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.

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.