My father-in-law's maternal grandfather was Leonard Nicholson, who had moved to Saskatchewan from Oklahoma with his wife, Myrtie Ferguson, and children around 1912. We've known for a long time that Leonard's father was William Thomas Nicholson from Missouri, who had grown up in Indiana and had been born in North Carolina. However, determining the identify of William's parents was tricky; there was more than one William Nicholson in those parts and there were multiple families to which he could have been born.
Well, now we know a whole heck of a lot more. My wife's DNA has allowed me to break down several brick walls, including in the Nicholson branch of her father's side. I say "break-down" but I really mean pulverize. After studying the family trees of numerous DNA matches, William's history very quickly revealed itself.
William's parents were Lazarus Nicholson and Phoebe Coleman. They were both born in North Carolina, married in Wilkes County on March 11, 1809, and raised a family of at least 6 sons and 3 daughters, with our William being the second youngest child, born in 1831, when Lazarus was 41 and Phoebe was 39.
Sometime between 1836 and 1839, when William was still a young child, the family picked up stakes and joined the land rush, driving their wagons north and west to a farm in Jackson Township, Sullivan County, Indiana. They then purchased land and raised their family there for the next several years;
Lazarus and Phoebe might have had some problems later in life, possibly illness or marital strife. By 1850, they had divided up their land among their sons Samuel, James, and Charles. Phoebe and their son, William, lived with Charles while Lazarus lived with their oldest son, Samuel. Lazarus died in 1855 and by 1860 Phoebe had moved in with yet another son, Lazarus Jr.,passing away in 1865.
Looking further back, Phoebe's parents were Charles Coleman (1756-1826) and Polly Campbell (1760-1834). I don't know much yet about Charles but Polly's family has a long history which I will explore in a later post. However, the Nicholson line, as usual, continued to give me some headaches.
Most Ancestry.com family trees claim Samuel Nicholson (1730-1808) and Lidia Dickhouse as the parents of Lazarus and several other children. DNA would happily seem to confirm this connection. However, most of these family historians had Lidia's date of birth as 1734, meaning she would have been about 58 when she gave birth to little Lazarus. This is clearly wrong. However, was it simply an error of her birth date or was she not his mother at all?
We don't really know who Lidia was: Dickhouse was certainly not the real spelling of her name, as there is no one of that name recorded in the area, and no one has yet provided any corroboration of her birth date.
We do know that Lidia married Samuel on August 8, 1768. If she had been born in 1732, she would have been 36 when married, an unlikely age for a first marriage in that day and age. Many family historians attribute many children to Lidia, which would have also been very unlikely if she was older.
One problem we face when trying to sort out family connections is that the U.S. census records before 1850 didn't name all the people in a household but only named the head of household along with tick marks indicating the age range and sex of everyone else. Although Lidia was never head of household, I do believe that we see her indicated on an 1800 census in the home of Samuel Nicholson, who may have been her husband but was more likely her son. On this census, Lidia was indicated as being 45 or older, which tells us little, only that she was born was born before 1855.
However, even from these limited sources, we see several Nicholsons set up households and start families in Wilkes County about the same time, It's very possible that they were related.
One of 3 Nicholson heads of household, Samuel Nicholson, named one of his sons "Samuel" and one of his daughters "Lydia". Our Lazarus, who also lived in Wilkes County. also named one of his sons "Samuel" and one of his daughters "Lydia". It's quite possible that they were brothers with Samuel and Lidia as their parents.
If Lidia is the mother of Lazarus and Samuel, she was more likely born around 1750, plus or minus a couple years, which would have made it possible to have such a large family, with Lazarus born when she was about 40. Another option is that Lidia and Samuel were Lazarus's grandparents, or some other close relation, but there is zero evidence to suggest that hypothesis.
Given the family trees of several genetic relatives, I have little doubt that Samuel and Lazarus are close family so, at this point, I will stick with Samuel and Lidia as the parents.
Jumping back to the beginning, the earliest known ancestor was Samuel Nicholson, born in the early 1600s, in Nottinghamshire, England. He and his family were reputedly Quakers and sailed across the ocean on a ship called "Griffith" to settle in Salem, New Jersey in 1675. This is a very interesting story, which has been well-researched by Mary Flegel and is worth a read.
Nicholson means "Son of Nicholas", of course. It's typically a northern English name. The first known Samuel in this lineage would have lived through the English Civil War, with Charles I, King of England, raising his banner on Nottingham Hill, the rule of Oliver Cromwell, and the restoration of the king with Charles II in 1658.
Born Nottinghamshire, England 1604
Married Hannah Hall 1658
Migrated to Salem New Jersey 1675
Died Salem, New Jersey 1685
Born Nottinghamshire, England 1669
Migrated to Salem, New Jersey 1675
Married Hannah Hall 1695
Died Haddonfield, Gloucester, New Jersey 1702
Born Haddonfield, Gloucester, New Jersey 1698
Married Sarah Brian Burrough 1722
Died Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey 1750
Born Gloucester, New Jersey, USA 1730
Married Lidia Dickhouse 1768
Died Wilkes County, North Carolina 1808
Born Rowan County, North Carolina 1789
Married Phoebe Coleman 1809
Died Jackson, Sullivan, Indiana 1855
William Thomas Nicholson
Born Wilkes, North Carolina 1831
Married Telitha Elizabeth Thomas 1863
Died Fairview, Major, Oklahoma 1908
Born Harrison, Mercer, Missouri 1880
Married Myrtie Ferguson 1905
Died Nipawin, Saskatchewan 1957