Biography of Pamela Colman Smith


Ancestry of Pamela Colman Smith


Photograph of Pamela Colman ("Pixie") Smith taken in 1898 when she was about 20 years old. The photo was published in an article which appeared in  "The Critic" magazine, Volume 33, January 1899, page 15. Photographer was the famous Brooklyn portraitist, Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1932).



One of the principal elements missing from most of the biographical sketches of Pamela Colman Smith (PCS) is a decent genealogical study. Most of the information previously provided is very limited in the best cases and totally erroneous in the worst cases.

Some sources have even contended that Pamela was not the biological child of Charles and Corinne Smith, but had been adopted or otherwise acquired by them while in England.  This would mean that her English birth certificate was a forgery. I regard this as utter nonsense.  I have not found even the slightest bit of real evidence for such an assertion. Apparently, because she was very good at telling Afro-Jamaican folktales and dressed in a rather unorthodox manner, certain people have concluded that she must have at least some Jamaican or black African blood running through her veins.

Another genealogical myth, concerning PCS, is that she was related to Joel Chandler Harris (1845-1908), the author of the Uncle Remus stories. There is no factual basis for this assertion. Joel Chandler Harris was an illegitimate child, born in Eatonton, Georgia to a lady named Mary Ann Harris. The identity of the father is unknown; he had abandoned Mary before Joel Harris was born. As she was unmarried, Mary Harris gave the new born child her own surname. His first name, Joel, was derived from the name of the attending physician, Dr. Joel Branham. The middle name of Chandler was the name of Mary's uncle. It is true that PCS descends from the Chandler family of New England, but these Chandlers are in no way related to Mary Ann Harris of Georgia.

Passport Application of PCS:

From 1789 through late 1941, the Government of the United States required passports only during the American Civil War and during and slightly after World War I (from 1914 until March 1921). Accordingly, in 1916, while still living in England, Pamela Colman Smith requested and subsequently obtained a United States passport. Her passport application, submitted to the U.S. Embassy in London on 24 March 1916, is reproduced below. Note that Pamela provided a birth certificate and letters from three people attesting that she was a a United States citizen. One of those letters was from the famous London stage actress, Ellen Terry.



Online Study of the Genealogy of PCS:

A first class study of Pixie Smith's pedigree is certainly possible to anyone who is willing to put in the time and travel necessary to perform a proper analysis. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the money to do a really good genealogical study, but I have done the next best thing. I have performed a fairly thorough review of the information that is available on the Internet, organized the resulting information and presented it on this web page. In particular, I made extensive use of one of the best online genealogical databases, This database is supported by the Morman Church and is the largest, if not the most easily accessible, online data source.  All good Mormans are required to obtain genealogical information concerning their ancestors back through at least three generations. To assist their membership in meeting this requirement, the Morman Church has become the world leader in compiling and indexing genealogical data from all over the world.

Genealogy of Four Families Provided:

Pixie Smith has a very distinguished pedigree; many of her ancestors were quite successful in a socio-economic sense. Rich and successful people leave a much larger footprint in the genealogical record than ordinary folks who, though hard-working and honest, never achieve much material success. Using, I traced the families of both her maternal and pateral grandparents, four families in all, back to each of their immigrant ancestors who arrived in America from Europe. These four families are: 1) Smith - paternal grandfather; 2) Hooker - paternal grandmother; 3) Colman - maternal grandfather; and 4) Chandler - maternal grandmother.  The immigrant ancestors of all four of these families were born in England and came to America in the 17th century; they all first settled in, what is today, known as the State of Massachusetts.

These immigrant ancestors were all notable for various reasons. For example:

1) Philip Smith (1632-1684/85) emigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony with his parents when he was only a one-year-old baby; he was purportedly killed by witchcraft in January 1684/85.

2) Reverend Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) founded the Colony of Connecticut in 1636.

3) Thomas Colman (1602-1685) was one of the men who purchased Nantucket Island from the Indians for 26 pounds English money on 10 May 1660.

4) Edmund Chandler (1585-1662) became the constable and chief executive officer of Duxbury, Plymouth Colony in 1637.

I have prepared "bare-bones" genealogical reports for each of the four ancestral families cited above. These reports each begin with the immigrant ancestor, trace each subsequent generation, and conclude with the family of Pixie Smith.

Calendar and Dating Conventions Used for the Reports:

In most early societies, the responsibility for maintenance of the calendar lay with the religious authorities. The so-called "Julian Calendar" was established by Julius Caesar, acting in his capacity as "Pontifix Maximus" (high priest of the Roman state) in 45 B. C. and was corrected by Augustus Caesar (also functioning as "Pontifix Maximus") in A. D. 4. From that time until A. D. 1582, this calendar was in general use throughout the Roman Empire and subsequently all of Christian Europe. The ancient Romans began their New Year on 01 January just as we do today.  However, during the Middle Ages it became customary to commence the New Year on 25 March, the day of the Feast of the Annunciation (Lady Day); this day also was the approximate date of the Vernal Equinox.

Unfortunately, the Julian Calendar was slightly divergent from the true solar year, so that by 1582 the discrepancy amounted to ten (10) days. Accordingly, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, promulgated, pursuant to his authority as "Pontifix Maximus" (this position had been usurped from the defunct Roman Emperors several centuries previously), a reformed and much more accurate calendar, subsequently called the "Gregorian Calendar." Gregory XIII lived during the era of the High Renaissance, when a return to the customs of Classical times was in vogue. Accordingly, in the Gregorian calendar, the New Year was made to commence on 01 January, just as it did during the time of the Caesars.

The Gregorian calendrical reform came at the time of the European religious wars between the Protestants and Catholics. The Protestant countries, including England, refused to adopt the new calendar until centuries later. In England the change to the Gregorian Calendar was finally effected by "Chesterfield's Act" of March 1751. By this time, the difference between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian Calendar had increased to eleven days. Chesterfield's Act decreed that 01 January 1752 should be the first day of 1752 and that 02 September 1752 should be followed by 14 September 1752 (an 11 day adjustment), thus bringing the English Calendar into line with the Gregorian Calendar in use on the Continent.

All dates used in the genealogical reports appended to this web site which occur on or before 4 October 1582 are given pursuant to the Julian Calendar. Dates subsequent to 04 October 1582 are as per the Gregorian Calendar. English dates prior to 01 January 1752 but after 04 October 1582, which occur in the period from 01 January to 25 March, lie at the end of the Julian year but are at the beginning of the subsequent Gregorian year. They are indicated herein as double year dates. For example, the Julian date "18 February 1662" is represented as "18 February 1662/1663" to alert the reader that the actual year per our modern Gregorian Calendar is 1663.


References:  1)  E. J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World (1980), Pages 10 and 47.

                         2)  Terrick V. H. FitzHugh, The Dictionary of Genealogy (1985), pages 57-59.



genealogical reports may be accessed at the following links:


Smith Family - Samuel Smith (1602-1680), Immigrant Ancestor

Hooker Family - Reverend Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), Immigrant Ancestor

Colman Family - Thomas Colman (1602-1685), Immigrant Ancestor

Chandler Family - Edmund Chandler (1585-1662), Immigrant Ancestor



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