Thursday, November 17, 2022

Parsing Pelegs


Let's talk about what could stand in the path of our family history research plans. This week will see my attempt to connect the Tilson family of Washington County, Tennessee, with the previous generation's Tilsons in what may once have been Washington County, Virginia. We need to concentrate on Peleg Tilson, my fourth great-grandfather.

That's the easy step. But first, we've got to overcome a hurdle and settle a question which apparently has some other researchers stumped: just which one is the right Peleg Tilson?

That may seem an odd question to ask, from our modern perspective. After all, who nowadays names their baby boy Peleg? (Clue: parents in the United States were so disinclined to choose Peleg as their son's name that it does not appear in the top one hundred baby names at any time over a full century.) But now I have to deal with not just one Peleg, but three different ancestral family members claiming that same name as their own.

Let's take a look at the three Tilson family members from Virginia vying for our attention as the right Peleg Tilson. The first of these was a man supposedly born in 1765 in that hard-to-find spot called Saint Clair, Virginia. This Peleg was son of William Tilson and Mary—or Marcie—Ransom. When he was about twenty, he married Rebeccah (alternately listed as Rachel), whose maiden name appeared variously as Dungans or Dungins—even Dungings. Peleg and Rebeccah are supposedly the parents of Rachel Tilson, my third great-grandmother.

Admittedly, the variances found in names and details can be perturbing—but not serious enough to throw a researcher off the path, at least in my estimation. However, there were two other Pelegs which I need to mention, as their information can be found combined with this first Peleg on some online family trees.

The first of the other Pelegs was said to have been born in October of 1795. While the wide berth in birthdates between the two Pelegs should make it clear that each is a separate person, there may be cause for confusion. Like the elder Peleg, this second Peleg also had a father named William Tilson—but this Peleg's mother was Ruth Reynolds. Likewise, the second Peleg also came from that same hard-to-find Saint Clair in Virginia. However, note that this Peleg married a woman named Nancy Allen.

It might be reasonable to discover someone confusing the second and third Pelegs, as the third was born only a few years after the second Peleg: in 1799. Born in that same, hard-to-find Virginia location, this third Peleg presented yet another stumbling block for harried researchers: his mother was also a Dungans, same maiden name as the first Peleg's wife. However, this Peleg's father was Lemuel Tilson.

Unlike my Peleg and the second, each of whom moved to Tennessee, this third Peleg remained for the rest of his life in or near his native Saint Clair, Virginia. Before we step back to the destination of the first two Pelegs, it might do us well to take some time to determine exactly where in Virginia that tiny Saint Clair community could be found.

More to the point, let's see if we can discover where Virginians store the records from that time period. After all, if you think keeping these three Pelegs straight might be a challenge, just wait until we take a peek at the moving boundaries of that early American region of southwest Virginia.

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