One Person or Two — Elizabeth Harding

Since I hadn’t worked Ancestry’s ‘shaky leaves’ until recently, they have provided a ‘golden opportunity’ for a go-over. I have done a lot of research for my tree and have sources cited in my database — much of it based on paper/microfilm research. Since following Ancestry’s hints to access the online records is quicker than searching for the same record, I’ve been using them to locate the  digital record, save the image and update my computer database.

This is a slow process and I’m not sure I’ll ever get done but I do appreciate the challenge — both of getting rid of a leaf and of checking my research for errors. Over the weekend, I switched to my Harding line. My 3rd great-grandfather, William G. Harding, settled in Black Hawk County, Iowa prior to 1860. The 1860 census contains lots of clues about the family:

  • came from New Brunswick (birthplaces of Harding children)
  • blended family (both Ponsford and Harding children in home)
  • wife is likely a 2nd wife (Ponsford children)
  • family was in Wisconsin around 1857 (birthplace of Hattie)


(Iowa. Black Hawk County. 1860 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital image. : 2016.)

This census led me to New Brunswick where I found the Harding family living in Westfield Township, Kings County, New Brunswick. Noticeably absent from the 1851 census is his wife, Elizabeth and the Ponsford children.


(Canada. New Brunswick. Kings County. 1851 Canadian Census, canadian census. Digital image. : 2016.)

Based on these two census records, I concluded that William G. Harding was likely married twice. I associated the Elizabeth Harding listed in the 1860 census as the mother of Hattie Harding and the Ponsford children. However, based on the fact that she is missing from the 1851 census, I did not associate her as the mother of the other Harding children.

Thus, began my hunt for the mother of my ancestor, Julia Harding. In my search for William’s wife, I came across an extensive history of the Harding family in New Brusnwick by Mrs. Raymond Caron and Brenda Beryl (Harding) Caron. (Caron, Mrs. Raymond, author. Life and Times of George and William Harding: Newburgh, New York 767-1783 and Saint John, New Brunswick; vol. 2. Canada: n.p., n.d..)

According to this book, the New Brunswick branch of the Harding family was Loyalists during the revolutionary war. After the war, they migrated to New Brunswick. Since this 2 volume work includes descendants of these Loyalist families, I searched it for William and found that William was a family name. However, there were only a handful of Julia Hardings in the index — most of them dying as infants. The possible match to my Julia Harding was the daughter of William Gillies Harding and Elizabeth Fowler. Unfortunately, the book only identifies 2 children when there were 7 children in the 1851 census.

I was able to locate the marriage record on Family Search. William G. Harding and Elizabeth Fowler were married in Kings County, New Brunswick in 1830. Thus, Elizabeth Fowler could be the mother of the children in the 1851 census.


(New Brunswick Marriage Registers, 1789-1889. Provincial Archives, Fredericton. database with images. Family Search.

If that is the case, then she either died or left the family sometime between 1846 (birth of William Henry Harding) and the 1851 census. Since the census records (including those past 1860) consistently list either New Brunswick or Canada (Eng) as the birthplace of the children, it is likely that the family did not leave New Brunswick until sometime after the 1851 census.

Thus, I am working with the theory that William had TWO wives: Elizabeth Fowler and a second Elizabeth that he married sometime after 1851. Yesterday, I located the marriage record for his daughter, Hattie, who was born in Wisconsin. According to this record, her mother was Eliza HENDERSON.


(“Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996.” : Sept. 2016.)

If only I could find a similar marriage record for one of the older Harding children identifying their mother!

Until someone provides documentation to disprove it, my current theory is that William G. Harding was married twice, with his first marriage occurring in New Brunswick and his second marriage occurring after 1851. So my quest continues:

  • Locate marriage record for William G. Harding and Eliza Henderson Ponsford
  • Locate records supporting or disproving Elizabeth Fowler as the mother of the Harding children
  • Locate marriage record for Eliza Henderson and ? Ponsford
  • Locate death information for Elizabeth Fowler Harding
  • Work to keep these two ladies from being merged