Recently, I took another look at the family of my husband’s 2X great grandfather’s brother, James Henry Williams. William Alexander Williams and Hepsabeth Davidson were the parents of thirteen children born between 1829 and 1855. Dave’s 2X great grandfather, John Christopher Williams, was child #9, while James Henry Williams, almost 18 years older, was child #2.
This family settled in Marion County, Tennessee about 1825, but left for greener pastures, so to speak, in the county borders area of Lafayette and Hempstead Counties, Arkansas, after the 1840 census and before 10 January 1844, when child #7 was born.
James Henry Williams was born 11 December 1830 and died 16 January 1880 of pneumonia in Hempstead County, Arkansas. It is his wife who is the new Williams mystery because her maiden name was also Williams.
Parthenia Williams was born 1 February 1832 in Tennessee. She married James Henry Williams on 20 March 1853 in Lafayette County, Arkansas.
Although she can be found in the 1850 census in Hempstead County, that hasn’t made the search for her Williams origins much easier.
Her mother was already widowed by the time of the 1850 census. Ugh!
The family is split onto two census pages. However, we have:
Pheby Williams, 44
Wm. Williams, 19
Perthenia, 17 (indexed as Penthenia)
Mary E., 11
John D., 9
All were born in Tennessee, but even in the early 1800s, Tennessee had a lot of Williamses living there. It is possible that Parthenia was a distant cousin of husband James’s family, but no evidence of that has been found.
For many years, cousin Marcy and I got nowhere in the search for Pheby’s husband. Hints online have given us a new “maybe” clue. This clue is for a marriage record in Sumner County, Tennessee dated 24 August 1830. The marriage is for John Williams and his bride, Pheby – WILLIAMS! That’s about the last name I wanted to see.
Sometimes the hints are spot on, while other times they are so far off base it isn’t even funny. Poking around in Sumner County records, it quickly became evident that if anyone has been working on the Williams people who lived there from 1800-1850, they haven’t been sharing their discoveries online.
The Sumner County census records for 1810 and 1820 are missing, so that didn’t help this search any. In 1830, the following Williams families are enumerated:
Williams in 1830, Sumner County, TN
Actually, there are only 17 Williams families there at the time of the 1830 census. Compared to other places where I’ve had to research this family, 17 is a fairly easy number with which to work.
Further checking the list, there are five John Williams listed. Now, take another look at the way Pheby is enumerated with her (apparent) children in 1850 and remember that the marriage record in Sumner County was dated 1830.
The children in the 1850 household are in birth order, EXCEPT that Wiley Williams, the eldest is listed last. Was this an oversight on the census taker’s part or could it possibly mean that Wiley was a stepson???
Next, of the five John Williams enumerated in 1830, there is one man who is head of a household consisting of three people – himself (born 1800-1809), a female, also born 1800-1809 and a male under five, so born 1826-1830.
Phebe, according to census records, was born c1806-1808, which fits the female here. Wiley Williams was born c1828, which also fits this family.
Since all of Phebe’s children were born in Tennessee and the youngest, John D., was born about 1841, I checked the 1840 census for Sumner County. John and Phebe would have had six children at home at that time, assuming none died between 1840-1850.
There are only two John Williams found, along with one J.H. Williams, in 1840:
J or John Williams in 1840 Sumner County, TN
The second John Williams only has a household of three, so that can’t be my John and Pheby. The second John has ten people living in the home, but the eldest male is only 20-29. The eldest female is 40-49, so this isn’t mine family either.
J.H. Williams’ household includes one slave plus the following white souls:
J.H. Williams, Sumner County, TN in 1840
J.H. was born c1790-1800, one age category older than John Williams enumerated in 1830, but he easily could have been born c1798 or 1799 and his age was mis-reported in 1830. The eldest female is 30-39, which fits Phebe’s reported age. However, the ages of the other children don’t line up correctly either. Unless the census taker, or the person reporting the information, supplied incorrect data, this family doesn’t fit Phebe’s family profile.
Next, I looked at all John Williams or John with a middle initial Williams in Tennessee. There were 99 of them in 1840, but luckily I am looking for a probably household of 8 people. There are none in Sumner County, nor any in the counties which border Sumner.
So, I’ve reached a dead end for the moment. What other steps could I take? When I get to Salt Lake, I could delve more deeply into Sumner County records to determine whether Phebe Williams was “my” Phebe. I could also look at every Williams family in Tennessee in 1840 that had 8 people in the household and then further narrow the search to those with children matching those who lived with Phebe in 1850.
I could also try following the children forward, but I’ve actually already tried to do that. Phebe was alive as of the 1870 census, but possible records pertaining to her children are very messy as there are several people of the same name and no easy way to sort out who is who because they are all missing in one or more census records before they seemingly reappear.
This will have to go on the “to do” list because I don’t have time or local resources available right now to check out hundreds of Williams families in 1840 Tennessee!