Summoning Up a James Tinsley

Testimony and depositions can be among the most genealogically revealing documents in court records. They certainly are in this 1830-era court case from Lynchburg,Virginia, that centered around the inheritance of one grandchild of John Tinsley who died in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1817. But those documents are not the only items that may provide useful.

Tracking people who moved during this time period can be particularly difficult. That difficulty can be aggravated when certain names are used repeatedly in families to the point where there are individuals of about the same age, born in the same place, who have the same name. That is the case with James Tinsley–son of the John Tinsley who died in Amherst in 1817.

He had two first cousins named James Tinsley (both sons of brothers (Edward and William) of the John Tinsley who died in 1817 in Amherst County. Of these three James Tinsleys, two stayed in Virginia until their deaths in the 1820-1840 era. They appear in land and census records in Amherst and Bedford Counties in Virginia in the early 19th century. The third James Tinsley moved to Kentucky around 1800. The Kentucky James married Susannah Rucker of Amherst County as evidenced by land records in Amherst County that clearly indicate Susannah’s husband is James Tinsley who is living in Kentucky.

The question is: who was the father of the Kentucky James?

And there was the answer in the court case from Lynchburg, Virginia, in the 1830s. Right there in the summons to appear. At the bottom of the reverse of the summons is the phrase:

“Chas. Harrison, James Tinsley, Elizabeth West, John Harrison, Lindsey Tinsley, Sally Sledd, Richard Fowler and wife are not inhabitants of this State.”

The other individuals listed on the summons are children of John Tinsley who died in 1817, sons-in-law of John Tinsley who died in 1817, or grandchildren of John Tinsley who died in 1817. If John’s son James Tinsley had been one of the James Tinsleys who lived in Bedford or Amherst County, he would have been served along with the other family members from those counties who were served in the early part of 1830.

I need to write up my argument with more detail than is in this blog post. But the key element is there buried on the reverse side of the summons. If the James Tinsley being sued with all the other heirs of John Tinsley in 1830 had been living in Virginia, his Virginia kinfolk would have known about it and he would have been served right along with them.

This record was helpful as well because it confirmed all the families of John Tinsley that had left Virginia. Sally (Tinsley) Sledd was known to have moved with her husband, Thomas, to Bourbon County, Kentucky, in the first few years of the 19th century. Thomas died in Bourbon in 1814 which is why he’s the one son-in-law not referenced in the court record.


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