Who was Elizabeth Harmond? (Union County, SC b. abt. 1830)

My ancestor George W. West and his wife Jennet Cowen often had people outside their nuclear family living with them in census years. I’ve already written about Isaac Suthard, the 14-year-old black farmhand. And there was also their grandson, Lightner West (who left his biological mom and step-father to live with his grandfather) and their daughter Edith West, who lived with her parents while remaining married to (and having children with) her husband, Zachariah Taylor Harris.

But the most mysterious person living with George and Jenny has to be Elizabeth Harmond (possibly: Harmon/Harman), who shared their home for at least 10 years while they lived in Union County, South Carolina in the mid-1800’s.

I first came across Elizabeth Harmond’s name in the 1850 Union County South Carolina Census. She is listed as 20-years-old, born in South Carolina and living with George West and his family, as well as Jennet West’s father, William Cowen. But, looking back to 1840, I suspect she is the “10-15 Year Old Female” who was living with George and Jenny when they were newly married. (I don’t have a marriage record for them but George was listed as age 19.) The ages match up and she would have been 10 years old.

George, Jenny and their family moved from Union County to a mysterious location in Georgia for a year (that I suspect this was the newly formed Pickens County, GA) to Forsyth County, GA all around 1853. I have no idea if Elizabeth Harmond came with them, because she has vanished by this time.

Of course, there are clues to finding her. These are the three research paths that immediately spring to mind:

  • Was she a ward? At 10 years old, I think she was too young to hired out as help, unless she was orphaned. I could, of course, be wrong. So I should check Guardianship Papers in Union County, SC.
  • If she was a ward, who were her parents? Three Harmons: James, William and John Harmon show up in the 1830 Union County SC Census, but they also show up in the 1840 Census, leading me to believe that Elizabeth Harmond probably wasn’t their orphan or their daughter unless she went into service with George and Jenny. A whole boatload of Harmons show up in the Newberry and Spartanburg areas of SC in 1830, but by 1840 a lot of the Newberry Harmons (Harmonds/Harmans) have disappeared. Is this by death or disease? Or did they move on to somewhere else?
  • Did she get married? I need to check marriage records in Union County, SC, Pickens County, GA and Forsyth County, GA if this could be the case. Maybe she did migrate Westward with George and Jenny but find a husband before the 1870 census. She certainly isn’t living with them at that time.
  • Another theory is that Elizabeth Harmond was Jenny’s daughter from a previous marriage, but I don’t think this one holds much weight. For one, Jenny would have been 14 or 15 when she had Elizabeth. For another, they ended up having another daughter called Elizabeth, born in 1855. I know families sometimes recycled names, but not generally of living daughters (I don’t think!).
  • A possibility is that Elizabeth is NOT the 10-14 year old girl who lived with George and Jenny in 1840, and we’re dealing with two separate people.
  • A final possibility is that Elizabeth is a West or a Cowen (maybe a niece or younger sister of George and Jenny) and she had married (changing her surname) and come back to live with the family by the time she was 20.

Obviously, the sky is the limit on who this mysterious Elizabeth Harmond is, but as for now, I’m wondering if anybody out there is looking for a mysterious Elizabeth Harmond? Or do you have a Harmon, Harmond or Harman connection in Union County, SC or the surrounding areas to which she might belong? Contact me if you do!

And, as always, Happy Detecting!


6 thoughts on “Who was Elizabeth Harmond? (Union County, SC b. abt. 1830)”

  1. Reviewing Guardianship records might clear this mystery to some extent. Prior to 1850 they are a gold mine to insights on family relationships. No Social system like we have today with foster care and such. Real concern on the part of the county fathers to make sure children were taken care of by a family. Normally a review every year after the Guardianship was established. This would go on until the child reached sixteen or eighteen years of age depending on the state. Tends to be a very large record as well. Males that died with out Probate will still be mentioned in the guardianship records.

    • Thank you, Derek! I have never actually sought out guardianship records. I have stumbled across some that were filed with Probate records before, but haven’t actually had a pressing need – until now – to seek any out! I’ve been planning a trip out to Union County, SC for some time (I keep trying to get as much information here so I don’t waste the 3 hour drive looking for things I could have found in other sources!) I guess now my hope is that these records are indexed and easily accessible. I know a lot of the older land and probate records – even if the LDS Church/a concerned citizen hasn’t come in and indexed them – has some kind of index. Do you think Guardianship records often do? Or am I deluding myself? Thanks for your comment!

      • Nromally they are indexed. In this case you will have to search by surname in the time period that you feel her parents may of died. One thing you could do is locate tax tecords. Work backwards from the 1850 cenus. What this will do is identify when the child came into the household. From there you can pinpoint better the date of death of her father. You might be able to order the microfilm of these records from Family Search.

        • Oh good point. I never use the Family History Centers and I probably should. Since George was 19-21 in 1840, I imagine she would have come into the house from 1837-1840. Unless her parents died earlier and she just moved with him as a servant when he moved out. Argh! There are too many possibilities!

  2. I have absolutely seen 10-year-olds working before, not even “just” as servants but also in factories. So that is a possibility.

    I have also seen cases where two children were named the same thing even though both were living. This seems most common when the children are by the same husband but different wives, though that isn’t always the case.

    Regarding the comments about guardianship above, is it true adoption in the South? In the Northern areas where I’ve researched, guardianship typically had nothing to do with who was physically caring for the child but rather was about someone taking stewardship of a child’s inheritance until they came of age. I’ve been told that I’m fairly unusual in having guardianships where the mother was also the guardian of the child’s inheritance.

    • Good points, all! She could well have been a servant, though if this Elizabeth is one of the Union County Harmons, I still think she wouldn’t be in service since all of the Harmons owned slaves. If they were doing that well economically, why would they send their girl child out to work? But who knows? The truth is stranger than fiction.

      Also, I don’t know ANYTHING about guardianships! I hope to find out, but like I was saying, I want to be prepared before I drive three hours and get stymied. What I’ll probably do is end up looking for a guardianship closer to home so I can familiarize myself with the language, etc. (I promise I’m not putting off this trip to SC. I just keep finding more people from that area that I want to look up. I think I’ll end up having to spend a month there by the time this is over.)

      As for Elizabeth, I’m still confused. Who was this person? Was she the same as the person in 1840? The 1840 girl aged 10-14 could very well have been another servant, or a niece/cousin, etc. and then just happen to fall into the age range of THIS Elizabeth Harmon. I need my time machine today!


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