01 February 2011

Who Were Mary Harris' Parents?

     Mary Harris married John Miller. The couple lived in Edgefield County, South Carolina and can be found there in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. I know Mary's maiden name from the death certificates of two of her daughters, Alice and Silvestra. I found a record for a marriage between John Miller and Mary Harris in Edgefield County, SC on 9 Oct 1845 in an index on Ancestry.com.

     And that it, that's all I can find on Mary Harris Miller. I haven't been able to find a death date, which also means that I haven't found an obituary or headstone. I haven't been able to find any records that would tell me who her parents were. And that's not good, because the Harris family is the line that I'm closest to matching with on a FamilyFinder DNA match. Both myself and the other researcher have Harris families in Edgefield County, SC during the mid 1800s. So I really wanted to find Mary's parents.

     Part of the problem is that Mary never appears in a census with her parents. There wasn't an easy answer. I decided to start with the 1840 census and look for Mary. Of course, Mary would not be recorded by name, but rather by a tick mark. Hoping that the family had not moved, I pulled up all the Harris families in Edgefield County, SC in 1840. There were 20 results. I then narrowed down the results by seeing which families had appropriately aged females in the household, which left me with three options: David, Joshua and Wesley Harris.  So which of these men, if any, was Mary's father?

     Knowing that Mary was living with her husband by 1850, my mom suggested looking at the 1850 census for each man and seeing if the female child was still living with them. Wesley was nowhere to be found, but this step eliminated David from the running. But what about Joshua?

     Looking at Joshua Harris' 1850 census, everything seemed to click. The children and their ages matched up, allowing that some of the girls had married and left home. But the kicker? Looking at a list of Mary's children compared to Joshua's family. Can you see it?

Joshua Harris, 1850
Mary Miller, 1860

     Mary named her first child Joshua and named one of her daughters Sylvesta. It would be very likely that she named her children for her father/brother and sister. 

     I started searching for Joshua Harris online and quickly came across a family tree that stated that he had a daughter named Mary who married a John Miller. This tree stated that Joshua was the son of George Harris, who also had a son named Craven Harris. Tada! My DNA connection on this family line has traced their family back to a Craven Harris. If this information is true, I've just made my first genealogy connection via DNA.

     Unfortunately, further searching turned up multiple variations of this family. There seem to be three versions that have been copied and pasted into about 50 different trees. None of them match my information. So, anyone still reading this: Do you think my research looks sound so far? Can you see any errors? 

     I'll continue to research Joshua and Mary and hope to find proof of the connection. I hope that this turns out to be correct and that I've made my first DNA genealogy connection.


CMPointer said...

Great detective work! At first, I was like, "Oh no. A Mary? A John? Harris? Miller?" All that was missing was someone with the name Smith. *shudder* But you narrowed it down like a champ. Well done. I love family naming patterns. And most of all, I love names like Sylvesta. Well, to research anyways.


Greta Koehl said...

Bingo! Distinctive names are such a boon. I wouldn't worry about the trees, but just focus on what you've found.

Linda McCauley said...

Your analysis looks solid to me. If those trees don't offer proof of their conclusions, I wouldn't worry about them at all.


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