A genealogy story

Fri Jun 13 11:09:57 2008
There is a beautiful old grandfather clock that has been in our family for generations. It was said to have been originally owned by William Williams, a representative of Connecticut that signed the Declaration of Independence. We grew up knowing his signature, his portrait, his biography. We even made a family trip to Lebanon, CT to see his house (still standing) and his gravesite. We still have a document, in my grandfather’s handwriting, which traces the ownership of the clock back over the years—although it did become a little vague toward the end. The works were made in England, around 1810, during the last years of William Williams’ life. The cabinet was not inconsistent with American post-colonial furniture making.

We set out to better document its history by working backward from our family and forward from our great ancestor. The lines seemed to converge with William T. Williams who lived in the early 1800’s. However, the signer’s William T. had three children, unrelated to our family, and the “T” was his grandfather’s name: Trumbull. Our William T. also took his grandfather’s name, but that was Tritt and his father, born in the 1700’s, was as old as the signer but unrelated. Yet our family still insists that the clock belonged to the signer of the Declaration of Independence and that “someday we will find the connection.” It is funny how persistent belief can be, no matter how many facts or how much evidence you have.

But that is not the end of the story. Despite overthrowing the rule of hereditary kings along the coast of North America in the Revolution, Americans continued creating fictional bloodlines of nobility. In doing this research we have met many other Williams families all over the country who claim descent from this celebrated figure of American History. When they see that the male line died out in the third generation, they usually insist they must be descended from the daughter’s lineage, yet her married name was McClellan, not Williams.


~ by severalfourmany on June 13, 2008.

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