52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week #2—So Who’s Your Daddy Miss Sarah M. Sessions (and what’s your middle name)?

52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Image

(This is my second post to the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project.)

Recently, I began re-reviewing a line of my family tree that I haven’t studied in a while– that of the Sessions family. As I looked at the parentage of a certain Sarah M. Sessions, my 2nd great grandmother, I quickly realized that most researchers on Ancestry.com did not have parents noted for her. The line stopped with her– but I do have parents listed for her: Edward Sessions and Martha A. MNU (maiden name unknown). I checked FamilySearch as well but the site didn’t pull up many records on her life at all. I also scoured Google for records on the family.

As I continued this new research online, I found a copy of the book, History of Terrell County, Georgia by Ella Christie Melton and Augusta Griggs Raines and published in 1980. Studying the Sessions family names in the book brought me to a different man being named as her father than the man whom I believed in my records to be the correct person.

That definitely piqued my curiosity and put me on a trail to figure out who was the correct man.

Next, I noticed that most researchers write out Sarah M. Session’s middle name as ‘Mars.” To date, I have not found any records showing a complete middle name for her; I have only seen the middle initial ‘M.”

So, Miss Sarah M. Sessions

  1. Who’s your daddy? and
  2. What’s your middle name?

Sarah M. Sessions was supposedly born 07 December 1839 in Lee, Georgia, though I only have records proving a birth year of somewhere between 1839 and 1840 and a birthplace of Georgia. In 1840, an Edward Sessions, who may be her father, was living in Lee, Georgia so she very likely was born in Lee County.

It is believed that she passed away on 31 December 1877 in Georgia, though the town or city is unknown. Of course, I don’t have proof of her death date either. Records on this woman are rather scarce!

A record in Georgia Marriages, 1851-1900 found online provides documentation that Sarah M. Sessions married Thomas Tinsley in Terrell, Georgia on 07 Dec 1858. This is one of few records of her life that actually do exist.

Let’s start trying to figure out the answers to my questions.

In the 1850 District 50, Lee, Georgia census a Sarah Sessions, age 10 and a birth year of about 1840 and a birthplace of Georgia is living with Edward Sessions, 35; Martha A Sessions, 25; John Sessions, 12; Sarah Sessions, 10; Edward Sessions, 8; Susan Sessions, 2; and No Name Sessions, 2/12 (two months old). The relationships between persons isn’t provided but given the ages it can be reasonably assumed that this group is a set of parents living with their children. So we have a starting belief that Edward Sessions could be the father of Sarah Sessions. This same Edward lived a good part of his life in Lee, Georgia (though born in South Carolina).

Back to the book, History of Terrell County, Georgia. On pages 526 and 527 a biography of the man John James Sessions is written. It notes that he married Mary Mars and lists 14 children for this couple, with birth dates ranging from 1830-1877. This list of children includes the child #7: ‘Sarah M. (Sessions) m. Thomas Tinsley on Nov. 11, 1858.’ So, this book is noting a father for Sarah of John James Sessions. No birth date is given for this Sarah M. Sessions but these birth dates up to 1877 have the parents giving birth at the ages of 65 and 69– not likely to have happened. Also, being child #7 would put her in a birth year of approximately 1840-1845. Sarah M Sessions, according to census records, was born in 1839 (though I grant that the birth years are within a close proximity of each other).

If this record stating that John James Sessions and Mary Mars are her parents is correct, then the belief by other researchers that Sarah’s middle name is ‘Mars’ would make sense; she would have been named after her mother’s maiden name.

Next: In the 1860 District 431, Clay, Georgia census for the now husband and wife, Thomas Tinsley and Sarah Tinsley, a girl named Susan Sessions, age 13 and born 1847, is living with them. Susan’s relationship to the head of household (Thomas) is not stated but she would be assumed to be the sister of Sarah Sessions Tinsley. Here, Sarah and Susan are about seven years apart and back in the 1850 census, a Susan Sessions and a Sarah Sessions are about eight years apart in age and both have the parents of Edward Sessions and Martha A Sessions.

So who was John James Sessions? From the book, Methodist Preachers in Georgia, 1783-1900 by Harold Lawrence, we read on page 491 that he is the oldest son of Edward and Sara Sessions. In his obituary printed 03 Sep 1881 in “The Southern Christian Advocate” it notes as well his father being Edward Sessions. John James Sessions was born about 1790 in Williamsburg District, South Carolina and died about 1839 in Lee County, Georgia.

This father of John James Sessions — Edward Sessions– married twice, possibly three times: Mary MNU (maiden name unknown), Elizabeth Norton, and, possibly, a Sarah MNU. It is believed that Mary is the mother of the majority of his children, including our John James Sessions, born 1808, and his brother, Edward Sessions, born 1814 (this is the same Edward believed to be the man named as head of household in the 1850 census above and possible father of Sarah M. Sessions).

So, according to what I am thinking, John James Sessions should be the uncle of Sarah M. Sessions, not her father.

Some additional (weak) arguments for my case: Sarah M. (Sessions) Tinsley is believed to have been born in Lee, Georgia and spent her childhood there before moving to Clay, Georgia. There is only one known record of John James Sessions having resided in Lee, Georgia– the 1840 census. He was a farmer and a Methodist minister who lived most of his life in Randolph and Terrell counties, Georgia, where his children were born. The 1860 census has him residing in Georgia Militia District 1150—which is Terrell—Georgia; a Georgia, Property Tax Digests for 1872-1875 shows him in Terrell County, and the Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 also has him residing in Terrell County. As noted earlier, his obituary states he died in Terrell County, Georgia.

Next, this succession of birth years of Edward Sessions, born 1790, to his son Edward b 1815 to Sarah M Sessions, b 1839, makes much more sense in terms of natural birth generations than what was presented in the book, History of Terrell County, Georgia.

This review of her lineage and accompanying results are based on minimal records—so, honestly, I could be wrong in my belief that Edward Sessions, born 1814, is the father of Sarah M. Sessions.

I will keep researching.

If anyone has additional information to provide, including proof of either the birth or death dates or middle name of Sarah M. Sessions, I would welcome hearing from you. Please contact me and let me know your thoughts! Or any other suggestions you may have for researching this line.


  1. Vicki Clements

    Julie–I’m also a Sessions descendant, although from Edward’s brother (or uncle–I can’t recall right now) Walter. John James is a VERY common name in the family. It is the name of my great-grandfather and several of his cousins as well. It’s likely we all descend from John Sessions and Sarah Ransom. We have a large group of us from many lines using paper and DNA to learn more about our family. It seems we learn something new every week. Please contact me–we’d love to have you join us!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for reaching out. I’ll email you in the next day or two and we’ll start figuring out connections. But we start with figuring out who your Walter is– because I don’t have a Walter in this line (that I’m currently aware of)!!

      1. Vicki Clements

        Thanks to a cousin sharing this post, I realized I never answered you! Walter is the son of John and Sarah (Ransom) Sessions, one of the many whose line went thru GA to AL. I’d still love to share info and if you haven’t joined on our Facebook group of Sessions researches, let me know!

        1. Julie (Post author)

          Hi Vicki! Yes, I belong to the Sessions DNA Cousins page. Thanks for your info!

  2. David Clifton Sessions

    I am a descendent of William Robert Sessions 1840-1932 He was from Horry but moved to Rhems section of Williamsburn county in 1880 timeframe, so was wondering if he is connected to Sessions who may have lived there prior.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Hi David! Thank you for writing! I see from trees online that finding parents for your William Robert Sessions has proven difficult. I don’t have him listed in my records; however, my 4th great-grandfather was supposedly born in Williamsburg county, SC– so I’m sure that your W.R. Sessions DOES fit into the lineage somewhere! I’ll try to work on it.


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