One question those of us who claim genealogy as a hobby often hear is, “how far back have you gotten?”

When asked (and frequently without being asked) I can tell you about one of my sixth great-grandfathers, John Baptist Lovelace, born in 1712 in Baltimore or one of my seventh, James Castellaw, born in 1685 in Renfrewshire, Scotland. I can tell you all about one of my eighth great-grandfathers, Richard Cobb, who was born in the mid 1500s and was educated at Oxford or his son who arrived in Jamestown in 1613.

And the Marbury side? No lie. I can go all the way back to Alexander the Great.

Since Williams is my surname, it’s the branch of my tree I would really like to be able to track as far back as possible. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get the Williams family beyond my fourth great-grandfather, Brother George S. Williams who was born in 1797 in North Carolina.

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Will Williams, Lloyd “Bo” Williams and Bob Williams

Brother George S. Williams was the father of Solomon “Sol” Williams who was the father of George D. (probably Dempsey) Williams who was the father of Will Williams who was the father of Lloyd “Bo” Williams, who was the father of Bob Williams who was the father of me. 

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Holly Grove Baptist Church
Bertie County, North Carolina

Until last week, what I knew about George was that in 1833 he was a minister leading a congregation at the Holly Grove Baptist Church in Bertie County, North Carolina. Around this time, many of his friends and family were migrating from Bertie County to Haywood County, Tennessee.

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Zion Baptist Church in Haywood County, Tennessee

One of the first things they did when the got to their new home was to set up a church where they could worship. By 1836, they needed a full-time minister for their church, which they had named Zion Baptist Church. They wrote Brother George and his wife Nancy (I do not yet know her last name) and they moved from Bertie County, North Carolina to Haywood County, Tennessee where Brother George became one of the early pastors of the church.

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1950 Census Record of Brother George and Nancy Williams
in Madison County, Tennessee

In 1850, the United States census shows that George (age 53), his wife Nancy (age 40) and their daughter, Harriet (age 17), were living in Madison County, Tennessee, which is just adjacent to Haywood County. His occupation was listed as “Baptist Minister.” They were living next to their son’s family (my third great grandparents), Solomon Williams (age 30), Catherion Arthur Nowell Williams (age 23), and their children, Elizabeth (age 6) and George (age 4 months).

The Montgomery family, living on the other side, never seemed relevant to my research so I have always ignored them.

That’s pretty much all I knew about Brother George Williams. He just kind of disappeared after that.

Until last week, that is. I received an email from my cousin Betsy who had gotten an email from Deb, a fellow genealogy researcher who was exploring her Montgomery family line.

As it turns out, Brother George Williams had a daughter named Mariah who married Hugh A. Montgomery on December 7, 1843 in Madison County, Tennessee. Together, they had a son, James Alexander Montgomery, who was born around 1845. This was the Montgomery family living next door to Brother George and Nancy. Mariah Williams Montgomery died very young and her husband remarried. George died soon after and Nancy, his wife, remarried a man named Edward Williams (brother of George perhaps?).

Deb and I emailed a bit and she suggested I check out the files on Family Search she had been using for research and I found even more info to help fill in some blanks on these ancestors.

The settlement of George’s estate and distribution of his land created quite a stack of legal documents for the Madison County probate Court.

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Survey of George Williams land left to his descendants

Multiple surveys of their property were commissioned so the land and property could be divided correctly.

Nancy Williams, the widow of George, sold 100 acres to her son Solomon. However, George left the adjoining land to his grandson, James Alexander Montgomery, who was a minor at this time.

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Signatures on legal documents dividing property of George Williams

It’s interesting to see the signatures of my fourth great-grandmother, Nancy Williams, and my third great-grandfather, Solomon Williams, on sone of the documents that were signed more than 160 years ago.

In several places George’s death is stated as occurring on “the 8th of December 1854, but in other places it states “…Rev. George Williams departed this life intestate on the 3rd day of October 1852.” That seems more likely the correct date.

In one document, Nancy is refered to as “Nancy F. Williams” which adds another clue that I may be able to use to help identify her later.

But the best news of all came in the form of additional information provided by Deb that indicates the possibility of the location George’s burial place. I’ve always wondered why George Williams wasn’t buried at Zion since he was such a big part of the history of that church.

The Montgomerys buried some of their family members on their land. Deb’s research indicates there were at least seven family members buried there, including Mariah Williams Montgomery. The chances are quite good that George Williams could have also been buried in the cemetery alongside his daughter.

                                                                                            Photo/Deb Kueter
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What remained of the Montgomery Family Cemetery in 1995

Unfortunately, a housing development called Walnut Trace was built close to the cemetery along Cooper Anderson Road in Madison County so its very likely nothing remains there today.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting more results from this research about the Williams family.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

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More details about Brother George Williams discovered