My Ancestral Connection to James Rufus Agee

James Rufus Agee

In a recent comment to one of my posts made by Braman’s Wanderings, I was reminded of a “famous ancestral connection” I have to Pulitzer Prize winning author, James Rufus Agee (1909-1955). I first became aware of the connection after coming into contact with several relatives researching the Agee family.

Throughout his career, James Agee was an author, journalist, poet, screenwriter, and film critic. He is recognized as one of the most influential film critics, and some have arguably credited him with establishing film criticism as a genre. As a critic and journalist, he worked for the Times, Fortune, and The Nation. His more notable literary works include Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), which is about the daily lives of poverty-stricken sharecroppers in Alabama; and screenplays The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), both staring well-known actors. He is, however, best remembered for his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957), which was both published and won Agee the Pulitzer Prize (1958) after his death in 1955.

My research into the Agee family reveals that my ancestral connection to James Agee comes by way of a branch in my paternal grandmother’s ancestry, stretching back to Anthony Agee (1719-1799), my 8th great grandfather. However, both James Agee’s and my grandmother’s descent from Anthony Agee comes by way of two different wives. Anthony was born in 1719 in Manakintowne, Goochland Co., Virginia the son of Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735), a Huguenot émigré, and Cecelia Ann Gandovin (1691-1761). In 1740, he married Nancy Jane Binion (1723-1750), with whom he had at least five children, one of which was Matthew Agee (1747-1823), my grandmother’s 5th great grandfather. After Nancy’s death, he married Christian Worley (1727-1815) in 1751, with whom he had at least seven children, one of which was Isaac Agee (1752-1845), James Rufus Agee’s 3rd great grandfather.

The following is a chart that shows the descent of James Agee and my paternal grandmother, Margaret Lapham, from Anthony Agee (1719-1799):

James Agee’s Line: My Grandmother’s Line:
1 Anthony Agee (1719-1799) m. Christian Worley (1727-1815) 1 Anthony Agee (1719-1799) m. Nancy Jane Binion (1723-1750)
2 Isaac Agee (1752-1845) m. Mary Ann Smith (1755-1823) 2 Matthew Agee (1747-1823) m. Mary Ligon (1749-1824)
3 James Agee (1788-1843) m. Elizabeth Tudor (1793-1865) 3 Matthew Agee (1787-1856) m. Sarah Mary Coats (1792-1836)
4 James Harris Agee (1827-1892) m. Mary Comer (1830-1918) 4 Isaac Agee (1811-1900) m. Cordelia Thornton (1815-1893)
5 Henry Clay Agee (1850-1916) m. Moss Lamar (ca1860-1943) 5 John Agee (1839-1912) m. Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920)
6 Hugh James Agee (1878-1916) m. Laura Whitman Tyler (1885-1966) 6 Otto W. Agee (1868-1904) m. Tirzah Olive Stephens (1873-1967)
7 James Rufus Agee (1909-1955) 7 Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983) m. Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977)
8 Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985) m. Theodore A. Lapham (1910-1955)
9 Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004)

Based on the generations of descent from Anthony Agee listed above, my paternal grandmother, Margaret Lapham, and James Agee are 5th cousins, 2x removed. This makes James Agee my 5th cousin, 4x removed.

Genealogy Source: Constance J. Christopherson Barnum’s Agee Lineages: Descendants of Mathieu Agee, the Immigrant, and Related Families (2008).