Friday, August 31, 2012

Sepia Saturday: The Test of Time

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features a typical country store with numerous goodies to catch the eye.  Most prominent is the clock. 

The Techtron is a pretty clock but notorious
for being non-repairable.  
When my granddaddy Orvin Davis got up in the morning and wandered out into the living room, he probably checked the time on his Techtron Ship’s Bell mantel clock.  

There's the clock on the mantel.
Lucille and Orvin Davis holding my sister Mary Jollette

In the morning I wipe the sleep from my eyes and check the time here:  

The Ansonia clocks with porcelain body
were often painted with flowers
or idyllic scenes.  

When my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring was a bride, she might have gone into her dining room to check her lovely porcelain Ansonia clock to know when to start dinner.  


If I want to know whether to start dinner, all I need is a remote control.

This Seth Thomas tambour-style clock has simple lines.

When my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker was cooking, her Seth Thomas mantel clock might have reminded her to take a look at that roast.  

I just look here:  

In the evening when the busy-ness of the day came to an end, my great-grandmother Mary Sudie Eppard Rucker probably relaxed in her favorite chair and drifted off to sleep to the gentle ticking of her Seth Thomas Adamantine mantel clock.  She might even have been awoken by the rich cathedral-like chiming on the hour.  

Sudie Rucker's clock went to my mother
and then to my sister.

This clock on YouTube sounds like what my great-grandmother used to hear.

Today we’re awoken by an annoying beep and glowing red numbers.  

Unlike the handsome mantel clocks my sister and I inherited, it’s doubtful any of our modern clocks will stand the test of time.

I hope you have time to check the clocks at Sepia Saturday.  

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Ocean View Gang

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.

captioned "The Terrible Five"

The Gang

Since summer will be officially over next week, it’s appropriate to say farewell to my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker’s friends who have been the subject of many Wordless Wednesdays.  What does anyone do when a party or vacation or celebration is drawing to a close?  Take a group photo.  That’s probably what Helen and “the gang” did before everyone bid farewell to Ocean View and headed home to resume their workaday lives.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Josiah P. Davis

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

from Findagrave
photo by Jan Hensley


Josiah P.
June 29, 1856
Aug 28, 1924

Elizabeth F.
Oct 25, 1861
May 8, 1944

Josiah P. Davis was my great granduncle, brother to my great-grandfather Walter Davis.  He married Elizabeth Frances Powell on November 30, 1879 in Rockingham County, Virginia. They had ten children, but two died in infancy. He farmed in the county most of his life.  In his later years, he and his wife lived with their daughter Annie Manspeaker in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where they both died.  They are buried in Elk Run Cemetery in Elkton, Virginia.

Searching for Josiah in census records is challenging.  Sometimes he is listed as Josiah and sometimes as Joseph.  His wife alternates between Lizzie and Fannie.  

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Census Sunday and a Blogiversary

Today is my 1-year blogiversary.  Unlike most other one-year bloggers, I have not developed a philosophy of blogging, and I have no interest in revisiting popular posts.  So I’ll stick to my recent Sunday routine highlighting my discoveries in the freshly indexed 1940 US Census.

Rather than continue with my closest relatives, though, I decided to pick an ancestor for whom August 26 would have been special.  As luck would have it, one of them lived long enough to be enumerated in 1940.

Margaret Elizabeth “Maggie” Meadows, my second cousin twice removed, married Casper Monroe Bailey on August 26, 1889, in Page County, Virginia.  Anniversaries are usually happy times, but Casper and Maggie enjoyed only seventeen such occasions together because poor Maggie died in March 1906 at age 36.  Their sweet baby Gracey had died just months before in October 1905. Perhaps they were victims of some epidemic like Scarlet Fever, which was the latest scourge in a neighboring county.

Casper’s sad life started much earlier than 1905 and lasted much longer.  He first appeared in the 1880 census for Shenandoah County, Virginia, as an eleven-year old boy “taken in to raise” by Philip Frederick (age 75) and his three adult children.  What happened to his parents is not known, but Casper’s mother “Sis Bailey” is named on Casper and Maggie’s marriage record, August 26, 1889, Page County, Virginia. 

In 1900, Casper and Maggie along with three children seemed to be a typical farm family.  But by 1910, four years after the deaths of Gracey and Maggie, Casper was doing odd jobs and living as a widowed uncle with Charles and Dorthy Lam while his children were scattered among family and friends. 

Poor ol’ Casper never remarried and seemed never to recover financially.  In census records for 1930 and 1940, Casper (age 71) was living with his daughter Bertha and her family. The 1940 census reveals that Casper never completed any schooling . 

Click to enlarge

Casper died in 1943 and is buried in the Jollett United Methodist Church Cemetery where Maggie and Gracey are buried.  He has no tombstone, just a mortuary marker. 

from Findagrave
Margret E. Bailey
Died Mar. 31, 1906
age 36 yrs

Well, that was a cheerful look at August 26

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Before Bridezilla Roamed

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

Nothing says “Summer” like a flurry of wedding gowns suggested by this week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt.

Somehow I managed to have bridal showers, a bridal luncheon, and a beautiful traditional church wedding and reception without the aid of gift registries, The Knot or “Say Yes to the Dress.”  I didn’t interview a host of caterers, photographers, florists, or bakeries.  Bachelorette parties were unheard of. No one that I knew ever had their make-up done professionally.  We certainly didn’t go for a mani-pedi, let alone a spa day.  I bought one Bride magazine and never tried on a single wedding dress.

That was 1973.  It was a given that my mother would make my wedding gown.  After all, she made everything else from school clothes to doll clothes, to slipcovers and drapes.  By 1973, Momma was a seasoned wedding gown seamstress, having crafted two gowns already.  

The 1960s gown

Miss McFarling's pattern sold for 75 cents in 1966
but can be found in Etsy shops, on eBay
and in vintage pattern shops
priced between $7 and $55.
Her maiden voyage into the world of bridal gowns was in 1966.  I don’t recall the circumstances that led my friends and me to spend an afternoon with our Latin teacher, but Miss McFarling was chatting excitedly about her plans for her upcoming wedding.  When she mentioned that she was looking for someone to sew her wedding dress, I volunteered my mother.  Really, I thought it was no big deal to make a wedding gown – just a dress with a longer length, right?  I doubt Momma was THRILLED with my teacher’s request, but she put on a good show.  My sister remembers Miss McFarling coming to the house in the evening for fittings, but I don’t.  All I recall is that I had to grade all of Momma’s spelling tests, reading quizzes, and grammar exercises.  That was either our trade or my punishment, not sure which.

Martha McFarling Athey
Wedding announcement
Virginian-Pilot 1966

The dress itself was very simple and very 1960’s.  The A-line gown was made from white peau de soie with long, tight sleeves that ended in a point over the bride’s hands.  At the wrist were covered buttons and loops.  The train was attached at the shoulders and contained the only adornment – lace medallions sewn randomly. 

Void of any frou-frou, this wedding dress was dramatic in its simplicity (certainly worth an A in Latin).

The 1970s gowns

In 1971 Momma made the wedding gown for the daughter of Momma’s high school buddy and life-long friend.  Unfortunately I have no pictures to share or stories to tell, so let’s move on to dress #3 -- MINE.

View #4 looks like my sleeve pattern.

My gown had that typical 70’s granny dress look:  empire waist, ruffled hem, and full sleeves with wide cuff. Believe it or not, it was inspired by a picture in Bride magazine.  (See, they even thought it was a good look!)  Momma did her best to replicate it, but that required pulling together parts from various patterns and then creating her own pattern for the train, which really was more of a sweep than full-fledged train.  
This looks like the ruffle and overall shape
of my dress.

Finding different kinds of lace was not easy either.  We bought from every fabric store in the Tidewater area and even from a shop in Staunton, not far from Harrisonburg where I was in college.  

The wide lace was an eye-catcher. We used it on the sleeves and then from the shoulders to the hem.  The narrow piece was used down the center, at the empire waist, and for the neck. 

I admit to making that veil.  It looks hideous now, but the Juliet cap and Anne Boleyn crown were considered quite “mo-derne” in 1973.  

Becky, Moi, Ruth, my sister Mary Jollette

However, I did a better job on the bridesmaids’ headpieces.  I covered a buckram head band with green voile and lace left over from their dresses (Momma made two of the dresses).  To be sassy, I made a fabric bow for the side.  Mmm – yeah – Sassy alright! 

The 1980s gown

Fast forward ten years to 1983. My sister Mary Jollette too had found her dream dress in a magazine.  Fortunately, patterns and lace were more readily available.  In fact, the lace matches the inspiration perfectly.  The train on her gown was inspired by Princess Diana’s train, but not nearly as long.  

While the train was important, the big hat defined the 80s. Mary Jollette had fallen in love with a bridal hat in the magazine. Our metropolitan area, despite its many bridal shops and specialty dress shops, didn’t have it.  Surprisingly, she found the hat in the bridal shop in Harrisonburg.  

Momma had requested that Mary Jollette not marry during the school year.  But Mary Jollette and Cam wanted to avoid the heat of summer, so April was the date. There were still papers to grade, and I had two babies to care for, so I was no help on that end this time.  

Is that orange juice on the sewing machine?
I guess Momma needed all the fortification
she could get to finish that dress.
That’s probably why the dress was never really finished.  Even though Momma spent her lunch hours at school sewing pearls and sequins onto the lace medallions, a pile of lace never made it onto the dress.  Surely a disappointment for my sister, but the dress didn’t suffer.

Please indulge me as I take one last look back at 1973 with "the going away outfit."

Momma made my pink suit.  Barry's might look
pink, but it's maroon and white POLYESTER.
I scored big finding that maroon and pink bowtie.

Hey Wendy, Myles Standish called 
and he wants his shoes back!

Don't hate us because we're groovy.

If you haven’t had your fill of wedding dresses, take a stroll down the bridal path to Sepia Saturday.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

DAR - Procrastination Pays!

In my effort to join the DAR, I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking like I’m doing something.  I contacted a local chapter.  I created a spreadsheet to stay organized.  You know – busy work. But I finally DID something that looks like something:  I ordered a marriage record. 

That’s no small feat for me.  I am always reluctant to order records.  Don’t ask me why.  It can’t be the money because I don’t hesitate to shop online.  In this case, though, I’m glad I hesitated.

My maternal grandparents married in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1922.  Had they been thinking about what I would need 90 years later, they’d have gone down to the EUB Church in Shenandoah, Virginia to exchange their vows.  Then their records would be available free at the Library of Virginia.  But no, I have to search in Maryland. 

Assuming Maryland would house records in the Archives like Virginia does, I Googled my way to the Maryland Archives.  Certified marriage records are available for $35, non-refundable even if no record is found.  Wow.  In Virginia, a certified record is only $12.  But Maryland isn’t Virginia. 

I printed the form and started filling out the required information.  Before I signed my check for $35, I decided to Google one more time, just to see if there were any other source.  And ta da – I landed on the Hagerstown Circuit Court website.  Certified copies of marriage records are $5.50.  $5.50?!?!  How did I not find this place in my first search? 

Just to be certain I wasn’t dreaming, I called Hagerstown, and sure enough, the nice lady said they would indeed have marriage records for 1922.  Score!  Attention Hagerstown!  The. Check. Is. In. The. Mail.

The $29.50 I saved will cover the cost of TWO – count’em TWO – Virginia records.  Hmm, what shall I order next?  

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Love Nest

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.

"Love nest" with Agnes and Pete

Helen captioned this one "Sweet Agnes"

I don’t know who Pete and Agnes were, but they must have been important friends of my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker.  They are in many photos in her album, most of which are dated between 1918-1920.  They must have had a grand time that summer in Ocean View.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Benjamin Davis

Tombstone Tuesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers which asks bloggers to create a post including an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors; it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor.

from Findagrave - photo by Jan Hensley
Elk Run Cemetery, Elkton, Virginia

Benjamin H. 
May 16, 1888 – July 13, 1975

Fleeta T. 
May 6, 1888 – Dec. 1, 1973

Benjamin Harrison Davis was my first cousin twice removed.  I wrote just recently about discovering his existence along with the identities of several of his children.

Ben was my great-aunt Velma Woodring’s first cousin.  They must have been somewhat close.  In her wedding booklet where guests signed their names, he is one of the few cousins from the Davis side of the family.  Most of the guests were from the Jollett side. 

He and Fleeta had 10 daughters and 1 son.  My dad once said that no man had lived unless he had raised two daughters.  Ben must have been a lucky man.  

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Census Sunday: Theresa Walsh Crews

My paternal grandmother Julia Walsh Slade
and Tate Walsh
It was captioned "Just us -- Julia and Tate"

Theresa “Tate” Walsh Crews (later Murray) was the baby of the family born to Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh and John Fleming Walsh in March 1913.  I never met her, but I would have liked to have that chance.  As far as I know, she stayed away after having a child out of wedlock although her sisters heard from her from time to time.  She married twice, but I don’t think she had anymore children.

I was glad to find her in the 1940 census in Washington DC.  Ancestry indexed her as Theresa M. CrewE, but FamilySearch got it right indexing her as Theresa M. CrewS. 

Click to enlarge

Tate was 26, married to James G. “Jimmy” Crews (28) of North Carolina.  She had completed three years of high school and Jimmy, two.  It appears they had not been married very long as Tate was still in Portsmouth in 1935 while Jimmy was in Quantico, Virginia.  Could he have been a marine?

Tate and Jimmy lived in the house on the left.
from Google Maps
In 1940 they were renting at 206 17th St NE in Washington DC for $30 a month.  Harry and Irene Ernest had the same address and were listed as owners of the property.  Several of the neighboring addresses had two families listed as well.  Judging by the roofline of surrounding row houses, they might have had attic apartments, but I can’t say conclusively. 

Jimmy was a car operator for public utilities earning $1862 for fifty-one weeks of work in 1939.  That equates to about $43,160 today.  Tate was a beautician in a local beauty parlor.  She must have been new at the job as she had not worked or earned an income at all in 1939.  Another beautician lived just two doors away.  I wonder if they worked together.

I also wonder if Tate is the one who dyed her sister Catherine Walsh Barany’s hair red.  They lived close to one another.

Cat lived at "A" and Tate at "B"
from Google Maps

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sepia Saturday: The Great Seal of UVA

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt depicts a dog donating bones to the cause.  We have had dog themes before, but I don’t remember any that have focused on "the dog that gives." Calm down, you dog people – I know you are ready to pounce, proclaiming loud and long that man’s best friend gives and gives unconditionally.  In this blog post, I have a story that supports your hypothesis.

My dad used to mention from time to time that when he was a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, there was a mutt that showed up on campus one day in the early 1940s and soon wormed his way into the hearts of students and administrators alike.  The timing was perfect as the first mascot, Beta (named for Beta Theta Pi), had died after being hit by a car on Rugby Road.  The new mascot was named Seal because his sleek black coat resembled that of a seal.  

Scanned from the UVA school newspaper 

From the moment Seal stepped on campus, he was fully involved in the life of the Cavaliers.  He sat in the gymnasium while students registered.  He attended class although he was known to fall asleep during some lectures.  He was even a welcome guest at many graduation ceremonies over the years. 

Even though Seal had no official home, he never went hungry.  Everybody fed him either in the dining hall, in the dorms, or in private apartments.  There were even some restaurants that posted signs:  “No dogs allowed except Seal.” 

Seal possessed a funny kind of intelligence.  One time he broke his leg but managed to hobble to the University Hospital where the doctors took him in and set his leg. (Lucky for Seal, no one asked for his insurance card.)

The story most remembered dates back to 1949, the year that Seal traveled with the football team to the University of Pennsylvania.  Seal was proudly wearing his blue blanket with a large orange “V.”  At half-time, Seal crossed the field and urinated on a UPenn cheerleader’s megaphone.   After that, the Virginia fans dubbed him “Caninus Megaphonus Pennsylvanus.” (Leave it to those Wahoos to throw in some Latin!)

The much loved mascot became very ill in his old age, too old to withstand an operation that would have saved a younger dog.  In December 1953, Seal was put down, but he was not alone.  Campus flags flew at half-staff.  Students arranged for a casket and pallbearers, a hearse, even a police escort.  Seal was given a grand funeral by some 2000 students, faculty, administrators, and community friends who came to mourn.  In the eulogy the varsity team’s doctor said, “I can see Seal now, leading the parade in a celestial stadium lined with giant oak trees, golden hydrants and gilded megaphones at his disposal.… In true Jeffersonian tradition, Seal came from an obscure and questionable beginning, and rose to the highest place of esteem at the University.”

Seal is buried just outside the University of Virginia Cemetery next to Beta, the first mascot. Seal's epitaph reads:

To perpetuate
the memory of Seal
Mascot and Friend 
of the students of the University
Died Dec. 11, 1953

Photo courtesy of Roadsideamerica
Tombstones for Beta and Seal

Grab your pooch and take a walk to Sepia Saturday for more bones and doggie treats.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

DAR - Take 2

“Cuz I said so” is not a good answer when the DAR asks why you deserve to be a member of this prestigious organization.  You can’t go on family lore.  You can’t just have a pretty printed family tree.  You can’t say you saw it on Ancestry.  Nope.  You have to have the concrete evidence. 

“Evidence” is defined ideally as the actual certificates of birth, death, and marriage.  When those are not available, other forms of evidence can be used including family bibles, pictures of tombstones, church records, military records, newspaper articles, even family letters. 

To keep myself straight, I created an Excel spreadsheet to record what evidence I have, what I still need, and where I should look. 

Part of my spreadsheet
Click to enlarge

One of the FEW shortcuts in the application process is to intersect with an already proven patriot.  I knew my ancestor Leonard Davis had already been recognized through the efforts of a descendent of Leonard’s daughter, Sarah Davis Lamb. Not much of a shortcut for me.  I don’t descend through Sarah, but I looked at the parts of the application available online to see if there is anything to help me.

And while looking, I was distracted by the lure of other possible patriot connections.  I searched for other family names.  Angus Rucker came up.  I knew he was a proven patriot, but I have never been sure he is “mine.”  Eleven applications through five of Angus’s children are listed. One of them is John Franklin Rucker, my ancestor, who has for years been the focus of a Rucker debate. 

The Rucker Society is HUGE.  Rucker researchers are numerous.  And they historically have been divided about this John Franklin.  Some say he was the son of Jarvis; some say he was the son of Angus.  Both had sons named John who moved from Madison County to Rockingham in Virginia.  Not so easy to determine one from the other.

There is strong circumstantial evidence to say John Franklin was son of Angus.  First of all, his daughter Eliza Rucker Baugher named one of her sons Angus.  Why not honor her Revolutionary War hero-grandfather?  Second, his son Frank Rucker named one of his sons George Allen, the same name as John Franklin’s brother. 

But circumstantial evidence isn’t good enough for the DAR.

I wanted to see what the applicant knew that I didn’t.  How did she prove her connection to Angus through John Franklin?  I paid the $10 to download a copy of the application.  I knew from looking at a sample application that I would not see copies of the actual documents that served as proof, but I should be able to see the bibliographical information. 

But drat it all -- there is no true bibliography.  Instead, there are just code numbers for each level of proof. I guess the shortcut isn't so short after all.   

Good news:  my sister and I have two patriots.  

Bad news:  my sister and I have doubled our workload.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.