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Mack Williams column: Cousin Washington

A very special person in American history will have the Rowan Museum’s special attention paid to him, courtesy of Director Kaye Brown (Braun) Hirst, her staff, volunteers, and others on Saturday, May 21.

One volunteer is related to the man whose 1791 presidential visit will be commemorated (225th anniversary); and this volunteer can be seen regularly at the Old Stone House on weekends. That man is Joe Williams, of Faith. And being Joe’s little brother, I’m a cousin of George Washington too.

I say this humbly, because my parents (Bernard and Lorraine Williams) taught me to be a gentleman; so being related to Washington puts an additional burden on me in that respect.

If the Creator had lingered (like some construction companies) in completing Heaven’s final touches, we can be sure it was ship-shape on Dec.14,1799, ready to receive the noble soul which departed Mount Vernon, and this life, on that day.

Grandmother Lelia Parker Williams was right! ( also, “Wright,” and further back genetically, “Washington”). She always said we were related to George Washington, and some years ago, Joe mapped it out. My friend, Rita, who helps people with their genealogy, by chance went down that same road later.

Joe and I are George Washington’s second cousins, eight times removed, and my children, Rachel and Jeremy are his second cousins, nine times removed. We are also first cousins to Washington’s father, Augustine (“removals” there too). And while we are at it, Joe’s daughter (my niece), Brandon Vinson is also Washington’s second cousin, nine times removed. Her children, Neely, Taylor and Asher are George Washington’s second cousins, 10 times removed. A couple of “lesser-number” cousin removals are my father, Bernard Williams, seven times removed, and my grandmother Lelia Parker Williams, six times removed.

Things are more fun when shared, especially with family members, and the same goes for this Washington “tie-in.”

Each “removal” represents a generation in time from that original “second cousin,” which is to be desired; for if we were only “Washington’s second cousins” (minus the “removals”), we would have been in the ground for many years now.

Grandmother Williams didn’t have “Ancestry.com” or the internet. Back then, and before, such information was passed down from generation to generation.

In our situation, Anne Washington married John Wright. Anne was Col. John Washington’s daughter. He was the first Washington to come to America, and is ninth-great-grandfather to Joe and me. He is great-grandfather to George Washington. (As before, do the math for Brandon, Rachel, Jeremy, Neely, Taylor and Asher.)

My 31st great-grandmother is Lady Godiva; but don’t worry, I’m afraid of horses; and my pronounced shyness made me dread “dressing out” for P.E. at East.

There are 8,000 relatives of George Washington today, in varying degrees of relationship. Human nature makes me say: “Yes, there are 8,000, but there are 6 billion minus 8,000 people NOT related to him. (Forgive this, but it’s just human nature; and since you are human, you understand.)

Eight thousand Washington relatives today means that although humans may not be as “fast” as Star Trek tribbles, the same result is achieved over time.

Washington loved fish and all varieties of nuts. My father took us fishing at the City Lake and Saint Matthew’s Bridge; and I also remember his fondness for sardines and redskin peanuts (actually legumes). At the end of a recent late-afternoon conversation with my brother Joe, he said: “Guess I’d better go before my fish gets cold.”

Of course, many people love seafood and nuts, me included. I doubt the existence of a “fish-loving” or “nut-loving” gene; but knowledge of such preferences make Washington “more like us” instead of making us “more like him.” It gives “personality” to the “statue,” after all the “statue-ising” of the last couple-hundred years.

Any traits similar to those of George Washington would be from the Washington family, as he had no descendants. (At this point some modern scandal tabloid would say “that we know of,” but remember: Washington was the most perfect of gentlemen.)

As far as dental problems, both then and now, the less said (or “none” said), the better.

My father also loved A&P oatmeal cookies, but as to Washington “we’ll never know,” since GW’s exit long-preceded A&P’s entrance.

Recently, an elderly Amtrak passenger was stranded in our Danville train station/natural history museum. I was every bit the gentleman, helping her make plans with Amtrak and buying her a meal. Thinking about genealogy, I said to myself: “She was tended to by the example set by George Washington.”

But thinking further, I realized the unfortunate lady had been aided by two examples much closer in time and relation to me: “Bernard and Lorraine Williams.”

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