I went to the County Offices today to locate the deeds for the Williamses, as well as the articles of incorporation for Cheap John’s. I was able to find the deeds without much hassle, which showed that T.A. had owned a plot of land on S. Church St. since 1881. This may be what appeared to be John St. in the census of 1900, under the name “Theodore Williams.”
On the subject of articles of incorporation, I was much less fortunate. It turns out that, prior to 1895 (I think that is the date I was told today, at least), incorporation was not handled uniformly and was mostly the responsibility of county or even town governments. More recent articles of incorporation are in Columbia, either in the Archives or the Secretary of State’s Office, but if Cheap John’s had even been incorporated at all, the papers would be in either the County Building or the Archives (if we’re lucky). Of course, no one seemed to know quite where inside the County Building those records would be. I called the Archives and gave the reference librarian the relevant information, and he said I could expect a response in about a week.
I happened to have the idea to search the state Archives just to see if I could find anything — articles of incorporation aren’t indexed on the website. I found a Roll Call for the Georgetown militia in 1869 listing a Thomas A. Williams as a white, 22-year-old male (which puts his birth year as 1847) on the 4th line from the top. This may be our Thomas, or it may not be, but if it is, it breaks past the barrier of 1880.
Concerning my own family tree, I can already feel that it will make things harder not having many birth dates or any written genealogies to rely on for my mom’s side of the family. That said, I discovered that one of my ancestors died on my birthday, which I thought was pretty cool. My approach right now is to focus on one branch of my family tree at a time, rather than going generation-by-generation, and I’ll add in cousins and aunts and uncles after adding all my direct ancestors, unless I hit a road block and need to do so as a workaround.