Friday, March 2, 2018

52 Ancestors, Week 5: in The Census

Mariah Hall Conaway


I'm playing catch up with the 52 Ancestors challenge. It's funny how quickly you can get behind. The prompt word for week number five is "In The Census". I thought about what was the most interesting discovery that I've made using the census records. I decided to talk about the person that took the longest to find in the census for a particular year. I settled on my paternal 2x great-grandparents, Mariah Hall and Curry Conaway.

Mariah Hall was born in 1839 in Franklin County, Missouri to parents Myra and Alexander Hall. her husband, Curry Conaway was born in about 1820 in Kentucky. Parents unknown. My search for Mariah and Curry had taken me through all census years up to 1920. Except the 1870 census. That's where I was stuck. Family oral history says that Mariah was a slave in Missouri. If this was true, then the 1870 census would possibly hold clues to her  slave owner and may help me get back even further. In this census for Franklin County, Missouri, I found Mariah's mother, Myra. Living next to her were Mariah's brother's, Rufus and Wesley, also a sister  Sedonia Hall Taylor with her husband Charles. I searched that entire census, more then once. I tried every spelling of the name Conaway that I could think of. Absolutely could not find Mariah and Curry. I became so frustrated, I decided  to take a break for awhile.

After a few years, I decided to search the 1870 again. By this time I had read an article about using  the Nettie Rule. I thought is was so interesting. The idea is to look at the census, ten households forward, ten households back. Paying attention to first names.

I searched the 1870 Franklin county, Missouri census again. Looking a little closer this time. Paying attention to first names as well as surnames, and there at the at the bottom of the page, names terribly misspelled, was Curry and Mariah with their oldest son Joseph. They had been there the whole time. Only their last name was not Conaway. It was Hunter!  Apparently Curry changed his name from Hunter to Conaway. This led me to find Curry's former slave owner, a man named Valentine Hunter. Curry was given his freedom in 1849 along with several others. I later wrote a blog post about this discovery.


Searching for Curry and Mariah taught me a lesson in my research. Not only should you pay attention to surnames, but pay attention to those fist names as well.

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