George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Isaac Heard, 9 August 1793

From Isaac Heard

College of Arms1 London 9th Augt 1793


A violent Inflammation in my Eyes caught above eighteen Months since and not yet removed hath proved a very great Misfortune, by creating an almos⟨t⟩ total Interruption of all my friendly Correspondences, as well as many of my official Duties, and hath to my very great Chagrin, prevented an earlier Acknowledgement of the Honor of your Excellency’s condescending and very obliging Letter of the 2nd May 1792, inclosing a correct and interesting Genealogical Account of the family of Washington since it’s first Settlement in America. The same unfortunate Cause hath also suspended such Enquiries as I proposed to make, which however are again resumed, for the purpose of completing the Pedigree, and the Union, as far as I may be able, of the several Branches.

I am of opinion, tho’ I cannot at present prove the fact, that your Excellency is descended from Lawrence Washington of Sulgrave in Northamptonshire Esqr., who married Margaret the daughter of William Butler of Sussex Esqr., and died in 1616, leaving several Sons: the eldest William of Pa[c]kington in Leicestershire was knighted in 1621, and married Anne, half Sister to George Villiers Marquis & afterwards Duke of Buckingham; 2. John; 3. Robert who died young; 4. Richard; 5. Laurence; 6. Thomas & 7. George Washington; and several Daughters.2

Under these Circumstances every means in my power shall be exerted with sincere pleasure, for ascertaining the Connection of this Family with John and Laurence Washington, who first settled in America.3

In order to accomplish my wishes, I have taken the Liberty to inclose a Table of the Washington Pedigree, formed from your Excellency’s accurate Genealogical Account, with some few Additions; and request the favor, that your Excellency will be pleased to direct the same to be completed with such Dates, Descriptions &c. as may be obtained; and particularly the Time of the Death, Ages &c. of your Ancestor John Washington and of his Brother Laurence; and should they have made wills, they might possibly recognize some of their Relatives in England. An Extract of such Recognitions in their wills or in those of their Descendants would be particularly satisfactory for the purpose in question.4

When the Genealogical Table herewith shall have been completed in the manner I have presumed to request, your Excellency will have the Goodness to direct it’s Return to me; and I beg leave to reassure your Excellency, that I shall have the most unfeigned Satisfaction in being able to transmit to your Excellency a complete Genealogy,5 and to contribute, by my Exertions, to the preservation of the memorials of a family, which hath produced a Character too distinguished to derive any lustre from the “avito honore.”6

That Your Excellency may long enjoy perfect Health & Felicity, is the fervent and sincere Prayer of Your Excellency’s most respectful and most obedient humble Servant

Isaac Heard, Garter.

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, CSmH. The copyist of the document at CSmH wrote “No further Correspondence appears to have taken place” beneath the letter’s closing.

1The headquarters of the College of Arms is located on present-day Queen Victoria Street, which site it has been on since 1555. The current building dates from the 1670s. The officers of the college specialize in genealogical and heraldic work. The college is the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees for citizens of Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations. On Heard’s interest in GW’s family genealogy, see Heard to GW, 7 Dec. 1791.

2For a more detailed description of the lineage of the Washington family from ancestors in Great Britain, including Lawrence of Sulgrave Manor, see Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 2 vols. (Burke’s Peerage: London, 1939), 2:2959–63.

3According to GW, his great-grandfather John Washington and great- great-uncle Lawrence Washington, “In the year 1657—or thereabouts, … Emigrated from the north of England” (Washington Genealogy, enclosed in GW to Heard, 2 May 1792).

4The enclosed genealogical account is at DLC:GW. The first entry reads: “John Washington went in the Year 1637 or thereabouts with his Brother Laurence from the North of England, & settled at Bridges-Creek on Potomac River in Westmorland County, Virginia. He was employed as General against the Indians in Maryland, and as a Reward for his Services was made a Colonel; & the Parish wherein he lived was called after him. Ob: [ ] At: [ ] burd in a Vault erected at Bridges Creek aforesaid. [m.] Anne Pope daughter of [ ] Ob [ ] at [ ] buried at [ ].” No reply from GW has been found. A version of Heard’s genealogical table is at CSmH and includes information not on the original chart. For the wills of the emigrants Lawrence and John Washington, who died in 1677 and c.1676 respectively, see Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Historical Printing Club, 1891), 9–18, 23–29. GW’s great-grandmother, Ann Pope, married c.1657 and died c.1668.

5Heard wrote GW on 10 July 1796, again complaining about his inability to work because of his inflamed eyes and asking GW for information about his great-grandfather and great-great-uncle (DLC:GW). No further correspondence between GW and Heard has been found.

6The Latin phrase avito honore translates as “ancestral honors.”

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