It is not out of the realm of possibility, I suppose, that an ancestor could have assumed two different identities through the course of his life. My fourth great-grandfather Zachariah Taliaferro's youngest brother may have been one such case.
Searching for youngest siblings can often help when stuck on a family research project. Being the youngest in the family, that child, once in adulthood, may see a lifespan which reaches beyond his siblings into a more thorough period of documentation, giving us a bit more of a peek into the details of that family.
Apparently, applying that hope to the Taliaferro family has not worked so well for me. Worse, either I'm dealing with two different Taliaferro siblings with similar names, or the baby of the family chose to go by an alias.
From all the genealogy publications I have encountered on this family, I first read about this son by the given name Burton. Of course, our talkative governor, George Rockingham Gilmer, in his 1855 book, Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, packed a paragraph with juicy details about the man—though, sadly, without pertinent dates.
Burton, the youngest of the Taliaferros, was very handsome—had the manners, and wore the dress, of a well-bred gentleman. He read and enjoyed novels and plays, and fashioned his habits accordingly.
The author noted that Burton married Sally Gilmer, daughter of John Gilmer, along with the unfortunate note that they made their home, "during the year that his wife lived," near his oldest brother Benjamin's home by the Broad River community in Georgia.
After the loss of his wife, Burton returned to Virginia to claim a new bride, Lucy Carter, daughter of John Carter, who, according to another published genealogy on the Carter family, lived until 1831. Once again, this genealogical recounting identified the youngest Taliaferro son as Burton.
Yet another resource, the Pilcher book we discussed yesterday, Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher, and Kindred Families, mentioned the youngest Taliaferro son by the name of Burton. In an entry all of one sentence, the author gave his name and that of his two wives—and moved on.
Thus, it was a surprise to me, in pulling up his father's will, to see that, in addition to his brother Benjamin's name missing from the record, instead of the expected Burton was another name. In one instance, the name looked like Bickenhead, in another entry, as Buckenhead.
Since then, I've found that variation on Burton's name in other locations. The 1810 census, for instance, shows the name as Burton Taliaferro, while the 1820 census indicates Burkenhead. Only in a 1951 book by Lottie Wright Davis, Records of Lewis, Meriwether and Kindred Families, did I spot his name recorded as Birkenhead Taliaferro when mentioning his wife as Sarah Lewis Gilmer.
With two versions for his given name—Burton or Birkenhead—and three options for the spelling of the latter, I still need to work on finding the paper trail to document whatever became of the man. The Gilmer publication, back in 1855, seemed to indicate that Burton still lived in Georgia, but the 1810 and 1820 census pointed to his presence in Caroline County, Virginia.
That he had no children may complicate the search. Somewhere along the line, one would presume there would be some record of his passing, whether according to a will or at least through a burial marker. If for no other reason, it would be nice to finally settle the issue concerning by which name the man was officially known.