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Feb 18, 2019

African American Genealogy: Finding an Ancestor’s Parents with Only Her Married Name

McCool in 1900 Census

by Robin Foster

Have you ever gotten stuck searching a female ancestor in African American genealogy because you did not know the name she used before she was married? Well if you remember Martha Vance (1884-1978) in Emory W. Vance, Sr. is Among the Richland County, SC Grantor Deeds, Emory and Otis Tucker Vance deeded two parcels of land to her for $5.00 after her husband, Lafayette Franklin Vance died.

They must have loved her very much because of the price she paid for the land, $5.00, and Emory’s mother was really Lula Johnson Vance who died in 1927. It is that love which caused me to search for her parents. She lived to be 96, and how long she lived in Philadelphia after leaving Columbia, South Carolina I do not know. This is her social security death record:


On the 1930 Census, Lafayette and Martha had not long gotten married. Some time before this, Martha had lived in Union County, SC.

McCool in 1930 Census
“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 May 2016), South Carolina > Richland > Columbia > ED 28 > image 36 of 59; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).


I found her in 1920 as Martha McCool with one daughter, Maude Thompson. She was married to John McCool, who was not Maude’s father.

McCool in 1920 Census
“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 December 2015), South Carolina > Union > Union > ED 145 > image 15 of 50; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).


The McCool family was living with the Foster family as servants in Union County, SC on the 1910 Census. Martha McCool is there with Maude Rogers. I cannot tell if Thompson was a married name. I also want to know how they came to know the Foster’s. Tracing them backwards might reveal this.

McCool in 1910 Census
“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 24 June 2017), South Carolina > Union > Union > ED 124 > image 41 of 44; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).


Eventually, I found Martha with her parents and siblings: Joseph and Susie Gage and Sam, Martha, Mamie, Lena, Victoria, Lillie, and Wallace. George Gage is living next door with his family. He is born in 1879. I’m not sure how he fits in, but maybe searching backwards will reveal he is a son.

McCool in 1900 Census
“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 August 2014), South Carolina > Union > ED 67 Cross Keys Township > image 32 of 36; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Sharpen the Saw

I was so happy to find Martha with her parents and siblings in 1900. How was I able to get there? My mother, Edna Vance Foster, remembered Maude. She is the granddaughter to Lafayette. Without her recognizing Maude, who I never knew, I do not know if I could have put it together.

Are there any questions you need to ask relatives in order to get back further in your family history? Please share in the Facebook Group.