Thursday, June 21st, 2012 06:35 pm
One of my cousins contacted me yesterday, looking for some help in finding out about the Navy career of Albert E Smith.

He wrote:
I bought an antique naval officer's sword recently and am trying to research the original owner. I bought the sword in Columbia, PA, and it is a fancy presentation sword made by Shannon, Miller & Crane of NY, which is a known 19th cen. sword maker. The blade is etched with USN on one side and Albert E. Smith "80" on the other. I believe as did the dealer that this sword was presented to Smith when he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1880. I presume that he would have been about 20 in 1880 and if he followed a career in the Navy would have served in the Spanish American War and WWI. I tried to do some Internet research myself but the only possible references I found was one in the NY Times , Sept. 2, 1880, stating that "Cadet Engineer Albert E. Smith has been detached from the Despatch and placed on waiting orders."

My cousin went on to say that he found a second NY Times article dated March 1, 1911, after talking about how Albert E. Smith was in a sailing regatta in New York. The article stated that, "Mr. Smith has been an enthusiastic yachtsman for a number of years."

The dealer who sold the sword to my cousin said the sword was bought from an estate sale in New York.

Photos below, including a close-up of the inscription.
Sword and scabbard
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Engraving on sword
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Internet searches we have conducted are inconclusive.

I haven't found any Ancestry family trees that mention an Albert E Smith having a career in the Navy, or graduating from the naval academy in 1880.

The VA's Nationwide Gravesite Locator does not list an Albert E Smith who was in the Navy, or who lived and died during the appropriate time.

I can't find him in Find a Grave. Military records at Ancestry are not helpful.

Any ideas?
Friday, June 22nd, 2012 07:07 am (UTC)
My dad was in the Navy, but joined circa Vietnam, so I can't really help you with the sword. However, I can say that the Navy records survived the St. Louis fire (if this person's records aren't held by NARA now), if your cousin is extremely curious (I don't know how easy it is to get old records for someone you aren't related to, though.)

I've never used this list, but I had some good luck with the WWI Rootsweb mailing list. You/your cousin might want to ask about this here:
http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/other/Military:_Naval/USNAVY.html

(You would think there are some sort of historical Naval Academy records, somewhere, especially ones 100+ years old.)

I took a gander @ Fold3, and while there are some Naval records there, it's sort of a mish-mash. There's some stuff @ Familysearch (I don't know if it's any different than what's @ Fold3 & Ancestry, tho), but Albert Smith was not an uncommon name.
(Anonymous)
Friday, June 22nd, 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
Trawling through the NARA site is like reading a foreign language at times, so I don't know how helpful the following will be.
------------------------------
There's also this, if someone is near a NARA location (I'm not sure if this is all in MD or not):
http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/024.html#24.6.5

24.6.5 Records of the Naval Academy Division

History: Bureau of Navigation, upon its establishment in 1862, assumed supervision of the U.S. Naval Academy from the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. Responsibility delegated to Naval Academy Division, or Naval Academy Section, at an undetermined date.

Textual Records: General correspondence of the Academy Superintendent, 1851-58. Appointment letters, 1894-1940. Personnel files (jackets) of naval cadets, principally those who failed to graduate, 1862-1910. Registers of midshipmen, 1869-96.

Related Records: Records of the U.S. Naval Academy, RG 405.
(http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=701
AND
http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/405.html)