Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How Old Was She?

In the large George Howard Cemetery on British Cemetery Road you can see the tombstone for Ann Howard, wife of George Howard (1749-1806). Her tombstone reads:

In Memory of
Ann Howard
Wife of George Howard
Born ____1724
Died November 24, 1841
Aged 117 Years

There has always been controversy about Ann's true birthday and age at death. I wrote about her in a 2013 blog post. According to the markers in the cemetery, Ann was 25 years older than her husband...curious and unlikely, but certainly possible.  Also, family genealogy indicates Ann and George's last child, Mary Elizabeth, was born in 1785, when George would have been 36 years old; Ann would have been 61 years old...highly implausible.

The Tarboro Press (November 6, 1841), stated, "Mrs. Ann Howard died a few days past on Ocracoke at age 115."

I was recently given a copy of a petition by William Howard (1776-1851), son of George and Ann Howard) to the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions September Term 1835. According NCpedia, "The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions served as the civil, administrative, and judicial arms of North Carolina county government beginning in the Proprietary period (1663-1729)....[T]he court heard cases in which the amount of litigation was between 40 shillings and 20 pounds, as well as a variety of minor civil and criminal actions," including "the settling of estates."

The petition states that William's mother, Ann, "is now one hundred, and eight years of age, a lunatic, and so feeble and impaired both in mind and body, as to be incapable of taking care of herself, or property."

If Ann Howard was 108 years old in 1835, she would have been 114 years old at her death in 1841.

So, at the time of her death was Ann Howard 117, 115, or 114 years old...or perhaps significantly younger?  We will probably never know. But one thing seems certain -- her family thought she was very old!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is about Old Christmas in Rodanthe. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/old-christmas-rodanthe/.  


  1. Anonymous8:51 AM

    A copy of the petition, hmmm, perhaps there was other documentation submitted as evidence to support the claims of her age. If so would such information be a matter of record in the case? In any event, it is interesting to note the publisher of the Tarboro Press was George Howard. Perhaps, it wasn't necessary to consider a second source to document the age of death. Is Ann Howard from Edgecombe county???Perhaps a search by her maiden name would help Finding Her Roots.

    1. According to island genealogist, Earl O'Neal, George's wife's name was Nancy Ann (surname unknown; possibly Jones). I don't know the source of Earl's speculation.


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