Thursday, February 28, 2013

William Tanner — The Immigrant

Historical marker in Westerly, Rhode Island. From Dougtone at Flickr.

William Tanner's arrival in America is still subject to controversy and lack of source records. If he was born abroad, his arrival in America is evidenced by scanty documentary sources. References to William Tanner subsequent to hie arrival by the Reverend Tanner locate him in Westerly, Rhode Island, and specifically, in the town of Hopkinton, which was formerly part of Westerly. [1]

Based on this scant documentary evidence, each of the published sources date William Tanner’s birth to approximately 1660 in England.[2] This conclusion concerning William Tanner’s birth is not attributed to any recorded source. An extensive search of the early birth records for Rhode Island fails to show any reference to a “Tanner” born before 1709.[3] The lack of any previous references may argue for the English birth of William Tanner. However, there seems no support for the supposition that his birth occurred in 1860, other than the most nebulous guess that he was at least twenty-one years of age at the time he witnessed the deed.[4] Even if the evidence is accepted to support a birth in 1660, he may have been born elsewhere in America and moved to Rhode Island. Although a search of the comprehensive listing of all New England immigrants does not show a reference to any other immigrant named William Tanner during the critical time period.[5] Many current pedigrees incorporating William Tanner identify his father's name. But there is no documentation of this information at all. 

Reverend George C. Tanner quotes from the “Early history of Narragansett” by Judge E. R. Potter, p. 226[6] concerning a land purchase by William Tanner in Westerly, Rhode Island. The land contains a Tanner cemetery and the cemetery records show a grave marker for “WT” and two other markers for “ET” and “MT.” It could be supposed that these are the graves of William Tanner and his two wives, Eliazbeth Cotrill Tanner and Mary Babcock Tanner.[7] A subsequent search of the early land records shows the deed from Henry Hall to William Tanner establishing the land conveyance.[8] William Tanner and his wife Elizabeth C. Tanner to his son Benjamin Tanner in 1723[9] establishing the name of, at least, one of his wives.

In his 1905 book, the Reverend Tanner speculates that William Tanner came to America in 1682, in the year of the witnessed deed, and with no further citation, states that “[t]he genealogical indications and indirect evidence all point to this conclusion.”[10] By 1910, Reverend Tanner adds a birth date, “about 1660” and speculation that William Tanner emigrated from England, coming to the Rhode Island colony in 1679 with the same Randall Houlding, for whom he witnessed two deeds, as stated above.[11] Subsequent research has yet to yield much more information. There is no direct evidence connecting the witness, William Tanner, with any name on the emigrant list from England. There is, in fact, no evidence linking subsequent references to “William Tanner” to the witness of the two deeds. Again referring to the list below in Chart A, none of the individuals named “William Tanner” either arrived in America early enough to have witnessed the disclaimer deed or have the destination of their immigration in an area that would make their residence in Rhode Island likely.[12] The lack of contradicting evidence would argue for the conclusion that this particular William Tanner was the one signing the deed in 1882 and that he emigrated from England in 1680.

Name                                      Date                Destination

William Tanner                       1680                America
William Tanner                       1680                America
William Tanner                       1680                America
William Tanner                       1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                       1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                       1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                       1671                Barbados
William Elleson Tanner           1683-1684       East New Jersey
William Tanner                       1765                America
Christopher William Tanner   1765                America
Christopher William Tanner   1765                America
William Tanner                       1728                America
William Tanner                       1728                America
Christopher William Tanner   1765                Virginia
William Tanner                       1848                Philadelphia
William Tanner                       1855                Ohio
William Tanner                       1853                Philadelphia
William Tanner                       1871 38           Ontario
William Tanner                       1871 45           Ontario
William Tanner                       1871 50           Ontario

The absence of a death record for William Tanner has some recent family group records showing a death date as late as the 1770s making him over 110 years old at death. This assumption is not impossible but is only a very remote possibility. The last record of William Tanner may date from 1735 although it is not clear, from the existing records, and certainly more likely, that references to “William Tanner” after 1712 refer to his son, William Tanner who was born in 1687. The lack of records makes it possible that the immigrant died in, or shortly after 1735.

[1] See Farnham, Charles W. F.A.S.G., Rhode Island Genealogy, typed manuscript, n.d., Page 10.
[2] FGR by Mrs. Frank W. Seaman of Cedar City, Utah citing William Tanner: Descendants B9E3 p 6-7; Mayflower Descendants v 26 p 10.
[3] See Nathan Tanner son of William and Elizabeth, 20 Feb 1709 found in Alden G., Washington County, Rhode Island, births 1770 to 1850 : comprising the towns of North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Exeter, Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton  vol. 5, Washington County,  East Princeton, Mass. : A.G. Beaman, 1976, c1976, Page 57.
[4] Supra. Arnold, at pages 79 and 108.
[5] Coldham, Peter Wilson, The Complete Book of Emigrants: A Comprehensive Listing Compiled from English Public Records of Those Who Took Ship to the Americas for Political, Religious, and Economic Reasons; of Those Who Were Deported for Vagrancy, Roguery, or Non-Conformity; and of Those Who Were Sold to Labour in the New Colonies. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1661-1699. 1990.
[6] Potter, Elisha R., The early history of Narragansett : with an appendix of original documents, many of which are now for the first time published, Ann Arbor, Michigan : University Microfilms, 1987, [Microreproduction of original published: Providence : Marshall, Brown & Co., 1935. (Providence : Printed by E.A. Marshall). xix, 423].
[7] Ibid Tanner, George C., Reverend, 1905, Page 8.
[8] South Kingston (Rhode Island). Town Clerk, Land evidence 1696-1885, Salt Lake City, Utah, Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973, Grantee index 1696-1855; FHL US/CAN Film 931832 Item 1, Grantor index 1696-1885; FHL US/CAN Film 931832 Item 2, General index for v. 1-13, 1696-1823; FHL US/CAN Film 931299 Item 1, Land evidence, v. 1-3 1696-1723.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid Tanner, George C., Reverend, 1905, Page 7. It is interesting to note that although Reverend Tanner acknowledges his lack of information on William Tanner’s origins, the lack does not prevent him from reaching his conclusion.
[11] Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, 1910, Pages 5 and 6.
[12] Ibid. The record gives the destination of the 1880 William Tanner as “America” without further specification..
[13] Gale Research. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:, Inc., 2005. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed.. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2005.

No comments:

Post a Comment