Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Happy Easter!

Mary Jollette Slade Pollock 1969
Mary Jollette 1969
Catching my sister hiding the eggs for me to find did not end well.  In those days we took the Easter egg hunt very seriously.  I bet no two kids enjoyed Easter as much as we did.  And it wasn’t about the candy.  Peeps and marshmallow eggs – no thanks!   Mary Jollette and I dyed and decorated eggs with gusto knowing we would enjoy hiding them from each other for days – even weeks – after the jelly beans were long gone.  Momma would finally draw the line and make us throw the eggs out after they had cracked and shed beyond hope.

Wendy Slade Mathias and Mary Jollette Slade Pollock Easter 1969
Wendy - Those were the prettiest 2-tone pink shoes.
My purse matched the flower on the shoe.
Mary Jollette - well, what can I say?

My own daughters never cared for Easter.  They didn’t like the candy.  They didn’t want to dye eggs let alone look for any.  Where did I go wrong?

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Coffee Break

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features two men leaning in the doorway of a coffee shop.  Meet my paternal grandfather Fred Robert Slade.  He’s not in a shop, but I’m pretty certain he’s drinking coffee and leaning slightly on the kitchen table.

Fred Robert Slade, Sr. 1953
Granny wrote on the back:  Fred and coffee 1953

Do like my granddaddy – grab a cup of coffee (or other beverage of choice) and relax looking at some photos of Fred Robert Slade (Nov 8, 1901 Princess Anne County, Virginia – Feb 4, 1983 Portsmouth, Virginia). 

Fred and Julia Slade and friend 1940
Fred and Julia Slade with a friend 1940

Fred Slade, Sr. in orange grove
Granddaddy is inspecting those oranges as if he had grown them himself.

Fred Slade, Sr. and 2 friends
Granddaddy is on the right.

Fred and Julia Slade, Tanner Place 1949
Fred and Julia Slade at their house
on Tanner Place, Portsmouth, Virginia 1949
Wendy Slade and Fred Slade, Sr.
Fred Slade with his first grandchild

(Who is this adorable child?  Walk on, Girl!)

I have no story.  Consider this contribution to Sepia Saturday as my own coffee break.

If you're ready for a break, visit my friends at Sepia Saturday.  You can lean on them.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Fearless Females: March 29 Trading Card

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Create a free Genealogy Trading Card at Big Huge Labs for a female ancestor. Tell us about whom you've selected and why and then post a link to what you've created.

I have chosen Mary Frances Jollett Davis as the subject for my trading card.  She was my mother’s favorite grandmother.  It was my mother’s curiosity about the Jollett family that prompted her to start working on the family genealogy, so accordingly, Mary Frances is my inspiration for this blog.

She also has the distinction of being one of the oldest in my direct line with a photo.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fearless Females: March 28 Best Friend

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?

Mary E. Slade and Cradock High School friends about 1946
Joan Palmer (Stainback), Mary E. Davis (Slade),
Betsy Ward (Delcambre), Unknown,
Cookie Spencer (Muter)

My mother and her high school friends were much like the girls in “Ya Ya Sisterhood” or “Sex and the City”:  friends for life.  I don’t know the particulars of how they met but it was probably in school, like most people. 

Betsy Ward (later Lumsden, then Gray, then Delcambre) and Momma were probably the prettiest and most popular in their class at Cradock High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, in the mid-1940s.  They were cheerleaders.  Not surprisingly they were also on the Homecoming Court.  And they dated the handsome and popular boys.

Tommy Watson, Betsy Ward, Mary E. Davis, Dickie Blanks
at the Palomar Beach Club 1945

In the summer, they often went to the beach.  This photo of Betsy captures the Betsy I knew:  she was funny and enjoyed a good joke.  I imagine this sexy pose was followed by a fit of giggles, knowing Betsy.

Betsy Ward Lumsden, Gray, Delcambre

The friends graduated from high school in 1946 but went to separate colleges.  Betsy’s message on the back of her school photo captures the sentiment that described their friendship for many years:

Dec. ‘46
Dearest Mary E. (My late date gal),
You know how crazy I am about you and I’ll always think of you more as a sister than just a friend.
I know that we will be together loads in the years to come and I hope nothing ever happens to end our friendship.
I hope that we will continue being as close and sharing as much as we have in the past.
Be a good gal, but have a good time.
Love you muy mucho,

And they did remain close for many years, it’s true.  But they did drift apart for quite awhile until they were united again in the most unpleasant of circumstances:  chemo.  Such a strange coincidence too is that both had ovarian cancer.  

The last time I saw Betsy was in October 2005 when she brought flowers to the house after hearing from the nurses that Momma had died.  Betsy died a year and a half later.  

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fearless Females: March 23 Timeline for Mary Ann Armentrout

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Create a timeline for a female ancestor using your favorite software program or an online timeline generator such as Our Timelines.

Here is a timeline for my 3G-grandmother Mary Ann Armentrout, second wife of Fielding Jollett. She lived a long time and saw the very beginnings of the United States government, although some of the most interesting events happened when she was a child. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Here are some of the highlights:
  • There were 18 presidents in her lifetime, including the very first one, George Washington.
  • She saw the end of the Spanish Inquisition, beginning of the Ku Klux Klan, and voting rights given to black men.
  • She survived three Cholera pandemics.
  • She watched the country grow with the addition of the Louisiana Purchase.  She saw the addition of new territories and 22 states.
  • She survived an undeclared war on France, a number of Indian uprisings and the Seminole wars, relocation of the Cherokee, War of 1812, Mexican-US War, and Civil War.
  • She saw the publication of Webster’s Dictionary and Darwin’s Origin of Species.
  • She was around for some amazing inventions:  Smallpox vaccine, the steamboat, typewriter and telegraph, disinfection, ship’s propeller, internal combustion engine, dynamite, and rifle barrel.
  • And she was around for some amazing discoveries including the Rosetta Stone, Halley’s Comet, and Pompeii.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday: A Family That Tours Battlefields Together ...

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows photographers at work capturing the beauty of cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.  And isn’t that what any visitor to our nation’s capital would do?  But what distinguishes the professional from most amateurs is the tripod.  Apparently a professional photographer was working on the day my great-uncle Millard Davis and his wife Edith visited the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Note the tripod to the far left of the photo Millard snapped.

Devil's Den Gettysburg with Edith Kite Davis
Edith Kite Davis at the entrance to Devil's Den
Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

However, Millard and Edith took their own pictures with their own camera, most likely without benefit of a tripod.

One of their stops along the Gettysburg Battlefield tour that day was Devil’s Den, an important site for artillery and infantry snipers during the battle that became the turning point in the War Between the States. 

Edith Davis at Devil's Den, Gettysburg
Edith Davis at Devil's Den
overlooking Plum Rum

The outcropping of boulders formed a high ridge giving the soldiers a strategic vantage point overlooking Plum Run valley between Little Round Top and Big Round Top.  It was at Devil’s Den that the South claimed one of its few successes at Gettysburg. 

Millard Davis at Devil's Den, Gettysburg
Millard Davis at Devil's Den
Some of the boulders
stood 20 feet high

Touring battlefields has been a long-standing tradition in my family.  Readers of Sepia Saturday might recall that just recently I wrote about my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring (Millard’s sister) and her friend Olive Williams.   

Their trip to Mercersburg was not their only trip together.  Two months earlier in June 1928, Woody and Velma, along with her sister Violetta, accompanied the Williams family on a trip to tour the Antietam battlefield in Maryland.  Antietam’s two claims to fame are that it was the scene of the first major Civil War battle on Union soil AND it was the deadliest single-day battle in American history. 

Velma Woodring, Violetta Davis, and Williams Family Antietam June 1928
at Antietam Battlefield June 1928
Standing: Helen Williams, Mary Williams
Seated:  Rosie Williams, Violetta Davis, Robert Williams
Seated on the grass:  Velma Davis Woodring, Olive Williams

In that post I included a letter that Olive wrote in 1925 asking Velma’s mother to allow Velma to make a trip to Gettysburg with the Williams family and their mutual friend Virginia Cole.

While transcribing that letter, I experienced what can only be described as "a light bulb moment":  the moment when clues in a letter shed light on an old photo that my family had laughed about unapologetically because we figured we weren't disrespecting the memory of a family member.  After all, we didn't know the women in it.  To us the photo was simply funny

Virginia Cole and Olive Williams at Gettysburg, August 1925
Left: Virginia Cole
Right: Olive Williams
Gettysburg August 1925

because the mood of those two unidentified women standing beside a cannon in a battlefield resembled the mood in this picture at another battlefield:

Wendy Slade and Mary Davis Slade at Manassas Battlefield 1966
Me, Momma and Stonewall Jackson
Manassas, Virginia 1967

The light bulb moment was realizing those then-unidentified women were none other than Virginia Cole and Olive Williams.  The August 1925 date scrawled in the upper right corner (cropped out of the posted picture) offers strong evidence that this was the big trip to Gettysburg that Mr. Williams had planned for the girls.  

We all agreed that those two women (now identified as Virginia and Olive) seem as bored as I had been that summer when my family visited yet ANOTHER Civil War battlefield, that time in Manassas, Virginia.  

Mary Davis Slade and Wendy Slade at Manassas, Virginia 1966
Momma and me at the Union monument
Manassas, Virginia 1967

Could anyone be more pouty, more disagreeable, more "fun" to be around? 

(Come on, Daddy – how much longer??)  

But I perked up when we finally got to the hotel pool.

Mary Davis Slade, Wendy Slade, Mary Jollette Slade at Governor's Hotel, Falls Church, VA 1966
Momma, me and Mary Jollette
at the Governor's Hotel, Falls Church, Virginia 1967

And what is that in my lap?  Why, my camera case, of course.  I certainly didn’t want to miss out on recording all those memories of us crisscrossing battlefields dotted with cannon, statues of war heroes, and monuments honoring dead patriots.   

For more Kodak moments, please visit Sepia Saturday.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fearless Females: March 20 Brick Walls

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

from Google Images

I read one time that a person should not deem an ancestor a “brick wall” unless every reasonable source has been examined and proven inconclusive.  Since then I’ve been reluctant to even THINK that term because, in truth, I have not always sought out every possible source for the many so-called brick walls in my database. 

One such ancestor is within reach while maddeningly complicated:  Sallie Jollett, my third great grandaunt, sister to my third great grandfather. She married one William Sampson.  

I say ONE because there were at least three other William Sampsons with a wife named Sarah/Sallie, all living in and around Greene County, Virginia in the early-mid 1800s.  Two of the couples can be eliminated because of their age.  But that leaves the other two who were contemporaries. 

Even though I have studied the census records to determine which family was which, it's impossible to say. In the 1850 census, William Sampson, a miller, was living next door to James Madison Marsh, nephew of Sarah Jollett.  Since families tended to live close to one another, I might conclude that my Sarah was married to the miller. However, in that same census, Sarah Jollett's nephew John was living in the household of the other Sarah and William Sampson, the wheelwright. Both William and Sarah Sampsons seem to have a connection to the Jolletts.

So far only one document has been found to definitively point to MY Sallie Jollett:  a marriage record for Smith Sampson who claims his mother was Sallie Jollett.   Unfortunately, he was already married and on his own by the 1850 census, living in Rockingham County.  Therefore, I should concentrate my research on records such as these:
  1. A will for Smith Sampson to see if any siblings are named
  2. Wills for any of the children of either William/Sallie couple to see if Smith Sampson is named
  3. Marriage records for any of the children of either William/Sallie couple to see if Sallie Jollett is named
  4. Death records for any of the Sampson children (both families) to see if Sallie Jollett is named

These seem like fairly easy documents to obtain.  I just need to get out from behind this computer, put feet on the ground, and make my way to the Library of Virginia.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday: To Mercersburg and Beyond

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicts the world’s leaders at the Potsdam Conference.  Those men in their dark suits gathered around the peace table at the end of World War II make for an imposing presence.   What a contrast to my merry band of vacationers in white gathered around a picnic table 17 years earlier. 

Woodring and Williams 1928
August 1928
I don't know what that mark is all about.
Velma Wooding and her friends are on a picnic.
I wonder what is in that jug - tea?  lemonade? 

These same people appear in a number of photos dated August 1928 in a scrapbook that belonged to my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring.

Olive Williams August 1928
Olive Williams

Velma’s good friend Olive is identified in one photo and featured prominently in others, 

Robert Williams of Martinsburg, WV August 1928
Mr. Williams

and one photo identifies a lone subject as “Mr. Williams.” 

I cleverly deduced that this must be the same Olive Williams who visited Velma for a week in 1925, the same Olive Williams who wrote to Velma’s mother begging her to allow Velma to extend her visit with them so that Mr. Williams could take the girls to Gettysburg.

Letter from Olive Williams to Mary Frances Jollett Davis 1925

Daddy and Mother wants to take the girls to Gettsburg [sic] next week and so I am writting [sic] and asking you if Velma might stay another week.  Daddy has already planned 

Letter from Olive Williams to Mary Frances Jollett Davis 1925

the trip for them.  That isn’t any longer than I stayed with Velma.  So please let her stay.  Mother and daddy both wants her and Virginia to stay so we can take them on that trip.
Closing, hoping to hear from you in a  favorably reply to my question.
With love,

The purpose of the visit in 1928 appears to be a simple vacation.  Velma and Woody had been married little more than a year.  Summer was quickly coming to a close and Velma would no doubt start teaching school in the fall.  So why not go for the gusto and take a road trip to see her old pal Olive in Martinsburg, West Virginia. 

It appears Mr. Williams had planned another trip for the girls – this time to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania.

Velma Davis Woodring and Olive Williams, Mercersburg, PA August 1928
Left: Velma Davis Woodring
Right:  Olive Williams

But why Mercersburg Academy?  I have no clue.  It was not Velma’s alma mater, nor Olive’s.  Velma’s husband had attended college, but I believe he went to Shepherd College (now University), not Mercersburg.  

Mercersburg Academy Chapel 1928
Mercersburg Academy Chapel

Maybe the beautiful chapel simply attracted tourists just as visitors to Colonial Williamsburg enjoy a stroll through the campus of William & Mary despite having no ties to the school.

Whatever the reason, it’s quite clear that Velma was excited about seeing Olive again, and she wanted to remember the day with lots of pictures. 

Just studying the photos to make sense of them increased my curiosity about Olive Williams.  So I did what any amateur genealogist would do:  I plugged her name into Ancestry, guessed at a birth date of 1908, same as Velma’s, and entered Martinsburg, West Virginia as a residence.  A family tree appeared.  And there it was - a picture of Olive.  Those dark eyes are so distinctive that I was fairly certain I had found her. 

Olive Williams 1908 - 2001 Martinsburg, WV
Olive Williams
photo courtesy Candi Keiter Johnson

Census records for the Williams family showed three girls, a match to one of the August 1928 photos. 

The Williams family August 1928
The Williams Family
Olive, her father Robert, her mother Rosie,
and sisters Helen and Mary

The contributor is still active on Ancestry, so I sent an email seeking confirmation that I had found my great-aunt’s good friend. 

Bingo!  As it turns out Olive’s granddaughter did not recognize Velma’s name, but she called her aunt who actually remembered Velma as Olive’s “great friend.”  She even has the elephant teapot that Velma gave Olive for her wedding to Harry “Moe” Keiter in 1930.  (Elephant teapot!  That sounds like Velma.  I wonder if the tea flowed through the trunk.) 

Through the miracle of our “virtual roundtable,” faces once hidden from the camera turned to reveal themselves more clearly.

Woodring and Williams families picnic August 1928
Helen Williams, Mr. Robert Williams, Velma Davis Woodring,
Mary Williams, Olive Williams,
Unknown, Mrs. Rosie Williams

Please gather at the Sepia Saturday roundtable of blogs.  We promise not to turn our backs on you.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fearless Females: March 12 Working Woman

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

Bad-timing plagued my paternal grandfather.   First, he bought a taxi company just as the city of Portsmouth was introducing busses.  Unable to survive the competition with cheap public transportation, he and my grandmother moved to Burlington, North Carolina and then bought yet another struggling taxi company.  And that’s when my granny became a working woman.

Burlington Cab Company, Burlington, NC
My granddaddy's cabs

Julia Walsh Slade took on the duties as dispatcher for Burlington Cab.  My only solid memories of her working were from those visits in the summer.  While she sat at the desk answering the phone and radioing the drivers, I would style her hair.  She had beautiful white hair cut in a bob.  Sometimes I brushed it smooth and sleek.  Sometimes I twisted it into a bun that wouldn’t stay.  I’d create a curl along her cheek.   Yeah, I styled it alright.  Granny would admire herself in the mirror.  Quite often she laughed. 

Julia Walsh Slade 1958
Julia Slade at the Burlington Cab Company office 1958

And that’s what a taxi cab dispatcher does. 

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.