George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Isaac Heard, 7 December 1791

From Isaac Heard

College of Arms London 7 Decr 1791.

From a sincere Respect for the distinguished Character of Your Excellency, I made genealogical Collections, many years ago, relative to the Family of Washington, originally, from Lancashire; Branches of which were established in the Counties of Northampton, Kent and Wilts, enjoying ample Possessions; Several of the Family had been Knighted in the early-part of the last Century. Exclusive of the Heralds Visitations & various Registers & M.S.S. preserved among the Archives of this College, I procured Extracts from several Parochial Registers & Copies of Monumental Inscriptions in different Parts of this Kingdom: I likewise obtained Lists of, & inspected the Wills & Administrations of many of the Name from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth to the present Time; in the hope of proving the exact Connection of Your Branch, tho’ this is not fully accomplished yet if Your Excellency will have the Goodness to complete the imperfect Sketch of your own Pedigree here inclosed, & make such Additions as may be in Your Power I have no doubt but the Connecting Link will be clearly supplied.1

Your Excellency will observe, that I have obtained a part of your own Pedigree from the Will of Laurence Washington of Washington in Virginia dated 11 March 1696/7 & was proved in London 10 Decr 1700, an Abstract of which is inclosed, as well as Abstracts of two Administrations.2

The Family Arms, of which a small Painting accompanies this, were confirmed in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth by Clarenceu King of Arms to Laurence Washington Esq. Lord of the Manor of Soulgrave in Northamptonshire.3

I should have transmitted by this Occasion the antient Part of the Pedigree of Washington including the different Branches, but I should feel a particular Gratification if Your Excellency will condescend to enable me previously to complete my Collection by shewing the Descent of your Line & thereby enable me to present the whole to your Excellency in one View. I have requested Mr Thornton to lay this before Your Excellency & to receive the Honour of any Commands your Excellency may be pleased to confer on Your Excellency’s most respectful & most obedient, humble Servant

Isaac Heard, Garter
College of Arms London 7 Decr 1791

P.S:4 I must intreat your Excellency’s indulgence for the necessity of an Amanuensis of my Letter, and, also, for adding, that having made two visits from Europe to North-America in the early part of life—that I was at Boston in 1755 when the Intelligence of the unfortunate affair near Fort du Quesne arrived, and your distinguished Services on that Occasion—that having experienced while in America from various respectable families the most kind & hospitable reception, and that having also married a Niece of Sir William Pepperrell the first Baronet, are Circumstances which have constantly excited my anxious Attention to the Scenes of that country & fervent wishes for the welfare of many families with which I had the happiness to be acquainted Your Excellency’s most respectful5

I. Heard G

LS and ALS, DLC:GW (see n.4); copy, CSmH.

Sir Isaac Heard (Hurd; 1730–1822) engaged in mercantile pursuits as a young man, but his taste for antiquarian research led him in 1759 to accept the first of a series of official genealogical appointments. In 1784 he was appointed Garter Principal King of Arms. Because GW knew little about his own genealogy, he appealed to Hannah Fairfax Washington, widow of his cousin Warner Washington, to help him respond to Heard’s inquiries (see GW to Hannah Fairfax Washington, 24 Mar. 1792). Her late husband was the son of GW’s uncle John Washington (1692–1746) of Gloucester County, Va., eldest son of GW’s grandfather Lawrence Washington. GW’s correspondence with Heard and members of the Washington family regarding Heard’s inquiries continued into 1798 (see William Augustine Washington to GW, 23 Mar. 1798).

1This enclosure was a skeletal genealogical chart of the Washington family derived from the will of GW’s grandfather Lawrence Washington. The will provided the following names: Lawrence’s wife Mildred Warner and their three children, John, Augustine, and Mildred; Lawrence’s sister Ann Washington Wright; and John Washington and his son, Lawrence Washington, both of Chotank, described as Lawrence’s cousin and godson, respectively. The will also mentioned Lawrence’s brother, but not by name. Heard included a space for GW’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, whose name he did not know. Heard was aware that she was Augustine Washington’s second wife, and he noted on the chart that she had “Died at Fredericksbg in Virginia 25th Aug. 1789 aged 82,” which is the only information he did not obtain from the will of Lawrence Washington.

2This enclosure was an abstract of the will of GW’s grandfather Lawrence Washington, which was dated 11 Mar. 1697/8, not 1696/7 as Heard indicates (see Ford, Wills of George Washington, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors. Brooklyn, 1891. description ends 33–38). Lawrence died in March 1698, and his will was proved in Westmoreland County, Va., on 30 Mar. of that year. Heard was able to find the will in England because it had been proved there on 10 Dec. 1700 by Lawrence’s widow, Mildred Warner Washington Gale, who, with her second husband, George Gale, went to England in the fall of 1700. She took her three children, including GW’s father, Augustine, with them. She became seriously ill shortly after arriving in England and proved her late husband’s will in order to document her authority to devise her rights and those of her children during their minority. Mildred’s will is dated 26 Jan. 1701 (Freeman, Washington, description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends 1:31–32). Heard apparently was unaware of Mildred’s will, since he did not include her date of death on the enclosed genealogical chart. At the end of the enclosed abstract of Lawrence’s will, Heard added short notes relating to the administration of the estates of Lawrence Washington, “late of Luton in the County of Bedford,” and George Washington, “late of St. George Hanover Square Cornet of Horse under General Cope in Flanders,” dated 1697 and 1745, respectively. Heard noted that he was “not certain, whether they might not relate to the Branch in Virginia.”

3Heard enclosed a small painting of the Washington family arms, on the reverse of which is noted: “Confirmed to Laurence Washington of Soulgrave in the County of Northampton Esqr. and his Descendants” and the date “1595.” The painting is with the letter in DLC:GW.

4The postscript is a separate document drafted and signed by Heard.

5Heard’s wife was Katharine Tyler Heard (c.1724–1783), whose mother, Miriam Pepperrell Tyler (b. 1694), was one of four older sisters of Sir William Pepperrell, who was created baronet in 1746 for his capture of Louisbourg from the French (Boston Evening-Post: and the General Advertiser, 15 Nov. 1783; Usher Parsons, The Life of Sir William Pepperrell, Bart., . . . [Boston, 1855], 16).

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