Monday, January 30, 2012

A Source of Frustration...

My mother was the daughter of Oliver Richard Tannahill…but he was known as O. Richard Tannahill meaning that I assume he didn’t like his first name.  He died in a hunting accident in 1947 when my mother had just barely turned 6.  Her memories of him were vague and hazy and she only had a few precious memories.  So much of what she knew, she learned from others who admired and loved him.  So, the Tannahill branch was never an easy family to research for me.  I didn’t have the resource of a grandfather to learn from or a mother who had a lifetime of her father’s stories.  All we had to really start with was a few names and dates…so Mom and I took it from there.

Top Left - Ted, George, Richard, Sam - Lower Left - Rachel, John & Viney - older brother Earl not pictured - he died in 1942.  Photo was taken in 1945 at the funeral of John Lyons Tannahill.
We began our research on the Tannahill family with the names of Richard’s siblings and his parents.  A photograph was taken at the funeral of Grandpa Tannahill (John Lyons Tannahill) that included 7 of the 8 siblings and allowed us to see what they looked like as adults.  Later on we also got a picture of the entire family taken at a much younger age.  A cousin had a book that she had gotten at the Family History library down in Salt Lake City that Mom and I copied.  As we began to read the book (Genealogical History of the Tannahills, Tannehills and Taneyhills by James B. Tannehill), it illuminated a lot of the story of the Tannahill family since their arrival in America in the 1600’s.  However, it soon became a study of frustration as well.  The author had lovingly articulated stories that he had gathered by letters and archived documents but he neglected to include any of the sources.  So, while the story was great it was lacking a way to use the book as proof of anything.

Our family line is an excellent example of this…John Lyons Tannahill was born on 28 Apr 1873 in Jonesburg, Chautauqua Co., KS as the 3rd living child.  His father died eight days before his birth of an unknown cause.  John’s mother, Almira, remarried a few years later to a Samuel Pennell and had 7 more children with him.  So, we knew that Grandpa Tannahill was the son of John Lyons Tannahill and Almira Jones – but where did the line go from there.  Grandpa Tannahill’s father was also named John Lyons Tannahill and he was born 9 Feb 1840 in Ohio and died 19 Apr 1873 in Chautauqua Co., KS.  He was the third child of 8 children born to Mary Fillinger and possibly Frank Tannehill.  Of those 8 children, only two lived beyond 1900 and of the two that survived past 1900, only one can be traced to their death.  It is unknown where the family lived before they went to Iowa other than to say Ohio.  It is also unknown when Frank Tannehill died.  We know that he died before 1850, because he is not recorded in the 1850 census with his wife, Mary Fillinger.  She is recorded in every census until her death in 1897.  Tragically she must have seen the deaths of 6 of her 8 children before her own death.  Frank Tannehill was reputed to be born about 1788, so he must have been an old man when he married Mary “Polly” Fillinger, by my estimation about 47 years old.  According to James B. Tannehill, Frank was the son of James Tannehill and Jemima Smith who probably was born either in Virginia or Somerset Co., PA.  He left his father’s home in 1810 and went to Virginia and then down to Nicholas Co., KY where he is recorded in 1830 as unmarried.  According to James Tannehill, hen then went to Iowa to live out his days.  This is obviously incorrect, because the four children who were born before 1845 were born in Ohio.  The first child recorded as being born in Iowa was in May 1845. 

Most of this information is in James Tannehill’s book and although I have added detail to the line, in essence it is the same.  I believe from the way he wrote his book that he got a lot of his information from the archives in Washington D. C. and from letters that he wrote to Tannehill families all over the United States. (You might have noticed that I spell the name differently from John Lyons Tannahill down…that is because that is the way our family has always spelled it)  I believe that James Tannehill is right on the line and I suspect that he got his information from Charlotte Tannahill Bucey or her adopted sons.  Charlotte was the last living Tannahill sibling and she died in 1934.  So, if that is where he got the information, I’m sure that is correct according to the best information that he had available.  However, I’ve yet to find anything that helps me confirm anything for several reasons.
  • John Lyons Tannahill died in 1873 in Jonesburg, KS and there are no death records available until after 1904.
  • While I have a death record for Mary “Polly” Fillinger Tannahill, there is no listing of either her parents or her husband’s name.
  • Because of Iowa laws, I can’t get a copy of Charlotte Tannahill Bucey’s official death record because I am not a direct descendant.  The copy that I obtained from the local archive doesn’t give me any information on her lineage.

So, although the James B. Tannehill’s book is a marvelous resource, it has been a source of frustration.  Although I keep trying to find information that proves my line of Tannahills – I feel as if I am chipping away at a brick wall.  Perhaps someday, I will find the magic piece of information that blows that brick wall away.  I’ve been searching for almost 15 years…so hopefully my persistence will pay off.