Surname Saturday – Lawhead or is it Laughead?

Open Court sound spelling cards

Open Court sound spelling cards

My great grandmother’s maiden name was Lawhead or most likely Laughead. Lawhead is one way to phonetically spell  the name and it is how I see the name spelled most often, especially in written records like censuses. If you know anything about teaching children to read, as I do, the Open Court reading program (which we use in my school district) has a card for the /aw/ sound.  It’s called the Hawk card and it gives two spellings for /aw/: aw and au. There have been a few occasions where I have seen the name spelled Laughead which leads me to believe that Laughead is the proper spelling of the name. I can also easily picture semi-literate people spelling Laughead as the more phonetic Lawhead. Some instances of the name being spelled Laughead are on my grandmother’s birth certificate and my Great Uncle Jim’s middle name.

A quick search on the internet has provided virtually no meanings or crests for the name Lawhead/Laughead. It is actually quite funny when landing on the website, they have posted “the meaning of Laughead has not been submitted”. So what’s a girl to do? I have deduced that Laughead is probably related to the Irish Loughead or the Scottish Lochhead and left it at that for present.

Marriage record of Joseph Laughead & Cassandria Harden, 1838, Belmont County, Ohio

Marriage record of Joseph Laughead & Cassandria Harden, 1838, Belmont County, Ohio

I lose the trail of this family pretty early in the 1800s. The last Laughead I have is Joseph, my grandmother Gladys’s great grandfather. According to census records, he was born about 1817 in Pennsylvania. In 1838, he makes his first appearance in written records on his marriage certificate in Belmont County, Ohio. Coincidently, the surname is spelled Laughead. There are several other Laugheads and Lawheads living in this region of Ohio at that time as well. I seem to keep circling around them trying to figure out how they all fit together.

1850 Census Seneca, Belmont County, Ohio for the family of Joseph Lawhead

1850 Census Seneca, Belmont County, Ohio for the family of Joseph Lawhead

On the 1850 census, Joseph, Cassandria and their 5 children are living in Seneca, Guernsey County, Ohio. Enumerated with the household is an older woman named Basheba Lawhead. She is aged 60 and was also born in Pennsylvania. Because of her age, I have always gone under the assumption that Basheba is possibly Joseph’s mother. I have yet to find any evidence of this, either way.

Joseph and his family moved further west and settled in Greene County, Indiana for a time. Along the way, another family of Lawheads always seems to be around. This family had a son Elijah G. Laughead who was about the same age as my James Henry Lawhead. In 1860, both young men are working as farm hands for the family of William McNabb. Elijah eventually marries Mr. McNabb’s neice, Mariah. And many years later, one of Elijah’s daughters marries James Henry’s oldest son. I have always felt that there is a familial relationship between Elijah and James beyond being in-laws, perhaps they were first cousins. And just to let you know, Elijah’s name is spelled Laughead on his gravestone.

Joseph & Cassandria, photograph provided by a long lost cousin, circa 1860s

Joseph & Cassandria, photograph provided by a long lost cousin, circa 1860s

Joseph and Cassandria  end up eventually in Knox County, Indiana. Joseph seems to have died in 1883, and Cassandria in 1903. I have searched the 1880 census to no avail to find them, and likewise, the 1900 census for Cassandria. I have had better luck tracing Cassandria’s family back another generation or two. James Henry divorced his first wife in the late 1860s in Greene County, Indiana, married a second time and moved to Crawford County, Illinois where my great grandmother Emma was born in 1872.


Letter transcription:


Dear Mother,

There must be some mixup because I wrote to you at the same time and also Dr. Matthews but put them all in separate envelopes. At least I hope I didn’t put yours in with Dr. Matthews.

Guess you haven’t as yet got my letter about the Flight Course-so I’m not looking for any rooms here at least until I hear if I’m refused the course-Which I don’t think I will be unless they have an age limit which I couldn’t find out about.

We have had a couple spurts of rain this P.M. but not enough to do any good only makes it more “sticky”.

Guess I won’t be able to get my leave now before next week. There are so many gone that the force is too small at least that is what Dr. Harris told me. I’m afraid I might get orders to Fla. before the leave-But will just have to wait I guess.

Mrs. E. got a letter from Dorothy yesterday. She has never mentioned about the gift you folks said you left here for her.

I finally have gotten all my laundry from the base. They have made different arrangements and

(page 2) now hope to get the laundry out in one week. We’ll see I took in a bunch after June 30. So if it don’t doesn’t take too long I’ll still send them over there.

Hope you got the letter with the money orders in it. If not let me know because I still have the receipt. That was why I sent a money order instead of a check.

What did Cliff S. say about the bills and who did you give him.

Mrs. Simmins (?) tablets are Subilin of U.S. Standard. She might try Desicol, Bilron or Ketcocol. Art has all of those in stock. She probably would have to take 2 three times each day in the beginning then cut them down.

Well, maybe I’ll get your reaction to the new Flight school one of these days-

Love Daddy

2 thoughts on “Surname Saturday – Lawhead or is it Laughead?

  1. Ms. Laughead

    I myself and a LAUGHEAD, born in Chester Pennsylvania in the early 1950s. I do not think that our ancestors are of the same lineage, but I would enjoy hearing from you anyway. It’s always exciting to see your surname especially if it is an odd one such as ours in print, I always look into it further because you never know. Please get in touch with me at your convenience I would love to hear from you. Thank you and have a great day

    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      Hello Ms. Laughead,

      We may actually be related. My Laugheads go back to Pennsylvania but I am still trying to figure out how they fit into the bigger picture.



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