Ansley family can boast heritage from British shores to Georgia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

In an earlier column, the Ansley family was introduced, and the Duncan McLean Ansley line was covered in some depth. In response to that writing, considerable early genealogy on the Ansley family has been provided that allows further coverage. Today’s column will be a look at the earlier ancestors and generations leading to that of Duncan McLean Ansley.

The researchers of this family have not been able to clearly document the immigrant ancestor from England, but they have narrowed it to two likely ones. One family tradition holds that Gilbert Ansley came to this country between 1755 and 1760 and brought several of his children with him. It is also thought that he may have been a soldier serving in the British Army. Another belief is that William Ansley was the immigrant ancestor.

The genealogy of this William will be presented in today’s narrative. Researchers have calculated his birth as occurring between 1700 and 1717 and that he died in 1773. One of the earliest records of him in this country is the date, June 8, 1735, that he joined the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church in Monmouth County, New Jersey. There were 59 to become new members at the time, but William’s wife did not do so until a year later. It is believed that they were not yet married in June 1735.

William and Rebecca were married around 1736, and their first son was born in 1737. They reared the following children: Thomas, b. 1737; Benjamin, b. 1738, d. 1778; Rebecca, b. 1744; and twin, William, b. 1744; Mary, b. 1745, m. Job Morris; Ann, b. ca 1746, m. Moses Robbins; and Elizabeth, b. 1750s, m. Jacob Morris. Following Rebecca’s death, William was married to Elizabeth Cocke (Cox?), but they did not have any children. The line of the oldest son, Thomas, will be followed in this writing.

Thomas and his wife, Rebecca Cocke (Cox) began their family circa 1760 supposedly in New Jersey. Their first child, Abel, was born in 1761. By 1770, they have migrated to the State of Georgia where they continued adding to their family. They reared the following children: Abel, b. 1761, m. 1790 Lydia Morris; Samuel; Thomas Jr.; William, b. 1770; Rebecca, b. ca 1771; Nancy; Joseph; and James.

When Thomas arrived in Georgia in 1770, he received Lot 28 in Wrightsboro and 200 acres in the Germany Creek area. In 1772, when the state was offering land to encourage settlers, he received an additional 100 acres plus 50 acres for each child born into the family. He had at least two children to qualify, William and Rebecca.

The early 70s was a period of considerable unrest due to the conflict between the American Colonists and the British supporters. This may have motivated Thomas to purchase six acres on Germany Creek in 1774 and move his family to that location in the Wrightsboro settlement. They lived there for several months before moving in the spring of 1775. They had apparently lived previously on 100 acres of his original land grant, and Thomas had sold the other 100 acres to his brother, Benjamin Ansley. Benjamin left that area in 1778 and moved his family to Savannah.

During this period Thomas was away from home for some time. One record indicates he and his son, Thomas Jr., were refugees from the State of Georgia for a period of time. He appears to have been seeking safety from the British army and to be assisting the American colonists.

Upon his return to his home in Georgia, Thomas was elected to serve in the State General Assembly during the crucial period of 1781 to 1782. He resigned after four months due to him moving to Wilkes County. There he served the remainder of 1782 as Justice of Wilkes County, and he also served in that role in 1783 and 1786. He certainly appeared to be a very influential and respected citizen of his home county, Richmond, and the others to which he moved.

Once in Wilkes County in 1782, he needed a home for his family, so he set about building the Rock House in Thomson of McDuffie County that has become quite historical. He constructed the house in the architectural style of New Jersey and in a manner that would be safe from fires and bullets. In 1798, he and Rebecca deeded the house to their son, Abel, and his wife, Lydia (Morris).

Thomas built another house that he and Rebecca would live in for the remainder of their lives. He had encouraged his children to settle their families around him and Rebecca by deeding them land acreage once they were on their own or married. By 1795, he was serving as Justice of Warren County, but he seems to have retired from public life after this tenure. He died in 1809, and Rebecca followed him in 1815.

In recent years, a friend of the family, Pearl Baker of Thomson, led the effort to restore the Rock House to its original glory. It stands today as one of the oldest houses in that part of the country. In 1974, Kenneth M. Thomas, Jr. of the State of Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Office of Planning and Research, Historic Preservation Section, Atlanta, Georgia, published a book entitled The Rock House. He termed his work “An Analysis of an Historic Site.” On November 21, 1981, a dedication service staged by The Wrightsboro Quaker Community Foundation, Inc., historical, preservation organization of Thomson to celebrate the restoration of the Rock House.

Appropriate heritage organizations have since erected a marker on the grounds of the Rock House that recognizes the service of Thomas Ansley as a private in the U.S. Army, or the name it was called at that time. His dates of 1737 to 1809 are inscribed on the marker, but the location is not the site of his grave. The burial place of these early Ansley ancestors has not been located.

A number of Ansley descendants have conducted genealogical research on this family. One significant publication, A History of Descendants of Thomas Ansley of Warren County, Georgia, Volume I, was compiled by Phyllis Ansley Griffin and published in 1979. Appreciation is expressed to a local Ansley descendant, Jan Roach, who shared her family genealogical records for this writing.

Futher history of this family will be continued in the next column. Anyone who might see any needed correction or who has additional information on this family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, Al 36420; 334-222-6467; or e-mail: