Mystery Monday: Wiley Anderson Murrell’s Parents and Early Life

Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalene (Hontz) Murrell. Posted with kind permission of the Harlan Family Blog. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family, Murrell Family (Click for Family Tree)

Information on the early years of Wiley Anderson Murrell (1806-1885) has long been elusive. (Too scary to put the number of years the family has been searching, but it is more than 49 and less than 51…) Since it is the start of a new year, we thought we might try again to see if anyone with knowledge of the Murrell family or Virginia, especially Botetourt County, might have some suggestions of where to look next. We are trying to find the names of his parents and places they may have lived during his early life- both continue to be unsolved mysteries.

Wiley was born 2 Feb 1805 per the family bible (some say 1809) in Virginia but we do not know exactly where. The first official record we have for him is associated with his marriage to Mary Magdalene Hons/Honce/Honts/Honz/etc. on 9 April 1834 in Botetourt. Wiley would have been 28, Mary 27.
Wiley A. Murrell and Mary Honce Marriage Bond. (Click to enlarge.)

Mary’s mother Catharine (Kauffman) Hons gave surety, and we do have a fair amount of information on Catharine and her husband Henry Hons/etc./Johns, thanks to the fine work of the late George Honts. We have not found all the documentation he used, however, and would be very interested in seeing more to learn if there are some clues for the Murrell side.

Twenty-eight seems a bit old for a first marriage for Wiley, and for Mary at age 27 back in those days. Perhaps Wiley had been married to someone else earlier? Mary had her mother’s surname, and with her mother pledging surety for the marriage, it would seem that it was probably Mary’s first. After marrying in April of 1834, however, they got busy having children to make up for lost time. Mary had her first child in 1835, and then 5 more children in the next 10 years.

Wiley & family are listed in the 1840 US Federal Census in Botetourt, and in District 8, Botetourt, in 1850; he is also on the Ag Census for 1850. Obviously, then, he was a farmer, but there was no real estate value listed- maybe he was just renting, rather than owned the property? (We should check land records.)  Wiley had made his mark on the marriage bond, but still could neither read nor write per the census.

1850 Agriculture Schedule for Wiley A. Murrell, part 2. (Click to enlarge.)
The family migrated in 1853 to Roseville, Warren Co., Illinois, and Wiley had $718 in personal estate value per the 1860 census there. In 1868 the family migrated to Jasper Co., Iowa, but they have not been found on an 1870 census in Iowa, Illinois, or Virginia. They are found in the 1880 census in Jasper Co., Iowa, indexed as “Murren.”
The six children of Wiley and Mary are: Elizabeth Ann Murrell, John Henry Murrell, Mary Catharine Murrell, William Anderson Murrell, James Edward Murrell, and Ann Elisy Murrell. We will have more about each of these children in upcoming posts.
Wiley died on 27 March 1885 in Prairie City, Jasper County, Iowa. We have been unable to find an obituary for him. Mary died 2 years later.
W. A. Murrell and Mary M. Honts- Headstone in Mound Prairie Cemetery, Jasper Co., Iowa. Posted with kind permission of photographer.
Wiley and Mary had a son named “William Anderson Murrell” so that may have been the father’s full name as well.
It appears that the family was associated with the Daniel (may have been McDaniel) and Roberts families possibly in Virginia, most likely in Illinois, and definitely in Iowa.
DNA testing has given us some lines to explore but no real answers yet. We have 9 known descendants who have taken DNA tests, with 9 autosomal plus one Y-DNA. Many of the matches link to Thomas Murrell and Elizabeth Oliver, but there are other names that repeatedly show up, such as Gilliam. Our paper trail does not have good connections to these lines, unfortunately. So we just cannot connect the dots…
Any suggestions are much appreciated!


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Image sources per captions.
  2. Thank you SO much to the Harlan Family who posted such great pictures on their website! We have searched unsuccessfully over the years for images of Wiley and Mary, and were thrilled last year to have a cousin send us their website that she had found. (Thanks, Patti!) It was great to contact these cousins, and they also have posted some wonderful pictures of the Murrell-Roberts family. You can find their website at
  3. It appears that the picture of Wiley and Mary is a composite picture- two different images laid side-by-side and printed. Note the different sizes of the two of them, as well as how Mary’s dress fades into Wiley’s suit. This seems to have been done with other pictures owned by the Harlan Family.
  4. Census data is from, but FamilySearch has also been consulted for the 1870 census search. We have even gone page by page through Jasper County, Iowa, where we expect the Murrells to be, and even Warren County, Illinois, but cannot find the family.


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