Two types of documents can be relied on to trace families in pre-1850 America, and particularly during the time period before the founding of the United States. Both have to do with property. One is the last will and testament left behind by the dying landholder. The other is the paper trail produced as property is changed from one owner to the next. To use either to find your ancestors means, of course, that that ancestor needed to have been owner of something significant enough to warrant such records.
When it comes to my mother-in-law's ancestors, she had assured me years ago that she expected no such luck. The hard work of farming seldom came with unexpected windfalls. That, at least, was the experience of the ancestors she knew—or knew of. How was she to know anything about a fourth great-grandmother named Elizabeth Howard?
With digitized records at our fingertips—or the capability to access them within easy grasp—research has changed drastically. Now, following the way-pointers from a book published in 1933, I can follow author Harry Wright Newman's research trail to see for myself not only where Elizabeth's ancestors might have settled, but how they fared in the New World of the English colony in Maryland.
Cornelius, our Elizabeth's paternal grandfather, was born about 1717 in Queen Caroline Parish of Anne Arundel County, living there until his death in 1772. The third of six children, Cornelius was one of three sons and three daughters of his father, yet another Joseph.
Cornelius' wife introduced additional name repetitions into the family equation, as her mother was descended from a Ridgely family—possibly the same as that of her son Joseph's wife?—and received that maternal maiden name as her own middle name. Thus, Cornelius marrying Rachel Ridgely Worthington produced a son (Joseph) who subsequently went on to marry yet another woman named Rachel Ridgely.
If it were not for genealogical databases and the ability to electronically sketch out pedigree charts, this might become confusing. However, as I work my way through the Newman book, tracing Elizabeth Howard's forebears by entering them into my own database, I plan to integrate this note-taking approach with a thorough search to verify the documents referred to in Anne Arundel Gentry.
Before we examine the finished product of that pedigree chart, though, there is more work to attend to. While we have information on one more generation of the Howard line available to us in the Newman book—which we'll review tomorrow—because of the availability of mitochondrial DNA test results for Elizabeth Howard's matriline, it is important to follow tomorrow's post with further information on Elizabeth's mother's line as well.