Saturday, April 23, 2011

When shared information doesn't add up, Part 1-the background

One of the projects I've been working on lately has been on rebuilding the family group of the Williamsons of Parke County, Indiana. On my most recent trip to Rockville, the county seat, I was fortunate enough to find a probate file for a previously unknown Williamson in the county which included a list of heirs which included both my ancestor and a man I suspected to be his brother, as well as others that I hadn't known of before. This gave me several new leads to follow so I've been keeping busy trying to figure out where each new piece fits.

I started working with this family about a year ago when I was able to take my line back to a William Williamson, born abt 1825 probably in TN, and died in Parke County, IN in 1858. William's file provided some indirect evidence of a relationship between a Conrad Williamson who was only about 2 years older than William and who petitioned the probate court on behalf of William's widow and called himself brother to the deceased (though I do know that that is not always to be taken literally in early legal jargon, it did point to a relationship of some kind). He too was seen in census enumerations with a Tennessee birth place and that, along with the closeness of age and the petition made a pretty good case for believing Conrad could have been William's brother. So since both had been born in Tennessee, the task was to find out when they came to Indiana and where they came from. I ran into a brick wall.

The probate file I found a couple weeks ago was for a Clement Williamson who died about 1843 (the early probate files rarely give the exact date of death so you usually have to go by the earliest document found in the file to get an estimate) which explains why he didn't show up when I had been seaching for other Williamsons in the county in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The probate file names his widow as Mary, who is shown in the 1850 census still living in Parke County with her family, and cites William, Conrad, Henry, James and George and Betsey Basinger "formerly Williamson" as heirs.

Clement did show up in Parke County in the 1840 census, along with a household which included 1 male aged 15-20, 1 male aged 5-10, and 1 male 50 to 60. The male aged 15-20 fits the age William would have been at the time and also fits knowing that he didn't marry until 1843. This means the male 50-60 would be Clement himself giving him a birth date estimate of 1780-1790. Directly above Clement's household in the census is George Basinger including a female, aged 20-30 which fits in with "Betsey's" birth date range when tracking her to the 1850 census. Clement Williamson is not found in Indiana in the 1830 census, however, there is a Clement Williams found in Greene Co., Tennessee in that year with a family group fitting. Thanks to, I was able to see that a marriage took place in Greene Co., TN in 1831 between Elizabeth Williamson and George Basinger (which also tells me that the family was still in TN at the time of their marriage). Also found in 1850, living with the widowed Mary, was James Williamson, age 20, which fits in with the male living in Clement's household in the 1840 census and Henry Williamson, age 32.

So from this, so far I can pretty confidently set the family up as Clement and Mary as the married couple, with William, Conrad, Henry, James, and Elizabeth/"Betsey". To find out more about Clement, I figured I needed to start looking at records available in Greene County, Tennessee. So I headed over to's message boards and started searching for Williamsons in that area. I was fortunate to find several posts regarding a Thomas Williamson there who appeared to be of a comparable age to Clement. Here is where things start to get sticky...

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