52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Brick Wall

Was it infidelity? Or a sister who found herself with an unwanted pregnancy and the child taken in by Russel and Sarah Ferguson? Whatever it was, Thomas Bunn Ferguson, born in 1844, was not a Ferguson by blood. Here is the story of how my Ferguson brick wall became a Dickson brick wall.

For a year, I searched for any information I could find on Moses Ferguson. Moses was born to Robert and Elizabeth Wylley in 1762 in Baltimore, Maryland. He fought in the Revolutionary War. Throughout his life, Moses lived in Lincoln County, North Carolina, Rhea County, Tennessee, and died in Johnson County, Missouri.¹ Several children followed Moses to Johnson County, including Russel, my husband’s great-great-grandfather. Moses is well-documented; his son not so much. Russel eventually moved to Cass County, Missouri, where he died.

I encouraged my husband, David, to take a Y-DNA test and join the Ferguson Y-DNA group in hopes of extending the family line to the father of Robert Ferguson. Much to our surprise, David is a Dickson or Dixon, not a Ferguson.

So where does one go from here when they find out their entire family tree is not what they expected? My first thought was to look in places where opportunity would have brought the Ferguson’s and the Dickson’s together. Census records were the obvious source of this information.

I searched for Dickson’s in 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, and 1840 census records in places where Moses had lived. There were no Dickson’s. Since Moses died in 1845, it appears that the end of our Ferguson DNA did not occur with this generation.

The next logical step was to search for Dickson’s in the 1830 and 1840 census records in places where Russel lived. Again, we found nothing.  

And then, the 1850 census shows the Ferguson’s were living near two households of Dickson’s. George Dickson was 34, a merchant born in Scotland, who lived with Jemima, aged 18. The second family head was Richard Dickson, 72, born in Virginia. He is living with the following who appear to be his children: Frances, female, 29, born in Virginia; Wm. H., 28, trader, born in Virginia; Richard, 26, merchant, born in Virginia; and Charles T., 24, clerk, born in Virginia.

So, who is the father of Thomas Bunn Ferguson? Sarah was 36 when Thomas was born. If this was the case of infidelity, there are several likely candidates. The first is George Dickson. He was 28 when Thomas was born, a little too young for Sarah. The second is Richard. He was 66 when Thomas was born, a little too old for Sarah. Richard’s three sons ranged in age from 18 to 23 at the time Thomas was born. It is unlikely that any of them would have fathered a baby with Sarah, but not impossible.

James Miller, Sarah’s brother, died in 1849. He left his estate to his brothers and sisters, including Martha Jane Miller. I have not been able to find additional information about her.

If Martha was single in 1849, she was single in 1844. She could have been the mother of Thomas and found herself with a child out of wedlock. To save the family from embarrassment, Thomas and Sarah could have taken in her child and raised him as their own. It is possible that any one of Richard’s three sons could have been the father. I am inclined to believe this hypothesis. Whoever is the father, the outcome is my husband descends from Thomas Bunn Ferguson and is Dickson by blood.

But here is the kicker. In my online search, I cannot find anything about the Dickson’s after 1850. They simply disappeared. 

Dave’s Y-DNA results link him to Peter Dixon, b. Augusta, VA, d. Warren, IN, and Henry Dixon, b. Greenbriar, VA, d. Jennings, IN. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a connection between the Dixons in Virginia and the Dickson’s in Cass County, Missouri. Perhaps, once the pandemic subsides, I can travel to these counties to see if I can find that connection.

Sometimes things like this happen in families. It can be devastating. Fortunately, Dave took it well. He may not be Ferguson by blood, but he identifies with them. He is still a Ferguson of the heart. And do I think I have wasted a year researching Moses Ferguson and his family? No, I love them all. They have a rich history that anyone would be proud to have.

In the meantime, if anyone reading this post has connections to the Dickson’s in Cass County and the Dixons in Virginia, please drop me a note and help me solve this brick wall.


¹Early in his life, Moses lived in Tryon County. Lincoln and Rutherford Counties were formed from Tryon County in 1779. See https://www.ncpedia.org/geography/lincoln