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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!