I am literally in the middle of finishing a rough draft of a book on the descendants of James Downing-- his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, plus another generation of my own line. For the moment, I've "set aside" trying to find his parents.
However, in the 1790 Census, there was a "James Dawning" in Laurens County, SC [not ours, as ours would've been about 2 then], and he lived near Archibald Meharg. This James Downing was older and had a bunch of daughters and one son [named William, I believe]. They all went to Kentucky by 1800. But in their family accounts, "James Dawning" had a brother named William, and there is evidence in the records of Laurens County of a William Downing in Laurens County SC c1805-1810. The document I'm thinking of was an estate sale [or such] with a list of buyers [at least, this is how I read the abstract of it] which included the name of a William Downing and a James Downing [whom I've no doubt is our James Downing] as well as some Mehargs.
As you know, Thomas Jefferson Downing's mother was Mary Meharg, the daughter of Archibald Meharg. The eldest of her children, Archibald Downing and Susan Downing Autrey, were both born in SC between 1808 & 1812. The next, Mary Ann Downing Jones and Thomas Jefferson Downing, were born in Tennessee between 1812 & 1815, and the last, Jincey Downing, was born in Alabama c 1816.
James Downing remarried [Mary Clark] in Alabama, and the first son born to this second marriage was named William. [William Patterson Downing] [Eventually, between the two marriages, James Downing fathered 16 children. I know the names of all but 1.]
According the research done by the descendants of the Downings who went to Kentucky, "James Dawning's" father was another James Downing, whose father was another James Downing who immigrated from Ireland. [The "came from Ireland" part is consistent with my own family stories, as is the "timing".]
But this all hurts my brain, and I have no idea where to start researching it all. So, for the moment, I've set it aside to "worry about later." :-)
I also know our James Downing had a sister named Mary Cooper [married name].
By any chance, do you know anything about when James Downing died? While I have a general idea of when he and his wives were born and when they died, there's nothing specific in the records. I keep hoping to find a family Bible record or an obituary, but so far, nothing.
I'd love to talk more. Thank you for the War of 1812 info. I will look into that more.