My Search for Ella’s Conyer Ancestors

When I first became part of Pete’s family, I brought my interest in genealogy with me. I wanted to trace his family tree as well as my own. Harlan and Ella shared with me some clippings and documents and photos of their families to get me started. Harlan was particularly interested in finding out more about his mother’s Estes family, and Ella wanted to find out more about her father’s Conyer(s) family.

One of the first important clues for the Conyers search was what Ella showed me in her family Bible. This chart took her line back to her grandfather, Henry C. Conyer and although his wife’s name was missing, it did list the name of Henry’s brother, Irving, which would turn out to be important later.

My first task was to find Ella’s father Thomas Wesley Conyer in a census record as a child living in the home of his parents. Since Harlan and Ella both grew up in Florida, it was no surprise to find the Conyers family living in Manatee County in 1900. Henry’s birthdate and place were reported incorrectly in this record, and for some reason his wife’s name was left blank. Census records can be full of mistakes, but when you find who you are looking for, they do confirm that a family was in a certain place at a certain time.

The important thing was finding Thomas enumerated with his father H. C. Conyer and siblings Walter and Bessie. Having the Bible information was critical for proving this link.

Later, other records revealed the name of Henry’s wife, Jincy Anne Wood, whose three marriages produced the siblings and half-siblings listed in Ella’s Bible. Jincy first married William Harrison Hosford and had a daughter Laura. Her second husband was Joe Parrish, with whom she had Verda, Frank and Mary Jo Parrish. Her final marriage was to Henry C. Conyer, father of Walter, Thomas, Jessie and Bessie.

The next step was to find Henry as a child with his own parents in a census record, so that we could discover their names. In the 1860 census for Clarendon District, South Carolina, I found the Conyers family: Jno (John) and Ann, both 32, Sarah 8, Lucy 4, Henry 2, and Ervin 5 months old. This variation of Irving or Irvin was confirmation that I had the right family. All the family members were reported as born in South Carolina.

I also found John and Ann listed in Darlington County, South Carolina, ten years earlier in the 1850 census, newly married with no children. Their names were shown as John C. Conyers and Anna J. Conyers. In later census years, however, I could not find John and Anna Conyers. Some of the four children were enumerated in other households, which led me to believe that perhaps the parents had died sometime after the 1860 census. That’s when it hit me that perhaps the Conyers family had been caught up in the turbulence of the Civil War, and I sought out military records for John Conyers.

Lucky for us, many military records are now available online. It didn’t take long to locate John Conyers. He had enrolled at age 36 as a private in the Confederate army on June 24, 1861. The unit he joined at Ridgeville in Sumter County, South Carolina was Captain Alexander Colclough’s Company of the 2nd Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers. This unit subsequently became Company D of the 9th Regiment of SC Volunteers.

Sadly, John did not survive the war. He died at Culpeper Hospital in Virginia of typhoid and pneumonia in November of 1861.

John’s name appears on a monument of Confederate soldiers buried at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper County, Virginia.

What had become of John’s widow, Anna? I wondered if she also had died during this time or whether she remarried and took a different name. Sometimes it’s hard to trace the women.

Meanwhile, Ella’s grandfather Henry C. Conyers, as a young man and without his parents, was enumerated in both 1870 and 1880 in the home of Harvey and Mary Locklear in Tabor, Crawford County, Georgia. In the 1870 record, one of his sisters was living there, too. In the 1880 census, Henry was listed as “nephew.” Was he the nephew of Harvey Locklear or of Harvey’s wife, Mary?

The name Locklear comes in many variations: Locklayer, Locklier, Locklair, Locklear. I started snooping around for that family. When Pete and I visited the archives in Manning, South Carolina on our 2013 road trip, we found lots of Conyers and Locklear records, but nothing that could definitely tie us to John and Ann.

My search stagnated at that point until the summer of 2017. I was taking a look through some of Pete’s genetic matches on the Family Tree DNA website and came across a fellow named Ken Player who had both Conyers and Locklears in his family tree. This perked my interest. I contacted him and while I waited for his response, I did some more digging.

I decided to look for military records out of South Carolina. I struck gold when I found a pension file for a War of 1812 veteran named Strann Conyers. He had married several times, and at an advanced age he married his fourth wife—a young girl of 16 named Mary Locklear.

Turns out they had a child together, which died at age 5. Shortly after that, young Mary left her husband and went with her sister to visit relatives in Manatee County, Florida. The affidavits in the file tell the tale of woe. While in Florida, Mary married another man and started a family with him there. When the old veteran Strann Conyers died, Mary left husband number two in Florida and returned to South Carolina to claim the widow’s pension under Conyers’ service. Fraud charges and a legal battle ensued, which provided records detailing all the family relationships and what took place—for 184 pages. Quite a story.

While I do not yet know how Strann Conyers is related to Ella’s line, after studying the records in the pension file, I was able to reconstruct the family of Mary Locklear. She was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Locklear, whose children included Stephen, Anna, Harvey, Nelson, Irvin, Eliza, Andrew, Mary, Julia, Martha, Louisa and Elizabeth.

Mary’s sister Julia Locklear is the ancestor of Pete’s DNA match, Ken Player. Eliza was the sister who went along with Mary to Florida. Nelson Locklear was the brother they visited in Manatee County. Irvin Locklear was the brother for whom John and Anna Conyers likely named their younger son, and with whom Irvin Conyer was living at one point. Harvey was of course the person with whom Henry C. Conyers lived in 1870 and 1880. Harvey’s Civil War record indicates he was born in Sumter County, South Carolina. In the 1885 Florida State Census, Henry Conyer was living in Manatee County, Florida as were Harvey and Mary Locklear. Everything seems to indicate that John Conyers’ wife was Anna Locklear.

Here is the Thomas Locklear (Locklier) family enumerated in the 1850 census for the Sumter District of South Carolina, just a couple of months before Anna was enumerated as a newlywed with John Conyers.

I’m pretty excited about this discovery of Anna’s birth family, but that still doesn’t tell us where she ended up. So far I have found no cemetery record or subsequent marriage record for her. Someday a new clue will emerge. Perhaps by tracing each of Anna’s siblings we will find a tidbit that will crack the case. The fact that Anna was not involved in her sister’s court case over the pension fraud leads me to believe that she was indeed deceased by that time.

Many of the Conyers and Locklears of early South Carolina served in the Revolutionary War. There is also some evidence that the Locklears intermarried with the indigenous tribes in that area of South Carolina. Some branches of Locklears are listed as Free Persons of Color or in some cases as mixed race (mulatto) in the early census records. Perhaps Ella and her offspring have Indian heritage. So many more things to research!

This entry was posted in Conyers, Locklear. Bookmark the permalink.