We all commonly use the phrase, “my side of the family,’ or”his side,” as though we were two warring camps or competitive footballteams. Regretfully, all too often,we behave that way too. But atfamily reunions, there are more “kissing cousins” than can be counted,especially at a Williams Family reunion, which was once heralded as the largestfamily reunion recorded in the USA.
My friend and former classmate, Andy McMullian, decided todo 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’srelatives weren’t theirs. Their Williams ancestors were the “other” Williamsfamily, not Andy’s.
How they can be so sure of that mystifies me. These days, aDNA 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 JacksonCounty. Mygrandfather, Charles Harmon Miller was the son of Martha Candace Williams, andhis wife, my grandmother, Viola Williams was the daughter of Rachel ElizabethWilliams, but neither of my grandparents were related to each other, or so theythought. Grandmother was a descendant of Andrew Elton Williams, whosedescendants are now recorded as being over 175 million. If that many have beenrecorded, it is beyond imagining how many there really are! The firstWilliams family reunion was held at Reddick’s Mill in 1902, and later moved toGalilee Methodist Church, located between Graceville and Chipley, Florida onstate road 77. The first Saturday in October was chosen as the perfect time fora reunion, because the weather would have turned cooler by then.
It was a goodchoice, because every reunion grew bigger than the last one. People wereshowing up from all parts of the country, and when politicians heard just howmany potential voters were there, they began attending as well, and asking fora chance to speak. One fellow lost all hope of getting elected, however, whenhe referred to Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist Church, as a greatAmerican and a Williams forebear. That was hardly likely as the Andrew’sdescendants were all Methodists and had been for generations.
At eachreunion, births, deaths and accomplishments were announced. Sometime during thelate forties or early fifties, one lovely Williams descendant won the MissAmerican title. More recently, another Williams descendant, pretty Kynley JadeBraxton, age 7, won the Miss Western Star Queen title, and her little sister,Anna Lauren Braxton, age four, won the TinyMiss Western Star title at a competition in Bonifay, Florida. Williamsfamily genealogists traced their origins back to Wales, where King Henry VIIIrequired them to adopt the English surname system, so sons whose fathers werenamed William adopted the surname of Williams.
Andrew Elton Williams was bornon his father’s farm in Lower Lotts Creek, near the present village of Registerin Bullock County, Georgia. His first wife, Martha “Patsy” Brett, gave him tenchildren, and after her death, his second wife, Melissa Underwood, gave himthirteen. This line of Williams must have been hardy and prolific, because evenmy grandmother, a tiny woman who probably weighed 90 pounds, soaking wet,produced twelve of her own. In JacksonCounty, 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, manyothers who have not yet been identified. Even my own parents did not know theyshared the same great, great, great, great grandparents, Joseph and PriscillaWatford, until I began compiling an ancestry chart. It got so big, that I gaveup at some point, but my daughter, Anne, is determined to keep it going. Countingancestors is like trying to count all the leaves on a tree. According toanthropologists, 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 getalong better, but being competitive creatures, we never stop taking “sides” oneverything from football teams to political parties. This makes lifeinteresting, but it does not make it peaceful.