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A Direct Descendant of a Founding Father?

June 6th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

It’s a fine story, we must concede. My siblings and I … all direct descendants of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. A Founding Father. A fun fact.

The story has been repeated since I was a child. But is it true? After decades of wondering, I think I have an answer.

This line, if it is one, extends back through my mother’s father, one Edward Louis Smoot Jr.

Her brother is the keeper of old family documents, and while visiting California last summer, we stayed with him and my aunt for most of a week, and one day I studied all the documents and letters stored in a box.

Tracing backwards into history, it looks like this:

My mother and uncle were the only children of Edward Louis Smoot Jr. and Natalie Drinkard.

The former seems to have grown up in the Virginia/Maryland area in the 1890s, with his six siblings, four of whom were brothers.

The whole family appears to have migrated to California for health reasons in the second decade of the 20th century. (A sister had died from tuberculosis while in her teens).

They first went to Redlands, and then dispersed a bit, and Edward Jr. eventually went down to the Coachella Valley, where he may have been involved with the growing agricultural sector there.

Three of the brothers, including Edward Jr., were in the army during World War I. Edward Jr. was a cavalryman, as were his two brothers, but it is not believed they ever got to France, where the fighting was.

The family father was Edward Louis Smoot Sr., and his wife was one of several children (and apparently the only daughter) of a Samuel Magruder, born in 1836.

Samuel Magruder is a bit notorious because he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1861, when 11 southern states seceded from the Union, touching off the Civil War.

In April, Magruder resigned his commission as an officer of the U.S. army (this document is in my uncle’s possession) to join up with the Virginia militia, eventually serving in the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee.

This Magruder may have risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army. That is the story, but I have not seen documentation for it. He survived the war but died in 1870, when he would have been no more than 34 years old.

His father was Fielder Magruder, who was born in 1798, and this is where it gets interesting, in terms of Founding Fathers. Fielder Magruder had married a Carroll, a daughter of a prominent Maryland family who could trace their origins to Ireland.

(The Carrolls were Roman Catholics, and Charles Carroll was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, but somewhere in the 1800s the Catholicism was abandoned for Magruder or Smoot Protestantism.)

The Carroll who married Fielder Magruder was the daughter of one Patrick Carroll, part of the extended Carroll/Maryland clan.

It should be noted that the Carrolls and Magruders were almost certainly slave owners. Charles Carroll, the signer, was known as a “planter” … and in the 18th century American South, that meant slaves.

The Smoots, too, who apparently had been in the area for quite some time, probably also were slaveholders.

The Smoots were a fairly large family by the 1800s, according to letters written by descendants early in the 20th century, and one branch of the family became Mormons, went to Utah. One of them was elected to the U.S. Senate and became co-author of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, still studied in U.S. history.

Anyway, the chances are fairly good that, for instance, Fred Smoot, the former NFL cornerback, may be related to my Smoot ancestors.

Now we are at the crucial point in the narrative, because Patrick Carroll is only one generation removed from Charles Carroll, the signer.

However, it appears that Patrick Carroll is the only son of Thomas Carroll, no doubt a prominent guy in his day, but only the brother of Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The documents seem fairly clear to me. My uncle is not quite convinced, and may give this more study.

Thus, my siblings and I … related to, but not descended from Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland.

So close!

Tracing these sorts of things can be very interesting, as you get a sense of families’ fortunes rising and ebbing.

Were the Magruders really important people in the 1800s, along with the Carrolls, or did Fielder Magruder make a social jump by marrying the grand niece of Charles Carroll? (The latter, by the way, was the last Declaration of Independence signer to die, in 1832.)

We can be fairly certain, two generations later, that Edward Louis Smoot Sr. definitely climbed a bit socially when he married the daughter of Samuel Magruder, who in the 1870 census was adjudged to own land worth $20,000 — which was real money, in 1870.

One of their sons, my grandfather, was an interesting and semi-mysterious (to me) character. He died in 1972, but I never met him.

I had never seen a photo of him until last August, when my uncle produced two. In each of them, my grandfather is holding my uncle, who is quite young. That would place the photos in the late 1930s, and by then my grandfather — former World War I cavalryman, former rancher, perhaps a former farmer and ice merchant — would have been approaching 40 and my grandmother (a native of Savannah, Georgia, whose family had moved to southern California during the Great Depression) was no more than 25.

In about 1940, my grandfather and a partner were running a tungsten mine in or near the high-desert town of Randsville. They may have owned it. At any rate, there was an explosion in the mine, and my mother, who was six at the time, said she still remembers the siren wailing at the mine, across the road from their house.

My grandfather survived, but he sustained serious brain injuries, and a few years later was committed to a veterans hospital in California.

My uncle visited him several times, and said his father seemed happy enough, though he didn’t really recognize him. He spent the last 30 years of his life institutionalized and, my uncle said, “somehow seemed to live on Coke and chocolate.”

A side note. My grandfather on my father’s side was in the U.S. navy during World War I, and was stationed in the Seattle area. In 1918 or 1919, he came down with the Spanish flu, which was sweeping the globe, and became badly ill.

The story told had been that my maternal grandfather was a male nurse in the hospital at that time, when my paternal grandfather would have been a patient there. (“Small world,” was the sort of comment made in the past half-century.)

However, according to my uncle, it was one of Edward Louis Smoot Jr.’s brothers, Joe, who was a nurse in the military hospital.  (Another near-miss in family oral history.)

In the two photos of my maternal grandfather, he appears to be a slight, wiry man. Someone who could be imagined in the cavalry.

In one photo he looks a bit like Will Rogers. In the other, he looks a bit like Lee Harvey Oswald.

In either case, he was almost the great-great-great grandson of Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Making my generation almost the great-great-great-great-great grandchildren of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland.

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob Burns // Mar 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    My family on both sides goes far back into history on L.I., N.Y. On my mother’s side they have joined the DAR, and the cemetary in Sag Harbor holds stones back at least to the 1690’s.
    On my father’s side there are Carrolls buried in the family plot of St. Andrew’s RC cemetary dating back to the 1700’s. My aunt claims to be descendants of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, but I have my doubts. So far I haven’t linked any of the Maryland Carrolls to the N.Y. Carrolls in terms of descendancy.
    It might be of interest to any Carroll descendants to be aware of the Carrolls in the St. Andrews R.C. cemetary in Sag Harbor, N.Y., dating back to 1704 among others.

  • 2 Hayden Tavernetti-Carroll // May 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    dude you have to have the last name to tie it in. my dad is a direct descendant of charles carroll of carrollton

  • 3 Erin McCarthy // May 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    I have been told that my 8th great grand father is Charles Carroll. I saw papers many years ago and i understand my great grandmother was a DAR member but all the info. I need has been lost and family members have passed. Any info. That could help me would be greatly appreciated.

  • 4 Alejandro Camino // Feb 13, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    February 14, 2014 at 6:02 am
    From my father I know my great grandfather was Henry Mays Brent Carroll who was US consul in Peru, he married Micaela Delgado. His daughter Mary Brent Delgado married Francisco Camino Anderson. They had five sons (Daniel Camino Brent was my father who married Emilia Diez-Canseco Coronle-Zegarra), and one daugher.
    The tomb of Henry Mays Brent Carroll is in Bay city. I have a photo of it.

    Alejandro Camino Diez-Canseco (in Spanish South America we place our mother`s last name at the end, in this case Diez-Canseco)

  • 5 Aliza Carroll // Oct 2, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Hello, I was looking into my ancestors today and stumbled upon this. It’s quite funny because I am the direct descendant of Charles Carroll. My grandfather, Edward Carroll, who’s still alive, has a diary and documents of Charles Carroll. My whole life we have all talked about this and our relation to Ireland and of course the Declaration of Independence. I am only 23 years old and don’t really listen to all the details but the only detail they really pounded in my mind was that Charles Carroll is my great great great whatever greats grandfather. This is really interesting to me now I have to go see my grandpa and get more info.

  • 6 W.S. // Nov 14, 2015 at 9:48 am

    It appears that many here in Maryland are related to the Carrolls from a liason between James Carroll and one of his indentured servants later enslaved Mary Queen. Theres an article named ” Mary Queen the Popaw Queen” by the Maryland historical society that reviews this.

  • 7 Tina White // Nov 21, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I have heard stories since childhood of being related to Charles Carroll of Carrollton. I recently attended a meeting of DAR and was asked to trace lineage. Which brings me to this site. I am really lost to this as any living relative is either suffering from dementia or I have limited contact with them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • 8 W.S. // Nov 26, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I would start with a dna test on ancestry and a visit to maryland historical society

  • 9 misty lashley // Jul 3, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    HI! i was wondering if any of you would have the family tree all the way down the line on carroll? My family states they are from Carroll’s descendants they are well off, all of them. I would love to link up with some of you and see what we can find out. It may just be that we are all related some how ….lol

  • 10 misty lashley // Jul 3, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    W.S. Would you happen to know of any of the family that may be living in Kansas?

  • 11 Annie Carroll Haynes // May 19, 2017 at 7:07 am

    My maiden name is Carroll and am having problem
    tracing family roots. I mainly have only first names,
    great-great grandfather: William Carroll,1795 Granville Co.,
    NC (wife Martha), great grandfather John Carroll, 1832,
    Rockingham, NC (wife Mary), checked DNA and Ancestry
    but with limited info cannot find much info. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  • 12 W.S. // May 27, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Ms. Haynes I have not been on ancestry for some years but when I was a few years ago I did match Shannon Carroll who is a direct descendant of James Carroll and the Carroll family of Maryland. Some of the Carrolls attended Archbishop Carroll H.S in Washington DC in the late 60s and early 70s. and to my knowledge are still in the area, you may want to attempt to reach out to them, inparticular there were two brothers and they were both nice guys beloved by the school.

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