(This article was originally published January 22, 2014. It was updated May 3, 2017.)
Nancy MORRIS shows up in the household of Laban MORRIS in 1850 and 1860, and best I can tell from ages on census records, she was living with the family as early as 1830. Many years ago, before I realized how census records worked, I had assumed that Nancy was another of Laban and Kitty’s children, but then I realized since she is older and listed after everybody else in the household, and that usually means she wasn‘t one of their children.
It’s possible she is Laban’s niece or some other relative from his adoptive MORRIS family. It’s entirely possible, of course, that Laban’s mother was a MORRIS, herself, maybe on her mother’s side. [If you haven’t been following the saga, Laban MORRIS had legally been Laban HENLY or HENBY until 1810, when he had his name changed, along with the names of his first two sons, by the General Assembly. Because we know his father was a LEDBETTER, the fact that his legal last name was HENBY would indicate his parents weren’t married, and that was likely his mother’s last name.]
A wild possibility…
Based on some new facts I pieced together just recently about a couple of collateral families, now I’m wondering if Nancy might be a MORRIS at all. Is it possible that she was one of the three children Selah AVERITT had out of wedlock before marrying John HOLMES? Here’s what has me thinking along these lines:
- Nancy was born at exactly the right — about 1823. Selah’s bastardy bonds were in 1823, 1824, and 1825.
- Selah refused to name the father on her first bastardy bond. She posted her own bond, but the other two bondsmen on that record are Zachariah WILLIAMS and Enoch AVERITT. Enoch is Selah’s brother, but Zachariah WILLIAMS is the brother of Kitty WILLIAMS, Laban’s wife and the mother of all of his children. It’s plausible that Zachariah paid to care for the child, but then the child was taken in by his sister and her husband to be raised with their children. A year after Zachariah posted money for that bastardy bond, he married Nancy MANKER and they ended up moving to Posey County, Indiana. Zachariah may NOT be the father of Selah’s baby, but I can’t figure out why else he would’ve posted that bond. This is one of those mysteries that DNA testing could likely put to rest one way or another.
- Three of Laban’s children married three of John HOLMES children and at least one of his grandchildren married into the HOLMES family. Nancy MORRIS did not marry into the HOLMES family, though, and in fact I think she may be the same Nancy MORRIS who married Emanual EDWARDS (son of Elial and Lovey EDWARDS) of Beaufort County. They had only one child that I’ve been able to find: William Henry EDWARDS (1863-1940) of Vanceboro.
Anyway, here is what we know for sure about the mysterious Nancy MORRIS:
1850 Census – Swift Creek, Craven County, NC
Weird situation. Laban’s household shows up twice — once on November 6th, and then again on the 9th. On the 6th, she’s in Laban’s house, but on the 9th, she’s in his son William’s house.
November 6, 1850
November 9, 1850
1860 Census – Chocowinity, Beaufort County, NC
If you have any information about this Nancy MORRIS, I’d love for you to comment below.