Week 16 — Out of Place
The Case of Erroneous Conclusions
or 2+2 = 5?By Myra Vanderpool Gormley © 2019
When I first discovered that I had an ancestor named Absalom, I was delighted. I was weary of all the Johns, Williams, Henrys and Abrahams that I had been tracing through the records and trying to sort out. Little did I realize that Absalom would soon frustrate me more than all the others.
Working backward from the known to the unknown, I learned that Isaac Awtrey (also spelled Autry and several dozen other ways) and Araminta Bankston were my 4-great-grandparents and lived in DeKalb County, Georgia at one point. Along the way, I discovered some wonderful cousins who were most helpful in sharing information and research about our common kin. It helped greatly that many of my cousins lived in Georgia and knew its history, especially of its many counties and changing borders. This began back in the old days when we used snail mail to communicate. As we gathered and shared information, we would, independently, search for primary and good secondary sources and try to verify our branches of the tree.
We learned that Isaac (1775-1842) and Araminta (1782-1861) had nine children — four sons and five daughters, born from about 1801 to 1819 — all in Georgia:
The 1830 Census of Henry County, Georgia revealed there was 1 white male, age 80-90, in the household of Isaac Awtrey (the presumed white male, 50-60 years of age), and coupled with the finding of a rejected Revolutionary War pension application of an Absalom Awtrey dated 21 January 1833 in the same locality, it suggested that Isaac might be the son of this Absalom. Additional research in deeds and tax lists soon added more evidence to this supposition, plus in 1834 Isaac was given letters of administration in Henry County to sell the property of Absalom Awtrey to settle the estate. Absalom’s pension application provided his date of birth: 7 June 1750, and that he was born near Gastonia (which would be Anson County), North Carolina and that he had also lived in Lincoln County, North Carolina; he moved from North Carolina to Spartanburg County, South Carolina (lived there 10 months) and removed back to Lincoln County, North Carolina, and from there he went to Greene County, Georgia to Jackson County, Georgia, and to Henry County, Georgia, where he resided in 1833. (Love the migration history mentioned in these pension files.)
Sometime later the 1800 Family Bible of Isaac Awtrey and Araminta Bankston was found stashed away in a descendant’s trunk. It was scanned and made available to all the cousins. It revealed, among other genealogical things, that Absalom was the father of Isaac, and that Absalom had died March ___ 1833 (per the Bible entry) and Absalom’s wife, Lucy, had died earlier on 12 Nov. 1818.
Imagine my surprise when a “cousin” informed me that my information about Absalom was incorrect and that Absalom was born about 1740 and had been a Tory (Loyalist) officer, served as a First Lieutenant in Colonel David Fanning’s Regiment and that after the war he had removed to Saint Clair County, Alabama and died there in 1833.
Interestingly, this cousin had same day and month for a birth date (just different year) for Absalom, and also had a similar name for his wife. A bit of research revealed that Absalom Autry, the Tory, was recruited from Randolph County, North Carolina (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. 22, p. 196, https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr22-0043 ) and had participated in an incident which is recorded in the Revolutionary War history of North Carolina:
“He [David Fanning] and his raiders first rode to Col. [Andrew] Balfour's plantation. When they arrived, the Loyalists immediately opened fire. Absalom Autry fired at Col. Balfour and the shot broke his arm. Col. Balfour made his way back into the house to protect his daughter and his sister. The Loyalists rushed the house and pulled Col. Balfour away from the women, then riddled his body with bullets. Even Col. Fanning fired his pistol into Balfour's head. The women were kicked and beaten until they fled to the home of a neighbor.”
The information about this Tory officer of the same name as my ancestor does not match what I’ve found in the records for my Revolutionary War ancestor who was a Patriot, although a number of online trees have my Absalom’s date of birth and claim his wife was Lucy (or a variant thereof). Some even have a few of his children that I have, and at least one has an additional wife for him.
I’d say that something is out of place here.