The Roger Williams Family Association had its roots in the early 1880's when two or three related families, who were descended from Roger Williams, held an annual reunion and picnic in Roger Williams Park. They had no plans to form an association until 1886 when the City of Providence observed the 250th Anniversary of its founding. At that time, there were a number of celebrations, and Frederick Sayles, who was then Mayor of Pawtucket, called for a gathering of Williams descendants in Sayles Hall, Brown University. He expected about 50 or 60 people, and must have been overwhelmed when 1,000 showed up. Some brought charts showing their lines of descent, and others were somewhat vague about their lineage, relying solely on family tradition. They all showed a great deal of interest. Out of this gathering, the Roger Williams Family Association came into existence.
The first meetings were held in private homes and later in public halls, but it was not until January 27, 1906 that the Association was incorporated with 14 Charter Members. The Charter read, in part, that the Association was formed "for the purpose of honoring and preserving the memory of Roger Williams and the preparation of an authentic genealogy of his descendants and the promotion of social intercourse among them." Monthly meetings were held on the first Thursday of the month all through the year and annual meetings took place in September at the Casino in Roger Williams Park, and in later years at the auditorium in the Museum or at the Boat House.
The Society's seal was adopted in 1932. It is based on a ring which Roger Williams often used to impress his seal on certain documents. In June 1939, the Association took part in the dedication of the statue of Roger Williams on Prospect Terrace, Providence. The President of the Association had the honor of unveiling the statue, and four descendants bore the remains of Roger Williams to be placed at the base of the monument.
In 1942, the first Annual Bulletin of the Association was issued and mailed to members, and this has continued to the present. At this time, we have about 1100 members, ranging from a few months of age to well over 90 years. Our members hail from all regions of the United States, as well as from Australia, Canada, Greece, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The six stars in the inner circle of the seal represent the six children of Roger and Mary (Barnard) Williams. A center shield has a "lion rampant" surrounded by a border of nine "pheons" (the barbed head of a dart).