Monday, January 19, 2015

52 Ancestors: #3 - Julia Slade, One Tough Cookie

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

The theme of the week is “tough woman.”  I don’t know whether Julia Slade was emotionally tough, but I know she is one tough woman to research. 

Why?  Because there were at least 4 Julia Slades in my family.  The only one I’m sure of was my paternal grandmother, Julia Walsh Slade.   The other three were my paternal grandfather’s grandmother, aunt, and sister.  None of the three is easy to follow. 

What I know about my 2X great-grandmother Julia Slade is limited to a thin mix of family lore and census records.  According to family lore, Julia came from Florida to Virginia with her two children, Stephen and Julia.  What?  No husband?  What is that story?

Was she an unwed mother?

1850 Madison Co, FL census Slade family
1850 Madison Co, Florida census
In the 1850 Madison County, Florida census there was a 5-year old Julia, daughter of Stephen and Margaret Slade. At age 14 she was with them still in 1860 in Lafayette County.  There were a number of other children as well, but the newest child was little Stephen, age 5.  

1870 Lafayette Co, FL census Slaid / Slade family
1870 Lafayette Co, Florida census
In 1870, she was still living with her parents.

In 1880, there is no sign of Julia Slade, and no sign of any children.  But I can imagine a woman and two children being on the road traveling to Virginia and thus missing the census. 

The Julia Slade who was indexed along with my great-grandfather Stephen Slade claimed to be the widow of Stephen Slade.

Was Julia the widow of Stephen Slade?
According to the 1860 Lafayette County, Florida census, Stephen Slade was born about 1855. So far he has not been located in any census after that year.  If he was the father of my great-grandfather, then he was a teenager roughly 15 or 16 years old when his son was conceived.

Julia Slade Atlanta, GA City Directory 1890  http://jollettetc.blogspot.comPossibly he married some girl named Julia.  In 1890, there was a Julia M. Slade living in Atlanta, Georgia, listed in the city directory as widow of Stephen. 

1891 Knoxville, TN City Directory

In 1891, Julia, widow of Stephen, was living in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Stephen Slade was at the same address, 10 Luttrell Street.

By 1895 the widow Julia and her son Stephen were living in Norfolk, Virginia.  They were also together in the 1900 and 1910 census records for Norfolk and Princess Anne County, respectively.  However, in 1920, Julia was not with her son.  She died in 1927 and is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Norfolk. 

Julia Slade at Riverside Memorial Park, Norfolk, VA
There is no marker, but Julia Slade is buried
between these two graves in front.
Riverside Memorial Park in Norfolk, VA

What next?
My frustration in searching for my 2X great grandmother Julia Slade prompted me to hire a professional genealogist in Florida.  Her early report brought to light the existence of a middle initial.  The Julia Slade of the Atlanta city directory was “Julia M. Slade.”  “Julia A. Slade” was named on a deed in 1885 along with Emma C. Ross, more precisely Emma Cabell Ross, the former Cabell Slade, Julia’s sister.   

I rarely put much stock in initials because ancestors are notorious for flipping the order of their names and for reporting incorrect information.  Furthermore, indexers sometimes transcribe incorrectly.  That said, I want these initials to mean something.  That “M” might explain why Stephen’s mother was indexed as “Martha” in 1900 and “Julia” in 1910.  That “A” might belong to the sister-in-law of “Julia M.”

Questions left to be answered
  • Were Julia M.  and Julia A. the same person?  Was my 2X great-grandmother just pretending to be a widow to hide the embarrassment of being an unwed mother?
  • If Julia M. was indeed the widow of Stephen Slade, why did she come to Virginia? 
  • If Julia M. was indeed the widow of Stephen Slade, who were her parents?
  • How are the other Slades in Virginia related to my line?

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved


  1. I have a headache reading this. I don't know how you can even begin to keep this straight. You must have to pretend it is a soap opera in order to follow the story. In our case I think this really is a soap opera.

  2. Add to that list of frustrating reasons to hate middle initials: 1) sometimes, that middle letter represents the woman's maiden name, not her given name, and 2) sometimes, that middle initial arrived, courtesy of an enumerator, not a transcriber, who got the initial report wrong.

  3. Hello Wendy,
    I love the way you’ve set this out. I'm very new to family research so found this really helpful. Half the time I feel I’ve got more questions than answers, but I’m going to try to adopt your method and write it all down – questions and all. Barbara

  4. That sounds like a difficult set of women to research! I'm having my own difficulties with a father/son or a uncle/nephew who have the same name in the late 1700's. It's going to take a lot of work to sort them out!