Actually, the title should probably be, “Here’s What I THINK I Know.” William Stewardson is a bit of a mystery. I have enough tantalizing bits of information to let me know that I don’t really know anything … much.
The stone says: “Sacred to the Memory of William M. Stewardson of Westmoreland County, England Who departed this life January 23, 1851, Aged 72 years. If thou my Jesus still art nigh, Cheerful I live and cheerful die Secure when mortal comforts flee To find ten thousand worlds in thee.”
Based on this gravestone*, William M. Stewardson was born in 1778 in Little Asby, Westmorland County, England. He died in 1851 in Nelson County, Virginia, USA. In addition, I know that one of his sons was James A. Stewardson (perhaps named after William’s father?); James had a son, George William Beauregard Stewardson (how much do I love that name??); and George had a son, Harry Folsome Stewardson. One of Harry’s sons is my father. And then there’s me.
The earliest US census mention of William is (I think) from 1810, which shows William “Stuardson” living in Albemarle County, Virginia – thus, I think I know that William came here as a relatively young man, since he would have been 32 in 1810. I know William married Sallie Wingfield in 1827 in Albemarle County, BUT his son James was born in 1821 in Nelson County, Virginia. William had two other children, Jane and Mary Ann, who were both born before his marriage to Sallie, and he had six children with Sallie. However, I can’t find any information on William’s first wife – no name, no date of her death, nothing. All of William’s children were born here in the US as far as I can tell.
Here’s what I don’t know:
Who was William’s first wife?
Where were they married – in Virginia, or in England?
When and where did she die? Why?
For me, one of the more intriguing questions is why did William come to Virginia in the first place? According to research done by other Stewardson branches, the family in Little Asby had some prominence, and I don’t think William was the eldest, so perhaps he came to the new country to strike out on his own, create his own legacy. He was listed as a farmer in the census forms (1810-1850), so I assume he wasn’t a businessman of any kind. What brought him here?
The thing I’m learning is that “what I know” inevitably leads to a lot more of “what I don’t know.” I can safely assume that half of what I’ve written above could be incorrect. I haven’t been to Nelson County to search at the courthouse – all of the information I have found has been online. What treasures are waiting for me in the archives of a small Virginia county?
I’d love to hear from someone with more about our family’s origins in Virginia. If you have any information, give me a shout.
*Photo found at: http://www.art-rageous.net/Stewardsonstones.html. According to the photographer, this headstone (along with that of his daughter, Sarah) is located in Nelson County, Virginia, just east of the Rockfish Depot off of Rt. 617 on Silver Lane.