Finding LauryAnn Elizabeth Williams Sellers, or the benefits of sharing your research.

Often people tell me that they are researching their family history so that they can pass it on to their children and share it with family members.  Fantastic! Admirable! But I always encourage them to go one step further. Share it with the world by donating a copy to the appropriate local historical or genealogical society, county and state libraries. Most people protest that they aren’t writing anything sophisticated enough for such publication or sharing.  I say, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated it is, just make sure you document your sources and share it. The rest of us will be forever grateful for the gift you don’t even realize you are sharing. For example, sharing helped me find what happened to LauryAnn Elizabeth Williams of Randolph County, North Carolina. Of course, she wasn’t lost as such, except to me.

LauryAnn Elizabeth Williams (Lorey Ann Williams) came to my attention while researching the family of Miles Lassiter, my 4th great grandfather.  Miles’ son, Colier, was named in a bastardy bond posted in 1851, for the birth of a boy child in November 1850. Colier was accused by Lorey Ann Williams of being the father.  Colier did not marry her. The child could not be accounted for in Colier’s household in 1860, the first census in which the child would have appeared since November 1850 was after the 1850 census was completed. I wasn’t able to locate Lorey Ann either. She was living in the home of William Burney in 1850 near the Lassiter Mill community where Colier lived.  Where had she gone after? Being afflicted with the last name of Williams coupled with a not particularly singular first name, I had not been able to determine that any Lorey/Laury/Laura was this LauryAnn.

I had included all of this information in my first book, Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850) an Early African American ‘Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home (Backintyme, 2011) and again in my second book, From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Backintyme, 2016).  There it stood. Nothing more. Until a few days ago.

I received a message through social media from a woman (Shannon) who told me that she had just finished the Miles Lassiter book, finding it both interesting and helpful because it mentioned her 3rd great grandmother, Laura Ann Williams (Sellers).  Sellers? Her married name no doubt. Because of what I had published, she explained, and the Certificate of Freedom she had located, she now knew more about her 3rd great grandmother’s background.  I commented how wonderful that she had the Certificate of Freedom. She noted that she had found both my book and the Certificate on-line, then through social media she contacted me.

Shannon explained that Laura had married Jacob Sellers in 1852, in neighboring Montgomery County (moral: search surrounding counties), but in 1860 they had obtained their Certificate of Freedom and left North Carolina, settling in Ohio.  How exciting I told her that now I knew what had become of Laura. I inquired about the boy, Colier’s son.  She said she knew nothing of the boy and that the earliest child recorded in Laura’s bible was a daughter, Sarah, born in October 1851. There didn’t seem to be a way to turn Sarah into a boy. I wondered if we could be sure that my Laura and Shannon’s Laura were one and the same.

As mentioned, Shannon explained that she had found the Certificate of Freedom ( on-line.  I decided to try to find it to see what information it contained.  I found the copy on a website called Scribd.  It was transcribed by someone at a Warren County library.  The information was confirmatory.  It explained that Jacob Sellers of Montgomery County was married to LauryAnn Elizabeth Williams who had completed her indenture with William Burney of Randolph County. That they were both free people. He was a “dark mulatto” while she was a “light mulatto.” They had four children, Sarah, William, John, and Martha, all free. The papers were issued on 11 Nov 1860, the day Lincoln was elected President.  Shannon explained that they left shortly thereafter for Ohio.

Searching a bit further, an obituary for Jacob Sellers was found, posted on Ancestry by another family researcher (here linked to Scribd: It explained that he and his family were from North Carolina but with the election of Lincoln they felt the political atmosphere there was no longer encouraging.  The obituary went on to explain that they left North Carolina and that the trip to Ohio was long and difficult. They did not arrive in Warren County until some time in early 1861.

The Sellers would have eleven children, but only three would survive to 1900. Jacob was dead by then, as noted, having died in 1889, but Laura did not die until 1915 ( A grandson would move to Michigan. Shannon is a descendant of his.

I now know what became of Laura because I shared my story. Shannon learned more about her roots as well, because I had shared my story. Neither of us might have learned about Laura, or at least not for a long, long time, if I had provided only my family with this story. Sharing my story publicly enriched both our stories.

About mlwilliams

I have Masters degrees in Sociology and Religious Education which provide the backdrop for my interest in family history and community social histories. I've researched and written extensively on my Lassiter family, including my books: Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), an Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home, and From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie "Back Country" of Randolph County, North Carolina. I am a frequent lecturer for the Family History Centers in the Washington, DC area, a former editor of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and have my own private research company, Personal Prologue.
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