#52Ancestors: Great (#Genealogy)

One of the GREAT mysteries in my family tree is my great-great grandfather William A. Stephens. At least, that’s the surname on his marriage certificate, and the surname his ex-wife or widow used when she remarried, although his son’s family always spelled it Stevens.

I have three records for William A. Stephens. Two are marriage records to my great-great grandmother Miss Mollie Reid. I know from those records that he was “of age” and that Mollie, a.k.a. Mary, had to have consent of her parents. The couple were married on July 26th, 1883, in Conecuh County, Alabama, at Mary’s mother’s home.

Marriage record for William A. Stephens and Miss Mollie Reid.

Their son Billie was born in October 1884, and when Billie died in 1939, the death certificate records his parents’ names as Bill Stevens and Mollie Reed.

And that is all I know about William A. “Bill” Stephens or Stevens.

I know his wife remarried in March 1889, to J.C. Gilmore. In March 1891, she married her third husband, Charles Muterspaugh. I have never found death records for any of these men, nor have I discovered any divorce papers.

There are possible families for William in Conecuh County, Alabama.

Listed in U.S. Censuses for 1860, 1870, and 1880 are William Stephens (born circa 1860) and his parents, Benjamin Stephens and Mary A. Thomas. This William’s middle initial is sometimes indexed as I or J. A family tree on Ancestry gives his middle name as James. My great-grandfather was named James William (or sometimes William James), and he was called Billie.

There is a William J. Stephens on FamilySearch, born in 1860 and listed in the 1900 Census as living with his wife Sarah. Their oldest child living at home is Oscar, born in 1888. This could be the child of Benjamin and Mary, and/or it could be my ancestor, if he remarried.

I also found a William Stephens in the U.S. Census for Conecuh County in 1870. He’s living with Melvina Stephens and has an estimated birth year of 1865. An application for widow’s benefits says Melvina’s husband was in the Civil War, sent home with disease or injury that caused his death in 1864, so he could have been born in 1864 or 1865. (By the 1900 Census, this William’s birth year is recorded as 1872.) I believe Melvina’s maiden name was Chitty, and my William’s wife had a sister, Sarah Catherine Reid, who married George Chitty, who was Melvina’s first cousin. So, there’s a good chance this William could have met my Mary/Mollie through family connections.

Assuming my William wasn’t yet another William Stephens from a neighboring county, I think one of these two (or three) is mine.

Barring a family connection through DNA, I don’t know how to determine which one is my ancestor.

Melvina Chitty Stephens had another son, John H. Stephens, who married Emmaline Joyner and had several children: Henry, George, William, Sophie Janie, and Edna.

William, son of Benjamin Stephens and Mary Thomas, had several siblings: Martha A., Benjamin Franklin, Sarah J., James Thomas, Lucinda, Barny, Mary E., and Maggy.

William J. Stephens (parents uncertain, but he may be the child of Benjamin and Mary), married Sarah Thomas. Their four children are Oscar Hunter, Ora Ethel, Willie Erma, and George Edgar.

If anyone reading this blog is a descendant of one of these families, and if you have tested with Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA (Family Finder or mtDNA), Living DNA, or MyHeritage, or if you’ve uploaded to GEDmatch, I would love to hear from you and see if we are matches or not. Either result could help me focus my research.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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