For additional historical context on these families, please read the preceding essay, “The One Drop Rule Revisited” !
Early in my genealogy research, which began in 1978, I ran into a brick wall in regard to my great-grandfather, Sampson Williams. I found his 1879 marriage license from Montgomery County, NC, which listed him as the white son of Diza Williams and “unknown.” I couldn’t seem to find him in the federal manuscript census before he was married, but I did find a black family that had similar names as his and his mother’s. So I questioned my grandmother’s only remaining sibling, Aunt Ida, about Sampson’s family. She was evasive, telling me that she couldn’t remember her father having family. Eventually she told me that he had “people” that lived near Worthville, NC. Some locals who remembered Sampson called him “Samps Wilse” for short. Ida told me not to call him Samps Wilse, because that would make him black. This statement seemed strange, but eventually convinced me to look again at the black Williams family. In various censuses, I noticed that the Diza/ Dicey/ Disey, lived with a son named Sampson and was sometimes listed as black, sometimes white, sometimes mulatto. I decided to try to track down descendants of this Williams family.
I learned that Diza Ann was first married to Calvin McQueen, with whom she had a daughter, Mary Ann, born in 1854. Both parents were identified as white. Beginning about 1855 and continuing through 1873, Diza gave birth to nine more children, all probably fathered by Wilson Williams (aka Wright), who was identified as her husband in the 1860 census. The children born after Mary Ann were as follows:
1. Daniel, born about 1855. I know very little about him thus far.
2. William M. Williams, a twin to Daniel. He married in Montgomery County and gave his mother’s name as Diza Williams and his father as “unknown.” His death certificate lists his father as Wilson Williams and mother as Eliza Manors. There was a Diza Maners listed in the 1850 census. He and his wife went as white and lived in Vance County, NC in later years.
3. David D. Williams’ death certificate reported his birth date as 5 October 1854. He first married a Montgomery County woman by whom he had children. He and his brother Sampson were known to fight with one another, and were arrested at least once for doing so. David divorced and moved to Robeson County, NC, where he remarried and had other children. By 1900, he and his second family were living in Cumberland County. Wilson was living with them, and was listed as David’s “step-father.” David went as white and remained in that area, which is part of Lumbee Indian territory. Wilson Williams may have had Lumbee connections. Earlier, while living in Montgomery County, Wilson was deeded land together with a Shadrach Williams, who I have not identified. Later, Shadrach was listed in the census as living with a man named Locklear, a common Lumbee surname. It’s possible that Wilson was of Lumbee descent and that he may not have had African ancestry. In the nineteenth century, however, mixed people of Indian or African descent were generally identified by census enumerators as “black” or “mulatto”.
4. Sampson Williams, my great-grandfather, was born in 1859. He went as white, married a white woman, and appeared white for the most part. I have seen a couple of descendants who had a slight amount of color in their complexion, but displayed no other traits indicating African descent. Sampson apparently had little to do with his siblings. He was ill-tempered, often in trouble with the law for fighting, drinking, etc.; he once cut a man, almost killing him. He fled to Florida to hide out for a time, then came home and served some time in jail. I believe he saw a hard life because of his family history. Sampson registered to vote in 1902, giving his ancestor as James Maness. Some of the Manors/Maners/Mainors family became known later as Maness. Sampson Williams died in 1929.
5. Sarah Williams, born about 1861, seems to have disappeared after the 1880 Census, where she was listed as white and boarding with a Freeman family.
6. Margaret Ellen Williams was born 7 August 1866. She never married, but had two children. She stayed for a while with her half-sister, Mary Ann, then moved to the Worthville, NC, area. She went as white, but appeared to have some African ancestry. Her descendants are all white in appearance. She died in 1921.
7. John Williams was born about 1867. I have nothing firm on him, although I am pursuing some leads at this time.
8. Moses Williams was born 22 June 1869, and was listed as mulatto in the 1880 Montgomery County Census. He was married in 1892 in Richmond County, NC, to a black woman. His marriage license identifies his parents as Wilson and Disey Williams. His family later moved to Laurinburg, in Scotland County. He lived as black, though his descendants say he had light skin and green eyes. He died in 1949.
9. Marshall Williams was born in 1873 and remained in Montgomery County. He married a black woman and is buried in a black cemetery. He had one son who never married and died in Maryland. Marshall went as black, but relatives remember that he was very light skinned. His death certificate lists his father as Wilson Williams and his mother as Diza Williams.
A side note, I had my father take a DNA test a few years ago to determine his racial background. I expected it to show either mostly white European heritage with a small amount of African, or mostly white with a small amount of American Indian. I was surprised when the test came back showing mostly white European with a small amount of EAST ASIAN. After further study, I learned that some Indians are descended from Asiatic people who migrated here centuries ago. The granddaughter of Margaret Ellen Williams took the same test, and her results show mostly white European, with a small amount of American Indian.
One interesting occurrence during my research: I have become good friends with Margaret Ellen Williams’s descendants, and once, while we were looking through their family photos, they showed me one person that they could not identify. I immediately knew who it was, and when I turned it over, it had the name Ida Esco Williams written on the back. This was the same Great-Aunt Ida from whom I had tried to gain information about our Williams ancestry!