Finding Your Folks: Seeking info on William Allen and Alpha Johnson Cochran

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I am really big on keeping non-related people in my family tree. Although they may not be related to me, they are all connected to my family somehow. Admittedly, some of the "daisy chains" get pretty long and several are really "way" out there, but I have a method to my madness.

First, I learned very early that it is common to find several brothers from one family married to several sisters in another family, so it is wise to seek and keep parents of in-laws.

Second, when I go searching on Rootsweb for a family and no one has posted it, I feel it is helping someone out to post any documented information I've come across on that family. So, if it is connected in any way to mine, I add it to my family tree and update it on Rootsweb. I remember when I first started some of my research and there was nothing … I mean absolutely nothing … on some of my surnames. It was very frustrating, to say the least.

The couple above, William A. and Alpha (Johnson) Cochran, are two of those people who are not related but are connected to me through a marriage into the Norris family. Last week, I was contacted by Loretta Cochran of Louisiana who wanted to know if I had anything on William or Alpha's parents which, of course, I did not. I had not worked on the Cochrans in several years and had not even bothered to follow up on documenting some of the information I had received from another researcher. Shame on me.

While Loretta didn't have any proved information on William's parents, she did have a clue and generously shared her well-documented research on the rest of the family. Most of this story is from her research. These Cochrans were in that area where Coweta, Campbell and Fayette come together, today roughly near the Cannongate area, then called "McCollum." There is still much to be learned, especially about William's parents and Alpha's parents. There is a Johnson connection in one of the children's marriages and I have often wondered if there was another connection there.

I went to the Coweta Probate Office last Wednesday, expecting to find some type of records on this family but, surprisingly, there were none. Loretta quoted many sources from Campbell County so most of the records must be there. However, I know several are buried in Coweta County. Why their records are not in that county is unknown.

Until I started searching, I never knew there were so many ways one could mutilate the name "Cochran." I have found them under everything from Cockram to Cothran and Loretta went me one better, telling me they were under "Cohorn" in the 1850 census. And, sure enough, there they were.

William Allen Cochran was born about 1807 in either Tennessee or South Carolina. The 1850 Campbell County census says Tennessee but, according to the file she sent me, Loretta found another reference indicating South Carolina. William Allen Cochran also appears in the 1840 Campbell County census, living next door to a William Cochran age 80-90 who may be his father.

Going back another 10 years, records show that William "Cohrom" married "Affa" Johnson on Dec. 9, 1830, in Newton County (another "creative" spelling).

William and Alpha headed for Campbell County (now South Fulton) and settled between Fairburn and Palmetto. By 1840, they had five children: William Pressley (1832), John Allen (1834), James Elisha (1835), George Thomas (1838), and Mary Jane (1840). By 1850 they added four more: Nancy Elizabeth (1842), Sarah Tiletha (1844), Solomon Samuel (1847) and Edward (1850). Loretta added another that I didn't find, Sylvester Coleman (1853).

There is quite a lot to tell about this family but I'm just going to hit the high spots this week. I'll give you more detail next week.

William Pressley Cochran married Savannah Hartley, daughter of William Hartley and Susan Hydes and they had 10 children. William is Loretta's husband's ancestor so she had quite a bit on him. William was a professor at the first Boys' Academy in Fayette County. He died in 1890 and Savannah died in 1913. They are both buried at Antioch Church Cemetery in Fairburn.

John Allen Cochran married (1) Pelley Lavinia Shelnutt, daughter of John Shelnutt and Elizabeth White and had two children. John then married (2) Elender Hartley, sister of his brother's wife, Savannah Hartley. They had five children.

James Elisha Cochran married Susan Elizabeth Shelnutt, sister of his brother's wife, Pelley Lavinia, and they had 10 children. It was said that James never cut his hair and wore it in braids to his shoulders. He claimed Indian blood on both his father's and his mother's bloodlines. His application for Eastern Cherokee status was filed in 1908 but was rejected. He died in 1918 and was buried at Antioch.

George Thomas Cochran married Matilda B. Foster in Campbell County and had two girls. George served in the Confederate Army, as did most of William Cochran's sons.

Solomon Samuel Cochran married Lucinda Matilda Norris, daughter of John "Jethro" Norris and Mary Johnson. This is my connection. Lucinda Matilda was the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Norris. They had seven children and are buried at Rock Springs Missionary Baptist Church on Fischer Road in Coweta County.

Sylvester Coleman Cochran married Mary Unknown and lived in Haralson County. They had four children.

Loretta had nothing on the girls (Mary Jane, Nancy Elizabeth and Sarah Tiletha) or their spouses and I haven't been able to find anything yet either. Your information is most welcome. We will have more on this family next week.

Family histories about your ancestors who lived on Atlanta's south side are always welcome. Send them to or Mail to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214. All letters and e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column

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