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#52Ancestors – Bachelor Uncle: uh, Cousin, Charleton Joshua Williams, Jr.

Try as I might, I could not find a bachelor uncle. My father had only one brother, who married; my mother had no brothers. My paternal grandparents each had brothers, all who married. My maternal grandmother (I’ve yet to identify my maternal grandfather) had brothers who all married, and so it goes back to my fourth great grandparents, all known male siblings were married. However, I had a paternal, male first cousin who did not marry. He was old enough to be an uncle, so I’m substituting him as my bachelor uncle.

Charleton Joshua Williams Jr
Charleton Joshua Williams, Jr., circa 1918, Jersey City, New Jersey

Charleton Joshua Williams, Jr., called, “Son,” was the oldest son of my father’s only brother, Charleton Joshua Williams, Sr., whom we called, “Jimmy.” Son was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1917,[1] exact date unknown, to my uncle and his wife, Julia Sinkler, who was originally from Dorchester County, South Carolina, near Charleston.[2] In 1920, three years after Son was born, his younger brother, Earle, was born.[3] By 1930, the family was living with Julia’s sister, Ida Sinkler Sterrett, in New York City.

Charleton Joshua Jimmy Williams Sr
Charleton Joshua “Jimmy” Williams, Sr.
Julia Sinkler Williams
Julia Sinkler Williams

In 1932, tragedy struck the family when Earle was hit by a car and killed.[4]  I’m not sure what impact this had on the family. Surely, they must have been devastated, but there is some evidence it was more destructive than one might expect. In 1940, Uncle Jimmy and Son were living in New York, as lodgers, without Julia. Son was working on the railroad, as a waiter, like his father.[5] I assume they were actually working together. I have yet to determine where Julia was. Was she just traveling to visit family? Had she moved away? I don’t remember anyone commenting on any of this. I do know that Earle’s death would influence my life as well. As part of teaching me how to cross the street safely, my mother admonished me that if I was not careful to look in both directions could result in being hit by a car and killed, like my cousin Earle. I confess that I did relay that history to my daughter, but I didn’t recount it as mantra-like as my mother had.

Earle Williams
Earle Williams, 1920-1932

Wherever Julia went, she returned. Sometime in the 1940s the family bought a home in Queens, New York City, not far from where my parents bought our home. There the three of them lived the rest of their lives.

I don’t ever remember any discussion of Son dating anyone. In fact, there was a lot of discussion about how he had never left home and seemed unusually attached to his mother. My parents suggested that this attachment had prevented him from forming relationships with potential marriage partners. Somehow, I think it all went back to the death of Earle. I think Son felt he had to compensate. I think Julia clung to Son in fear that she would lose him, the same as she had lost Earle. I think it trapped them both. One indication that was true was that Son had changed his name from Charleton Joshua Jr. to Charleton Earl. In fact, I was in high school before I learned that his name was supposed to be Charleton Joshua Jr. Whenever he introduced himself, he said his name was Earl. Reflecting on it now, all these years later, I think young Earle’s death was toxic for Son and Julia both.

Charleton Earl Williams, WWII
Charleton Joshua “Earl” Williams, Jr.

Julia fell ill and died Thanksgiving weekend, 1966.[6] On the one hand, Son seemed somewhat lost without her, but several months later he seemed to be coming out of his shell. He began to date my mother’s sister, Verne (Elverna) Lee Means. Son and Verne were a year apart in age[7] and had known each other from the 1930s when my parents married,[8] and they were in their teens.

Elverna Elizabeth Lee
Elverna Lee “Verne” Means, 1918-2000

By early summer they were discussing getting married. Everyone was very pleased. By everyone I mean my parents, my father’s sister, and Uncle Jimmy. I was pleased as well, as I was very fond of them both. Now that Julia had passed, Son dropped by to visit more frequently and I got to know him better. He and my Aunt Verne seemed very well suited.  They both seemed happier and my mother was very happy for them both. She felt they had each had unfortunate tragedies and now they had a chance to be happy, together. Alas, it was not to be.

When Fourth of July came, Son decided he would drive from New York to pick up my Aunt Verne from her home in Washington, DC, and bring her back to New York to enjoy the holiday. I wasn’t there that night. I was away visiting a friend in Hawaii. My mother said that they got back late and despite being very tired, Son, Earl, went to work his overnight shift at the Post Office. Sometime in the early hours of the morning a phone call awakened everyone to tell them that Son, Earl, had died, suddenly, at his desk.[9] To say that everyone was devastated would be an understatement. This tragedy was so overwhelming for my mother that she was too overwrought to attend the funeral. My father said that he and Aunt Verne stayed up each night that week into the wee hours of the morning, mourning Son’s loss and discussing all that one discusses when a loved one dies.

Charleton Son Williams-portrait (2)
Charleton “Earl” Williams, 1917-1967

No one informed me of Son’s death. My mother reasoned that there was nothing I could do, so there was no need to burden me with sadness while I was away. It was a couple of mornings after I had returned from Hawaii, in early August, while I was eating breakfast that my mother, clearly ill at ease about something, suddenly walked over to the table and put a prayer card in front of me. It actually didn’t register right away. Once I realized what it was, I was in shock. My mother reminded me that Son had cardiovascular disease. She speculated that the round-trip car ride and lack of rest before going to work had been too taxing. It seems as plausible as any explanation. I noted the date, 4 July, on the prayer card. I told my mother that I had experienced a very disturbing dream that night and wondered what it meant. I speculated it was somehow tied to this tragedy at home. Who knows, but I’ve always believed so.

I think Son’s loss always hung over our family in some unspoken way. My aunt never contemplated marriage with anyone again. She wouldn’t die for another 32 years, oddly enough, also on a July Fourth weekend.[10] I think my mother felt that both my aunt and Son had been cheated of happiness. I think my father just simply thought it was a very sad turn of events. I think he felt sorry for my aunt. As for me, I’m sure now they are happy together.


[1] 1930 US Federal Census; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Ida Sterrett, head; Charlton Williams, relative, age 12. NARA Roll: 1576; Page: 35A; Enumeration District: 0985; Image: 156.0; FHL microfilm: 2341311. Retrieved from:

[2] 1900 US Federal Census; Census Place: Dorchester, Dorchester, South Carolina; Florence Sinkler, head; Julia Sinkler, daughter, birth month/year, Dec 1895. NARA Roll: 1526; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0068; FHL microfilm: 1241526. Retrieved from:

[3] 1930 US Federal Census; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Ida Sterrett, head; Earle Williams, relative, age 10. NARA Roll: 1576; Page: 35A; Enumeration District: 0985; Image: 156.0; FHL microfilm: 2341311. Retrieved from:

[4] New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948 [Database on-line]. Earl Williams, died: 1932. Retrieved from: Retrieved from:

[5] 1940 US Federal Census; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Grace Nailer, head; Charlton Williams, age 23, lodger; Charlton Williams, age 42, lodger. NARA Roll: T627-2667; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 31-1807. Retrieved from:

[6] Find A Grave Memorial. Julia Williams, Died: 25 Nov 1966. Buried, Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Retrieved from:

[7] 1930 US Federal Census; Census Place: Elizabeth, Union, New Jersey; Louise Ingram, head; Elverna Lee, granddaughter, age 12. NARA Roll: 1387; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0073; Image: 289.0; FHL microfilm: 2341122. Retrieved from:

[8] 1940 US Federal Census; Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Herbert Williams, head; Margaret Williams, wife. Roll: T627-2467; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 3-272B. Retrieved from:

[9] Find A Grave Memorial. Charlton E. Williams, 8 [sic-this date is not correct, it was 4 July 1967, he was buried on 8 July] 1967. Retrieved from:

[10] U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current [Database on-line]. Elverna L. Means, died: 2 July 2000. Retrieved from:


6 thoughts on “#52Ancestors – Bachelor Uncle: uh, Cousin, Charleton Joshua Williams, Jr.

  1. It’s a shame how one tragic event can snowball into others.

    1. Yes. Something else that I was reflecting on re this family was that they never used the main rooms. Everything in those rooms was shrouded. I’d never sat in them or seen what was under the sheets. The family only used the basement kitchen and sitting area. My father used to joke about it. Now I think it was symbolic. They were never quite fully alive. Sad. I would guess they needed grief counseling but of course never got it.

      1. Sounds about right. I think the death of a child is probably about the worst thing a family could ever experience.

      2. As a mother, I can’t even imagine how much emotional pain it would cause or what it would take to overcome it.

  2. What a sad story, but I know there were some happy times shared between the tears…though not enough. Thanks for putting together this life story, as well as admitting to your dream that was disturbing. I’ll never forget the time my mother decided not to tell me of an uncle’s death, and months later I was driving in the car with mom and dad and asked about him, only to be told he was dead. Mom said “I wrote you…” but she hadn’t.

    1. Thank you. Yes, I understand that people think they are doing what’s right but often I think it is misguided. About the dream, yes, I kept thinking it meant something very important but at the time couldn’t figure out what.

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