[with apologies to Art Fleming and Alex Trebek]
This post is a collection of news briefs on Williams family research – our mother’s paternal line. The first is titled:
The Envelope, Please!
Sometimes genealogical activity is not focused and purposeful. It’s very easy to go off on a web-based tangent when the harder work is overwhelming. In my study group, we’ve called it “chasing rabbits.”
Not too long ago, for some reason, I “googled” Charles McBride, husband of Dora Williams, our 2nd great aunt. And up popped a 2008 Williams Family forum post by David McBride, asking if anyone had information on a Charles McBride who married a Dora Williams. I quickly pulled my Williams file and retrieved notes sent to mom, Elizabeth Williams Ruffner, by Melvin McBride, a cousin who resided in South Carolina. Apparently, they had talked, probably on the phone, and his note was sent after that conversation. I do not recall any other communication between the two of them and I don’t remember any Christmas cards from the McBrides (and, in our family, you know every Christmas card correspondent, but that’s a different story).
Here’s the document and the note that accompanied it. It’s the only scrap of evidence I have (so far) related to the death of Jesse G. Williams in 1864:
I scanned the documents and sent them to David. His grandfather’s name was Melvin McBride but we’re not sure if my Melvin is the same person as his Melvin. There are a few discrepancies and it would be helpful to know when the note was written. It’s not dated nor do I have the envelope. I’ve had the notes for years, probably decades. It’s possible that Mom tossed the envelope or it’s possible that I thought it unimportant and tossed it myself. (One thing we can be sure of is that, if Dad had given me the document, the neatly slit envelope would still be attached.) I have learned from past misdeeds, though. I save postmarked envelopes and strive to date anything I write.
[I may be carrying that to extremes — my daughter’s boyfriend did ask, “why does your mom date my birthday cards?” Answer – because you never know when it might be important.]
The note from Melvin refers to Tom D, a cousin of both Mom and Melvin. I talked to Tom D, still residing in Sierra Blanca, Texas, for the first time not too long ago and we began an exchange of information. He has lots of pictures and documents, some of which were gathered by his sister, Julia Mae. Hopefully, I’ll be travelling to Texas to meet Tom in the next few months. We’ll be able to get the Melvin McBrides sorted out and a whole lot more.
When I attended the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University in June, the very first evening I found myself sitting next to Gloria from Hempstead County, Arkansas. That’s where brothers Jesse G. Williams and James M. Williams lived side-by-side in 1860 — just before the Civil War. Since then, she has retrieved wonderfully helpful documents from the Arkansas State Archives, including James’ death certificate, obituary, his service record, township maps and a deed in which James sold land to Jesse. It was a huge boost that gives me many future avenues of research.
I was able to help her, too. She has a Baltimore line and I retrieved death certificates and a birth record for her from the Maryland State Archives. The cemetery where her ancestors are buried is less than 15 minutes from my house. So next I’ll be heading there to take some pictures.
It’s not unusual to meet someone in the genealogical community who is willing help with local research and retrieval. But to establish a Hempstead County-Baltimore City/County mutual exchange on Day 1 of Samford is a story worth mentioning.
James and Jesse had a sister Named Emily
I keep my eye on the Ancestry.com feature that lets you know when another subscriber is saving records for someone that you’ve researched. I recently got in touch with Pat, of Minnesota, who is also working on James M. Williams. She is the descendant of Emily, sister of James and Jesse. Emily was living next door to Jesse in 1860 – in the household of James. Pat (nicely) corrected my speculation that Delilah, listed in the 1850 census as a 13 year old was a cousin of James, Jesse, and Emily. Pat says the census age is wrong and that Delilah was actually their grandmother. New grist for the to-do list….
That’s two maxims for today – never rely on one piece of evidence and never throw away a postmarked envelope.
I was happy to share with Pat this last bit of news.
The Original Land Patent issued to Burgess Williams
At the National Institute of Genealogical Research at the National Archives in DC in July, I delved more deeply into public land states (we don’t live in one), and for the first time, realized that Burgess Williams, the father of Jesse and James, obtained his Alabama property directly from the federal government in 1851. He paid cash so his land entry file was not one of the genealogically juicy ones that accumulate in a credit sale but the file did contain the most important document of all. Burgess was issued a final certificate in 1850 proving that all sale conditions had been met. Had he turned it in to the land office, he would have received his original patent dated 1851. But he never went back to the Sparta (AL) land office to pick it up; he died in 1852 and may have even moved to Arkansas shortly before then. In those situations, the patent was later returned to the General Land Office (later the Bureau of Land Management) in Washington. Burgess didn’t pick up his patent so 159 years later, I held it in his stead. Here’s a picture of the document and a duplicate of the certificate that entitled him to the patent:
Thanks to Claire Bettag for her assistance sorting out the certificate and patent.