(Thomson Family Tree from 1700's - late 1900's)
From Wence We Came, by June Thomson Sparks
It honestly doesn't matter where our ancestors came from - or how they got here (by boat or on foot) -- or when. We, like them, are all just names and dates that, when placed on a lineal family tree, hold no greater value than all of the other names and dates posted before or after us. Most of us cannot remember the names of family members beyond two or three generations. All of their deeds, good and bad; all of their daily toils and frustrations, all of their sufferings and joys are long forgotten to this world. We don't know them and they never knew us. What could it possibly matter whether they came from Ireland or from India? Who cares whether great-great-great grandfather worked on a farm or in a factory two centuries ago? Who will care what we do or where we go centuries from now?
It really doesn't matter...and it won't matter...but, then again, it's interesting to know! All of those names and dates lined up perfectly to form the family you are in right now. Imagine, had even one of your direct ancestors not met, then you would not be right at this moment reading this document. It is because they lived and loved that you are able to breathe the air and walk the earth for a given time before stepping back to take your place among the others who did the same, making way for the generations to come.
It is with that knowledge and humble appreciation then that we regard the following information about our particular family tree.
The Thomson Family Tree
First of all, let's talk about our name. The reason we keep having to spell it for everyone (i.e. "That's Thomson without the P!) is that it is a very old name, and therefore, subject to corruption, misspellings and abbreviations throughout the years. Last names come from many sources. Names like Thomson, Williamson, Peterson, etc. are names derived from parentage. Tom's son, William's son, Peter's son, etc. Some people have last names that note where the family was from, such as Meadows, Lake or even de la France. Others have names that tell what a family did for a living, such as Mills, Baker, or Candlestickmaker (just kidding). Still, others have last names that tell something about how the family looked or acted. Names such as Short, Long or Smart. How the name Thomson is spelled can tell something about where the family is from. In England, the name originated as Tompson. In Ireland, it was Thompson. In Scotland, it was Thomson. The name at first may have been Thomas-son, the son of Thomas. Thomson would then be an abbreviation of Thomason, since abbreviations of names through time are common.
Our Thomson family is of Scotch-Irish descent. A check on the Internet shows that the name Thomson is the fifth top surname in Scotland today. Who knows how many of those Thomsons are distant cousins or ours!
First Stop: Glasgow, Scotland
Our first known ancestor is William C. Thomson who emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Londonderry, Ireland around 1720-29 with his wife and children. Who knows what prompted this move, however, a glance at history tells us of a huge migration of Scots out of Scotland in the mid-1700s. The 1707 Treaty of Union of Parliaments could provide a clue. The treaty formally united England with Scotland to form Great Britain. Although claimed to have been a peaceful and desired union, it was met with riots in Edinburgh. The Highlanders never wanted union with England. It was, in effect, "steamrolled" onto the Scots by Queen Anne, and Scotland's larger neighbor, England, to the south. In the decades to follow, Scottish clans rose up to fight for independence (see Mel Gibson's "Braveheart"). The time was rife with battles and bloodshed. Religious persecution was rampant. Since our ancestry is decidedly protestant, they may have felt uncomfortable with James the First of Scotland and Sixth of England, of Catholic roots. Our ancestors may have decided to head for more peaceful territory. As you can see from the map below, Glasgow was only a short distance from all of the commotion going on in Edinburgh.
Next Stop: Londonderry, Ireland
For the next thirty-years, our direct ancestors made their home in Ireland. Then, in 1771, William's son James (b. 1730 in Ireland), along with James' wife Mary Henry (b. 1736 in Donegal, Ireland; d. 1823) and their Irish born children, William (b. 1761), Jane (b. 1763), Esther (b. 1765), Rosanna (b. March 12, 1767) and Martha (b. 1770) left for America, probably from the port of Belfast, Ireland, which was commonly used by immigrants from Northern Ireland at that time. Family records say that Mary Henry was a "lovely woman noted for her rich and sweet voice." Family records also say that the trip to America was "delayed a year due to the birth of Martha." James also brought with him his sister, Esther and Martha, as well as his brother John.
Third Stop: America!
The new Americans settled in Conococheaugue, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. In their new home, two more siblings arrived, John (b. Nov. 11, 1772) and Alexander (b. April 23, 1775). The group didn't stay long. Just five years later, James moved his growing family to Derry Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania where his remaining children, James Henry (b. April 2, 1778) and Mary (b. May, 1780) were born. James Sr. was a farmer and an elder in the presbyterian church in Ireland, Pennsylvania and later, Kentucky. Through his efforts, the Salem church was organized in 1786 in Pennsylvania near his home. I imagine Mary Henry sang in the choir. I discovered as I read through our family notebooks that our clan was rather a holy crowd. More than thirty of our ancestors prior to 1925 became ministers in the presbyterian church. Today, several of our relatives are also ministers in the Christian faith. Apparently, it's in the blood, or I should say, the soul!
By this time in history, The American Revolutionary War had begun and was reaching out to the frontier when James established his family is Westmoreland County. His grandfather may have left Scotland to avoid bloodshed, but the British came to fight them in their new land. James and his teenage son, William, joined the Pennsylvania Frontier Rangers (1778-1783), a group formed to protect inhabitants from raids by indians who were taking advantage of the war with the British in the east. The historical society in Derry, Pennsylvania has a historic passage on its website that describes the area this way: "It's location was one that was exposed to the raids and plunderings of the Indians from the earliest times down to but a short period before the Revolution. The old military road which ran directly through it, the old trails along the streams where the savages passed, the heavy woods to the north of the county, and the river to the north which formed a borderline of civilization and settlement -- these make its location one of extreme danger when there was danger at all." Perhaps the situation proved too much for our clan since after the war, James moved his family to Nicholas County, Kentucky in about 1793, where he remained until his death in 1817. Mary was buried beside him in 1823.
Our direct lineage continues through William Thomson (b. 1761 in Ireland; d. March 15, 1822), eldest son, who married Sally McConaughy (b. June 3, 1756 in Pennsylvania; d. May 29, 1835) in about 1787. The McConaughy's were also of Scotch-Irish descent who came to America in 1733. Sally's brother, Robert M. McConaughy, married William's younger sister, Jane Thomson. Robert and Jane started a family line that led to Reverend Nathaniel McConaughy who authored the spectacular Thomson Family Tree in 1890 that is displayed at the top of this blog.
Sally, William, Robert and Jane probably knew each other growing up in Pennsylvania. James Thomson helped found Salem Church. William and Robert were both about the same age and both elders of the church. I'm sure there's a real love story in there somewhere...with the guys marrying each other's sisters. Robert and Jane McConaughy remained in Pennsylvania and had nine children. The couple is buried at the Old Salem Church, which today still stands.
William and Sally moved with James Sr. to Nicholas County, considered the "Bluegrass Region" of Kentucky, where William was, like his father, a farmer and a county surveyor. They had five boys: Robert, John, William Henry, Samuel and James.
Here's an interesting footnote from our family books: "While wading through the woods one day, the elder William Thomson contracted rheumatism and for the last fourteen-years of life, was confined to his bed. However, he retained his position as County Judge and held court at bedside!" He died on March 15, 1822. Thereafter, Sally moved on to Decatur County, Indiana in 1827 where, for what reason I do not know, all of her children had moved! She lived there with her children until her death on August 29, 1835.
Our lineage continues through William and Sally's son, John Thomson (b. March 26, 1796 in Nicholas County, PA; d. Feb. 3, 1856)). John married a woman named Spicy G. Hamilton on November 11, 1821 and settled four miles northwest of Greensburg.
John and Spicy were among the original pioneers of "23" who settled in the area shortly after Indiana became a state and the Indian problem had been eliminated by the Treaty of St. Mary's, Ohio, which was signed in 1819 with the Delaware Indians. Decatur County was part of the "new purchase" and was formed in 1822, being named for Commodore Stephen Decatur, a naval hero of the War of 1812.
Although John had been bred on a farm, in about 1827, in company with his brother-in-law, Elijah Mitchell, he introduced the first wood carding machine in this country. It was on the site of the residence of his brother-in-law, Robert A. Hamilton. He continued in the business until 1835. At that time, he began the publication of the Greensburg Chronical (later, the Standard) continuing it until 1843 when he turned it over to his son, Orville.
According to family documents, in 1829, John was elected sheriff of Decatur and was re-elected in 1831, receiving 870 votes to 92 cast for his opponent. In 1833, he was a candidate for the state legislature, but was defeated, some say, because of being a member of the temperance society. In 1839, he was elected Associate Judge of the Circuit Court serving four years, and in 1843, Judge of the Probate Court for a term of six years. The remaining years before his death on February 3, 1856, he was engaged in the family grocery and drug business. For the last 23-years of his life, he was a ruling elder of the Greensburg Presbyterian Church and was a frequent delegate to the presbyterian synods. The Thomson Family Tree describes John Thomson as "a man prominent in social and political life."
The couple had ten children, six of whom died in early infancy. Of the others: Orville, Rosanna, Camilla and Origen survived to maturity. Spicy died at the age of 36 on December 22, 1838. Our lineage is linked to John's second wife, Mrs. Catherine Gillespie (nee Hopkins) the widow of Dr. Jesse Gillespie, and Spicy's cousin. They married on June 27, 1839. There were two sons born of this marriage: Milton M. and Jesse M.