Thursday, December 29, 2016

Family Ties in Tidball Tax Records

If Thomas Tiboald of Cutcomb was the same man as Thomas Tidball of North Molton (see December 8 and 15 posts), what explains him taking up land at Thorne farm in Cutcombe when he was in his 50s? The most likely answer is family ties.

You might recall that Walter and Elizabeth Tidball of Exford baptized eight children between 1728 and 1745, including Thomas (1739), a sister Annis (1730), and six brothers: Alexander (1728), Walter (1731), Richard (1734), Gregory (1737), John (1742), and William (1745).

In last week's post, we learned that Thomas Tidball was proprietor of Thorne Sheaf farm in neighboring Cutcombe Parish between 1793 and 1804. Also appearing in the Cutcombe land tax assessment lists were Richard and Alexander Tidball/Tudball. Plausibly, they were Thomas' brothers.

  • Richard was an occupier of Hole Moor (Thomas Dyke, proprietor) from at least 1784 to 1808. His identity is not certain, but he could have been Richard born at Exford in 1734. He was likely the Richard Tidboald who died of "old age" and was buried at Exford in 1810. He would have been about 74.
  • Alexander was an occupier of South Hill from 1795 to 1801. Alexander was buried 22 March 1801 at Cutcombe. Because parish burial records before 1812 did not usually record the age of the deceased, it is difficult to know Alexander's identity with certainty. He could have been the Alexander born 1728 at Exford. He also could have been the Exford Alexander's son, baptized to Alexander and Anne Tudball 10 October 1761 at Cutcombe. However, this younger Alexander was buried at Cutcombe in December 1833; he was 72.
The younger Alexander also was an occupier in Cutcombe parish. He occupied land of John Avis from 1814 to 1822 and occupied Quarn (proprietor, Richard White) from 1823 to 1833.

The proximity of these farms to the Thorne farm held by Thomas Tidball from 1793 to 1804 is the clincher for the family ties argument. South Hill was a half-mile north of Luckwell Bridge. Quarn was less than a mile east of Luckwell Bridge. Thorne farm was a half-mile southeast of Luckwell Bridge. According to parish records, only one Tidball/Tudball/Tidboald family lived in the Exford-Cutcombe area from the 1720s to the 1830s, and all the Tidball farms appearing in the Cutcombe tax records were within a mile of each other.

Locations based on Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record (; Locations mapped using Grid Reference Finder (

NOTE: The last sentence of the December 22 post incorrectly stated that Lyddicombe (the Tidball farm in North Molton) was a half-mile from Luckwell Bridge. It should have stated that Thorne farm was a half-mile from Luckwell Bridge. A correction has been made.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Taxing Thomas -- on-the-ground Evidence

Thomas Tidboald/Tidball of North Molton, Devonshire was the great-great-grandfather of John Tidball, who immigrated to Minnesota in the 1880s. Was Thomas of North Molton the same man as Thomas Tidball baptized 10 miles away at Exford in 1739? Geography, chronology and family naming patterns suggest a strong possibility (see 15 December 2016 post).

They say two things are certain in life. Thomas died at age 76 in 1814. And, yes, he paid taxes. The tax records provide another layer of evidence for Thomas of North Molton being Thomas of Exford.

Starting in 1693. A tax was levied on land with an annual value of more than 20 shillings. Imagine a record connecting names with land! The most extensive surviving records span the period 1780 to 1832 -- a convenient time-span for pinning down Thomas. The records, created by parish, list proprietors (owners) and occupiers (tenants).

A man looking suspiciously like our Thomas appeared in three series of tax records over a thirty-year period.

Cutcombe Land Tax Assessments, 1791, FHL film 1,526,821, item 5
  • Thomas Tudball first appears in 1782 as an occupier of a parcel called Smith's, or Smyth's, in North Molton parish; the proprietor was William Thorne (Sir Charles Bampfylde was proprietor starting in 1784). Thomas' land was probably the same parcel occupied by Henry Smith in 1781. Thomas might have been taxed before 1782, but earlier records are not available. Thomas occupied Smyth's from 1782 through 1792, after which Smyth's was occupied by John Thorne.
  • Then, in 1793, Thomas Tidbold appeared as proprietor of land known as Thorne Sheaf in Cutcombe parish. If this is the same Thomas, it is also likely that Thorne Sheaf was in some way associated with the Thornes of North Molton. Thomas Tidbold (sometimes Tidboald or Tudball) was listed as proprietor of Thorne Sheaf from 1793 to 1804, when Sir Philip Hale became proprietor.
  •  In 1804, Thomas Titbale/Tidbald/Tidball reappeared in North Molton as occupier of a half of Lyddicombe, land owned by Charles Bampfylde. Thomas occupied the land through 1811, after which he was succeeded by Richard Shapland.
Chronology says Thomas of North Molton was Thomas of Cutcombe. The earlier and later North Molton taxpaying Thomas almost certainly was the man whose children were baptized there between 1769 and 1792 and who died there in 1814 -- no other man of the same name appears in the North Molton parish registers. His last child was baptized about the time Thomas Tidboald acquired Thorne Sheaf in Cutcombe. He would have been about 65, when he moved back down to Lyddecombe. He was about 72 when he left the tax list in 1811.

The geography also works. Cutcombe is only about 15 miles northeast of North Molton. The two farms were even closer together. North Molton is a large parish. Lyddicombe was about three miles north of North Molton village. A farm known as Thorne was a mile or so southwest of the Cutcombe parish church. As the crow flies, Thorne was only 11 miles from Lyddicombe.

But, what about Thomas of Exford? The tax records help here, too, but that part of the story will be told next week. In anticipation, you might want to remember this: Thorne was only half mile from a place called Luckwell Bridge.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Doubting Thomas Tidball

William Tidball, the great-grandfather of John and Thomas who emigrated to Minnesota in the 1880s, was baptized at North Molton, Devonshire, in 1769. He was the son of Thomas and Agnes. Moving back through the parish registers, no Tidball baptism, marriage, or burial is found before 1769. Clearly, Thomas Tidball came from somewhere else.

Thomas was buried at North Molton in December 1814. The parish register states that he was 76, suggesting he was probably born about 1738. But where? Thankfully, the Tidball name was not common outside far southwestern England. One approach to narrowing down a search area is to find where a name commonly occurs. The International Genealogical Index, which includes birth/baptism, marriage, and death/burial information gathered from parish records, can help identify hot points for surnames. A search for Tidball (and close variants) in the IGI found numerous occurrences of the name in and near Cutcombe, Somerset. Cutcombe is nestled among the Exmoor hills about 15 miles northeast of North Molton -- close enough to be worth a closer look.

A search of Cutcombe parish registers found no record of either a baptism or marriage for Thomas. In fact, the earliest Tidball event recorded in Cutcombe is the marriage of Alexander Tudball and Anne Tucker in 1759. The Cutcombe Tidballs (or Tudballs, or whatever) came from somewhere else.

A search of neighboring parishes produced one solid lead. At Exford, adjacent Cutcombe to the east, numerous Tidball baptisms, marriages, and burials were recorded before 1760. Among them was the baptism of Thomas Tidball 23 August 1739 -- a plausible baptismal date for the Thomas buried at North Molton. The Exford Thomas was the son of Walter and Elizabeth Tidball.

Could this be Thomas of North Molton? Yes, it could be. For one thing, no burial record is found at Exford for this Thomas, meaning he could have moved away and died somewhere else. However, there is also no marriage record that could have linked the Exford Thomas to Agnes, the wife of the North Molton man. In short, no evidence has yet been found that directly connects Thomas of North Molton to Thomas of Exford. In the genealogy world, we say there is no "direct evidence" -- nothing that directly answers the question: Was Thomas of North Molton the same man as Thomas of Exford?

However, the timing is about right and the geography is good -- North Molton is only 10 miles on to the southwest from Exford. Three additional pieces of "indirect evidence" bolster the case. The first is naming patterns. According to baptisms recorded in the parish registers, Walter and Elizabeth had seven sons at Exford between 1728 and 1745: Alexander, Walter, Richard, Gregory, Thomas, John, and William. Thomas of North Molton had five surviving sons: William, John, Walter, Gregory, and Thomas. If Thomas of North Molton was, in fact, the Thomas baptized at Exford, he named sons after four of his brothers.

This still isn't proof. It might just be coincidence. But the similar set of names lends credibility to the idea that Thomas of North Molton was the same man as Thomas of Exford. Next week's blog will solidify the case with another bit of indirect evidence.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Two more Generations of Tidballs

Several posts ago (August 11, to be precise), we used English censuses and civil registration records to track William Tidball -- father of the immigrants John and Thomas -- back to Brushford, a small village nestled on the Somerset side of the Devon-Somerset boundary in Southwest England. There, we viewed the record of the 14 April 1822 baptism of Thomas Tidboald, son of Michael and Eleanor Tidboald.

Very nice, but where did Michael come from? No Tidballs appear in the Brushford records before 1822. A search one parish to the west on the Devon side of the border found the 29 November 1821 East Anstey marriage by banns of Michael "Tidball" and Eleanor Dascombe. The curate recorded that Eleanor was from Dulverton, but did not name where Michael came from.

Tidball-Dascombe marriage, East Anstey, Findmypast image
Another approach did give a clue. The 1841 census, which listed Michael (40) and Eleanor, listed another Tidball of similar age in Brushford. Thomas, a 45-year old cordwainer. In the 1841 census, adult ages were usually rounded down to the nearest multiple of five; Michael could have been as old as 44 and Thomas as old as 49. The census stated only that Thomas was not born in Somerset; the entry for Michael is difficult to interpret (Census says only "yes" or "no" for birth in the census county).

The 1851 census asked specifically what parish an individual was born in. It is of no help for Michael, because he died in 1845, and English civil death registrations, unlike many American ones, do not name either parents or birthplaces. The 1851 Census of England listed Thomas Tidball, a 58 year-old cordwinder (a variant of cordwainer), born in North Molton, Devon -- a village (and parish) about 15 miles west of Brushford village.

Map from FamilySearch wiki; click to enlarge
North Molton Bishop's Transcript, FamilySearch image from Devon Record Office
Next stop: North Molton. Indeed, Michael Tidball was baptized to William Tidball and his wife, Margaret, 25 January 1801. (Parish register images are indexed at, a subscription service. Annual Bishop's Transcripts can be browsed free at  William Tidball and Margaret Squire were married 15 April 1792. Michael's uncle, Thomas, was baptized 24 June 1792.

Following the North Molton parish records back two more decades leads to the baptism of William, the son of Thomas and Agnes "Titbald," 27 July 1769. William's baptism is the earliest Tidball (or variant) entry in the North Molton parish registers, and no record names Agnes' maiden name. Thus, the direct Tidball trail evaporates on the Devon side of the Somerset-Devon border nearly 250 years ago.

There are strong hints that the trail leads back across the border to the Exmoor hills in Somerset, but that is another story for another blog post.