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


Will DNA Testing provide the Answer for my Howell Brick Wall?

By Don Taylor

I have completed my initial writing about Generations 3, 4, and 5 on my Howell line research. (See my blog on Howell Research for a list of people and articles.) My next person to research in that line is the unknown father of Peter M. Howell, my wife’s third great grandfather. When you begin researching an unknown person, it is highly desirable to have a plan.  Maybe not as formal of a plan as many genealogists do, or say we should do, but it needs to be enough to get going and not duplicate previous efforts. The plan is simple.

  • Consolidate what I know.
  • Determine a pathway to potentially learn more.
  • Document and relate what I find.
  • Determine the vital information about the subject.

What I know:

What little I do know about Peter’s father was gleaned from Peter’s book, The Life and Travels of Peter Howell by Peter M. Howell[i]. From it, we know that Peter was born 15 July 1805, so there is a presumption that Peter’s father lived in Charlotte County, Virginia, in 1805. We know that the family moved to Buckingham County, Virginia in 1807. We also know that Peter’s father died when Peter was 12 years old (c. 1817). Finally, just for ballpark purposes, I conjecture that Peter’s father was likely somewhere between 20 and 45 when Peter was born. That gives the following:

Unknown father of Peter M. Howell

  • Born c. 1760-1785.
  • Resided Charlotte County, VA. 1805.
  • Resided Buckingham County, VA 1807.
  • Died Buckingham County, VA 1817-18.

Because this is my wife’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father, it is a perfect situation for Y-DNA testing one of my wife’s brothers. The first brother I asked agreed to test; he tested through Family Tree DNA – Amazing results. There were three matches with a genetic distance of 0 (Zero). The surprise was that the surname wasn’t Howell, rather it is Howle. Nothing I had ever seen before ever suggested that spelling for the surname.  Also, the haplogroup was I-M253 rather than the typical R-xxxx most Howells are.

A genetic distance of zero means there are no differences between the 37 markers tested. According to Family Tree DNA, that indicates an 83.49% likelihood that they share a common ancestor in 4 generations, a 93.29% likelihood in 6 generations, and a 97.28% likelihood in 8 generations. I have four generations (to Peter M. Howell) with assurance.

All three of the Howles indicate their most distant ancestor is William Howle, born circa 1730. One mentions William as being born in Lunenburg Co., VA and two show he was born in Charlotte County, VA. A quick check of Wikipedia indicated that Charlotte County was formed from Lunenburg County in 1764, so, all are consistent. (I love consistency.)

One of the three has a GEDCOM file on Family Tree DNA showing his 4th and 5th great grandfathers born in Charlotte County, VA. Another interesting item of his GEDCOM is that his Howle family moved from Virginia to South Carolina and then to Alabama. Peter M. Howell’s half-sister married a Holman and moved to Alabama. Peter apprenticed with him for a while in Alabama. So, there might be a connection there as well.

Crumbling Brick Wall
Crumbling Brick Wall

I also joined The Howell Surname Y-DNA project on Family Tree DNA. There are seven other people with the same Y-DNA Haplogroup (I-M253). Two of them indicate ancestors in North Carolina and two indicate ancestors in Virginia (three don’t provide a location for their earliest ancestor.)

I am excited. Family Tree DNA testing results may well provide the clues to help me find the answers to my Howell line brick wall. The DNA testing results are providing new holes in the wall for me to peek through and see if I can find the answers to the Howell research wall.

Further Actions:

Contact Match #2 and see if he has a tree that might include potential candidates for Peter M. Howells father.
Contact Match #3 and see if he has a tree that might include potential candidates for Peter M. Howells father.
Contact Haplogroup I-M253 matches with Howell surnames for further details.
Do further research regarding the descendants of William Howle, born circa 1730 because he may have had additional offspring that weren’t identified by other researchers.

List of Greats

Peter Fletcher Howell
Peter M. Howell
Unknown (father of Peter M.) Howell

Contact

If you are related to Peter M. Howell, or anyone in this Howell like I would love to hear from you.  Please use the contact form below.

ENDNOTES

[i] Howell, Peter. 1849. The life and travels of Peter Howell, written by himself in which will be seen some marvellous instances of the gracious providence of God. Newbern, N.C.: W.H. Mayhew.
———- DISCLAIMER ———-

 

 

Caroline Pankey’s Mother – Martha!

Needless to say when you begin a new genealogical subscription or service you want to check out if it might clear up one of your brick walls.  In one of my research areas, I have someone who died back in “the late 1960s or early ‘70s” and I am yet to find an obituary or death record.  I gave it a quick look, no such luck finding it.  Then I thought about another area I’ve been researching.  I knew Caroline M.A. Pankey, b. abt 1810, father was named Thomas Pankey but didn’t know Caroline’s mother’s name. 
Using Genealogy Bank, I searched for Thomas Pankey then narrowed it down to 1750 to 1860.  Walla!  Seven items, five of which were the same legal notice.  
Newspaper Notice (from Virginia Memories)
similar to the one at Genealogy Bank
Thomas Pankey is mentioned in a 1830 Powhatan County, Virginia, Chancery case. A quick read finds that it is the wrong Thomas Pankey, rather than Caroline’s father it is her (before unknown) brother.  The defendants in this case include, “Frank Pankey, Thomas Pankey, ____ Ellis and Mary his wife, _____ Calhoun and Henrietta his wife, _____ Pankey and Nancy his wife, _____ Scott and Elizabeth his wife, _____ Howel and Caroline his wife, which…. are the children of Martha Pankey, dec’d.  Not much doubt about it, Caroline’s mother’s name was clearly Martha and she had two brothers and four sisters that were unknown before. The case was William Pollock, et al, verses Mary Pollock, et al
One of my favorite genealogical sites is Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia. They have a great set of Chancery records.  Pick the County, Powhatan; Plaintiff equals Pollock, Defendant equals Pollock. Search.  One case, index number 1831-015. Click on View Details and there is the first of 109 pages, handwritten documents relating to the case.  Going through the case documents solidified the relationships. One page the same iteration of children of Martha Pankey speaks about Peter M Howell and his wife, Caroline, formerly Caroline M. A. Pankey.  Martha is the sister by half blood of Sarah Ligon formerly Sarah Pollock.  It was a wonderful find. In the maze of documents I find that Martha is the sister of William Liggon, which must be her original name. So, Martha’s half sister Sarah probably married one of Martha’s kin on Martha’s father’s side. So confusing. 
One problem with the Virginia Memory site is that the downloads, although easy to do, do not have the the resolution you would really like to have in your personal files. Downloads, and print to PDF do not have the detail to zoom in and be able to read the complicated documents. You can zoom in on the image to the level needed to read it, do screen shots, then use some kind of stitching software to assemble the desired images.  Alternately, you will just need to document the URL & Page number.   

  
Same image as above downloaded, converted to JPG
To the left is the same image as above downloaded the way that is easy. I then cropped it and saved it to JPG with the maximum settings. It really is unreadable. The image above was zoomed into on line, screen shot taken, then converted to JPG.  Much better quality. 
Virginia Memory, great job and great material, please if at all possible, let the downloads be the same image quality as you are have visible.