Martha is the youngest of the 13 children of Levi Pennington and Elizabeth Henson. Everything looks pretty normal in the 1860 census. Martha is the only child still in the household with her parents and his recorded as a 18 year old. It is the the 1870 census where questions arise. Martha is recorded with her parents as his her brother, Daniel Pennington (Levi Daniel Pennington). However, there are two children also recorded - William Pennington as a 6 year old and Mary as 4 year old. You find in the the same two children in the 1880 census recorded with Marshall Gilley with the surname of Gilley.
I would love to say that I knew this the whole time. I think I heard or knew about it when I first started looking more seriously at the census records. However, I didn't really go back and look at it more closely. Like most people, I don't really think about women of that area having children outside of marriage that seriously. Marshall married a Lucy Denny on 9 Oct 1866. I haven't been able to locate Marshall in the 1870 census and my supposition is that Lucy likely died sometime before 1872, as that is when Marshall and Martha Pennington get married.
Marshall was born Apr 1835 to Francis Gilley and Dorcas Jones and died sometime between 1910 and 1920. Marshall was of an age to fight in the Civil War and like most in his area, he fought for the Confederacy. Marshall enlisted in Company 2nd B, North Carolina 32nd Infantry Regiment on 13 Mar 1864 as a Private. He also turns up on the list as a prisoner of war in Elmira prison in NY. So, if I look closely at the dates, Marshall likely left Martha Pennington pregnant before he went off to war (William) and perhaps when he arrived home (Mary or Mollie). So we are left to consider if Marshall is the father of Martha's children. They are listed as his children in the 1880 census. Since, we don't have access to the 1890 census, we are left with more questions than answers. According to census records, Marshall and Martha had the following children:
- William Pennington/Gilley b. 1864 d. aft 1920
- Mary/Mollie Pennington/Gilley b. 1867 d ?
- Wilson Gilley 1 Jun 1873 d. 28 Dec 1936 m. Ollie Jane Osborne m. Nora Amanda Shaw
- Amanda Elizabeth Gilley b. 4 Aug 1876 d. 6 Jan 1968 m. Winfield Kelly Harris
- Olive Gilley b. 1876 d. 1879 (of a fall according to mortality schedule)
- Adah Gilley b. 1883 d. ?
Here is why I am still a bit uncertain as to the names. The oldest son, William stays with the name of Pennington and is recorded as getting married to Mary Caroline Derham 27 Aug 1884. In the 1900 census, Mary is recorded with her maiden name and several children and William is recorded with his mother. Mary is recorded in the 1910 census and divorced and widowed in the 1920 census. William is listed as married in 1910 and widowed in 1920. Only one of the children lists William Pennington as her father in the records. It is also interesting to note that one of those children died in 1916 of tuberculosis. The father's name is listed as unknown and he is listed as white in the death record but "colored" or black on the burial record. Makes me wonder if there was something else going on. William stayed in Ashe Co., NC and is the informant on his mother's death record. I don't find him in the 1930 census, so I assume that he probably passed away.
It seems that every few years you can learn a little more with the additional records that seem to be added. I suppose the only way we will ever know if William and Mary are Marshall's children is if it shows up in DNA records. It would be lovely if you could answer all the questions instead of finding more mysteries. I suppose that is why I enjoy genealogy so much, there is always more to the story and you are unlikely to ever discover the full story.