Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is a Mysterious Person in Your Family Tree?

We’re one week into August and the dog days of summer. Here in Tucson, for the first time in a month, the humidity level has dropped down to what I consider dry! “Oh, but it’s a dry heat” is a myth!

It’s also the first Saturday of August and it’s time for Randy Seaver’s weekly SNGF challenge:

1) Who is a mysterious person in the family tree you’d like to learn more about?

Immediately, one man in my family tree comes to mind and one more man, even more mysterious, comes to mind in my husband’s family tree.

1. Loyalist James Astle from Schenectady, New York, who married Elizabeth McLean there in 1770 and then sailed in the Fall 1783 fleet to New Brunswick, Canada.

Astle is a very rare surname in the American colonies and no records have been found for any Astle in New York except for James. We don’t know if he was the immigrant ancestor (his father might have been the immigrant, died young and his wife remarried leaving no other son besides James), or any other relatives.

Other than being at least 21 years old when he married, there is no fixed year of birth for him, either. My best guesstimate would be born c1745, but – and this is a big but – it’s possible he’s older and had an earlier marriage.

That is because in 1783 in Quebec, where the Astle family first stayed before permanently settling on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, there is a second James Astle, born 1755, living there at the same time.

Y-DNA tests show descendants of each are closely related within 4-6 generations. Therefore, it’s possible that they were father-son, cousins, or perhaps uncle-nephew.

One distant cousin joined the Guild of One-Name Studies and registered the Astle surname, but, so far, no leads have popped up as to his English origins, nor have any distantly related English cousins appeared.

James Astle’s origins are most definitely a mystery.

2. However, I know all sorts of things about James Astle compared to my husband’s ancestor, Abraham Palmer. Abraham Palmer appears on one single record – signing permission for his daughter Vianna to marry Amos Hamby on 1 January 1822 in Christian County, Kentucky. I have a digital image of the permission note and it definitely says Abraham Palmer.

His daughter Vianna was born c1805 in South Carolina, per census reports.  Therefore, if her father was at least 21 when she was born, his birth year can be estimated as no later than 1784 and probably years before that date.

No siblings have been identified for Vianna, nor has any hint of Abraham’s wife’s name been found.

Furthermore, he doesn’t appear in the tax records of Christian County, Kentucky, not even as a male over 21, he’s not in land records or probate records and there is no Abraham Palmer in the 1820 or 1830 censuses of Kentucky.

There is an 1826 marriage for an Abraham Palmer to Polly Parker alias Polly Collins in Christian County who might be Vianna’s father, but it could possibly be a brother, too, since ages aren’t given for the bride and groom.

Abraham Palmer is way more of a mystery than James Astle!

Thanks, Randy, for this week’s challenge.


4 thoughts on “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is a Mysterious Person in Your Family Tree?”

  1. You mentioned that Abraham Palmer didn’t appear in the 1820 or 1830 censues, but what about prior to that? Are earlier censues missing for South Carolina?

    As for Astle, with the dearth of records with that name, my thought is that it wasn’t the original family name.

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