Author Archives: Boyce M. Lawton, III

About Boyce M. Lawton, III

Boyce M. Lawton, III, PhD, is the Vice President for Academic Administration and Planning at Wofford College.

Native | Issue No. 7 | January

The brothers bourbon…

“Prohibition forced Charles Nelson to shut down one of the nation’s largest whiskey distilleries in 1909. Now, his great-great-great grandsons are on a mission to bring it back to life.”
Read the full artcile in Native | Issue No. 7 | January.

Charlie and Andy Nelson turned their family history search into a successful career, and they will be sharing their story with our class on Wednesday, Febrary 23.  Charlie and Andy are also my fourth cousins – recent “finds” in my search along my Nelson line.

You can read about their business and their journey:

With a little help from my friends… and my priest

The Episcopal Church of the Advent - Records and History

I have been hoping to find more information about Sarah Burns Roberts Williams’ family, especially since I have learned that they attended my church many, many years ago.

I didn’t think that I would find anything until we visited the church as a class and searched through old records, but my priest, Father Ned Morris, suggested that I find a copy of The Episcopal Church of the Advent: History and Records 1848-1998, by John B. Edmunds, Jr.

I went to the library this afternoon (without Will – who decided it would be more fun to play with a friend), and I found a copy of the book in the Kennedy Room along with the other church history titles.

Edmunds’ book contains all records of the church for 150 years.  I now have a complete list of all activities of the Roberts family – birth, baptism, marriage, communing members, death, and burial (no burial info for Sarah).

Of course, I’m not going to give you that list.  Instead, I hope that you will find the book in the library and do a little research on your own.  Remember that the course isn’t about who finds something “first” — it is about encouraging each of you to go through the process and learn new research skills.  So even if someone posts the information before you, please don’t let that stop you from seeking the information on your own.

T.A. and S.B. Williams Gallery

View the collection of images we’ve gathered about our mystery couple.

Week one, day two

Today, we visited the Kennedy Room at the Spartanburg County Public Library.  Ms. Debra Hutchins, Local History Librarian, showed us numerous resources including:

  • Death records
  • Funeral home records
  • Cemetery indices
  • Newspapers available on microfilm
  • Maps
  • Pamphlet collections
  • Church records

Ms. Hutchins found the South Carolina death record for T.A. Williams.  There are many clues in the genealogy room for T.A. and Sara.  As of this Monday morning, the person (or group) with the best blog entry with details about our mystery couple will win a prize.  If any of you are actually reading this, send a note to our twitter account or make a reference to our account!  I would love to see photos of death records, graveyards that you searched, funeral home notices, obituaries, or any other information you find.  Blogging about problems you encountered in your search for the Williams is just as helpful.

When we returned to class, we discussed our library visit and then talked about Chapters 1-3 in Who do you think you are?

Homework for Monday:

  • Each of you MUST post a blog entry.  Use the opportunity to make yourself shine.
  • Read chapters 4-6 of Who do you think you are? Discussion moderators should send me questions by 7am on Monday morning.
  • Work on your tree and share your tree with username lawtonbm if you have not done so.
  • Start working on the Williams mystery.  This is not an “optional” task.  This is a joint research project for the entire class.

Words from Rob Glander

Treat every assignment as a chance to shine.

Make every task a work of art.

– Rob Glander, CEO of GWC Warranty Corp.

Mr. Glander provided numerous words of wisdom to the students at the Sophomore Experience this weekend.  I found these two phrases especially meaningful.

Week one, day one

We talked about the following in class today:

  • In-depth introductions (help us get to know you, your interests, your strengths/weaknesses, what you think you can offer to our class, what you hope to learn)
  • Course goals
Family History Course Objectives

Family History Course Objectives

  • Syllabus review
  • Brief talk about course texts
  • “Housekeeping” tasks:
    • Active account, shared with username “lawtonbm”
    • Active account, shared with email “”
    • Accept invitation to become a user on project account
    • Register as user of account
    • Accept invitation to be an author on
  • Basics of use
  • Alex and Catherine agreed to lead the discussion on Friday morning (Who do you think you are? Chapters 1-3)
  • Visit to Magnolia Cemetery, search for graves without a photo on

Homework for Friday:
-Read chapters 1-3 of Who do you think you are!
-Work on your family tree on ancestry,com
-Start to blog on our site. You don’t need to post anything before Monday if you don’t want to do so.

We will meet Friday morning at the Spartanburg County Library at 8:50 am.

Let me hear about your holiday journey…

What have you found over the holidays?  I’m curious what you have learned.

I’m including one of my favorited finds below.  It is a telegram from my great-grandparents to their future daughter-in-law on the day of her marriage.  I only realized tonight that the telegram was sent from Spartanburg.  When I moved here in 1997, I didn’t think that I had any relatives (current or past) in town.  I’ve since learned that my great-grandparents, Herbert Lee Lawton and Lucile Mendenhall Lawton, lived here in the 1920’s on Clifton Avenue in Converse Heights.  While they were here, some of my great uncles attended the fitting school at Wofford and then Wofford College itself.

Learning that I have “roots” in Spartanburg has been amazingly reassuring to me.  I have found family in my “new” hometown, and resources that I never thought could help me in my family history journey are only a few miles from my home.  I often use the county library, office of records and deeds, and probate court to help me learn more about my kin.

Please post a few comments – or write a post from scratch where you include a sampling of what you have uncovered since we met in November.  Share a few photos – or even a video – to give me a feel for where you are in your journey.  If you write a post “from scratch” – please use a category of “Personal Research”.

I can’t wait to see you on Thursday morning at 9am.

Telegram to Frances Virginia Brown before marriage

Genealogy Mystery

Genealogy Mystery: T.A. and Sarah B. Williams

I'm not telling you where I found this!

While each of us will be working on our individual family trees, I also want the class to have a common project where we can work and share our struggles and victories.

My son, Will, and I have been searching for details about T.A. and Sarah B. Williams for several months.  We started by trying to photograph their grave markers for a user. But even after accumulating a great deal of information about their lives, Will and I have been unsuccessful after many attempts to locate their graves.  Will suggested many weeks ago that my students should take on the task as a “challenge”.

I’d like for each of you to see what you can accomplish by piecing together information.  Post any information you find (photos, records, clues) to this site using the category “T.A. and S.B. Williams”.

See what we can learn about these two people and their families.  (Hint, my son even knows about T.A.’s cow).

This is all the information that I am going to provide:

  • Thomas A. Williams was born in 1847 and died on 7 Aug 1921.
  • Sarah B. Williams was born on 1 Sep 1852 and died on 9 May 1917.
  • Both died in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

This is “real world” research.  You don’t have to worry about “cheating” or “improper collaboration” – we just want to find answers as a class.  The only thing I ask is that you cite your sources (records, newspapers, or conversations) and always say who you worked with (you will have more fun if you work with other members of the class) in your posts.