &c to Jno. Emerson, cooper, & Judith his wife, for 7 years.  Friends to find App[arel] and Wash[in]g."  

I should explain the the term "put &c to" is the standard wording which appears in every single entry."

Site Note: The mention of "Friends" to find etc. - may suggest a Quaker interpretation of "Friends". See notes below about the coopers of Bristol.

Image adapted from original courtesy of Anthony Emerson Gregory
Segment from an Emerson Indenture (that of Earl Duffett)
Click on this image link for more information and associations ...

Despite meticulous research into the same series of records, John Butland Watts has been unable to locate any earlier reference to a 'cooper' Thomas Sm*th/e in this connection. John writes, "I have searched the Indexes to Volumes 10 to 20 the Bristol Burgess Books (covering the period from November 1743 to September 1830), and discovered 18 different Thomas Smiths, with all sorts of trades, but not one was a cooper or hooper.  However, there was a George Smith admitted to the liberties of the City of Bristol in 1778, who was a wine hooper, and who, coincidentally, was the son of a Thomas Smith, a baker by trade."

March 2004

Of note and for investigation.
Marriage Date:
Elizth Dark
Thos Smith
cooper; p. Erchfont (aka Urchfont)

Confirmed by LDS IGI as Elizabeth Dark marriage to Thomas Smith 31 December 1805 at Market Lavington, Wiltshire, England. B#7307911 SC# 0822723 with no children associated. There is a record of a Francis <Smith> (LDS IGI) being christened on 07 October 1827 at Temple, Bristol, Gloucester, England. Father Thomas Smith; mother Elizabeth. Might the 2 be a transcript error for 0? 1807 was the birth year of Francis Smith, the cooper of Bristol whose father was Thomas Smith a cooper - said to be "of Bristol".

Urchfont is described as "a compact village" which lies "to the west of Devizes on the B3098 to Salisbury and contains many attractive houses, the earliest dating from the 16th century. The best is Urchfont Manor and described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner to be one of the best houses of its type in Wiltshire. The manor was built for Sir William Pynsent c. 1680 and is constructed of brick with stone dressings and has a most impressive doorway." Also stated of the village is "The name of the village is believed to come from the spring of Eorich, though it has suffered many variations over the centuries, Lerchesfonte, Archesfunte, Erchfount, and Ushant among the many. The village has had several springs including one that never runs dry so this may be the real origin."

That Thomas was a cooper has already been shown - but he may well have originally served an apprenticeship elsewhere and then moved to Bristol later. It has also been seen that, in the (so far) confirmed paternal line of this Smith/Smyth genealogy, a strong dissenter background - Baptist in the main - seems to be in evidence. This may equally point to Quaker, Wesleyan (Methodist) or to "Chapel" persuasion - the latter much embraced in Wales and the Welsh border counties for which Bristol would have been a principal port. During the sixteen and seventeen hundreds, the population of Bristol exploded. It was particularly attractive as a centre for religious dissenters with its gateway to the New World and to its associated freedoms. Many coopers were Quakers, Methodists and Baptists. Bristol Docks - 19th Century - adapted

The story of coopering and of some of the Bristol Quaker families who were associated with the craft may be followed via this link. Several Bristol and west country families migrated to America. For example, Bristol was the home of the Penn family, founders of Pennsylvania.

Bristol, being a flourishing port with a long history of trade and warehousing had for several centuries been a centre for coopers and the barrel making trade. The coopers of Bristol ran a fairly tight and very protective concern and were a powerful element within the trade pararmeters of the city. Originally, coopers made smaller barrels, vats, tubs, and normal-sized barrels from soft wood. The vessels were fixed with wooden hoops while barrel-makers produced larger barrels made from hard wood, mostly from oak, but sometimes also from beech, maple or ash, which were held together with metal hoops. The material for the production of the barrels was left to mature and dry out for two or three years. Once prepared, the wood was placed together according to a model. The individual parts - staves - were, after planing, set into a hoop, steamed and held by a rope in the required position. They were then secured by other hoops. After that, the top and bottom pieces were set into place, and the whole of the inside was coated with pitch. From the 17th century the coopers' and the barrel-makers' trades gradually joined into a single Coopers' Guild.

It is interesting to note from documentation about the Bristol Smyth family of Ashton Court, that when Matthew Smyth and his brother Thomas Smyth - sons of John Smyth of Aylburton in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire - moved to Bristol in the late fifteenth century "they worked as hoopers or makers of bonds for casks and barrels. They also engaged in trade, dealing in cloth which was sent to Ireland, and importing wine and small quantities of fish."

Both men did well for themselves in Bristol. By the time he died in 1542, Thomas Smyth had acquired property outside the city at Shirehampton as well as a number of tenements within the city itself. However, he regarded himself primarily as a tradesman rather than a man of property and described himself in his Will as a "hooper". He left most of his property to his son, John Smyth. The latter is described in his father's Will as "the Shewmaker".

The elder son, Matthew Smyth, was the man who set about building up the substantial family fortunes. Soon after his arrival in Bristol, he married Alice John, the daughter and heiress of Lewis John, a Bristol merchant and through this marriage he gained a house in Corn Street. Their daughter, Elizabeth Smyth, married Thomas Phelips, son of Richard Phelips, M.P. for Melcombe Regis in Dorset. The youngest son of this couple was Sir Edward Phelips, a prominent lawyer, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1604, Master of the Rolls in 1611 and the builder of Montacute House.

TOP of page