We all commonly use the phrase, “my side of the family,’ or
“his side,” as though we were two warring camps or competitive football
teams.  Regretfully, all too often,
we behave that way too.  But at
family reunions, there are more “kissing cousins” than can be counted,
especially at a Williams Family reunion, which was once heralded as the largest
family reunion recorded in the USA.

My friend and former classmate, Andy McMullian, decided to
do some quail hunting in Blountstown when the weather turned colder this week,
and met up with some fellows who got to talking about who they were related to.
Andy mentioned some of his William’s ancestors, and was told that his William’s
relatives weren’t theirs. Their Williams ancestors were the “other” Williams
family, not Andy’s.  How they can be so sure of that mystifies me. These days, a
DNA sample needs to be analyzed before we can be sure of anything. In my case,
I’m related to both “sides “or “sets” of Williams descendants in Jackson
County.

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  My
grandfather, Charles Harmon Miller was the son of Martha Candace Williams, and
his wife, my grandmother, Viola Williams was the daughter of Rachel Elizabeth
Williams, but neither of my grandparents were related to each other, or so they
thought. Grandmother was a descendant of Andrew Elton Williams, whose
descendants are now recorded as being over 175 million. If that many have been
recorded, it is beyond imagining how many there really are!

  The first
Williams family reunion was held at Reddick’s Mill in 1902, and later moved to
Galilee Methodist Church, located between Graceville and Chipley, Florida on
state road 77. The first Saturday in October was chosen as the perfect time for
a reunion, because the weather would have turned cooler by then. It was a good
choice, because every reunion grew bigger than the last one. People were
showing up from all parts of the country, and when politicians heard just how
many potential voters were there, they began attending as well, and asking for
a chance to speak. One fellow lost all hope of getting elected, however, when
he referred to Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist Church, as a great
American and a Williams forebear. That was hardly likely as the Andrew’s
descendants were all Methodists and had been for generations.

  At each
reunion, births, deaths and accomplishments were announced. Sometime during the
late forties or early fifties, one lovely Williams descendant won the Miss
American title. More recently, another Williams descendant, pretty Kynley Jade
Braxton, age 7, won the Miss Western Star Queen title, and her little sister,
Anna Lauren Braxton, age four, won the Tiny
Miss Western Star title at a competition in Bonifay, Florida.

  Williams
family genealogists traced their origins back to Wales, where King Henry VIII
required them to adopt the English surname system, so sons whose fathers were
named William adopted the surname of Williams. Andrew Elton Williams was born
on his father’s farm in Lower Lotts Creek, near the present village of Register
in Bullock County, Georgia. His first wife, Martha “Patsy” Brett, gave him ten
children, and after her death, his second wife, Melissa Underwood, gave him
thirteen. This line of Williams must have been hardy and prolific, because even
my grandmother, a tiny woman who probably weighed 90 pounds, soaking wet,
produced twelve of her own.

  In Jackson
County, the Williams clan married into the “allied” families, Math, Goff,
Shine, Brett, Underwood, Jones, Lassiter, Minchew, Miller, Tindel, Garrett,
Gavin, Adams, Cason, Mitchell, Hinson, Smith, Cason and most likely, many
others who have not yet been identified. Even my own parents did not know they
shared the same great, great, great, great grandparents, Joseph and Priscilla
Watford, until I began compiling an ancestry chart. It got so big, that I gave
up at some point, but my daughter, Anne, is determined to keep it going. Counting
ancestors is like trying to count all the leaves on a tree.

 According to
anthropologists, humans can be traced back to one woman, who they named “Eve”
in honor of the Biblical Eve. As we are all related, you’d think we could get
along better, but being competitive creatures, we never stop taking “sides” on
everything from football teams to political parties. This makes life
interesting, but it does not make it peaceful.