Who Is Absalom Pennington’s Father? Can you help us find him?
Copyright By LaRae Free Kerr 21 Jan 2006
[Note that when I wrote this document I did not have the 1778 land grant, though it may not make any difference in the end. Was the transcriber of that land grant sure it was Absalom, not Abraham?]
Our Absalom Pennington was born about 1752 in an unknown place. He was probably a Revolutionary War Soldier though his records have not been found (a not uncommon event) because his granddaughter, Hannah Free Wells, told her son she remembered his receiving a fairly large one-time pension payment and because he had a 1795 land grant in Morganton, North Carolina. One researcher assumed he had served in the Revolutionary War because he had land in Greene County, Tennessee, also.
Absalom Pennington did pay taxes on land in Greene County, Tennessee in 1783 along with two Perkins and Samuel Sherrell Sr’s sons. Since he had married Margery Perkins about 1777, and her mother was a Sherrill, it is possible he would have known they were distantly related. AP and Margery had a daughter they named Mary about 1778, probably in North Carolina. She was called by the standard nickname for Mary, Polly. Mary was her grandmother’s name which indicates the family followed the common naming practice for parts of the South. The first son was typically named after the father’s father; the first daughter after the mother’s mother, etc.
The next tax list for Greene County, Tennessee available to me via internet, the 1787/8 list did not include Absalom Pennington nor the Sherrills. Actually, the list was very short so may have been partly destroyed. In 1783 Greene County was somewhat larger than it was in 1806.
In the 1790 Morgan, Burke, North Carolina census, his name was spelled Absalom Peniton. In the 1800 Burke County North Carolina census his name was spelled Absalom Penitent. In the 1810 Jefferson, Rutherford, Tennessee census, it was spelled Absolom Penelton. I have seen the name spelled Penington, Pinington, Pinnington, Piniton, Pennyton, as well.
In the 1818, 1820 and 1830 censuses of St Clair County, Illinois his name was spelled Absalom Pennington. His grandson and great grandsons are all clearly Absalom Penningtons.
His will was probated in 1838: Will of Absalom Pennington from Clerk of Circuit Court Belleville, ILL. Book B pp 202-3. Jan 12, 1838. "In the name of God Amen I Absalom Pennington in the County of St Clair and State of Illinois I being mindful of my mortality do this 1st day of October One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Seven make and publish this my last will and testament in manner following first I desire my body to be decently buried after all expenses and debts are paid what is then left of moneys or debts due me shall be divided equally between my daughter Polly and her children. I do hereby constitute and appoint Absalom P Free my grandson sole executor of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year first written. in presence of David Angle , Isaac Rainy. Absalom Pennington His mark LaRae Free Kerr corr bk I #18 133L on shelf
So who are his parents? Whoever they are, they must meet these requirements. His father was probably born before 1732, married before 1752 and died after 1752. If his daughter named any of her children after Absalom’s father, his name will be Joseph Allen, John Page, William Hart, Leroy or Isaac.
AP’s mother would have been born before 1737 and died after 1752. If her daughter named any of her children after Absalom’s mother, her name would be Elizabeth or Mildred.
There are only a few Absalom Penningtons in US history. And they may not be related to each other. An Absalom Pennington born about 1784 lived in St Helena Parish, Louisiana Territory. He is probably the son of Abraham Pennington born 1755. He married Rebecca Courtney in 1806 and had at least 8 children, one of whom was Absalom Pennington born before 1811.
There are three Absalom Penningtons in the early US censuses: our AP in Illinois, the AP born 1784 in Louisiana and another AP in Amite county, Mississippi Territory in 1810. It is possible the Louisiana and Mississippi AP entries represent the same man.
An Absolom Pennington born 1854 in Alabama was the son of Joel Harrison Pennington and Hanna Caroline Hembree. John Absolom Pennington was born 18 May 1857 in Virginia to Zion Pennington and Mary Matilda Lloyd. These and several others are all too late to be ours.
In fact, our AP is old enough to be the father of the Louisiana Absalom Pennington, but he certainly is not. Not only do we have clear family records indicating AP’s only child was Mary who married Andrew Free, but AP’s will could not be clearer about his descendants.
So who are AP’s parents? I’ve looked for them for forty years. The Pennington Research Association has no mention of his parents. In the materials I’ve collected over these years, I’ve found three suggestions by other researchers. One believed AP was the son or brother to Jacob Pennington father of Naomi Penningon 1772-1849 of Lawrence County, Tennessee who ended up living near AP in St Clair County, Illinois before she died.
Or our AP may be the brother to Jacob and the son of Abraham Pennington born 1718 who died in Berkley County in 1756. When I looked carefully at these families, part of PRA Group 8, to see if our AP belonged, it was clear he didn’t because he wasn’t mentioned in any of the wills in that group. Sometimes one or more children are left out of a will. And Absalom clearly cleaved to his wife’s family rather than his own. But if the dates we have and the information PRA has is anywhere near accurate, our AP does not belong to Group 8.
Another researcher suggested our AP was a brother to Micajah Pennington Sr b 28 Apr 1743 Rowan County, North Carolina who married Nancy Rachel Jones and the son of Benejah Pennington who was in Catawba County North Carolina by 1770. But there was no known Absalom Pennington in his family, obviously. PRAs Group 7.
Another researcher suggested our AP is the son or brother of Jacob Pennington of Lawrence County, Tennessee who has a son named William who married Polly Perkins in Rutherford County, Tennessee 4 Nov 1817. She is the daughter of Leroy Perkins who shared a well with AP in Rutherford County. Could this Jacob be the one mentioned above? If so, it would change my conclusions about Group 8.
Of course, AP could be the original immigrant and therefore not affiliated with any of the PRA families. When written in cursive, Abraham and Absalom look very much alike. But so far, it seems that the Abrahams are clearly Abrahams in the PRA website.
So we turn to basic genealogical principles. What men of the right age and name to be AP’s father lived closest to him? In Annals of Caldwell County, it lists 111 inhabitants of the upper settlement of the Catawba river, the Yadkin river and Three Creeks of Rowan County, petitioning for a new county in 1771. Some of the petitioners are Micajah and Benj Pennington, Benjamin Pendleton and these Perkins: Robert Biggem, Joshua and John plus Samuel and Ute Sherrill.
In 1771, AP was about 19 years old. In about six years, he would marry Joshua Perkins’ daughter, the same Joshua Perkins who petitioned above. It is not too big a leap to assume that either Benj (Benajah?) or Micajah could be his father, especially since AP had land in the sw corner of Alexander County a few years later.
In ancestry.com’s marriage records these are old enough to be his parents:
Benejah Pennington b 1717 NC md 1743 to Elizabeth b 1719
Benejah Pennington b 1725 NC md 1743 to Elizabeth b 1720 (?)
(PRA’s Group 7)
From ancestry.com’s Bertie Co NC vital statistics:
Thomas Pennington b bef 1736 died aft 1757 in Bertie Co NC
(Haven’t yet found him in a PRA Group)
From ancestry.com’s SC Census:
Abraham Pennington SC Berkeley County Will Twp 1756
Isaac Pennington SC Berkeley County Will Twp 1760
Jacob Pennington SC Berkeley County Will Twp 1762
Mary Pennington SC Berkeley County Will Twp 1762
(PRA’s Group 8)
Since this is only a two-day study, I have certainly not exhausted all the possible fathers. Those listed above are from an ancestry.com survey. I have not included my court record searches because I’m between houses, and that research is in a box somewhere.
One last thing. Our AP seems to be a loner. He is the only Pennington in the 1783 Greene County tax list. He is the only Pennington in Burke County, NC 1790 census, the only Pennington receiving a Burke Co land grant, the only Pennington in the 1800 Burke County NC census, the only Pennington in 1810 Rutherford County, Tennessee census, the only Pennington in the 1820 St Clair County, Illinois census. A possible cousin, Naomi Pennington Power, does move to St Clair County, Illinois by 1830.
Further, ancestry.com does not include an Absalom Pennington by soundex and several variations of spellings born 1745 to 1755 anywhere in the world. It may mean he just isn’t indexed, or he was indeed born in the colonies.
So admitting the immense possibility of spelling errors and transcriptions as well as the idea that female relatives with different surnames may live near him, it still seems that he was a loner. Because it was in his blood? Because of a familial breakdown? Because he had no other family in the South or even in the US?
Usually this kind of analysis leads to a limiting of possible parents. But in this case, it seems to have broadened the possibilities. So what, if anything, can be done to find Absalom’s parents?
Search ‘The Penningtons of Big Buffalo” by Ruth Dickey and other published Pennington histories.
Send copies of this report to Ruth, PRA, Mae Hutchinson firstname.lastname@example.org or P O Box 432 Natalbany, LA 70451 to ask for help. Post this report on the internet?
Search the Morgan District Superior Court Records (1782-1808)
Since AP owned land in Greene Co TN in 1783, those records should be searched. I don’t remember ever looking at that particular county. AP was in Burke Co NC from 1790 to about 1805. I’ve searched many of those records but certainly not all. He was in Jefferson, Rutherford, Tennessee from about 1806 until about 1816. I hired a researcher to look at this county many years ago. Illinois and Missouri I have researched in depth.
Search DAR records. The new index might be useful here.
Look again at the materials I have collected over the past forty years.
I admit I am surprised at my feelings of defeat about AP’s family. I am known as a researcher who finds the impossible.
From the PRA site:
The spelling of Pennington varies even within families, with one or two n’s, and semi-literates often omitted g’s and occasionally substituted d’s for n’s. All are variants of the same name and the differences should not be considered too significant. I have seen Pennton, Piniton, Penitone, Penistone, Peddington, and other spellings used in error for Pennington.
There are many hypotheses in this story: ideas about relationships founded on name frequency; location in a small part of a county; common migration patterns; and cross-naming (naming sons and daughters for one’s brothers, sisters, parents, uncles, and aunts). Although these hypotheses are the simplest ones capable of explaining all the data, they are not necessarily correct! Some will probably be proven false. They are clearly marked by such words as "probably", "perhaps", or "suspect", and are proposed to be proved or disproved by further research. Our research committee is currently investigating these problems, but don’t hold your hopes too high about early proof. Records for the period around 1750 to 1776 are particularly scarce for the places where our ancestors lived. Most have already been searched
Resources mentioned above:
PRA site: www.penningtonresearch.org
Contact me through April 2006 at email@example.com. LaRae
New configuration of information thanks to Jill Shoemaker:
Absalom Pennington’s relationship to the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Pennington group 8:
1. The Leroy Perkins b abt 1780 of Nashville, Rutherford, TN who was the father of Mary (Polly) Perkins who md William son of Jacob Pennington MAY be Joshua Perkins’ son. Joshua Perkins 1728 is the brother of Margery Perkins Pennington. If so, Absalom Pennington is Polly’s Uncle by marriage. Lots of ifs. If Leroy was b about 1780, his father was 52, his mother 36 when he was born.
2. Naomi Pennington, daughter of the same Jacob Pennington, and her daughter Abigail Ford lived near Absalom Pennington in St Clair Co Ill by about 1828.
3. The only child of Mary Pennington Free with a Pennington name is Isaac who is in Group 8.