If you know me at all, you must realize that when Amy Johnson Crow announced the Week 27 prompt for her 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, my first thought was Han Solo. However, I haven’t found any familial connection to the swashbuckling “Star Wars” pirate, so I had to figure out something else to write about.
I don’t see any family names or recall any place names that evoke the idea of solitude. I’m an only child, but most of my ancestors came from large families.
My paternal great-great-grandfather William F. Hahn seems to have been on his own before marrying Ary Loper in Milton, Santa Rosa, Florida, in 1873, but I don’t know enough about that time in his life or how he came to be in Florida with, apparently, no other family around him.
Then I thought about another great-great-grandfather. I have just one lone primary record for William A. Stephens, and it is there I found his full name written thus.
Going back to the beginning of this genealogical quest, I was looking for more on the parents of James William “Billie” Stevens, my maternal grandmother’s father. Billie died when my mother was very small. The way the story was passed down, is that he had been out drinking on New Year’s Eve, 1939, and instead of going home to face the wrath of his pious wife, he went to his daughter’s home. Willie’s husband, Hoyt, laid him down on my mother’s bed, and they took my mother, who was about 2 1/2 years old, into their room. They found him dead the next morning; the date on the death certificate is December 31, 1939.
The names of his parents on the death certificate are Bill Stevens and Mollie Reed. The date of birth on Billie’s tombstone is October 5, 1884. Various sources say Billie was born in Alabama. I started looking for him with his parents.
That proved to be tough. Of course, the 1890 Census is no more, and to this day, I have not found Mary and Billie in the 1900 Census.
The only record I found was a marriage record for William A. Stephens and Miss Mary Reid. They were wed in Conecuh County, Alabama on July 26th, 1883, so the timing made sense with his birth.
I called my mom and asked if she’d ever heard mention of Billie’s family or Grandma Muterspaugh being from Conecuh County. No.
But it’s not that far from Escambia County, Florida, where Willie Stevens was born.
I was only looking at the marriage record index at that point, so I didn’t even realize that the marriage took place at the home of Nancy Reid until I looked at the original record later, but I started looking in Conecuh County for others Stephens and Reid families.
I found a Mary in the home of James T. and Nancy Russell Reid. They had profiles on FamilySearch, and while many of their other children had marriages and children listed, Mary did not, so there was nothing to disprove the theory. Later, I found DNA matches to the offspring of several of James and Nancy’s other children, so I’m confident on that front.
I have found no divorce record for William Stephens and Mary Reid; she married J.C. Gilmore in 1889 and Charles Muterspaugh, which whom she had one daughter, in 1891.
What became of her first husband William remains a mystery.
There were two William Stephens living in Conecuh County in 1880 according to the U.S. Census. One was born about 1860, the son of Benjamin and Mary Stephens. The other was born about 1865, the son of Melvina Stephens.
Research shows that Melvina’s maiden name was Chitty, and one of Mary’s sisters married a Chitty. Melvina’s husband, also named William, died in March 1864. Was William the younger really born before 1865 or did he have a different father but received the mother’s current name? In 1900, Melvina (listed as Elvina) and her son William (identified as divorced) are living with Melvina’s other son, John H. Stephens. The census record gives William’s middle initial as M and records a birthdate of February 1872. Perhaps it’s supposed to be 1862?
Benjamin and Mary’s son, I assume, is also listed in the 1900 Census, born in January 1860. Now his middle initial is clearly J. He has been married for 12 years and his oldest child was born in December 1888.
There’s no evidence to disprove or prove either of them as my William.
This is assuming that William wasn’t a newcomer to the area; I found William Steven and William Stephens of the right age living in Wilcox and Clarke Counties, respectively, in the 1880 U.S. Census.
I’ll continue my quest to discover William’s origins. If you have information that could help, please leave a comment below.