When we started researching our family history more than 40 years ago, one of the things we soon discovered about the Growdon or Growden family was that everyone said they came from Cornwall, and that they were all related. Louise Deragowski of New Orleans, one of the first Growden researchers we made contact with, quoted another relative as saying that “they lived so close, they traded roosters”.
My mother was Ella Growdon, and her father George Growdon came from Cornwall in 1876 at the age of three, when his father, William Matthew Growden, came to work in the Cape Government Railways, building the rail line inland from East London. We soon traced his ancestry though is father Matthew Growden, and his father William Growden, who married Elizabeth Saundercock, and there we were stuck. It took a couple of years to be fairly certain my my relationship with Louise Deragowski (she was my 4th cousin). She was in contact with lots of others, including Sylvia Reebel, who researched the Pennsylvania Growdens, and we all owe a great debt to those two, because much of what we know comes from them, though they never did manage to discover how they were related.
We discovered some other Growden families, who came from the same area of Cornwall, but no links between them. We made a Growdon family web page, and invited members of the various Growden families to help us find the links between them. Then Marguerite Growden, who was originally from Australia, and is now living in Canada, discovered some Growden baptisms in Withiel, Cornwall, that seems to provide the missing links that draw all these families together.
Laurence Growden married Elizabeth Vanson in Withiel in 1719, and had four children, Laurence, Matthew, Joseph and Elizabeth. Most of the Growden families in the world today are descended from Laurence and Joseph.
Laurence Growden the younger (1721-1787) married Joanna Thomas, and they are the ancestors of the South African, Australian, Canadian, Lancashire, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alaska Growdens,
Joseph Growden (1726-1811) married Grace Jeffery and they are the ancestors of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, California, and Yorkshire Growdens.
The exception to this is the New Zealand Growdens, who are descended from Edwin Williams alias Edwin Growden, who was the stepson of Thomas Growden who married Edwin’s mother Charlotte Hawke. Edwin took his stepfather’s name and passed it on to his descendants.
Some of these links are based on circumstantial evidence, but they seem the most likely explanations of the relationships that we have been able to find.
Marguerite Growden, who found these links, has also written a book on the Australian branch of the Growdens, and so when it comes out a whole lot more people can find it interesting, knowing that she is writing about our cousins. Though some of the other branches of the Growden family have descendants in Australia, most of those bearing the surname Growden are descended from George Growden and Ann Maynard, who emigrated from Cornwall to South Australia in 1864.
Most branches of the family seem to have used the spellings Growden and Growdon interchangeably, and a few earlier records have the spelling Grouden. But most seem to use the Growden spelling. Our South African branch seems to have used the Growdon spelling almost exclusively.