WEEK 20: Margaret DeGarmo – Black Sheep Mama

I’ve been busy traveling and visiting with family this month which has put me a little behind on my 52 Ancestors posts. So I’m attempting to get caught up.

This theme for Week 20 was “Black Sheep”. I had already blogged about the most prominent “black sheep” in my husband’s family, James Peter Larry. But how did he get that way? This week, I take a look at his parents, specifically his mother, to see if bad blood really runs through the family.

James’ mother was Margaret “Peggy” DeGarmo. She was born around 1806 to Samuel DeGarmo and Elizabeth Grimes, and grew up in Randolph, Virginia.

It appears that Peggy had 3 children out of wedlock in her early 20s, which must have been scandalous in its day. They were Cushing DeGarmo, born 1825; Angeline DeGarmo, born 1833;  and Jacob DeGarmo, born 1836. All 3 children were born in Virginia.

At some point between 1836 and 1838, Peggy and her 3 children moved to Perry County, Ohio. She had a brief relationship with Peter O’Leary, and had one child; James Peter Larry. It is not known if she had ever married Peter O’Leary. But there’s a story that he ended up being incarcerated for murder. Again, this is a story not proven.

Finally, Peggy settled down with Thomas Downey. They married in 1853 in Perry County, Ohio. However, Thomas and Peggy had about 6 children born before they were married: Elizabeth, born 1840; Margaret, born 1841; Prudence, born 1843; Mary, born 1845; Eli, born 1846; and John, born 1850.

Thomas Downey died around 1858 in Ohio. After his death, Peggy moved to Vernon County, Wisconsin with most of her children. She could be found in the 1870 Census living near her children: Eli, Prudence and Elizabeth, who had all married and had children of their own. There were 2 grandchildren living with her, Isaac and Sarah DeGarmo. They were the children of her eldest son, Cushing DeGarmo, who was killed in the Civil War.

Two years later, Peggy DeGarmo Downey, mother of 10, died in Liberty, Wisconsin.


  1. Hello,
    I descend from James Peter O’Leary/Leary/Larry. I did a fair amount of research about 15-20 years ago and then youth hockey, cows, etc. sort of took over life. I’m now a retired youth hockey mom, with only cows over running my life, and I’m wanting to get back into my research.

    I’m going mostly off memory here, but James Peter & Rachel Shilling had a son, Thomas, he was married to Celeste Jennings, and their daughter Mabel Ellen Larry was my great-great grandmother.

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