In an atmosphere of division and rising tensions, especially around the issue of race, Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Project is a project that encourages people to talk to another. More importantly, it’s aim is getting people who wouldn’t normally talk to one another, namely people from different races, to talk. And to realize that there is more to unite Americans from different backgrounds than divides us. You never know who you’re related to. Chances are, unknown cousins will look very different from the family you already know.
We are bringing this topic to you in the hopes that we can get a platform discussing how important this research is, and the impact that it has on America today. The Genealogy Adventures team believes this research – and bringing Americans from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds together through genetic genealogy – has the makings of a riveting show segment.
Genealogy challenge: Researching the 45 enslaved children of Moses Williams
Knowledge is power. It’s through that concept that the Genealogy Adventures team presents to you a project worth getting behind. The Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Genetic Genealogy Project began with two strangers who found each other through genealogical research…and discovered they were cousins via DNA. In fact, these two cousins share several common ancestors. It was in that find we realized that the place our ancestors came from (Edgefield, South Carolina) was not just another small town, but a place when, in its hay-day, had an enormous impact on American history.
Edgefield, South Carolina connects to well-known people such as Strom Thurmond, Senator Andrew Butler, the infamous Preston Brooks, 50 Cent and L.L. Cool J.
Our research has shown that in one way or another we are related to all of them. More than this, we’re related to pretty much everyone in the greater Edgefield area: white, black, and native Americans. When we learned that our 4x great-grandfather Moses Williams, who lived to be 115 years old, in his lifetime had 45 children it all started to make sense. Having that many children connects his descendants to a staggering number of Americans – white, black, and native Americans. Moses children were born in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with the majority of them being born in Edgefield and its surrounding counties. When we first found him, he was listed as a slave of an American Revolutionary Patriot John Williams. It was through a series of legal deeds we learned that Moses was passed to his son Daniel. DNA analysis points to Daniel Williams II as the father of Moses.
Myself and Donya Papoose Williams set out to uncover this historic story along with four of our black and white DNA cousins: Loretta Bellamy, Sharon Rowe, Hammad Settles Asad and Sheila Hightower-Allen. The task this research group set itself was to find these 45 children, born in the depths of the slavery era, as well as Moses’s siblings, extended family, as well as the descendants from this family. It is a task that will connect millions of Americans to one another at the most basic level – genetic.
The challenge in finding these kids?
- They are estimated as being born between 1786 and 1836. That is deep into the colonial days and the heart of slavery;
- 40 of them are girls – This makes them even tougher to find due to marriage at an early age and the changing of the last name after marriage;
- Moses Williams was having children at the same time as his eldest children were also having children, adding a multi-gernatoinal challenge in identifying correct parents for the descendants we find; and
- Records for African Americans are extremely difficult to find
These six cousins have not only found the various enslavers of Moses (who were also his blood relations), we have found 7 of his 45 children, and a host of grandchildren, from deeds, probate records, census records, newspaper articles, and DNA triangulation.
We are hoping that having a discussion with you, and sharing that discussion with your audience, will provide a controlled question and answer period on the largest elephant in the room slavery and its effect on the American People. It is time to address this problem and Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Project is the way to get started to do it.
We are currently in the process of booking interviews. We’d like to extend our thanks to Scott Fisher, host of the nationally syndicated Extreme Genealogy Show (http://www.wrko.com/shows/show-schedule/extreme-genes-family-history-radio) for being the first to invite us to share our project with his audience.
These interviews are to shed light on this project and the importance of tracing your ancestors, discovering American history through genealogy research, and building bridges through conversation.
We would love to include you as part of our line-up.
This project is historic – in scope as well as subject. Thank you in advance for your support!
Thank you so much for your kind consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
The Genealogy Adventures Team
- America is more than a country of immigrants. Tens of millions of us are connected at the most fundamental level there is – genetics. Tens of millions of Americans are family, regardless of race/ethnicity/culture, religious beliefs, sociology-econonic and education attainment, or any other construct that serves to divide. we’re about connecting people from different backgrounds and breaking down perception barriers;
- Leading people to think of people who are different from themselves as an important part of society;
- Increasing understanding of ourselves and American history;
- Helping people see the value in a myriad of life stories and experiences; and
- To recognize and celebrate the commonality we share through the wonder of an enormous, extended family.
Go Fund Me Fundraising Campaign
Our Go Fund Me fund raising link is https://www.gofundme.com/stronger-together-dna-project
Below are bios for both Brian and Donya and where to donate to this cause. We are constantly updating our progress on our Genealogy Adventures Facebook page and we appreciate your time and look forward to speaking with you both privately and publicly on this issue.
Brian Sheffey (Boston, MA)
My genealogy adventures began in 2010. My father was turning 78 and I wanted to give him a more personal birthday gift. I mean, what do you give a 78 year who literally has everything, right? We knew very little about his family history… Genealogy Adventures was born. My own genealogy primarily encompasses trans-African, European, Jewish, and Native American ancestry. Each requires a different skill set, which I have focused on and developed over the years.
My adventure has had its ups and downs with each ancestral story that I have discovered. What I can say, with my hand on my heart, is that the adventure and the journey has been one of the most profoundly empowering, awakening, and grounding experiences of my life. I have learned more about myself, my people, and American history through genealogy than I have through any other means.
I discovered my American identity through genealogy. That sounds odd for an American who was born on a large Naval base in Groton, with a father who was career Navy, and plenty of uncles who served in the armed forces. Yet, as a person of color, I was made to feel that America was my not country. Discovering that I am the direct descendant of American Presidents (and related to many other presidents), the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution – as well as a whole host of governors, congressmen, and senators – changed all that.
Donya Williams (Washington DC)
-I can honestly say that Genealogy has been requesting my attention since a little girl, but it wasn’t until 1996 that I finally began to answer the call. Since then I have been placed on a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
My genealogical make up is African, European, East Asian and Native American. Researching has opened my eyes to what I didn’t learn in school. I learn something new every day and it is the best thing I have ever done in my life outside of having my children.
Because of Genealogy I have submitted articles to the oldest running newspaper in South Carolina. I have been the leader for bringing all branches of my family together. But the most important thing that Genealogy has done for me is the ability to educate those on who they are and where they come from.
I have been doing genealogy since 1976. While I learned of enslaving ancestors almost at once, it was many years before I realized how many of my family were involved. Through the Internet, I have been able to find some descendants of those people my family enslaved. DNA testing has linked me to more African-American cousins, though the actual connections remain murky for the most part. But more profoundly, I have found out I have trace African ancestry.
We are all cousins under the skin and I am excited to help with more discoveries.
My genealogy research began 29 years ago when I decided to locate my biological mother. Fortunately, my research ended successfully without the aid of online searching. Even then, I knew I had the gift of research. I’m a “Needle in The Haystack” type of person. When I joined Ancestry.com in 2004, I never could have imagined the profound and fulfilling journey I would take. The ability to research my own family history as well as help so many others who may not have the resources is so fulling to me. The education I have gained since this journey began is immense. The old saying is so true, “You’ll never now where you are going unless you know where you come from.” It’s about helping people make those connections. The more research I do, the more I find the world is getting smaller and smaller, thus making people more biologically related than we ever thought possible.