Where in the World is Luarca Frances???

The theme for this week was ‘Tough Woman’. I decided to go with the toughest woman I’ve had to research and find any information on.

Where in the World is Luarca Frances???

I have so many bits and pieces of information on her…and they lead nowhere! This lady is my great-great grandmother. When I started my genealogy quest for her, I had no idea how much fun, anxiety, exasperation, and desperation would be involved. I am not accomplished at interviewing older people, and the fact that they thought I knew more about the people involved than I did, didn’t help. I got a lot of partial statements, and innuendoes.

I knew my great-grandmother’s maiden name was Pricilla Gurley, so I asked a relative about Pricilla’s mother, and was told her name was Luarca Frances. I asked for her maiden name and was told ‘Gurley’. Thinking she had married a distant relative, I commented, ‘So she was a Gurley and married a Gurley?’ I received a sharp look and the retort, “Don’t make me tell what I don’t want to tell!”  The subject was promptly changed.

I learned Pricilla had two half-siblings from her mother’s last marriage to John Blackmon. Their names were Mollie and William. I learned about Mollie’s families, that she had lost her first husband and then married again. She had passed away about ten years prior to this conversation. Not much was known about William. I had previously found a man named Anderson Gurley, on the census, and asked about him. Oh, he was Pricilla’s half-brother, too. Half-brother??? Then I heard a little about him.

I had only been able to find Luarca in two places: the 1900 and 1910 census, so I decided I needed to take a closer look at her family members that I knew about. There was nothing around her daughter, Pricilla, so on to the next child, Anderson.

1900 Blackman census edited

        1900 Census 

Anderson was listed as a Blackmon, not a Gurley

After checking out Anderson’s family, I was able to track down a daughter and talk to her. She said her father’s name was James Anderson Gurley, and he was named after his father. I had found her parents on a couple of census reports and on one they were listed as Henry and Cleo. After confirming the rest of the family listed, she stated that she had never heard her parents called Henry or Cleo. She said Anderson’s father died when he was 9 or 10, and she did not know anything about his mother, (the lady I was searching for).

1920 Henry (Anderson) edited1920 Henry (Anderson)

(Anderson’s death information lists his mother as Louella Waters)

Luarca’s second daughter, Mollie, was next. I found her place of death and burial, but so far, I have not been able to make contact with any of her family. I did find a family tree with her listed on Ancestry, but it was geared toward her husband’s family.

1910 blackmon lula edited

1910 Census

Mollie was listed as Millie

Luarca’s son, William, was last. So far, I have not found anything on him or his family.

Many years, countless searches, and several conversations later, I have pieced together some information on this ‘tough woman’ to research. She was born between 1858 & 1861, probably 1861. Her name could possibly be Native American. She was related to the Waters family, though it’s not known how. Apparently, her eldest (my great-grandmother) was about seven years old when Luarca married James Gurley, who adopted and raised her. So far, the only marriage license I have found is between Luarca and John Blackmon. Even that has the name skewed, as Luarka Gurley and John Blackburn. It is very possible that she was also married in Clay County, AL, and the courthouse there has burned twice since the dates needed to confirm any other marriage. I have seen her name listed as Louarka, Luarca, Lula and Louella. It is possible that she passed away around 1910, but no death record or burial information has been found to date. In fact, no death or burial information has been found for any of her husbands, either. Talk about ‘living off the grid’!

I recently found that her husband may have been James Iry Gurley. I am currently using that information to search for him, and hopefully find Luarca, as a child. Although I have not given up on finding my g-great-grandmother’s information, Luarca Frances is definitely the Toughest Woman I have ever researched!


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