Monday, September 30, 2013

Mystery Monday: Mystery No More

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  

You know, science is a marvelous thing.  You can go for years BELIEVING something is true but still be haunted by that nagging possibility that you’ve been mislead.  Science can bridge that gap between BELIEVING and KNOWING.

Take the case of Russ and Patricia.

Like many Boyd researchers, they grew up hearing the family legend that their great-grandfather William Preston Boyd had changed his name to avoid punishment for some unspeakable crime.  They knew that his son had burned some letters while preserving just enough to point the family to William’s true identity as a Jollett while keeping that horrible secret a secret.

William and Hattie Echols Boyd
William and Hattie Boyd
Photo Courtesy of Tim Rugenstein
Russ and Patricia are distant cousins who made their connection online but have never met in person.  In sharing their research, they discovered they both had heard those stories about their ancestor and those burned letters.  They knew the letters had been sent to various people and agencies in Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah Counties of Virginia under the pretext of informing William Jollett that he was coming into an inheritance.  In actuality, William and Hattie Boyd were trying to determine if William Jollett was still a wanted man. 

While the letters made it a certainty that their great grandfather had changed his name due to some illegal activity, Russ and Patricia have made it their mission to PROVE  - not merely accept - that William Boyd was actually William H. Jollett. 

This past year when Patricia found my blog, she sought my help in putting together a DNA project.  Russ volunteered to be the Boyd half of the equation.  We needed a Jollett man to provide a possible match. The Jollett name is rare today, but I had a few contacts that I could ask.  Patricia even had a benefactor willing to pay for the test.

In the meantime, Russ purchased the Ancestry DNA test because he had other interests besides the Boyd-Jollett question.  He wanted to know whether he had any Native American heritage.   Within a couple weeks, Russ had the answer:  surprisingly, no Native American DNA, and not surprisingly, plenty of British Isles.

Before we could seal the deal with a Jollett donor out of California, Russ was contacted by a woman named Kathy.  She isn’t even a Boyd or Jollett researcher.  Her family’s DNA had been submitted for entirely different reasons, but there it is:  Kathy’s and Russ’s family trees intersect with James and Nancy Walker JOLLETT, Kathy through their daughter Lucy Walker Jollett and Russ through their son Fielding Jollett.  Fielding was William’s grandfather. 

Ta Da!

Thanks to DNA, Boyds and Jolletts have crossed that bridge from BELIEVING to KNOWING their suspicions have proved true.  Only one question remains which might never get answered:  What was that horrible crime that started this whole mess to begin with? 

It was Mystery Monday exactly a year ago that I began a month-long series called “Man on the Run.”  I love the timing of this final chapter!

The full story can be read here:
Part 1 – The Early Years
Part 2 – The Getaway
Part 3 – The Letters
Part 4 – Annie Found

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Cough! Cough!

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt of the little boy lying sick in bed has given me an opportunity to share this photo:

John Jr. and Bob 1922
Photo from collection of Helen Killeen Parker
Photo dated 1922

They certainly look like healthy kids.   However, scrawled on the back is this note:

From collection of Helen Killeen Parker
"These were taken Mar. 1922
while they had whooping cough."

Whooping cough!!  What were their parents thinking?  Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease, one that lasts about six weeks.  As everyone knows, whooping cough has accounted for deaths of many children. 

While I do not know the fate of these two, I have been interested in these children ever since I featured them HERE one Sepia Saturday when they were romping on the beach. 

They are John Jr. and Bob, surname unknown.

Photo from collection of Helen Killeen Parker, dated March 1922
Click to enlarge

And here they are again suffering with whooping cough.  

They were with that same woman who was with them at the beach.  And the same poodle. 

Closeup of Bob's hair

In the earlier post, I had observed that “Bob” looked like a girl but was a boy.  Bob.  His name was Bob.  But looking closely at THIS photo, I now believe Bob is – cough cough – a girl.  He’s got a barrette in his hair.  I mean, SHE does.  WHAT?

Here’s another photo of John and Bob:

Josie, John Jr., Bobie, from collection of Helen Killeen Parker

And a note of confirmation on the back:

Josie, Bobie, and John Jr.
Bob suck her thumm  [sic]

Well wuddayaknow.  Now I have a new clue to help identify this family.  I wonder – is Bob/Bobie a nickname for Barbara or Roberta or something totally unrelated? 

Please visit Sepia Saturday - the perfect antidote for whatever ails you.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday: With a Little Help From My Friends

Thankful Thursday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that gives family historians an opportunity to expresses gratitude for a person, resource, or family history tool.

From collection of Helen Killeen Parker, 1918

Last Wednesday’s photo of this unidentified man in uniform prompted several observations about his identity.  Some thought he looked fatherly making me see him as a younger man than I had been searching for in my travels through Ancestry. 

Some thought he looked heroic, as if he might have saved the baby from some horrible fate.  I had considered that he might have been a fireman or policeman – what do I know about uniforms?  But I had presumed he was surely related to the baby somehow.  Still the idea of a hero was an interesting thought. 

My explorations of the Killeen family in New York uncovered several railroad guards and conductors but no policemen.  There might have been a fireman, I can’t remember.  So what kind of uniform was that?

Taking Jacqi Stevens’ advice, I posted a query on the Uniforms Identification board of Rootsweb asking for help in determining what kind of uniform he was wearing.   (I wasn’t even aware of “topics” message boards, only surname.)

“YCaso77” promptly replied with this enlightening information:
He's a United States Navy officer- Lieutenant Junior Grade by the one and a half lace rings on his sleeve. The device on his collar is a lieutenants silver bar and his corps badge, from the star above his rank insignia on the cuff he's a line officer (not dental, quartermaster, engineer or any of the other naval officer groups).

A line officer is one that has some command authority in combat.

With a little help from friends I’ve never met, I now know to look for a family member who served in the Navy at the time of World War I.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Mystery Bride

Wedding Wednesday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks family historians to create a post in which the main focus is wedding photos, announcements, and invitations.

Unknown Bride about 1920

Isn’t this bride lovely?  My dad was given this photo many years ago because he was especially close to his maternal grandmother.  So we’ve always thought this was Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s wedding portrait.

But that can’t be.

Mary Theresa married her first husband John Joseph Killeen in 1893.  He died in 1905.  Brides in 1893 would have dressed like this:

Image from Wikimedia Commons

She married her second husband John Fleming Walsh (my great grandfather) in 1906.  He died in 1918. A bride in 1906 would have dressed like this:

Image from Wikimedia Commons

However, this beautiful bridal gown, veil, and opulent bouquet reflect the fashion of the 1920s. 

So who was this bride? 

The most obvious guess would be one of Mary Theresa’s daughters.  As I study the young faces of my grandaunts, I see no resemblance to this bride. 

Left to right:  Helen, Mae, Margee

What do you think?

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Why did the teacher cross the road?

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a tribute to the International Day of Peace and to Peace Education.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was well aware of both violent and peaceful demonstrations supporting civil rights and women’s rights and opposing the war in Vietnam.  Love-ins and Sit-ins were common enough as people sought to advance their cause through non-violent means.

My freshman year in college awakened me to the world of liberal thinking.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of expression.  Do your own thing.  These were new guideposts on the road to becoming an adult, an educated thinker, a positive force in making the world a better place.

Wilson Hall James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Wilson Hall
In 1970 I had a chance to do just that. When several of the “hippie” professors in the English department went on the chopping block, students rallied in their defense.  A sit-in in Wilson Hall would surely get the attention of the president, the deans, the Board of Visitors, and anyone else who could reverse a stupid decision not to renew their contracts. 

I made up my mind to join in.  I admired my hippie English professor with his long hair and beard and his choice to wear cowboy boots and a cape to class.  I managed to laugh when he showed up one afternoon with bloodshot eyes and wrote “Connery O’Flanner” on the board.  That didn’t matter.  He was brilliant.  I would defend his rights. 

Eh.  Who was I kidding?  Since my dormmates took no interest, I wasn’t about to go by myself.  I was shy.  I was also Chicken.  Yep.  That’s me all day.  But thank goodness for that yellow streak because the non-violent protestors who refused to leave Wilson Hall were promptly arrested and charged with trespassing.

Oh, my parents would have snatched me bald-headed had I been carted downtown and fingerprinted.   

Fast forward to the late 1970s.  I marched in peaceful protest.  And my mother marched with me (although she would have been appalled at my thoughts of doing such a thing ten years previous to that).  We were both teachers for Portsmouth Public Schools.  Our beef?  What else – pay! 

Portsmouth Public School teachers protest march
Momma carried a sign:  "Excuses Don't Pay Bills"
That's moi to her right.

Don’t ask me what the specific issues were.  I can’t remember.  Probably we had gone several years with no pay raise.  But that year we had had enough and we weren’t going to take it anymore.  The teachers were united.  We were committed to walking out of the classroom if City Council and the School Board didn’t pay attention and come through with more money. 

We must have gotten a little something because we didn’t have to walk out.  Democracy in action!

This past school year, my nephew Joel likewise made the newspaper marching as a teacher for Portsmouth Public Schools. 

Joel Pollock and students May 31, 2013
Colonel Crawford leads students across High Street.
A Union soldier stops traffic.
Joel Pollock with his signature Top-Siders and sunglasses walks with his students.
But he wasn’t marching in protest.  He was marching his middle schoolers across High Street on a field trip to learn about the history of their City.  Instead of reading a history book, the students toured important landmarks including Trinity Church and the Courthouse.  They heard the story of Portsmouth’s early beginnings from its founder, Colonel William Crawford (portrayed by Eric Price who was known as “Ricky” when we were in high school!  Guess “Eric” is more dignified for someone who has made quite a career of wearing a powdered wig and gold brocade coat). 

The old newspaper clipping of his aunt and grandmother taking a stand is displayed on the bulletin board of Joel’s social studies classroom at Churchland Middle School.  Now he has his own newspaper clipping of the day HE crossed the road.  Perfect bookends.

For now, Peace Out!

Christmas 1970
Christmas 1970
Momma, Mary Jollette and Moi
I don't know why we're on our knees!

I invite you to make your way peacefully to Sepia Saturday.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Unknown Man with Child

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.

Unidentified man with child New York 1918 from collection of Helen Killeen Parker

This photo is dated 1918 in New York, so I suspect it is from the Killeen side of my Dad’s maternal grandmother’s family. 

Is this man a train conductor? Policeman?  Fireman?

Does he look more like a father or a grandfather?

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Two Flags and A Twist

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt brought to mind the many women in my family who could rightly be called a seamstress, whether they were making clothes and quilts for the family or sewing for a paycheck from the WPA during the Depression.  The approach I WANTED to take was to show you my mother’s exceptional work, but I could not narrow the field:  just too many pictures of the drapery, slipcovers, bridal gowns, doll clothes, costumes, coats, not to mention almost every stitch of clothing I ever wore to school. 

Instead I’ll tell 2 stories about my mother and sewing.

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 1971
Momma sewing something pink

(1) As long as I can remember there was a sewing machine in the house and a project in the works.  If Singer, Viking, and New Home offered an odometer, it would have turned over countless times.  One Saturday afternoon when I had just turned 16, Momma was busy at the sewing machine.  Like most kids my age, I was eager to learn to drive.  I asked Daddy to give me a lesson.

His response was a mix of irritation and condescension.  “Teach you?  You want to drive?  You don’t need a lesson – you just get in the car and drive.”  Really?  Is that how it works?  I knew there was no use arguing with him.  He had other things on his mind.

Like a hole in his tennis shorts that needed repair. 
Fred Slade Portsmouth, Virginia June 1969
Daddy in tennis shorts and dress shoes --
what kind of look is that for cutting the grass?

He held his shorts out to Momma who was busy ripping out a seam or sewing a hem, maybe attaching a button, who remembers?  “Can you fix this seam?”

She looked up at him and said, “You want those fixed?  Sit down here at the machine and sew ‘em yourself.  You don’t need a lesson.  You just sit down and start sewing.” 

Big sigh from the Big Man.  “Go get the keys,” he said, waving the white flag.

Wendy Slade Mathias Christmas 1992
A garden flag for spring
sewn for Wendy by Mary Jollette
(2) It was Christmas 1992.  Garden Flags were a hot new item.  And they were expensive.  Flag material, however, was cheap and in plentiful supply at local fabric stores.  Surely my sister would be happy to receive a number of hand-crafted garden flags fresh from my sewing machine.  On Christmas morning, Mary Jollette opened my gift and burst out laughing.  When I opened her gift to me, I realized the joke:  she had sewn flags for me too. 

Poor Momma.  She said the weeks prior to Christmas were the worst in her life as she struggled to keep two secrets.  Constantly she fretted over the chance that a casual comment or an errant scrap of fabric would give one (or both) of us away.

Please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday who undoubtedly will keep you in stitches. 

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Kids

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.

Unidentified children in collection from Helen Killeen Parker, Portsmouth, VA

Here are a couple happy kids whose names have been lost to eternity – unless their descendents find this blog.  The photo is among many passed down to me from my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Up A Creek

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt depicts the joy of solitude as a young woman paddles her canoe through the calm waters of a wide-open lake.  I was glad for this prompt because I have been eager to share some more photos from my great-aunt Helen Killeen Parker’s photo album.

But Helen’s pictures don’t suggest solitude at all. 

They tell the story of a camping trip. 

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920I wonder if they brought the boat with them or if it was a rental.  If so, what kind of place was this?

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

Since Helen apparently liked taking pictures but not journaling about them, the reason for the trip is a mystery.  Family reunion?  Summer vacation with cousins?  A getaway-weekend with friends and coworkers?  I don’t know.  The presence of a rather grizzly older woman and a child makes me think this is an outing with extended family rather than the 1919 equivalent of the senior class trip.

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920
This photo makes me laugh.
Is that guy wearing a sport coat over his swimming trunks?

Maybe the older woman was simply the chief cook and bottle-washer.  With all the activities Helen and her friends had planned, they surely didn’t have time to cook. 

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920
Why is that man standing up in the boat?

They were too busy boating,

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

fishing and hunting,
From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920                                          
From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920
My great-aunt Helen

relaxing to the sounds of Al Jolson, Henry Burr, or an orchestra on the gramophone 

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

and boxing??

and maybe just getting to know one another better.

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

Oh wait -- Perhaps a little solitude was on the agenda after all.

From album of Helen Killeen Parker 1918-1920

Please paddle on over to Sepia Saturday for more stories of solitude, boats and lakes.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: TEAL There Is a Cure

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.

Mary Eleanor Davis Slade 2004
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade
January 6, 1929 - October 3, 2005

We had a Hawaiian theme Christmas Eve party in 2004.  It was Momma’s last Christmas.  In October 2005, the chemo treatments ceased to work. 

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so my blog will go TEAL in her memory TEAL there is a cure. 

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.