Monday, July 27, 2015

52 Ancestors: Up to the Challenge

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.

This week the theme is an ancestor who is a challenge to research.  While I have managed to break down several brick walls, my 4X great grandmother Nancy WALKER JOLLETT continues to mock me as hard as she beckons.

The obvious problem is that she lived in a time when women’s names seldom appeared on public documents. She was born PROBABLY about 1765 PROBABLY in Culpeper County, Virginia based on a marriage record in that county dated 22 March 1787.   

Apparently she was the FEMALE age 60-69 in the 1830 Orange County, Virginia census along with her husband James Jollett age 50-60. In the next census the oldest female in the household was 40-50, so it is safe to assume that Nancy likely died before 1840.

Finding Nancy’s parents and siblings should be easier than it is. The Orange County Road Orders of 1796 lists three Walkers who shared responsibility with James “Jolly” and others for the upkeep of a road: Sanders Walker, Benjamin Walker, and Thomas Walker. If the tendency for people to marry their neighbors holds true, then these Walkers are surely related to my Nancy. But how? Brothers? Uncle? Father?

I pinned my sleuthing hopes on Sanders since his name is so unusual. Surprisingly, it turns out not to be so unusual after all. Whether the Sanders Walker of Orange County became the Sanders who married and moved to Barren, Kentucky or the one who became a Baptist minister in Georgia is unclear, but the fact remains that so far, no connection to Nancy has been revealed.

Family trees posted on Ancestry are no help. The ones naming Nancy Walker who married James Jollett merely jumped on a bad bandwagon assigning parents who could not possibly be Nancy’s parents. The George Walker that many Walker researchers claim was her father would have been a toddler when she was born.  Nancy’s supposed “mother” Rachel Donelson Caffery was born when Nancy was already 9. Yeah, right. Do people not look at their own research before posting such obvious errors?

Trees for Benjamin and Thomas are no better. Despite one serious Walker researcher’s efforts to distinguish between the prominent DOCTOR Thomas Walker and the plantation owner Thomas “Thundering Tom” Walker, over-zealous subscribers to Ancestry have continued to assign the same wife to both men and children to the wrong family. MY Nancy does not appear on any of the trees. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.

It has crossed my mind that maybe the difficulty of researching Nancy Walker is that “Walker” might not have been Nancy’s maiden name. Perhaps she had been married before and widowed. Until I find some confirmation on that, I will continue to pursue her on the assumption that she was indeed a WALKER.

Strategy to learn the names of Nancy’s parents
  1. Look for wills of all Walker men in Culpeper and Orange counties
  2. Look for will of Nancy Walker Jollett in Greene and Orange counties
  3. Look for land records in which Jollett and Walker are named together
  4. Create a chart of all possible fathers with the surname Walker in Culpeper County

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. You would make a great detective :) Neat to read how you pursue your relatives and the research you do as you try to find them :)


  2. Women are too many times a missing link. I found my grandmother's grandmother's family tree, well one line by accident and it went back to about 900 AD which was cool. With the trees branching so far back, it is quite a distant relation.
    Good luck in your searches. I read a biography of a writer's great grandmother and it was quite a good read. "Roxanna Britton" by Shirley S. Allen

  3. So frustrating, but great that you have a plan, I wish you good luck.

  4. If anyone can find out the truth about your 4 x grandmother then you can. It must be so time consuming doing all the research but so enjoyable when you find that piece that fits in to the jigsaw.

  5. I know what you mean about some people on Ancestry jumping on the "bad bandwagon"! Good luck at you continue to hunt down the real facts.

  6. Sounds like this is a fine challenge to get stuck into. Remember, if it was easy, you'd probably leave it to someone else. Best of luck with your search.

  7. Wendy, you have great detective skills & have confidence you will uncover more!