Surname Saturday – Taft

Roberts/Barnes/Taft Line
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I was surprised to learn that I know of more ancestors with the surname of Taft in my Roberts Line than any other surname, including Roberts. Only my Mannin(g) and Wolcott ancestors, which are on my Brown line, are more numerous.

Name Origin

Taft is an English name coming from a variant of Old and Middle English word “toft,” meaning a yard enclosing a residence[i], a curtilage, or homestead. It was also applied to a low hillock where a homestead used to be.[ii]

Geographical

Nearly 12,000 of the 13,500 Tafts in the world live in the United States. The highest concentration of Tafts is on the Island of Jersey, a dependency of the United Kingdom in the English Channel (close to France). Today, there are over 1,000 Tafts in both New York and California. There are only 59 people with the Taft surname here in Maine. I wonder if their ancestors came to Maine as mine went to New York in the 1700s. I’ll have to look at that sometime.

My Ancestors

Photo of President William Henry Taft
“Cousin Bill” (William Henry Taft) – Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Taft is a very famous name in American history. Probably the most famous Taft is my 5th cousin, four times removed, William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States and the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He is the only person to have held both offices. You don’t find cousins any more illustrious than “Cousin Bill.”

I haven’t researched Robert, Benjamin, or Stephen Taft enough to understand their immigration. Certainly, they came from Europe and probably England during the Great Migration of the mid-1600s. Silas Taft, my 5th great-grandfather was born in Massachusetts colony in 1744 and died in New York in 1812.

The 1840 Census indicated that there were no Taft families in Indiana, however my 3rd great-grandfather, Joel Cruff Taft died there in 1849. I know he had lived in New York, during the 1820s, before he went to Indiana. Twenty-five percent of the Tafts in the United States lived in New York in 1840 and over 1/3 of the Tafts resided in Massachusetts. So, it appears that my Tafts followed a typical migration west – Massachusetts to upstate New York, west to Indiana with some going further west again.

My Great Taft Ancestors

  • 1st Great-grandfather: Joel Clinton Barnes (1857-1921)
  • 2nd Great-grandmother: Mercy Eliza Taft (1822-1884)
  • 3rd Great-grandfather: Joel Cruff Taft (1800-1849)
  • 4th Great-grandfather: Asa Taft (1774-1839)
  • 5th Great-grandfather: Silas Taft (1744-1812)
  • 6th Great-grandfather: Stephen Taft (1710-1803)
  • 7th Great-grandfather: Benjamin Taft
  • 8th Great-grandfather: Robert Taft

My known Taft relatives.

My records have 259 known, direct-line descendants of Robert Taft identified over fourteen generations, which is about 9% of my known Roberts/Brown Tree. Mercy Taft, who married Nelson Barnes in 1839, had nine siblings who I haven’t had a chance to research yet.



Sources

[i] Internet: Forbears – Taft Surname Meaning & Statistics – http://forebears.io/surnames/taft accessed 14 Feb 2018

[ii] Internet: Ancestry – Taft Family History – Taft Name Meaning – https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Taft accessed 14 Feb 2018

Howell – Surname Saturday

By Don Taylor

Origin

According to the Ancestry.Com, there are two main sources for the Howell surname. The first one is Welsh, coming from the Welsh personal name “Hywel” meaning ‘eminent.’ The second one is that Howell is an English habitational name coming from an Old English ‘hugol’ meaning ‘mound’ or ‘hillock.’ In particular, it has come to be a habitational name from Howell, Linconshire.[i]

Forebears indicates that it probably derives from an old Welsh word, hoew meaning ‘alert’ or ‘sprightly.’[ii]  The most famous historical bearer of this name was a 10th century Welsh prince, Howell Da.

I have not been successful in determining an immigrant ancestor in the Howell line to confirm the likely origin of this line, however, family oral history indicated they are of Welsh descent.

Geographical

The United States has the most incidents of the Howell surname. There are over 123,000 incidences of the surname in the United States, and only 172,000 worldwide or to say it another way, about 72% of the individuals named Howell live in the United States. The highest frequency of Howell’s in any country is Jamaica, with 1 in 989 having the Howell surname.

The 1920 Census indicates that the greatest number of Howells lived in New York. Likewise the largest number Howells lived in New York during the 1880 and 1840 censuses.[iii]

Howell Ancestors

Peter M. Howell

My wife’s Howell ancestors were in Virginia in the late 1700s. In the mid-1800s they located to North Carolina and in the mid-1900s her branch moved to Maine.

My wife’s earliest known Howell ancestor is probably James Howell. I’m not confident that he was Peter M Howell’s father, but he was in the right place at the right time and died about 1817 when Peter M Howell’s father died. If correct, James Howell would be my wife’s third great-grandfather.

Peter M. Howell is my wife’s 2nd great-grandfather.  He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia.  He married in Cumberland County, Virginia, and died in North Carolina. He was an itinerate preacher. He published a book, The Life and Travels of Peter Howell, in the 1840s that chronicled his life. The book had an illustration of Peter Howell, which is the earliest image that I have of any ancestor.

Peter Fletcher Howell

Peter Fletcher Howell is my wife’s great-grandfather. He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, but lived most of his life in Halifax County, North Carolina. He was a civil war veteran (CSA). He fought at “The Crater” and many other battles.

James Dallis Howell was my wife’s grandfather. He was born in Halifax County, North Carolina. He too was a preacher and lived most of his life in North Carolina, although he died in Maryland.

My wife’s father, Clarence Fletcher “Pete” Howell, was also born and raised in North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became an engineer. He located to Washington, DC in 1939 and lived there until the 1950s. In the 1960s he moved to Maine where he started several businesses that continue to this day. Pete passed in 1999.

DNA

James Dallas Howell

In hopes of a breakthrough in the Howell ancestor research, Jerome Howell has taken a Y-DNA test. His nearest Y-DNA matches are surnamed “Howle,” but no link between the families has been discovered. It appears that the common ancestor between them is more than five generations ago and, apparently, before a Howell/Howle surname split. The Howle line ancestors were in South Carolina in the 1780s while the Howell line ancestors were in Virginia at that time.

Known relatives.

My records have 138 direct-line descendants of James Howell identified over eight generations. This is about 5% of my Howell-Darling research.


Endnotes

[i] Ancestry.Com – Howell Family History – Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. See: https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Howell

[ii] Forebears – Howell surname and meaning – Source: Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912) by Henry Harrison – See: http://forebears.io/surnames/howell

[iii] Ancestry.Com – Howell Family History – Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. See: https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Howell


Top 10 Surnames in my Roberts-Brown Research

Roberts-Brown-2017
Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
Surname Saturday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.In a recent “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun,” Randy Seaver suggested we look at our surname list. My Roberts-Brown tree has 6,084 individuals. I manage the tree using Family Tree Maker 2017.  A Surname Report is available under person reports. Two clicks and the report is done is less than a second. The first click was to include all individuals in my file, not just the immediate family. The second click was to sort by surname count. It doesn’t provide a total of the number of unique surnames. But, again a couple clicks do it easily. A click on Share then select export to CSV.  The system asks where you want the report, you save it, then the system asks if you would like to open the Exported Report. I did and my computer launched Microsoft Excel. Entries are every other line. The last surname on the list was line 2801.  Subtract 3 for the three lines of header and divide 2798 by two and I learned I have 1,399 unique surnames in my tree.

I was surprised by the some of the results.

  Surname Count
1 Mannin 424
2 Roberts 243
3 Raidt 183
4 Brown 147
5 Krafve 120
6 Bryant 109
7 Warner 98
8 Wolcott 95
9 Unknown 75
10 Manning 70

Surprises

Raidt is the surname of my son’s maternal grandfather. I have done quite a bit of research on him, but I didn’t realize it was that extensive. For my Raidt research to be number 3 was quite a shock. I should, probably, break this research into a separate project.

Even more shocking was the Krafve surname.  Hildur Krafve was my step-grandmother and is the grandmother of two of my siblings. I didn’t think I researched that family much and was surprised that I have done so much research on that line. I have followed that family name through six generations. With all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, there were many names. That it rated high makes sense, but I was still surprised.

I was also surprised by Wolcott. My 5th great-grandmother was Mary Wolcott Parsons.  I have tentatively followed her ancestry back seven more generations to my earliest known ancestor, back in the 1500s.  But still, I had no idea that I had that many known Wolcotts.

Not Surprised

Before I knew who my biological father was, I did a lot of research on the Roberts surname. I was looking for and following potential connections based upon Y-DNA results and other people’s trees. Most of these Roberts entries are not related to me in any meaningful way. That I have over 200 individuals with the Roberts surname didn’t surprise me.
Search Military Records - Fold3

My number one surname was Mannin and that my number 10 surname was Manning didn’t surprise me much. Mary Elizabeth Manning was my great-grandmother and I have done a lot of research in her ancestry. Her husband was Arthur Durrwood Brown. Seeing Brown, and the related surnames if Bryant and Warner, wasn’t much of a surprise either.

Sadly, my number 9 surname, “Unknown,” highlights mistakes in my tree. For a while I used “unknown” when I didn’t know an ancestor’s surname. For married women, whose maiden name don’t know, I’ve begun using their husband’s surname in brackets instead of “LNU” or “unknown.”  That gives me a better idea of where they fit in the tree without needing to see all the other details of the individual. That I have 75 individuals for whom I’ve entered their surname as “unknown” suggests that I need to so some cleanup.  Certainly, “unknown” could be the appropriate entry on occasion, but rarely is it the best entry. As an example, “Ann Laurie Unknown” doesn’t tell me as much as “Ann Laurie [Fannin].”  As long as I remain consistent, I think I’m okay using bracketed names in an unconventional manner.

Conclusion

I enjoy Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night suggestions. They make you think about your family tree in different ways.  In this case, looking at the surnames in this exercise reminded me that I need to be consistent in how I handle unknown surnames.

Darling – Surname Saturday

Darling
Surname Saturday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.According to Forebears, dyrling was an “Old English term used to denote the young noble of a house, perhaps exclusively the eldest son, on whom all expectations rested.” Later it became a family name[i].  Ancestry reports that the name is English and Scottish and derives from deorling meaning “beloved one” or as a derivative form of deor (dear)[ii]. In either case, it became a surname before 1500.

Geographic

The Darling surname is most common in the United States and England with nearly half of all people with the Darling surname living in the United States. In terms of frequency, it is most common in Canada with 1 in 13,078 people in Canada having the surname.[iii]

The 1920 census indicates that the greatest number of families with the Darling surname were New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts. During the 1880 Census, the greatest number of Darling families were in New York and Massachusetts. Finally, the 1840 Census indicated most of the Darling families lived in New York[iv].

Ancestor Migration

That pattern follows my wife’s ancestors nicely. Her Darling ancestors came to the Colonies in the mid-1600s and settled in Mendon, Massachusetts. They relocated to Eastern New York (Dutchess County) about 1740. They continued west and settled in Oneida County, in western New York about 1800. They lived in Monroe County, NY, in far western New York, for a short time as well. They moved further west again to settle in Kalamazoo, Michigan about 1845.

Other Darling family members located in Missouri and some continued out west to California. Whenever I hear about the migrations west, I think about my wife’s Darling family being clear representatives of the time.

It is not clear when Mary-Alice’s earliest known Darling ancestor came to the Colonies.

But, her 7th great-grandfather, Dennis Darling married Hannah Francis in Braintree, MA in 1662.[v] By 1678 they had moved 40 miles west to Mendon, MA.[vi] His son Benjamin was born and died in Mendon, but his son, Ebenezer, migrated to the Beekman Patent land in New York before 1740. His son, Abner, moved west to Oneida County about 1800. Abner’s son, also named Abner, moved further west to Monroe county, NY about 1830. His son, Rufus Holton, moved on to Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 1844. Rufus’ son, also named Rufus, was born and died in Kalamazoo.

Rufus Harry was a railroad man. Besides Kalamazoo, he lived in Chicago, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh; his son Robert was born when Rufus was in the Pittsburgh area. Robert died in Michigan.

Map of Ancestral Darling Migrations
Ancestral Darling migration. 1660-1900 from the east to the west.

Direct Darling Ancestors

# 006 – G Robert Harry Darling (1905-1969)
# 012 – GG Rufus Harry Darling (1857-1917)
# 024 – 2nd GG Rufus Holton Darling (1815-1857)
# 048 – 3rd GG Abner Darling (Jr.) (1780-1839)
# 096 – 4th GG Abner Darling (Sr.) (1747-1800)
# 192 – 5th GG Ebenezer Darling (1718-1790)
# 384 – 6th GG Benjamin Darling (1687-1772)
# 768 – 7th GG Dennis Darling (1640-1717)

Known relatives.

My records have 233 direct-line descendants of Dennis Darling identified in my family tree, which is about 8% of my total Howell/Darling ancestors.


ENDNOTES

[i] Internet: Forebears website – Darling Surname. See: http://forebears.io/surnames/darling

[ii] Internet: Ancestry website – Darling Family History. See: https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Darling

[iii] See note i above.

[iv] See note ii above.

[v] Clemens, William M., Darling Family in America, The (1913), Archive.Org, Page 5 & 6 – Dennis Darling of Braintree, Mass.

[vi] Doherty, Frank J., Darling Family, The – Settlers of the Beekman Patent, The, Files, 0 – Introduction – Dennis Darling (c. 1640-1717).

Fannin – Surname Saturday

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Name Origin

Fannin is an Irish surname. It is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name “O Fionnáin” meaning   ‘descendant of Fionnán’, a diminutive of Finn.[i] Forebears suggests it means “Descendant of the little, blond man; grandson of little Fionn (fair).”[ii]

Geographical

According to Ancestry, during the 1880 Census fully 1/3 of all Fannin families lived in Kentucky, which is where my only known Fannin ancestor, Eliza Jane Fannin, was born about 1860.

My Earliest Fannin Ancestors

Eliza Jane Fannin is my only known Fannin. The 1880 Census indicates she was 19 years old indicating birth between June 1860 and May 1861. She was the wife of John William Manning and they had one daughter, Mary, living with them in Pine Grove, Rowan County, Kentucky. According to oral history, she died in December 1882.

Further Fannin Research

I have been unsuccessful finding clear evidence of Eliza Jane Fannin’s ancestors through normal research methods. However, recently a DNA connection has been found who has Fannin ancestors in Kentucky in the 1860s.

My Direct Fannin Ancestors

#27 – Eliza Jane Fannin (1861-1882) – Generation 5

I have no proven Fannin cousins; however, I have encountered DNA evidence of possible Fannin relatives.

My records have 499 direct descendants of Eliza Jane identified over eight generations, which is 19% of my known Brown/Montran family line.

Today (2014) there are some 8,442 individuals with 7,158 in the United States with the Fannin surname.[iii]

Endnotes


[i] Ancestry – Fannin Family History – https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Fannin

[ii] Forebears – Fannin Surname Meaning and Statistics – http://forebears.io/surnames/fannin

[iii] Ibid.