Mary is a common first name. Multiple generations of men in a given family name their daughters Mary. Some of the men have two or three wives. The result? Several women named Mary, same surname, same place, all born within a 2 to 10 year time span. Sorting the women requires a careful review of records. In this post, I describe my search for Mary Bull, mother of Nellie Black Johnson, and her ancestors.
Nellie Black Johnson is my husband’s great-grandmother on his mother’s side. A DNA Match provided names of possible common ancestors. To review, Nellie reported her parents as being born in the U.S. A. on the 1920 census.  The names of Nell’s parents, C.W. Black and Mary Bull, appear on her death certificate.  Mrs. Don Brannon (a.k.a Katie Jean Black), Nellie’s oldest child, provided information for the death certificate.
Nellie’s birth is reported as 16 January 1888 in Texas. Many women are between 20 and 30 years old when they have children. If true for Mary Bull, then consider a birth year between 1858 and 1868 for her. This date range places her in the same generation as DNA Match’s known ancestor, Joseph Jackson Bull, born in 1867.  Mary Bull, mother of Nellie Black, could be sister or cousin of Joseph Jackson Bull.
Nellie’s obituary provides more specific information. “A native of Montague County, Mrs. Johnson [Nell Black]. . . . had lived in Limestone County most of her life and had resided in the Point Enterprise and Mexia area for most of those years.”
First, I searched for Nell Black and Nellie Black in 1900 and 1910. Preliminary online searches revealed nothing for 1900. However, the 1910 census showed promise. 22-year-old Nellie Black, boarder, born in Texas, living with Sarah J. Bull, a widow, and her 4 sons, age 9 to 21 at McLennan county, Texas.  Both of Nellie’s parents reported here as born in Texas. Nellie’s age and birthplace are consistent with other records. Question: Is Nellie Black related to Sarah J. Bull? If so, how? If this Nellie is our Nellie, then her parents’ birthplaces narrow to the state of Texas.
Earlier census records for Sarah J Bull show her as wife of James H. Bull.  Sarah J [Armour] Bull married about 1885 to James Henry Bull (1849, Tennessee- 1903, Falls county, Texas). James Henry Bull is presumed son of Reuben Bull & his 2nd wife, Mahala Runnells. Isaac Bull, acknowledged father of Joseph Jackson Bull (DNA Match’s ancestor) is presumed son of Reuben Bull and his 1st wife, Susannah Smith. These facts suggest that Nellie Black, boarder living with Sarah Bull in 1910, is related to Sarah’s husband, James Henry Bull and, therefore, also related to Isaac Bull.
To identify other women named Mary Bull, I started with daughters and granddaughters of Reuben Bull, known ancestor of DNA Match.
- Mary Elizabeth Bull (1853 – 1947) married Daniel J Cole.  According to Mary’s death certificate,  she is the daughter of Reuben Bull & Mahala Ann Runnells. Mahala was Reuben’s 2nd wife.
- Mary E Bull (1856-1921) married William Grimes in 1874. According to her death certificate, her parents were W.J. Bull & [no name given] McDonald. William Jackson Bull, born about 1826 in Mississippi, is presumed to be the son of Reuben Bull & 1st wife, Susannah Smith, according to online family trees.
- Conclusion: Neither of these women – Mary Elizabeth Bull Cole or Mary E Bull Grimes- were Nellie Black’s mother. It is unlikely that either one had a child with a man who was not their husband.
One more person to consider– Marianne Bull, born 1855 in Texas to Isaac L. Bull (1827, Mississippi – 1884, Texas) and Sarah Jane Neel (abt 1836 – Jan 1870, Texas). Isaac is presumed son of Reuben Bull and his 1st wife, Susannah Smith. Isaac’s half-brother was James Henry Bull, whose widow took in Nellie Black as a boarder in 1910. Marianne’s birth in 1855 or 1856 at Texas is consistent with suggested birth year of Nellie’s mother. She seems like the best candidate so far.
- Nellie Black, born 1888 in Montague county, Texas. Parents named as C.W. Black and Mary Bull.
- Nellie Black as boarder in 1910 with Sarah J. Bull, widow of James Henry Bull, in McLennan county, Texas. Birthplace of Nellie’s parents recorded as Texas.
- James Henry Bull and Isaac L. Bull, presumed half-brothers, sons of Reuben Bull. Isaac L. Bull is known ancestor of DNA Match.
- Marianne Bull born about 1855/ 1856 in Texas to Isaac Bull and Sarah Neel. Similar birth year and place as suggested from Nell’s records.
- Mary E. Bull, born 1853, (daughter of Reuben Bull) married Daniel Cole. Not Nellie’s mother.
- Mary E. Bull, born 1856, (daughter of W. J. Bull) married William Grimes. W. J. Bull and Isaac Bull presumed brothers, sons of Reuben Bull and his 1st wife. Not Nellie’s mother.
- Falls county, Limestone county and McLennan county are next to each other.
ASSERTION: Marianne Bull, born about 1855 or 1856 to Isaac Bull and Sarah Neel, is most likely person to be mother of Nellie Black. Her marriage to C.W. Black hasn’t yet been proven. Did Marianne and C.W. die before 1910? I remain open to these and other possibilities. My search for C.W. Black is the subject of another post!
This is one of the more difficult questions that I have encountered. I ruled out some possibilities and discovered others. I reviewed the same information multiple times. Online hints, once connected to a specific person, never seem to change. Example: Parents named on death certificate for Mary E. [Bull] Cole but same document is attached to another Mary Bull, daughter of different parents. Similar to many of my posts, this one does not represent reasonably exhaustive research. It does show a partial unraveling of persons with common names.
What helped: Information from DNA Match who shared names, dates and places. Availability of online sources. Remembering process for Genealogy Do-Over—information, charts, forms, evidence, analysis of evidence.
What didn’t help: Conflicting evidence posted online in family trees. Shaky leaf hints not really helpful after finding them the first time. Individual pieces of paper didn’t always find their way to the correct pile. You don’t even want to see my desk at the moment!
To-Do: Continue page-by-page search of 1900 census for Nellie Black in Montague and Limestone counties. Search 1880 census for Nellie Black in Shackelford county. Compile information about C.W. Black and write summary.
 1920 U.S. Census, Limestone county, Texas, population schedule, Pt Enterprise School District, enumeration district (ED) 81, p. 3A, dwelling 41, family 47, H.L. Johnson head, age 32; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 1 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T625_1829.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 2018), entry for Nell Johnson; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 37422.
 Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 10 March 2020), memorial 18325374, Joseph Jackson Bull (1867-1902), Pima Cemetery, Pima, Graham County, Arizona; gravestone photograph by Mike H; memorial created by Mike H.
 “Funeral services for Mrs. Johnson set for Wednesday,” obituary, Mexia Daily News, 3 May 1960; digital image, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 6 March 2020); citing Mexia Daily News (newspaper), Mexia, Texas.
 1910 census, Nellie Black. 1910 U.S. Census, McLennan county, Texas, population schedule, Waco, sheet 25B, dwelling 276, family 298, Nellie Black; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed, 26 February 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm publication T624_1584.
 1880 U.S. Census, Falls county, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 4, sheet 10B, enumeration district (ED) 22, dwelling 181, family 186, James H. Bull and Sallie J. Bull; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed, 26 February 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm publication T623.
 1850 U.S. Census, Yazoo county, Mississippi, population schedule, sheet 508A, dwelling 541, family 553, James H. Bull, age 2; presumed son of Reuben Bull, age 50; (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed, 13 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm publication M432_382.
 “Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1965,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 March 2020), entry for Danie F. Cole and Mary E Bull, 23 Jan 1870, Falls county, Texas; citing “Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1977,” Salt Lake City, Utah: Family Search, 2013.
 “Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 6 March 2020), entry for Mary Elizabeth Cole; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 39642.
 “Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1965,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 March 2020), entry for Wm Grimes and Mary E Bull, 4 Jan 1874, Falls county, Texas; citing “Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1977,” Salt Lake City, Utah: Family Search, 2013.
 Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 4 March 2020), entry for Mrs. M. E. Grimes; citing Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, Texas; certificate no. 28652.
 1860 U.S. Census, Falls county, Texas, population schedule, Marlin post office, sheet 149, dwelling 84, family 84, Mary Black, age 4; Isaac Bull, age 28; Sarah bull, age 24; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & printed, 4 March 2020); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm publication M653_1293.