William Edwards: Myths and Legends

[Originally published Wednesday, November 22, 2006]

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!

History of the Edwards Genealogy


[Originally published Wednesday, October 18, 2006]

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.