Taylor Family Research – A Fine Example

One of our blog followers posted a link to the Taylor family research page in a comment.  I took a look, and it’s a really good example.


I wanted to point out three things.

Widen the Net

First, this kind of “surround and conquer” research is necessary, not just for Native research, for which the records can be painfully scarce, but for non-Native research as well.  Some folks call this widening the net.  When I’m researching a surname in a particular area, I use every available resource and make a spreadsheet of all occurrances of the name – including seemingly unimportant things like when someone that surname witnesses wills or deeds.  Those hints can tie the family to another family, and a location, which may turn out to be VERY important.  So, sometimes the sum of the parts is the most important piece, especially if there is no “smoking gun” for your ancestor.

Cluster Mapping

taylor cluster mapThis leads me to my second point and that is the important of mapping.  I spent about 5 years doing this type of research on the Estes, Moore and Combs families of Halifax Co., VA.  In the end, mapping groups of families and where they lived turned out to be key to recreating or assembling those families, which turned out to be the key to determining which family my John R. Estes belonged to.  The Taylor cluster map along with its key is excellent.

Native Research

The third point I’d like to make is related to Native research.  Native people were not born with English names.  English names were assigned to them in some fashion.  Often, they adopted the name of someone they respected, a trusted neighbor or someone with whom they had forged a “brother” relationship.  In this case, the first Taylor mentioned was King Taylor, a Native man, in 1711.  He had to have obtained the name Taylor from someplace.  I typically survey the neighborhood as well as looking at traders.  Sure enough, the second mention is of another Taylor, Jacob, a claimant as a result of the Tuscarora War, which occurred between 1711 and 1713, implying that he was of European heritage.  So, it’s possible that Jacob was in the area when King Taylor obtained his name.  Additional research might shed more light on this subject, or not.

One conclusion that cannot be reached is that because King Taylor and Jacob Taylor, or any other European Taylor, shared a surname implies that they were related.  Surnames were adopted by, or given to, Native people for any number of reasons and in any number of ways.

Another issue is that even if a Native person carried a European style name, such as John Taylor, for example, that doesn’t mean his sons carried the surname Taylor.  Many Native tribes were matrilineal and they did not use their European name within the tribe, only when dealing with Europeans.  So their sons could have adopted different surnames.  In other words, we cannot assume the traditional surname continuity when dealing with Native people, especially not during the time when European names were first adopted, but they were still living in tribal cultural units.

After intermarriage, assimilation and adoption of European customs, surnames were typically passed in a European fashion, but when that occurred varied widely by location, tribe and family.

Additional Taylor Records

Checking my Taylor records in the Native Names project, I found a couple more items that may be relevant to the Taylor family.

In 1704, a Thomas Taylor was living adjacent the Yawpim Indians on the North side of the Albemarle Sound when he was authorized with other men to lay out a 4 mile square parcel of land for the Indians.  This could be the person from whom the Indians adopted the Taylor surname.

In 1733 on the Mosely map, a Taylor family is settled in Beaufort County, near Beaufort Town as well.

In 1766 and again in 1769, a William Taylor signed as a Tuscarora chief in Bertie County on land sale documents.

I found this Taylor page that summarizes the early records, creates a cluster map and referenced DNA testing (even though some of the DNA info is a bit out of date) to be a great research format and I certainly wish that all of my family lines had a page like this.  Kudos to the Taylor family and webmaster!!!


About robertajestes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Tuscarora, Yawpim. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Taylor Family Research – A Fine Example

  1. I’m defended from a James Taylor Sr. He was born on 1740 in Craven County, North Carolina. I don’t know if he was a Tuscarora or not. He married Sarah Daugherty on January 10, 1784, in Craven County, North Carolina. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you.

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