He Wasn’t an Only Child After All

How many of us in looking at our family trees, go back a couple of generations and have the notation “only known child of…”?   I took one of my Only Children and eventually found that he was the youngest child in a large family. 

Thomas Jefferson Allison was born in 1839 in Obion County, Tennessee.  He married Mary Magdalene Sloan 6 January 1857.  Mary was born April 1839 in Tennessee.  Family lore tells us that TJ’s parents were Thomas Allison and Mary Harris.  There was no mention of siblings for TJ.

 My first stop in locating more information on TJ and his parents was the 1850 census for Obion County, Tennessee. TJ Allison is listed at age 11 with his parents Thomas and Jane, and sisters, Caroline and Harriett.  So our Mary Harris has become Jane.  Also in the household are two young men ages 21 and 18, Edmund and Jackson Harris.  I believe they are brothers to Jane,  supporting that her surname was Harris. 

Now we have Thomas Allison and Jane Harris with three children Caroline, Harriett and Thomas Jefferson Allison.  Living nearby in the same county are William W. Allison, born 1818 and Milton J. Allison born 1820.  Their ages  indicate that they could be much younger brothers of Thomas, born 1796, or much older brothers of  TJ and his sisters.  I decided to follow the brother of TJ route as being more probable. 

The next step was to fill in the age gap between TJ and his sisters and the two older  Allison brothers.  Using the 1830 and 1840 census records for Thomas Allison, I set up a  chart of  genders and ages  for people in his household for those years.

I began with the 1840 census.  TJ filled in the spot for the youngest male child with Caroline and Harriett occupying the appropriate spots based on  their ages given on the 1850 census.  Thomas and Jane fell into place and the two Harris boys also found a niche.  I  needed to find out if  William and Milton were at home or on their own in 1840. Since I was able to locate an 1840 census for  William but not for Milton, Milton filled the spot of second oldest male  in the household. The  remaining spaces were all female members of the Allison household.

 I had already located the marriage record for Thomas Jefferson Allison and Mary Magdalene Sloan in Obion County. I turned to ancestry.com for my search to locate marriage records for his siblings.  Using the surname Allison and focusing on marriage records of Obion County, Tennessee, I was able to find Allison marriages from 1838 through 1901. This gave me more than enough Allisons  to fill in the 1840 census. I then backtracked to the 1830 census to reinforce the picture of the family of Thomas Allison and Jane Harris.

 My next goal was to find the birth years of the Allison daughters. Using the marriage records, I searched for their spouses on  census records using Ancestry. This  helped to place them in the proper age ranges  shown on the  1830 and 1840  census records. The oldest daughter, Frances, did not factor into the Allison 1840 household.  She had  married in 1838 and her husband is listed on the 1840 census.

While I was working on this, my cousin  was working with a professional researcher. Because there were so many years between the two older Allison brothers and the three younger children, he wanted to rule out the possibility that Thomas  had  two marriages. There was also the question of the name of Thomas’s wife, Mary or Jane.

The  arrival of the professional report  verified much of my research. It also supplied a definite birth date for one the Allison daughters and even supplied her death date and place of burial. The researcher also located the marriage record for William as it was not available online. No other marriage was found for Thomas and we decided to go with the name Jane since it was supported by census records.

Here is the end result of this research:

THE FAMILY OF THOMAS ALLISON AND JANE HARRIS (information compiled from census and marriage records and supported by a professional researcher)

Thomas Allison, born 1796 SC/NC and wife Jane Harris, born 1802 Virginia.

Children…all probably born in Tennessee…all marriages in Obion County, Tennessee.

William Wilson Allison, born 1818.  Married Martha Matilda Edmonds 18 May 1837.

Milton J. Allison, born 1820.   Married  Synthey D. Davis 24 September 1840.

Frances J. Allison, born 1822.  Married Ambrose Bramlett 8 June 1838.

Martha A. Allison, born 1824.  Married Samuel H. Davis 24 September 1840.

Elizabeth A. Allison, born  1826.  Married Green W. Parker 5 May 1845.

Elvira Allison, born 1828.  Married Thomas H. Maxey 26 May 1845.

Mary E. Allison, born 15 April 1829.  Married Benjamin Landrum 23 July 1846.

Unknown female Allison , born about 1831 (This is the only slot on the 1840 census that I could not fill  with a name.)

Harriett Allison, born 1832.  Married John Wilborn 28 October 1851.

Caroline Allison born 1835. (no further records found).

Thomas Jefferson Allison, born 26 March 1839.  Married Mary Magdalene Sloan 6 January 1837.

Edmund Harris born 1829.

Jackson Harris born 1832.

 After the death of his wife Synthey, Milton married Rebecca Birdwell Cole, widow of James Madison Cole, on 22 March 1862.   He married a third time to Sarah Jane Autin on 7 April 1870. After the death of her husband Ambrose, Frances Allison Bramlett married H.A. Pally 18 November 1870.

Since Martha and her brother Milton married on the same day and their spouses  had the same last name, it isn’t a stretch to  assume that Synthey and Samuel  were siblings.

The Harris brothers do not fit the age ranges for male children  in the 1830 census for the household of Thomas Allison, so it can be assumed that they were living with their parents.  They most likely  joined the  household of their sister upon the death of their parents.  It is also easy to believe that with two older sons and a string of  eight daughters, that Thomas would have  needed help working   his farm.

With one family group reunited, the search is on for the parents of Thomas Allison, Jane Harris and her brothers.


About Eileen

I have been hooked on searching my family's history since 1972. Forced into semi-retirement, I finally have one of the key ingredients to continue researching....Time. On these pages I will be sharing some of my victories and venting about some of the brick walls we all keep bashing our heads against.
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One Response to He Wasn’t an Only Child After All

  1. I had a census record really throw me off once when I first started researching. The census taker had recorded some erronious information leading me to believe only one child was born of this woman. No way – it turned out, like you found, that they had a huge family. A lesson learned early on about the pitfalls of census records.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

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