Most Elder family researchers have, in some way or another, come in contact with the William Elder line of Emmitsburg, Maryland. This line of Elders, often distinguished as "the Catholic line", have left a trail of records as long and wide as any early American family.

My fascination with them began when I learned they were of the Catholic faith. You see my own line of Elders in Huntington, WV were was also of the Catholic faith. When my grandmother's parents both died rather young, she and her sister were placed in a Catholic orphanage by their grandparents, Dr. Basil Dorsey and Lucinda (Howard) Elder. My investigation of the Huntington Catholic Church indeed showed that these grandparents were active members of the church. The records also showed that, Lucinda, had converted to Catholicism. So the Elders were the Catholic side.

I also learned on this trip to Huntington, thanks to some help from cousins, Skip and Becky Burton and their collection of our family records, that Basil had been born in Baltimore County (now Carroll county) Maryland.

I was then anxious to see what the Maryland Historical Society Library, in Baltimore, had in its files for a Maryland Elder family. It is important to remember I was looking for a unique tie in — Catholic! I was thrilled to find that Dr. Richard D. Mudd, a long time Elder family researcher, had deposited his files at this library. I made copies of the entire collection (and it was massive!). I was so sure that my line had to fit in this family somewhere. In reading over Mudd's files, I noted that most of the family history took place in Frederick County, Maryland. I was in luck — I lived in Frederick County! Soon I was at the courthouse copying every Elder will and estate file, misc. deeds — I could go on and on. I charted every family group, looking for a slot for my Basil. Oh, yes, I found lots of Basils — Basil Spaulding Elder, James Basil Elder, etc. But none that fit my Basil.

It wasn't until a couple years later, and a lot more research, that I learned Basil was the son of a "Michael Elder" and that he belonged in another Maryland Elder family. I still haven't solved the nagging mystery of how my Basil Elder became a Catholic, and I may never solve it. But in the meantime, I had a lot of records in my files on the Maryland Catholic Elders (I never throw anything away) and have over the years corresponded with many descendants of this line.

As stated above, the "Preliminary Study of the William Elder Family" by Dr. Mudd, was the first compiled history of this line I came across. Later Sister Mary Louise Donnelly also published the first book on William Elder's descendants. It has since been revised and the second edition was published in 1986. A couple years ago I learned of Eddie Lee Mary Comeau — who I now endearingly call the "Godmother" of this Elder family history. She has done first-hand research on this line for well over 20 years. Eddie Lee has been very generous in her help on the William Elder of Emmitsburg line for our newsletter and its readers. And I have depended greatly on her for this assistance.

The descendents of William Elder of Emmitsburg held their first "Homecoming" reunion in June of 1988 and again came together the summer of 1990.

William ELDER was born in 1707 (date according to his tombstone) in Prince Georges county, Maryland, and died 22 April 1775, at his home in Emmitsburg, Frederick county, Maryland. Early studies such as Dr. Mudd's often gave William ELDER of Emmitsburg as the progenitor and immigrant of this family. But further research has shown he, and his brother Thomas, were actually born in America, the sons of one William ELDER and his wife, Elizabeth FINCH, daughter of Guy and Rebecca FINCH.

The proof of William2 Elder's lineage can be found in the early records of Calvert and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland. [Prince Georges county was formed in 1695 from parts of Charles and Calvert counties]. I have found no record of the immigration or birth of this first William ELDER, that can be positively identified as his. [Perhaps one of our readers can help with this!]

The marriage between William ELDER and Elizabeth FINCH is given as 1705 [Donnelly]. They lived on a 50-acre tract of land called "Beale's Goodwill" which Elizabeth had inherited from her family. This land was originally within the boundaries of Calvert county, and is today a little east of the Oxen Hill/Clinton area near Rosaryville State Park. "Beale's Goodwill" contained 100 acres, and Elizabeth's sister, Mary (FINCH) BEAVAN, wife of Charles BEAVAN, resided on the other 50 acres. The Prince Georges Land Office [Warrants: 1706-1715, Vol. AA folio 222] shows the following entry dated 25 Feb 1713:

"Whereas Charles Beavan and Mary, his wife, Wm Elder and Elizabeth his wife of Prince Georges County by this humble petition…they are seized in fee simple of and in a certain tract of land lyeing in the said county called "Beales Goodwill" and originally upon the [-?- ] of July 1681 granted unto one Thomas Laramore for one hundred acres of land by him and sold to Guy Finch late of said county, dec'd, whose daughters and coheiresses, the said Mary and Elizabeth are within the bounds of which said tract the petitioners conceive there maybe some surplus land wherefore they humbly praid a special warrant to resur. the same and also include what surplus land shall be found therein contained…"

William1 ELDER died before 15 Oct 1714, when his estate was listed in the Maryland Prerogative Court [Inv. & Acct. 36A folio 198; 36C folio 42]. The appraisers were listed as Thomas BLANFORD, and Soloman STIMSTON. These documents were also signed by: Charles Beavan "Kindred"; Henry Darnalb "Creditor"; and Henry Culver "Kindred." The accounting of Elizabeth Elder [36C folio 42] shows: "Eliz.a Elder adminx of all & singular goods & chattels & credits of Wm Elder late of Prince Georges county dec'd." The accounting included money from: Edward Diggs, Capt. Thomas Clegat and Paul Hoye (sp?); credits to: Henry Darnell, Luke Gardiner, Capt. Thomas Clegat, Henry Culver, Jn. Boye, Thomas Williams, John Miller, Benjamin Berry and Jacob Jones. The burial charge was: "2:10:0."

William1 ELDER's widow, Elizabeth, married (as his second wife) Solomon STIMTON. In Solomon STIMTON's will dated 9 Jan 1726/7 [Prince Georges county Will Book 19, pages 67, 68] states: "…I give & bequeath unto my Son in Law Willm Elder one Cow & Calfe. I give & bequeath unto my Son in Law Thomas Elder one Cow & Calfe. …"

On 20 April 1727 "came Eliza Stimson and made oath…" as to the appraisal of the Stimton estate which included among other items: "3 negrows, 1 man, 1 dito woman, 1 dito girl; 25 head of cattle, young & old; 53 head of hogs, young & old, two feather beds,…" [Prince Georges County Inventories Box 7, 25]

There is much more to be learned about these early Maryland families, and their various intermarriages. For example, the marriage of Guy Finch's widow, Rebecca, to Henry Culver, by whom she had one son, Henry Culver Jr. After Rebecca's death about 1712, Henry married Catherine Beavan, the sister of Charles Beavan. But for the purposes of this short history, my intention is to give you a little of the William of Emmitsburg ancestry. And to correct the original error that he was the immigrant ancestor.

Considering how much research has been done on the descendants William Elder [son of William and Elizabeth (Finch) Elder] it rather interesting that his brother, Thomas Elder, and his descendants, has had very little done. I have often wondered why. Is it because he appears to have only had female children, or because he apparently was of a protestant faith (his brother William became a Catholic). Thomas was born about 1709 in Prince George's co, Maryland. He married Johannah (Hannah) Rhiley. Donnelly in her book William Elder, Ancestors and Descendants states "Rebecca Rhiley gave to her son-in-law Thomas Elder, her daughter Hannah and her granddaughter Rebecca Elder 100 acres called 'Dann' (deed recorded 7/18/1743)." This leads one to believe that in 1743 Thomas and Hannah had only the one daughter, Rebecca, so apparently had married not long before this.

Apparently Thomas Elder died before 1769 as Donnelly's book gives that his "heirs" were taxed for the property "Dann" on this date. Hannah is also listed in the 1776 census of the Lower Potomack Hundred as "Hannah (Johannah) b 1719, three daughters Sarah b 1760, Eleanor b 1773, and Amelia b 1750 (prob a dau-in-law) with her young children, Amelia b 1769, Tressia b 1771, and Hadassy b 1773" (Donnelly).

In the 1790 Federal Census of Montgomery County Maryland (p 87) there is the following entry:

ELDER, Johanah — no free white males of 16 and over; 1 free white male under 16; 2 free white females (including heads of families) and no slaves.

There are no Elder families listed in the 1800 Federal census for Montgomery County, and no Hannahs or Johannah in the Maryland index whatsoever. So my assumption is that Hannah has either died, married again or perhaps moved to another state as so many of this Elder family did.

In a letter I received from Sister Donnelly in March of 1993, she wrote: "…Thomas Elder, the brother of William Elder, had few ELDER male descendants. Most were female, and some of their descendants moved to the Somerset, [Perry County] Ohio area, and if my memory is accurate, died out." [Note: in her book, Donnelly gives no names of male descendants]

With so many of us working on lines in Perry County, Ohio, and other areas of the country, I hope that one day we'll be able to complete this line of Elders!

As part of the research I have done on this family of William Elder, I visited the Mount Saint Mary's library (Archives annex) where I found a wonderful collection of Elder family material. Mr. Kelly Fitzpatrick, archivist of the Mount's historical collection, was most helpful. When the family replaced the original tombstones for William Elder and his family that were in the family graveyard in Emmitsburg (near the college location), Mr. Fitzpatrick brought the original stones back to the library and this is where they are today.

One of the most interesting items found in the collection of Elder material at the Mount's library were transcriptions of several old letters which apparently were sent to the library by Dr. Richard D. Mudd in 1962 (who then resided in Saginaw, Michigan). Dr. Mudd was one of the earliest Elder family researchers and his 2-volume book "The Mudd Family" contains much of his early research on the Elders of Emmitsburg and their relationships to the Mudd family.

The following is a synopsis of these letters and the probable relationship of the writer to William Elder of Emmitsburg:

1) Mary Ann 3 (Elder) Montomery (Charles 2 , William 1 )— letter dated 29 Mar 1819 from Washington county, Kentucky. Her letter is addressed to "Reverend Dr. Sir" [no name is given, but from the body of the letter, it appears she is writing to a Frederick area priest or minister, as she is attempting to collect the balance of the estate of her father]. In this letter she mentions her son, Rev. Samuel Elder, and nephew A. J. Elder. and her brother Richard who is deceased.
2) Emily 4 (Elder) Nolen (Richard 3 , Charles 2 , William 1 ) to John F. Elder (brother) of Emmitsburg — letter dated 1846 from Tiffin, Seneca co, Ohio. She signs this letter "your affectionate Sister, Emily Nolen."
3) Emily (Elder) Nolen to "Caroline" (same writer as above) — letter dated 1853. Both of her letters discuss the activities of family members and their whereabouts.
4) Two letters— one dated 1860, addressed "My dear Cousin"; and one dated 1872, addressed "Mary"; both apparently from a Sr. Mary Augustine of the Visitation Convent [no city or state is mentioned, one letter has the address: 233 6th Ave]

[Sources: our member's files; various Maryland records as cited above, all of which are at the Maryland Hall of Records in Annapolis; and at the Montgomery County Historical Society Library; William Elder, Ancestors and Descendants, by Sister Mary Louise Donnelly, pub. by Donnelly in 1986]

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