I live in Sydney, Australia and most of my ancestors on my mother's side of the family are Irish-Catholic convicts. The one exception is a man named William Wilson, my great-great-grandfather, about whom I know almost nothing and who is proving very illusive.
William Wilson was born about 1828 in Arkansas. I think. This info comes from the birth certificate of one of his daughters. He had 5 children and another child's birth certificate says that William was born in New York. There is a rumour floating around among other researchers in my family that William may have been of African-American heritage.
Gold was discovered in New South Wales in July 1851 and we know that many people came from America and other countries during the gold rush that followed. I know that William Wilson was at the diggings in a place called Windeyer in 1851. He was still there in 1856 when he married my g-g-grandmother on the goldfields.
I have done no research in the US at all but it seems that births were not recorded officially in 1828 so where would I even start? Are there church records or is it likely William's birth was not recorded at all?
I would be really grateful if someone could tell me a bit about Arkansas in 1828 and maybe give me an idea of where I could start looking. It doesn't help that his name is so common.
I'm assuming for the moment that he was not African American but simply a young man out to seek his fortune. I do know, however, that some African American people did flee America to escape slavery.
Some info on ancestry.com has William being the son of Edward Wilson and Rachel Silver but I have no idea if this is correct. One of William's sons was named Edward and he apparently went to the US as a young man and was never heard from again.
Any help at all will be gratefully received.