Saturday, September 24, 2016

Frances Jollett: Celebrating the BSO

Some people call it “chasing rabbits down the rabbit hole.” Others say they are chasing squirrels. For others, that moment of distraction from a designated search is simply a “BSO” – Bright Shiny Object.

I was sitting here doing much of nothing when an email from a potential new-to-me cousin arrived in my inbox inquiring as to whether I knew anything about Unionist soldiers and sympathizers living in the Jollett Hollow community of Page County, Virginia. Aware, yes; fully knowledgeable, no. In an effort to be helpful, I turned to my trusty Google machine which brought up several sources at Google Books.

With each book, I grabbed the opportunity to check to see if there was anything about my Jollett ancestors too. The index of one book had one entry for Jollett; below it was an entry for Jolly. Years ago I dismissed anyone named Jolly as being from a separate family, but I have seen too many of my own Jolletts parading around with this spelling to ignore it. Likely it is an indication of some remnants of a French pronunciation.

The Jolly in question was from an earlier time than my maybe-cousin’s inquiry that had prompted the search. The source was a list of marriages of Culpeper County, Virginia, compiled by a local DAR chapter. It seems that a Frances Jolly married Revolutionary War patriot Richard Gaines 4 May 1789.

On my Jollett timeline that I started some years ago, I have 3 mentions of a Frances Jollett: she paid property taxes in Culpeper County in 1782, 1787, and 1788. I cannot account for the intervening years, but I can be sure this Frances was a woman, not a man. How do I know? Easy – NO tithables. Tithables were any male 16 years and older, slaves (both male and female 16 and older), and Native American servants (both male and female 16 and older). In general, women were not named in tax lists unless they were head of household, usually a widow but possibly a “spinster” who inherited property.

In 1782, Frances was entered as Jollett, but in 1787 and 1788, she was Jolly. So were Mary and James, my 5X great-grandmother and 4X great-grandfather. After 1788, Frances was no longer paying taxes in Culpeper County. That 1789 marriage between Frances Jolly and Richard Gaines could be the reason why.

Surely Frances Jollett/Jolly were the same person, making her undoubtedly closely related to my Jolletts. But how?

I do not think Frances was sister to my 4X great-grandfather James. Since his mother Mary was a tax-paying head of household, Frances likely would have been living with her and, therefore, not named at all.

Frances could be a widow of another Jollett, but I have no names of Jollett men from the tax lists that might fit logically. It can’t be Thomas Jollett because he was still living when Frances paid taxes. It can’t be William because he last appeared in 1736. One possibility is she was simply an unmarried daughter of the James and Gracey Jollett who sold some property in Culpeper County in 1777, just a scant five years before Frances made her tax-list debut.

My best GUESS is Frances was either a cousin or an aunt to my 4X great-grandfather James Jollett. The DAR patriot search shows that women have joined this organization by virtue of their lineage to one son of Frances and Richard. Others joined through descendants by a different wife. Public family trees at Ancestry are a shameful display of sloppy research assigning children to the wrong mother, assigning parents who were really grandparents or other relatives, linking images of pension records belonging to a different Richard Gaines, shall I go on? As for Frances Jolly, everyone seems to know she existed but no one knows her parents or dates of birth and death. However, at least one “researcher” offered 1764 as her date of birth but no source was cited.

In order to pin down the genealogical facts of Frances’s life, I will need to put boots to ground since online research has produced little to go on. Today I just love that BSO.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.  


  1. Sounds like a fun challenge, Wendy, I do hope you find something that shows how she connects with your family.

    1. So far I'm not finding anything, but I have not done the hard work yet -- going to the archives and courthouses.

  2. Another puzzle to start solving. Hope you find more info.


  3. I can get distracted so easily even without a bright shiny object. Sigh.

    1. I hear ya! I can go wandering to the point that I totally forget what I was looking for to begin with.

    2. Not to mention that 4 hours can go by in a blink of an eye!