Black Gotham Stories

The Harry Albro Williamson Papers

Genealogy of
the Family of
George Lyons

Double ambrotype portrait of Albro
Lyons, Sr. and Mary Joseph Lyon

Print of Mr. Hewlett
as Richard III in
imitation of Kean

Maritcha Lyons
as a school girl

Maritcha Lyons

I eventually found an even more invaluable collection preserved on multiple reels of microfilm, the Harry Albro Williamson Papers. I had no idea who Williamson or his family might be, but it was clear to me that he was fascinated by his family’s history. He compiled family trees and jotted down genealogical notes on pieces of paper. Imagine my astonishment when I found a page indicating that his family was mine as well! We are both direct descendants of Joseph and Elizabeth Marshall; Williamson's grandmother, Mary Joseph Lyons, and my great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Guignon (Peter's first wife), were sisters. On that same page I discovered that I was linked to a man who is very much in the historical record (although not always for the good), the African American Shakespearean actor James Hewlett who was Elizabeth Marshall’s brother.

To my delight, it appeared that even before Williamson, there were family members who were determined to preserve as much family history as possible. Williamson's grandfather Albro Lyons (Mary Joseph's husband and my great-great-granduncle) had hoped to write a book about his life and times but never got further than the title, “The Gentlemen in Black.” He asked one of his daughters, Maritcha Lyons, to carry on his legacy. She wrote a short memoir, “Memories of Yesterdays, All of Which I Saw and Part of Which I Was—An Autobiography,” out of the material that Williamson had collected. It was never published and is part of the Williamson papers.  I feel that I finally fulfilled that family promise by writing Black Gotham.