Monday, July 20, 2009

William Harward -- Our Earliest Ancestor

Today I introduce you to William Harward, the earliest known ancestor in Howard/Harward/Harwood line. I must clarify that no evidence has been found that definitively proves William is our direct ancestor. Like many researchers who have studied this line, I long for that one piece of evidence that states "I, William, am the father of James." Alas, that would be too easy. In any event, I base my theory on the circumstantial evidence found in federal census and land records.

What do I know about William Harward? William is presumed to have been born about 1740. Whether in NC or VA, it is not known. He is believed to have married Mary Myrick. He first appears in Orange County, NC in August 1767 where he bought land from Joseph Barbee. The actual registration of the deed reads:

"A Deed of Sale from Joseph Barbee to William Howard for 700 acres of land was proved in open court by the acknowledgement of Joseph Barbee and was ordered to be registered."-- Orange Co, NC Court of Pleas and Quarters Session held at the Courthouse in Hillsborough on the second Tuesday of August 1767.

There are a couple of interesting points to bring out in this document. William's surname is spelled Howard. This is the earliest spelling for Howard that I have come across so far. Most often William's surname is documented as Harward or Harwood. Also of interest is the land he bought in Orange County, became Wake County in 1771. Today that land is the vicinity of Apex, NC.

William and Mary had seven children: William, Jr, Nancy, John, Elizabeth, James, Martin, and Mary. All married spouses of families in the Wake and Chatham County areas and stayed in the area as documented through the federal census records. One of the difficulties I have had in researching this line is that many of the same names appear in the different family lines. For example, I currently have five Williams that I am trying to separate from each other. In order to distinguish one from the other, I have been researching each Harward family line in that time period. Let's just say there were of lot of us back then.

William Harward died about 1804/1805. This is based on a Wake County, NC land deed where James Harward buys the land from the heirs of "William Harward, Snr, decd. This document comes as close to indicating parentage as possible so far.

So...where to go from here? Where did William come from? Is he part of the Harwood line out of Edgecombe County, NC? Or is he from VA? If so, where? And the big question---What was the original surname? Are we really who we think we are?!

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