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?