Research Source Box - William Ward Sr

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Location: Ernestown Township, Upper Canadamap
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William Ward of Burlington, Vermont
Profile Page William Ward Sr (Ward-21135)
Birth Est. 1735-1750
Death 1797
Y-DNA FTDNA Ward Surname SubGroup #5

Name Birth Baptism Marriage Death Burial Will
 ? Have not yet looked for records yet.
- Looked. No records found yet.
Yes One or more records have been found. High certainty.
Yes One or more records have been found. Some certainty.
Lead One or more records have been found. No certainty or questioned. Just a lead.
No records are expected to be found due to age, death, etc
Lost All records are presumed lost


What has been done

This is a list of what research has been done to date, which sources have been checked, and what leads have been examined.

Data from Child Records

Status: Lack of Records,

  • No death records in Ontario until late 1800s
  • No Marriage records listing parents until late 1800s
  • No Church records referencing William


  • James - One vital record only (census) - Born in Vermont circa 1769. Church in Wilton burned down in 1900 - suspect majority of James' records would have been there.
  • Samuel - Two vital records (adult baptism, census). Census lists birthplace as "England" (census taker error?) . Baptism indicates he was born May 15, 1768. No Grave.
  • William Jr was born circa 1771 and died in 1860 (gravestone). One census record. Lists birthplace as "York State".
  • Moses - No vital records at all. Descendants indicate there is a proxy spousal sealing record at St. George's temple from Moses' grandson. That record supposedly indicates that Moses was born in 1780 Onondaga County, New York. They believe he died in 1847. Last known location of Moses was in Byron / Winnebago County, Illinois in 1841.
  • John - Died and buried in McCann, Erie County PA. 1850 census says he was born circa 1782 in "New York". Find-a-Grave indicates death was in 1854. It is unclear if death records exist in Erie County for that time period.
  • Elizabeth (Ward) Perry - Died between 1825-1828 in NewBorough, Ontario. No vital records. Married in 1802 - suggesting birth date circa 1783. There is a baptism record in 1797 that lists William and Mary as her parents.
  • Mary (Ward) Shurtleff - According to the Shurtleff book, she was born in 1775 and died about 1837. No grave. No vital records. I question birth year. It is the same as her husband's so they may have just estimated it, and it turned into fact. There is a baptism record in 1796 that lists William and Mary as her parents - and links Elizabeth as her sister.

Record Search for William Ward


  • I like to think that I've scoured every online record available through Ancestry, FamilySearch, Canada Library / Archives, Google, etc


  • Anglican Diocese Archives
    • Found Burial Record
  • Upper Canada Sundries
  • Lutheran church register
  • Surrogate records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Upper Canada Land Petitions
    • Found Petition - filed in Kingston in 1793
    • On the petition it refers to him as "William Ward of Burlington Vermont"
  • Heir & Devisee Records
    • Record of land he purchased from Esther Ross in Loughborough
    • Determined that the land was Concession 4, Lots 13/14.
    • Looked at the land records - Samuel and William Jr claimed the land and were awarded the deed. They sold the land a few years afterward to Luke Barrett, who is believed to have been the father of Nancy Barrett, that married William Ward (James's son).
  • Assize and quarter sessions court records (summary court records did not survive)


  • Methodist Conference Archives in Boston
    • No Records. Referred me to Burlington Church directly
    • Methodist membership records only dates back to 1890s
  • First United Methodist Church in Burlington, VT
    • Only have membership records that date back as far as 1841.
    • Checked Special Records too - no records prior to 1840s
    • Earlier Church burnt down in early 1800s [1]
  • Vermont Episcopal Church Archives
    • No Records. They said from 1750-1770 SPG missionaries visited Vermont occasionally but left no records.
  • Burlington, VT Town Clerks office.
    • Only have records from 1798 to present.
    • Referred me to University of Vermont Library
  • University of Vermont
    • Emailed Librarians at Howe Library and Special Collections
    • Special Collections reported that there were no account books or other records, including maps and surveyor's records.
  • Vermont State Archives
    • Requested and obtained a copy of the petition for insolvency.
    • Since the council in 1793 had ordered a full accounting of his finances - I was hopeful more would be there, but in the end it was just the petition itself.
  • Book: State Papers of Vermont - Volume Ten - General Petitions 1793-1796
    • William's petition is on page 47. May be more to this (see below)
      • Perhaps they are in another record?
  • Contacted Chittenden County Historical Society.
    • They do not have any record collections.
    • Suggested I contact the Vermont Historical Society in Barre, VT

Families they may have traveled with

Thought occurred to me that the family may have historically traveled with others. I think if this is the case, it will be my best bet for tracing them back before Burlington.

  • I exported a list of names from 1790 Burlington Census and cross referenced them with the 1801 Burlington Census. Those names that were remaining I then looked up in Canada Census and Land Petitions for the period surrounding 1793.
    • Came up empty. The only names that matched were common surnames like Smith.

Internet Searches

  • Discovered a reference in the book History of Chittenden County, Vermont (edited by William S. Rann)
    • "There was a house on the Ethan Allen farm occupied by Mr. Ward." Possibly there were some financial ties to Ethan Allen?

What can still be done

Vermont Research

I had Vermont Archives send me a copy of William's petition (Vol 19, File 25). But when I read the transcribed petition in State Papers of Vermont - Volume Ten - General Petitions 1793-1796, it seemed to indicate more than what was listed on the petition.

  • Where did that extra information come from?
  • Could there be an accounting of William's Assets among the loose court documents somewhere?
  • Where would I look to find that?

Excerpt from that book:

A. I. 1793: *read and referred to a committee, 7o——*Its report read, not accepted, 88; *vote of non—acceptance reconsidered and petition recommitted to same committee, to report the particulars of the facts, 88; their report, giving a detailed account of the petitioner’s financial difficulties, read and accepted, 126—7;a bill read and ordered to lie, x31; bill read, accepted, and sent to Council, 149; passed into law with amendment, 10/30/93, (57.1 G. ¢'? C., IV; act read and concurred with amendment, 55.

Record Collections to Check

These are a list of sources that may contain records but haven't yet been checked.

  • Check for a Death Record of John Ward Sr in McKean Twp, Erie County, Pennsylvania.
  • Vermont Historical Society in Barre, VT
    • See if they can suggest additional sources (ledgers, books, diaries) to check
  • Microfilm of Land Records at Vermont State Archives
  • Digitized Records on FamilySearch that can only be accessed from Family History Centers (Mar 2021 - Waiting on Covid-19 to pass so I can do this)

Discover where to look

When we did the research in Upper Canada we were lucky because the genealogist knew all of the sources as she had personally indexed them for her books. One of the main problems with Vermont / New York is that we are missing that expertise. There may be diaries and other non-conventional records out there - but we can't check them if we don't know that they exist.

  • Many of the state / county / township archives do not contain records prior to the 1800s. Would need a genealogist familiar with what is available to confirm this.
  • Unknown what church he would have belonged to, since everything is listed as Methodist in later records and birth of William's first children pre-dates Methodism.
  • 2019 - Tried to hire a genealogist in Vermont - but they took a look at what I had and informed me they wouldn't be able to help me. Referred me to Vermont Genealogical Society - but I didn't see any with specializations in 1700s.
  • 2020 - Hired a genealogist out of NY to look ever my research and suggest areas to look at but only provided online sources which was not what I was after (I had already thoroughly checked all but 2 items on a list of 50+). Suggested that William may have come up from Connecticut .. this would completely discount the fact that his children's places of birth is listed as New York .. but it is possible since some of the earlier Ward families were in Connecticut (although I personally doubt it)

Possible Strategies / Leads

  • Explore the Onondaga County connection from Moses Ward.
    • Onondaga was not a county at the time, so take a look at what was in Onondaga county as it was when the temple record was created in 1885.
  • Check for Wards in neighboring municipalities (e.g. Milton) - perhaps some family stayed behind?
    • Trace out the various relatives at the time and try to rule out or eliminate families from the search field.
  • Trace back Charles Ward of North Dorchester in Upper Canada.
    • Y-DNA has shown that he is a VERY close relative and could very easily be the missing son of William Ward of Burlington or a nephew. There is a close relation between William Ward and Charles Ward.
  • Explore the gap in William's Children
    • There is a gap of nearly five years with William's children. If Mary's birthdate is wrong then there could be as much as 9 years gap.
    • Check to see if William was in the military during that time.
  • House on Ethan Allen Farm
    • In the account of the early history of Burlington, Vermont - it is mentioned that there was a house on the Ethan Allen farm that was occupied by "Mr. Ward."[2]
    • In the same book it mentions a William Ward who set up a Carding machine in Essex and later Milton.
    • I had found a probate for an Aaron Ward of Milton .. his brother William was the executor. Looks to be someone else however since William is buried in Milton and his father is listed as Daniel.

List of Unanswered Questions and Problems

  • Ward is a super common name, and William is the most common given name. There were at least eight (8) different William Wards in Vermont at the time ours was in Burlington. This makes things more difficult since records cannot be checked by Name only.
  • William Ward's children identified themselves as Episcopal Methodists on the Canadian Census documents. The birth of Methodism was in 1785 which was only a few years earlier. What denomination were they previously?
    • If they were Anglican - then why did Samuel, Elizabeth, and Mary all have to be baptized in the Anglican church?
  • The War scattered people. They left Burlington prior to the war. After the war, people came to Burlington area (and generally to Vermont) from all over. So William Ward may not have been in Burlington very long at all.
  • Where is the missing son?
    • The household numbers from the 1791 census in Burlington match up to the people found in Ernestown except for one male over the age of 16. Who was this? What happened to them?

Other Notes / Observations

  • Signatures of William and his children were present on their respected land petitions, and on Mary's marriage register. The penmanship - specifically the flair on the "W" and "d" in"Ward" is distinctive and yet is present in all signatures. This would indicate that William schooled his own children. Would this suggest that he was at home during the revolutionary war?
  • Many of William's children all married into prominent American families.
    • James married into the Lake family (from Little White Creek, New York)
    • Mary married into the Shurtleff family (heralding from Massachusetts)
    • Samuel married into the Smith family
    • Elizabeth married into the Perry family
  • Would this suggest that William himself was someone of stature? The petition for an act of insolvency in Vermont would indicate that he was a destitute businessman, but soon after that petition, he was purchasing 500 acres of land in Upper Canada .. Other families would not have known of his Vermont dealings - but would know that he had a substantial amount of land.


  1. Email from Pam Fenimore - First United Methodist Church, Burlington, Vermont
  2. History of Chittenden County. Edited by W.S. Rann. D. Mason & Co. Publishers 1886. Pg 398"

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