Thursday, September 8, 2016

What about Mary Ann?

Last week, we saw how shifting names can make it hard to follow a family in the census – in this case, the Census of England. Attention to occupation and children’s names, combined with searches in birth registration indexes, led to the John, aka Bartholomew, Lee family in Dorset. This week, we follow a similar strategy to track down Mary Ann Lee, who was not with her mother in 1881 as expected.

Bartholomew Lee’s youngest child, Laurence, was born in August 1869 in Bristol. So, Bartholomew (did anyone call him “Bart?”) was likely still in Bristol in early 1869. But as noted in last week’s post, he was absent by the time of the 1871 census – presumably off to America, possibly in search of gold.

His wife, Eleanor – the former Eleanor Elizabeth Price – supported her young family from what she could earn as a charwoman. At home with their mother was William, 13; Mary A., 9; Charles, 6, and Laurence, 1.  Eleanor’s 7-year old son, John, was living with Eleanor’s parents. As far as is known, Bartholomew never returned. The family believes he died in America, possibly in New Orleans, but he has never been found in American records, alive or dead.

The family situation had changed again by 1881. Widow Eleanor was living in Flooks Court in the St. Philip and Jacob district of Bristol. She was a tailoress. With her were her three sons: John, 18, Charles, 16, and Laurence, 12. This Charles was born about 1865 in Trowbridge. The Charles born in Weymouth had apparently died young, but his death registration has not been found.

Mary Ann Lee did not marry John Tidball until 1884. Where was she in 1881? A good candidate was a Mary A. Lee, 19 and born in Melksham, living in the home of George Pocock in Bedminister, across the river from Bristol. The census identified her as a niece of George Pocock. If a niece, she could have been a daughter of either George’s sister or of his wife Elizabeth’s sister. Indeed, Elizabeth Pocock was Eleanor Lee’s sister. Elizabeth Lee married George Pocock 22 November 1857 in Bristol. Witnesses were Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Bartholomew Lee and a woman named Sarah Laver. Marriage registrations indicate that both Elizabeth and Eleanor were daughters of Charles Price.

This blog post is being written on the edge of the wilderness along the North Shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake, so it has been hurriedly assembled. There just isn’t enough time or internet bandwidth to insert images of any of these people, or the census and civil registration records that would illustrate the path of discovery.  Next week is week 2 of vacation, so no promises that a post will be written, but rest assured, there is more Tidball family history to come. In the meantime, I'm off to Honeymoon Rock to watch the sun set.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Bartholmew, Where art Thou?

A completely undocumented family story  states that Bartholomew Lee left his family in England for the gold rush in America -- which gold rush is not clear.

Bartholomew Lee was John Tidball's father-in-law. Bartholomew, 21, married Eleanor Elizabeth Price, 21, 12 May 1857 in Bristol. Bartholomew Lee was the son of John and Hannah Lee. The Irish-born family was enumerated in the St. Augustine the Less district of Bristol in 1851. Bartholomew, 14 was a porter.

Jumping forward to the 1871 census, Bartholomew was indeed missing. Eleanor was living in St. Philip and St. Jacob, Bristol, with four children:
William J., 13, born Bristol
Mary A., 9, born Melksham, Wiltshire
            Chs., 6, born Trowbridge, Wiltshire
            Laurence, 1, born Bristol

 Another son of Bartholomew and Eleanor was living with Bartholomew’s parents in1871. John, age 7, born in Trowbridge, was enumerated as “grandson” in the household of John and Joanna Lee in St. James, Bristol. The census indicates John was born in Midleton and Joanna in Castle Martyr, allowing a confident conclusion that 7 year-old boy was a son of Bartholomew.

Bartholomew has never been found again in later records in England or the United States.

Stepping back again in time, the young family of Bartholomew and Eleanor should have been easy to find in 1861. With approximate birth dates from other records the somewhat unusual name Bartholomew, and Bartholomew's Irish origins, searchable online census indexes should have produced a fairly short list of candidate families.

Searches for Bartholomew Lee anywhere in England produced no good matches. Why not? Because, when the census-taker came, Bartholomew gave his name as “John.” John and "Ellen" Lee were living in Melcombe Regis in Dorset. The proof that John Lee was the same man as Bartholomew Lee came from the birth places of the family members and John’s occupation. As enumerated in the census, the family included:

            John Lee, 24, a porter, born in Ireland,
            Ellen, 24, born in Bristol,
            William, 3, born Bristol, and
            Charles, 1, born Weymouth.

In 1851, fourteen year-old Bartholomew Lee must have been a porter for the railroad. The clincher came from the birth registration of 1 year-old Charles. He was born 14 January 1860 to “Bartholomew” Lee and Eleanor, “formerly Price.” The father was a porter for the Great Western Railway.

The last traces of Bartholomew come from the birth of two more sons. John was born September 1863 in Melksham. Laurence was born August 1869 in Bristol So, Bartholomew was probably still in Bristol in early 1869, but off to America sometime in the next two years.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Snohomish Interlude

Rumors abound that the blogger fell into a Blog Hole, something like a black hole, and equally difficult to explain. Actually, I've been roaming the Pacific Northwest -- specifically the area from Seattle, north to Mt. Baker, east through North Cascades National Park, and south to Wenatchee on the Columbia. I have not seen Sasquatch, but have seen a wingless Boeing 737 fuselage on a flatbed rail car in Wenatchee on its way to the the Boeing assembly plant at Everett.

Genealogy is to blame for this trip.  The trip began with two fantastic days at the Northwest Genealogy Conference in Arlington, Washington. This is the third annual conference put on by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society. The headliners were Blaine Bettinger and Lisa Louise Cook. What a treat! There was an outstanding complement of other speakers, but I didn't get to hear them because I was busy giving four presentations myself.

After the conference closed on Saturday, I did attempt a small genealogy excursion. My wife's grandmother's sister drifted from Minnesota to Snohomish County, Washington. I don't know much about her life, but she died in Snohomish County in 1969.  From, I knew that she was buried in the G.A.R. Cemetery just outside the town of Snohomish. Thinking a G.A.R. cemetery in Washington was probably a small, walkable cemetery, I expected to easily find the grave. But, the cemetery was much larger than expected and it was a hot dry day. The grass burned to a crisp. The sun glared off the flat grave markers. The sections were not visibly numbered. The office was closed. There was no cemetery map. I did not find Kate Jackson or her husband, Samuel.

Monday took us north to Lynden, an area where Dutch immigrants first arrived in the late 1800s. Some Dutch folk from Siouxland (NW Iowa and adjoining parts of Minnesota and South Dakota) sought greener pastures in Whatcom County in the early 1900s. Among them was John Zylstra and his wife, Marie Zorgdrager. Marie was my Dad's cousin. I have misty memories of visiting their farm east of Lynden, near Sumas, in 1962 -- a trip centered on the Seattle World's Fair. John and Marie had five children, the youngest of them twin daughters who were just a year older than me. It dawns on me now that they were 2nd cousins!

I know nothing of what happened to the twins, but John died in 1990 and Marie in 1993. They are buried in a small cemetery at Nooksack, in the shadow of the Cascades. This gravestone I found.

I paid my respects -- although I'm not sure what that phrase means. I think it means I remembered them, however vaguely. I did not know them well, but they were important relatives to my Dad. I would like to find out what happened to the twins.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Once a Tidball, always as Tidball?

Once found in Bristol in the 1861 Census of England, the Tidball family was rather easily traced. You see, English civil registration records (1839-forward) and English church records (going back much farther) are a genealogist's dream.

William Tidball, 32, married Mary Ann Bisgrove, 29, 6 March 1855, at the parish church of St. Philip and Jacob in Bristol. The marriage registration names their fathers: Michael Tidball and William Bisgrove. Mary Ann, 41, died 9 May 1865 in the St. Philip and Jacob district. English death registrations did not record the parents or birthplaces of the deceased, but Mary Ann's registration did name her husband, William, a maltster's labourer.

William had four young children -- Elizabeth, Thomas, John, and Michael -- all age 10 and younger -- and needed a wife. Age 44, he married 40 year-old Elizabeth Selina Morrish 7 June 1866 in the parish church of St. Mary, Redcliff. She was the daughter of a shoemaker, Samuel Morrish.

The 1861 and 1871 censuses stated that William was born in Brushford. With the ages reported in the censuses and the marriage registrations, the target is a William born at Brushford about 1821-23. Actually, the target is a baptism record, because civil registration records date from only 1837.

Indeed, William, the son of Michael and Eleanor Tidboald, was baptized 14 April 1822 at Brushford. Tidboald, eh?

What about William's childhood and early adult years? The first Census of England in 1841 found William and seven younger siblings with their parents, Michael and Ellen, on East Nightcott Farm.

William enlisted at Bristol in the 34th Foot in October 1846, and was discharged April 1848.* In 1851, he was a servant a few miles away in the home of his Uncle Gregory at Poole Farm in Knowstone, Devon. He was 30 years old and single.

What happened to the rest of the Bristol Tidballs?  Elizabeth married Edward Jennet; she died in 1885 in St. George, Gloucestershire. Michael died in 1892 in St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol. William Tidball's second wife, Elizabeth, died 4 May 1892 in St. Philip and St. Jacob. William died 28 January 1899 -- supposedly only 73 years old.

Brushford, Somerset, parish church
On a trip to England in 2009, we attended "Mothering Day" Sunday services at Brushford. The Tidballs are not remembered there, but their presence was keenly felt.

The blogger will probably take a break from the Tidballs, or whoever they were, next week because he will be traveling to Arlington, Washington, to speak at the Northwest Genealogy Conference. One of his talks deal with DNA and the Fawkners -- remember them? If a blog gets written, it might well be a DNA research story.


*Depot Rolls of the 34th Foot (Cumberland) for the period 1838-1873,” transcription viewed at, October 2009. The author has not viewed the original depot roll. The transcription indicates William Tidball, 20 years, six months old, was born at Brushford. This would make his estimated birth date April 1826. The William Tidball that enlisted is believed to be the same man because only one William Tidball was baptized at Brushford during this time period.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Matching up the Minnesota Tidballs in the English Census

The Tidballs were from England -- that much was pretty certain. Some family history notes passed down to John Tidball stated that his grandfather John's parents were William Tidball and his first wife, Elizabeth. One note stated that William married Elizabeth about 1859. Grandfather John's death certificate stated that his father was "Wm." Tidball, but did not record his mother's name. It stated that he was born 30 March 1862. The death certificate for his brother, Thomas, said he was born 29 December 1859, but did not name his parents.

John Tidball, about 19 years old, should have been with his parents in 1881. The index of the 1881 census lists 24 William Tidballs, including a William with a wife, Elizabeth, living in Bristol. There was no son John listed, but there was a daughter, Jane, 18. Could "Jane" have been John, or was this the wrong family?

Thomas had emigrated in 1880, so the best chance to find the family intact was the 1871 Census of England. The William Tidball family enumerated in the St. Philip and Jacob district of Bristol was a good match -- even though William and Elizabeth seemingly had been able to slow down the aging process.
St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol
 St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol
St. Philip and Jacob Out, Bristol
William, 39
b. Brushford
William, 51
b. Somersetshire
William, 59
b. Brushford, Somerset
Mary Ann, 30
b. Somerset, Walton
Elizabeth, 50, b. Trowbridge, Wilts
Elizabeth 58
b. Trowbridge, Wilts
Elizabeth, 5
b. Bristol

Thomas, 11
b. Bristol
Thomas, 11,
b. Bristol

John, 8
b. St. George's, Gloucestershire
Jane, 18
b. St. George's, Gloucestershire

Michael, 6
b. Bristol
Michael, 16
b. Bristol
Source: Census of England, images viewed at

As censuses so often do, the 1861 census offered a surprise. Thomas was there, as well a previously unknown daughter, Elizabeth. (John was not yet born). But, William's wife was Mary Ann, born in Walton, Somerset. Apparently, Elizabeth was a second, not first, wife. William obviously married Elizabeth after 1861, raising a question of whether John Tidball's mother was Mary Ann or Elizabeth.

A family photo album passed down from John Tidball's wife, Mary Ann (not to be confused with William's 1861 wife, Mary Ann), helped make sense of the census. One photo was labeled "Michael Tidball -- brother." This was presumably the Michael born about 1865. Another photo of an older, not so handsome woman, with a child about 2 years old, carried a handwritten note: "Liz's baby and boys' stepmother." This was apparently William's second wife, stepmother to the younger boys -- Thomas and John -- but it is not immediately apparent who Liz's baby was.

Using the photo album and English civil registration records, the blogger will sort the family out next week, setting the stage to track the Tidballs back to Brushford, Somerset.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Read all about it -- John got a Patent; Thomas had a Problem with Lard

From my vantage point, the Minnesota Tidballs were ordinary folks. Thomas' and John Tidball's father was a brewer's laborer in the heart of industrial Bristol. Their prospects in Bristol probably had something to do with their decisions in the 1880s to immigrate to Duluth, which was just getting its start as an inland port city.

Ordinary people usually get little if any mention in local history books and don't leave voluminous personal papers in archives, but they do find their way into local newspapers. Duluth was a large enough town to support more than one daily newspaper, but small enough for newspapers to serve as a sort of early 20th-century social media.

Over the past 50 years, many historical newspapers were saved on microfilm, but searching the microfilm for family history was a slow, tedious exercise. Now, both commercial (, Genealogy Bank, and and free services ( make it easier than ever to search digitized historical newspapers. Of course, the searches are easier when the name is unusual. Tidball is a good example.

Here are some stories from the Duluth News-Tribune that give some flavor of the lives of the Tidball families in Duluth.
  • HALLOWE'EN PARTY. The Christian Endeavor society of the First Christian church will entertain at a Hallowe'en party Friday evening in the church parlors. The social  committee which is arranging the details consists of Miss Lottie Austen, Mrs. C. A. Palmer and Ambrey [sic] Tidball. (26 October 1910, p. 6)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Tidball, 2815 Minnesota avenue, entertained at a swimming and beach party Friday night in compliment to their house guest, Miss Barbara Teacore of Minneapolis... A swimming frolic was engaged in until 9 o'clock, when a marshmallow roast on the beach was enjoyed. (20 August 1916, p. 6) 
  • The Study of the Latin-American countries will occupy the year's work of the [Women's Missionary] society... 'The Extent and Location of the Countries in Latin America' will be the subject of a talk by Mrs. Aubrey Tidball... (18 October 1916, p. 7)
  •  Esley W. Tidball, corporal of the Home guard drum corps, has received an appointment to the officers' training school at Camp Zachary Taylor, Ky., instead of a commission as previously reported. (21 August 1918, p. 3)
  • GRANTED PATENTS. The bureau of patents and copyrights in Washington, D.C., yesterday announced that Aubrey J. Tidball of Duluth has been granted a patent for electric light connections... (20 April 1919)
Aubrey and Esley were sons of John Tidball. The Tidballs not only made the news, they participated in the news. Thomas Tidball sympathized with the temperance movement. In a 1912 letter to the editor, he wrote: "I wish to thank you for the editorial in regard to the patrol limits and the saloons. I hope we will see more of such talk in our city papers." (10 April 1912, p. 8).

Thomas may have avoided drink, but he had a problem with lard. Under a headline reading "Sold Adulterated Lard," the 2 December 1902 issue of the News-Tribune reported:

Thomas Tidball, a grocer at 218 West Fourth Street, was tried in the municipal court yesterday for selling lard adulterated with beef tallow. He was fined $25 and costs. The complaint was made by Otto Giffert, agent for the food and dairy commission, and the offense was committed last June. Mr. Tidball ordered the lard from a wholesale house, and had no knowledge that it was adulterated.

Is this all the news that was fit to print? No, this is just a sampling. Historical newspapers are deep mines for family history. Start digging!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rare Tidball DNA

There is more Tidball family history waiting in the wings, but the blogger is pretty much immersed in DNA this week at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (yes, GRIP). This, of course, means the blogger is in Pittsburgh, and doesn't have access to all his paper Tidball files. So, this week's blog just presents some musings about how DNA might help in Tidball research.

For you non-genealogists, you don't need to know much about DNA or genetic genealogy to read on. The most important thing is this: if you have ancestors, you have DNA. Of course, it goes the other way, too... if you have DNA, you have ancestors! Genealogists base their research conclusions on information from two general kinds of sources: records and authored works. Records include things like death certificates, censuses, and citizenship papers -- generally speaking, documents that "record" (and preserve) information about family history events. Authored works are just that -- compilations of evidence, ideas and conclusions from another researcher.

For something you can't see, DNA is pretty hot stuff in genealogy. It seems like an entirely new kind of source, but I think of it as just another kind of record -- carried forward in a different medium. It is a record of the genetic make-up of the great-grandparents, grandparents and parents who passed it forward.  DNA mutates -- if it didn't, we would all have matching DNA and probably pretty much all look alike. Because DNA mutates, lines of genealogical descent can be differentiated. People with closely matching DNA probably have a fairly recent common ancestor. If they had a more distant common ancestor, mutations would likely have created more genetic distance between them.

Y-DNA is useful for relating men with shared surnames, because every male received his Y-DNA from his father, who in turn received it from his father, and so on. Until a mutation occurs, males in two male straight lines of descent will have matching Y-DNA. So, even where men of the same (or variant) surname differ only only a few "markers," they are likely to have a common ancestor within a dozen or so generations.

I have tracked the Minnesota Tidball ancestry back to a Thomas Tidboald, born about 1739, who lived at North Molton in Devonshire. I suspect that he was a son of a Tidboald family that in the 1730s lived in Exford, is less than 10 miles from North Molton. Y-DNA might either disprove or lend credence to my hypothesis. Traditional research tracks a group of Tidballs who settled in Ontario in the last half of the 1800s back to the Exford Tidboalds. If my hypothesis is correct, living male straight line descendants of those families should closely match living males in the Minnesota Tidball family.

I have tested the Y-DNA one of my Tidball brothers-in-law. As we learned a few posts ago, the Tidball name is rare, and it appears that possibly no other related living Tidballs have tested because the FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA database thus far reports only two men who come even close to matching my brother-in-law at 37 markers. Neither of those men is a Tidball.

DNA is not an easy fix to genealogical research problems. I might learn more if I can locate and test a living male straight-line descendant of the Ontario Tidball family. It would take a good deal of genealogic detective work to identify a candidate for testing. But, if I could find and test a candidate, it might give me more confidence in the hypothesis that Thomas Tidboald of North Molton came from Exford.

Of course, autosomal DNA tests might also help, but that is another story for another time.