Which Edmund Tilley?

The father of my 5th great-grandfather Stephen Tilley was Edmund Tilley.  I had very little information on Edmund and what I did have was sketchily sourced.  I recently acquired some more information on this line and it had a completely different death date and place for Edmund.  As in 35 years different.  Dates in genealogy can be somewhat fluid, but 35 years is a big discrepancy, so I decided I should do some research into the matter.

What I discovered is that there were two Edmund Tilleys living in North Carolina in the Revolutionary War time frame and they seem to have been blended together in some online trees.  That’s a shocker, I know (not!), but in looking at the two men, I can see how easily it could occur.

Let’s compare.

  1. Both are named Edmund.  That’s not such a common first name, so people could easily assume it’s one person.
  2. Both were born in Virginia.
  3. Both died in North Carolina, one in Wilkes County and one in Stokes County.
  4. Both were born in the mid to late 1700’s.
  5. One died around 1800 (Wilkes Co.) and the other died around 1835 (Stokes County).

So, how did I figure out which Edmund Tilley belongs in my tree?  It was easy and only took about an hour of online research.

First, I had seen some evidence that Edmund might have fought in the American Revolution – this evidence included a shaky leaf hint that pointed to a pension application card with a pension number.  So I went to Fold3 and looked up the actual pension.  This turned out to be the Stokes County Edmund, but there was no family information in the pension file, so it wasn’t much help.  Except it did clear up that the Stokes County Edmund is the one who applied for a Rev War pension.

My next step was to go to the DAR and use their Genealogical Research System to see if there were any proven lines through my Stephen to Edmund.  What I found was that almost all proven lines went through a child named David – and I don’t show a child named David as belonging to my Edmund.  So, I started thinking that the Stokes County Edmund might not be mine (which is a bummer, because I would love to bag another patriot).

At this point, I decided probate records held my best shot in determining which Edmund fathered Stephen, and since North Carolina Probate Files are online at FamilySearch, that was my next stop.

I started with Wilkes County, and quickly found a will index that listed Edmund Tilley as a devisor for a will that was probated in 1800. This index also listed all the devisees and the second name in the devisee list is Stephen Tilley.


When I read the actual will it named “my son, Stephen,” as well as all the other children I had found as children of Edmund Tilley.


It also named “my wife, Margret,” the given name I had in my records for Edmund’s wife.

The case was getting pretty strong that the Wilkes County Edmund is my Edmund.  But I didn’t stop there.  Next I checked the Stokes County wills and found an Edmund Tilly, whose will was probated in December 1835.  When I read the will, I found something interesting.  Only one child was named – “my son, David.”  He inherited everything and was also named executor.  This is clearly the same Edmund Tilley from the DAR database.  And clearly not my Edmund.

One more step sealed it for me.  Back at Ancestry, I searched on heads of household with the surname Tilley in North Carolina in 1790. There were two Edmunds – one in Stokes County and one in Wilkes County (and no Edwards – I just wanted to be sure).


I feel quite confident that the Edmund Tilley who died in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in May of 1800 is the Edmund who belongs in my tree, as the father of Stephen Tilley.

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