Tree Climbing with Mr Williams: Early Williams in Alabama & Georgia

Marriage license
Location of Jernigan, Russell County, AL
Jernigan, Russell County, Alabama, home to Williams family as they moved east from Marengo County. Almost equidistant between Dothan & Atlanta, GA. Apple Maps

Census Gaps & Hints

I’m dealing with mysteries, and wondering about what happened to make households suddenly recombine with three generations under one roof. Some of Mr. Williams’ ancestors that I’m researching are on his paternal line, three generations of Williams, beginning with Anderson Williams (1830) and Nellie Jones (1845), his son, Wyatt Williams (1857-1924) his wife, Easter Roden Williams (1858-1925), and their son, Fletcher Williams (1880-1940) and his wife, Mamie Averett Williams (1884). 

Each generation has its own problems of documentation, yet the households continue despite events that precipitate their splitting and reconstitution. I may never find out, but that’s ok.
I’m mapping it out because it can shed light on the family clusters that come up in DNA matches and break down some of the brick walls while moving towards pre-1870 records. This gathering of additional records adds context and visibility for family histories over time. 

Fletcher Williams & Mamie Averett Williams 

Documents i’ve got so far:

  • AL marriage certificate & databases
  • 2- 1918 Draft Records for 2 different Fletcher Williams
  • AL Death record for Fletcher Williams
  • 1910 census
  • 1900 census

One might think that since Fletcher Williams was born 50 years sooner than his grandfather in 1880, he would be easier to trace through the census. But.. the problem is finding him before the 1910 US Federal Census for Jefferson County, Alabama.  One thing this census reveals is that both Fletcher and Mamie Williams were on their second marriage, but i’m getting ahead of myself.

Born in Marengo, Jefferson County, Alabama, Fletcher Williams (1880-1940) crossed state boundaries several times over the course of his lifetime, moving from Alabama to Georgia and back again. After 1900, he lived in the small rural area of Jernigan, Russell County, Alabama, and on 13 March 1910, he married Mamie Averett (b. 1884) in McLendon, Russell County, Alabama. The census notes the recent marriage as: 1/12 months.

McLendon, Jernigan AL, just outside of Cottonton. 1940 US Census Enumeration Maps. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5822652
Fletcher Williams & Mamie Averett, Marriage Certificate, 13 Mar 1910, McClendon, Russell County, AL. FS.org

He’s 25, she’s 23 and there is no one else in the household– yet this is the second marriage for both and neither had children. No earlier marriage record turns up for either person.  He’s listed as Black and she Mulatto on the census, which may just mean Mamie was lighter than Fletcher, and both got plenty of sun as farm laborers working Alabama’s Black Belt during a time of Jim Crow.

Fletcher & Mamie Williams, Precinct 9, Jerrigan, Russell County, AL. 1910 US Federal Census, FS.org More questions to answer as to the connections with the Ross family, and Gaty Williams 12 living next door.

Working forward to 1917-1918, I found no record for this Fletcher Williams, possibly because he had a family by then. Looking up the relatives listed on the two 1918 draft cards showed that while they were born very close in time, they weren’t the same person.

Next Steps… a challenge and more questions

The next challenge was simple, to see if I could find Fletcher Williams, about age 15 on the 1900 census. This would  take the family back another generation, and build out a timeline that pushes back to another state. His parents are living further west, in Forkland, Greene County, Alabama.

Fletcher's parents, Forkland, Greene County, AL, 1900 US Federal Census
Fletcher’s parents, Wyatt & Easter Williams, Forkland, Greene County, AL, 1900 US Federal Census. FS.org – No Fletcher in the house!

Fletcher Williams appears on the 1900 census, but not in Alabama  — instead he’s in Georgia, in the household of Robert & Dinah Sipp as one of four Williams stepchildren.   But look at the map above– these families lived near the border between Alabama and Georgia, facilitating their move across state lines.

The name of the oldest stepdaughter is transcribed ‘Exie’ Williams, age 30 living in the next house. Enumerators leave us so many ‘surprising’ examples of handwriting. I have yet to find more on her, and wonder what other first names – Susie, perhaps?- this could be.

Fletcher Williams in home of Robert & Dinah Sipp , Militia District 749, Cotton Hill (east part), Clay, Georgia. 1900 US Federal Census, FS.org

This leaves us with the following question:  Why did Robert Sipp take in four stepchildren by 1900? What is his relationship to them? 
In my next post i’ll try to find answers to those questions and to… Who was Dinah Sipp?

What i’ve been up to…

Rainbow, Florida

Hey- It’s been awhile! The last three months have been full, juggling health, writing & researching several projects. 
Most recently, we had a great discussion on BPG’s Ep. 106: History Unscripted: Perception is Everything with Regina Jackson, thanks to hosts Nicka Smith and True Lewis, Dr Shelley Murphy & myself. The focus is on perception via three different news articles: image as representative of community, versus image as threat across different contexts- a photo project in a Southern town, the brouhaha over the recent novel, American Dirt and the definition of civil rights activists as the problem by government agencies that should be protecting them. 

Check out Ep 106 here:

Regina Johnson, presently Chair of the Oakland Police Commission, talked about ongoing changes in Oakland, California (my former hometown) and her efforts in providing services for Black youth in the face of reduced services and the pressures of gentrification. Working with youth is a context that can open possibilities and facilitate resilience in the face of difficulty, so important for getting through life.   History Unscripted aims to spark thought about further dialogues and point to next steps toward change that one can take, so check out past and upcoming episodes!

Another BPG activity is #CREWChat on Twitter- a fun way to share genealogícal tips on a range of films. This month was Glory (1989), on the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of the USCT, in conjunction with the African American Civil War Museum. Coming next: Imitation of Life (1959) on March 18th, 9PM EST, join in!

I’m working on a series of short blog posts, to help Mr. Orlando Williams find family in time for his Family Reunion coming up in June. Tree Climbing With Mr Williams may help you get through some brick walls and find a connection! I’ll be talking about some of the recent finds that lead to several states: AL, GA, FL, SC & NC. There is so much history in this tree! I’ll be posting soon.

Casa Labadie, Aceituna, Moca, Puerto Rico. Photo: E. Fernandez-Sacco, 2007.

Finally… I’ve submitted my article, “Reconstructing District 3’s Missing 1872 Registro Central de Esclavos for Northwest Puerto Rico” to Hereditas: Revista de Genealogia Puertorriquena, and had the pleasure of working with Ernie Rivera and Eliud Nieves on their great grandmothers who were enslaved on the plantation of Juan Labadie and its previous owner, Pedro Pellot, in Moca, Puerto Rico. Their cedulas are among those I transcribed and sought to provide context for.  Pellot (hispanicized from Peugeot) was among a cluster of emigres from the Pyrenees region- from both the French and Spanish sides of this mountain range— who eventually wound up in Puerto Rico. The article will be out in the next issue of Hereditas, complete with a transcription of the cedulas for 492 enslaved ancestors taken in 1870. 

Like I said, busy! Feel free to reach out and comment if you find a connection on these pages!

Enjoy the weekend-
Hasta pronto,

Ellen