Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Story of Picus and Grizzell Austin

The Highly Caffeinated Genealogist Presents:
A Story of the American Revolution

Picus and Grizzell (Tourjee) Austin
Image on Left from Fold3 Pension Record of Picus Austin
M804 Roll 93, Page 40, Image on Right from
(Larger document of the one from Fold3 linked here in case you want to look at it)

Picus Austin (John4, John3, Edward2, Robert1) and his wife Grizzell Tourgee (Thomas2, Piere1) were both born and married in the area of Rhode Island, known as South County. That area name is not a county at all but it is a nickname given to it to separate it from the upper part of Rhode Island. You wouldn't think the smallest state in the union needed to keep areas "apart" but since each village had its own colorful people and traditions, people living in one area wanted to make sure everyone knew who they were talking about. Even to today, Rhode Islanders are known for their conversations.

Early Rhode Island vital records can be hard to come by and when researching, you must turn to John Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island as a place to start and then check Arnold's Vital Records and hope, not only do they appear listed but reflect the same names and dates. Records of marriage are more common than birth or death.

That's why this small page in  the pension file of Picus Austin is so special. George G. Morgan states in his book, How to Do Everything Genealogy, 4th ed., 2015 McGraw Hill Education, on page 240, "When the veteran died, his widow could apply for a continuation of her husband's pension for herself. She had to provide evidence of her marriage...submitted proof in the form of the actual Bible pages for births, marriages and deaths. These pages were REMOVED from the Bible and they are among the contents of the pension file held at NARA."  

I think this small piece of evidence shown here, written by Picus Austin himself was part of this family's personal records. I can't imagine ripping out records and giving them away, can you?

Picus did not apply for his own pension and it wasn't until his widow was 94 years old, did she apply for it. All nine of this couple's children were born in Rhode Island and not all of them were listed on this small paper in the pension record as you can see. Since Sarah was born in 1776, this document must have been written before that date.

Austin gives us the first four generations of this Austin family. (The first two generations I share with Thomas MacEntee.) The rest of the Austin's are listed in Edith Austin Moore's book, The Genealogy of the Descendants of Robert Austin of Kingstown, Rhode Island, published in 1951. 

Edith's numbering system is non-standard by today's style so it can be a challenge to get the right descendants in the right order. She took the first four generations from the Genealogical Dictionary  of Rhode Island. The interesting thing about her book (available here at is the section called Part IV, Austins in the Revolution (page 604). Edith's reason for creating this genealogy, as she states on page 3 and 4 of the Preface, is not only to find her own family but also to record those who served in the Revolutionary War. That's why I waited to research his service until now.

Since I thought that Picus served in the Revolution, I am on a quest to identify my Revolutionary War ancestors in Rhode Island. I went to that section of her book and found more information than I remembered when I worked on this line some years ago. I set out to find evidence of his service.

The kicker is that I already had a line to the Tourgee/Tourjee/Targee family of French Huguenots which did not include Grizzel. Oops. back track and find her ancestors.

Genealogy work often takes surprising twists and means more research, doesn't it? Picus and Grizell were my 5th great grandparents. She signed her name for the pension record, so both of them could write as evidenced by that small piece of paper with his birth date first.

Between the 1800 and 1820 census, this family moved from Rhode Island to New York. In 1810, they stopped in the Berkshire county of Massachusetts, in a town called Tyringham, Massachusetts. Son Elnathan married a woman and had children in 1810 but who she was and who her children were, I don't know. But, he is listed in that census with a woman and two young females, separate from his parents (but on the next line) only to reappear in 1850 without them.  I do think they stayed in Massachusetts for a few years before moving to Genesee county in New York in time for the census of 1820. From another researcher, I found that one son may have moved before them to New York. This is why you have to try to research all of the children.

I can't imagine what a journey away from Rhode Island must have been like for them.

In 1820, Picus was 80 years old and Grizzell was six years younger. They were married in Rhode Island 17 Feb 1764 as it is recorded in the pension papers.

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