James and Nellie Conner of Mars Bluff, South Carolina

We were contacted by a relative of James and Nellie Conner with a request to document the children and descendants of this African American couple. We were able to obtain the death certificate of James Conner Jr., his wife Anna (Wise) Conner, and his brother Allen Conner. These death certificates indicate that James Jr. and Allen were the sons of James Conner Sr. and his wife Nellie, whose maiden name was James or Williams. They also show that Anna was the daughter of Robert Wise and Deady Mack (Mack being Deady’s maiden name). David Conner, brother of James Jr. and Allen, had at least two daughters, Estelle and Mildred, and an adopted son named Allen Thoma. Nellie Johnson, the wife of Edward, was a possible married daughter of James Conner Sr. Since exact death dates for James Conner Jr. and Allen Conner were found during this research session, their obituaries will tell us more about their married sisters, whose descendants can then be traced.

The report of the research is found below. You can review all of the sources studied on the research calendar.

Research Report
August 2003

            The purpose of this research was to identify the descendants of James and Nellie Conner who lived in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Mars Bluff is located in Jeffreys Township, which is now in Florence County, but was located in Marion County prior to the formation of Florence County in 1888. In addition, the ancestral James Conner Sr. resided in Marion Township, Marion County (not in Jeffreys Township) in 1870, and James Conner Jr. resided in Marion Township in 1900 as well.
            James and Nellie Conner had seven known children—Mary J., Annie, James Jr., Nellie, Allen, David, and Sallie. Since much was already known about James Jr. and Allen Conner and their descendants, research focused on learning more about the other five children, David Conner and his four sisters.

Identifying the Daughters

            It was clear from the start that learning more about James’ daughters would likely be difficult since the government in South Carolina did not record marriages until 1911. James’ daughters were probably all married by that time. To learn more about them, their married names needed to be known. Fortunately, there are several ways to accomplish this without the benefit of government marriage records.
            While the government in South Carolina did not keep marriage records before 1911, many churches did. The marriages of James Conner’s daughters might be found recorded in a local church in Mars Bluff where the family lived. Couples were often married at the house of the bride’s parents or in the church that the bride and her parents attended. The client indicated that James Conner Jr. and his wife Anna were Methodists and attended Wise Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Marion, South Carolina; while Allen Conner attended church in Mars Bluff. Wise Chapel A.M.E. Church still exists today in Marion, and it may be helpful in the future to contact them for information about the Conner family:

Wise Chapel A.M.E. Church
1748 Wise Chapel Ct
Marion, SC  29571
(843) 423-0260

             The daughters of James Conner might be buried near their parents and brothers in or near Mars Bluff. Tombstones sometimes include maiden surnames for women. So if, for example, James’ daughter Nellie married a man with the surname Johnson, her tombstone might read “Nellie Conner Johnson.” Therefore, identifying the cemetery or cemeteries in which James Conner and his sons were buried might help to identify James’ daughters and their families. The client indicated that James Conner Jr. and his wife Anna were buried in Jackson Cemetery (located on Highway 76 in Marion, behind the “Old Ranch Club”).
            Other records that might prove extremely helpful are obituaries. The obituaries of James, Nellie, and their sons might give the married names of James’ daughters. Obituaries often name close relatives of the deceased who were still living. Close relatives named in obituaries often include spouses, children, siblings, and parents. Obituaries often give married names of sisters and daughters of the deceased and frequently indicate where they were living at that time.
            Census records offer another possibility of identifying the married names of James’ daughters. They might have stayed in Mars Bluff and be found living near their brothers. They might be identified by reading through the entire 1900 census of Jeffreys Township, where the Conner family lived, and looking for women with the correct given names and the correct ages. This method might not be as effective with common given names like Mary.
            It is also possible that one or more of James’ daughters might have lived with their brothers at some point after they were married and might be found as the census enumerations of James’ sons are found and examined. Households sometimes included more than spouses and children. Sometimes they included siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives. This is why it is very important to search for census enumerations.
            As can be seen here, there are quite a few ways in which the married names of James Conner’s daughters might be identified, and several of these depend on learning more about James and Nellie Conner and their sons. Therefore, much of this current session focused on learning more about the sons of James and Nellie Conner. With regard to researching James Conner Jr. and Allen Conner, researching them was not so much intended to discover information about their descendants (because this information is already known), but rather was intended to help identify their sisters after 1880.

Local Histories

            The first step in any research session is to review the information that is already known. The next step is usually to determine what records are available that might hold additional information. As the Family History Library catalogue was searched to see what records were available in the adjacent counties of Florence and Marion in South Carolina, it was noted that there were a couple of local histories for Florence County. One of these is entitled African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina.
            The title of this book was very promising. The information found in it is fascinating and gives some excellent insights into the area in which the ancestral family lived, but no reference to any member of the ancestral Conner family was found. One comment was noticed in this book that might be of use as research continues: “Many Mars Bluff inhabitants were members of Hopewell [Presbyterian] Church…”[1]

David Conner

            The client provided a copy of the 1880 U.S. census enumeration of James Conner and his family. This census identifies the seven children of James and Nellie Conner and gives their ages at that time. David Conner was five years old in 1880, which places his birth about 1874/1875. Of course, ages as found recorded in U.S. censuses are often off by a year or two or sometime more.
            The family lived in Jeffreys Township in 1880. At that time, this was part of Marion County, but it is now part of Florence County, which was formed from Marion County and other counties in 1888. David Conner was found enumerated in two later censuses of Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina.
            U.S. censuses have been taken every ten years beginning in 1790. Unfortunately, the 1890 census was almost completely destroyed. Therefore, the next available census in which David Conner would be enumerated was the one taken in 1900.  David was still living in Jeffreys Township in 1900 and was enumerated in this census as follows: 

1900 U.S. Census
Locality Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina
ED, Sheet, Line Enumeration District 39, Sheet 19B, Line 56
Enum Date 19 June 1900
House Family Name Birth Date Relation-ship Occupation Birth Place
Self Fath Moth
307 308 David Conner[2] Apr 1876 Head Farmer SC SC SC
    Alan Conner Mar 1874 Brother Laborer SC SC SC
    Angie Conner Apr 1860 S. Mother Servant SC SC SC

             Note that David’s brother Allen was living with him and that both of their ages were off slightly from the information given in the 1880 census. Also note that their stepmother was living with them. Her name appears to be Angie Conner, and she was listed as being widowed. This suggests that James Conner died sometime before 1900 and that his wife Nellie had died earlier than that, leaving James to marry Angie.
            Also note in this census that David and Allen could both apparently read and write. Many people at that time and place were illiterate, both black and white. David owned his own farm, free of mortgage. This suggests that more might be learned about David in land, tax, and perhaps probate records of Florence County.
            David was still living in Jeffreys Township when the 1910 census was taken. He was married and had two daughters and an adopted son by 1910. David and his family were enumerated in the 1910 census as follows: 

1910 U.S. Census
Locality Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina
ED, Sheet, Line Enumeration District 26, Sheet 2B, Line 51
Enum Date 19 April 1910
House Family Name Sex Age Relation-
ship
Occupation Birth Place
Self Fath Moth
36 37 David W. Conner[3] M 34 Head Farmer SC SC SC
    Mary Conner F 24 Wife   SC SC SC
    Estille Conner F 7 Daughter   SC SC SC
    Mildred Conner F 4 Daughter   SC SC SC
    Allen Thoma? M 8 Adopted Son   SC SC SC

             This census indicates that neither David nor his wife Mary had been married previously. They had been married for seven years, which places their marriage about 1902 or 1903. Mary had given birth to two children and both were still alive in 1910. These were clearly Estelle and Mildred. David still owned his own farm, and it was still free from mortgage.
            David Conner was not found enumerated in the 1920 U.S. census. This census was searched for anyone named David Conner who was born in South Carolina and living anywhere in the U.S. Only two David Conners were found in the 1920 census who were born in South Carolina. Both were living in South Carolina, both were listed as white, and neither was the correct age to be our David Conner.
            The possibility that David had died between 1910 and 1920 was considered. The 1920 census was searched for anyone with the surname Conner in Florence County with the hope of finding David’s widow or daughters, but they were not found.
            The 1930 U.S. census was also searched for David Conner, with the possibility that he was either missed by the census taker in 1920 or missed by those who compiled the index. One possible enumeration was found in Greenwood County, South Carolina. This David Conner was fifty-three years old, black, and born in South Carolina. He had a wife and seven children. The oldest child was born about 1910 and so might not have been enumerated in the 1910 census. To determine whether or not this was the correct David Conner, his enumeration in the 1920 census would have to be found, but it was not.[4]
            World War I draft registration cards from Florence County[5] and Marion County[6]were searched for David Conner. His draft registration card would give his exact birth date, his address in 1917/1918, and other valuable and interesting information concerning him. However, David Conner was not found. There are three possible reasons that he was not found in these records. David might have moved from this area before 1917/1918, he might have died before that time, or he might have enlisted in the military already. Enlisted men obviously were not required to register for the draft.
            The index to South Carolina death certificates, 1915-1944, was searched for David Conner dying anywhere in the state of South Carolina. Unfortunately, no possible match to the ancestral David Conner was found.

Allen Conner

            The children and grandchildren of Allen Conner have apparently already been identified, but it is uncertain when Allen Conner died. Since determining exactly where he was buried and when he died might lead to records that include the married names of his sisters, censuses were searched to learn more about Allen Conner.
            Allen was living with his parents in 1880. He was about seven years old at that time. In 1900 Allen was living with his brother David and their stepmother, still in Jeffreys Township. He was also found enumerated in the 1920[7] and 1930[8] censuses of Jeffreys Township. This makes it clear that Allen did not die until sometime after 1930.
            In addition to confirming information concerning Allen’s wife and children, the 1920 and 1930 censuses also indicate that Allen Conner was a farmer and owned his own house. Note that most of his neighbors rented their houses. The fact that Allen Conner owned land suggests that land, tax, and quite likely probate records will reveal more about him.
            While searching for the World War I draft card of David Conner, Allen Conner’s draft card was found. Allen registered for the draft on 12 September 1918. This record indicates that Allen Conner was born on 5 March 1873 and resided in Mars Bluff, Florence County, South Carolina. His nearest relative was Janie Conner, who is known from censuses to be his wife. Allen was tall and slender. The fact that Allen signed the card leaves little question that he was literate.[9]
            Allen Conner’s death certificate was located.[10] It indicates that Allen Connor (sic) died on 12 September 1938 in Mars Bluff, Jeffery (sic) Township, Florence County, South Carolina, at age 58. He was born in 1880 in Florence County, South Carolina, the son of Jim Connor (born in Florence County) and Nellie James (born in South Carolina). Allen was buried on 14 September 1938, apparently in Gibson Cemetery (although the name is practically illegible, it begins with Gib___), and the undertaker was Mothers Memorial Mortuary, 318 N. Dargan St., Florence, S.C. His widow was Jinnie Connor. The informant was James Coner, address Mars Bluff. 
            Of course, at the time that Allen and his father James were born, Florence County did not exist; the references to them being born there suggest that they were born in the area that would eventually become Florence County. This contradicts the family tradition that James Conner came from the Spartanburg area to Mars Bluff.
            With the date of Allen Conner’s death now known, future research can search for his obituary. Hopefully, an obituary will identify the whereabouts of his brother David and his sisters in 1938.

James Conner (born 1866)

            The death certificate of James Conner, son of James and Nellie Conner, was found.[11] “James Connor Sr.” died on 2 January 1933 at Marion Township, Marion County, South Carolina at the age of 66. He was born in Florence County, South Carolina, the son of James Connor and Nellie Williams (both parents born in Florence County). He was widowed at the time of his death. He was buried in Graham Cemetery on 4 January 1933, and the undertaker was C.L. Pace, of Marion. The informant was Allen Connor of Florence, S.C. (apparently his brother). 
            On the death certificates of Allen and James, two different maiden surnames for their mother Nellie are given. The informant for Allen’s death certificate apparently was his eldest son, James A. Conner, who never knew Nellie. It is more likely that Allen Conner, Nellie’s son, got her surname correct (Williams) when he gave it as the informant for his brother’s death certificate.

Cemeteries and Funeral Homes

            Published compilations of tombstone inscriptions and coroner’s inquisitions from Florence County cemeteries were searched for James and Nellie Conner and their children, but they were not found. A compilation of funeral home records was also searched without success. However, the introduction to this multi-volume compilation indicates that it does not include records from African American funeral homes.[12]

The 1900 Census

            The 1900 U.S. Census of Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, was searched page-by-page for possible enumerations of James Conner’s daughters with their husbands. There were many women named Mary and Ann and quite a few named Sarah or Sallie. Many of these women were about the right age to be James’ daughters, but this made it impossible to guess which ones might have been his daughters. There was only one woman named Nellie noted, however.
            Nellie Johnson was the wife of Edward Johnson. According to the 1900 census, Nellie Johnson was born in South Carolina in August 1869, and her parents were also born in South Carolina. James Conner’s daughter Nellie was ten years old when the 1880 census was taken. This places her birth about 1869/1870, depending on when she was born. If Nellie Conner were born in August 1869, she would have been ten years old when the 1880 census was taken.
            Nellie Johnson was the right age to be the daughter of James and Nellie Conner, was born in the right state, and was living in Jeffreys Township where James and Nellie Conner had lived and where their sons David and Allen were still living in 1900. This suggests that Nellie Johnson might have been the daughter of James and Nellie Conner.
            Edward and Nellie Johnson had six children, all born in South Carolina. Their children were named Philip, Nena, Eugene, Edward Jr., Matilda, and Nelie.[13] 

Deedy Mack and Anna Wise

            In addition to learning more about David Conner, his sisters, and all of their children, the current session was given the task of identifying Deedy Mack, who was enumerated in the household of James Conner, Jr., in 1900.
            According to this census, Deedy Mack was born in June 1853 in South Carolina. Her parents were also born in South Carolina. Deedy was widowed and had given birth to only one child, who was still alive in 1900. Deedy’s relationship to James Jr. as given in this census leaves little question that Deedy’s one child was James’ wife Anna. Deedy was the mother-in-law of James Conner, Jr. Information the client provided, however, suggests that the maiden name of James’ wife was Anna Wise and not Anna Mack.
            Anna Conner’s death certificate clears up the mystery of the Mack surname:[14]  Mack was Deedy’s maiden name. Anna Connor died on 3 August 1928 at the age of 53. She was born on 3 April 1875 in Marion County, daughter of Robert Wise and Deady Mack, both born in Marion County. Anna was buried on 5 August 1928 in Graham Cemetery, the undertaker being C.L. Pace, Marion, S.C. The informant was James Connor of Marion, S.C. (presumably her husband). 
            Family information provided by the client also lists three brothers of Anna Wise: Tom Wise, Lawrence Wise, and Jule Wise.
            The 1880 census was searched for Deedy and Anna with the surname Mack, the surname Wise, or any other surname. All Wise residents listed in the 1880 census index of Marion County were also examined, looking for Robert or other family members. However, no enumeration of Robert, Deedy and Anna was found in Marion County, South Carolina. Perhaps they were living in another county when the 1880 census was taken.[15]

Conclusions

            The purpose of this research session was to learn more about five of the seven children of James and Nellie Conner, namely their son David and four daughters. Research also sought information concerning Deedy Mack, the mother-in-law of James Conner, Jr.
            Anna (Wise) Conner’s death certificate shows that her mother’s maiden name was Deady Mack and that her father’s name was Robert Wise. However, Deedy, Robert and Anna were not identified in the 1880 U.S. Census.
            Fortunately, census records proved to be more useful in learning more about David and Allen Conner. U.S. censuses show that David Conner was still living in Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, as late as 1910. He appears to have died or left the county by 1920. This conclusion is supported by David’s absence from the World War I draft registration cards of Florence County. His death record could not be found in South Carolina death records, 1915-1944.
            David had at least two daughters, Estelle and Mildred, and an adopted son named Allen. David owned his own farm as early as 1900. His brother Allen also owned his own land according to the 1920 and 1930 censuses. This suggests that land, tax, and probate records might reveal more about James Conner and his sons.
            If James Conner (Sr.) owned land at the time of his death, then probate records might include the married names of his daughters or give James’ death date, which might lead to an obituary. The obituaries of Allen Conner and James Conner Jr., whose death certificates were located in this session, might give the married names of their sisters.
            James Conner’s daughter Nellie might have been identified in the 1900 census of Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina. Nellie Johnson, the wife of Edward Johnson, was the right age, born in the right state, and living in the right area to be the daughter of James and Nellie Conner.

Future Research

            Research in the next session should seek the obituaries of Allen Conner and James Conner Jr. Cemetery records should be sought for Allen Conner and James Conner Jr., based on the information in their death certificates, in the hopes that other family members were buried nearby. Local church records can also be sought in Mars Bluff and Marion, South Carolina. Hopefully, the church and cemetery records will hold much more information concerning James and Nellie Conner and their children and grandchildren.
            Land and probate records of Florence County, South Carolina, can be searched for records pertaining to David and Allen Conner. These records should help to determine whether David died in Florence County or moved out of the county. If he moved, then land records might indicate where he lived after leaving Florence County. 
            Land and probate records may also be searched for James Conner, Sr., taking into consideration the possibility that James might have owned land. If he did, then probate records might give the married names of his daughters or lead to his obituary, which also might give his daughters’ married names.
            Censuses later than 1900 can be examined to learn more about Nellie Johnson, the wife of Edward Johnson. These later censuses might give some idea of when and where Nellie Johnson died, which could lead to her death record or obituary, either of which might identify her parents and prove whether or not she was the daughter of James and Nellie Conner. 
            It has been a pleasure to research the Conner family. We look forward to continuing in the near future, with great expectations of further success.

 

Andrew S. Webb and Kyle J. Betit,
Professional Genealogists



 

 

[1] Amelia Wallace Vernon, African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1993), 40, FHL Book 975.784/M1 F2v.

[2] 1900 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 39, Sheet 19B, Dwelling 307, Family 308, David Conner Household (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL Microfilm 1241528. Document 1.

[3] 1910 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 26, Sheet 2B, Dwelling 36, Family 37, David W. Conner Household, .jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com, Inc., 2003), <http://www.ancestry.com />, subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], accessed August 2003. Document 2.

[4] 1930 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Beadley Township, Greenwood County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 24-2, Sheet 2A, Dwelling 23, Family 23, David Conner Household, .jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com, Inc., 2003), <http://www.ancestry.com />, subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], accessed August 2003. Document 3.

[5] United States, Selective Service System, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918, South Carolina, Florence County (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL Microfilm 1877593.

[6] United States, Selective Service System, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918, South Carolina, Marion County (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL Microfilm 1877674.

[7] 1920 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 50, Sheet 5B, Dwelling 107, Family 107, Allen Conner Household, .jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com, Inc., 2003), <http://www.ancestry.com />, subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], accessed August 2003. Document 4.

[8] 1930 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Jeffries Township, Florence County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 21-21, Sheet 3B, Dwelling 53, Family 54, Alan Conner Household, .jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com, Inc., 2003), <http://www.ancestry.com />, subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], accessed August 2003. Document 5.

[9] United States, Selective Service System, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918, South Carolina, Florence County (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL Microfilm 1877593. Document 6.

[10] South Carolina, State Board of Health, death certificates, 1938, volume 33, #14127, death certificate of Allen Connor, died 12 September 1938, FHL Microfilm 1943858. Document 7.

[11] South Carolina, State Board of Health, death certificates, 1933, volume 3, #903, death certificate of James Connor Sr., died 2 January 1933, FHL Microfilm 1943787. Document 8.

[12] See Research Calendar.

[13] 1900 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Jeffreys Township, Florence County, South Carolina, Enumeration District 39, Sheet 8A, Dwelling 123, Family 123, Edward Johnson Household (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL Microfilm 1241528. See Research Calendar.

[14] South Carolina, State Board of Health, death certificates, 1928, volume 25, #16632, death certificate of Anna Connor, died 3 August 1928, FHL Microfilm 1913697. Document 9.

[15] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comp., 1880 United States Census and National Index (Salt Lake City, Utah:  Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2001), CD-ROM. See Research Calendar.

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