Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Two Choices: Tilson or Tampa


Is it possible to do a flurry of research projects in the last two weeks of this month? Perhaps two weeks will only allow a mere taste of these topics, but that may whet our appetite for second helpings with the new year's goal-setting task on the horizon. Here are my options, borrowed from some behind-the-scenes scouting on questions that popped up in contacts from cousin collaborators.

The first project involves my mother's Tilson line. This is a family with deep roots in colonial New England, although my branch managed to wander from the traditional family stomping grounds. Somehow, this branch of the Tilson line ended up in southwestern Virginia and then, a couple generations later, crossed over into northeastern Tennessee.

I have been chasing records on this family for years, mostly on those annual trips to Salt Lake City to attend SLIG. There are only so many tax records one can capture after a full day of classes, even after nearly a week of being within walking distance of the Family History Library.

The research question which has held me hostage for years is this: can I document this Tilson line's connection to the Murdock family? And from there, to the Bartlett family, then to the Pabodies, and ultimately to the Alden line—as in John and Priscilla of Mayflower fame?

Since the first five generations of Mayflower passengers and their descendants are already well documented, that means I "only" have to come up with paperwork for three generations. And there's the catch: those are the three generations when my Tilsons were wandering in the wilderness of southwest Virginia. Maybe some solid concentration will help me get over this research hump.

Then there's the glorious problem of sorting through the more recent history of my maternal McClellan line, the family with deep roots in northern Florida who more recently made the economic move of settling in a more urban area. That's where Tampa comes in, where my great-grandfather Rupert McClellan set up his dental practice. It seems one of my distant cousins—a DNA match—recently has been working his way through some old family photos, and asked me to help put names to nameless faces. 

I laughed. I haven't seen family photos on this branch of the family at any time in my life (with the exception of my great-grandmother, my mother's beloved grandmother who raised her for one angst-ridden year of her childhood).

My solution to the photo labeling problem? Ask another cousin! Now we have an informal collaboration in which the first cousin emails me photos, then I text them to my other cousin. She, in turn, gets inspired (and often tickled) when seeing these old faces, prompting memories which, of course, she then has to share. With me.

In the Tampa McClellan family's case, I stand to learn a lot of informal family history in this process. It isn't often that we get to access "Rumor Control" for the scoop on just what really went on between family members of prior generations. This is an opportunity I don't want to let slip through my fingers. Setting aside a week or so to chase after details like these would be well worth the detour.

With that overview, let's start tomorrow with the Tilson question. Taxes may be boring, but uncovering Virginia finding aids can be useful. And, as I'm discovering in my behind-the-scenes exploration, there were a lot of Tilsons to follow up on. Maybe one week won't be enough...

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