Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bunch Family in Mississippi

Yesterday morning, I opened my email and found a copy of a press release from ancestry.com announcing the result of several years' research into the family lineage of President Obama's deceased mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.  Specifically, the research suggests that Ms. Dunham's ancestry is linked to John Punch of Virginia, likely America's first slave, and relates how John Punch's son, John Bunch, was born to an unnamed free white female. The story of John Bunch, a free mulatto, and his descendants, complete with references, can be read on links provided on ancestry.com's website. As I began reading the fascinating history of the Bunch family in America, I recalled hearing my paternal grandmother occasionally mention this surname in conversations with our relatives from Attala County, Mississippi. In addition, I have frequently seen the surname Bunch while researching census records in counties where my ancestors lived in Mississippi, including Attala.  Also, I recalled finding Bunch family connections while searching for my elusive Gibson ancestors in North and South Carolina. With my interest now piqued by the story of John Punch and John Bunch and his descendants,  I decided to do a little Bunch family research of my own.


According to early census records for territorial Mississippi, Elijah Bunch and Jacob Bunch were already living in the area as early as 1800, showing up as residents of what was once called the Southwest Mississippi Territory.  Further research established that Elijah Bunch likely migrated from North Carolina, where he had purchased land in 1791 in Chowan County from an individual named Hance "Pond," or maybe "Bond."  And just three years after he purchased the land in Chowan County, Elijah married Ann Parrish on August 26, 1794, also in Chowan County. According to North Carolina records of marriage bonds, Abner Bunch, whose relationship to the groom is undetermined, was the Bondsman, and Joseph Blount witnessed the marriage ceremony.

In 1820, the U. S. Census conducted in Mississippi shows Jacob Bunch and John Bunch as heads of households in Wilkinson County, Mississippi.  Elijah Bunch does not appear on either the 1810 or 1820 census. On August 7, 1820, John Bunch's household in Wilkinson County included 16 free white persons and 4 slaves. And it was in Wilkinson County that a Rebecca Bunch married Felix E. Stephens on October 19, 1828.  Jacob Bunch married Phanner R. Hornsby several months later, on January 1, 1829, also in Wilkinson County.  More research is needed to determine relationships that may have existed between Elijah, Jacob, George, Paul, and John Bunch, all early residents of territorial Mississippi, as well as Rebecca's relationship to Jacob Bunch. Further research is needed, also, to determine if Jacob's marriage to Phanner Hornsby was his first marriage or a subsequent union and to determine names of their children, if any, born during the marriage.

A review of the U. S. Census of 1830, recorded in Franklin County, Mississippi, adjacent to Wilkinson County, shows Margarett Bunch, a white female over 50 years old, living alone with two children under 20.  Since she was listed as head of household, it seems reasonable to believe at this point that she was widowed.  Interestingly, Samuel Porter, one of my paternal ancestors mentioned earlier in this post, and another Porter male, Tillet Porter, were enumerated on the same census page that listed Margarett Bunch. Ironically, members of the Bunch and Porter families would eventually move to Attala County and the surrounding area, where many of their descendants still live today.

References: 
Hunting For Bears, comp.. Mississippi Marriages, 1776-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: Mississippi marriage information taken from county courthouse records. Many of these records were extracted from copies of the original records in microfilm, microfiche, or book format, located at the Family History Library. 

 Ancestry.com. U.S. Census Reconstructed Records, 1660-1820 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Census Publishing. State Census Records. West Jordan, Utah: Census Publishing, 2003-2009. 

Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Marriage Bonds, 1741-1868;[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of North Carolina. An Index to Marriage Bonds Filed in the North Carolina State Archives. Raleigh, NC, USA: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1977.

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