A Family Brick Wall

In genealogy, a brick wall is a term that refers to a person or item that stops you dead in your research tracks. One of my most aggravating brick walls on the McCune line is William and Frances McCune, our 3x great-grandparents, who lived in Alabama in the mid-1800s. I’ve searched for many, many years for their correct dates and places of birth and their dates and places of death. I don’t know who their parents were or the names of any of their siblings, or if they had any. Nothing, nada, kaput! So I’m pounding on a brick wall and can’t climb any further up that branch of our family tree.

I’ve located an online image of the authorization for William’s marriage to Frances Franklin in Blount County, AL, on 22 Jun 1842[1].  They are in the 1850 U.S. census in Benton County (now Calhoun County), AL. Wm. McCuin, 28, is supporting his wife, Fanny, 24, and three children, R.E., 6, A.J., 4, and M., 3, as a farmer. His place of birth is listed as Georgia. Fanny was born in South Carolina, and all three children were born in Alabama. William’s birth year would be about 1822 and Fanny’s would be 1826[2].

They are also in the 1860 U.S. census in Arkadelphia, Walker County, AL. William McCune is now shown as being 46, which would put his birth year at 1815, and Frances as 38 with a birth year of 1822. The children with them are Andrew J., 14, (our 2x great-grandfather), Elizabeth, 10, and Frances, 4. He’s farming and his personal property is valued at $150.00. William and Frances have stated for the census that they cannot read or write[3].

After 1860, they seem to disappear!  Unfortunately for me, during that time there are other William McCunes living in Georgia and Alabama, one of whom is a wealthy landowner in Elbert County, GA, and could possibly be William’s grandfather. There were also a lot of McCunes in Limestone County, AL. Will the real William McCune please stand up!!

I have not yet found William or Frances in the 1870 U.S. census. It’s possible that they were completely missed by the census takers. In the 1880 U.S. census, there is a Fanny McCune, 64, living with her 28-year-old single daughter, M.A., in Blount County, AL. She states she’s a widow. Her estimated birth year would be 1816 and her daughter would have been born about 1852[4].  She should have been in the 1860 census but the daughters in that census are Elizabeth, birth year 1850, and Frances, birth year 1854. I thought that William might have been a casualty of the Civil War, although he would have been an older soldier, but I can’t find him in the Civil War records for Alabama or Georgia.

Also listed in the 1880 census in Blount County is a William McCune, 58, with a wife, 34, and two sons, Joe, 8, and George, 3. His birth year would be 1822.  This William McCune’s parents were born in North Carolina, per the census record[5]. Is this our ancestor? Did he divorce Fanny and marry a much younger woman? Is Fanny so mad she’s saying she’s widowed? Or is this a completely different William McCune?

In the 1880 U.S. non-population schedule (agriculture), the William McCune in Blount County owned 80 acres of land valued at $300, one horse, one milk cow and calf, nine sheep, seven pigs, and 13 chickens which produced 50 dozen eggs. He grew 30 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of wheat and cut 30 cords of wood for the year[6].

I’ve searched every online record source I can think of on several different websites for both William and Frances, including U.S. censuses, Alabama censuses, Civil War records, Confederate pension files, archived newspapers, convict records, death indexes, other online family trees, cemetery databases, land records, wills and probates, estate files, mortality schedules, land lottery records, and city directories. I’ve also investigated other close family members and friends and neighbors’ names.

What I haven’t done is travel to Blount, Walker, and Calhoun Counties, AL, to search their courthouse records and historical archives. That trip is on my list of things to do. If any of you cousins want to help track down William and Frances McCune, I would love your help!

[1] “Alabama, County Marriages, 1809-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-34734-24048-78?cc=1743384 : accessed 24 Jan 2016),  image 472 of 879; county courthouses, Alabama.

[2] 1850 U.S. census, Benton County, Alabama, population schedule, sheet 299B, dwelling 481, family 485, Wm. McCuin; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: acesssed 2014); citing NARA M432, roll 1.

[3] 1860 U.S. census, Walker County, Alabama, population schedule, sheet 942, dwelling 569, family 548, William McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2014); citing NARA M653, roll 26.

[4] 1880 U.S. census, Blount County, Alabama, population schedule, sheet 470A (stamped), ED 009, dwelling 89, family 99, Fanny McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2014); citing NARA T9.

[5] 1880 U.S. census, Blount County, Alabama, population schedule, Sheet 471C (stamped), ED 0009, dwelling 101, family 101, William McCune; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2014); citing NARA  T9, roll 2.

[6] 1880 U.S. census, Blount County, Alabama, agricultural schedule, ED 9, p. 11, William McCune; database image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2014).


  1. Jo Anne Dukes said:

    My William A McCune was born in GA 1807, married Susan Patrick in Jasper County AL. Then to MS in 1850. Am looking for his parents names I know his children’s names.

    May 24, 2016
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Hi Joanne, we’ve talked on Ancestry.com, I believe, and weren’t able to establish a connection with our McCune families. Thanks for reading my blog post and good luck on your genealogy research!

      May 25, 2016
  2. Cindy Anderson said:

    Hi Christine,
    I’m trying to figure out where Mary Jane ‘Mollie’ Mccune fits into the picture. She married Alexander Poindexter Bradley.

    Her birth date is listed on find a grave as 12 Jul 1844 in Limestone, Alabama and her death date as 17 Apr 1919 in Cedar Bluff, Clay County, Mississippi but I can’t find any records (or family trees) about her life prior to her marriage. Have you run across her name? Do you have any suggestions as to where I might look to find her parents’ names?

    Any suggestions are appreciated!

    July 27, 2016
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Cindy, Thanks for your inquiry. I’ve sent you a private email.

      July 28, 2016
      • Christina Lynn Burke Holt said:

        Hi Cindy and Christine,

        I am also related to Mary Jane McCune and trying to track her ancestry. If you have any more information I would apprectiate it. She was my great great great grandmother:)

        December 3, 2016
        • Christine Ellington said:

          I think you and Cindy may be in the same McCune family line. I couldn’t find our McCune family connection to her line. Contact me through my gmail account under the Contact Me link in the menu above, and I’ll see about connecting you up with Cindy.

          December 3, 2016
  3. Janet said:

    Have you looked at David Franklin as a parent for Francis? He was in SC in 1840 apparently, and had children in her range. He is in Blount Co Alabama in 1850. The 1840 census shows more ch than most researchers credit him with. Perhaps you can compare DNA with some of these researchers.Just a thought! Happy hunting!!

    November 22, 2017
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Thanks so much for the hint! Will definitely look into this! I appreciate you taking time to help me in my search!

      November 22, 2017

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