Saturday, July 1, 2017
Finding Francis -- Part Five: The William Tanner Dilemma
This isn't really a series, it is more of a commentary on a very difficult research issue. I have been documenting my thought process as I do the research into this early Rhode Island family.
Francis Tanner (b. 1708, d. 1777) of Rhode Island is my fifth Great-grandfather. A revered family tradition links him to a "William Tanner" as his father. Recent contributions to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree have this "Willam Tanner" birth on 10 March 1657 in Surrey, England and his death on 23 December 1740 in South Kingston, Rhode Island. William would have been 49 years at the time of Francis's birth, assuming he is the father. However, there are as yet no records indicating the name of Francis Tanner's father or mother and further, there are no records connecting the William Tanner born in Surrey, England to anyone in America. Additionally, the Family Tree shows the 1657 William Tanner married to "Mary Babcock" during the time period that Francis Tanner could have been born.
The sources attached to the 1657 William Tanner L5TC-D7V in the Family Tree show various marriage and birth records, however, none of these are original records, they are all indexes or transcriptions. The Family Tree shows William Tanner married to Hannah Avis Tibbets in 1686 and again to Mary Tanner (Babcock) in 1692. There are two other marriage records attached to the 1657 William Tanner showing marriages to Elizabeth Colgrove and Elizabeth Cottrell but with no marriage dates. The Family Tree shows Mary Babcock with no death date but has children attached who were born as late as 1719.
If the 1657 William is the father of Francis Tanner then there is a quandary. Francis Tanner's will, which is attached as a Memory to his entry in the Family Tree states that his brother is Nathan Tanner. Nathan Tanner also signs as a witness to the will. Nathan Tanner does have a birth record that states that he was born in 1709-10 with parents whose names were William and Elizabeth. So the reasonable conclusion is that the 1657 William Tanner married to Mary Babcock is not the father of either Francis or Nathan.
The entry for the 1657 William Tanner has some obvious errors such as the fact that he is listed as born in 1657 when the attached marriage records have different birth dates: 1660 and 1680. In addition, the Family Tree also presently shows him as having a son born in 1687 named "William Henry Tanner." who would have been 21 years old and old enough to be the father of Francis and Nathan. However, the current record shows this 1687 William Tanner to be married to Hannah Palmer in 1711. There are no sources listed in the Family Tree showing anything about William Tanner except a marriage record for one of the children assumed to be his daughter.
Now we come to the document shown above. this is a transcript of the Rhode Island Freemen from 1247 to 1755. It shows both Francis and Nathan Tanner but also shows three William Tanners alive in 1747 and 1749. The one designated "Jr." does not have to be the son of one of the other Tanners listed because in that time period the term "Junior" was used to differentiate unrelated people with the same name. This designation could mean nothing more than the fact that this William was younger than the other one in the same town.
Now we have two or perhaps three additional men who could be the father of Francis Tanner and who are not the 1657 William Tanner who is listed as dying in 1740. I still cannot say that this issue has been resolved because we still need to see some records that clear up the relationships between these people. But what can be said with a fairly high level of certitude is that the 1657 William Tanner is not the father of either Francis or Nathan.
I am in the process of listing every possible source for records and ordering the microfilm when needed from FamilySearch. In my free time, I will be traveling down to the Library to search through the microfilm. I think I am getting closer to resolving the problem.