Marzella McDANIELS, nee NUNN

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(This research is related to the ARNOLD tree and DNA I have been researching since 2015 for my friend JCA.)

Whilst researching the family tree of one of JCA’s closer DNA matches (JKH 58cM over 5 segment, whom I was most excited to find had ARNOLD ancestors), I stumbled upon Marzella MCDANIEL and her son Benjamin living within a side branch MANLY household in 1920. I had not found Marzella in the 1920 census up until this point, and I was most curious to find out how she was related to the MANLY family and thereby possibly the ARNOLD line.
JCA’s top three DNA matches all have a North Carolina MCDANIEL family in their tree, and I believe the link to be via Marzella’s much older husband Bristo MCDANIAL who had several wives and at least 22 children. So, although I don’t think JCA has a DNA link to Marzella, I felt the research would be worth undertaking just to see where it lead.

I had started off by following the census records for the widow of a Henry ARNOLD b.1873 (3rd Great Uncle of JKH) to complete her trail. Bernie BELL married Henry ARNOLD in 1896, who then promptly died. Bernie remarried to a widower named Lewis MANLY in 1904. Although Bernie and Henry had no living children (1 child who died in infancy), I will often follow the widows/widowers throughout the rest of the census years just in case a few more clues can be gleaned. This one paid off, but not how I was expecting!

Living within the MANLY household in 1920 was Marzella NUNN and her son Benjamin. They were recorded as sister-in-law and brother-in-law, presumably to the head of the household but not always. Their names had been transcribed badly so no wonder I hadn’t found her before (Morcellia Mcdanil). I wondered how they were related, and whether it could possibly have anything to do with the ARNOLD line I have been searching so hard for.

Taking the term “sister-in-law” at face value and working outwards, there were a few possibilities as to the connection (her son Benjamin was unmarried at the time, so ignored him as being the connection unless nothing else tuned up).

  1. Marzella was Bernie’s Bell’s sister.
    I discounted this idea as I already knew Marzella’s maiden name to be either NUNN or VAUSE by her marriage and death records (mother Mariah NUNN, father Male VAUSE), and also by the death certificates of her children (who interchanged the two surnames as Marzella’s maiden name). Bernie’s parents were Moses BELL and Sara EXUM.
  2. Marzella had been married to one of Lewis’s brothers.
    This was hard to research and was left unconcluded as I was unable to trace Lewis back to his parents to find his siblings. However,  as Marzella married Bristo MCDANIEL with the surname NUNN at age 18, which she also stated to be her mothers surname, and used the surname MCDANIEL up to her death in 1953, I suspected she was never previously or subsequently married.
  3. Marzella was related to Lewis’s late wife, Emma.
    I already knew Lewis had bee previously married to an Emma. Miss-spellings of the surname MANLY made it her harder to trace, but I finally found something with her surname on (one of their children’s death certificates), and it confirmed her maiden name to be NUNN. Marzella and Emma looked to be sisters.
  4. Unfollowed possibilities.
    I also considered that there may have be a marriage between one of deceased Henry ARNOLD’s siblings and one of Marzella’s siblings, or even one of the MCDANIEL’s, but thought that might be stretching the “sister-in-law” relationship a bit far! Luckily I didn’t need to start delving into this idea, as my third point of research paid off first.

Researching Emma further, I found a marriage record for Lewis MANLY and Emma MILLER (1885), with parents Tom NUNN & Mariah NUNN (father dead, mother living in Lenoir). I then found a previous marriage record for Emma NUNN and Thomas MILLER (1875, index only so no parents names), so was sure this to be the right person.

Searching for other children with parents Tom/Thomas NUNN and Mariah, I found a death certificate for Fred R NUNN. His certificate gives parents names as Thomas NUNN & Mariah DAVIS (maiden name). Fred’s marriage certificate (1890) had parents Thomas NUNN & Mariah GOODING (father dead, mother living in Kinston). I also found another daughter called Amanda and a son called Chapman/Chatman by researching in this manner. Chapman stated his mother Mariah NUNN to be dead in 1905.

All three of Thomas & Mariah’s children were much older than Marzella, which gave me pause for thought. Perhaps Marzella, rather than a sister of Emma, was a niece instead. During previous research I had come across a mother and two children in 1880 who seemed to fit Marzella well, living in Sand Hill, Lenoir and fitted that theory perfectly:

  • Maria B VAUSE – Age 21 – Widow
  • Marzella VASUE – Age 3 – Daughter
  • Annie VAUSE – Age 11m – Daughter

However, this family disappears after this census and I came up empty with other records for any of them. Perhaps this was just a coincidence, so carried on with my research but kept this family in mind should it pop up again.

I now had three surnames for Mariah: NUNN, DAVIS, and GOODING. Presumably NUNN was Mariah’s married name, as DAVIS was listed as her maiden name on two of her children’s death certificates. This just left GOODING unaccounted for, which I assumed to be a surname from another marriage as Thomas NUNN was dead by at least 1885.

Starting with Fred R NUNN, I began tracing him backwards in census records. He died in 1933, and his wife was called Charity (nee STROUD), so not too hard to find. In 1910, along with his wife and four children, there was also an adopted son (Willougby BATTLE), and three nieces (surname should be spelt SPRUILL) living in Kinston, Lenoir:

  • Elizabeth Spruel – age 14
  • Annie Spruel – age 13
  • Nannie Spruel – age 13

In 1900 there were no nieces, but Willougby and his mother Mariah BATTLE were boarding there. I looked into them but found no connection, then I traced the SPRUILL sisters. In the 1900 census I found this household, with head Mariah NUNN:

Name Age Relationship
Mariah Nunn 55 (1845) Head (widow)
Joseph Nunn 20 (1879) Son
William F Nunn 18 (1881) Son
Della Spril 22 (1877) Daughter (married)
Elizabeth Spril 5 (1894) Granddaughter
Annie Spril 2 (1898) Granddaughter
Nannie Spril 2 (1898) Granddaughter

Confirmation that the SPRUILL sisters were the children of one of Fred’s sisters (Della), I looked for a marriage record for her to confirm her surname. Della NUNN married Issac SPRUILL in 1895, and her parents were listed as John VAUSE (dead) and Mariah NUNN (living in Lenoir). VAUSE and NUNN, just like Marzella, and much closer to her age too. I was now thinking that Mariah had had another relationship after Thomas NUNN died, but possibly not married as both Della and Marzella went by the name NUNN not VAUSE.

Witnesses at Della’s marriage included Zebede NUNN and D NOBLE (possibly older sister Amanda’s husband David NOBLE). This was the first time a NUNN had been a witness at marriage, so looked him up. He turned out to be the son of Amanda (unmarried), previous to her marriage to David NOBLE.

I traced Joseph and William F from the 1900 census, both of which turned out to also be Amanda’s children (with different fathers). They were Mariah’s grandsons rather than sons as stated, but may have been bought up by her rather than Amanda.

I had already tried to find Mariah NUNN in the 1880 census to no avail, but armed with new surnames to follow I eventually found this household in Woodington, Lenoir:

Name Age Race  Relationship Occupation
Washington Gooding 65 (1815) Black Head Farmer
Mariah Gooding  50 (1830) Black Wife Housekeeper
William Gooding 12 (1868) Black Son Farm Labourer
Jane Gooding 8 (1872) Black Daughter
Marzella Gooding  6 (1874) Black Daughter
Della Gooding  5 (1873) Black Daughter
Zeb Gooding  9 (1871) Mulatto Grandson
Duffy Gooding 5 (1873) Mulatto Grandson
Mary Gooding 11 (1869) Black Granddaughter

The household contained Mariah with surname GOODING, as confirmed by son Fred on his marriage certificate, there was also daughters Marzella and Della, and grandson Zeb. A quick look up on Duffy (using surname NUNN rather than GOODING), confirmed him as another child of Amanda NUNN (different father again). I had no luck tracing Mary GOODING, so don’t know if she is from the NUNN or GOODING side. The same goes for William GOODING/NUNN. Searching for a Jane NUNN came up with a marriage record for Jennie NUNN to Nathan GRAYHAM in 1888 with parents John NUNN (dead) and Mariah NUNN (living in Lenoir). They were married in Mariah’s house in Neuce, Lenoir, just like several of her other children. Although the certificate states John NUNN rather than John VAUCE, I’m pretty sure Jennie NUNN and Jane GOODING are the same person and the fathers surname on her marriage certificate an error. This makes three full siblings with parents John VAUSE and Mariah NUNN, and four half siblings to them with parents Thomas NUNN and Mariah NUNN.

In 1910, Mariah stated she was the mother to 10 children, with 5 still living. I have found 7 of the 10. The children of Thomas NUNN (Chapman, Amanda, Emma and Fred) were still alive in 1900. Marzella and Della were also still alive, but haven’t found Jane after she married so looks likely she died). This makes 6 children still alive, not 5 (possibly an error on the census return?).

Looking for any members of the family alive in 1870 (Mariah, possibly Thomas, plus their 4 known children), I have only found Chatman NUNN aged 17, and Emma NUNN age 13 (living separately and working. I have performed all kinds of name searches but come up empty. It would be good to find Mariah 1870 census as there may be some more info.

I haven’t found any marriage records for Thomas NUNN and Mariah, Mariah and John VAUSE, or Mariah and Washington GOODING. Nor have I found a death record for Mariah (1900-1905), or any of the men.


I believe I have identified Marzella’s parents as John VAUSE and Mariah NUNN (nee DAVIS), plus three full siblings and four half siblings. There is no connection to the ARNOLD line, it was just a coincidence. The Marzella VAUSE from the 1880 census remains a mystery.

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