Saturday, September 24, 2011

Surname Saturday: The Coneheads and Jolly Ol' Jolletts

Surname Saturday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers to focus on a particular name, its origin, its geographic location, and how it fits into one’s research.

Connie, Prymaat, and Beldar Conehead
Image from Google Images

Are you old enough to remember Beldar, Prymaat, and Connie Conehead from the original Saturday Night Live show?  Whenever someone asked where they were from, they answered in that typical space alien accent (I’m sure you can hear it), “We come from France.”  The Jollett name might as well be Conehead because it is just that foreign to most people.  And besides, I’m pretty sure the Jolletts came from France too, although not from the town of Remulak.

Conventional family wisdom is that the Jolletts were from the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.  I’m not trying to write history, but I have every reason to believe the Jolletts did indeed come from France. 

The first indication of a French connection is the 1748 land grant of 61.5 acres in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, to James Jolet.  The spelling has “France” written all over it.  If indeed it’s French, it was pronounced “Jo-LAY.” 

The second indication is that the largest concentration of Jolletts is in Canada and in Louisiana, both with strong French ties.  To date I have been unable to connect my line to any of those Jolletts.  My confirmed Jolletts are from Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Orange, and Greene Counties, Virginia.  They also moved into Rockingham and Page Counties.  Some of the Jollett women from the early 1800s married and moved to West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, but obviously the Jollett name disappeared into names like Sampson and Marsh. 

Searching for the Jolletts has been frustrating because there seems to be so few records.  When someone suggested that I consider looking at similar family names like Jolly and Jolliff, I discounted that idea because I had looked at enough resources to know that the Jolliffs were early settlers along the Northern Neck and Tidewater areas of Virginia; there were no Jolliffs in the counties where Jolletts were known to live. I was convinced these were totally different families. But I have since been forced to rethink that suggestion. 

It’s easy to see how the forces of lazy pronunciation and non-standardized spelling would collide to create the name “Jolley” or “Jolly” out of “Jolet.”  In 1760 James Jolly purchased 127 acres in Culpeper County, Virginia, and sold the same in 1777, this time his name appearing as Jollet. 

Then there’s Morriss / Morrice of Westmoreland County, Virginia on the Northern Neck whose name appears in deeds, wills, and county orders in the early-mid 1700s as Jolly, Jolley, Jollott, Jollit, and Jolliffe.  What more proof do I need that these families are potentially connected?

My search for the Jolletts has expanded beyond a few counties to consider more varied spellings.  Which is more frustrating – finding too few or too many possible ancestors? 


  1. I tried to post a very funny comment and was told that I don't have permission to post on this site. I think it was blogger's way of telling me to take a seat and don't try to be funny.

  2. Hmm, then how did THAT comment get posted?

  3. Hey! Thanks for coming by! Genealogy is the ultimate brain teaser, don't you think? I have a notorious French ancestor that it would be fun to know more about. Carry on!