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.
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?