Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: N is for Nancy

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Nancy.  Nancy Christine Danielson Taylor.  

Momma and Nancy were friends from high school, probably because they were cheerleaders together.  How close they were, I’m not sure.  There are no photos of them goofing off and hanging out together although there are such photos of Momma with some of their other girlfriends.

Nancy Danielson
Except for cheerleading, their interests went in opposite directions.  While Momma was active with the newspaper staff and Spanish Club, Nancy gravitated to basketball and the Hi-Y Club, a service organization.

Nancy #6 Forward
scanned from the
1946 Admiral

Cradock Hi-Y Club 1946
Nancy is 5th from the left on the front row kneeling
scanned from 1946 Admiral

Nancy was the second daughter born to Gus and Peggy Danielson when they were living in Redford, Michigan.  Gus was a tool maker for a car factory, likely in Detroit as it was about a 20-minute commute to the automobile capital of the world.  Sometime between 1935 and 1940, the Danielsons moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, and settled in the community of Cradock.  Gus worked as a machinist for the shipyard.  This was about the same time that my grandparents moved to Cradock.  With the war, there were lots of job opportunities at the shipyard.

As adults Momma and Nancy were very close friends.  We lived around the corner from Nancy and Skeeter, so we grew up with the Taylor kids.  Sometimes Nancy was our afternoon babysitter until Momma could get home from school (she was a teacher – she wasn’t IN school). 

Nancy, Momma, Rusty
I wonder if I did Nancy's hair that week.
I vaguely recall some of those moments, especially when Nancy would scurry around picking up Mary Jollette’s and Rusty’s toys before Momma got home, but my strongest memories are “Hair Night.”  Nancy had very thick naturally curly hair.  When I was in high school, I used to be her “between haircuts” hair dresser.  Seriously.  I had a table-top salon-style hair dryer, brush rollers and a teasing comb.  The kitchen became a make-shift salon where I worked my amateur magic on both my mom and Nancy.  The house would be full of chatter and laughter because Nancy always had something funny going on.  When Nancy laughed, she snorted, and that would make us laugh all the more.

The Taylors' cotton tree.  

Even though we saw the Taylors practically every day, Christmas was always a special time together.  After opening our presents, we hit the road making the rounds visiting everyone to see their haul. Nancy’s family always had a cotton tree.  I believe it was actually a tradition passed down through Skeeter’s family.  The tree was so different from everyone else’s tree, all covered in white cotton and angel hair, colorful balls and lights.  Magical.

Skeeter, Nancy, Rusty 1971 or 1972
Nancy Taylor, Mary Jollette Slade, Wendy Slade 1971 or 1972
Nancy, Mary Jollette, Wendy
Skeeter, Nancy, Rusty at my parents' house

Skeeter and Nancy

The funniest memory of Nancy was the time she talked Momma into going with her to the beauty school at the shopping center to get their hair washed and curled cheap.  She thought it would be great fun to let budding hairdressers practice on them, not to mention a bargain.  Fortunately for Momma, she ended up looking rather good after that $5 investment.  Nancy, on the other hand, was disappointed in her own, to put it mildly.  In fact, the two of them couldn’t wait to get out of the salon because they couldn’t contain their laughter much longer.  What was so bad about that hairdo?  Was it the tight curl?  Or that black velvet bow above her bangs?   Sure wish I had a picture!

My parents had wonderful friends that I miss as if they were my own.  Skeeter and Nancy are buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery in Portsmouth, Virginia. 

photo courtesy of Steve Poole,

Lest I neglect the niceties, all neophytes, newcomers and novices are welcome to navigate the numerous news, narratives, novels and notes at the A to Z April Challenge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: M is for McCauley

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for McCauley.  Vallye Virginia McCauley.  Sounds like a place.  Valley of Virginia.  And that’s about the truth, too.  Vallye was born and raised, lived and died, right there in the valley of Virginia, in particular New Hope in Augusta County.

She was a friend of my grandaunt Violetta Davis when they were students at the State Normal School (later Harrisonburg Teachers College, then Madison College, now James Madison University).

Like Violetta, Vallye (or Vallie as her family spells it) was in the High School Club for students planning to teach on the secondary level.  They were enrolled in the two-year program which enabled them to teach anywhere for seven years before needing to seek recertification. 

Vallye Virginia McCauley 1923
Vallye Virginia McCauley
scanned from School Ma'am 1923

The description under her senior picture describes Vallie as the epitome of “dignity and womanly virtue.”  Supposedly she was a good writer, but her classmates remembered her as being “fastidious in dress, courteous in manner, and reserved in speech.” 

Vallye Virginia McCauley 1923
This photo of Vallie McCauley in Violetta’s photo album seems to match those words perfectly.  I can picture her in a classroom. 

Vallie appeared in each census year – 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 – living on a farm with her parents Charles and Edna McCauley.  She was the second of 5 daughters.  In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, she was enumerated as a public school teacher.  The 1940 census shows that she earned $800 in 1939.  That equates to about $13,512 in buying power today.  Still not much, especially considering the average salary in 1940 was $1900. 

Vallye Virginia McCauley Patterson
Vallie Patterson
photo courtesy of Michael Lindsay

Vallie married rather late in life compared to women of her generation.  On August 18, 1945, she married Crawford Patterson, a farmer in Augusta County.  

Crawford Patterson
Crawford Patterson
photo courtesy of
Michael Lindsay

The importance of family was evident in the family reunions held faithfully at the McCauley farm in New Hope, Virginia.

The 5 McCauley sisters and parents
Vallie is 2nd from the right
photo courtesy of Michael Lindsay

photo courtesy Marlin Diehl at

Vallie died November 19, 1973 and is buried near her parents and other McCauleys and Pattersons in the Edgewood Cemetery in Weyers Cave, Augusta County, Virginia.

photo courtesy Marlin Diehl

Avoid malady and malaise but be malleable to being mesmerized by the maelstrom of magniloquent and mellifluous myths and metaphors offered by the mavens of the blogisphere at the A to Z April Challenge.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: L is for Leta LeVow

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Leta LeVow.  Isn’t that a fantastic name?  It sounds exotic, like a movie star of the silent screen.

But Leta was far from a movie star.  She was just an ordinary girl from Waynesboro, Virginia who happened to be assigned to share the dorm room of my grandaunt Velma Davis at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University).  The many smiling photos in Velma’s scrapbook suggest they got along famously. 

Leta LeVow March 1925
Leta LeVow
"Smiling thro'"
Leta LeVow March 1925
Leta LeVow
"As high up as she'll get"

Velma and Leta were both in the 2-year program that would allow them to teach elementary school for seven years before recertifying. 

Scanned from
School Ma'am 1926

The quote beneath Leta’s graduation picture observed “Ever studious was she, ever active too.”  Leta was a member of the Grammar Grade Club as well as the YWCA and Athletic Association.  Most interesting, however, was that Leta was a member of the Page Literary Society.  Membership in any of the literary societies at HTC was by invitation only, so it was quite an honor.  These societies were, in fact, the forerunners of today’s sororities.  Leta’s club eventually became Sigma Sigma Sigma (Tri Sig), the oldest sorority at today’s JMU.

Leta LeVow
Wellington Hall in the background
Leta was born March 10, 1907 in Marshalltown, Iowa, the daughter of Russian immigrants who had been in the United States less than ten years, naturalized citizens for three.  Her father was enumerated in various years as either a peddler or junk dealer.  But the man lived the American dream becoming the proprietor of his own grocery and dry goods store as recorded in the 1930 Waynesboro  census.

Velma Davis and Leta LeVow May 1925
Velma and Leta at Velma's house Shenandoah, Virginia, May 1925

Leta graduated from HTC in 1926, but in 1930 she was living at home and apparently not working, certainly not teaching.   

Leta attended Velma’s wedding and signed the guest registry.  Judging by the names surrounding her signature, it was a regular class reunion.

At least by 1935 Leta had married Irving Steinberg.  The two lived with his widowed mother in Passaic, New Jersey.  In the 1940 census, Leta and Irving were parents to a son and daughter.  Leta was at home while Irving ran the Steinberg Grain and Feed Supply, a business apparently begun years before by his father.

Leta died on March 28, 1995 in Passaic, a city she had called home for over 60 years.

Last page of Velma's
wedding guest book

Don’t let the labyrinth of lampoons and belles-lettres languish at the A to Z April Challenge.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

52 Ancestors: #15 - Melinda JOLLETT Marsh

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Melinda Jollett was the seventh child and seventh daughter born to James and Nancy Walker Jollett, making her my third great grandaunt.  But there’s nothing LUCKY about that number 7.

“Lucky” would mean I have found her consistently in census records.

“Lucky” would mean I have birth, marriage, death dates for Melinda’s full family line.

“Lucky” would mean I have connected with a cousin, one of Melinda’s great-great-great grandchildren.

None of that. 

I have two records.  The End.

A marriage record in Orange County shows she was born around 1800 in Orange County, Virginia and married Thomas Marsh on March 12, 1822.  Her brother Simeon served as bondsman.  Simeon and his wife Nancy Glass were witnesses.

So it seems logical that I should find a family for Thomas Marsh in 1830.  Nope.  1840?  Nope.  I suppose they could have been living with another family.

Perhaps they left the area in the mid-1830s along with brother Simeon and sister Clarissa. But I see no signs of it. 

In 1850, TA DA – the rather large Thomas and "Melindey" Marsh family had settled in Putnam County,  then Virginia but now West Virginia since the Civil War.  Seven children. 

In my family tree database, every one of those seven children offers multiple “shakey leaf” hints, but only two offer more information than the projected birthdates gleaned from the 1850 census.  It looks like Thomas and Melinda and five of the children were simply wiped off the face of the earth before 1860.

Three Generations:

Melinda JOLLETT (Abt. 1800 Orange Co, Virginia - ) & Thomas MARSH  (1796 - ) 12 Mar 1822 Orange Co, Virginia

1. Julia A. MARSH (1830 Virginia - )

2. William MARSH (1832 Virginia – 1862 Crenshaw, Alabama) & Louise LOFTIN (13 Mar 1836 – 28 Oct 1915 Crenshaw, Alabama)  16 Jun 1853
  • George William MARSH (10 Apr 1854 – 18 Aug 1863 Crenshaw, Alabama)
  • John H. MARSH (18 Jul 1859 – 18 Aug 1863 Crenshaw, Alabama)
  • Willie Frances MARSH (Jan 1863 – 1928 Crenshaw, Alabama)
3. Joseph A. MARSH (1834 Virginia - ) & Elizabeth Jane STEELE (1829 Mason, Virginia - ) 20 Aug 1854
  • America Anna MARSH (4 Jul 1850 Virginia - 24 Jun 1941 Boyd, Kentucky) & James EADS (29 Feb 1852 West Virginia - 23 Jan 1940 in Catlettsburg, Boyd, Kentucky)
  • Minerva Jane MARSH (18 Mar 1858 Point Pleasant, Mason, West Virginia - 16 Sep 1936 Point Pleasant, Mason, West Virginia) & m1) Jonathan FIELDER (1852 in Ohio - West Virginia)
  • James M. MARSH (1865 West Virginia - )
  • Robert Lee MARSH (1868 West Virginia - 27 Aug 1928 Nutter Fort, Harrison, West Virginia) & Laura COZAD 1 Mar 1902 Barbour Co, West Virginia
  • Elizabeth MARSH (1871 West Virginia - )
4. Mary J. MARSH (1837 Virginia - )

5. John G. MARSH (1839 Virginia - )

6. Benjamin F. MARSH (1841 Virginia - )

7. Sarah M. MARSH (1843 Virginia - )

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: K is for Kibler

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Kibler.  Constance Margaret Kibler.  She was one of my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan’s friends from college.  Actually, they were probably neighborhood friends as well.  Constance was born in 1903 and grew up just three streets away from Violetta in Shenandoah, Virginia.  Constance was the only child of Benton and Minnie Good Kibler. 

Both Constance and Violetta attended the Harrisonburg Teachers College and graduated with the 2-year diploma in 1923, which at the time entitled them to teach anywhere for seven years before having to be recertified.  Like Violetta and Argene Louise Lauck, Constance was a member of the High School Club for students seeking certification in secondary education.

Constance Margaret Kibler 1923
Constance Margaret Kibler
scanned from School Ma'am 1923

The description under Constance’s graduation picture in the yearbook reveals much about her personality.  Her “inscrutable expression,” her kindness and her “love of chatter” peppered with “uncutting sarcasm” make her seem likeable without being overly sweet. 

Constance Margaret Kibler 1923

Collecting signatures in the yearbook is a long-standing tradition.  Violetta made a point of collecting just these two.  All that room in the yearbook, yet Constance squeezed her message and signature below someone else’s.  And on an ad page, no less.   

Scanned from The School Ma'am 1923

I wonder if Constance ever put that teaching degree to work.  If so, it was for only a short time.

In 1925, Constance married Harold W. Bryan, an electrical engineer from Pennsylvania.  I wonder how they met.  What brought him to Virginia or what took her to Pennsylvania?  At any rate, in the census records for 1930 and 1940, Constance was not employed.  Meanwhile back in Shenandoah, Virginia, the Kiblers were renting out Constance’s bedroom to lodgers. 

Apparently Constance and Harold did not have children.

At least by 1976, the Bryans were residents of Deerfield Beach, Florida.  That is where Minnie Kibler, Constance’s mother, was living when she died. Constance died five years later on July 29, 1981.  Both are buried in Pompano Beach, Florida, along with Harold who joined them ten years later.

Photo courtesy of Tom Carroll at

Don’t keep your knickers in a knot; put the kibosh on that kerfuffle; keep a hold on your kinkajou and kangaroo; kick up your kilt; knit a kerchief.  But whatever you do, key up for the A to Z April Challenge

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: J is for Jones

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Jones.  Angus Jones.

Angus Jones was another witness for my grandaunt Sallie in her divorce from George, her husband of 23 years.  He was a neighbor who saw and HEARD the evil temper that drove Sallie from her home. 

While Angus was just another witness in a long line of witnesses, he stands out to me for one simple reason.  He was black.  Or “colored” as noted in his deposition. 

Not that I’m surprised a black person would help a white person.  But it was 1914 in sleepy ol’ Shenandoah, Virginia.  I grew up in a time and place when neighborhoods were strictly segregated.  So learning that blacks and whites were neighbors is a revelation to me; that a black man was called to testify seems rather progressive, at least from my understanding of the times.  (And apparently my understanding is flawed.)
Deposition of Angus Jones 1914
Names have been marked through to protect the privacy of living descendants.

Angus Jones was born to William and Rachel Jones in 1855ish (depending on which census you believe).  He lived his whole life in Page County, but he married Mariah Arrington from Greene County, just across the mountain, on August 6, 1880. 

Photo by Jan Hensley
Baby Angus 1898-1899
Since the 1890 census was destroyed, Angus and Mariah first show up together in the 1900 census.  Angus worked for the railroad and Mariah was busy caring for their 6 children; two others had died in infancy.  They owned their home on Second Street, free and clear without mortgage.  Neighboring homes were occupied by the families of two of Angus’s brothers who worked in the quarry.  But otherwise, all other neighbors were white.

Photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
Eddie, a twin, 1903-1904

In 1910, Angus and family were still living on Second Street, just down from Sallie’s house, and not far from Ina Printz (the subject of yesterday’s post).  He was working odd jobs and Mariah was caring for their 6 children; however, now there had been 10 in all, so 4 dying in infancy. 

Photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
Martha 1890 - 1902
In 1920, Angus was back working for the railroad.  Two of his five daughters were working as servants in private homes.

Between 1920 and 1930, Angus experienced a lot of sad times.  He lost his wife, plus three of his remaining six children.  One died in 1921, and two girls died within days of each other in 1922.  So in 1930, Angus was alone except for a grandson whose parents were living and working in Harlem in Manhattan, New York.

Photos of the Jones-Arrington Cemetery in Shenandoah, Virginia are on  There are 6 very fine tombstones for Angus and Mariah’s children, and more for other relatives on both sides of their family.  

Surprisingly there is no photo of a tombstone for Angus and Mariah. 

For a more Jolly time, Jump on over to the A to Z April Challenge.

Sepia Saturday: Hop To It

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a quartet of photos with a unifying subject of our choice.  With Easter around the corner, now is the perfect time for bunnies.  Lots and lots of Easter bunnies.  Well, 6 bunnies anyway.

4 photos of bunnies

When my sister and I were little kids, Easter meant a basket full of jelly beans, a chocolate bunny, a couple Peeps, a big fancy cake or candy egg from the bakery, an orchid corsage from our dad, and an Easter pet.  For several years we received baby chicks or ducks.  One year Mary Jollette got a duck and her friend Rusty got rabbits. 

I don’t know what became of our chicks and ducks when they got too big.  I don’t want to know.

But from the looks of things, an Easter pet wasn’t anything new in our family.

Quadruple your fun at Sepia Saturday.