Another unique find in Tom D’s garage among Julia Mae’s papers was this set of autographs and birth dates of the Williams family in Sierra Blanca, Texas, on Christmas day in 1946. What if every family had a Christmas book and we each signed it every December to keep our own census? Wouldn’t our descendants thank us one day?
The Williams list is topped by the patriarch’s signature, widower J.[Jesse] D. Williams – a little shaky because, by then, he had begun to lose his sight. His birthdate was penned by someone else. I’m no handwriting expert but it looks to me and seems to me, given what I know about her priorities, that it was Julia Mae who organized this holiday activity. See her signature on the next page.
Son Ellis, and his wife, Iva Mae signed next, followed by daughter Annie, and her husband, Earnest [Red] Davis. It looks like Ellis misunderstood the instructions at first and wrote the date of his next birthday, then added his birthyear. To complicate genealogical matters, Red may have mis-stated his own birthdate. His obituary uses the second date. Just like the federal census – plenty of evidence to evaluate!
The younger generation is on the following page – siblings Thelma Lee and Jack, children of Annie, and Thelma’s children, Tom D, with his English wife Jean (celebrating her first American Christmas), and Julia Mae, still using her first husband’s name.
Betty, the younger sister of Tom D and Julia Mae, is on the next page, along with the youngest family member – Walter, age nine, only child of Ellis and Iva Mae. [Note: I’ve since learned that Tom D and Jean’s oldest child was a babe-in-arms that year; Walter was the youngest family member who could sign his name.]
On the fourth and last page are Thelma Icy Williams Ellison, the oldest daughter of Jesse D., her husband Duncan Clyde, and the oldest of Jesse D.’s five sons, Henry D., born in 1889.
Seeing signatures brings people to life as individuals. And you can almost imagine the ceremony of signing in turn.
To my immediate family members: don’t be surprised when I pull out the autograph book on December 25th. And happy holidays to all!