Who made me?

family photos

Whenever the topic of my extended family comes up in conversation it doesn’t take long to confuse my friends.

There’s a U-boat captain, a suffragette, and a whole bunch of missionaries.

And there’s generation after generation moving back and forth across the globe, living in Scotland, India, France, Canada, Mexico, Barbados, Australia, the US… no wonder my friends are confused, I can barely keep track myself.

Last year a biography of my grandfather, illustrator Garth Williams, was published. He is known for illustrating dozens of children's books, including Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and the Little House in the Prairie series.  

When I got my copy of the book I flipped through it, looking at the photographs. Page 11 stopped me in my tracks.

Dé Williams at her easel

It's a picture of my great-grandmother Dé, wearing a painter’s smock and standing next to an easel holding a painting palette, brushes and a rag.

She was an artist!

It wasn’t until I saw this picture that I registered the legacy. She and her husband were artists. And so was their son, and several of his children, and so are my brother and I.

Four generations of artists.

My great-grandmother is just one of these ancestors whose lives and choices definitively and subtly led to my life, making jewelry and art in an old farmhouse in upstate New York.

close up of hands making jewelry

These people made me who I am.
I want to know more about them.

I realize that I have threads of stories and anecdotes about my family floating in my head, but I’ve never written them down or explored the gaps in my knowledge.

Over the next 12 months I want to research and write about these people who make up my family tree. Who were they? What did they care about?

I hope you’ll follow along, and maybe even share some of your family stories in the comments. I’m fascinated by personal histories and I’d love to hear about your family tree.

Read all the posts about my family here.


  • Good for you, Estyn. A remarkable journey you’ve embarked upon, which I sincerely hope will bring you great pleasure and a sense of identity not just of who you are today but of the many persons who enter into that identity as well; not on the Williams side alone but on that of your father as well.

    gene kirchoffer on

  • that is SO cool! what a fantastic photo! can’t wait to learn more…

    cal on

  • I encourage you on this journey and I thank you for taking me along!
    I eagerly await the coming installments.

    Cynthia X

    Cynthia on

  • Also i love the necklace in this post, contemporary and flourentine and fantastic.

    Christine on

  • funny I am a little bit on a similar journey. I recieved an ancestry.com kit for my birthday. i believe my mom lied about my heratige and now i have a way to find out. so many guestions no one would ever answer when i was growing up and now they have all passed and there is no one to ask so i think now is a good time for you to do take this journey .

    Christine on

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