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.

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