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The William C. Gray family is found in Lenoir County, North Carolina.

William's descendants include the Parson, Deaver, Keener, Gray and Newman families.

Click here to download the latest research on this family. 665K PDF file size. Requires Acrobat Reader.

Below is a portion of Chapter 1:

Chapter 1
The Gray Family of Lenoir County-
 The Beginning


The earliest known members of our Gray family began in Lenoir County, North Carolina.[1] They did not travel far. Some members spread to neighboring counties and traces of them can be found: Greene County to the North and Craven County to the West. The map nearby shows the general area of the three counties. Family members are found in the Woodington section of Lenoir, in Kinston and in the Hookerton area, near Snow Hill[2] in Greene County, and in Bridgeton, in Craven County.

Early Clues

Tracking down ancestors is a combination of detective work and solving puzzles. Where to begin? I knew several things that would help me find my Gray ancestors:

·        I knew my grandmother’s maiden name, Rachel Ann Parson. And I knew her father’s name was William Parson.

·        A cousin, the late Gertrude Keener Holton, at an advanced age, told me that my grandmother’s mother’s maiden name was Sara Elizabeth Gray, husband to William Parson, and that Sarah Elizabeth’s mother maiden name was Rachel Ann Rouse. [Gertrude got the Prize in our family for knowing her genealogy! She was the key to unlocking the Grays.)

·        Gertrude knew where Sara Elizabeth Gray Parson was buried. Her tombstone gave her birth and death dates and said that she was the wife of William Parson.

These were excellent clues with which to begin. The research strategy For the Gray family was to start with the U.S. censuses and look for Rachel Gray.

The Gray Family Domain: Lenoir, Green and Craven Counties, North Carolina

Mining the Censuses

In searching the censuses, you generally start with the 1850 census because it was the first to record the names of every family member, not just that of the head of the household. There was no record of the Grays in the 1850 census, although there should have been (They had two children by then). Where were they?

The 1860 Census

We had better luck with the 1860 census. We find Rachel, a husband William C. and their three daughters in the Woodington District of Lenoir County which is the same area where a future family connection, the Hopewells, lived.


1860 U. S. Census, Woodington District, Lenoir County, North Carolina



birth year]








William C. Gray














North Carolina

Rachel Gray






North Carolina

Susan Gray






North Carolina

[Sarah] Elizabeth Gray



11 (b. 27 February 1849)



North Carolina

Nancy Gray.






North Carolina


Now we knew the name of the Gray father. We also see Rachel Ann Rouse Gray and her three daughters, Susan, Sarah Elizabeth and Nancy. Susan was nearly grown and Sarah and Nancy still teenagers.

The census tells us a little about them. Neither William nor Rachel could read or write.[3] They were all born in North Carolina. William owned real estate worth $150 and personal property worth $75. No occupations are listed, but they undoubtedly were farming. We can guess they were married about 1840, a year or so before Susan’s birth in about 1841.

[1] Lenoir was formed in 1791 from Dobbs. It was named in honor of William Lenoir, one of the heroes of Kings Mountain. It is in the eastern section of the State and is bounded by Craven, Jones, Duplin, Wayne, Green and Pitt counties. The present land area is 399.42 square miles and the 1990 population was 57,274. When Kinston was established in 1762 it was in Dobbs County. It was made the county seat of Dobbs in 1764, and when Dobbs was established in 1791, Kinston became the county seat of Lenoir. The courthouse burned in 1878, complicating family research.

[2] The town of Snow Hill was named for it's white, sandy soil. There are sections of Snow Hill which, from a distance, look like hills covered with snow.

[3] There were no marks in the “cannot read or write” columns for the daughters in the 1860 census, meaning they could read. In the 1870 census, none are listed as unable read nor write. However, this is contradicted in the 1880 census.

This page last edited: June 25, 2008 Copyright© 2006 by Lynn Hopewell.