The France-Smith Families


Much of the ancestry of the France and Smith families was developed by my uncle Dick France (my mother’s brother).  I have attempted to verify his findings, some of which (the earliest Frances and Smiths) I have been unable to confirm and therefore are not included here.  I have also expanded on Dick’s work somewhat.


I believe the ancestry is roughly half German (France) and half English (Smith) although there are other nationalities that come in, for example the Swiss.  France was probably Frantz or a variation in Germany.  Dick France thought that he had found the immigrant ancestors in both the France and Smith lines, but those attributions are problematic.  We do know of a few “gateway” (immigrant) ancestors:


Robert Jefferis and his wife Jane Chandler came from Wiltshire county, England to Pennsylvania in 1681.

Oliver Cope also from Wiltshire to Pennsylvania.

Peter Ake probably came from Switzerland to Baltimore.


Many of our ancestors started out in Pennsylvania.  The Smiths appear to  have originally settled in Maryland.


The earliest France was Peter, who may have come from Germany to Pennsylvania in the early 18th Century.  We know very little about him except that he had a son, also Peter, born 1751 in Pennsylvania.  This second Peter was in the Revolutionary War and was taken prisoner in the first battle of the war, the Battle of New York.  For an account of Peter France in the Battle of New York click here.  Also see the letter in the notes under Peter b. 1751 (in the France-Smith tree). After the war Peter traveled around a bit and wound up in Ohio where his son, Henry Copeland, was born and lived.  Henry’s son George Washington France traveled west winding up in Iowa where he bought a farm east of Oskaloosa, close to the little town of Rose Hill.  It is said that he “walked across Iowa.”  This farm was passed down (and enlarged) to George’s son, Charles Washington and then to my uncle Charles Warren (known as Warren) and part of it is still in the family.



The Akes


Henry Copeland France married Elizabeth Ake whom we believe to be of Swiss origin.  There is a tradition in the family that the Akes were descended from Johann Maier Eck who debated with Martin Luther (see but I have not been able to confirm that ancestry.



The Smiths


The earliest Smith we know of in our ancestry is James who lived in Baltimore in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  He or his parents may have come from the British isles.  His son James was born in Baltimore in 1804 and had children in Baltimore, including William Mortimer.  James and William both came to Illinois, perhaps at the same time, living in Marshall county in the middle of the state where they were farmers.  William’s son, James Mortimer, had six children by Lydia Stewart in Marshall county. Lydia died in 1891 and James moved with some of his children to Iowa, where He married Janet Rule by whom he had one child.  In Iowa he had a farm near Oskaloosa, close to the Frances’ farm.


According to family lore, Lydia Stewart was the daughter of Duncan Stewart and Charlotte Hawley (m. 7/4/1855). Also according to family lore, Duncan allegedly died in Andersonville, a notorious Confederate prison in Sumter county, Georgia on Feb. 25, 1863 (some records show Feb. 23). The problem with this account is that Andersonville did not open until Feb. 1864 (it was liberated by the North in May 1865). Lists of prisoners in Andersonville also do not include a Duncan Stewart, although these lists are incomplete.

It is presumed that Duncan and Charlotte lived in Illinois at the time of the Civil War.  The U.S. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers 1861-1865 show a Duncan Stewart d. 24 Feb. 1863 at the Regimental Hospital, rank: Private, co. H, 93 Ill. Inf. cause of death: Phthisis Pulmonalis [tuberculosis]. This date of death corresponds very closely (within one day) to the date of death we have in family records.

On the assumption that this is our Duncan Stewart and that he was in the Illinois 93rd Infantry, here is an excerpt from the Civil War Regimental Histories-Illinois:

The Ninety-Third Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Chicago, Ill., in September 1862, by Colonel Holden Putnam, and mustered in October 13, 998 strong.

Was ordered to Memphis, Tenn., November 9, and arriving on the 14th, moved with General Grant's army, in the Northern Mississippi Campaign, to Yocona creek, and thence via Lumpkin's Mills, to Memphis, arriving December 30. Marched again, immediately, to LaFayette, Tenn., and returned to Ridgway, where the Regiment remained during January and February 1863. [following is a description of action during March]


The above account suggests that the 93rd Regiment was in "Ridgway" in late February 1863, when Duncan died. Presumably the regimental hospital was also there. I am not sure where "Ridgway" was. There is a Ridgway in Gallitin County in far south Illinois, near Kentucky, but in online accounts of Ridgway and Gallitin county I do not find reference to the 93rd Regiment being there. Of course, it was apparently there only a short time. If this is our Duncan Stewart and Ridgway is where he died, it is possible that his wife visited him there.


The Copes


James Mortimer Smith is descended through his mother Sarah Jane Tucker from Oliver Cope who immigrated from Wiltshire, England to Pennsylvania.  Oliver Cope’s father was John.  There is considerable controversy about John’s ancestors.  Claims have been made that he has many illustrious ancestors, going back several generations.  This appears to be incorrect.  The claims can be found in Gilbert Cope, A Record of the Cope Family, Philadelphia: King and Baird, Printers, 1861. Information may also be found in Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1881. The claims have been refuted by Charles M. Hansen, “The Claimed Gentry Descent of Oliver Cope,” American Genealogist, Vol 70, No. 3, July 1995. Richard Boswell has also written about these claims.