Thursday, July 25, 2019
Connecting the Dots, Virginia Style
If the colony of Virginia had an "outback," that would be the turf my Tilson ancestors claimed as home. Far from the civilized aspects of the Virginia we've heard described as the "center of the universe," my third great-grandparents chose to settle, in their generations-long migration from Massachusetts to Tennessee, in this frontier region of Old Dominion.
Trouble is, I can't connect the dots between the Tilson genealogy of my third great-grandmother and her children in Washington County, Tennessee. While I've found signs of Rachel Tilson's parents' wedding in Washington County, Virginia, in 1785, and have already written about finding mention of the Tilsons moving down to Washington County, Tennessee, likely before 1800, I still need more documentation to connect Rachel, bride of James C. Davis, to her Tilson ancestry.
That, given the family's preference for living on the far edges of civilization, may be hard to come by. My best hope, it seems, may be to rely on church records for baptisms and social connections, and tax and property records to trace their wanderings.
Fortunately, the extended Tilson family has included dedicated adherents to genealogical research, leaving folks like me with trailblazing narratives of the family's movement from its origins in New England through to the early 1900s, in the Mercer V. Tilson publication, The Tilson Genealogy. Although I've written about some of the discrepancies before, my third great-grandmother Rachel Tilson's family was listed—including the names enabling me to work forward in time to my own maternal grandfather—as correctly as I've been able to corroborate through documentation.
It's just moving backwards in time that I find challenging. And that documentation is what stands between me and admission to the Mayflower Society. Record-seeking in early 1800s Virginia (and earlier) is certainly not the same game as tracing census records a century later. Some of the records which likely would provide the substantiation I seek will likely not be found with a click of a mouse, online.
Not to worry, though, for come next January, I will be at a library billed as the largest genealogical library in North America. If I can't take a trip to Virginia, perhaps this will be the next best option for solving this records problem.
Above: Wisp of a record to piece together the Tilson paper trail almost two hundred years after the Tilson family's landing in New England, Tilson descendant Rachel marries James C. Davis on September 12, 1822, in Washington County, Tennessee; excerpt from image courtesy Ancestry.com.