Updated 10 Nov 2017: Scroll down for new information.
Theodocia Smith married Thomas Jefferson Lanier on 13 January 1897 in Branchville, St. Clair County, Alabama. Later that year or early in 1898, they moved to Monroe County, Mississippi with Jeff’s parents, Joseph and Nancy Jane Bennett Lanier, and most of their other children.
Jeff was listed in his parents’ household in the 1900 census along with three other siblings who definitely did not live with them at that time. Theodocia has not been located in that census but other records indicate she and Jeff were living next to his parents in Monroe County in September that year and that they had a child.
Theodocia and Jeff parted ways permanently in 1902, and I have no idea what happened to her and their child after that. I don’t even know if the child was a boy or a girl.
Finding Theodocia before her marriage to Jeff isn’t any easier than locating her after 1902. George Smith signed the bond section of their marriage record along with Jeff, and the wedding took place in Branchville. George’s middle initial is D on the part of the form completed by someone at the courthouse but appears to be T in his signature.
According to the 1900 census, George T. Smith lived in Branchville with his wife, Annie, and three daughters — all three listed as single. Florence R. was 27, born in March 1873. Tula A. appears to have first been listed as 26 then changed to 16. Her birth month and the year was September 1883, which matches the age of 16. Georgia Ann was 13, born January 1887. Annie was the mother of five children, all living, so there were two other children living elsewhere.
In 1910, George was still in St. Clair County but in Oldtown instead of Branchville. Annie was again listed as the mother of five but only four were living at that time. In the household with George and Annie was “Leallie” and George D. Lenier. Leallie was a widow, age 33, mother of one child. George was 10 years old and born in Alabama.
When Leila married George Meredith in 1917, her last name was again spelled Lenier but George’s WWI draft registration and the 1920 census have his name as Lanier. That 1920 census record for George also shows he was born in Mississippi.
The 1897 marriage record for Theodocia and Jeff is the only marriage record in St. Clair County in this timeframe for a Lanier and there are none for Lenier. If Leila married some other Lenier/Lanier, it didn’t happen there.
While the name difference between Theodocia D. and Leila is impossible to explain at this point, the other similarities are too much to dismiss. What are the chances that George Smith had a daughter and some other female with the same surname (for whom he signed a marriage bond) who both married a Lanier/Lenier, both had one child, and both were no longer with their husband by 1910?
UPDATE: New DNA results point to Leila’s son, who went by James Dewey Lanier after 1920, being the son of Thomas J. Lanier and, therefore, Leila being Theodocia. It’s complicated and I’m still waiting to hear from the DNA match, but this Most Wanted may be found.
If you know anything about Leila Smith Lanier Meredith or James Dewey Lanier, please email me.
Last Update: 10 Nov 2017