Joseph J. Williams was born in Boston in 1875 as the son of Nicholas and Mary Jane Williams. He was educated at home by his mother, a former Boston school teacher, and later at Boston College High. In 1893 he entered the Society of Jesus at Frederick, Maryland. After two years of scientific and philosophical studies at Woodstock College he was assigned to Jamaica from 1906 to 1907.
Williams earned a doctorate in ethnology at Woodstock and was editor of America from 1910 to 1911. The next five years he served as a missionary in Jamaica.
Read more about Williams in the Post Scriptum of Voodoos and Obeahs.