Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spotlight: Jesse Thomas and Rebecca

Very little is known about my 3rd great-grandparents, Jesse Thomas and Rebecca (maiden name unknown). At least, I don’t know much about them and haven’t found anyone else who does either. The only records I have found for them to date are the 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870 censuses. They were in Murray County, Georgia in 1840, Lumpkin County, Georgia in 1850 and back in Murray County in 1860. By 1870, Rebecca was in Logan County, Kentucky living near two of their daughters but Jesse was not with her.

Jesse was born about 1802 in either Georgia or South Carolina and Rebecca was born about 1807 in Georgia. The 1840 census indicates six possible children – 2 males under 5, 1 female under 5, 1 female 5-10 and 2 females 10-15.

In 1850, there were five children living with Jesse and Rebecca. William was 14 so he would have been one of the two males under 5 in 1840. Oliver and Daniel were 5 and 2 respectively so neither of them was the other male under 5 in 1840. One of the females 10-15 in 1840 was Mary. She wasn’t listed with the family in 1850 as she was already married but her headstone gives her birth year as 1828 so she was about twelve in 1840. Margaret’s estimated birth year varies in every census record so she could have been born in 1836 (1850), 1839 (1860) or 1841 (1870). The 1850 census shows her as 14 but that is also the age listed for William. Unless they were twins, one of them was slightly older or younger. Assuming Margaret was born in 1836, she would have been the female under 5 in 1840. If she was a little older than 14, she could have been the female 5-10. There is even the possibility that she wasn’t listed at all in 1840 if her age in the 1870 census was correct. Nancy was 10 in 1850 so she could have been the female under 5 in 1840 (and that would make Margaret the female 5-10). If both Nancy and Margaret were in the 1840 record then there was one other daughter born between 1825-1830. If only Margaret was included, then there was a second unknown daughter born between 1830-1835.

Based on all of that, Jesse and Rebecca’s children were: an unknown daughter born between 1825-1830; Mary born 14 Jun 1828; a possible unknown daughter born between 1830-1835; an unknown son born between 1835-1840; William born about 1836; Margaret born about 1836; Nancy born about 1840; Oliver born about 1845 and Daniel born about 1848.

By the 1860 census, Nancy, Oliver and Daniel were the only three children still living with Jesse and Rebecca. Mary married James M. Echols on 16 Jan 1845 in Forsyth County, Georgia. They were in Forsyth County in census records from 1850 to 1880. Margaret married John R. Petty on 20 Sep 1857 in Whitfield County, Georgia. They were in McMinn County, Tennessee in 1860 and Logan County, Kentucky in 1870. William’s whereabouts in 1860 and thereafter are unknown.

Nancy married Joseph Petty (John R.’s brother) on 20 Jun 1860 in Logan County, Kentucky. Rebecca, Nancy & Joseph and Margaret & John R. were all in the Keystone District in Logan County in 1870. Daniel and Mary’s son, John Echols, were living with Rebecca. Fifteen year-old James Thomas was also living with them. His relationship is undetermined. It is possible but unlikely that he was Jesse and Rebecca’s son since he wasn’t listed with them in 1860 and Rebecca would have been about 48 years old when he was born. He may have been a grandson (the son of either William or the unknown son).

Jesse’s occupation was miner in 1850 when they lived in Lumpkin County. Since there was no real estate value listed for him, it appears he did not own property in Lumpkin County but a review of the actual deed records is required to verify that. Jesse was a farm laborer in 1860 in Murray County. The term “laborer” indicates he was working for someone else and did not own his own farm. The census record shows he owned real estate valued at $200 but there are no property records for him in Murray County. 

Jesse and Rebecca have not been located in the 1830 census. They were apparently married with two children by that time but may have been living with one or the other's parents. The area that eventually became Lumpkin and Murray Counties was formerly Cherokee lands and became Cherokee County in 1831. 

Research to do:
  1. Search records in Lumpkin, Forsyth and Cherokee Counties. 
  2. Research John R. Thomas who lived near Mary in Forsyth County in 1860. Based on his age in 1860 he was about 5 years older than the unknown son but that's not enough to rule him out.
  3. Search 1840 census records for other Thomas households in the area. 
(Note: Murray and Whitfield County records have already been searched at the respective courthouses.)


  1. Nice timeline Linda! Your deductive reasoning seems spot on to me. Are there any church records in these areas that you might explore?

  2. Hi, this is a 3 year late response to this blog post, but I found your post very useful.

    I believe my ancestor, William Thomas is the William you mention, son of Jesse and Rebecca Thomas.

    I descend from a Nancy M Thomas who married Elias Bryant in Dawson Georgia. Nancy was a daughter of William C Thomas who married Amanda Langston in 1854 in Gilmer County Georgia.

    In the 1860 census William Thomas is listed as born about 1837 in Georgia with his wife Amanda and children were listed as:
    James born about 1856
    and Jesse

    I've found two Williams in the 1850s census that could be him. One is a family in Gilmer County, Georgia, with parents Charles and Sarah Thomas. At first I thought this was correct since it's the same county, though I found no other connections, including now name overlap for Williams two sons.

    The other of course is the household of Jesse and Rebecca Thomas. William matches the age right, it would explain his son being named Jesse after his father, and it's just in the county next door.

    By the 1870 census both William and Amanda were dead (or gone) and the children were split up. The famly legend is he died at he battle of Manassas in the Civil War and that Nancy's middle initial is M for Manassas. I haven't verified his war service but his children wre orphaned somehow. His two daughters are living in the 1870 census with their maternal grandmother Clarissa Langston... and from what you point out here it seems James is living with has paternal grandmother Rebecca Thomas.

    After all these things I think it's quite likely my William Thomas is the son of Jesse and Rebecca which would make us cousins :)

    1. Matthew,
      This is exciting news. It certainly explains the 15-year-old James living with Rebecca in 1870. Please email me at

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. So just found another piece of evidence to support my William being the son of Jesse... this pretty much confirms it. In the 1870 census for Mary Thomas (married to James Echols) Jesse Thomas is living with them in Forsyth, he's the right age to be the son of my William. So it looks like the orphaned Thomas kids split up by the 1870 census:

    Angenet and Nancy went to their maternal grandmother Clarissa Langston in Gilmer/Dawson County, Georgia
    James went with his paternal grandmother Rebecca Thomas in Logan County, Kentucky
    Jesse went with his aunt Mary

    1. I was just looking at that. It came back to me that Mary had a Thomas living with her at some point. Outstanding!