Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A to Z April Challenge: O is for Odetta


This is Day 15 of the A to Z April Challenge.  My theme is women with unusual names although I must cheat now and then or I’ll have a name and no story.

is for Odetta Riggs.  She was my 4th cousin once removed.  How does that work?  OK, she was the great-great granddaughter of Clarissa Jollett and John Sampson, sister and brother-in-law of my 3G grandfather Fielding Jollett.  Whew ~

Suffice it to say, Odetta is getting my attention only because her name starts with “O.”  She is a VERY distant relative.

Odetta was born April 25, 1913 in Vigo County, Indiana.  Her parents Arnold and Nellie Sampson Riggs had two children:  Odetta and an older brother, Harry.  In the 1920 federal census, Arnold was a coal miner.  In 1930, Arnold was absent from the household.  In fact, Nellie and the kids were boarding with another family, and Nellie was working for a dry cleaners while Harry and Odetta attended school.

Then 1940 – hmm.  No Odetta.  But fortunately, her name was ODETTA.  In my trusty Ancestry, I searched for any Odetta born in 1913 and living in Indiana in 1940.  Up popped Odetta Baysinger in Terra Haute, Vigo County, Indiana.  She was a married lady, and her husband Clifford was an auto mechanic.  Living with them was Nellie Riggs, Odetta’s mother.  Nellie had divorced her coal miner husband and was earning a living doing housekeeping. 

Based on city directories, Odetta and Clifford were married around 1937, if not earlier.

Sometimes having an unusual name comes in handy.


There are Oodles of Ocular feasts at the A to Z April Challenge.



© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

17 comments:

  1. That's a name you don't hear very often. :)

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    1. No, you don't. There used to be a blues/jazz singer by that name, and my dad had an album of hers. That's the only "Odetta" I had ever heard of.

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  2. Definately Odetta deserves the 'O'slot in your AlphaWomen List. It may be her only claim to fame. Bless her heart!

    My Letter 'O'...Obsession Over Odds and Ends
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

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    1. HA HA - yes, she lived a simple and unassuming life. I'm sure she never dreamed of making it to the AtoZ list on the Internet.

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  3. It was great that Nellie was living with Odetta in the 1940 census so you could verify you had the correct Odetta right? Thanks Nellie! I love when that kind of thing happens.

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    1. Yes, Nellie spared me from more footwork.

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  4. Interesting name. Also interesting that you turn up so many divorced and separated people from way back.
    Happy A-Z Wednesday!

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    1. So true. And yet in my family that I actually KNOW, divorce is extremely scarce.

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  5. A lovely name that reminds me of Odette in the ballet "Swan Lake" - one of my great loves.

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    1. Oh, now you've exposed my absolute ignorance of ballet characters. I'm glad the name brought about a pleasant memory.

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  6. Was Daddy's album Odetta Holmes? She is the only Odetta I have ever heard of.

    You have done some amazing research.

    Odetta was safe to marry! LOL

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  7. I'll bet unusual names make your research a lot easier. It's so fun learning about your distant relatives here on your blog!

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    1. Sometimes the unusual name is helpful, but if it's subject to a gazillion misspellings, it can be a pain. Still I'm having fun on the hunt.

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