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Smiley-Polk Family documents

Collection Data

The Smiley-Polk Family Documents consist of nine holograph 19th century documents relating to the emancipation of the ancestors of the Smiley-Polk family of New Jersey, and other items concerning the genealogy of this family. Of interest are the freedom papers of Jim, Amey and Judith Smelly (sic, later Smiley) attesting to their free emancipated status (1839), following the death of their master, Thomas Smelly, in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. There are one original and four court copies of Thomas Smelly's last will and testament stating that Smelly unconditionally emancipates Jim, Amy and Judith, divides 100 dollars among them, and also grants freedom to their future issue (1839-1850). Another document, dated 1840, states that according to the laws of Virginia, any person who has been emancipated by his owner must leave the state within twelve months of the owner's death. It further attests to Amey's good character and recommends her to any community. Additionally, there is an obituary written by Charles C. Smiley for Frances Ann White, a descendant of William and Frances Polk (1938). The printed material in the collection includes two addresses by Charles C. Smiley to the seventh and twenty-second family reunions held in New Jersey, 1921 and 1938, respectively, along with photocopies of two letters he wrote, 1934 and 1947. Photocopies of pertinent sections of a 1993 book "Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County," as well as maps and a list of descendants of Jim Smiley complete the collection.
Polk (Collector)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1839 - 1993
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Shelf locator: Sc MG 713
African Americans -- Virginia
Free African Americans
Isle of Wight County (Va.)
Biographical/historical: The ancestors of the Polk Family, Jim and Amey, their daughter Judah and her husband Kit along with their children, upon reaching the age of twenty-one, were emancipated in 1840. This occurred one and one-half years after the death of their master, plantation owner Thomas Smelly, in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. The newly-freed Smelly family left Virginia that same year, according to the law prohibiting freed slaves to remain in the state more than one year, and migrated to New Jersey. At some point the family changed their name from Smelly to Smiley. In New Jersey the Smiley family met another freed family from Maryland, the Polks, and the two families intermarried. By 1993 Amey and Jim Smiley had over one hundred descendants.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 folder (17 items)
Type of Resource
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b15596136
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 9de317c0-c609-012f-2e67-58d385a7bc34
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