For those who have been following the slow-motion discussion about the Tanner family genealogy here and on Genealogy's Star, here is a follow-up explanation from Peggy McCollester, who has been working on the genealogy.
I have other things taking my attention right now and cannot devote enough time and effort to this to be able to say much about the records one way or another, but I hope others do turn their attention to the puzzle. When you do, remember the basic standards of genealogical proof, and all the factors mentioned in the summary of the state of the Tanner research:
When doing work on a family with a name like Tanner, remember that it is a professional name. Many communities in England would have had a tanner, a skilled worker who used the products of the oak tree to make leather. Since it began as a profession name, there may be multiple Tanner families in England, all unrelated. A look in an English phone book confirms that Tanner is not an uncommon name.
So connecting the family in America to the family in England won't consist simply of finding a William Tanner of the right age and with similar family names in England but will consist of proof of origin, some kind of documentary connection proving place of origin or names of family members.
Early immigrants can be tracked across the ocean by ship records, church records, letters and documents preserved at places like university archives, early community histories, etc. Tracing an early immigrant back across the ocean is not always possible, as is evident from the publications of the Mayflower Society: the origin of some of the Mayflower passengers is still unknown, despite the extent of the genealogical and historical research that has been done on all the families over centuries.
In short, remember the important genealogical principle that same name does not equal same person.
For those who are interested in tracing the genealogy themselves, note that many compilations of early Rhode Island records are available on archive.org. Here are those cataloged under the authorship of the dedicated Rhode Island historian James Newell Arnold (1844-1927):
Also, one more aside before getting to Peggy's notes. Rhode Island, small as it is, has a fascinating history. Born in the fight over religious liberty, it had deeply religious citizens, but its population had a rabble-rousing reputation and deep ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
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So, here are Peggy's notes. I have lightly edited them with her permission and have also added a few comments to her explanation, which will be in brackets, as follows: [added notes]. Many thanks to Peggy for all her work on the genealogy, and for being so willing to share her information. She will be following this discussion, so please ask questions in the comments.
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There is mass confusion out on the internet about William Tanner and Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner having children.
William and Elizabeth had no children together. They did not marry until 1723/24, which is recorded in the Rhode Island Early Marriages.
This marriage took place shortly after the death of Mary Babcock. George Clinton Tanner made the mistake of saying that Nathan’s mother was Elizabeth Colgrove, because the early Rhode Island records are very confusing. One must study the records so as to not get confused on who is who.
This misinformation is now cleared up from this Rhode Island record of early marriages. Mary Babcock and William had twelve children together before her death.
The last child was born in 1719 and is believed to be buried at the foot of William and Mary’s graves in Rhode Island. I have tried to clear this confusion up with the documentation from the state of Rhode Island, along with proof of William Tanner’s baptismal record from England, which shows his father was not Francis Tanner, but rather a John Tanner with William’s mother being an Elizabeth. This record shows where William was born and lists his siblings as well.
[Ed.—Note that this is the major point of disagreement in the research, and the one which needs real attention.]
George Clinton Tanner made mistakes in his genealogy book on William. [Ed.—No one who’s familiar with the book could disagree about this.]
The information he gathered for his introduction came from hearsay and not actual fact. That’s something you cannot do when doing genealogy. I have studied and spent many hours on the early records from Rhode Island and finally understand what happened with George Clinton Tanner and why he and others have gotten confused. It was easily done for sure and even confused me for a while.
I’m going to attempt to give you correct information on William Tanner’s line and his children with Mary Babcock and show who Elizabeth was married to before she married William in 1723/24. This information came from the Chipstead Parish Records in Chipstead, Surrey, England. I have this information in my possession and have attached it.
William Tanner’s father was:
John Tanner b. 14 Aug 1631 Bromley, Kent, England d. 25 Jun 1688 Chipstead Parish Records, Surrey, England.
John married 6 Nov 1655 Bromley, Kent, England, Elizabeth Smith b. 9 Sept 1638 Maidstone, Kent, England. The surname of Elizabeth is thought to be Smith, but not really sure. Everything points in that direction from the genealogist I hired.
Proof of marriage and birth for Elizabeth Smith follows:
England & Wales Marriages, 1538–1940 about Elizabeth Smith
Name: Elizabeth Smith
Spouse’s Name: John Tanner
Marriage Date: 6 Nov 1655
Marriage Place: Bromley, Kent, England
Source Citation: Place: Bromley, Kent, England; Date Range: 1649–1725; Film Number: 1042453. Source Information: Ancestry.com. England & Wales Marriages, 1538-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Genealogical Society of Utah. British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, copyright 2002. Used by permission.
England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 about Elizabeth Smith
Name: Elizabeth Smith
Baptism Date: 9 Sep 1638
Baptism Place: Maidstone, Kent, England
Father: Stephen Smith
FHL Film Number: 1736876
The parish record shows William and some of his siblings (three sisters). There are two more boys from John and Elizabeth listed in another record. They are a John Tanner and a Thomas Tanner. By the way the baptismal record for William reads, Baptized 10 Mar 1657 and not 1660.
Here are the correct children for William Tanner from his second wife Mary Babcock, married in 1690 after the death of William’s first wife Hannah Avis Tibbitts:
1. Jane Tanner b. 1691. She is named after William’s sister Jane. See attachment from the parish record above.
2. John Tanner (twin to Benjamin) b. 24 Dec 1692, d. Dec 1692, and believed to be buried at the foot of William and Mary’s graves according to the Historical Society in Rhode Island. Named after
William’s father John Tanner.
3. Benjamin Tanner (John’s twin brother) b. 24 Dec 1692.
4. John Tanner, b. 1694.
5. Mary Tanner, b. 1698.
6. Avis Tanner, b. 1699.
7. Francis Tanner, b. 3 Jul 1708. This is correct. Francis is the son of Mary Babcock and William, as are the following children.
8. Nathan Tanner b. 20 Feb 1709.
9. Anna Tanner b. 15 Mar 1712. Named after a sister of William. See Parish Record attachment
10. Rebecca Tanner b. 2 Jul 1714
11. Elizabeth Tanner b. 14 Nov 1717. Named after a sister of William. See Parish Record attachment
12. Abigail Tanner b. 17 Oct 1719. d. As a small child. Believed to be buried at the foot of William and Mary’s graves according the the Historical Society in Rhode Island.
[Ed.—Note that the listed children are born over the course of 28 years. This is outside the range of normal female reproduction—no matter when a woman starts having children her body usually stops after about 16 to 18 years—so the time frame would suggest that the children belong to more than one wife or even subsequent generations.]
[A question arose in another discussion about Nathan Tanner. There seem to be several, and I’m not sure yet if the one I would like to know more about, some kind of relative—cousin or uncle of John Tanner (1778-1850)—is the same as described below.]
The Nathan you are asking about is descended from John Tanner and Lydia Stewart (John’s second wife). They did have a son named Nathan... This John Tanner who converted from a Seventh-Day Baptist to Mormonism had a father Sgt. Joshua Tanner and mother Thankful Tefft. Joshua’s father was Francis Tanner and Elizabeth Sheldon. Again Francis was the son of William Tanner and Mary Babcock, not Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner.
Nathan who is shown as # 8 above is the following:
Nathan Tanner b. 20 Feb 1709 South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island d. 12 Sept 1807 Hopkinton, Washington, Rhode Island.
Nathan married 28 May 1734 Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island. Married by Isaac Sheldon, Justice. Nathan Married Mary Cottrell, a daughter of Elizabeth Colgrove Cottrell Gardiner Tanner and John Cottrell. This John Cottrell was Elizabeth’s second husband.
The children of Nathan and Mary are;
1. David Tanner b. 25 Nov 1735 South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island d. 1782. David married Hopestill Worden.
2. Nathan Tanner b. Sept 1737 South Kingstown, Rhode Island d. 1790 Greenwich, Washington, NY. This Nathan Tanner married Elizabeth Thurston.
3. Abel Tanner b. 7 Sept 1740 South Kingstown, Rhode Island d. 23 Aug 1787, Hopkinton, Washington, Rhode Island. Abel married Phoebe Bent.
As far as Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner goes, she is descended from Francis Colgrove b. 1667 Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, d. 1759 North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
Francis married twice. His first wife was named Elizabeth b. abt 1670 England d. 1688 North Kingstown, Rhode Island. She married Francis in 1687 in England. Her surname is unknown. She died in 1688 North Kingstown, Rhode Island. She had one child with Francis before her death. This is Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner who was born in 1688, probably in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Francis Colgrove b. 1667 married shortly after his first wife’s death, Ann Black in 1688. They had five children. One son of Ann Black and Francis was also named Francis. This Francis was born in 1694. He married a Hannah Bailey and also had a daughter named Elizabeth who was a twin, who married a John Williams. This Elizabeth seems to be confused (sometimes mixed up with marrying William Tanner) with the 1688 Elizabeth and she is not the same Elizabeth.
The Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner who married William was first married to a George Gardiner in 1708 in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. She had one daughter with him before his death in 1708. The one daughter was named Elizabeth b. 17 May 1708, South Kingstown. She married a John Bentley.
Elizabeth Colgrove/Cottrell/Gardiner married second, John Cottrell 5 September 1712 in Rhode Island. They had four children together before his death in 1721. One of their daughters is the one who married Nathan Tanner b. 1709, a son of William and Mary Babcock. He is their eighth son listed above. Her name is Mary Cottrell b. 5 May 1715, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, d. 1708 Hopkinton, Rhode Island.
I’m hoping you can now see where the mass confusion has come in when trying to keep all the Elizabeth’s, Nathan’s and John’s straight. It’s hard to follow the Rhode Island records, which is what happened to George Clinton Tanner and anyone else who tries to follow who’s who from his book.
It took me a few years to peace it all together by studying the Rhode Island records and to discover and unravel the confusion. It wasn’t George’s fault or anyone else’s for that matter. It was a very messy introduction he gave…poor George.
I hope I’ve have cleared the air. Even the Rhode Island records contain errors. Many of the records are written in very poor handwriting. That’s the way the very early colonial records are. Being accurate is very important when doing genealogy…very important!
I’m here to help anyone who wants it. I’m eager to share with my cousins.