The Origin of the Tillman Name

Since I’ve been on this journey, the name “Tillman,” as I know it, has been spelled a number of different ways.  It’s been documented as: Tilmon, Tillmon, Tillman, Tilman, Tilghman, Tellman, Talman, and Tallman.  It started to become difficult to distinguish between what may actually be the correct spelling and what may simply be a case of misspelling.  This prompted the questions, “Where did the Tillman name come from?” and “What does it mean?”  Of course, I had to look for the answers.

In England and Wales, the Tillman surname was given to men that held the occupation of tileman or tiler; basically “one who covered roofs with tile” (A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, written: 1872-1896 by Charles Wareing Endell Bardsley).  It was also bestowed upon husbandmen, known as farmers in the present day (Patronymica Britannica, written: 1838-1860 by Mark Antony Lower).

The Dictionary of American Family Names has a brief reference for the Tillman surname. It reads:  “1. English: variant of Tilman. 2. Americanized spelling of German Tillmann.”  I still wanted to know more.

I decided the best way to find out more about the Tillman name would be to trace the roots of the slave owner, John Tillmon of Jasper County, GA.  According to the 1850 slave schedules, he was the owner of my 4th great-grandfather, Joe Tillman and my 3rd great-grandfather, Abraham “Abe” Tillman.  Information regarding this connection is forthcoming.

My research into John Tillmon‘s genealogy uncovered a document for Richard Tilghman, his 9th great-grandfather.  In this document it states that 12 generations prior to the birth of Richard Tilghman, there was a John Tilghman, or Tylman that was a contemporary with William the Conqueror (Ancestral Records and Portraits [The Grafton Press] Vol. II, p. 514-).

The modern version of Tillman began in England as Tilghman.  In England, the Tilghman family was associated with a specific Family Crest and Coat of Arms.

Tilghman Crest 1

Tilghman Crest 2

Tilghman Crest 3

Tillman Crest 4

Though each image possesses its own individuality, what makes one able to identify them as belonging to the Tilghman family are the Crest (a crowned lion at the very top), the Helmet (a helmet from a suit of armor), and a Shield of the Arms (a roaring and attacking lion).  Each Crest and Coat of Arms was unique to each family.   It was against Royal Law to duplicate any Family Crest and Coat of Arms (Heraldry Resources).

John Tillmon’s family tree indicates that the Tilghman spelling remained consistent until around the 17th century when the Tilghmans started making their journey from England to Virginia (Heritage Consulting. Millennium File [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003).

The first Tilghmans born (in John Tillmon’s lineage only) on United States soil were Gideon Tilghman (circa 1645) and Roger Tilghman (circa 1650), sons of Christopher S. Tilghman, II and Ruth Devonshire.  In 1680, Roger Tilghman married Susannah Parham Hunt.  Together, they had nine children.  Five of their children have the last name of “Tilghman” and the others have “Tillman.”  Birth order did not seem to be a factor in the variations of the last names.  Their 4th child (or possibly 7th), George “Tillman” (b. circa 1683) is the 3rd great-grandfather of John Tillmon.

By the time George Tillman married Mary House in 1701, the name “Tilghman” had been completely Americanized as “Tillman.” However, it is not uncommon to find alternate spellings as “Tilman,” and “Tillmon” from the 18th to 19th centuries.  Unfortunately, I am unable to ascertain with certainty if this is due to misspellings on the behalf of family members or records administrators.

John Tillmon was married three times and had a total of 12 children.  He died in 1886.  Many of his descendants left Georgia and settled in Mississippi and Texas.