More food for thought on the Yearwood/Earwood debate.Going back to Chester County, England, the origin is presumably Yarwood (see messages from Bob Yarwood on this forum) and Yearwood eventually became a variation.Still today, Yarwood and Yearwood are present in Chester County.However, there are little or no Earwoods there.The Earwood surname only seems to appear in the US.It seems that if Earwood was the original spelling, there would be Earwoods present in the county of origin (Yarwood Heath is in Chester County).
Although the Earwood spelling predominates the earliest records in VA and NC, looking at the4 Earwoods in the 1790 Census over time would imply that Yearwood is the original name in the US.Four points here:
1) Robert Erewood in the 1778 Burke County, NC land records appears as Robert Yearwood in 1791 Washington County record.I have original copy of newspaper article.His son, Andrew Yearwood (1775-1860)of Habersham County, GA is recorded as both Yearwood and Earwood, but later records are consistently Yearwood, as well as his headstone.
2) John Yearwood (1762 - 1847), who eventually settled near Murfreesboro, is consistently recorded as John Yearwood in his Will, Estate Inventory, and Revolutionary War Pension.
3) William Yearwood (ca 1754 - 1823) was recorded as William Earwood in 1790 Lincoln County Census.His sons, William of Sweetwater Valley and Frederick who left a will in Rutherford County, TN both used Yearwood.
4) Thomas Earwood's (bef 1755 - 1806) son, Thomas, Jr. eventually was consistently recorded as Yearwood, as he appears in the 1850 Murray County, GA census at 80 years old, born in NC.
There could be many explanations, but those of us with the Yearwood surname can attest to the hundreds or maybe thousands of times we have had to spell Y-E-A-R-W-O-O-D to those mistaking it for Earwood.I suspect that the same misunderstanding happened in the late 1700s and early 1800s.Some did keep Earwood, but they were surely Yearwoods in the beginning.
As far as the GA Yearwoods and Earwoods, there seems to be a good reason for those GA Yearwoods who changed their name to Earwood.Andrew J. Yearwood (1813 - 1859), son of Andrew Yearwood (1775 - 1860), moved to Cherokee County by 1840 where he raised several sons and a few daughters.His younger brother, Archibald (1825-1864) also moved there after 1850 with his wife and children.In 1859, Andrew J. was murdered by a neighbor in Paulding County in a domestic dispute that would have been controversial even by today's standards.In the 1860 census his children were listed as Earwood while living in the households of neighbors as what appears to be foster children.Some of Archibald's sons also took the Earwood name while living there.These are the only GA Yearwoods that I have seen take Earwood as their surname.All of Andrew's other sons (George, Perry, Bird, Tilman, Lewis A. and Oliver Starling) and their sons kept the Yearwood surname.
Would be interested in any further information, questions or comments.