William Henderson Bryan was born 1866 in Raleigh, Wake Co, NC, the 3rd of 9 known surviving children (4 boys/5 girls) born to John Heritage Bryan Jr. and his wife, Margaret Eliza Henderson Outlaw.
He was the paternal grandchild of the Hon. John Heritage Bryan Sr. & Mary Williams Shepard of New Bern & Raleigh; and gr-grandchild of James D. Bryan & Rachel Heritage of New Bern, Craven Co, NC. He is a direct descendant of this family's patriarch William Bryan, the Englishman who immigrated to the Virginia Colonies ca. 1690. On his mother's side, she was the maternal grandchild of Dr. William Thomas MacKay Outlaw & Margaret Eliza Henderson of Bertie & Wake Counties, NC.
William was just an infant when his parents immigrated to Brazil in about 1866-67, part of a large exodus of Southern Confederates who relocated to Brazil after the Civil War at the invitation of Emperor Dom Pedro II. The family resided first in Petrópolis, about 65 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro; but later moved into the interior where it is believed the Bryans had a plantation. While in Brazil, his parents would have 6 more children, all of whom would be born Brazilian citizens.
After almost 20 years as ex-patriots, the Bryan family returned to the United States in about 1884 and settled once again in Raleigh. William was about 18 years old when the family returned.
The Bryan family would suffer great personal loss after they returned to the United States. First John Heritage Bryan III died in 1888 at the age of 19. Three years later, the father John H. Bryan Jr. would die in 1891. On January 20, 1892 William Henderson Bryan died aged 26. Six days later on January 26, 1892, his younger brother Henry Shepard Bryan, died at aged 10. The cause of death for William and Henry was never found by this researcher. As the both died on within days of each other, it seems likely it was from the outbreak of contagious disease. The final blow came when Frederick Outlaw Bryan, the last surviving son, died in 1898 at age 19.
William's widowed mother, Margaret Outlaw Bryan, continued to live in Raleigh with two unmarried daughters (Mary and Minnie) until her death in 1912. His oldest sister, Sarah William Bryan Lewis passed two years later in 1914. The last 3 surviving Bryan girls -- Mary, Margaret and Minnnie -- lived long lives. Margaret, who married Charles Pearson, was the only Bryan who married and had surviving child. Minnie Bryan was the last surviving member of this family. She never married and died in 1952.