Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unraveling Time

Prior to going to the Virginia Tidewater area to search of Robert “the immigrant” Taliaferro’s homesite, I had been in contact with Emma Lee Tolliver who lived in Columbus, Ohio and was the founder and organizer of the Tolliver Family reunion held in Morehead, Kentucky every year. We had corresponded quite a bit about the roots of the Tolliver family and she had suggested I write to a gentleman who was working on a DNA project for the Tolliver’s. Just before leaving on our trip I had written to him asking him for more information. When we got back to our hotel in Fredericksburg from finding the Robert Taliaferro homesite, I found an email from him. This email explained that we were not actually related to the Taliaferro line at all! What a downer. At first I refused to believe it but how can you argue with science. Here is the story as I learned it over many emails with many Tolliver descendants.

Emma Lee wrote: “We know we go back to John Toliver b. abt. 1760 (you have 1764, but he was listed as 100 in the 1860 census). There is no proof of the John Toliver b. 1720 in VA. There were 2 Tolivers in Surry Co., NC in 1771 Tax records: William Tolliver had 4 polls (4 males over 16) and John had 1 poll. We do not know the exact connection with our John or the other 4 brothers. We need to find some documentation.

As to the DNA: Wayne Rogers started this study to prove/disprove the connection between the Toliver/Tollivers and the Taliaferros. The study showed absolutely no connection with the Taliaferros. The old Tolliver researchers had thought for years that they just couldn't find the connection because of the burning of Courthouses during the Civil War. And then we have the startling finding about John not matching the other 4. My husband is one of John's descendants and the other is John Tolliver in GA, the brother of Eleanor Waters, a longtime Toliver researcher. John goes back to John through Lytte and then James and then John 1760. My husband goes back to John through Hugh then William and then John 1760. They matched exactly but they do not match the descendants of the other 4 brothers. My husband has had the 37 marker test done so it is quite certain that they were not blood relatives. The interesting thing is that John's descendants have Jewish DNA. Wayne "says" (not proven) that John's father was a Dr. Symmer/Symmes who was Jewish and let John go with the Tollivers to avoid persecution. There is no proof of this.

We do believe John was raised in the household with the 4 brothers. He swore to the government that he was in the Rev. War along with his older brothers, Moses and Jesse. We also have a copy of a letter written by the child of one of the brothers and it states that "Uncle John" is doing well but is blind.”

I then wrote to the man, Wayne Rogers, who was conducting the DNA research and received the following information from him: “I have spent the best part of my life trying to solve the Toliver problem. When DNA became within my budget and I was offered the Toliver Surname Project, I jumped on it. We found descendants of all three Tolivers - Robert Taliaferro had four sons with descendants. All of them are exactly the same DNA, All the descendants of Alan Tolliver, a descendant of William Tolliver who married Mary Hopper in Virginia but moved with your John to North Carolina. We have over 400 DNA matches with his branch. Your John appeared when a Pererz descendant in the Philippines found that her father's DNA was the same as a John Tolliver in Georgia, not far from Atlanta. I knew his sister and we got his DNA and it was also a match.

We all have a tendency to jump to conclusions about the Tolivers. Here are the only facts for any explanation of how, when and where, the two families took the same name, traveled together to NC and raised their children to think they were from the same family.

They both appear in Goochland County in the late 1780s when there was a bad crop year, British merchants were pressing the colonists for taxes to pay the French and Indian War as well as the debts they owed to the Brits during the Revolution. Adding to this was the bankruptcy of the Colony, created by the Treasurer who spent most of his life trying to please his wealthy family and their associates. When he died, a famous lawyer named Pendleton was given the job of taking the property of those who did not pay their debts to the Treasurer.
Most of them were immediately bankrupt and running to the neighboring states for a fresh start. We have evidence that William Toliver lived in Fauquier County before he appears in Goochland to marry Ms Hopper. There is also a record of a John Tolliver who married Elizabeth Symmer in Goochland. Dr. Symmer was famous along the banks of the Rappahannock River but he died and his 1500 acres and all his property were sold to pay his debts.

William had several children of age while John had only one son. Have I given you the background? John's only son married Tabitha Howell and raised a large family. His mother is not mentioned after the wedding and John Sr. appears in several real estate deals in neighboring counties.

Perez is a Biblical name dating back to Adam and Eve. His male descendants were scattered after the Roman conquest of Israel. There were 400 families with the name in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Most of them scattered across northern Africa and eventually reached the Atlantic and the way to Europe. In less than 2000 years, they established families and survived persecutions from everyone else. They were forced from Catholic Spain in 1492 and many chose to go the New World, where they have also thrived. Be proud of your heritage. It is a long and famous story.”

As I have continued my research I have found many of John Toliver’s descendants who believe the above accounts but I have found others who discount the validity of DNA and insist the line goes back through the Taliaferros. As for me, I tend to believe the account that is given above. I think John’s father married Dr. William Symes daughter and when Dr. Symes became ill and saw he was about to lose all of his property, he gave his young son to his daughter and son-in-law to raise as their own. It is a romantic tale and what can I say, I am just an old fashioned romantic guy.

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