Posted by: marthabernie | September 27, 2018

McManus Family Update

I have been researching the McManus Family in Chatham County, NC since 1997.   Lawrence McManus left County Fermanagh (now Northern) Ireland, most likely in the late 1740s or early 1750s.  He was born in 1733 in Fermanagh and appears to have grown to adulthood before leaving for America.  There are a lot of questions about various parts of his life, though many researchers have posted information over the years which may or may not be documented.  He seems to have settled first in Randolph County, NC after marrying Catherine Cattrall McCollin.  Some think she was born in Ireland.  She may have, in fact, been born in NC, her father being John McCollin.  Lawrence and Cattrall had ten surviving children, and I have never been able to document which of Lawrence’s sons was my 4th great grandfather.  In fact, until I took the Ancestry DNA test a few years ago, I had no documented proof that I was truly descended from Lawrence.  However, once the DNA proved that I am cousins with direct, documented descendants of Lawrence, the question became one of trying to figure out which son was the missing link.

Some current cousins are convinced that Jonathan is the missing link.  However, he was very young to be married and fathering four children in TN at the end of the 1700s and into 1800.  Not impossible, though, and Jonathan can be documented in TN around that time.  He did, however, end up in Illinois, marrying a woman named Nancy Duncan and having several children there with her.  Also in TN at the time in question was his brother, Ely, much older with no documented marriages either in NC or TN.  Stories abound about Ely but there are no known marriage records that I have been able to find.  Some think the TN wife died after having four kids (named Eli, Joseph, Hannah and Amy); others think she survived and that when Ely left TN to return to NC, he left the four kids behind with her…or possibly with her family?  Another story says that Ely married a Choctaw Indian woman, but the DNA does not support that, not even the recent updated DNA report (see earlier post).  So we know that Ely was born in NC, went to TN in his 30s, left TN, returned to NC, then moved with his sister and her family to Ohio, where he died after the 1860 census and before the 1870 census, but we don’t know exactly when.  All we know was that he was born in Randolph County, NC in 1760 and that he lived to be at least 90 years of age.  I believe Ely is the missing link because of the naming conventions (oldest son Eli, a name which was carried down through the family in later generations), and because he never remarried, a bit unusual in those times.  Why he left a possibly alive wife and four live children behind in TN is still unknown, but it would explain why he never remarried.  If younger brother Jonathan was the father of the four kids, we assume the mother died (as he remarried) and that he left the kids behind when he left for Illinois.  Don’t know exactly when that happened, it was a few years later; so he could have stayed in TN with them for awhile.  All four kids married, our descendant Joseph marrying Anna Phillips of Blount County, TN.  The two sisters, Amy and Hannah, married Maguire brothers.

There is one researcher cousin who believes that Lawrence’s son James was the father of our Joseph.  However, she has never explained (to me at least) why she believes this to be so.  So the mystery continues.

My niece was in NC recently, not too far from Chatham County, and she spent a day looking around the Bear Creek area and doing a bit of research at the land/deeds office, and also visiting the county’s historical museum.  She also managed to find the old McManus Family Cemetery in Bear Creek.  The records go back to the early 1800s, but there is an earlier plot of land where the markers have all disappeared…we assume some are probably underground having sunk in the rain and mud.  The research lady at the museum told me that there are about twenty graves at the front of the cemetery, the oldest part, where they do not know who is buried there.  We have been looking for the graves of Lawrence (1733-1813) and Cattrall (1734-1815), dates approximate.  It’s possible that they were buried in the McManus Cemetery, the headstones having been lost across the centuries.  IT’s also possible that they were buried in a family cemetery on their homestead in Chatham County, near Bear Creek.  As far as I know, no one has ever located the grave sites.

In recent years, a couple of researchers have listed Lawrence’s name as Lawrence Wesley McManus and have asserted that his father was Henry (also from Fermanagh, Ireland).  Another researcher claims his father was James from County Tipperary, Ireland.  Lawrence did name one of his sons James, but there was no grandson Henry.

The photo above was taken recently at the McManus Family Cemetery in Bear Creek, Chatham County, NC.  It is in the style of very old markers, and if there were ever any dates on it, they are not decipherable today.  It reads simply, ” L. J.  McM.”   Could this be Lawrence’s original marker and his middle name was NOT Wesley (I have never seen documentation of this actually)?  It appears NOT to be the marker for his son Lawrence, who died in McCaupin County, Illinois.  So anything is possible, I guess.

Because Lawrence and Cattrall’s family was so large, the children and grandchildren settled all over the south as well as Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri.  The name McManus appears to have gone through phonetic spelling changes starting around 1820, especially among the descendants who pioneered west to areas where there were no established schools.  My branch of the family became McMenus, but I have seen it spelled McMinis, McMenis, McMinnis and McMennis.  Many modern day descendants carry those name but are all descended from Lawrence and Cattrall.

If anyone has more information on any of this….particularly the burial places of Lawrence and Catttrall, please let me know!




  1. Are you still searching for info on the McManus family? We are descended from them.


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