Carolyn Williams Chism Memorial Genealogical Essay Contest

Carolyn Williams Chism

Carolyn Ann Williams Chism

1936 - 2011

Carolyn Williams Chism was born on 26 March 1936 in Clark County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Herman Brondell Williams and Sara Gladys Milton Williams. She married Earl David "Chic" Chism on 18 September 1954 and they became the parents of four children; David, Michael, Rob, and Lisha. Carolyn and her husband shared a love of history, particularly family history, and began her journey as a family historian in an age where computers did not exist and research meant going to the libraries and archives, digging through piles of records to find what information. By the time I met her, she had spent more hours on the research of the Chism family of Clark County, Kentucky than I had been alive.

One of her main goals in her research was to find the parents of James C. "Commodore" Chism, who was born in 1789, and his wife, Elizabeth Fletcher Chism, who had been born around 1790. Others had taken up the cause, but the document trail led nowhere. Carolyn was not one to give up on a project or research and her dedication to this goal never wavered.

I began my research of the Chisms of Clark County, Kentucky in 1995 and was told by a family member to contact Carolyn. I called her and she immediately invited me to her home to meet her and her husband. We talked late into the night about the research she had done, and she generously gave me the information that she had about the family, as well as taking the time to answer my questions about genealogy research in general. Over the years, Carolyn became more than just a mentor to me; she became a second mother figure in my life, and she was the one I turned to whenever problems came up. She was the one who encouraged me to go back to college and was thrilled when I told her I was majoring in history. She never stopped encouraging me and was always there when I needed someone to talk to.

Carolyn passed away on 27 December 2011 and Clark County lost one of its most dedicated genealogists. It is in her memory that Rootlines hosts this contest. As Carolyn taught me about the research that has become my career, I pass that on to others as she did to me, free of charge and with the hope that it helps someone understand more about who they are and who they can become.

Tribute by Virginia Nichols Mitchell


Participants must write at least a one page essay detailing how the discovery of their family history is important to them and how they think it will affect their lives to know their family origins. Entries must be sent via email to between 26 March and 20 April and MUST be in a word document or PDF. Participants must include a separate document detailing the information they know about their family history, (IE: who their parents are, who their grandparents are, relevant dates and places, etc). On 26 April, one essay will be selected by the staff and volunteers of Rootlines, and published on the Rootlines website at and the participant will receive a free basic genealogy package from our team, documenting their family history back to 1850 or the point of immigration into the United States of America. The package information, along with documents, will be made available via the Rootlines website, and a report will be emailed to the winning participant.