Beware the Genealogical Assumption

In 1850, James Horton is living in Davidson County, TN with his wife and children. The last person enumerated is Vincent Searls, age 75, who I have always assumed was his father-in-law.

(James Horton household, Davidson County, TN, Civil District 5, Page 188B, Dwelling 253, Fammily 254, Lines 21-35.  1850 Federal Population Census, Coffee & Davidson Counties, TN, (National Archives Microfilm M432, Roll No. 875), National Archives, Washington, D. C.)

Going back in time to 1840, we find James, Vincent and a George Sirls living next to each other in Davidson County, TN.


(James, Horton, George Sirls and Vincent Sirls households, Davidson County, TN, Stamp 318.  1840 Federal Population Census, Dickson, DeKalb, & Davidson Counties, TN, (National Archives Microfilm M704, Roll No. 520), National Archives, Washington, D. C.)

James Horton married Elizabeth Searles in Caroline County, Va in 1825.

In 1830, James and Elizabeth are living in Amhearst County, VA.

So as any genealogist would do, I have always assumed that Vincent must have at some point left Caroline County and came to Davidson County to live with his daughter and son-in-law.  NEVER MAKE ASSUMPTIONS IN GENEALOGY!

Because this morning, I found Vincent Sirls living in Davidson County, TN in 1830.  Seems it was Vincent who migrated first.  Then James and Elizabeth must have followed after their marriage in Caroline County, TN. So was Vincent really Elizabeth’s father?  When and why did he migrate to TN.  Was he living in Caroline County, VA or Davidson County, TN in 1820, or some place in between.  Granted this is a new finding that will have to be pursued, but never assume that the younger generation migrated first.  That assumption could have you looking for records for the wrong person.  All these years I have been looking for land records for James, when it was most likely Vincent’s farm they lived on.  Cool thing is I grew up two miles from Vincent’s probable home place and have walked through the cemetery where he is most likely buried. I am assuming. 🙂


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