#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Conflict

I know who my great-great grandmother is, and yet, I don’t.

I’m talking about my mother’s father’s mother’s mother, Delila Bruce Allison. Or maybe it’s Delila Dickerson Allison.

My cousin Pat Lowe has done a lot of research on this family tree going back at 40 years. She’s always given the name of this ancestor as Delila Bruce.

We know from Delila’s children and grandchildren that Delila was married to S. John Allison and had seven known children. The oldest were James Frank Allison (1888-1968), who’s Pat’s ancestor; and Dorcas Elizabeth Allison, known as Dollie, who is my great-grandmother. Frank married Dollie’s sister. Dollie married Frank’s brother.

John and Delila grew up in Marion County, Georgia. Around 1903 or 1904, they packed up the children and headed west to join some relatives who had moved to Oklahoma. They took the train. The story goes that there was a train wreck, possibly in Mississippi. Delila was mortally wounded. It’s not clear if she died in Mississippi or made it to Oklahoma. We have found no death record. The story passed down by Dollie to her children was that Delila was pregnant and lost the baby along with her own life.

The story goes that John was stricken with grief and died soon after arriving in Oklahoma. Another child, Ida, who would have been about three years old at the time of the wreck, disappears from the records.

The other children, at least the oldest four – James, Dollie, John Henry, and Elbert Byron (known as Zeb) returned to Georgia, and soon moved to Escambia County (John Henry died in Escambia, Alabama, the others in Escambia, Florida). They ranged in age from about 9 to 16 years old at the time of Delila’s death.

But who was Delila before she became Mrs. John Allison?

The family tree on Family Search gives her parents as James Bruce and Jane Coursey. A marriage record connected to Jane’s profile shows a marriage to Steven Dickerson on 4 July 1852 in Taylor County, Georgia. No one has attached any records for Jane.

Steven or Steven (depending on the record) was, according to an 1860 Census, born around 1778 in South Carolina. He’s married to Jane Dickerson, age 31, with children John, age 12; Stephen, 9; Rubin, 7; Eliza, 6; Thomas T., 4; and Anna, 2. Everyone else in the household is listed as born in Georgia. They are living in Taylor County, Georgia. This census does not provide relationships.

An 1870 Census record shows Dilly Dickerson, age two months, living in a home in Talbot County, Georgia, with Jane Dickerson, age 40, and another girl, Nancy, age five years. This census does not provide relationships. Birthplace is listed as Georgia for all three.

I find two census records in 1880.

In one, Jane Dickerson, age 42, is living with two daughters Mary E. Dickerson, age 15; Delila J. Dickerson, age 12; and son Sam W. Dickerson, age 9. Jane is listed as being born in Rhode Island to parents who were born in Rhode Island. Mary, Delila, and Sam are listed as being born in Georgia, father born in Georgia, mother born in Rhode Island. (The next door neighbor is George Cook, whose great-grandson Arthur Cook would one day marry Delila’s daughter Dollie.)

Turn to the next page in the 1880 Census, and you find James Bruce, age 71, born in North Carolina to N.C.-born parents; his wife Jane Bruce, age 51, born in Georgia, parents born in Georgia; and children Nancy, age 15; Delila, age 10; and Samson, age 8, all born in Georgia to parents born in Georgia.

Both pages indicate that they were enumerated on 18 June 1880.

But, if James Bruce is their father, why wouldn’t the children’s entries give N.C. for their father’s birthplace?

If Jane Coursey Dickerson is the same person as Jane Bruce, why wouldn’t her birthplace have been listed as Rhode Island on both forms?

We don’t know who provided the information to the census taker. It wouldn’t be the first time I found an ancestor in two places at once.

Are Delila Bruce and Delila “Dilly” Dickerson one and the same?

I found another clue that suggests they are. Maybe. I decided to take another look for the marriage record of S. John Allison and Delila Bruce or Dickerson.

Their oldest child, as far as we know, was James Frank Allison born in 1888, so I looked for marriages in Marion County, Georgia, in 1886-1887. I tried various combinations of search terms until I found one for John Anderson and and Dillie Dickeson, married on 8 September 1887 by a justice of the peace in Marion, Georgia. I haven’t found a John Anderson in the area who is of an age to be marrying Dillie in 1887. Maybe he was just passing through, married her, and took her away with him. Or maybe it’s a mistake and is supposed to say John Allison.

Looking at my DNA matches, I do have several on Ancestry who lead back to James Bruce’s father Jordan Bruce. If the records we have are right for Steven and Jane, he was much older. Maybe she had an affair with James Bruce and then moved in with him when Steven died.

All this conflicting evidence creates a quandary that will take more digging and hopefully a few new-to-me records to straighten out.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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1 Response to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Conflict

  1. Barb LaFara says:

    You have a real puzzler on your hands. Although, when it comes to genealogy, who doesn’t? At least you seem to have identified a plausible scenario that leads to the 2 ladies being one and the same. Good luck! Thanks for sharing.

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