Every now and then, a family history researcher is blessed to discover a diligent local historian on a mission to capture as much information as possible on a certain set of people in one geographic area. While the southwest corner of Virginia might not seem like a site inspiring such historical pursuits, that is indeed what transpired with the life's work of one man named Gordon Aronhime.
Though he was born in Roanoke, Virginia, Gordon Aronhime spent most of his life in Bristol, Virginia. There he worked as a writer and photographer for the Bristol Herald Courier and, having earned a bachelor's and master's degree in history from the East Tennessee State University, eventually gained a reputation as a well-known local historian and author.
It was Gordon Aronhime's "exhaustive research" on the early history of southwest Virginia which merits our review of his work today. Particularly since he narrowed his focus to the era from 1770 through 1795, and also followed some of the earliest settlers who removed to east Tennessee, his collection of handwritten notes, cards, and other records has found a place in the repository of the Library of Virginia.
The Gordon Aronhime Papers, as the collection is known, includes more than four thousand entries, filed under the pertinent surnames of the area and time period. Considering the collection contains that many entries, the list of specific surnames in the Library of Virginia's entry may seem misleading. However, as one local Tennessee GenWeb project noted, the library's introductory page is misleading, as "many, many more surnames" can be found in the collection. As that project noted, "consider the surnames to be guide words."
As far as our Peleg Tilson is concerned, he did merit one index card's scrawled references, for which I am grateful. To decipher Aronhime's handwritten notes, I needed to find a decoding mechanism, which the Library of Virginia thankfully provided.
The entry provides details which, given today's wealth of digitized documents, can mostly be assembled from online resources, once we use the Aronhime Papers as our guide. While I haven't found the original document on Peleg's wedding information, for instance, it has been noted in abstracts such as this one from Virginia Colonial Abstracts, found online at Ancestry.com. From deeds dated in 1796, 1804, and 1809, we can trace Peleg Tilson's trail from his former home in Virginia to his new location in Washington County, Tennessee.
But if Peleg Tilson owned land in Tennessee, where is any record of what became of it after his passing? Since we are stuck without much information to guide us onward, this might be time to explore another collateral line.
Image above: Card number 5 of 49 in the Southwest Virginia Card File of the Gordon Aronhime Papers at the Library of Virginia. To access, click here.