Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Where in the World was Job Tison?


Finding a validating census record may seem a commonplace ritual among those researching their family history. We have many finding aids to help us plug in a name and narrow the possibilities to just the right candidate—if we are researching our more modern ancestors. When it comes to seeking someone named Job Tison in 1790, we're facing an entirely different situation.

First, consider the liberties taken by the forerunners of our modern census enumerator. In 1790, an enumerator may have spelled such a man's name as Job, recalling the famed subject of the biblical tale of woe and endurance. Or he may have added an additional vowel to render the spelling Joab.

That's just for the given name. What about the surname? There is much to wiggle in the wiggle room there. When I first encountered records of my fourth great-grandfather, his surname was reported as Tyson, a surname spelling many readily recognize today. However, in other documents, Job's surname might be spelled as Tison, or even Teson.

Point well taken: be flexible with these early document searches, especially if looking at transcriptions rather than digitized originals.

So...if we open ourselves up to the possibility that our Job Tison could be anywhere in the fledgling nation of the United States in 1790, where might his name show up? Granted, this is a risky question to pose; the results to such a search could, theoretically, be overwhelming, and not very helpful. With that caveat, let's try our hand at such a search.

As it turns out, the only places where I could find any spelling variations for the name Job Tison were not in Georgia where he later resided, but in North and South Carolina. The entry in Pitt County, North Carolina—location of the home historically reported to be his origin—is no surprise to us, given what we've already discovered. However, the other result—in the Beaufort District of South Carolina, was unexpected, as was the lack of any entries for Georgia.

Let's take a look at these. First, the Beaufort entry. I found it interesting that there were two different entries for the Tison surname. Along with Job's—household with one "free white" male "of 16 years and upward" and one female—there was a replicated count for a man by the name of Aaron Tison, as well. I find that interesting, considering that our Job named his oldest son—at least the oldest one listed in his 1824 will—by that same name: Aaron. Perhaps this was a sign.

On the other hand, there was a listing for a "Joab Tyson" in the 1790 census for Pitt County, North Carolina, exactly where later history accounts indicated. That census entry also showed a two-person household: one male and one female. Along with the Joab Tyson entry, there were others listed on the same page, both Tysons and Tisons. In fact, there were several Tysons, as well as Tisons, throughout all of 1790 North Carolina.

Does that satisfy the contention that our Job Tison originated in Pitt County? I'm not quite ready to concede that, for several reasons. First, let's fast forward to the most recent decade in which we can find our Job Tison listed in the U.S. Census: for 1820. As it turns out, Pitt County happened to show that (presumably) same Joab Tyson—this time, spelled as Tison—in 1820. However, we already know our Job Tison was living—and about to be dying—in his home in Glynn County, Georgia, during that same enumeration, this time, listed as Job Tyson.

Yet another reason to doubt the Job Tison version appearing in North Carolina: although the 1790 census gathered names of heads of households sixteen years of age and older—and if our Job was born in 1770, he would certainly have shown as older than sixteen—he could very well have not been considered a head of household, if living with his parents or within another household.

The other consideration which holds me back from wholesale acceptance of the Pitt County theory is the report of Job's marriage to Sidnah Sheffield. Granted, I have no document to secure the date. The only record I have is a copy from a family Bible—and even that record entry was not contemporaneous with the event, itself, being embedded within entries for marriages as late as 1892 (the note immediately above Sidnah's wedding entry) and 1913 (the note immediately following her entry).

However, prior to Sidnah Sheffield's marriage to Job Tison in 1790—or whenever it was—she would theoretically be living in her father's household. So where was that? West Sheffield's name does not appear in the 1790 census—at least, that I can find—either in North Carolina or Georgia. The closest entries I could find were for two households of John "Shuffil"—junior and senior—in Moore County, North Carolina, and the home of a possibly widowed Elizabeth "Shuffield" and her six boys under sixteen in North Carolina's Duplin County. The latter county, according to an entry at Ancestry.com, included a signature ten years earlier on a petition to the General Assembly listed as West Shuffield. Though I'd prefer to see that on an original document than a transcription—much less a note about a record—I'll take that as a clue.

With all that exploration, I can't say anything conclusive yet, but I sure want to explore those North Carolina counties more closely for any sign of our Tison and Sheffield families.

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