Thursday, February 11, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: New Life for a Rocker

Treasure Chest Thursday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers encouraging bloggers to create a post with the main focus being a family treasure, an heirloom, or even an everyday item important to the family.

There was a time when I thought old furniture should be restored to its natural state. I wanted to see the grain of aged oak and the knots of old pine. What could be more beautiful than the rich color of walnut and mahogany? I was appalled that someone had slapped dull green paint over a beautiful old wash stand or sideboard.

If you follow the DIY-ers in blogland, you know that painted furniture is all the rage. While I am not ready to Annie Sloan my dining room table or kitchen cabinets, I have crossed over to the dark side (or maybe it's the bright side) when it comes to painting furniture - some of it, anyway.

Several months ago, I announced plans to pass along my childhood rocker to my first grandbaby.

Wendy Slade Christmas 1952
Me Christmas 1952
The little maple rocker apparently had been a Christmas gift in 1952 from my parents or grandparents or maybe even from Santa. Had “Miss A” been born ten years ago, I might have sanded and stained it to give it new life.

Instead, I was inspired by the countless colorfully painted rockers on Pinterest to take an Annie Sloan chalk paint class. After learning that annual waxing might be required, I realized chalk paint might not be the wisest idea for a child’s chair. Instead I took the more traditional route with latex enamel paint.

Using color cues from the planned nursery, I purchased some samples of aqua and lavender Valspar paint from Lowes along with small cans of white and black Rustoleum.

Wendy Slade's rocking chair from 1952
Rocker "BEFORE" 
Even though there was very little varnish left on the rocker after years in either an attic or garage, I sanded it before applying Zinsser stain blocker. Painting the chair was obviously the fun part, but it required a plan of attack. Where to start? After much consideration, I decided to paint one color at a time. I even drew plans to remind me which color would go where.

First all the white surfaces, then lavender, and then aqua.

Makeover in progress

The checkerboard seat proved to be trickier than it looked, requiring measuring to insure at least some semblance of being centered and even. FROG tape promised to be my friend, but it was only a fair-weather friend. Touch-ups were required when paint bled through. The final color was the black on the runners and arms.

Since I am not an artist, I relied on stencils for the vines on the arms and seat back. I used simple craft paint and foam pouncers.

I soon realized that painting on purple was not easy. Even though the lavender is light, darker shades of pink, orange, and green were needed in order to show up well.

The final step was the gold dots and outlines. Surely a paint pen would do the trick, but the paint pen was a bear to work with. If I pressed too hard, the paint ran. Following along the straight lines of the grooves, rungs and edges of the seat back was no picnic either; I had to go over and over to connect the lines. I don’t know whether paint pens don’t like other paint or they don’t like wood.

If you don’t look TOO closely, the chair looks pretty cute.

I hope one day when Miss A is a mother, she will pass our chair on to the next generation. Whether she leaves it as is, repaints, or strips it back to its natural state, I will be happy knowing a family heirloom lives on.

Me 1955
Miss A 2016

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Will You Be Mine?

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.

This Valentine is glued into a scrapbook belonging to my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. Who the sender might have been will probably never be known, the name likely on the back glued fast to the brittle brown page. The card has a juvenile quality to it, so I like to think maybe the card was signed “Sonny” and sent by my father who adored his grandmother.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

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.