Way More Than Six Degrees, Part 2

Tennessee Williams I recently posted about my distant relationship (Twain would laugh about it, I’m sure) to Mark Twain. Imagine my surprise to discover I am connected to another of my favorite American writers, Tennessee Williams.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was born Thomas Lanier Williams to Cornelius Coffin Williams, a traveling shoe salesman, and Edwina Dakin Williams. His troubled family life proved fertile ground for his writing later. Tennessee had an older sister, Rose, who suffered from schizophrenia and served as the model for Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Rose spent most of her life in mental hospitals. She never recovered from a lobotomy in 1943. Tennessee also had a younger brother, Walter Dakin (known as Dakin).

Cornelius Coffin Williams (1879-1957) was born to Thomas Lanier Williams II (1849-1908) and Isabella Coffin (1853-1884).

Williams' grandparents

Tennessee’s grandfather was the Commissioner of Railroads for Tennessee.

Thomas Lanier Williams II was born to Col. John Williams (1818-1881) and Rhoda Campbell Morgan (1819-1867).

John WilliamsJohn Williams was born to John Williams (1778-1837) and Melinda White (1789-1838). John Williams, Sr. was known as “Prince John.” He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1815-1823. Melinda White’s father was General James White, who founded the city of Knoxville, TN.

John Williams, Sr. was born to Col. Joseph Williams (1748-1827) and Rebekah Lanier (1757-1832). Joseph Williams was known as the “Duke of Surry.” His family settled in Surry County, NC. Col. Williams was a colonel in the Colonial Army, but resigned his commission when the Revolutionary War broke out and became a colonel in the Continental Army.

Joseph Williams was born to Nathaniel Williams (1712-1763) and Elizabeth Washington (1717-?).

Nathaniel Williams was born to John Williams (1679-1755) and Mary (most likely Mary Keeling, 1684-1730). John Williams emigrated to America from Llangollen, Wales, most likely in the 1690’s. He first settled in York County, Virginia, on Queen’s Creek. He later moved his family to Hanover County, where he built his home, “Studley,” before 1712.


The above drawing of “Studley” is from Appleton’s Cyclopedia, 1888, via Early Descendants of John Williams, “The Wealthy Welshman” of Hanover County, Virginia.

John Williams was also the father of my ancestor, Joseph Williams (1721-1792). Many of my ancestors allied with the Williams line, including the Anthonys, moved from Virginia to Georgia and settled in the Wilkes/Elbert/Oglethorpe/Madison counties. Joseph Williams married Henrietta Jouett, a descendant of Daniel Jouett, who emigrated to Plymouth, England after the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. Jouett later emigrated to Rhode Island (1686), and it is said that he is the ancestor of most Jouetts/Jewetts in America.

Joseph Williams and Henrietta Jouett were the parents of Matthew Jouett Williams (1749-1818). Matthew Jouett Williams married Barbara Walker (1754-1817). Matthew Jouett Williams was apparently visiting relatives in Surry County, NC. when he died. His will was proven in Elbert County, GA. on January 15, 1819.

Matthew Jouett Williams and Barbara Walker were the parents of Rebecca Williams (1782-1832). Rebecca married Micajah Anthony (1782-about 1850), son of Joseph Anthony, Jr. (1750-1810) and Elizabeth Ann Clark (1754-after 1810). Micajah Anthony and Rebecca Williams were the parents of Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony (1808-1868).

Matthew Jouett Williams Anthony married his second cousin, Ann Blakey Roberts (1810-1873). They were the parents of Mary Ann Penelope Anthony (1835-1917). For some strange reason, it seems to be through this ancestor that most of my really “interesting” ancestors and connections form.

Mary Ann Penelope Anthony married Johnson Franklin Cunningham (1823-1899) in Madison County, Georgia in 1851. In the picture below, Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Mary Ann Penelope Anthony Cunningham are seated in the bottom row.


In the back row on the far right is Amos Blakey Cunningham (1871-1962). He married Stella Ophelia Bowling (1867-1938) in 1894.

Cunningham wedding

They were the parents of Herman Cunningham (1895-1980). He married Annie Lola Jennings (1899-1982) in 1920.

Herman Cunningham and Annie Jennings were the parents of my grandfather, Udell Oliver Cunningham.

Herman Cunningham was the sixth cousin of Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams; thus, I am Tennessee Williams’ sixth cousin three times removed (see chart below).

Relation to Tennessee Williams

Yes, in other words, hardly related. I still think it’s cool. And I have a feeling if ol’ Tennessee were still around and I ran into him somewhere and told him I figured this out, he’d get a kick out of it. He was “openly proud” of his family history (Leverich 9). However, I have a feeling Mark Twain might have agreed more with Tennessee’s father Cornelius on the matter — “Bragging about ancestors is like bragging about potatoes: The best part is underground” (qtd. in Leverich 9).


Leverich, Lyle. Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.

Williams, Scott K. Early Descendants of John Williams, “The Wealthy Welshman” of Hanover County, Virginia. 22 Mar 2006. 18 July 2006 <http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/williams/>.

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21 thoughts on “Way More Than Six Degrees, Part 2”

  1. Dana: My records show my great-grandmother’s name as Isabel (Coffin) Williams and not Isabella.

    You may want to add that Thomas Lanier Williams II also ran (unsuccessfully) for Governor of Tennessee, besides being the State Railroad Commissioner. As for my immediate family, Rose Isabelle Williams died in 1996, and Walter Dakin Williams just passed away this May.

    You’ve managed to sort all of this out very well! Kudos to you for making the 6th connection.

    By the way, the family line didn’t ‘die’ with Tenn. It’s just that the rest (of his story) is still unwritten.

    En avant…

    Deborah (nee Williams) Prideaux

  2. That Cornelius Coffin Williams got around; my father was said to be his bastard son with Adelaide Lee, my paternal grandmother. So that makes Tennessee my half-uncle? There is a strong family resemblance.

  3. Could be, Cameron. He was a traveling salesman. I think there’s quite a lot of autobiography in The Glass Menagerie. If Tennessee Williams and your father are brothers, then yes, he’d be your half-uncle. I think Tennessee’s brother Dakin may have had children. You may have relatives out there you can connect with. Best wishes!

  4. There are indeed some of we Williams descendants still around. I live in Nashville and had the pleasurable task last year of restoring the John and Melinda Williams House in my hometown of Knoxville. I’m no geneologist; I trust Cousin Debbie with that part asd she is better than I could have imagined. Feel free to write me if you desire to know more about our ancestors; I have some pics too!

  5. Always nice to find a relative! My line: Joseph Williams/Henrietta Jouett to Matthew Jouett Williams/Barbara Walker to Mary Ann Williams/Lemuel Black to Matthew Jouett Black/Mary Ann Deadwyler to Alis Ann Black/Uriah Poss to Mary Jane Poss/Hezikiah Hardman to Henry George Allen/Mary Ann Hardman to Cora Allen/T.V. Strickland. He was my great-grandfather.

    There are still lots of Williams in the northeast Georgia area.

    1. Hi Melanie! The Poss/Pass family married into the Cunninghams, too. Do you know Michael Black? He’s done a lot of research on this family and descends from Mary Ann Williams and Lemuel Black, though how his line forks from there, I’m not 100% certain.

      1. Dana, are you related to the Huffs of Madison County? I have another family line that comes from them. Peter Huff/Hoff whose family came from the Netherlands to the Northeast.

        1. I might be. Huff is my married name, and my husband’s family is from the Nashville, TN area, but I have unrelated (I think) Huffs in my own family who married into the Cunningham/Burkhalter/Graham family in that area of Georgia, so it’s entirely possible I am related to those Huffs (though distantly, and through marriage).

    2. Melanie, we are indeed cousins. I had an antiques dealer make me aware of a Matthew Jouet portrait of Col. John Williams from about 1815. I’ts not very good, and way over-priced, but we do have some common blood. If you an get to me, I hve a picture of the portrait I can send.

    3. Hello Cousin. I descend from Thomas Walker and Elizabeth Ellis AND Hannah Jouetts grandparents..that makes you all my cousins too!

  6. Dana, I was pleasantly surprised tonight to find your blog where I posted several years ago. We are 7th cousins twice removed (less than 1/128th same blood)! But, I’m proud of what you’ve written. I’m the biographer of Col. John Wms of Knoxville. That picture you have of him is from a congressional record and was painted from a miniature of one of the early Congresses. I can send you a better one, but it’s quite a large file.

    Cameron, your blog was quite a suprise. You can solve that mystery any time you wish as genetically we could easily see if we are related. Didn’t know Tom, but the Wms genes are still strong with us; there is significant appearance similarity amongst we cousins. Send me a picture sometime and let’s compare notes – I signed up for your blog. We’d be 3rd cousins if true, 1/16th same blood.

    GL, Dana, on this. Will help you with the Wms side of things anytime you wish.

    Alex Brandau III

  7. Great work! My 8th great grandfather was John “The Wealthy Welshman” Williams! His daughter, Elizabeth married into the Henderson’s then the Hendersons into the Lake’s of which mother is one! Thanks for the great info. I just started working out my family history a month or so ago. Sites like this are so much help. Thanks!!!

  8. Delighted to see your chart! I have the same exact relationship to Tennessee that you do. I descend from John Williams thru Joseph’s sister Mary who married a Graves. I appreciate your working out the chart. I know very little about my Williams line.

  9. I am married to William Dickson Williams, whose great-great-great grandfather was Colonel Joseph Williams of Panther Creek, NC, and son of Nathaniel Williams who was the son of John, the Wealthy Welshman. Cousins abound! We are headed to IReland, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland this week and plan on stopping in Llangollen, Wales to visit the supposed site from which John Williams emigrated to Virginia. Will post pics!

  10. There’s such pleasantness here! I descend from a daughter of John Williams! Elizabeth Williams m. Samuel Henderson of the large family from Augusta county, VA. She was born 14 September 1714, died in 1730 in Hanover.
    I was raised in St. Louis, as were both of my parents They attended Soldan High School, a public school that is still open at 918 Union Blvd. Williams is my maiden name. Dad was John Williams. He was in the same class as Thomas Lanier Williams.
    I can’t help but thinking they knew each other in passing. In those days we were in alphabetical order, even in PE.

  11. I descend from Harriett Williams Freeman, dau of John Williams, Jr, son of Nathaniel Williams, Jr, son of Nathaniel Williams, son of John Williams and Mark Keeling……..my question would be obviously who is the Elizabeth Washington who married Nathaniel Williams??? Does anyone know for sure??

    Thank you,

  12. I am a lineal descendant of Nathanial Williams who was a brother of Joseph Williams, and a son of the Wealthy Welshman.
    Always nice to meet new cousins.

  13. I’m a descendant of the Williams clan from SC. Family comes from the area of Edgefield and goes back to to the Revolutionary War with Colonel John Williams who fought and died on Kings Mnt in NC. Family tree is a little hard to follow during the Civil War but I believe we can trace our roots back to the wealthy Welshman who immigrated to VA.

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