Once following a genealogy conference, I had the opportunity to talk with a visiting archivist. I shared with him my frustration that my 3rd great grandfather, James Ganus, has been so difficult to find, while I have so much on his parents and siblings. I had to admit that some of James’ family seemed to have a nose for trouble, so they and their escapades are found with some ease in newspapers and court records. It took me by surprise when the archivist suggested that perhaps James was difficult to find because he was the biggest, baddest one of them all and that just maybe he had managed to fly under the radar! My James, I thought?!! I’ve tried to be open minded and accepting as I’ve researched, recognizing that times in the 1800’s were different and it is difficult for us today to fully understand the circumstances that led to certain behavior and choices back then, but as I consider the meager findings that I have on James, I still find it hard to believe that his name was synonymous with trouble.
|Notice close proximity of Bibb and Monroe Counties
James next moved to Fayette county.
I first found James Gurganus listed among the unclaimed letters in “The Macon Messenger,” on April 1st, 1827. Macon was in Bibb County and that placed him very close to where I had hoped to find him since his son, John Monroe Ganus, had always claimed to have been born in neighboring Monroe County in 1826. While James can not be found on the 1830 census for either Monroe or Bibb County, in 1832 James drew land in the Land Lottery from Justice, Bibb County, Georgia alongside his father David Gurganus. In 1834, both James Gurganus and David Gurganus paid taxes on their lottery land, this time in Captain Ross’s District of Monroe County. In 1840 James was listed on the Fayette County, Georgia Federal Census and in 1841 he paid taxes on that same piece of lottery property while living in Fayette County. From 1840 on, I find James going by simply James Ganus in the census records and tax digests until the end of his life. While apparently the way that he said “Ganus” remained consistent, certainly the spelling did not and I find him in the 1841 Fayette County Tax Digest as James Gaynos and on the DeKalb Agricultural Census in 1850 as James Gainus. It was not unusual to have such variation in name spelling back then, nor was it bad.
It’s also been difficult to determine who James’s friends were as I have not been able to find him on other people’s deeds or as a witness in wills. From one census to another, he is living among completely different people each time, which has also made it hard to know just who he associated with over the course of his life.
James’s son, John Monroe Ganus, did indicate on several different church membership records that his parents were James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey, so I do know that James married Elizabeth although no marriage records has been found. I do know from census records that James and Elizabeth (Betsy) had ten children that lived, but there are some significant gaps that make me think that there were children that did not survive. Mary, John Monroe, Margaret, David, Rebecca, William Jackson, James W., Calloway, Martha Elizabeth and Addison R. all are found on census records with their parents, James and Elizabeth Ganus.
On the 1870 census James was shown living with his daughter and oldest known child, Mary and her husband Burton W. Cook in Fayette County, but by 1880, he is nowhere to be found. The last piece of evidence that I have for James is from 1871 when he served as a witness for his son-in-law, Burton W. Cook, when Burton claimed civil war damages in an effort to gain compensation from the Federal Government. On the document, it indicates that James was living in East Point, Fulton County, Georgia. I have not been able to find a will, probate or even a headstone for James
As I have written this, I have realized that I probably do have more than I thought on James, but truthfully it pales in comparison to what I have been able to find on his parents and siblings. I just lack the detail that would help me know something about who James really was and what he really did in his life. I know approximately when James was born, which was about 1798 in North Carolina, and I know about when he died, which would have been sometime after 1871 but before 1880. So while I know a little (and very little at that) about his beginnings and even less about his end, I know next to nothing about what he did in-between. However I’ve found nothing that would lead me to believe that he was the biggest or the baddest of his family. If indeed he did purposely fly under the radar, he apparently was really really good at it.