Monday, March 13, 2023

B O L O : Peleg Tilson


BOLO: that's missing person lingo in the law enforcement world, for "be on the lookout." Sure, it's my fourth great-grandfather that I'm missing, but I still feel like calling out all the reserves to find him. He certainly qualifies for inclusion in a genealogist's missing persons list.

In the face of no birth record and no death record—thus, not even a will to tie him to the next generation—I'm left with one tactic: try to find the place where he was last seen alive. There are two possibilities for that question: either in Washington County, Virginia, where he likely spent most of his adult life, or in Washington County, Tennessee, where he moved with some of his family.

Confusing, I know. Washington County in Virginia was the place where I found some tax records for Peleg (at least I presume it was the right Peleg; there were others in the family given the same name). But Virginia's Washington County had subsequently been carved up to form other new county designations, such as Russell County, and later, Scott and Smyth counties. Depending on where Peleg lived in old Washington County, his might have turned out to be part of a new county, thus requiring me to chase down his telltale will in any of those four Virginia Counties.

Washington County in Tennessee, however, was a different case, being once part of an entirely different state (North Carolina), then a territorial jurisdiction before the formation of Tennessee as a state. By the time Peleg arrived in Tennessee, though—most likely no earlier than 1803—Washington County as part of the new state remained as that same entity until 1875, long after Peleg Tilson had surely died, to carve out a new county called Unicoi

The resources I already have which are pointing the way for this fourth great-grandfather include some tax records from Virginia, gleaned pre-pandemic at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and some statements from published genealogies, such as the Tilson Genealogy published in 1911.

Those published genealogies, however, while written over one hundred years ago—and thus, possibly, further within grasp of living ancestors who might have recalled such information—notoriously lack any wayfinder to help the current generation of family historians retrace the authors' steps. While I can, for instance, use Mercer Vernon Tilson's 1911 book as a springboard to leap into Mary Langford Taylor Alden's 1897 genealogy, Elizabeth (Alden) Pabodie and Descendants, neither book provides me references to verify their assertions.

There is, however, one thin nexus I was able to find to connect Peleg's father to two previous generations. We'll look at that tomorrow. Still, my missing link is the documentation to verify Peleg, himself. While we can gather documents for the previous generation, his is the one glaring exception to this paper chain of verifications. 

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