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Seaman Francis (Frank) Smyth b (c1874) Portaferry.

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Heather Report 16 Jan 2019 21:21

I am trying to trace my husband's maternal 1 x gr grandfather Frank Smyth. He was a sailor/seaman who worked out of Ballyhalbert, Kircubbin in Northern Ireland and worked between Maryport, Cumberland on the Irish Sea and I think sailed on a ship called "Martha" registered in Belfast.

On the 1901 census he is at home with his wife and 2 very young daughters aged only 2 and 3 in Belfast . In August 1902 his wife Agnes gives birth to a baby boy (also called Francis Smyth) which dies at only one day old. Death certificate states "premature birth" and father is stated as "deceased sailor". I can only conclude he died sometime between 30/4/1901 and 21/8/1902. Family story was he drowned, but do not know when or circumstances? Any help at all would be great!


ArgyllGran Report 16 Jan 2019 23:44

For helpers' reference:

Census Years1901, Antrim, Court Ward, Springmount Street
Residents of a house 23 in Springmount Street (Court Ward, Antrim)

Smyth Lousia 3 Female Daughter Church of Ireland Co Antrim
Smyth Isabell 1 Female Daughter Church of Ireland Belfast -
Smyth Frank 27 Male Head of Family Church of Ireland Co Down Seaman Sailor
Smyth Agnes 27 Female Wife Church of Ireland Co Antrin -


malyon Report 16 Jan 2019 23:48

found this death

Francis Smyth
Ireland Civil Registration Indexes
Name Francis Smyth
Event Type Death
Event Date Apr - Jun 1915
Event Place Belfast, Ireland
Registration Quarter and Year Apr - Jun 1915
Registration District Belfast
Age 41
Birth Year (Estimated) 1874
Volume Number 1


ArgyllGran Report 16 Jan 2019 23:55

Baby Francis's burial, which I expect you have:

Name of deceased NK Smyth
Last place of residence 5 Springmount St
Age 8 Days
Date of death 22 August 1902
Date of burial 23 August 1902
Cemetery City Cemetery - Public Ground
Grave section and number
Burial Type Earth Burial

But I'm afraid I can't see any sign of his father's death at sea or otherwise.

Not the one Malyon posted, assuming Agnes was telling the truth at baby Francis's death.


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 16:06

PM from Heather:

Thanks for your reply, I really do not know what or where he disappeared to! I do know Frank (Francis Smyth) came from a seafaring family from Portaferry in Co Down. His father John Smyth was a "Sea Captain" , his mother was an Annie Bailie, and his two brothers John and another I do not have the name for, were carpenters/sailors. Brother John was married to a Thomasina Smyth (nee Nelson) whose father Robert Nelson was a "Ferryman" on the Portaferry to Strangford ferry.

Family story was that Frank drowned in Belfast Lough, but can't find anything to prove for disprove it. His widow Agnes who had lost Frank's baby on 22/8/1902 remarried on 14/10/1902 in St Annes Cathedral, Belfast! Her new husband, David Gaw a widower with 4 children lived in the same street!

I love a mystery but I really can't get my head around this one?!

Any ideas?


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 16:11

Of course, lots of records were lost in an explosion and fire at the Public Records Office in 1922.
Maybe Francis's death is one of them.

There's no sign of his burial in Belfast, which you would think there would be if he drowned there.
But maybe his body wasn't recovered.


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 16:16

A VERY long shot -
if his body wasn't recovered, he couldn't be declared dead for 7 years.

Francis Smith
in the Ireland, Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958
Name: Francis Smith
Estimated birth year: abt 1874
Date of Registration: Oct-Nov-Dec 1908
Death Age: 34
Registration district: Belfast
Volume: 1
Page: 199
FHL Film Number: 0101604


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 16:45

There seems to be something about Francis here -


... Postal Address. District. Ptaaete M ‘Coabrsy Downpatrick Downpatrick. David Mills same sama. John Gill Ardglaas Ardglasa. Francis Smyth Portafarry Portaferry. John M’Connall Klrkcubbin Kirkcubbia. Henry Edgar Nawtownard* Newtownarda James Williams BaUjnahinch ...
Published: Friday 15 November 1901
Newspaper: Belfast News-Letter
County: Antrim, Northern Ireland
Type: Article | Words: 969 | Page: 6 | Tags: none

Maybe someone with a sub to the British Newspaper Archive will have a look.

Gwyn in Kent

Gwyn in Kent Report 17 Jan 2019 16:46

So a grieving widow married less than 2 months after losing her premature baby?................ !

I wonder if she was a widow, or if Francis left her because she had been rather 'preoccupied' while he'd been away at sea.

Are there ship crew registers which could be searched after that date?

Maybe he continued to live and work elsewhere.


Dea Report 17 Jan 2019 16:50

The Vessel - 'Martha' appears to have been a 16 ton lugger, so fairly small (probably 35ft - 40ft long x 11ft wide - 12ft wide.

No. 27385 Martha; registered Belfast; a lugger of 16 tons; built St. Ives in 1859; owned by Bernard Hugh (or Hughes) of Ardglass.

A lugger is a class of boat, widely used as traditional fishing boats, particularly off the coasts of France, England and Scotland.
It is a small sailing vessel with lug sails set on two or more masts and perhaps lug topsails.

It would seem that he was most likely a fisherman.

Doesn't help with his death I am afraid but I thought it might be of interest.

Dea x

P.S. - Just a thought but IF Francis was 'lost at sea' and his body not found, wouldn't she have to wait a little longer before she re-married ?? - I am sure there is a certain length of time, legally, that you have to wait if there is no body?

She does seem to have married for the second time only about 7 or 8 weeks after she lost Francis's son who was born prematurely so it could only be a matter of a few months since the 'supposed' death of her husband. ???

Dea x


greyghost Report 17 Jan 2019 17:00

The above death record posted by AG

from the free to use Irish genealogy website

shows -
A 34 year old single man. A Riveter who died of Acute Rheumatism and endocarditis.

The 1915 death posted earlier by Malyon was a Fitter, Widow Mary Smyth

There doesn't appear to be a civil death to fit showing on that site between 1900-1910 for a Frank/Francis Smith/Smyth


greyghost Report 17 Jan 2019 17:08

The re-Marriage certificate also from that site shows Agnes and David Gaw as Widow/er of 55 and 26 Springmount Street, Belfast respectively.

Agnes is shown as Agnes Smith otherwise Sheppard, her Father John Sheppard a Farmer.


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 17:13

Interesting that Agnes spells her name Smith, not Smyth, on the marriage cert in 1902.

If there's truth in the idea that Francis' s body wasn't found, maybe she was trying to cover her tracks slightly ??

I don't see David in Springmount Street in 1901 - nor either of them anywhere in 1911 census.

Re speed of marriage, maybe she and David simply both needed support in bringing up their families, but couldn't cohabit without marriage??

Goodness knows! All conjecture!

Agnes's address in 1902 is 5 Springmount Street, same as place of death of baby Francis, so definitely the right person.


greyghost Report 17 Jan 2019 17:17

The newspaper article list a Frances Smyth of Portaferry as one of a number of Process Servers in the Division of Downpatrick under an initial heading of a list of dates for the Quarter Sessions to be held


ArgyllGran Report 17 Jan 2019 17:19

Thanks, GG.
Ah well, no further forward.


Heather Report 17 Jan 2019 21:48

Thanks to all who replied.

I have been able to track Agnes and where she lived up to her death in 1907. To her second husband David Gaw ,she had a female child in August 1903 another premature birth who died, and then a son called John Sheppard Gaw on 20/5/1905, he lived, Sheppard was her maiden name.

Agnes died of TB/consumption on 29/7/1906. Her second husband did not then want her two young daughters who were farmed out to live with an uncle of Agnes in Larne, they never saw their half brother again. He kept their half brother with his own children and on 1911 census they are living in Hopeton Street, Belfast along with a 65 year old uncle of David Gaw. David then dies in 1914 when young John Sheppard Gaw was only 9 leaving him then an orphan. While this is sad, it gets even worse! One of the two young girls was my husband's beloved granny. Frank Smyth was her father and I would really love to put this one to rest!


Heather Report 23 Jan 2019 11:45

After some really intensive trawling through old newspapers, looked at every occupant of the streets of Portaferry 1901 and 1911 census for Ireland, I still cannot find a record of Francis Smyth's birth, death or find his mother or father!.

Other variables I have thought about:

Did he drown/lost at sea ie no known grave.
Would an inquest then be necessary?
When or would a death cert be issued in that case?
He is shown alive on 1901 census at home with wife and 2 daughters but is recorded as 'deceased' on birth cert for son baby Francis born prematurely in Aug 1902 and subsequently dies. Quite a narrow window then of when he could have died.
His widow remarries seven and a half weeks after the death of this baby!
I also found out he had a twin sister called Annie Smyth (a note written on the back of an old photo! She was alive on 1901 and 1911 census a spinster living with an aunt.
This one is driving me nuts!!


ArgyllGran Report 23 Jan 2019 12:34

What's the aunt's name, please?

There were a number of Annie Smyths living with aunts in 1901 and 1911, but I haven't figured out which one is your Annie so far.


Ah - is this her in 1911 ?

Annie Smith
in the Web: Ireland, Census, 1911
Name: Annie Smith
Gender: Female
Age: 37
Birth Year: abt 1874
Relation to Head: Niece
Residence Date: 2 Apr 1911
Townland/Street: New Row Street
District: Portaferry
County: Down
Household Members:
Name Age
Jane Bailie 72 - single
Annie Smith 37


Heather Report 23 Jan 2019 16:59

Yes, this Annie Smith (even though he used Smyth on his marriage cert. in 1897) was Francis twin. The other lady was his mother's sister another spinster lady born c 1840. His mother was called Annie Smyth/Smith nee Bailie.

The only others living there that I know of and can connect are:

Thomasina Smyth nee Nelson married to a brother of Francis John Smyth and their family. He is also believed to have had another brother, but I do not have a name for him.


ArgyllGran Report 23 Jan 2019 17:13

For our reference:

Ann Bailie
in the Ireland, Select Marriages, 1619-1898
Name: Ann Bailie
Gender: Female
Marital status: Single
Marriage Date: 23 Jan 1866
Marriage Place: Portaferry, Down, Ireland
Father: Nicholas Bailie
Spouse: John Smith
FHL Film Number: 101487
Reference ID: bk1866 p637

Just posting things as I come across them, in case anything provides a clue to any helper;

Catherine Louisa Smith
in the Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911
Name: Catherine Louisa Smith
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 7 Dec 1868
Birth Place: Portaferry, Down, Ireland
Baptism Place: Portaferry, Down, Ireland
Father: John Smith
Mother: Ann Bailie
FHL Film Number: 101175

Sarah Smith
in the Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911
Name: Sarah Smith
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 5 Sep 1866
Birth Place: Portaferry, Down, Ireland
Father: John Smith
Mother: Annie Bailie
FHL Film Number: 101130

John Smyth
in the Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911
Name: John Smyth
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 7 May 1875
Birth Place: Down, Ireland
Father: John Smyth
Mother: Annie Bailie
FHL Film Number: 255928