Research Story Contributed by Stephanie Tolbert Bradley
A lot of Tolbert Researchers have it WRONG
I read the news article Shannon posted about and had an unavoidable pang of jealousy that I am not proud of. The person who helped the family find their roots should be applauded. Those of you who read this blog, or any genealogy blog are already fans of the “hobby” or “avocation”. A newspaper article or TV program reaches so many more people who are not even aware of all that is involved. I think they assume you just pick up a family Bible and it is all right there, or visit the family cemetery. Most people have NO clue that we actually use those census records they are so reluctant to fill out. They cannot imagine how eagerly we wait for a new one to be released every twelve years. It is nearly as exciting to us as awaiting the last Indiana Jones release.
It often takes several years for a genealogist to appreciate world or local history. In the beginning we get so involved with finding those names and dates to add to the database, we don’t stop to think about what was going on around them at the time. We start out with an understanding that war is going to impact people, but seldom do we look at the “smaller” things that affect families. The Great Hunger, also known as the Irish Potato Famine, Spanish Flu, Black Blizzards, boll weevils, the Depression. At some point though, it finally starts to sink in that everything we skimmed over in history class meant something in the lives of our families. Then we start research in true earnestness, with a better understanding of WHERE we need to look.
I said all that to tell my own story:
My 3 X great grandfather was William Marion Tolbert of Jackson County Georgia, born about 1845 and died in 1907. It is a good thing I found him early in my research or I would not be convinced he even existed. Bullying my family actually produced a picture of the gentleman hidden in some uncle’s “stuff”. Without this “backup” I would have given up years ago. Census records show him living with his brother in the home of Sarah Tolbert in 1850 and 60. BUT no one believed me. On one census he was listed as Marion and on the next as William. He actually went by “Billy”.
Avid researchers know that sometimes you have to disprove something so you can prove something else.
For more years (20) than I want to think I have been trying to prove or disprove a relationship with Francis Marion Tolbert/Talbert. “they” have always said he was the person living with Sarah Tolbert in 1850 and 1860 even though the 1880 census has his mother “Isabella” of SC living with him in Alabama. He applied for a Civil War pension in Alabama and from all I can tell received it, claiming he was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta. His records say he served with the 42nd GA Infantry, Co. E out of Newton County. I have checked every war record I could find both on microfilm and Footnote and Ancestry and you name it. He does not show. Period.
Finally one night almost two years ago I thought I would give it one more shot and see if I could find someone who might possibly be him….so I pulled the entire 42nd GA …all companies and went thru over 2,000 names. The only thing I found was a GFM Tarbutton. I thought…what the heck….went to Footnote and pulled the cards and guess what…..Gen. Franics Marion Tarbutton…private. And NO there is no mistake about the name. But just to be sure I checked census records for Georgia in 1860 and 70. In 1860 he is listed as a female…but same name and lives with his mother Isabella in Pickens County. In 1870 he lives near his mother, but with his wife Eliza (correct name for wife) and son William E. (also correct name and age) in Fayette County. I have now checked marriage licenses and there is one in Newton County for Francis Marion Tarbutton and Sarah J E Mitchell (correct maiden name) in 1864.
His Civil war record shows he deserted and took the oath. I don’t know when he changed his name, but by the time he moved to Alabama he had done so and claimed to have been wounded…there is no evidence of that and I don’t know WHY he changed his name. Maybe Alabama’s rules for CSA pensions were not as stiff as Georgia’s. He evidently did not have to have witnesses. And in the records I found he claimed to be with a couple of different companies. So who knows…..
BUT I PROVED he is not Sarah Tolbert’s son and that is good enough for me. AND his mother changed her name as well????? What on earth happened in Georgia??
We tend to make a lot of assumptions when we first start out, and that is ok, as long as we go back and correct where we were wrong. Unfortunately all the researchers into this family evidently went to one single person who posted misinformation and never corrected it. But then who actually goes back to check sources once you have the information entered into your database?? There were several Tolberts/Talberts in Georgia at the beginning of the 1800’s and little paperwork to get them all sorted out. Tapley and Sarah were both in Clarke Co. and married there. A few years later a William “L” Tolbert married a Caroline Hutson, also in Clarke County, GA. People just assumed he was a son of Tapley and Sarah, even though there was absolutely nothing to back that up, AND this William was not mentioned in Sarah’s widow’s pension when Tapley was killed. Nor does he show up on any early census record. This same source claimed he moved to Alabama and raised his family there. It took me years to prove that 1. The marriage license of William “L” and Caroline did NOT say “L” but “C”. This man was William Clarke Tolbert and he stayed right there in Clarke county Georgia until the Civil War at the Wilderness…..when he was killed. Caroline stayed right there until her old age when she moved to Fulton County to live with her daughter. There are widow’s pensions to back all that up. This man was the son of James Tolbert. Ok, so that is going to put the knickers in a twist of everyone in Alabama who claim relation to Sarah and Tapley.
You now have two sets of Tolberts in Alabama who claim relation to Tapley and Sarah who are not. This messes up at least 25 years of some folks research, if they even choose to acknowledge it. I found one woman, Melissa,….I don’t know her last name, who was pleased I had found her missing Tarbuttons. But no response from a single Tolbert researcher I have contacted. Believe me I know all too well what it is like to have to trash years of research….but I would rather do that than have my research laughed at down the line because I was too stubborn to acknowledge that I was just wrong and made assumptions I shouldn’t have.
My William Marion Tolbert and his brother Andrew Jackson Tolbert? I am still trying to prove parentage for them…..Faye Poss, well known genealogist, has told me that the poor school records for Jackson County Georgia say that Sarah Tolbert was their mother. It is certainly possible, but since she never remarried after Tapley died over 10 years befor e they were born…..they were illegitimate and I honestly have NO clue who their father might have been.
It is these mysteries that keep us ever searching. Just keep in mind: whoever you THINK you are, you probably AREN”T..