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? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friends of Friends Friday: Unknown No More Database

Friends of Friends Friday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that features transcriptions of records of enslaved ancestors.

The Virginia Historical Society has introduced a new online database that will be of interest to many people looking for enslaved ancestors. 

Unknown No Longer is just one of the VHS’s projects to increase access to documents about African-Americans.  The VHS has over 8 million unpublished manuscripts. The database is a work in progress, as it will take years to transcribe and index all the names of those who were ever enslaved in Virginia.  However, since the project began in January 2011, they have already entered over 1500 names of slaves who lived in Virginia or moved with their masters to other states from Virginia.

There are several ways to search for an ancestor:  by name; by location; and by type of record such as wills, deeds, bills of sale, account books, and more.  Sometimes a search will uncover only a name.  But you might also find more details such as occupation, family members, and dates of birth or death. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: When is a door not a door?

Treasure Chest Thursday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that focuses on a family heirloom or everyday item of importance to the family. 

When Barry and I married, we moved into a basement apartment in my Great Aunt Violetta’s apartment building at 473 S. Mason St. in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Our apartment was just under the window
to the right of the main door. 

The antiquing craze was new to us, and we spent many weekends scouring the thrift stores, antique shops, and local auctions for anything interesting to fill our little apartment.

We stripped at least 2 layers of paint from this table.
It has recently moved to our daughter's apartment.

Ironically, one of the most interesting finds was right there IN our own little humble abode.  Just off the kitchen was an enclosed backdoor entrance plus a storage room. 

Cute kitchen.  Cute cook.

As a young wife who had been raised in clean, well-lit places, I was initially afraid of this cave-like room that always felt dark, cold and spider-webby.  I can’t recall what prompted me to go into that room, but I’m so glad I did.  There they were – dozens of old blue Ball jars, still filled with the harvests from MANY years past. 

I asked Violetta about them, and she was surprised.  She said, “Well, they must be Momma’s jars. You can have ‘em.”  Cha-ching!  Of course, the gross part was cleaning them.  It was 1973, and Mary Frances Jollett Davis had died in 1950, so the contents were at least 23 years old, if not older.

For 38 years I’ve used those jars as canisters.  Here they are today:

I never knew my great-grandmother, but I rather like having this connection to her.  To my knowledge, she never worked.  She raised 4 children and buried 2.  She sewed quilts.  She baked and she canned.  Perhaps the jars at this family reunion contained some of Mary Frances’s applesauce or pickles. 

Bearded man is James Franklin Jollett. 
Next to him is Mary Frances Jollett Davis. 
The woman in the white hat is
my grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis.

Violetta always said my great-grandmother was a good cook.  Probably she was, but it’s hard to trust the word of someone who made coffee that looked like tea.  

PS – When is a door not a door?  When it’s AJAR.  A jar.  Get it?  Hey, I don’t write ‘em.  I just repeat ‘em.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday's Child: Josy Davis

Wednesday’s Child is one of the daily blogging prompts at Geneabloggers that features gravestones of children. 

Josy Davis (1 Aug 1901-15 Dec 1903) was the third child of Mary Frances Jollett and Walter B. Davis.  She was my maternal grandfather’s younger sister. 

Millard, Orvin, Josy

Josy and Orvin

This second picture of Josy and Orvin was always on display at my grandparents’ house, but it was on glass in a gold filigree oval frame.  No one ever seemed to know how or why Josy died, or at least they never discussed it.  The only other story about Josy was that her name was just temporary until Mary Frances and Walter could give her an official name. 

After my parents’ deaths, my sister and I were cleaning out the house and discovered a 16x20 portrait of Josy.  It’s actually this same picture, but just her.  It looks like it was enhanced with blue pastels or chalk.  To my knowledge, the picture was never framed.  Since we have no other similar portraits of the other children, I’m guessing the portrait was meant as some sort of tribute, or an emotional decision by distraught parents who may have later decided not to be reminded of their sadness by hanging the picture.

On Josy’s tombstone is the name of the youngest Davis child, Kenneth (25 Jul 1912-6 Aug 1912).  He didn’t live long enough for a portrait.  They are buried in the Coverstone Cemetery, Shenandoah, Virginia, where all their brothers and sisters, and their parents are buried. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Shopping Saturday: W. B. Davis & Sons

Shopping Saturday is a daily  prompt at Geneabloggers that encourages bloggers to tell about the various stores that our ancestors patronized or perhaps owned.

I always knew that my great-grandfather Walter B. Davis (husband to Mary Frances Jollett) owned a grocery store at the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Shenandoah, Virginia.  Since many family stories were associated with some memory of “the store,” and since summer visits to my cousins in Shenandoah always included a pilgrimage to “the store” like some religious shrine, it is no wonder that growing up I always thought it was THE store. 

Plus, I had studied some history.  It was the Depression.  Weren’t people poor and out of work? 

Davis Store as it looked in the 1920s-30s

So imagine my surprise upon reading in Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People that in the early 1900s Shenandoah was experiencing an economic boom and businesses flourished.  There were several hotels, lots of restaurants, hat shops, clothing stores, bakeries, meat markets, bowling alley and skating rink, dance halls, an opera house, furniture stores, jewelers, a business school, bicycle shop, saloons, not to mention multiples of hardware stores and general stores. 

In the 1920s-30s, Davis Groceries was just one of many family-run stores with names like Propes, Sullivan, Emerson, Foltz, Booton, and Morris.  
Davis Store as it looks today
(Image from Shenandoah: A History
of Our Town And Its People)

No matter which store shoppers went to, they probably all looked much like the Davis store:  shelves with neatly displayed canned goods, sacks of grain, boxes of cigars, and a coke machine dotted around a central wood or coal burning stove.

That’s my grandmother, Lucille Rucker Davis, working behind the counter.  My mother and her brother were probably in the upstairs apartment or playing with their dog Fritz and running through the neighborhood. 

Judging by the receipts in Walter Davis’s accounts book, he carried many staple items like coffee (38¢), sugar (45¢), bread (24¢), peanut butter (25¢), butter (25¢), soap (08¢), salt (09¢), lard (40¢), soap powder (05¢), matches (02¢), oatmeal (10¢), and potatoes (40¢ ).  But a shopper could also count on Mr. Davis for other items like thread (05¢), oil (18¢), chicken feed, and cigarettes (15¢).

This scale from the store must’ve been used for weighing fresh fruits and vegetables, and bulk items like coffee and sugar. 

Even though Shenandoah was a boom town, shopping for everyday items wasn’t easy for everyone.  Among the memorabilia that my family preserved for 80 years is a small stack of receipts paper-clipped together.  Dated from 1924-28, the receipts are all from one family.  They bought on credit and paid down a little here and there with cash.  Occasionally the bill was paid by hauling goods. 

Some people left diamond rings at the store in exchange for goods.  Sadly, the owners never came back for them.  After my grandmother died, my mother had a ring made from the mismatched stones. 

One sizeable diamond plus 4 chips
taken from rings left at the Davis Grocery Store

When I wear this ring, I can see my mother’s hand, but I also imagine the worried hands that reluctantly pawned a prized possession as barter for food at my great-grandfather's store. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday -- Internet Connections

Thankful Thursday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers to express gratitude for a person (past or present), resource, family history tool or anything connected to you or your family history.

I recently posted HERE about my two James Jolletts who signed the petition to form Greene County, Virginia.  For several years I wondered whether my one confirmed James (who married Nancy Walker) was the Junior or the Senior of the duo.  Was James the son of another James?  Did James have a son named James?  Maybe they were uncle and nephew.  Census records and tax records gave me no clue, so I was resigned to leaving big question marks in my research.

Then Shirley Ziemer of Indiana came into my life by way of an inquiry at my now-defunct Jollett website at the now-defunct Geocities.  She is a Sampson researcher looking for more information on John Sampson who in 1813 married my Clarissa Jollett, daughter of James.  During our correspondence, Shirley casually mentioned she had a picture of Clarissa’s brother’s tombstone. 

Clarissa’s brother?!?!?  What brother? 

You can’t read it, but James Jollett’s inscription is on top of the tombstone.  There he is, buried with his sister and brother-in-law.  The “James Jollett JUNIOR” of Greene County fame!  It turns out I couldn’t find him because his name never appears in a Virginia census.  In 1836 he left Virginia along with his sister Clarissa and her husband John Sampson and others to help settle the Northwest Territory.  From 1850 to 1883, James was a resident of Clay County, Indiana, working as a carpenter. He never married. 

The story of the younger James Jollett is short and sweet.  Without Shirley, I might never have known for sure that he even lived.  Her request for more information prompted me to do some research.  After all, she handed me an ancestor plus a fuller picture of Clarissa. I needed to give her SOMETHING. I noticed Clarissa and John’s daughter Louisa was married to Andrew Casebolt.  Maybe researching him might lead to some good Sampson information.  Instead I stumbled upon a land deal dated 1832 in which Andrew partnered with none other than James W. Jollett to buy land in a newly formed town called Rifesville, which today is Dayton, Virginia. 

Look at that James Jr. – he helped form a new county AND a new town.  Go James Go!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Securing the "blessings as a community of freemen"

Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme through Geneabloggers in which we are challenged to transcribe historic documents, letters, journals, anything written by another.  This theme was created by John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch.

People often ask if I have found anyone famous in my line.  Suffice it to say that I’m not going to appear alongside Rosie O’Donnell or Kim Catrall on “Who Do You Think You Are?” anytime soon.  However, my family’s near-claim to fame is the two Jollett men who helped shape the Commonwealth of Virginia.  
Most of my earliest Jolletts that I can confirm lived at some point in Orange County, Virginia.  In the 1700s-early 1800s, it was a very large county, geographically speaking.  Those who lived in the Upper District were forty miles from the Orange Court House; thus any business at the court house meant a two-day ride on horseback, IF the roads were even passable, and apparently they were not six months of the year.  The solution to the hardship placed on those citizens to serve on juries, act as witnesses, sue or be sued, and conduct any other business at the Court House seemed obvious:  divide the county. 

Between 1792 and 1832, there were many attempts to do just that.  Success was finally realized under the leadership of Senator Thomas Davis, who presented a petition to the State Legislature.  The petitioners proposed a “compact county” between 20-30 miles long and 10-20 miles wide; the lines would run north and south from a point on the Albemarle County line between Cavesville and Barboursville to the headwaters of the Marsh Run down to the “Rapid Ann River” [now known as Rapidan] which divided the counties of Orange and Madison.  Stanardsville would be the county seat.  In 1838, the act passed and the new county – Greene County – was named for Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. 

Just 122 signatures.  That's all.  The Jolletts made their mark on history as #38 and #41 to sign.  I am highlighting the names of “my guys,” those who are connected in some way to my Jolletts.

Wm C. Jennings                        
Hazelworth Riddle

Durret Oliver
James Lamb, Junior
Abram Eddins               5

John W. Taylor
Hiram S. Eddins
Bluford Eddins
Wm. Riddle
Fielding Riddle             10
Parks Goodall
Thornton Rogers

               James Burus
St. Clair Williams
Wm. Eaton                        15
Augustine Gear
Nathaniel Gear
Matthew Night
Wm Dunivan
Thomas Staton                  20
John Gear
James Gear
Michael Mayers
Daniel & David Runkle
John Haynes                      25
Wm Nichols
Tandy Sims
Smith Eddins
James Lamb Sr                  30
Wm Lamb
William Sh
Slaton Shiflett

Joseph Morris
Elliot M. Burton              35
S. L. Goodall
Thomas J. Eddins
James Jollett Sr.               
Hiram Marsh
Robert Dean                   40
James Jollett Jr.            
St. Clair Dean
Peter Marsh
George Thornton
Addison F. Booten           45
Gabriel Powell
Edwin Nichols
Layton F. Eddins
Absalom Morris
Daniel Bent                     50
John Small
Armistead Long
John Lamb Junior

Samuel Harris
Elijah Huffman                55
Henry Fleak
Enoch Simons
John Shiflett
Emanuel Runkle
William Dean                   60
James Ancel
Wm Powell
George Shearman
John Marr
Valentine Beazley            65
Levi Morris
George Powell
Downing Smith
Tazewell Marr
Zachariah Taylor           70
Henry Warren
Bezaliel Parrott

Madison Marr

James Beazley
?? Garth                            75
Hugh R. Powell
Wade H. Snow
Jonathan Price
Leland Frazier
William T. Parrott             80
Granville Kennedy
Fielding Powell
James Warren
William H. Sims
Simon Powell                     85
Charles Parrott
William Rogers
John M. Sims
Robert B. Winslow
Wm. Sampson                    90
Joseph Jarrell

Ransom Lamb
Albert Eaton
Stewart Marks
Thomas Tyler                     95
May Haney
John Haney Junior
David Shiflet
Wm. W. Parrott
Noah Smith                        100
Abraham Taylor
Wm. C. Knight
James Haney Junior
Matthew Lamb Junior
?                                        105
Jacob Fleak
George Dean
Sanford Dean
Cornelius Lamb

John Haney Senior           110
Wyat Snow
John Fleak
Wm Houseworth  Poplar Run
John Higdon
William Willcocks            115
Jackson T. Powell            116
Mordecai Buckner            117
Thomas M. Shearman
Benjamin Anderson       
John H. Melone                120
Achiles Rogers
Alfred M. Mallory

Sunday's Obituary: James Franklin Jollett

James Franklin Jollett was my great-great grandfather.  I have heard that he was a sentimental man who would cry when you came to visit and cry when you left.  His granddaughter Vessie Jollett Steppe said he would hold the grandchildren on his lap, cut apple slices for them while teasing and playing with them.  Look at those little cheeks -- doesn't he look like a sweet man?

17 Nov. 1836 Greene Co, VA -
3 Jun. 1930 Augusta Co, VA

During the Civil War he was traveling by train delivering Union prisoners to a camp. One of the prisoners began to cry as they passed his home, and he said he'd do anything to see his family again. Grandpap Frank told the prisoner he was going to step outside to take a smoke. When he came back in, the prisoner was gone. Hmm. You don't suppose ....

Here is his obituary:

James Franklin Jollett of Harriston, Augusta County, a brother of the late Rev. John W. Jollett, of Jollett, this county [Page], and the father of Mrs. A. J. [Emma] Coleman, Mrs. W. J. [Laura] Sullivan, Mrs. D. B.[Victoria] Breeden, Mrs. Sallie Clift, and Mrs. W. B.[Mary] Davis, of Shenandoah, this county [Page], passed away at his home at 2 a.m., on Tuesday in his 94th year.  He had been in declining health for some time on account of the infirmities of age, but was confined to his bed for only a few days before the end, which came peacefully.

In previous years the News and Courier has reported a number of family gatherings held to celebrate successive birthdays of this remarkable old gentleman, who retained his faculties and his capacity to enjoy life far past the allotted time of man.  He was ninety-three years old last November.  Mr. Jollett was a man of marked Christian character, who drew constant joy and inspiration from his religion, and was a devout and useful member of the Brethren church during his long, useful life.  He was born in Greene county and during his earlier manhood moved to Augusta, where he operated his little farm near Harriston for many years, enjoying peace and contentment and the highest regard of his neighbors.  His first wife [Lucy Ann Shiflett Jollett] was from Greene county, the second wife [Eliza Coleman], now his widow, from Augusta.  All of his children are from the first union.  To the list of those at Shenandoah are to be added B. L. Jollett, of Greene County, U. S. Jollett, of Baltimore, and Mrs. Leanna Knight of Nortonsville, VA.  There was a general exodus of all the Shenandoah relationship to attend the funeral which was held from the Brethren church at Harriston and was attended by all of the children.

Source:  The Page News & Courier - edition of 6 June 1930 page 1, col. 2

Friday, September 2, 2011

Follow Friday: Walls of Fame and Walls of Shame

Follow Friday is a blogging prompt through Geneabloggers encouraging bloggers to recommend another genealogy blogger, a specific blog post, a genealogy website or a genealogy resource.

When my sister and I were cleaning out Momma and Daddy’s house following their deaths, we spied those awful Olen Mills “portraits” of us taken in the 70s.  Remember those?  Olen Mills was doing quite a business around here because they offered those phony-baloney backdrops that made you look as if you were in a library or in the country on an autumn day. 

Yeah those.  (You didn't think I was going to actually post a picture, did you?)

What makes those photos even worse is that if anyone had yet invented the concept of coordinating your clothes so that you didn’t clash with everyone else in the picture, we didn’t get the memo.  We agreed that we had to destroy those pictures because NO ONE would want them.  Our biggest fear is having one of our portraits adorn the walls of Cracker Barrel in 2111. 

I confess, I study those pictures at Cracker Barrel secretly hoping to find James and Nancy Jollett, Mitchell and Martha Davis, somebody.  I also make a point to flip through orphan photos whenever I go to an antique shop.  A barefoot cutie in a christening gown gets me every time. 

So I’m thrilled when I stumble across the blogs of people who are fascinated by orphan photos.  I’m especially inspired by this Madness Monday post at Random MewsRead how this Jessica put Jessica Fletcher to shame by tracking down the family that belonged to a handful of diplomas AND went back to find photos.  What a Samaritan!

Who Will Tell Their Story  and Forgotten Old Photos  are both entire blogs dedicated to orphan photos.  I’m just impressed that someone can find so much to say.  I think I could maybe create a single post or two, but then I’d be out of ideas. 

Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places has an interesting collection of photos.  I like how she uses the photos as an inspiration for her personal stories.

PhotoSleuth is a very useful and enlightening source for learning how to really LOOK at old photos, orphaned or otherwise.

And now my last offering.  I’m not a genealogical purist by any means.  I don’t believe all my work and discoveries are sacred. But when I found Mamie Jane's craft-blog post just the other day, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.