Researching the "Southern" Willard Family in America

Though different Willard families came to America from England, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and France, etc., it appears that most all branches originated in Normandy, France in some distant past and their name was originally "Vieillard."  [probably pronounced, "vee-yar"]. Though the name was in Normandy, France in the 1100's one source says that it can be traced back to the Roman Empire. So, since they were Villards in Italy they may have been there before they were in France. Some of them may have gone to England. Some of this English group ended up in New England. Others were French Huguenots (Protestants) who were driven from France to Germany in the 1660's. Some of this group seems to have come to the middle colonies of America (such as Maryland or Virginia).

[Spelling variations include: Wyllard, Wielard, Wilard, Williard, Willyard, Willarde, Willardye, Willart, Willerd, Willar, Williar, Wollard, Woolard, and also Villard, Villiard, Vielliar, Vieillard, Lilliard, and Gilliard.] 

The website that sells family crests has the same English crest for Villiard as for Willard. In the early family groups in the south, 1700's and before, you often find these variations of spelling (W and V) even within the same family group, or for the same person.  You will also find Willard or Williard or Wilyard used variously for the same person.

Henry “Harry” Willard, the earliest ancestor I can locate in my line shows up about 1783 in Shenandoah County, Virginia [settled mostly by Germans but also had some Scotch-Irish and English] and marries a Kuntz (Counts) girl from a German-speaking family. It was common for people to marry into their own language group, and so it is possible that his family came from Germany. Nothing yet is known about Henry's parents, though I am exploring the possiblity that they may have been a part of the German Willard group in Frederick County, Maryland. 

Shenandoah County, Virginia, was first settled by 70 Quaker families who moved into the vicinity of Winchester in 1730 from the New Garden Quaker community in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  About 15 years later 64 more families moved into the same area under the sponsorship of Benjamin Borden, a Quaker turned Baptist, from Freehold, New Jersey.  As incentive, these early homesteaders received 1,000 acres per family.

Willards in Europe:

  1. ENGLAND: Some variation of this family name was found in the English county of Sussex where they were Lords of the Manor at Eastborne, having been granted lands by King William the Conqueror for their assistance in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (meaning that they came to England from Normandy, France with William).  The earliest Willard listed in the Doomsday list was: "Wihelardus de Trophil lived in Kent, 1168".  In Leeds Castle hangs a painting of a man named "Villar".

  2. "Richard Willard, father of Margery, the wife of Captain Dolar Davis, lived at Horsmonden, East Fairleigh, Kent County, England, it being claimed that he was a lineal descendant of Richard Willard, Baron of the Cinque Ports, in the time of Richard II.  The Willard family of Eastbourne, Sussex, England, originally named Villiard, came from Caen, Normandy," France. [from a history book about the Allegheny Valley.]

  3. FRANCE: This Richard Willard was a descendant of Humbert, Count Bianchi Di Villard, 1240 in France.  Humbert's son Othon had to flee to England where the King gave him the title, "Henri, Count Willard."  Henri was the great-grandfather of Richard.

  4. GERMANY: There were also several Villiards in French Canada.  One of these Canadian families came from Germany: Germain Villiard (or Villliars), b abt 1700 in Germany; his father was Henri Villiard, b abt 1680 in Germany. 

  5. The German Willards (Nicolaus Vieillard) appear to have settled in the middle colonies of America while the English Willards settled in New England.

  6. HOLLAND: The was also a Dutch Willard family.  Jan Cornelisse Willard (Willert) was born about 1692.

Some Willard branches in the middle/southern colonies

  1. 1654 - Richard Willard (from England) settled in Virginia.

  2. There was a Benjamin Villiard who was born in 1700 in Warsaw Co, Va (or in France) and died in 1791 in Culpepper Co, Va.  He married Frances Crow and their son was John "Lilliard".

  3. There was a famous American industrialist named Henry Villard, who was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1835; came to America in 1853. 

  4. Royal Willard, born about 1792 in Virginia; moved to Georgia by 1850.  Another Royal Willard b in 1784 in Massachusetts.
    Also John Willard, b 1796, Va; moved to Georgia.

  5. In SC there was a John Willard (b abt 1805)

  6. There was a William Willard (b 1765) who married Sally Gaulding (25 Aug 1790 in Prince Edward Co., VA).  Their daughter, Rhoda married Nicholas Fisher.  William was about the same age as my Henry and he also named a son Henry. 

  7. 1746 - DeWalt Theobald Willard & Johann Peter Willard, Hans Caspar, brothers (Jacob-2, Nicholas-1), 
    DeWalt Willard was b 1711 in Germany; d 1782 in Middletown, Frederick Co, MD.  
    Johan Peter Williard, b 1714 Erlenbach, Germany, d 1794 Frederick Co., MD.  
    DeWalt, Peter & Caspar were sons of Jacob Williard who was from Upper Mallingea, Paltz, Germany.  Jacob's sons first settled in Pennsylvania in the 1740's.

Right now I am interested in this German family in Maryland as possibly connected to my Henry/Harry Willard--though I may be wrong. . . .Perhaps DNA will show us whether there is a link or not.

The earliest Villiard to be found in this German line is Nicolaus Vieillard (grandfather of DeWalt & Peter), b 1635 in Sdan, France; d 1680 Palatinate, Germany.   He had a brother named Pierre and a cousin named Pierre.  Sometime around 1660, the 3 of them had to flee from France to Germany because they were Huguenots.  The 3 Vieillards settled in the Pfalz region of Germany, near Kaiserslautern, where there was already a good-sized community of the French Reformed Church. About 80 years later, Nicholas' grandsons came to America.  

Historical note: In 1660 there were 1,800,000 Huguenots in France; 40 years later by 1700 there were only 400,000.  Persecution of the Huguenots in France was going on by 1520s. Many were killed; many immigrated to other countries. There were 8 civil wars over this issue with varying degrees of peace and conflict.  In 1685, Louis XIV finally revoked the Edict of Nantes (of 1598), which had given equal rights to Huguenots. This revocation meant that Protestantism was forbidden under threat of death. This led to the emigration of at least 300,000 Huguenots. About 100,000 went to the Netherlands, another 100,000 went to America, England, Ireland, and about 100,000 went to Germany and Switzerland.  Some (maybe from Holland) eventually went to South Africa.  Germany was actually happy to receive the Protestants, not only because of their common beliefs but because they needed to repopulate some areas that had been depleted after the Thirty Years War.

In 1663 Nicolaus married Katherine Grosjean, who was also born in France and was a part of the same Protestant community in Germany.

Nicholas & Katherine had 7 children.  Their son was Jakob Williard, b 1667, Otterberg, Pflaz, Germany.  It is thought that he was a surgeon and died in 1717 (age 50), leaving his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Gordier/Cordier, b France, was 35 when Jakob died), and 3 sons: Hans Caspar, Dewalt Theobald, and Johann Peter.  During the 1740's Jacob's wife and sons emigrated to America, along with their sister, Catherine.  They spoke German and joined the German community here.

They didn't all come at the same time.  Caspar came first and settled in York Co, Pa., as did his cousin's family (Anna, daughter of Pierre, who married Abraham Cherdron).  

Then Mary Elizabeth came with son Peter and his family in 1744.  They entered through the port at Philadelphia and joined Caspar in York Co.  

Finally DeWalt came the same route in 1750 (possibly leaving some of his older children in Germany).  

Eventually everyone except Caspar left York County and moved a little south into Maryland to the Monacacy region around Frederick, where there was another large population of Germans.  

Peter and his mother settled north of Frederick near Thurmont, where they joined the Graceham Moravian Church and were buried in the church cemetery.  Mary Elizabeth died in 1770 (age 88).


Peter's first American-born son, Johann George moved to Salem, Carolina (now Winston-Salem, NC) where he became a Moravian pioneer and left many descendants, who began to spell their name "Willyard" and other variations. 

Peter also had 2 daughters: Catherina (1767) & Maria Elizabeth (b 1760, Graceham, Frederick Co, MD).  Maria Elizabeth married Christian Thomas Harbaugh in 1780 in Graceham, Frederick Co, MD.  Maria named one of her sons Henry (but my Henry was born about 1760). 

DeWalt's family lived in Burkittsville, a little west of Frederick, MD.  He and his family stayed in Frederick Co, MD.  DeWalt died when he was 75 and was buried on his farm.  DeWalt's sons were Elias (b 1734) & DeWalt Jr & Phillip. Elias & DeWalt Jr. fought in the French and Indian War and also in the Revolutionary War in the Maryland militia.

Frederick Co, MD has many early Willards.  The "History of Frederick Co., MD" lists a George Willard (1770-1849, m Susannah Culler; son of Elias, who was a Huguenot, driven from France to Germany, then came to the US); also a John and John Henry and William H. & William K. (no dates), also a Martin O. (1828-1883).

Willards in Virginia:

1790 census - none (there should be a Henry Willard in Halifax Co)

1800 census - none

1810 census -

        Frederick Co: Jacob Williard

        Prince Edward Co: William (p493: 11010-20110) Abner, Henry (p493: 00010-00111) & Huriah? Willard 

        Campbell Co: John Willard

        Monongalia Co: George (00100-00100), Henry (30111-12011) & Jac (20010-0010) Willard (all on p851)

1820 census -  

        Campbell Co: John & Richd Willard

        Caroline Co: James Willard

        Halifax Co: Agness & Susannah Willard (both in Marseilles)         

        Lunenburg Co: Uriah Willard

        Prince Edward Co: Henry (000010-00020 hh 26-45) & William Willard (110101-00201 hh ov 45 b bef 1755)

Rhoda Willard m Nicholas Fisher 1822, Prince Edward Co. She was prob one of the 2 girls in Wm's house. Nicholas Fisher was in  Orange Co, Va in 1830 then moved to Fairfield Co, OH.

Evidently there was a Joseph Willard in Shenandoah Co, Va. (might be the same Joseph Wollard from Loudoun Co, Va)  

Willards in Maryland:

1790 census - 

         Frederick Co, p214: Andrew (1-3-4), John (1-6-1), Peter (1-0-2), Philip (1-3-2) Williard

         Frederick Co, p225: Davolt (or David?, 2-?-3) (or maybe Dewalt, but it looks like "Dav" for sure)

         Frederick Co, p226: Elias Wilyard (3-5-6), Philip Wilyard (3-2-5) (more on fam of Elias)

1800 census - Frederick Co, 2nd Dist:  George Willard (00010-21100)

        Frederick Co, 3rd Dist, p785: Jacob Wilyard (10010-40010)

1810 census - Frederick Co: A, A, D, E, E, E Jr, G, J, J, J, J, J Wilyard

1820 census - Baltimore Co: Fredk (5-wd), Salem (1-wd) Williard?

Catherine Willard married Henry Jacobs in Sept 1970, Frederick Co, MD

There was a William Willard who married in Shenandoah Co, Va. abt 1855, and there was a William Willard who was involved in a land transaction in Russell Co, Va. while Henry lived there.  So in searching for William Willard, this is what I've found:

  1. William H. Willard who married Catherine, b July 18, 1833; she was buried at St. Marys Pine Church Cem, Mt. Jackson, Shenandoah Co, VA.  

  2. Henry Willard, married Jane Ann Liggett, July 7, 1826, Shenandoah Co, VA.

  3. William Willard born in Loudoun County, Virginia, in 1755; he entered the service in July, 1778, serving under Capt. James Ratekin and Col. Abraham Shepherd. Later he served with Capt. William Douglass and Col. William Russell; was discharged after the surrender of Cornwallis. He first resided in Morgan County, Illinois, but died in Emmet Township, McDonough County, near Colchester, Nov 9, 1846. 

  4. William Willard - The parents of William WILLARD, are suspected of coming from Augusta Co. Va., sometime previous to 1755. Siblings of William are: Isaac, Joseph, Ann, Jean, Elendar, John & Mary WILLARD

Below is a discussion about the possible roots of the Willard family in Europe.

To continue on to the Willard family in the southern colonies, go to: Henry Willard