A Bit of Background.
From his Revolutionary War pension application, we know that my ancestor, Solomon Burris, married Judith [Taylor] in the 1780’s after arriving in Anson County where he enlisted for service. Notice the brackets around Judith’s maiden name? Based on supplemental evidence, it is rightfully believed Judith’s maiden name is likely “Taylor.” However, I find no absolute proof that Judith was born a member of the Taylor family.
The couple, Solomon and Judith Burris, lived out their lives in Stanly County, which formed from Montgomery, which was earlier cut from Anson. Buried in the crossroads community called Frog Pond, Judith’s gravestone at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church shows her birth as Nov 10, 1766 (see above).
Solomon’s pension application includes the family’s record which names his son Taylor Burris born “December, the 28th Day, 1784.” See it to the left, at the top? This fact is used in support of the idea that Judith’s maiden name is indeed Taylor. And using more distant records, some wrongly assess Judith Burris as being the daughter of Robert and Mary Taylor out of Edgecombe County NC.
The elder Robert Taylor wrote his will in 1758 Edgecombe County naming children Robert Jr, Edward, Joseph, Richard, Henry, William, Henry, Billington, Nimrod, Hudson, Judith, and Rachel. Another clue as to Judith’s ancestry, numerous children in the above-mentioned family of Robert Taylor can be later found living on land granted in early Montgomery, now Stanly County, located near the lands where Solomon Burris settled. By proximity of land in conjunction with naming patterns, we begin to connect Solomon’s wife to the highly suspect family of Robert Taylor. However, and picking up on “Judith” as being a named child in the 1758 last will and testament of Robert Taylor, it simply cannot be that Solomon Burris married Robert’s daughter Judith as her mentioning in the will occurred some eight years before the birth date of Solomon’s wife as appears on the her tombstone in Stanly County. Solomon’s wife Judith was not even born when Robert Taylor named his daughter Judith in his 1758 will.
Though it’s quite impossible for Solomon’s wife to be the daughter of Robert Taylor, maybe she could be a descendant named in honor of the mentioned daughter whom so many confuse to be our maternal ancestor. Or, looking back even further in time, Robert’s wife is believed to be the daughter of Judith Elizabeth Billington. So here again, the naming tradition supports the idea that Solomon’s wife somehow descends from the family of Robert Taylor who died ca. 1758 in Edgecombe. It’s good, I buy into it, but I must acknowledge that the proof is subjective.
The nature of homonymous naming patterns is indeed historically rich in the ways of our southern heritage though interpretations have confused the dickens out of many researchers seeking to refine the tangled family trees. Lost beyond the scarcity of surviving records, there once existed a time and generations of people who could have helped us out. They lived among these people and could have offered a much better understanding of the confusing relationships we struggle to understand today.
At some point one realizes that searches may bear no more fruit as the twisted possibility of relations can no longer be verified. At that point, maybe having studied the winds and seeking spiritual guidance by clapping the spit on our hands, it is easy to ere by converting one’s plausible maybes based on guesswork supported by some self-anointed rationale. Passing on the street some unknown person whose recognizable likeness you reacted to with dropped jaw, subjective perpetuation of family throughout the generations have unknowingly produced familial doubles, multiple narratives, and doppelgängers through ill-conceived thoughts based on a narrow smattering of records discovered. It’s a huge problem and yet, genealogically speaking, we come to appreciate that such mentions of family indicate that we are quite close to discovering the truths of who we are. It may be that such naming patterns draw us as close to our ancestral clan as we may ever come and that’s a good thing worthy of being screamed from the mountain tops.
Beyond Robert’s naming of children in his last will and testament as was recorded in Edgecombe County NC, the migration of his sons is well-recorded. Much of the family stopped off in Chatham County NC before settling on Long Creek, south of present-day Albemarle in Stanly County NC. Also settling in the same area of present-day Stanly County was Timothy Taylor who has no known ties to the family of the elder Robert Taylor. However, such ties, if they ever existed, seem plausible though very confusing. It’s one thing if Solomon’s Judith is the daughter or cousin of one of Robert Taylor’s sons living on Long Creek; it is another if she somehow descends from Timothy whom little is known. It’s my belief that telling the story inclusive of all the various possibilities is much more intriguing than if it had been passed down singularly by declaration built upon guesswork. So, there we are, this and a nickel’s worth of cultural flavoring is all I have on my Taylor family ancestry.
Curious to learn from any published use of the names Burris and Taylor within the confines of my North Carolina stomping grounds, I searched Newspapers.com where I came across the following 17 Nov 1826 notice by former Montgomery County Sherriff Abram Forrest concerning land being sold due to unpaid taxes. Published in the North Carolina Star (Raleigh NC), the sale represented serious business as much of the land was likely being sold because the folks listed were either dead, woefully in debt, or had moved beyond the county. Just as with naming patterns and how the miscommunication of their attribution can alter history, bits of information as found in this Sherriff Sale may be fraught with opportunities for error. I’ll delve into that broader aspect in my next post, but for now, do you see a name on the list below that might be significant for the Burris family? How about for the Taylor Family?
The Big Sale.
History is written on what is known. Naming patterns strongly suggest that Solomon’s wife is a member of the Taylor family. Clues direct research towards the sons of Robert Taylor as they are living near Solomon and Judith Taylor Burris during the early years of settlement in now Stanly County. The fact that Judith gave birth to oldest son Taylor Burris is important. And, in a twisting of that logic, we find an equally intriguing clue within the wording of a common sale notification.
If we can gather an idea of Judith’s ancestry based on the name of her son, how then should we interpret the person “Burris Taylor” who, in 1826, had two 100-acre tracts of land being sold by the Sherriff in order to pay back taxes?
I have yet to locate Burris Taylor in census or any other surviving record though he would certainly appear in the Montgomery County deeds and court minutes if only the courthouse had not been burned by arson. Damn!
The naming of this fellow could be in honor of a friend or neighbor though like with Judith, it’s equally likely that the naming of Burris Taylor is rooted in family.
Having his land sold in 1826, and knowing that Burris Taylor was at that time an adult of at least 21 years of age, he would have been born ca. late 1700s to 1805. Normally two tracts of land would not be purchased and sold for back taxes, all occurring in one year. Considering the amount of time needed for Burris Taylor to acquire and have reason to sell the land for taxes, it’s likely that the said Burris Taylor was born in the late 1700s or earlier. This would make him of age, a candidate to be the son of one of the older Taylor boys who settled in now Stanly County. And, if so, it’s possible one of those Taylor fellows married a girl whose mother or other honored ancestor was a member of the Burris family.
Here’s another way to look at it. The men in the families of Burris and Taylor have been somewhat easy to locate though about this case, is it possible Solomon’s father Joshua Burris Senior had a daughter? …one who married a Taylor man? Sure! You see, we just don’t know and yet it’s nice now to be close to people we can look back on as likely being family. However, you will not see me make a claim or grandiose statement on the possibility as doing so would be wrong. We simply don’t know.
Burris Taylor is a new suspect to be pinned to our family’s wall for further investigation. Maybe he died and then again, maybe he made it to Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, or Kentucky where the winds of migration carried many Americans from the State of North Carolina. It’s amazing to come across something so simple as a twisted family name on a tax sale, and then asking the honest questions pertaining to meaning, I am humbled in realizing there is much we simply don’t know. If he lived and had children, Mr. Burris Taylor could conceivably be the ancestor of millions today. That’s a huge number and they would all be my cousins, just maybe.