Thanks so much for this info. Please believe that I am not wedded yet (and may never be) to any theory. Though some 1850 census indices list Houston/Huston as the surname for both young John and Sarah in the household of Arch & Sarah, I've not seen the original documents myself. It does strike me as an odd mistake for a census taker to make--that is, pulling a different surname out of thin air. What caught my attention originally is that young Sarah was assigned this surname too, not just John (or I would have automatically assumed that Houston was his middle name)--and these two are the youngest in the household with a slight gap between them and the older children.
If they were Houstons, I had also conjectured that they were likely related somehow to Arch, likely through his wife, or they would not have been living in their household. Perhaps Sarah was their mother (and Arch their stepfather) or perhaps a maternal or paternal aunt--maybe. In fact, both Arch and Sarah, the Cunninghams (Marley neighbors and Houston relatives) and my two eldest Houston orphans all were born in North Carolina. Also, my Houston gpa moved to Missouri (Dent County) at the same time the Marleys moved--just before the Civil War. But so did a lot of Kentucky/Tennessee families--the farmland was better. Often these related and even semi-related families or close friends/neighbors migrated together to new areas. In fact, I've found few that ever migrated "alone" until much later--like the 1880's or so. There was still "Indian trouble" in Illinois when Abe Lincoln was an adult and Oklahoma was still "Indian Territory" up to the 1890's. It has puzzled me that my William Houston (with wife and 3 young children) would migrate "alone," so I'm half-hoping they migrated with the Marleys. And, because William died early in the War (1862) contact might have been lost between the Marleys and William's widow. (She had to remarry quickly to her neighbor, a recent widower.)
And there is this: If John and Sarah were Houstons orphaned very young, it would not be unusual to use the name of the family with whom they lived. That still happens today, through both legally processed adoptions and not, because it seems to be easier on the children "to belong." Also, because women (and men) lived shorter lives and bore babes throughout most of their years, being an "orphan" was more the norm than not, at least for the younger portion of the brood. Often the younger "orphans" were too young to have ever known their parents and sometimes were raised by elder siblings (who could be 20 or even 30 years older) or by an aunt or uncle on either side. The presence of my youngest Houston orphan, Robert, in his older brother's household and his being the same age as John Huston Marley and his sister Sarah (in fact, being between them in age) is an "interesting" coincidence in my mind. I do, however, realize that all of it is conjecture and merely avenues to be explored.
The Houston/Huston name was spelled either way (and other ways) even within the same families of that time. I suspect that census takers used whichever spelling they themselves preferred. My impression is that Huston is the earlier, original form, which evolved during this general period to that mostly used today, Houston.
I suppose DNA would be the only way to resolve it for certain. Is there a Marley DNA databank with which your family can compare? It has to be a male descendant of John Huston Marley compared to a known Archibald Marley male descendant (other than from John).
The start of this quest for me was to identify the parents of my 3 Houston orphans (James, William and Robert) living in the same county as the Marley household. If wife Sarah Marley was their mother or other relative, that would be helpful to me to know . . . I think. In this endeavor, sometimes having more information just confuses us more. HaHa. Happy gene hunting!
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