Friday, February 5, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Who's Behind Those Foster Grants?

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a crowd around a man with a movie camera. As a child, I envied friends whose parents took movies of their vacations. My parents never owned a movie camera. Maybe the 8 mm was too much extravagance for a family whose summer trips consisted of tours of battlefields and natural attractions in our home state, Virginia. But like some of the on-lookers in the prompt photo, my mother sported some large white framed sunglasses, a distinct fashion trend in the summer of 1965 when we toured the Shenandoah Valley.

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade Aug 1965
Mary E. Slade August 1965
Mt. Vernon Motel Charlottesville, Virginia

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade and Mary Jollette Slade Pollock Aug 1965
My mother and sister Mary Jollette August 1965
Mt. Vernon Motel Charlottesville, Virginia
I am ALMOST in the picture along with my camera case.
Usually there are large gaps of time between snapshots of my childhood, but in August 1965, Daddy was the consummate shutterbug capturing the stops along our vacation across Virginia. The exact chronology of the stops and hotel stays are long forgotten, but the photos prove we had a grand ol’ time at the Mount Vernon Motel in Charlottesville. No doubt a trip to Charlottesville included a ride through the campus of Daddy’s alma mater, THE University of Virginia, aka “Mr. Jefferson’s University.” Highlights always included the Rotunda, the Lawn, the stadium, and, of course, Copeley Hill where my parents lived while he was in school along with other married students who became their life-long friends.

Not far from Charlottesville is the Skyline Drive. That summer, we stopped at Big Meadows Wayside, a lodge, restaurant, and visitor center. We probably bought some lunch and shopped for souvenirs. Bear sightings, especially around the campgrounds, are common on the Drive, so a stuffed bear for my sister was an appropriate purchase.

Wendy Slade, Mary E. Slade, Mary Jollette Slade Skyline Drive 1965
Skyline Drive Aug 1965
Me, Momma holding her sunglasses,
Mary Jollette holding her little black bear
Even though the ride along Skyline Drive offers the same vista view for miles and miles and miles, we always stopped at various overlooks. I would bet my mother’s favorite was Naked Creek Overlook where she might gaze down over the land that once belonged to our ancestor Fielding Jollett and others we were yet to learn about.

At the opposite end of the Shenandoah Valley is Natural Bridge near Lexington in Rockbridge County. Admittedly the appeal of this National Historic Landmark was lost on me in 1965, maybe because the summer heat was trapped in the walkway leading to the big hunk of stone. I was not sure why we bothered. Did I even notice where George Washington had carved his initials “G. W.” when he surveyed the surrounding site in 1750?
Wendy Slade, Mary Eleanor Slade, Mary Jollette Slade at Natural Bridge Aug 1965
Natural Bridge Aug 1965
I'm sure Momma's sunglasses are in her left hand
along with a sweater and purse.
Natural Bridge 1965
While I was not impressed, my mother’s family always held a soft spot for Natural Bridge. According to family lore, the Marquis de Lafayette was given the land where Natural Bridge stands in gratitude for his service during the Revolutionary War. Then supposedly he passed it on to some woman in our family who then gave it or sold it to Thomas Jefferson. What? No history of Natural Bridge that I have ever read mentions Lafayette, let alone a member of my family. Historians confirm that Thomas Jefferson purchased Natural Bridge from King George III for 20 shillings in 1774 – BEFORE the Revolution. However, our family does have a connection to Rockbridge County: my maternal grandfather’s paternal grandmother was from Rockbridge County. Maybe she lived near Natural Bridge, close enough to justify such a wild tale.

On reflection, I have come to appreciate how much of our summer was not just a time to rejuvenate but also an opportunity for my parents to pass along family stories. So what if we had no movie camera!

Grab your Foster Grants, your Ray-Bans, your Oakleys, or no-name shades because it’s Lights! Camera! Action! all day at Sepia Saturday.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Push! Push!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features boys engaged in the game of Pushball. The game never registered on my ancestors’ radar, so through a James Joycean stream of consciousness sort of way, I pushed the limits of my imagination to arrive at this:

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade Shenandoah College Dayton, VA 1947
Mary Eleanor Davis (Slade) about 1947
Love the fringe on those pants!
I never saw my mother push a lawn mower, but this photo from her early college days at Shenandoah College and Conservatory in Dayton, Virginia shows she COULD maintain the yard if she had to.

But she never had to. For better or for worse, that was my dad’s domain.

Fred Slade cutting grass
Fred Slade cutting the grass at 134 Gillis Road June 1969
Dressed in his favorite tennis shorts and his dress shoes and socks, Daddy made quite the fashion statement out on the lawn. Nevertheless, he was faithful and focused on getting the job done. When it came to “curb-appeal,” nothing got in his way.

Not even the electric cord.

An electric mower was always much easier to start and convenient to maintain. You would think. However, Daddy was notorious for mowing right over the cord. It seems that every week he created drama with what should have been an ordinary task.

In fact, he was hard on every mower he ever owned. Once when he was without a mower, he borrowed one and managed to decapitate the thing when he mowed under the deck.

When Momma became sick in her later years, Daddy took up pushing the vacuum cleaner. There were some similarities in the task as he continued to vacuum over the cord and bump the furniture.  Eventually the muscle memory of vacuuming carried over to mowing. Cutting the grass took twice as long as Daddy “vacuumed” the grass, pushing the mower forward and pulling it back repeatedly in the same spot rather than mowing in a straight line before making a u-turn to come back the full length.

It was both funny and frustrating to watch, yet there was no stopping him, not until he killed his last lawn mower. That is when we made him hang up his lawn-vacuuming shoes and turn the job over to a professional.

Please push your way over to Sepia Saturday for more stories and old photos.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

. . . on the way to the DAR. It’s been a couple years in the making, but we finally made it. On New Year’s Eve I received an email from Pam, the registrar of the Fort Nelson chapter of the DAR, saying “Verified Apps! You’re IN!” At last my mother’s dream to join this prestigious organization has come true through her daughters.

But getting here was not easy. In late summer 2015 we submitted our paperwork linking us to Leonard Davis, our 4X great-grandfather.  Our efforts were hampered by the difficulty of finding those required birth, marriage, and death records for the fifth and sixth generations. We thought surely an old, OLD family Bible belonging to Mitchell Davis, our 2X great-grandfather, would clinch the deal because it gave death dates for his father Leonard Jr. and grandfather Leonard Sr., the proven patriot.

However, DAR did not buy it. Nothing in the Bible stated precisely who they were. Deeds showing Mitchell and his mother selling their rights to Leonard’s estate did not convince the DAR either despite a detailed analysis of all the evidence penned by our capable registrar. The application came back with a laundry list of what we should do next.

Being the obedient child that I am, I launched in right away to find new documents and plan for a future research trip to obtain probate records that might be more convincing than the apparently “flimsy” evidence submitted earlier.

Then Mr. Sam Towler came along.  He is a volunteer with the Albemarle County Chancery Cases Preservation Project. In addition to transcribing and indexing the old documents, he scours the Internet for additional information about the people and places mentioned in each case so that he can include new findings in the case folder for the benefit of future researchers. While working on two related cases, Jarman vs Jordan and Shiflett vs Clayton, Mr. Towler found my blog featuring William Jordan which I had written as part of the 52 Ancestors project in 2014. He thought I might be interested.

Interested?! Heck yeah!

Among the documents Mr. Towler sent was a copy of William Jordan’s declaration as a patriot applying for a pension which conveniently named his wife and children. Witness accounts confirmed the same. Two lawsuits and receipts echoed those familiar names and – even better – the husband of Williams’ daughter Susan who was my 3X great-grandmother AND then her daughter and husband, my 2X great-grandparents. The big three documents – birth, marriage, death – for my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were already in my possession.

And that’s when the DAR goddesses looked down and smiled. I knew I had exactly what I needed for my sister and me to join through this line. All it took was a letter requesting a change of ancestor and copies of the NEW documents for generations 3 through 6. Easy Peasy.

Still, I was surprised to hear so quickly that my sister and I were IN without another do-over. Initially it looked as if it would take another month to get our national numbers, but they came early and we were invited to be inducted at the January meeting.

And that’s what we did. One day after Momma’s birthday, we joined the DAR, an organization she wanted to belong to. So this is for you, Momma. And Cheers to Mr. Towler.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Ming1Dee

Wordless Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is a photograph or image.

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 1929-2005
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade
Jan 6, 1929 - Oct 3, 2005
Today would be my mother’s 87th birthday. “Ming1Dee” was her user name on her AOL account which she used for email and instant message, probably most often with her grandchildren. “Ming” was her official grandmother name; “Dee” became a second name when grandchild #3 came along. “Dee” was his mispronunciation of “Ming,” but it stuck.

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 1929-2005
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 1929-2005 

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 1929-2005

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review - Five Top Five

Jollett Etc started 2015 with a bang but slowed to a crawl by the end of summer. Suddenly LIFE took over as we started preparing to welcome the first grandbaby. Blogging definitely took a backseat to washing the soon-to-be-new-momma’s own baby clothes and blankets to pass along, to shopping and attending parties, to fixing up some heirloom baby rockers.

In looking back over the year, I am actually surprised at how much I managed to accomplish. So without further ado, here are the highlights of 2015:

Top 5 Blog Posts

Top 5 Personal Connections

  1. When I was working on a piece about my maternal grandmother’s cousin Blanche Rucker Strole, I found a photo on Ancestry. I contacted the owner for permission to use it. It turns out she is Blanche’s niece, and not only did she give me permission, but also she sent me MORE photos and some stories.
  2. Robert Nair’s granddaughter contacted me after stumbling into my blog from a Google search for information about her grandfather.
  3. I received quite a few thank-you notes and inquiries about the Calhouns, Angus Rucker, Mary Jarrell, the Fraziers, and Mary Jollett Forrester. Planting seeds. Planting seeds.
  4. Sam Towler, a volunteer with Albemarle County, sent me some documents he transcribed and indexed thinking I might be interested in them after he found one of my blogs. The documents are forming my latest “proof” for membership in the DAR.
  5. Jan Hensley is not a new connection; in fact, we’ve collaborated on our Sampson research for several years. Because of our online friendship, she rescued a stove pipe cap from my great-grandfather’s store when it was torn down this year.

Top 5 Genealogy-Related Activities

  1. Remodeling the room over the garage into my “gene cave” which included creating a family wall of old photos and organizing my research into family binders
  2. FINALLY publishing that Jollett book I’ve been planning in my head for years and being able to donate copies to libraries and historical societies in counties where my Jolletts lived
  3. Indexing for Greene County Historical Society
  4. Serving my second year on Thomas MacEntee’s GeneaBloggers MIITY team (we interview other bloggers for the “May I Introduce to You” series)
  5. Membership in several genealogy-related Facebook groups

Top 5 Discoveries

  1. A recent acquisition of an old scrapbook filled with greeting cards revealed that my grandmother’s cousin Sadie Burns was not “Burns” but “Byrnes,” and that her religious name was Sister Vincent Carmel. More cards were signed “Pat and Peggy Byrnes,” giving me another clue to learning more about my dad’s side of the family.
  2. When Ancestry published death certificates for Virginia, I learned that my father’s great-grandmother’s maiden name was Julia Keene.
  3. Comparing some old photos that were obviously taken on the same day, I was able to identify my maternal grandfather’s cousin Ben Davis and his wife Fleeta.
  4. A general search for “Jollett” in Ancestry’s Virginia Death Records uncovered one Julia Booton Kean (1828-1917) whose mother was Mary Jollett from Madison County. I have yet to figure out how this Mary Jollett was related to this new-to-me branch of the Jollett family, but still it is an exciting discovery.
  5. A general search of marriage records in Rockingham County revealed another new-to-me Jollett: Nancy Jollett who married Hiram Gaines/Garnes. So far that is all I have on Nancy although I did find Hiram on Greene County’s Mortality Schedule 1850.

Top 5 Best Money Spent

  1. Newspaper Archive
  2. Genealogybank
  3. Ancestry
  4. Family Tree DNA Family Finder
  5. Commemorative Brick for the sidewalk leading to the NEW headquarters and museum of the Greene County Historical Society

OK 2016, whatcha got?

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Vintage Christmas Cards

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is inspired by the holiday season. I recently acquired my great-grandmother’s two scrapbooks of greeting cards that she saved and glued – and I mean GLUED to death! – onto pages that have turned brown and brittle since her death in 1939. From the looks of Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s pages, my need for order and logic did not come from her. Apparently she glued as she grabbed a card from wherever she had kept them, perhaps a bag, box or drawer. Smack dab in the middle of a parade of Christmas cards is a valentine or Mother’s Day greeting only to pick up again with Christmas cards soon to be interrupted by St. Patrick’s Day and Get Well.

Two scrapbooks full of HER memories! Here is just a small sample of beautiful Christmas greetings 1920s-1930s style.

Here is a card sent in 1935 from Mary Theresa's sister Delia Sheehan Christian (the one whose descendants on Facebook know nothing about her ~sigh~).

Merry Christmas y’all! Here’s to Happy Blogging in 2016!

For more holiday greetings, please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sepia Saturday: "I am well"

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a do-nut eating soldier on the cover of the Salvation Army’s newspaper The Mess Kit. My husband’s maternal grandfather wore a similar uniform as a soldier during World War I.

Russell Kohne 1918 World War I soldier Hardy, West Virginia
Russell Dayton Kohne (1894 - 1982)

Russell and Hattie Kohne had been married less than a year when he was called into service. Russ probably enjoyed his fair share of do-nuts, but I know for sure that he got cake. One of his letters to his young bride back in Hardy, West Virginia, survives to attest to that fact:

May 7, 1918
14 Co 154 Depot
Camp meed Md

Dear Wife I will drop you a few lines as I haven’t receved your letter yet but am looking for it tomorrow  I was sitting here and had nothing else to pass the time away so I thought I would write to you. I got all of my uniforms now so I guess they are going to keep me. I took out a 10 thousant dollar insurance it cost me 6.60 a month for it and 1.40 a month for washing I am going to send you 15$ a month and the
[line is cut off]

We hav a half aday off [?] on saterday well I must go over to the YMCA to here the band as the othe boys are going I will finish when I come back. Well I was over but the band did not play.

How is grad paw getting a lond tell him isaid hello I was working in the kitchen Sunday but I got plenty to eat they had chicking mashed potatoes lemon ade and lots of good things. I get every thing in the eat line but fil on cake and things like that I haft to grab to get it but I get it just the same ha ha

Well I must close for this time. Ancer soon love to you.
Good by

“Wife” and “Husband” – did they actually refer to each other that way? Maybe they were still reveling in the Honeymoon Phase of their marriage, in love and in love with their new roles.

The letter with its youthful and playful tone is in sharp contrast to the man I knew. Russ was already a grumpy old man when I met him in the early 1970s. Barry’s memories of visits with his mother’s parents are not pleasant. The grandchildren were instructed to sit quietly on the sofa. Barry recalls being hungry and nervous the entire time. When Russ had had enough, he would announce, “I guess it’s time for you to leave.” Russ probably invented the saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” He probably thought they should not be seen either.

Russ was well known for saying whatever was on his mind. He once threatened to whip a boy who was dragging a deer hide around the parking lot of the local watering hole. Russ had warned the boy a couple times repeating, “Put that hide back in the truck. It stinks.” No doubt he would have made good on his word too had the boy’s father not quickly rescued him.

Where did this mean streak come from? Surely alcohol was part of the problem. Russ’s childhood might also have contributed. His father was in and out of jail for any number of big and small crimes, so the children were split up, Russ living with his grandfather and his sister Laura living with an uncle.

In school Russ was just an average student. His report cards reflect the instability of his home life. The notation that his “deportment” was “Fairly good” suggests it was also probably NOT so good at times. The teacher urged him to be more regular in attendance and to “persevere.” The report cards were signed by a step-uncle, Jackson Kohne, who was not a Kohne at all; he simply went by that name for convenience.

If that gruffness and meanness were not part of Russ’s DNA or upbringing, war surely did not help. What he experienced in Europe in 1918 must be left to our imagination, but a message scribbled on a postcard addressed to his wife expresses relief on returning home:

Arrived in US June 6 will be home soon I am well and glad to get back hope to see you soon good by

The front of the postcard shows Russ was a member of the 313th Engineers.

Sent from the Madawaska
Co 313 Engineers

The Engineers were responsible for bridge and road repair, construction and maintenance of trenches, providing clean water, constructing or removing barbed wire. They also built barracks and target ranges, mess halls and hospitals. The Engineers were not relied upon for combat, but often they were the ones launching gas attacks.

Russ said he was “well and glad to get back.” He brought home an important souvenir: his M1917 helmet, often called a Tommy helmet, Tin Hat, or doughboy helmet. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture that would show why this helmet was and still is so precious. There is a dent from a bullet that did not pierce all the way through to Russ’s temple.

That could make anybody cranky. Darn good hat though.

Follow the do-nut crumbs to Sepia Saturday to see what the other “ultimate consumers” are up to.

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.