Genealogy of the Ancestors of William Williams 1727-1791, Author, Painter and First American Novelist

by Robert Bruce Williams, triple-great-grandson and Barbara Harrell Carson (1/2008)

    JOHN WILLIAMS  <=>  MARY WILLIAMS (widow)                                        JOHN JAMES <=> SARAH
           m. Jan 29,1680                                                                  m. ? 
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          _________|_________                                         _______________________|_________
                             |                                       |                                |
                   William Williams           <=>                     Elizabeth James                  Joseph
                   b. Sept 25, 1681       m. Jan 21, 1709           b. Sept 5, 1681
           |         |        |         |          |          |       |                       |                         
          Anne   Elizabeth   Mary     John      Hester   Susanna    Martha        WILLIAM WILLIAMS (author, painter)
   b.   2-8-1711  2-8-1712 6-26-1713 8-9-1723  4-16-1719 7-28-1715  3-3-1726        6-14-1727       d. 4-27-1791

Discussion of mother's family name Belshire vs James

Both David Dickason and John Williams II have, while researching William Williams, found the following record in the Bristol Burgess book 14 Dec, 1734, a list of those who qualified to vote (given the liberties of the city): "William Williams, Mariner, is admitted into the Liberties of the city for that he married Elizabeth, daughter of George Belshire, Baker and hath taken the oath of obedience and paid 0.4.6" [ 4 shillings, 6 pence] (Bristol record numbers: FC/BB/1(n)2 #45 1732-1734), which we found as well. In essence, this is a certificate to be allowed to vote in Bristol on Dec 14, 1734.

We have changed from Elizabeth Belshire to Elizabeth James. Here is our rationale: It may have been the only record available to both Dickason and JFW that links marriage between a William Williams to an Elizabeth. Further, it is confused by the assumption of Dickason and Williams that he may have been a mariner. This was based, we surmise, by the thinking that a character in his novel, Mr. Penrose, was, in fact, his father.

Newly discovered records

We have found records not reported by them. These appear in the substantiating data link below, and the diagram above. They conflict in the family name of Elizabeth (Belshire vs James). We feel that the burgess book reference is weak, in that 1) it is much later than when they would have been married by some 15 years, 2) that the profession "mariner" lends little credence and 3) there is no indication of the parish. We favor the 2005 and 2007 findings, since they include both the marriage record, parish, tidy date of marriage (1/1709) and first child (Ann, 9/1711).

If the new records are accepted, a whole new picture of the ancestry of William Williams emerges. We believe there is little question that the grandparents are John and Mary, members of the same parish church (St. Augustine) since before 1680. Since no profession of William Williams, Sr. is in evidence, that he was an exciting mariner could just as well be part of the authorís tale rather than fact. Grandpa John, listed as a wool comber when he married, suggests a less exciting profession as well, although the wool industry was very respectible in England. In any case, a long standing St. Augustine parish family seems to be the womb for the very talented painter and author William Williams. Indeed, it is a tribute to his writing skills that previous researchers, including literary professionals, have assigned facts not in evidence to this exceptional fictional work. It could be conjectured that the Bondsman of the John and Mary marriage, Nicolas Williams, who was a parchment maker, was possibly an uncle of John. He was born in Beer, Dorset, and residing in St. Augustine at the time of the marriage. Next stop, Beer, Dorset.

Substantiating data concerning of William Williams and his ancestors in Bristol, England