I had an awful lot to go on to begin with. Family tradition was that his name was "William Alexander Smith" and he was born 11 December 1874 in Tennessee. He married Eva Anna Keeney 24 June 1903. They quickly had three children: Della Mae, Myrtle Marie and Floyd R. Smith. Then on the 4 of December 1909 in Willard, Missouri, William passed away. He was 35. No one has mentioned what he died of and Missouri didn't start issuing death certificates until 1910.
A cousin I was in touch with who descends from Eva's second marriage told me Floyd's name was William R. Simeron Floyd Smith. Quite a name. One guesses that the "R" stands for "Richard", Eva's father's name. But I expect we'll never know.
A very nice researcher named Gail Erickson sent me Eva's family's 1900 census record (this was before I was on ancestry.com). I was shocked they were in Greene County (they'd lived near Kansas City in every other census both before and after 1900) but that was a bit silly of me, since Willard is in Greene County. I'd rather imagined William and Eva took off to the mines in that part of Missouri, but actually both of their fathers farmed there.:
Cass Twp., S.D. 8, E.D. 45, Sheet No. 7B
16 June 1900 W.A. McGuin
line 64 124/125 KEENEY, R.B. Head WM Mar 1849 51 M 19 MO Pen Pen Farmer
Louanna Wife WF Nov 1863 36 M 19 9/8 MO Ky MO
Eva A. Daughter WF Aug 1883 16 S Kan MO MO
Elmer R. Son WM Mar 1885 15 S Kan MO MO
Edward F. Son WM Feb 1887 13 S Kan MO MO
Clarence H. Son MW May 1889 11 S Kan MO MO
Clide Son WM June 1891 8 S Kan MO MO
Claud Son WM June 1891 8 S Kan MO MO
Roy V. Son WM Dec 1893 6 S Kan MO MO
Fred Son WM Jan 1895 5 S MO MO MO
Gail also pointed me to a Smith family nearby with a son "William A.", but he was traced and found alive and married in 1910. So, not my William.
Then yesterday I noticed that the 1900 index on ancestry had been updated (I've had a long hiatus from genealogy, moving will do that to you). So I stuck in Smiths in Greene Co., MO born in TN. Quite a list. And one was:
William E Smith Cass, Greene, Missouri abt 1875 Tennessee White Son
So I had a gander:
1900 Greene Co., MO Census, Cass Township
S.D. 8, E.D. 45, Sheet No. 15A/48A
2 and 3 July 1900 by W A McGuire
line 29, 272/272 SMITH Semyen P. Head WM April 1848 52 M 29 Ten Ten Ten Farmer Owns Farm Free of mortgage
Margaret Wife WF Deb 1857 43 M 29 11/7 Ten Ten Ten
William E Son WM Dec 1874 25 S Ten Ten Ten Farm Laborer
Luiza T Daughter WF Mar 1880 20 S MO Ten Ten
Elven B Son WM July 1882 17 S MO Ten Ten at school
Charles E. Son WM Sept 1884 15 S MO Ten Ten at school
Dollie J. Daughter FW Oct 1886 13 S MO Ten Ten at school
Bennie H Son WM Aug 1892 7 S MO Ten Ten
Dec 1874. Boy, did I get excited.
The "E" bothered me not at all. Lots of A/E names get 'misheard' for census: Albert/Elbert, etc. Of course family tradition had it that William's middle name was "Alexander", so, "Elexander?!". But, too, I knew Alexander was an unusual name that the time.
So, I sprinted to the lds 1880:
www.familysearch.org, 1880 United States Census
S. Perry SMITH Self M Male W 32 TN Farmer TN TN
Margaret SMITH Wife M Female W 23 TN Keeping House VA NC
Jas. C. SMITH Son S Male W 9 TN TN TN
Wm. A. SMITH Son S Male W 4 TN TN TN
Sarah E. SMITH Dau S Female W 2 TN TN TN
Louise T. SMITH Dau S Female W 3M MO TN TN
Census Place: Cass, Greene, Missouri
Family History Library Film: 1254687
NA Film Number: T9-0687
Page Number: 24D
"Wm. A." Well, I'm totally convinced. But still, no proof.
Looks like Floyd's name might be William R(ichard) Simeon Floyd Smith. But still, not proof.
Then I found Betty Miller. This is her 1998 query on the Greene Co., MO website:
Smith; Baker, Allen
Searching for information on Semyen Perry Smith, b. 6 Apr. 1848, in Sevier, TN, m. 1st. Margaret Elizabeth Baker then m. 2nd. Margaret Jane Allen on 15 Jan 1875, d., 3 Feb. 1930, Cass Township, Greene Co., MO. and buried at Willard, MO (Wesley Chapel Cemetery). Three childen by 1st. wife: William Alexander, John Gilbert, Sarah Elizabeth and eight children by 2nd wife: Louisa Theodocia, Elvin Beecher, Charley Edward, Dollie Jane, Roy, Julia, Benjamin Harrison, Mary.
Betty Miller--Tue Dec 15 14:54:58 1998
"William Alexander". I consider that independent confirmation.
And it was always likely that the Smith family living near Eva in 1900 (she and William married in 1902) would be related to her husband. Even if Smith is a very, very common name.