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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tidballs Take Root in Minnesota

Thomas and John Tidball, late of bustling Bristol, England, were living on the southern Minnesota prairie in 1885 (see last week's post). It is not clear what drew them there, but they didn't stay long. While the booming port of Duluth at the head of Lake Superior never compared with industrial Bristol, it must have been closer to the urban life the young men had back home.

Genealogists grieve over the loss of the 1890 census in a 1921 fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, for Tidball researchers, Minnesota took censuses in 1885 and 1895. The 1885 census found John and Thomas in Steele County in southern Minnesota, but the 1895 census found them back in Duluth. John was a delivery clerk living at 11 W. 7th St. At home were "Mrs. John Tidball," 33, Ellenor,10, Aubrey, 7, and Esley, 2.  A family Bible records that 7-day old Walter died in February 1887 in Steele County. Thomas, a grocery clerk, lived at 1207 W. 4th St., with wife Emily, 33, and daughters Margaret, 9, and Alice, 7.

Thomas remained in Duluth for the duration, but in 1900, the John Tidball family was back in southern Minnesota, this time a few miles farther south in Geneva, Freeborn County. John was a day laborer. Five years later, the 1905 Minnesota census found John back in Duluth employed as a milk wagon driver.  He was probably doing better in 1910, when the census recorded him as an "engineer (stationary)." The 1920 census makes his occupational trajectory more clear; he was an "engineer" in a school. Thomas was listed as a grocer in 1900 and a clerk in both 1905 and 1910.

Some other records fill in some of the gaps:

  • Thomas declared his intent for citizenship in June 1883 in Duluth. Next in line at the courthouse was his future brother-in-law, William Haycraft.
  • John declared his intent in Freeborn County in October 1886.
  • No deeds have been found, but Thomas was on the 1888 tax rolls in Steele County for 20 acres -- a small farm even in those days.
  • Thomas was back in Duluth by 1889, when the city directory listed him at  511 5th Ave. W.
  • The 1894-5 directory listed John as an "oiler" for the Duluth Street Railway; he resided at 1112 W. 3rd. St. Thomas was a clerk the the grocer Cannon and Holmes on W. Superior St.
  • John has apparently not yet gone back south to Freeborn County in the summer of 1899, when the Duluth News-Tribune reported that Mrs. John Tidball attended a party for Mrs. Nichols. The 1900 directory stated that John has moved to St. Paul (about half way between Duluth and Freeborn County).
  • The 1905 city directory confirms that John was back in Duluth in 1905;he was a "driver" for Bridgeman and Russell, a dairy products and cold storage company.
  • The 1910 directory clarifies that John was an "engineer" at Nettleton School. His son, Aubrey was a janitor at Irvin School.
R. L. Polk Duluth Directory, 1910
The tale of the Tidball brothers in Minnesota is hardly exceptional, but is probably not an atypical immigrant story. It is not clear why they chose Duluth, apart from it being an emerging port city at the head of the Great Lakes and near to the Minnesota iron mines. They apparently gave farming a try, but having come from a working class family in Bristol, it is not surprising that they returned to Duluth where job opportunities were greater.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

To Tell the Tidball Truth

Genealogy is sometimes like the old TV show "To Tell the Truth." Will the real Tidball brothers please stand up?

It seems pretty simple.

  • Thomas Tidball immigrated alone to Duluth, Minnesota, in 1880. In 1883, he married Emily Agnes Fear in 1883.
  • John Tidball, married Mary Ann Lee in Bristol, England, in March 1884, and several days later sailed for America.
 And then, for the benefit of future genealogists, the State of Minnesota was kind enough to take a census in 1885. Census-takers found the two brothers living close together in Steele County in southern Minnesota.
 John Tidball was enumerated in Summit Township living with the David Curtis family ( no. 83). Mary Ann was not with him.  Other information was correct, including that both John was born in England and his parents were foreign-born.

Thomas Tidball's family was the 92d family visited. Surely, these were the Tidball brothers from Bristol. Their ages are close to correct. According to their death certificates, Thomas was born in December 1859 and John was born in June 1862. Amelia likely was Emily Fear, but then the questions start.  Where was Mary Ann? Who was Duane?

To tell the truth, I don't know the answers. The 1885 census was taken in May. John and Mary Ann Tidball had a daughter, Eleanor, born in January 1885. Mother and daughter should have been enumerated somewhere. Perhaps, they had stayed back in Duluth with relatives or friends, but I have not found them.

The Thomas Tidball enumeration is also problematic. Later censuses and vital records indicate that Thomas' first child was Alice -- a plausible match for Ella -- born in July 1885. If so, Alice should not have been in the home when the census-taker came in May. She certainly was not 6 months old.  Alice was born in Minnesota, while 6-mo. old Ella was reportedly born in England. (It is possible the family went back to England briefly).

Duane remains a mystery. Quite simply, searches for a Duane Tidball born anywhere about 1862 yield no results in any records.

Now, for some speculation. Despite the discrepancy in birth place, might Ella actually be John and Mary Ann's daughter Eleanor? If so, despite the discrepancy in birth place, name, and sex, might the census-taker for some unknown reason written down "Duane" instead of "Mary Ann?"

Maybe, but I don't know.

 One more wrinkle complicates the picture. As unusual as the name is, another Tidball family of similar ages lived in Deerfield Township in the far northwest corner of Steele County, some 15-20 miles from Summit Township. Emil Tidball, 26, born in England, had a wife, Matilda, 24, born in Wisconsin, and two children born in Minnesota: Amelia, 2, and William, 1. Like Duane, Emil has not been found in any other records. Possibly, this Tidball family was related to a Pennsylvania-born Tidball living five or so miles away in Le Sueur County.

Solutions to genealogical mysteries defy solution. As much as I would like to know what was going on with Tidballs in Steele County in 1885, I am not certain that I really need to know. As will become apparent as we follow Thomas and John forward in Minnesota and then back to England, there is no doubt about their identity or relationships. It just isn't clear exactly who was where in 1885.

Oh, by the way, I have just discovered an index entry indicating that a Thomas Tidball married either a Mary Ann Hosgrove or an Amelia Chapple in 1779 in England. However, I don't think this is the Thomas who was in Steele County in 1885. I do think that this Thomas Tidball married Amelia Chapple, but I won't be completely certain until I get the English civil registration of the marriage. I find a Thomas, 24, and Amelia, 27, with no children (suggesting a recent marriage) living in Warwickshire in 1881. This Amelia was born at Washford Pyne, Devon. I find the same couple living with Thomas' father, John, in Washford Pyne in 1891. They did not have a daughter named Ella. Working back, I find Amelia, 17, daughter of Aaron Chapple, living in Washford Pyne. To tell the truth, based on this evidence, the odds are strongly against this being the Thomas and Amelia Tidball family of Steele County.

So, the mystery stands open. Will the real Duane Tidball please stand up?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Tidball Invasion

The Carol Burnett comedy writers were on pretty safe ground when they created Tim Conway's "Mr. Tudball" character (see 23 June 2016 post). White returns only 25 exact matches in the United States. Compared to Tudball, the Tidball name is less rare; more than 1,000 pop up in a search. A 1940 U.S. Census search at turns up only 478 individuals, spread widely across the country, but with clusters in Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.

Hey, it's a big country with a lot of names! Based on 2000 census data, Tidball rests in a tie for the 28,353rd most common name in the United States. (You think that's uncommon? Fonkert doesn't even show up in the top 65,000).

So, how did the Tidballs get here. Perhaps the largest American Tidball family dates to the early 1700s in Pennsylvania. Another batch arrived in Ontario in the mid-1800s. The Minnesota Tidballs -- the ones I associate with -- arrived in the 1880s. It is likely that all three groups were fairly closely related back in Southwest England, but that story must wait for a future blog. For now, the focus is on the Minnesota Tidballs.

Thomas Tidball
Thomas Tidball, 20, landed at New York in October 1880 on the S. S. Somerset. The passenger manifest recorded his occupation as "clerk." That this is the correct Thomas is confirmed by the 1900 U.S. Census, which recorded his immigration date as 1880, and by the St. Louis County, Minnesota, declaration of intention for citizenship in which Thomas said he arrived in October 1880 at New York.

It is not known why Thomas chose Minnesota. He might have made a short stop elsewhere, but he was in Duluth, Minnesota, by 28 March 1882 when the Duluth News Tribune reported he was a guest at the Bay View Hotel. He married Emily Agnes Fear in Duluth 25 October 1883. Emily had wasted no time -- she had arrived at New York only eight days earlier. Perhaps, Thomas and Emily had known each other in England. The couple was soon on the move again; by 1885, Thomas and Emily were living nearly 250 miles south of Duluth in Steele County, an area with much richer farmland. Why there? Don't know.

The 1885 Minnesota census also found John Tidball in Steele County. John and Mary Ann Tidball had arrived at New York -- also on the S.S. Somerset -- on 1 April 1884. The Tidball family was apparently quick on its feet, because John Tidball had married Mary Ann Lee less than three weeks earlier on 12 March in Bristol, England. A family Bible states that they sailed for America on the 15th.

 Details of the Tidball brothers' early years in Minnesota are somewhat fuzzy. The 1885 Minnesota Census enumerations raised questions about both their families that have not yet been answered. I will tackle that problem in next week's post.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mr. Tudball, I mean Tidball

I have no idea how the writers for the Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) came up with the name Tudball for the character played so hilariously by Tim Conway. Mr. Tudball was a small businessman trying to run an efficient office with the help of his clueless secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Carol Burnett).

In about the middle of the run of this classic comedy TV show, I married Ms. Tidball -- not Tudball, but close. The hilarious Mr. Tudball skits were aired sometime between 1975 and 1978. We watched the show every week, so you would think that the similarity of the two names would have struck me or her. As best as we can remember, we never thought anything of it. But, you see, this was nearly 15 years before I knew genealogy even existed.

We (my wife and I) knew the Tidball family came from England in the 1880s, but not much more. Back in those days (a distant past known as the 1990s), one of the best sources for genealogy research was the International Genealogical Index -- on microfiche. There, in the IGI, was the name Tidball, predominately in Somerset in Southwest England. As I followed these leads, I soon discovered the Tudball name in some of the same parishes. Fairly obviously, Tidball and Tudball are variants of the  same name. A modern topographic map shows Tudball’s Splats, a set of enclosed fields about 2 miles southwest of Withypool in what is now Exmoor National Park. No one knows how long this place has carried the Tudball name, but the Tudball spelling probably dates from the 1500s or 1600s.

My father-in-law's family history notes suggested the family came from Wales and vaguely suggested that the name Tidball referred to the keeper of something called the tide ball. Such a thing does, or did, exist. It was a ball that was raised to tell ship captains when the tide was high enough for a ship to safely enter a harbor. Presumably, harbors did have tide ball-keepers. The Somerset Tidballs lived within 25 miles of the sea, and at least one Tidball family settled on the Welsh coast, but no evidence has been found to suggest the family name has anything to do with tide balls.

As future posts will explain, my wife's Tidball family traces back to a Thomas Tidboald -- another variation of the name. Other names, including Tidbald, Tedball, Tudbold, and Tudboll are likely also variants of the same name. Several surname dictionaries state that these names derived from the Germanic name Theobald, possibly arriving from northeastern France after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.One source says the name Tidball is of early medieval French origin, commonly occurring as Tebald or Tibalt (old French Teoband and Tibaut), all deriving from Theobald – derived from Germanic roots -- “theudo” meaning “people,” and “bald,” meaning bold or brave.

According to a Wikipedia article, Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball character was widely thought to be Swedish, but Conway said he used his mother's Romanian accent. Obviously, the comedy writers thought the name might be good for a few laughs, and they might even have thought they had come up with a nonsense name that could not possibly offend anyone. Now, we can set the record straight: Tudball (and the variant Tidball) is a perfectly good English name -- and, I doubt anyone was seriously offended.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Don't Know Much about Philosophy

Don't know much about philosophy. Wow... now, I have the tune from Sam Cooke's 1960 "Wonderful World" song (You can look it up) stuck in my head.

But, today I am risking thinking about philosophy because, on my flight home from SCGS Jamboree, I read Stephen Hatton's article about philosophy and genealogy in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly ("Thinking Philosophically About Genealogy," NGSQ, March 2016, 5-18).

Hatton argues that philosophy can do five things for genealogy:

  • Deepen understanding of genealogy and its key concepts and presuppositions,
  • Support genealogy's theoretical grounding,
  • Produce a more firm foundation for the Genealogical Proof Standard GPS),
  • Increase appreciation of research challenges and common errors, and
  • Improve relations with other disciplines, which might improve genealogy's standing in academia.
 Like I said, I don't know much about philosophy, but it does seems pretty important to me. Wikipedia tells me that classic philosophical questions include those of whether it is possible to know anything, or to prove its existence. As a genealogist, that sounds like a pretty core question to me. In fact, I often open genealogy lectures with a slide simply asking HDYKWYTYK? -- How do you know what you think you know?

Hatton's article explores the ontology of genealogy. "Ontology" is not I word I feel very comfortable with, but I understand it to mean something about the study of the nature of things that exist -- and therefore can be talked about and studied. Hatton suggests three ontological views of the human subjects (mostly dead) that genealogists study. They can be a "substance" with properties, a "lived being" with passions, or an entity (person) shaped by events. What I get out of the ensuing discussion is that people can be thought of as objects that have qualities, stand in relationship to each other, and both affect and are affected by events. This is a very generalized summary that very possibly does not do justice to Hatton's discussion. You need to read the article for yourself.

Hatton states that practitioners of genealogy and philosophy have yet to interact. That is probably mostly true, especially in the higher altitudes of academe. Yet, I would argue that genealogists who have contributed to the GPS and accompanying standards have done a good deal of philosophical thinking. In fact, I have known many genealogists who seem capable of thinking philosophically about genealogy without being in the same room with a philosopher. Hatton also contends that genealogy "has not sufficiently provided its own theoretical grounding," adding that "Ground refers to what is fundamental, from which other things derive and are understood, explained, and built" (p. 8). Again, I am certain genealogy can do better, but I do think we have made significant progress.

When Craig Scott and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy issued a call for colloquium papers that would "advance the theory of genealogy," I stuck my neck and and submitted a paper that discussed genealogical education, evidence-based genealogy, and genealogy's place in the "knowledge world." I suggested that an important step toward making genealogy a credible discipline was to define core concepts. I suggested six: maternity and paternity, lineage, ancestry, kinship, heritage, and biography.
I don't think I said much that others hadn't already thought, but if you are interested in these kinds of ideas and the kinds of question that Hatton raises, you might want to check out my article ---"The GPS and Beyond: Challenges for a Genealogy Profession," Crossroads, Spring 2015, 18-25).

I am certain that other genealogists around the world are having lively discussions about the philosophy of genealogy, but I don't hear a lot about those discussions from where I sit. I hope those discussions continue and grow.

I don't think I have a lot more to say about this topic, so I might not return to it in this blog any time soon. Rather, I am thinking I will start in on the Tidball family saga -- which puts me in mind of Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball character on the Carol Burnett show! O.K., that should get "Wonderful World" out of my head.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Katharyn was Buried THERE?

By 1900, the George Fawkner family had made it across half a continent from Indiana to California. Fairie Fawkner had married the son of the Minnesota State Auditor, Herbert Braden, who went west to be an "orchardist" in Ontario, California. Fairie's father, George, had died in San Francisco in 1897, and his body was shipped to Ontario for burial. After George's death, his widow and Fairie's sister, Katharyn, went west to be near the Bradens. Herbert died in 1903; Fairie died in 1910. Katharyn and her mother went east to Chicago for a few years (evidence: 1910 census and 1913 death certificate of Fairie's daughter, Genevieve).

Sometime after 1913, Mary and Katharyn returned to Southern California, but they left a faint trail until Katharyn died in 1954. Her death certificate offered a surprise. Burial was to be at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City. Why THERE? Apart from her birth in Indiana, Katharyn had never lived east of Chicago.

The cemetery record was revealing. Katharyn Fawkner and Mary C. Fawkner (died 1931 in Los Angeles) had been interred in lot 16198 in the Clover plot in Section 153 -- alongside Aurie Dell Black. The lot owner was Herbert S. Carpenter, Arthur J. Singer, and the Farmer Loan and Trust Company, executors of the estate of Aurie Dell Black. The cemetery record indicates that bequest no. 1,623 of Aurie's will limited burials in the plot to the three women.

Who in the world was Aurie Dell Black, and why did her will provide for the burial of Katharyn and her mother? There are shorter ways to the answer, but my route started with Aurie's name. I'm not sure why, but I felt like I had seen the name before. Actually, I had not, but my memory took me back to the 1880 census enumeration of Katharyn and her parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. There, with the family of George S. Fawkner, was a niece, "A. D. Walker," 19, born in Indiana.

I knew the Fawkner family inside out, so was pretty certain Ms. Walker was a niece on Katharyn's mother's side of the family. George Fawkner had married Mary Burks in Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1866.  It was easy to find that Mary had a sister Rhoda, who had married William Walker in 1856. In 1870, "Orsa" Walker, 9, was living with the A.P. Burk family in Tuscola, Illinois -- the same town where the George Fawkner family lived. I don't know what, but something had apparently happened to place Orsa, or Aurie, with her grandparents in 1870, and with her Aunt Mary in 1880.

Aurie Dell Walker married John Austin Black in 1895 back in Indianapolis. Black became a wealthy stock broker in New York City. Aurie's September 1922 passport application indicated the couple had divorced. I don't know the details, but after the divorce, Aurie had the means to live at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, where shed died in 1926. She also apparently maintained control of the Woodlawn Cemetery lot, allowing her to reserve space for her aunt and cousin.