Have you ever thought that your efforts researching your family history were similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle? When I started my genealogy research, I was working with the family stories and documents that my grandmothers provided. Gathering that information and piecing it together was like putting together the border of a puzzle.
As I began to gather information from other sources, it was like turning pieces colored side up. As I evaluated that information, I was able to begin putting the pieces together into family groups. Sometimes, I found that it takes negative evidence, or pieces that just don’t seem to fit, to help put that family together.
When trying to figure out who Julia Harding Hutchinson’s mother was the clues from ‘negative evidence’ were very helpful. The 1887 will for Eliza Harding was one of those pieces of evidence.
Will of Eliza Harding, Deceased
In the name of God amen.
I Eliza Harding of the Township of Mt Vernon in
Black Hawk County State of Iowa being of sound mind
and memory to make publish and declare this my
last will & testament in manner following, viz
First, I give and bequeath to my son A. H. Ponsford
the farm in said Mt Vernon Township now occupied by
me and known as the homestead and containing eighty
acres to be held used and enjoyed b him to & for his
sole and exclusive use and benefit forever subject
however to be payment of the charges hereinafter men-
tioned and which are t be & remain a charge on said
land until the same are removed by full payment & sat
Second I give and bequeath to my daughter Hattie
C. Harding the sum of two hundred dollars to be paid to
her by my said son A. H. Ponsford within four years after
my decease and I do further direct that my said
daughter shall have the right to retain her home on
the first above mentioned home farmso long as she shall
desire a home or until she shall have acquired a house
of her own or shall have married.
Third, I give & Bequeath to my daughter Minnie T. Harding
the sum of Two hundred dollars to be paid to her by the
said A. H. Ponsford in manner and form as is provided
in the last foregoing provision and I do also direct
that she shall have the right of keeping and maintain
ing a home on said home farm so long as she may
desire or shall need such home.
Fourth – I give and bequeath to my won Walter
Ponsford the sum of twenty five dollars to be paid
to him by the said A. H. Ponsford in manner & form so
as is provided in the last foregoing provision
Fifth I give and bequeath to my son Joseph
Ponsford the sum of Twenty Five Dollars to be paid
to him by the sad A. H. Ponsford in manner & form
as is provided in the last forgoing provision
Sixth – I direct that the personal property of
which I may be possessed at the time of my decease
shall be held & received by my children and shall
be by their divided & distributed among them as they
may decree best
Seventh – I give and bequeath to my daughter
Rachel Stickney of Cedar Falls Iowa the sum of
twenty dollars to be paid to her by the said A. H. Ponsford
in manner as is mentioned in the two last foregoing
provisions (the 4th & 5th)
Eighth – I give and bequeath to my daughter
Sarah the sum of five dollars to be paid to her
in the manner & form as provided in the last
Ninth – I name nominate & appoint my said
son A. H. Ponsford executor of this my last will &
Testament hereby revoking any all former or other
wills by me made. In witness whereof I have
hereunto set my hand this 18th day of April AD 1887
We whose names are hereunto subscribed as witnesses
do hereby certify that the foregoing instrument consist
ing of three pages was on the day of the date thereof
signed and declared by the said Eliza Harding to be
her last will & Testament in the presence of us who
at her request and in her presence & in the presence
of each other have hereunto subscribed our names
S H. Packard
State of IowaIowa, Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997, Eliza Harding, 18 April 1887; database with images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : viewed online 14 September 2021). Original Source: Iowa, County, District and Probate Courts.
Black Hawk County
I A. J. Edwards Clerk of the
District Court of the State of Iow in and for said Black hawk
County do hereby certify that the foregoing Will of Eliza Harding
deceased was on the 26th day of September 1887 duly proved
and admitted to probate and record in said District
Court in accordance with law.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set
my hand and affixed the seal of said Court at my
office in Waterloo in said County on this 26th day of
September AD 1887
A J Edwards
Clerk District Court Black Hawk Co Iowa
Eliza’s will appears to name her children:
- A. H. Ponsford
- Hattie Harding
- Minnie Harding
- Walter Ponsford
- Joseph Ponsford
- Rachel Stickney
While this will appears to list the children of Eliza Harding, my ancestor, Julia Harding, is visibly absent from this will. Also missing from this will are the siblings of Julia identified in other records: Caroline, Abel, Thomas, Abigail, Isabella and William Henry. In 1887, Julia and her siblings were married and scattered between Bremer County, Iowa, and Richardson county Nebraska.
While this will would suggest that these are two separate Harding families, the 1860 census record for the Wm G Harding household in Mount Vernon Township, Black Hawk County, Iowa is one puzzle piece tying the families together. The Wm G Harding household in 1860 included the following people:
- Wm G Harding, age 54 and born in New Brunswick
- Elizabeth Harding, age 38 and born in Scotland
- Thomas Harding, age 21 and born in New Brunswick
- Joseph Ponsford, age 19 and born in New Brunswick
- Rachel Ponsford, age 16 and born in New Brunswick
- Henry Harding, age 14 and born in New Brunswick
- Walter Ponsford, age 13 and born in New Brunswick
- Alexander H Ponsford, age 10 and born in New Brunswick
- Hattie Harding, age 3 and born in Wisconsin
This 1860 census record appears to combine most of Eliza’s children and some of Julia’s siblings in the household of Wm G Harding. Using a birth place of New Brunswick as a clue, the Harding family was found on the 1851 census living in Westfeld, Kings County, New Brunswick.
- William G Harding – male – widowed – age 47 – native – farmer
- Caroline Harding – f – single – age 20 – native
- Abel Harding – M – single – age 18 – native
- Thomas Harding – M – single – age 16 – native
- Abigail Harding – F – single – age 14 – native
- Julia Harding – F – single – age 11 – native
- Isabella Harding – F – single – age 9 – native
- Henry Harding – male – single – age 5 – native
This 1851 census record lists Julia and her siblings in the household of William G. Harding. Eliza Harding is not listed on this record. Nor are any of the Ponsford children. Also absent from this record is a potential mother for the Harding children.
These two pieces of negative evidence, Eliza’s will which does not mention Julia and the 1851 New Brunswick census which does list Julia but does not list Eliza, are the basis for my current conclusion that Eliza is not the mother of Julia Harding.
However, I need additional evidence.
- Marriage record for William G. Harding and Eliza
- Census record for Eliza and her Ponsford children in 1850 or 1851
- Eliza’s marriage record to a Ponsford
- Death and/or burial records for William Harding’s first wife
- Death an/or burial records for the father of the Ponsford children
Unfortunately, my puzzle will not be complete until I locate these hidden pieces of the puzzle.