One unexpected discovery in my family history research was learning that my great-great grandfather John Cook was illegitimate. I’m not sure if I would have figured it out on my own.
My cousin Pat Lowe, who started working on the Cook family history decades ago, added that tidbit to the information available on the relevant FamilySearch profiles.
When I first looked at the U.S. Census records listing John and his mother Frances and his grandfather George, I thought perhaps George had taken a much younger wife and was John’s father. In those days, the census didn’t ask for the relationships of people in the household.
Pat learned from the older generation that Frances was George’s daughter. She never married but she had eight children, all allegedly by the same father.
George Cook was a veteran of the War of 1812. According to a discharge document, he was born in South Carolina. He settled in Georgia and married the widow Rebecca Jane Johnson Sizemore when he was about 45 years old. They had nine children. Jane had two children from her first marriage.
George and Frances shared a home in Marion County, Georgia.
I wonder what he thought of Frances’ love affair. I wonder how the community reacted, and what they knew. Did her lover provide for his illicit family?
I know that John Cook came to a bad end, killed in a gunfight. According to an article published in the Marion County Patriot, John’s son was drinking with some other fellows, and John “came up and called him off.” The other fellows started shooting. Tom and Frank Kemp were later found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
John’s son John Cyle was hit three times. He survived that night, but he would die by the gun 19 years later. The Columbus Ledger reported he got into an argument over moonshine whiskey.
Frances’ oldest son, William Thomas Cook, and her oldest daughter, Nancy Georgiann Cook, both ended up moving to Texas. Frances’ youngest daughter Fannie died in Alabama in 1972. It’s not clear what became of the other five children.
I hope that someday I’ll find DNA matches or some other evidence that will help me uncover the truth behind the family mystery and identify Frances’ paramour.