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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Sentimental Sunday: Murrell Family Bible, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Murrell Family Bible

MURRELL Family Bible-Births
MURRELL Family Bible-Births        [click to enlarge]
Edith Roberts (see Murrell Family Bible, Part 1would not have known her great-grandparents Wiley Anderson Murrell and Mary Magdalen Hons Murrell as they died about 15 years before she was born. I do not remember hearing any stories about them, but she told- and thankfully wrote- much about the family she did know. She did lovingly keep the Murrell family bible though, and now it is time for another generation to share for other related family to see. (Grandma would be so astounded at how we can share today!) It is now up to us to find the actual stories of the Murrells, and pass them on to our children.

[I did procrastinate and have gotten so involved with the live streaming of RootsTech that I did not get the Murrell Bible posts up, but will publish all in the next few days- really.]

The Murrell Family Bible does not have a title page or publication date- the first pages are missing. Many, but not all, of the entries were written in the same hand. The births look as if they were all written at the same time- maybe after all the children were born, after 1845? The marriage record and the first recorded death appear as if the same pen and ink were used as is on the births page. This makes me wonder if the bible was purchased around November 1846, when their daughter Mary Catharine died at the young age of 7 years. We start to see the possible stories of this family as we analyze just these three pages of Bible records. One can almost feel the grief of a mother, setting the family’s history into their Holy Book, to pass to subsequent generations.

The ephemera within the bible, which I will also post this week, gave clues that it was owned by the Roberts family in the 1930s, and we know it was passed to Edith Roberts Luck in later years. The bible was transcribed in 1966 with a purple Flair pen (the newest and coolest thing then), with Grandma Edie by my side to explain who each person was and how they were related. I have added notes of more information found in subsequent years, and corrected some of the things I did not know about transcribing when I was a new to genealogical research.

Transcription of the above Bible page:


Wiley A. Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

Feb the 3 day 1805



Mary Honts was

Born in the year

of our Lord Sep 9th




Elizabeth Ann Murrell

Daughter of Wilee Murrell

was Born in the year of our Lord Feb the [1? Or 4?]




John Henry Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

July the 2 Day 1837



Mary Catherine

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Sep the 18




William Anderson

Murrell was Born

In the year of our

Lord May the 25




[next column]



James Edward

Murrell was Born

in the year of our

Lord Nove the 15




Ann Elisy Murrell

was Born in the

year of our Lord

December the 21




Notes, Sources, and References:

1) is streaming video of wonderful speakers from the 2014 RootsTech conference, and they will be available on the website for a short time after. The theme of many of the speakers is, “Tell your stories!” which is exactly why we started this blog. If  opportunity presents, watch the Keynote from Saturday, 2/7/14 with Stephanie Nielson- it is a powerful story and was very moving. For some reason the videos are not available yet as I write this (and it’s a genealogy and tech conference??? Oh, the irony…) but it is all free online so am very grateful for that.

2) Wiley A. Murrell- born in Virginia; parents John (?) Murrell and ?; mother or grandparent possibly ___ Anderson since Anderson is used as his and son’s middle name?

3) Mary Honts- Parents were Henry Honts and Catherine Coffman; name Mary Magdalene Huntz/Hunts/Honce/Hance.

4) Elizabeth Murrell- Note: Feb 1 is date in other documents; middle name was Ann. Elizabeth Ann m. John Roberts in Roseville, Illinois, 08 Mar 1857 and d. 02 Feb 1917 in Prairie City, Jasper, Iowa.

5) John Henry Murrell- b. Botetourt Co., VA; m. Lydia Raburn by 21 Dec 1862 and d. 23 or 25 Mar 1880.

6) Mary Catherine Murrell- died young- see deaths

7) William Anderson Murrell- “of Roseville, IL” per obit of his sister Eliz. in 1917. Married Cordelia Talley 1 Oct 1867 in Warren Co., IL, and d. 1 Aug 1922 in Roseville, Warren, IL.

8) James Edward Murrell-  m. Mary E. Robinson 17 Nov 1867; “of Leavenworth, KS” per sister Eliz’s obit in 1917.

9) Ann Elisy Murrell- m. Aaron Brown; she d. 02 May 1892.

10) Murrell Family Bible, possibly c1845.


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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.


Mystery Monday- The Murrells of Virginia and Iowa


Wiley A Murrell and Mary Honce Marriage Bond.
Wiley A Murrell and Mary Honce Marriage Bond, 09 Apr 1834. [Click for larger image. See footnotes for transcription.]
Sometimes we family historians have to just realize that the information we seek may no longer be available, or maybe was never available. That is tough to accept for most of us, so we beat our heads up against the proverbial brick wall. We rejoice in any minute clue, and try to look at the negative data in a positive way. We keep hoping to learn just one more tidbit about our elusive ancestor…

Wiley Anderson Murrell (Murrill, Merrell, etc.) is one of my most frustrating brick walls. He was born 03 Feb 1806 in Virginia, a time when record keeping and record survival was not optimum for genealogists. We have been unable to determine his parent’s names, where his parents were from, siblings, or exactly where he was born in Virginia.

Some of the only Virginia documentation that has been found concerns the marriage of Wiley. There was a marriage bond with Catharine Honce, promising a marriage between Wiley and her daughter, Mary Magdalen Honce; the bond was signed on 09 Aril 1834. Mary’s mother signed the bond- unusual for the time- because Mary’s father, Henry Hons/Johns (1773-1864) had moved to Tennessee with his (to be) second wife, Elizabeth Firestone, their child, and some of Mary’s siblings. The family had been unstable- Henry demanded that his daughter Mary go with him as well as all the other siblings, but Mary refused and hid from him when he came to get the other children. (Henry Hons/Honce/Johns is another long story for future posts.)

The Murrell Family Bible states that Wiley and Mary were married “March the 10 1834.” This date corresponds with Dodd’s Early Marriages: Virginia to 1850, which also states that Jacob Carper, a Methodist Episcopal minister, presided, and that Mary was the “d of Catharine who also gives surety.”

Wiley A. Murrell is found in the 1840 US Federal Census in Botetourt, Virginia, with ages and gender of others in the household indicating probably Wiley, Mary, and 3 children (2 girls and a boy); Wiley was a farmer. The Murrell Family Bible records that one of these children, Mary Catherine Murrell, born 18 Sep 1839, “departed this life in the yr of our Lord & Savior November the 6  1846 age 7 years 1 month & 12 days.”

In 1850, Wiley A. “Marrell” was again listed in Botetourt Co., Virginia, in the Western District (District 8) as a farmer and living with his wife Mary and their children: Elizabeth, age 15, John H[enry], 13, William [Anderson], 9, James E., 8, and Ann E[lisy], age 5. There was no value listed for real estate owned, so he may have been renting the land, and it was noted that he was over age 20 but “cannot read & write.” In 1850 there were also many Murrills listed in the nearby Bedford Co., VA census, but no clues of how they might be related to Wiley.

The family moved to Greenbush, Illinois per their son William A.’s obituary in 1856, or 1853 to Roseville, Swan Twp., Warren Co., per family oral history and the obituary of daughter Elizabeth Ann (Murrell) Roberts. The family  remained in Warren Co. during the 1860 census- Elizabeth Ann was married by then, but William, James, and Eliza were going to school, and Wiley continued to farm.

Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa, August 20, 1907. Street scene during Old Settler's Day.
Prairie City, Jasper Co., Iowa, August 20, 1907. Street scene during Old Settler’s Day. RPPC.

In 1868, per obituaries, the family, including Elizabeth Ann and her husband John Roberts, migrated to Jasper County, Iowa, in covered wagons per their great-granddaughter Edith Roberts who heard the stories often as a child. The family has not been found in an 1870 census- not in Iowa, as expected, nor Illinois; even Virginia censuses have been checked with no success.

The family is next found in the 1880 US Federal Census in Jasper Co., Iowa, indexed as “Murren.” Wiley was still farming that year, at age 74, and living with just his wife. In March, 1885, the two were found together in the Iowa State Census in Mound Prairie Township, Jasper Co., Iowa, listed after their daughter Elizabeth and her husband John Roberts. (No land description is given and they have a separate dwelling, so they may have been living on the Roberts’ farm.)

Headstone of Wiley Anderson Murrell and his wife Mary Magdalene Honce. Mound Prairie Cemetery, Jasper Co., Iowa
Headstone of Wiley Anderson Murrell and his wife Mary Magdalene Honce. Mound Prairie Cemetery, Jasper Co., Iowa

Wiley A. Murrell died that same month as the census, on 27 Mar 1885 in Prairie City, Jasper, Iowa. His wife Mary died two years later, on 13 Jul 1887 in Mound Prairie Twp, Jasper, Iowa. Both are buried in the Greenleif/Mound Prairie Cemetery near the family’s farm.


We are very lucky to know so much about the family once Wiley A. Murrell and Mary Magdalen Honce were married. The brick wall part is Wiley’s ancestry- who were his parents, where did they live, and where in Virginia was Wiley born? Some researchers think that John Murrell (1785-?) and Hannah Mitchell were his parents. This is the theory I am leaning toward, especially since Wiley and Mary’s first son had the name of John (after his paternal grandfather possibly?) and the middle name of his maternal grandfather (Henry Honce.) Other researchers suggest William L. Murrell (b. 1769 VA, d. 1850-1860 in Cocke Co., Tennessee) and Elizabeth or Nancy Lax (1760- ) were Wiley’s parents. We would welcome conclusive proof of either, or other leads and sources.



Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Murrell Family Bible, hand copied circa 1966 at a relative’s home in Iowa, though whose home is unknown. Some researchers and the newer headstone for Wiley state his birth date was 02 Feb 1806; the Bible states it was 03 Feb 1805. Date of Bible is unknown. (Sorry, it was the time before much documentation, and hey, I was just a kid!)


2) Marriage bond transcription:

“Know all men by these presents, that we, Wiley A. Murrell [and] Catherine Honce are held and firmly bound unto Littleton W. Tazewell- Governor of Virginia, in the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars, current money, and for the payment of which, well and truly to be made, to the said Governor and his successors in office, we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators, jointly and severally, firmly by these presents. Sealed with our seals, and dated the 9th day of April 1834.

“The condition of the above obligation is such, that whereas, there is a marriage shortly to be had and solemnized, betweeen the above bound Wiley A. Murrell and mary Magdalen Honce daughter of the above bound Catherine Honce of the county of Botetourt. If therefore, there be no lawful cause or impediment to obstruct said marriage, then the above obligation to be void, else to remain in full force and virtue.”

It was signed by Wiley A. Murrell, his mark, and Catharine Honce, her mark, with F [Woltz?] as the witness.


3) Marriage Bond date is listed as marriage date on and per Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850.

Source Information: Virginia, Marriages, 1740-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.

Original data: Dodd, Jordan R., et al.. Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850. Bountiful, UT, USA: Precision Indexing Publishers.


4) 1840 US Federal census: Source Citation: Year: 1840; Census Place:  , Botetourt, Virginia; Roll: 552; Page: 294; Image: 601; Family History Library Film: 0029684. Accessed last on 12/08/2013.


5) 1850 US Federal census: Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: District 8, Botetourt, Virginia; Roll: M432_936; Page: 156B; Image: 551.


6) William A. Murrel- Obituary: “G. A. R. Veteran at Roseville, is Buried Today.” Galesburg [Illinois] Evening Mail, page 10, August 3, 1922. William was just 15 when they moved to Illinois. On 01 Aug 1862 he answered the call to arms and  joined Co. H, 83rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He participated in active fighting during his 3 years with the company and was mustered out 26 Jun 1865. He married Cordelia Talley of Roseville, IL, on 01 Oct 1867 and they had 2 daughters and 2 sons. William died 01 Aug 1922.


7) Obituary of Elizabeth Ann (Murrell) Roberts: “Mrs. Roberts Called Home,” Prairie City News, February 7, 1917. Page number unknown as my copy is a clipping acquired many years ago from family.


8) 1880 US Federal Census: Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Mound Prairie, Jasper, Iowa; Roll: 346; Family History Film: 1254346; Page: 150A; Enumeration District: 096; Image: 0524. Accessed 12/08/2013.



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