Edward John Coyan (Bef. 1755 - Aft. 1816)

"My 5th great-grandfather and Revolutionary War patriot immigrant ancestor"

The most recent research I've uncovered me virtually assures me that our surname spelling was originally Cowan (or Cowen)


The 1800 U.S. census for Edward Coyan , taken in Washington county, Pennsylvania, says that he was "age 45 and up" when that census was enumerated. That is the only hint we have presently as to his date of birth. I located a court record for Edward in Allegheny county, PA. dated 1816 that tells us he was alive at that time. Thus the "estimated" dates shown above. Unfortunately,  my research in Washington, Beaver, and Allegheny counties in Pennsylvania, as well as Columbiana county in Ohio have revealed no dates of death of burial places for Edward or his wife Sarah. But I have not given up, even though I personally researched those records!

Edward left his native Northern Ireland sometime between 1763-1775 and settled, at least eventually,  in the Harford county area on the northwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland . This coincides with historical fact that massive numbers of Scotch-Irish settled this area in the two decades preceding the Revolutionary War.

As evidence that our ancestors were in Maryland in the latter 1700's my gggg-grandfather, Hugh Coyan - son of Edward, was born ca. 1789 in Maryland, according to his U.S. census records of 1850 and 1860. Another son, John Coyan - born in 1784 -  also stated his place of birth as Maryland in the 1850 U.S. census (I'll scan and place that record here soon).

So why do Joy Coyan and I suspect that of all the counties in Maryland, Edward and family resided in HARFORD county - which by the way, has great historical significance in events leading up to the Revolutionary War (check the link).

Joy's research - long before I became interested in this "addictive" hobby ( you mean you hadn't NOTICED??) - had uncovered several birth records from Harford county at the St. James Protestant Episcopal Parish for children of Edward and Sarah Coyan. The "key" was an entry for Hugh "Cowin", who according to this record was born on September 12, 1789. This is entirely consistent with Hugh's stated age and place of birth in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records for him mentioned above.

Joy also shared with me a transcribed copy of the 1790 Maryland census record which showed an Edward Cowan. The county was unspecified but it was a hint. It turns out that the numbers and ages of household members was strikingly consistent with the birth records she had found. This census shows there to be one male above age 16 (obviously Edward as head of household) and TWO males under 16 - consistent that this is likely to be John (born ca. 1784) and Hugh (born ca. 1789). There are also FOUR females in the household, which is consistent with the birth records staed above that suggests there were AT LEAST two daughters born to Edward and Sarah? Coyan by 1790!  Those daughters were Jane (born ca. 1780), and Rosanna (born ca. 1787). The 4th female would likely be either another daughter unaccounted for in the St. James Parish records OR perhaps either Edward or Sarah Coyan's parents.

In mid-September of 2000, I located the 1783 tax assessment lists (organized by county) for the state of Maryland. My first  place to look was in Harford county. Lo and behold, I found "Edward COWAN - Eden and Bush River Upper Hundred", which is located in the far northwest corner of the county. Here is a map showing that area of Harford county in 1783. adjoins southern York county, PA. (a hotbed for Scotch-Irish settlers in the 1700's)  to the north and Baltimore county, MD to the west.

After locating this record, I scoured the lists for every other county in Maryland for other "EDWARD or JOHN Coyan's, Cowan's, Cowen's etc." in order to further confirm the probably that this is our patriarchal ancestor. Well, after many hours of researching these other counties, I can tell you that without question there was NO ONE in the state in 1783 with either first name and a surname even RESEMBLING our Coyan surname (ie. Soundex) besides one Edward Cowan in Harford county. This record is important in that it confirms that Edward was in Maryland at that time. According to census records and his tombstone, Edward's son John Coyan was born in 1784 in MARYLAND!

Recently, I located and did a thorough search of the 1790 U. S. census for Maryland (see page 75, line 86)  that was transcribed and appeared on the Internet for all counties in the state. I found that there was only ONE "Edward" in the state with a Soundex surname match to COYAN. That "match" is in HARFORD county for an Edward COWAN - again confirmation that this is almost certainly our patriarchal ancestor. Note the surnames of the individuals who were "neighbors" to Edward in 1790 - some DEFINITELY Irish names!!

In September of 2000, I obtained a copy of the ACTUAL (not transcribed) census record for Edward Coyan (Cowan) in Harford county, Maryland in 1790.

By 1798, it is confirmed that Edward Coyan was present in Hanover township of Washington county, PA. In 1998, I discovered yearly tax records for Edward  that for the first time confirmed the suspicions Joy and I had that the Maryland birth record mentioned above for Hugh may in fact be the same individuals seen in these tax lists. It is also consistent with the fact that after the Revolutionary War, huge numbers of Scotch-Irish began to leave Maryland and migrate to western Pennsylvania.

Here is a map that shows where the greatest numbers of Scotch-Irish had settled by the mid/late 1700's. Note the location of Harford county and it's close proximity to Braddock's Road, which was later to become the National Road. It was this route that the vast majority of Maryland Irish took westward - and thus likely the route that Edward and his family took to Washington county, PA.

I will add that in 1998 I located a record in the Carnegie Library at Pittsburgh that might later serve to prove Edward Coyan's involvement in the Revolutionary War. That record is dated in 1776 in - HARFORD county. If proven to be my "patriot" ancestor, that document will serve in allowing admittance into the Sons (SAR) or Daughters (DAR) of the American Revolution for all direct line descendants of him. Obviously, much research needs to be done in Maryland first....

For additional info on Edward Coyan and family for the years in Pennsylvania, including the important tax records, beginning in the late 1790's, click here.