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Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Extreme Example of the Same Name = Same Person Problem -- Part One

Note: This series is a summary of the research into the origins of the Tanner family of Rhode Island. It is the culmination of many years of research and in past posts, I have discussed the progress of the research several times in past posts and some of the information is cumulative. 

Many people living today in the United States have ancestors whose lives and descendants were chronicled in a "surname book." In my own family, this book by a distant relative named George C. Tanner is a prime example. The conclusions of this book and a subsequent one published in 1910 by the same author have become the basis for establishing the ancestral Tanner line. This statement from page 5 of the book sets the stage for one of the most extreme examples of assumptions that a person with the same name is the same person.
This work will contain only the descendants of William Tanner of North Kingstown, R. L, whom we assume to be the the oldest son of William Tanner of South Kingstown, R, I. The genealogical indications and indirect evidence all point to this conclusion.
Tanner, George C. William Tanner of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and His Descendants. Minneapolis, Minn.: Pub. by the author, 1905.

Tanner, George C. William Tanner, Sr. of South Kingstown, Rhode Island and His Descendants: In Four Parts. Faribault, Minn.: G.C. Tanner, 1910.

The tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of descendants of the Rhode Island Tanners in the United States have accepted the conclusions of these two books without question since their publication. In over thirty-five years of intensive genealogical research, I have not encountered even one descendant who questioned the conclusions of these two books or has done any independent research into the original Rhode Island records.

Most of the interest in the Tanner family line comes from John Tanner (b. 1778, d. 1850) who was born in Hopkinton, Kings, Rhode Island. John Tanner is famous as an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and stories of his life have achieved the status of legends among his descendants. John Tanner is my Third Great-grandfather.

Missing from any of the records of John Tanner's life before my research was any documentation of his birth or parents other than the traditions and the two Tanner books cited above. After reading through the Hopkinton, Kings, Rhode Island Town Record, I found an entry made by his cousin Abel Tanner as Town Clerk documenting the marriage of his parents and the birth John Tanner and his siblings.

John Tanner's father's name was Joshua Tanner (b. 1757, d. 1807). The next question is obvious. Who was Joshua Tanner's father? Ultimately, the question is whether or not "all of the Tanners" in Rhode Island were descendants of one progenitor. As I will show, this assumption is wrong.

Stay tuned if you have a strong constitution.

1 comment:

  1. Have you looked into the possibility of pre-Rev. Turners arriving in RI via CT? As attractive as the notion of having arrived with Roger Williams from Seekonk, I grew up in a Barrington, RI which borders Seekonk on the East side of Narragansett Bay. Even in the mid-20th Century, from there to Kingston (home of URI) was considered a trek. via I-95. This may be hard to understand if you live outside New England. There seems to have been considerable movement in the 17th & 18th century in the coastal settlements as far north as Scarborough ME (part of Mass Bay Colony) and along Long Island Sound. Kings Cty RI is close to Groton & New London, and The Pequot Wars were an ugly part of colonial history that lacks the cache of Salem and the witchcraft trials. There might have been a little revisionist history being written if those who settled No. Kingston had taken part in massacres in CT Colony or was it New Haven Colony then?