Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Checking out the Surname Checklist

Sometimes, after working on a project for a long time, it helps to step back and review the big picture once again. Now that I'm eyeing the surnames in my genealogy database, it occurs to me that it might be handy to have a listing of these names posted somewhere on this blog. After all, other Geneabloggers have done so, and I've found it quite helpful to take a spin through their surname listingsalways on the outlook for missing cousins.

So, as I wrap up the year, this might be a good opportunity to do some Geneablog housekeeping, set up a page in which to aggregate all my surname posts, and top it off with a synopsis of how these surnames connectat least in my corner of the family tree. Especially considering my family branch sports so many fairly common surnames, it helps to know how they all connect.

This week, I'll do a fairly quick rehash of my maternal lines. They'll be presented first as part of the daily posts, but then I'll affix them to a separate tab for surnames for future reference. One never knows when a distant cousin comes looking.

Let's revisit my maternal grandfather's surnames. Here is a case of fairly common names, starting off with Davis. Out of all the surnames represented in the population of the United States, those with the surname Davis represent one out of every 273 people.

That, however, is not the only place where Davis is prevalent. I've always been told my Davises came from Walesbut of what good is that to me, considering the family lore is that our Davis line arrived here way back on the early side of the colonial period. I'm certainly not conscious of any custom or family tendency considered a hallmark of Welsh traditions. Looking at current records for Wales, it appears that the more frequent variant of the name morphing from the original form as "son of Saint David"Daviesranks much higher in prevalence in Wales than does Davis. Not only that, but there seems to be a higher frequency of the Davis form of the name just outside Wales, in the counties of England bordering Wales.

England and Wales are not the only home to the surname Davis. Apparently, the surname Davis is the 320th most common surname in the world. As a surname, it can be found in Canada and Australianot surprisingbut it also is shared by a significant number in several African nations: Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana, among the top ten nations in the world to sport this surname.

In the surname history page for Davis, you can get a sense of the migratory pattern in the United States of those families named Davis from the 1840 census onward to 1920. The states with the most widespread incidence of the surname Davis in 1840 were four: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Unfortunately for me, my Davis trail goes cold at about the point in which they settled in that tiny spot of land in the nexus between the states of Virginia and Tennessee. That was backbest I can tellaround 1795, when James Davis was likely born. Considering the state of Tennessee, itself, was not yet "born" by that date, I have the curious situation in which this Davis forebear was likely born and died in the same countyWashingtonbut not born in the same state in which he died.

Even though I cannot yet uncover the name of this James Davis' fatherand thus wander further through the genealogical trailsince he married a Tilson, that may indicate a connection to that other family line, which itself stretched back to their original settlement in early colonial Massachusetts.

Likewise, using the other surnames married into this Davis line creates a cluster which helps differentiate it from all those other Davises out there. Besides the Tilson surname from James' wife Rachel, their son Thomasmy direct linemarried a woman from another line with a possible colonial heritage, Sarah Catherine Laws. Their son William David Davis, my great grandfather, claimed as his bride Martha Cassandra Boothe, daughter of a newcomer who arrived in Tennessee from Virginia about 1850. Though I know very little about the Boothe family, I can say with certainty that they are a family ridden with apocryphal family lore.

All told, that adds up to four generations of Davis men and their associated surnames, courtesy of the women they married, from my maternal grandfather through James Davis. Of the wives' lines, I have precious little on the Laws line, and only a bit more on the Boothe line. Tilson is well documented, thanks to the efforts of their own family association. Still, other than Tilson, the trail runs coldfor the moment, at leastat the close of the 1700s.



  1. I have a James B Davis (husband of 2nd great grand aunt) Birth abt 1852 in Tennessee in my tree. I've not been able to find this man's father or mother. I'd love to see your tree around this time period!

    By 1880 he is in Alabama.

    1. See what I mean about those common names? I have a James B. Davis in my tree, too, Iggy--but, of course, the dates are all wrong. I can try and push back one more generation, of course, but how do I know I'd find just the right James C. Davis?

  2. 1700 is quite a ways back! I have no Davis is my family tree...but maybe you and Iggy are cousins! :)

    1. Wouldn't that be a kick?! I keep watching all these surnames fly by my eyes, and I can't help wondering how far back it would take to discover that two "mere acquaintances" are really distant cousins.


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