Friday, February 24, 2023

Advancing Into Uncharted Territory


Does it sometimes feel as if, in exploring our family lines reaching back to the early 1700s of colonial America, we are tentatively entering into uncharted territory? That is not necessarily so, for there were many governmental and church records during that time period which can still be accessed—if, that is, one knows the appropriate repository for finding such documents.

My strategy, in planning my advance into this "uncharted" territory, is to consult with genealogical books and manuscripts to assemble a working list, then see what I can find in documents to verify or discard those published assertions.

As we've already noted, there are several books which include mention of the family of my fifth great-grandfather Zachariah Taliaferro. I already know there are more such resources, and have been on the hunt to gather together titles to store in my own notes. After all, there is far more than can be accomplished in this one month; I will be returning to this research challenge in a future iteration.

One book that I find others mentioning often is the 1926 publication, The Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Harding) Taliaferro, by Willie Catherine Ivey. It is available at several libraries across the country, including the Sutro Library in San Francisco where, fresh out of college, I found it on one of my first forays into genealogy. ("I'll look for a book on the Taliaferros. There can't be too many books on families by that name.")

The Ivey book, thankfully, was also available online at—although in a typewritten manuscript captured dimly in its digitized version. Still, it was a resource. Further shouts of joy erupted when I subsequently located a typeset copy online through

While I intend to compare versions of the Taliaferro ancestry as I locate the genealogy in various books written in the late 1800s and early 1900s, let's zoom in right now to see who would take their place as the possible siblings of my fifth great-grandfather, Zachariah Taliaferro.

According to the Ivey book, Zachariah was the third-born child of Captain Richard Taliaferro and his bride, the former Rose Berryman, daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Newton Berryman. After their 1726 wedding, according to Ivey, they welcomed thirteen children into their family, although not all survived into adulthood.

Their firstborn child was a daughter, Sarah, born in Virginia in 1727. Ivey notes that Sarah eventually married a man by the name of John Lewis, which immediately puts me on the alert to look for yet another way I might be my own cousin.

Second-born Benjamin, arriving late in 1728, reminds me that this family was prone to repeat the names they gave their children over the generations. This Benjamin died fairly young, about 1751, providing yet another reason for family members to call their deceased brother to mind by naming their own sons after him.

After third-born Zachariah, my direct line, was the ill-fated son Richard. Named after his own father, the child died within days of his 1731 birth.

The next son, John, was the child whom author Willie Catherine Ivey sought to honor with her book. Her book includes an entire chapter devoted to his life story.

Yet another son, Charles, born in 1735, includes a listing of his children and grandchildren. Seeing the names echoed down through these generations—and the intermarriages with repeated other surnames—reminds me to tread lightly as I research these related lines.

Following Charles was the 1738 birth of a child named Beheathland. The author mentioned that that name originated from the Berryman family. It was repeated through additional generations of the Taliaferros, as well.

Another son, Peter, was welcomed into the Taliaferro family in 1740. His was one of the entries which included the name of a future spouse.

Children numbers nine and ten turned out to be twin daughters: Elizabeth and Rose. While the author included a note concerning Elizabeth's eventual husband, there was no further mention about Rose, leaving me unsure whether she even survived to adulthood.

The next child was also a daughter, whom they named Mary. She was born in 1743.

The last two children of Richard and Rose Taliaferro were sons. Francis, born in 1745, was followed by another son named after his father. The author noted here that the youngest son, Richard, served in the Revolution. However, in checking the D.A.R. listing of Patriots, while there were four men noted by that name, none matched our Richard's date of birth as given by this author.

Details like that remind me that no published genealogy is fail-safe. Thus, my next step: to pursue each of the siblings of Zachariah with an eye to finding supporting documentation, whether online, through footnotes in other publications, or by locating the actual verifying records myself. While the many published books of previous generations may seem helpful as trailblazers, without the support of documentation, we are still left just the same as if we were advancing into uncharted territory.


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