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Guide to the Williams Family Papers
1739-1842 (Bulk 1747-1770)
 MS 698

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jan Hilley

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 21, 2022
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The descendants of Robert Williams (1607-1693) and Elizabeth Stalham (1597-1674) were a prestigious group whose members were social, economic, political, military and intellectual leaders. A great number were physicians, clergymen, or lawyers and many held positions of civic responsibility. Several had distinguished military careers. The founding of Williamstown, Massachusetts, and establishment of Williams College are among their accomplishments. William Williams (1731-1811), great great grandson of Robert Williams, was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Members of the Williams family were among the earliest settlers of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Much has been written about Deerfield's Indian raids - the Bloody Brook Massacre in 1675 and the Deerfield Massacre, 1704 -- including several narratives concerning the capture of Reverend John Williams and his immediate family. The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion (1707) was written by Rev. Williams describing his experiences in captivity. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America, written by John Demos in 1994, tells the story of Eunice Williams, John Williams' daughter, who chose to remain with her Indian captors.

The bulk of this collection falls during the time of the wars between the British and the French. Much of the correspondence and many of the papers involve military activity, some during King George's War (1745-1748) but most during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), especially the campaigns at Lake George and Crown Point.

There are 143 letters within the collection, the majority either written or received by Dr. Thomas Williams (1718-1775). Other materials include military papers; wills and other estate papers; inventories; surveys; receipts, notes and bills; deeds and other legal documents; medical papers; poetry and miscellaneous personal items.

Condition of the various items is mixed. Some are sturdy and legible while others are very fragile, torn, missing pieces or difficult to read. The collection has been microfilmed.


Most of the items in this collection were, at one time, assigned numbers (top left-hand corner of documents) and arranged within groups of numeric sequences. To facilitate access and utilization, however, a new arrangement has been imposed with series based on category of document. See Series Descriptions for arrangement of each.

This collection has been microfilmed. The arrangement of the film matches neither the old collection arrangement nor the new. Its sequence is outlined in the Microfilm Guide located at the end of the Container List.

The Williams Family Papers have been arranged into the following series:

Series I. Correspondence (1747-1842, undated)

Series II. Military Documents (1748-1790, undated)

Series III. Receipts, Promissory Notes and Bills (1745-1797, undated)

Series IV. Wills and Estate Papers (1746-1806, undated)

Series V. Legal Material (1741-1810, undated)

Series VI. Survey and Plan (1739, 1761)

Series VII. Medical Inventories and Recipes (1748-1763, undated)

Series VIII. Poetry (undated)

Series IX. Personal Items and Notes (1693-1741, undated)