Friday, January 13, 2017

Sepia Saturday: One Thing Leads to Another

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

This week Sepia Saturday’s challenge is to focus on a small detail in an old photograph. The photo in the header of Jollett Etc. is a favorite because so many family members are gathered at the annual Jollett Reunion and because most faces are clear enough to identify them. I thought I knew almost everyone until Sepia Saturday made me take a closer look.

Jollett Reunion 1921 Harriston, Virginia

Like this baby. Who is it? And who is holding it?

And here’s another baby. Who could it be?

Using my handy dandy Family Treemaker, I searched for people born in 1921 (since 1921 was the date written below the photo in the family photo album). To cover all possibilities, I also looked in 1920. I quickly discounted the 1920 babies because they were clearly older than these appear in 1921; furthermore, there should have been some two and three-year old siblings in the photo too. The best candidate for the baby on the back row is Janice Monger who might have been held by her grandmother Sallie Jollett Clift. There is a resemblance between this woman and her sister Mary Frances Jollett Davis, my great-grandmother. However, in no photo of Sallie that I have ever seen was her hair this light; besides, she parted her hair on the other side. So maybe not Sallie and Janice after all.

I turned my attention to the other woman with child. She looks much like Sadie Lam Jollett, wife of my great granduncle Ulysses Jollett. Her only grandchild was Andrew Jollett Steppe, born in 1923. Hmm.
4 Generations 1921 Emma Coleman, James Franklin Jollett, Minnie Coleman Maiden, Virginia Maiden
4 generations
seated: Emma Jollett Coleman, James Franklin Jollett,
 Virginia Maiden
standing: Minnie Coleman Maiden 
So there is the possibility that the photo was taken in 1923 because Minnie Coleman Maiden and her daughter Virginia were in a photo dated 1923 wearing the same dresses and sporting the same hair style. Undoubtedly the picture was taken at this particular reunion, and someone dated one photo incorrectly, whether it was 1921 or 1923.
Minnie Coleman Maiden and daughter Virginia 

So what is it – 1921 or 1923? I see my grandfather but no grandmother, so that is one argument for 1921. In 1923, barring stomach flu, Grandma would have been at the reunion.
Orvin Davis, Velma Davis
Grandfather Orvin Davis
and his sister Velma Davis

Also Virginia Maiden would have been 10 in 1921 and 12 in 1923. She looks more like a 10-year old here. Another argument for 1921.

Which then makes me notice my grandaunt Velma. In 1921, she was 13. Hmm, she does NOT look 13 (good grief, she looks 31). If the photo is from 1923, she looks the part of a 15-year old, for that time period anyway. Why did everyone look older back then? No Mary Kay?

My attention then went to all those old people hoping one of them at least would have been dead before 1923 to clinch the deal. Wait – who was this ol’ gal sitting next to my 2X great-grandfather James Franklin Jollett? 
James Franklin Jollett and mother-in-law Diannah Coleman
James Franklin Jollett and Diannah Coleman
It was not his wife Eliza Jane. For years I did not pay attention to her, assuming that man and wife would be sitting together, but there is Eliza standing behind her.
Eliza Jane Coleman Jollett and Diannah Coleman
Eliza Jane standing
Diannah sitting
Could it be Eliza Jane’s mother Diannah Shiflett Coleman? Some time ago I was given this photo of Eliza Jane, her mother and brother.

The Colemans
photo courtesy Elaine Via

While Diannah’s face looks softer in this very-worn photo than in the reunion photo, that is the same dress and apron. Note the collar and cuffs. Eliza’s dress is the same too. Those pickets are from the Jolletts’ fence hidden by all the people in the header photo. And look – there is Eliza Jane’s brother at the reunion too.

John Coleman
John Coleman
But fortunately for them – and UNfortunately for me – they were all living in 1923.

Leanna Knight and Clementine Morris about 1921
2 in front: Leanna Jollett Knight
and Clementine Shiflett Morris
3 in the back unknown
There is another old woman that I had not previously identified although she seemed familiar somehow. It turns out to be Clementine Morris, sister of James Franklin Jollett’s first wife Lucy Ann. Clem must have been wearing her “reunion dress” because it looks like the same one she wore to the Morris Reunion.
Morris Reunion around 1927
Clementine and George Austin Morris,
James Franklin Jollett, Ambrose Vernon

 Clem was still alive and kicking in 1923 too.

So after all that, I still don’t know if this was 1921 or 1923. And who are those babies?

Please take a closer look at Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Taking a closer look at photos can definitely raise interesting questions. A pity you haven't yet managed to resolve the date.

  2. And of course, more than likely those babies are no longer alive regardless of the year 1921 or 1923. Another mystery that may keep you awake one long night trying to put the pieces together.


  3. Oh how interesting, and frustrating! You have soooo many people who you do know, and now several have slipped through your fingers! Thanks for playing sleuth for us!

    1. I know I should be happy with what I do know - just never satisfied, I guess.

  4. Some Patient Detective Work.Well Done.

  5. How wonderful to have such a large family group photograph from the 1920's and you have done a sterling job in naming them, even if some members remain unidentified.

    1. It is indeed a wonderful photo that reinforces everything my aunts told me about how much the family enjoyed each other.

  6. One more reason to require name tags at family events!

  7. How interesting the two years' difference make to the photos - love the mens' beards in the last photograph.

    1. I think the generally older appearance of my aunt Velma is throwing me off. Yes, two years makes a big difference.

  8. Sometimes ancestry sleuthing turns up answers to mysterious questions. Sometimes it doesn't. But it's always worth trying! :)

    1. If you don't enjoy the hunt, you shouldn't do genealogy at all because it is frustrating more often than not.

  9. Ever more questions to answer. Your sleuthing is always interesting to follow.

  10. Wow, great work. I love that our ancestors seem to have had few "go to church" clothes so they wore the same things for many photos. Sure helps us identify them.

    Maybe split the difference and say the year of the photo was 1922? That's what my mom would have told me to do - she would have said no one would know the difference. LOL!

  11. Awesome picture; and I agree, looks like my GG Grandmother Susan Clementine is standing behind James Franklin. Thanks for pointing her out. Olen

    1. Hey Olen. I've looked at this photo a million times but never stopped to study the people I didn't know. This time, the shape of her face suddenly became familiar - I knew I had seen her before. Then I thought about the picture of Clem and Austin, James Franklin, and Ambrose Vernon. Bingo!

  12. I wonder where Austin is? Maybe he is taking the picture. I have looked at the photo of grandma Clem, and notice the man on the left hand side of the photo. I believe this could be Clem's son Sel. I'm not 100% positive, but there is some resemblance to Uncle Sel.

    1. I wondered the same thing about Austin. I hope you're right about Sel. Now, do you recognize the women?

  13. I'd say you've made good progress identifying so many people in the photo, Wendy. Good use of other photos to help identify people, too. But to bad about the babies and not being able to pinpoint the year. A two-year span is pretty close, though. Too bad fashions didn't change that much in two years, but then, the older people were the less often they followed fashion anyway.

  14. I really enjoyed this trip through your family trying to answer the question - 1921 or 1923? I guess I should be sure to hold up a card with the date on it for any family photos we take in the future so nobody will have to see if I'm still alive or is it after my death. Well, I guess they would eventually see my face there too.

  15. I tried to enter this comment a minute ago, but I don't think it uploaded because I forgot my WP user name. I am enjoying your site. I've only been doing genealogy research on my family for about two years, since moving back to the east coast to Charlottesville. Since my father was born in Culpeper, I thought it might be more possible now. I got to your site by doing a google search on Peter Marsh and Lucy Walker Jollett Marsh (my 3G grandparents in my father's maternal line. I love that your site fleshes out a bit of their "story." It's night to get the lineage right, but it's so much more fun when you can add a bit of the story. Thanks for sharing your information.