Family Origins

The family history appears to descend from slaves that were taken or sold to west Tennessee to work on cotton plantations in Fayette and Hardeman Counties. Indications are the slaves came from Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama to work on plantations established in the 1820s on the fertile grounds of west Tennessee as the cotton business boomed.  After the Civil War, many former slaves remained on the property of their former masters and worked as sharecroppers.  General William Tecumseh Sherman and the U.S. government had promised “40 acres and a mule” to every freedman but that’s a promise African-Americans are still waiting on.

William Lambert – Virginia Origin

William and Mariah Lambert first show up on the 1870 U.S, Census for District 15 of Fayette County, Tennessee. taken on August 11, 1870.  William is listed as age 40 which would make his birth date sometime in 1830 but that is an estimate as records were not exact.  Census and DNA records indicate that William may have been the son of a Black woman, Margaret (Peggy) Lambert and a white man that was probably her owner, Julius Edmund Lambert of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  It is not known how William Lambert ended up in Tennessee but he was probably sold away by Julius.  Peggy had many children and DNA records indicate that Julius was the father of at least a few.  As far as we can determine, William came to Tennessee without any other siblings. Many Lambert cousins remained in Virginia. Primarily Lunenburg County where Peggy lived until her death as a free women in 1880.

1820 U.S. Federal Census, Mecklenburg VA

1820 U.S. Federal Census for Mecklenberg County, VA. Shows Julius Lambert owning 10 slaves. Margaret Peggy Lambert was most likely the one Female in the age 14-25 category.

Mariah Lambert

Mariah Lambert is listed as age 33 on that 1870 Census and that would make her birth date sometime in 1837.  She is listed as a Mulatto, which at the time meant you had one white parent and one black parent.  She and William are noted as farm laborers who could neither read nor write. More than likely, the family lived and worked as sharecroppers where they had once worked as slaves.  Most likely they worked on the Cedar Grove Plantation of the John Walker Jones family. Later known as Ames Plantation.


Children listed on the 1870 Census are William H., age 10 and indicates he attended school but he is also listed as a farm laborer.  Other children were John age 8 (b. 1862), Edward (Adamon) age 6 (b. 1864) and Robert H. age 4 (b. 1866).  Neither of the younger boys are listed as attending school.  The whole family is listed as born in Tennessee but as we will see later, the federal census takers were not always reliable in recording the right data and sometimes that may have been because our ancestors did not always know the year or day they were born and even sometimes the state.  Particularly those that were born in slavery or who could not read nor write.


By the time of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, the remainder of the children of William and Mariah had been born.  The census below states that in addition to William H.,  John C., Edward and Robert H., we now see Alice age 10 (b. 1870), Martha age 8 (b. 1872), Nancy age 3 (b. 1877) and Junious 4 months (b. 1880).   There is also a nephew listed in the household named W. Anthony but I am not sure whose nephew he is.  This time only William Sr., is listed as Mulatto and Mariah is listed as born in Virginia.  Every one else is listed as “Black”.

Below is a copy of Mariah’s death certificate.  The death certificate issued from Fayette County list her at age 75 (b. 1843 – see I told you!) when she died on Sep 23, 1918.  It says she was widowed and died of “old age”.   Her mother was listed as Alice Turner and her father was “unknown” and likely was a white slave owner too.  She is listed as born in Virginia not Tennessee like the 1870 Census states.


Mariah Lambert DC
Death Certificate – Mariah Lambert

Mariah was laid to rest in Old Jones Chapel Cemetery  on September 25, 1918.  Click on the link to see her memorial. I do not currently have a death certificate for William Lambert.

It is from these folks, all of us are descended.

11 thoughts on “Family Origins”

  1. oh my goodness what a great great thing you have done, my name is Monica Lambert, I am the third daughter of William Edward Lambert and my father is the first born child of Clarence Edward Lambert which his father was William H. Lambert and mother was Mrs. Alice Walton, which you already know. I just want to say thank you so very much for our history for I am a big on family and have always desired to know about who I am and where did I come from and again I thank you so very very much.


    1. Thank you Monica! I do it because I love family and I want folks to know we’ve come a long way and struggled hard to get where we are today. We shouldn’t take it for granted and no matter how hard we think we got it, our ancestors had it harder.


  2. Thank you for taking the time and finding all the information that you did. Just want you to know that you are appreciated truly for your hard work. So with much love Marvin again I say thx. Love Barbara Ann Sims daughter of Dorthey Mae Sims (Mckinley) who is the daughter of Gussie Mae Mckinley


    1. Thanks Barbara. I haven’t done much with the website for a while but I recently added a couple new pictures and some content. Maybe one day I’ll get it published.


  3. Great job Marvin! Its amazing–we’ve come a long way from 1888 when Momma Julie was born into a family of sharecroppers. Thank you for your faithfulness in researching and recording the family legacy!


  4. Wow! I am been searching for family information since my Mother–Mae Francis Govan–passed in 2006. My maiden name is Govan. Jesse Govan was her father, I think Spencer Govan is his father, my great grandfather. I am interested in knowing more about the Govan/Lambert family.

    Thank you for this history!!! Ruby


    1. Hi cousin. I’m glad you found the website. I also have a big family tree on but I don’t have Jesse listed as a son of Spencer Govan. Do you have anymore information on him like a birth date or date of death? Did he live in Hardeman or Fayette County his whole life? Spencer had a lot of kids so I may have missed him in one of the census records.


  5. Hi James. My name is Marvin and I’m the one that put this site together along with a family tree on I have your grandfather Benjamin in my tree. I show he was born in 1935 in Madison County Tennessee. Died in Chicago in 2006. His father was Eddie Lee Govan (b. 1904 – d. 1971) and his grandfather was Spencer Govan and his mother was Martha Lambert. Spencer’s father was Pugh Govan who was born a slave in Mississippi. Let me know if this sounds right and if you can give me the name of your father and any Govan aunts or uncles so I can add it to the tree. If you got a picture, I’ll put in the website. A copy of any obituaries also work. My email is


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