Rev. Billy Graham Genealogy
The most famous preacher of the modern era has to be the Reverend Billy Graham. I have never met him but like many people I do feel like I know him, mainly from his many TV appearances.
I have noticed that nearly every Graham family in the south claims to be related to Billy Graham. These claims are always vague and far from documented. My Graham family is no exception, with several of my kin claiming Billy is a cousin.
My Graham ancestors lived in Buncombe County, North Carolina and have since about 1805. Of special interest to my group is that Billy Graham also lives in Buncombe County, though he is not native to that county. I have heard stories that some of my Graham cousins actually met Billy in and around Buncombe County and discussed family history. Despite that no relationship was found between them.
Since so many Graham researchers make the claim of a relationship (and often ask me about it), I decided to do some research on the Reverend's ancestry and see what I could turn up. My first step was to search the Internet and see if someone else had already done this. At the time, no one had, or if they had, I couldn't locate it. As I'm writing this now (June 2006), it has been several years since I did this research and first published it on my website. I'm revising this page now to "pretty it up" a bit, but not really adding any new content except some revised commentary and new formatting.
To generalize my findings, I would say that unless your Grahams were from York County, South Carolina or Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, then you probably aren't related to Billy Graham. Of course there could always be a distant connection further back down the family tree. I seriously doubt my own Grahams are related to him, though of course we can be proud to call him a brother, rather than a cousin (as in "Brother in Christ").
Unknown Graham1, died before 1830 York District, South Carolina. Married Margaret (---) before ca 1806, presumably in York Dist., SC. Margaret (---) was born ca 1762/63 in Ireland, and died sometime after 1850, probably in York Dist., SC.
They were the parents of Archibald Graham:
Archibald Graham2, born ca 1805/06 in York District, South Carolina. He lived in York Dist., SC through at least 1860. He died sometime after that. Archibald Graham married Elizabeth (---) before ca 1834, presumably in York Dist., SC. Elizabeth was born ca 1815/16 in SC, presumably York Dist. They had 11 known children as proven by various census records. All were born in York Dist., SC (presumably):
William Crook Graham3, was born Sep. 1841 in York Dist., SC. He lived in York District until the 1860's when he moved to Mecklenburg Co., NC. He married Margaret J. (---) there ca 1870. Margaret was born Oct 1850 in North Carolina, county unknown, though perhaps Mecklenburg.
Margaret died between 1900 and 1910 in Mecklenburg, and William died sometime after 1910 same place. They had 11 children as proven by the various census records, all born in Mecklenburg Co., NC (presumably):
William Franklin Graham4, was born June 1888 in Mecklenburg Co., NC. He married Morrow Coffey ca 1915/16 in Mecklenburg County (presumably). Morrow was born ca 1891/92 in North Carolina. I did not prove her maiden name, but got it from a biography. I have no reason to doubt it is accurate.
I have no data on the death dates of William and Morrow. Both were still alive as of the 1930 census. They had four children, three of whom are proven by the census, the fourth was given in a biography:
William Franklin Graham5, is better known as Rev. Billy Graham.
Since no one else seemed to have researched this family I decided to do it myself. I found his birth date and parents names on a bio page, and started from there. They said he was born "near Charlotte," so I figured I’d start in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. I began with the census records for 1930 and worked my way back. I was very successful. In a matter of about 2 or 3 hours I had traced his family back to ca 1840 and got stuck there. Since then other researchers have given me additional data, but none have provided documentation so I'll not include it here, though I'm not doubting its accuracy, but not knowing the sources, I will not publish it.
I found Billy on the 1930 census as a child with his parents in Sharon Township of Mecklenburg County living on Park Road. His parents were William Franklin Graham and Morrow Coffey (her maiden name was from the bio). This census showed that William Franklin Graham was born in North Carolina, but that both his father and mother were born in SC. That was an important clue for additional research.
I then checked the 1920 census and found the family still in Sharon Township and still on Park Road. Billy was just 1 year old at this time. The next household contained a Graham brother and sister, and I assumed that they were siblings to Billy’s father so made note of it. I confirmed this relationship with earlier census records.
The 1910 census had no index, so I manually searched Sharon Township hoping I would find the family. I assumed that Billy’s parents were probably not yet married by 1910, so hopefully I’d find William Franklin Graham home with his parents (Billy’s grandparents), and I did. I found W. F. Graham in 1910 with his father W. C. Graham, who was widowed at that time. W. C. Graham was listed as born in SC, and both parents the same. (I made no attempt to trace the family of Billy's mother Morrow Coffey.)
Backing up to 1900 (no index) I manually scanned Sharon Township and near the end (of course) I found the family which was quite large at this point.
The 1890 census is lost, so no help there.
Backing up to 1880 it was fairly easy work to find them in Sharon Township using the online LDS 1880 census, though it took me a little longer than expected for this time the patriarch was listed as "Cook" Graham, which I hadn’t thought to look for. Several researchers have told me that his middle name was actually Crook, not Cook, though the 1880 census clearly shows "Cook" (the original census record, not just the transcription). A Weaver and McGinn were living with them, relationship unknown. They may have been hired help.
This is where it gets fuzzy. Backing up to 1870 I found a William Graham in Sharon Township. He was unmarried but had a woman with several children living with him. She could be a widowed sister with her children.
This is as far as I was able to get at first. I read all the Grahams in 1860 Mecklenburg County, and did not find any William Graham of appropriate age or Cook or Crook Graham or W. C. Graham or any variation. Since he was born in SC, it seemed a reasonable assumption that he was still in SC in 1860. I did not look in SC in 1860 at first, since I didn't know what county to start with then.
I did jump back to 1850 hoping to find William C. Graham, but had no success. I read all the Grahams in all the counties near Mecklenburg (and Mecklenburg itself), and I already had the census records for all the Grahams in Western NC for that year. I found no William Graham of appropriate age in any of the counties I checked, though I certainly did not read all the Grahams in SC in 1850, just those near Mecklenburg Co, NC which were quite a few. There was a 10 year old William Graham in Rutherford County, but he was reported as born in Tennessee, so that probably wasn't him. To solve this I decided I would have to read all the Grahams in South Carolina in 1850 and note all the William's who were around 10 years old.
I finally did read all the Grahams in 1850, and after reading hundreds of Grahams in South Carolina in 1850 I found the right family in York District (which borders Mecklenburg). Although the census record itself clearly listed the family as "Graham," the index had them listed as "Greham" and that is why I missed it originally. Out of 354 soundex matches, I found his household at match # 350. Figures! Anyway, using that record I was able to trace the family back two more generations. These records confirmed my theory that William C. Graham was a brother to R. G. Graham and Lucinda Graham (assuming she is the same person as Margaret L. Graham who matches age-wise) both of whom were with William or near him in Sharon Township in various census years. Finding the family in 1850 allowed me to also find them in the same place in 1860, that record first:
In 1850, an elderly Margaret Graham was with the family. Presumably, she was Archibald's widowed mother.
In 1840, "A. Graham" was listed in York. He had no one Margaret's age with him, so she may have been living with someone else that year, perhaps another son or daughter.
I found Margaret Graham listed as head of household on the 1830 census in York District:
I was unable to go back beyond this. Margaret was not listed on the 1820 census, so presumably her husband was still alive and he was head of household that year. There were 5 Grahams listed in York: Andrew, James, David Sr, David Jr and Daniel Graham. Of these, only James and Daniel seem like possible matches based on number of children, ages, etc. Backing up to 1810 it looks like James Graham is the best match. More research is needed to determine whether James Graham was indeed Margaret's husband. At this point it is just a tentative theory.
York County records (deeds, wills, etc.) may provide useful evidence about this family, but I have not looked at anything other than census records.
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