It was a very long time ago. After my parents had both died, I somehow got the idea that researching the lost branches of my family tree would somehow make me feel that I was still close to my mom and dad. I really enjoyed the research and when I would find a new limb here and there I was thrilled. It was suddenly as if I had a history that I had never known about. Things like the Trail and Tears and the Cherokee Removal Forts and the Civil War and World War I and II became vivid in my mind.
I began to wonder when they happened and which branches of the tree had grown to full length at that particular time in history. How did my grandmother who was half Cherokee Indian manage to remain here in Georgia even after the removal. I wondered if her mother, a full blooded Cherokee and her father whom I knew nothing about, had managed to remain here or if they were taken away with the others.
I had heard stories of how my grandfather on my dadís side would hike up on top of a large hill in Chattooga County, lie down in the grass and listen to the cannon fire in Chickamauga. He must have had relatives fighting in the war. Who fought and who survived? How many of them died? My grandfather was too young to go to war but how did he feel as he listened to those guns?
Then of course the age old question about immigration. Which part of the world had they come here from? I had found some in Virginia, some in South Carolina and North Carolina. From there they seem to populate Georgia and Alabama, bypassing Tennessee altogether. How did my grandfather, Howard Pierce Williams who was born in South Carolina on June 4, 1858 manage to meet and marry my grandmother who came from a Cherokee family in Pickens County Georgia? His father James M. Williams was born in 1816 in South Carolina and his mother Mary A. was born in Georgia. What brought a family that far from home at that time? The Cherokee in Georgia considered their home an ďenchanted landĒ. Yet in 1838 the Trail of Tears began as so many of them were forced to leave their land and travel to a place they did not know. So many of them died along the trail and I wonder about them now. Part of who I am now came from them and I ponder the question often as to what part of me.
Being born in 1858 sounds like so very long ago but I have learned in the half century I have lived that a century and a half isnít really all that much. He had married and had four children and become a widower when he met my grandmother. He was thirty years her senior. Together they had another family, two girls and two boys. Both family combined there was J. M. Williams who lived in Fairfax Alabama and married Lizzie who was born in 1974. There was Andrew J., born in 1874 and Emma I who was born 10-25-1877, Then Nora who married a Johnson. She died January 17, 1944. Then from the second family there was Maggie Williams Crisp born August 15, 1901 and Jessie Williams Boyles born on 11-17-1904. Then there was Paul born on September 21, 1906 and then the baby, my dad, James Roy Ralph Williams who was born on April 28, 1913 and died on June 2, 1992.
There was so much difference in their ages that they barely knew each other and here I was trying to find out more about them. I did learn that John Marston Williams, whom I think was born about 1837, while a 1st Sergeant was wounded in the right leg during the Civil War. He lost his leg above the knee as a result at Jonesboro, Georgia. My dad had heard about that but I found out about it in a book in the Chattanooga library. My dad was born in 1913 and his dad, Howard, died in 1930. Iím supposing that after he died, there wasnít much contact with the first family who was already at the least middle aged by then.
Dadís mother, Francis Pamalia Barnett Williams was 37 when my dad was born and was 52 when his dad died. I donít remember a lot about her. She died when I was eleven. I remember how long her hair was, probably down to her waist at lea