Edwards of Glen, NY

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Edwards in the UK

Interestingly enough, after I finished writing about the distribution of Edwards in America I just happened across a site called Surname Profiler that provided me with similar data for the UK. This site is not subcription-based so everyone can access it. It is based on a research project at University College London. You can read more details about the project on the website.

Not surprisingly both the 1881 and 1998 distribution of the surname Edwards is concentrated in Wales and the English Counties surrounding Wales.


The counties in purple and red with the highest conecentration of the surname Edwards are all in Wales with the exception of one little red county to the right.



Not much changes in 1998 except that there is even heavier concentration throughout all of Wales and some expected spreading throughout England

Edwards in America

Ancestry.com has an interesting little feature that displays the distribution of a particular surname in the United States at different points in time. While the results are generic it provides a snapshot of how our Edwards and others have shifted geographically over time.


In 1840 most Edwards families were located in New York, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. Our William Edwards was a relatively late arrival on the scene in the United States, arriving in the 1770's. There were a number of other Edwards who arrived much earlier.

In 1840 ALL the descendants of William Edwards lived in New York. There was some movement within New York.
Elizabeth Edwards moved with her husband, Elisha Allen, to Jefferson County around 1816. And William, Solomon and Amanda Edwards moved to Steuben County, New York in the 1820s. The rest of the Edwards stayed in Montgomery County, New York.


By 1880 you can see a huge increase in the number of Edwards families in America. There was a change from less than 500 Edwards families in New York in 1840 to over 2500. Much of this can be attributed to new immigration.

The Edwards families start spreading out across the country as well with most of them residing east of the Mississippi. Among the descendants of William Edwards there was movement too. No longer was the family confined to New York.

At least one of Elizabeth Edwards Allen's children (
Eleanor Allen Little) had resettled in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Also by 1880, Stephen Ostrom Edwards had moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Jane Edwards and her husband, Newton Vanderveer had moved to Michigan. Sarah Jane Olmstead and her husband, Daniel Cornue were in either Wisconsin or Illinois. Abijah Olmstead had relocated to Nebraska.


By 1920 Edwards families had covered the whole United States and included a fairly large representation on the west coast. New York state remained a prime location to find Edwards as well as in 10 other states. A majority of the descendants of William Edwards still lived in New York but that was becoming increasing less common as they left to find their fortunes elsewhere.

You can find this geographical data on Ancestry.com. However, please note that Ancestry is subscription-based and you not be able to access the data without the subscription.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

William Edwards: Myths and Legends

The have been some stories floating through the family about our original immigrant William Edwards. For example, one story says that he was illiterate. This story is not so far fetched. His son, John Edwards, signed his will in 1875 with his mark. If John was illiterate it follows that William probably was too.

Another story says that William came over to America as a young man, perhaps between 14-16 years old.

One of our first family historians, William Henry Edwards III, said that William first arrived to Long Island, New York. This is interesting because very little is known about William prior to his marrying Christina Smith and starting a family in Germantown, New York.

The murkiest yet most intriguing story has at least two versions. One version says that William was a sailor and while crossing the Atlantic he made a play for the captain's daughter and either ended in the water or as deserter from the ship. The other version has William getting up to his mischief in Wales and being sent to the colonies as his punishment. There is actually some support for this second theory. Peter Wilson Coldham cites a William Edwards arriving in 1771 as a bonded passenger in his book, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 (page 256). However, there were quite a number of William Edwards arriving during the 1770s so that is by no means conclusive.

The idea of William as a sailor has been passed down through many branches of the family. The descendants of Solomon Edwards and the descendants of Stephen and Seeber Edwards also share this lore about his occupation.

Does your branch of the family share these same stories? Do you have any other stories about William? Please let us know!

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Mystery of Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards was born on 06 Apr 1788 in Germantown, New York and was baptised on 20 Apr 1788. She was the first child of William Edwards and Christina Smith. We even know who her sponsors (ie. Godparents) were at her Baptism - Jacob Bekker & wife Elisabeth Schneider. The first 3 children of Christina and William are so well documented having been born in Germantown whose records are still extant.

In 1807 Elizabeth married Elisha Allen in Glen, Montgomery County, NY. Her husband, Elisha, had been in Glen since at least 1800 since his father was listed on the 1800 census. They stayed in Glen through 1810, listed on that census as well. According to descendant, Dick Shea, they moved north to Jefferson County, New York around 1816.

With all this documented evidence it is indisputable that Elizabeth Edwards is the daughter of William Edwards and Christina Smith. How is it then that the family history passed down by Solomon Edwards, Elizabeth's brother, to his son Dimmick, makes no mention of Elizabeth?

I can not attempt to solve this question but let's look at a few facts. Elizabeth was born in 1788 and her brother, Solomon, was born in 1799. There was an 11 and a half year difference in their ages. In 1816 when Elizabeth removed to Jefferson County, Solomon would have been 17 years old. Three of William and Christina's children, William, Solomon and Amanda relocated to Steuben County, New York at an unknown time prior to 1824. In 1824 Amanda returned to Glen for her wedding to John Olmstead. So we know that the Steuben County Edwards mainted contact with the Glen Edwards at least through 1824.

We don't know at what age Solomon was when he passed on the family history. Presumably he would have spoken about his family throughout his life. It's a mystery as to why Elizabeth is left off of his version. We can speculate that there may have been a rift between them that would cause the oversight. Regardless, there is no doubt that indeed Elizabeth was the child of William and Christina and therefore the older sister of Solomon.

More food for thought:

1) Why is Amanda Edwards, the youngest child, born a good 9 years after her next closest sibling, Solomon born in 1899?

2) If Amanda returned in 1824 (at age 16) for her wedding does that suggest that either Christina or William were still alive at that time?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

History of the Edwards Genealogy

There have been a lot of genealogists in the Edwards family. The first genealogist I know of was Sarah Estella (Gurney) Edwards, wife of Seeber Edwards. I have correspondence of hers and her brother, Harris, showing their research into the Gurney family history in the early 1900s. I can only imagine that she also researched the Edwards line as well. There was also one letter I saw where Seeber, as well, was corresponding regarding one of his family lines.

The most well-known Edwards family historian to-date was William Henry Edwards II, or as we affectionately knew him, Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill had a tremendous love and knowledge of the Edwards family history. I believe this must have come from his parents. Uncle Bill had a number of records and notes on the family and could recite the family history from memory. He made quite an impression on my mother, Helen Edwards, and inspired her to become a genealogist. Unfortunately he died while I was still quite young so I never got the chance to know him.

In the 1960s my parents did quite a bit of family history research. They even went to Glen, NY and visited with the Dillenbecks, descendants of William Henry Edwards, who were still living in the Edwards homestead. They recorded an interview with Lucy Dillenbeck but unfortunately, 40 years later, nobody knows where that tape is.

And now here we are in 2006. I started researching the Edwards family history in 2004 in anticipation of the birth of my 3rd son who was named after my great grandfather, Seeber Edwards. I was looking for a unique name for my son and I couldn't find any family name more unique than Seeber. However, at that time I knew little about my family history. Before naming my child after an unfamiliar relative I sought to find out a little more about his namesake. And thus began my journey into family history.

However, I didn't stop with just my direct ancestors. Inspired by another family history book, The Silver Family in America by Benjamin Stump Silver, I decided to try to create a similar book for the descendants of William Edwards and Christina Smith. And since then I have been on a wonderful journey discovering all the descendants of our original Edwards immigrant ancestor. My website is a compilation of that work in progress.