Monday, December 31, 2018

Year In Review

Wow – I thought 2017 was a dry year at Jollett Etc but then 2018 is not any better. In fact, it is probably worse. Why? I don’t know, really. I could blame lack of inspiration. I could blame unsuccessful research that might have led to new stories to tell. I could blame being busy helping other women with their applications to DAR. Excuses. Excuses. No reasonable explanation comes to mind.

Enough of the “mea culpa” – let’s look back at 2018 with the attitude that quality is more important than quantity. Yeah, let’s hold on to that thought. Yeah.

Top 5 Blog Posts
I was pleased to see that two of the top 5 are from my brief participation in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge and two from Sepia Saturday. Numbers 5-8 in the tally were close in the number of page views. While #5 is just OK to me, the close competitors are actually more interesting.
  1. 52 Ancestors: In and Out of the Census
  2. Sepia Saturday: Mathias Homestead
  3. Sepia Saturday: Grave Expressions
  4. Another Scrapbook Moves On
  5. 52 Ancestors: Start with Frazier 
Top 5 Genealogy-Related Activities
  1. I did a lot of work for my DAR chapter this year including preparing and submitting applications for 6 new members, revamping the newsletter, and creating a new website.
  2. Before resigning from the GeneabloggersTribe admin board, I was in charge of the monthly calendar prompts. That required researching daily events and finding copyright-free images.
  3. I reviewed two genealogy mystery books for Nathan Dylan Goodwin and Steve Robinson.
  4. I completed another genealogy book for my family. This time the focus was on my parents BEFORE they became grandparents.
  5. I was proud to donate my grand aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s college scrapbook to James Madison University. I also gave Violetta Davis Ryan’s two diplomas to the Special Collections department of the library.
Top 5 Discoveries
  1. In researching my father’s paternal grandmother Mary Morrison Slade, I found her family was practically in my backyard FOR.EV.ER – not in Tennessee as I had always heard. My research might have uncovered a Revolutionary War patriot too.
  2. I found a marriage record for one of my elusive Irish ancestors, Gertrude Fraundorf. Yeah, she doesn’t sound too Irish, does she? But her mother was Catherine Hederman/Heatherman before marrying. Gertrude married an Italian. A regular international house of pancakes!
  3. In updating routine facts on the Frazier family, I stumbled upon a fascinating murder in the family.
  4. Find-a-grave may have helped identify Mr. and Mrs. Beavers whose photos are among those that Violetta Davis Ryan saved.
  5. I was thrilled to read the service record of my DAR patriot and 4X great-grandfather William Jordan. He served under such notable leaders as Daniel Morgan, Mad Anthony Wayne, Nathanael Greene, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Top  5 Best Money Spent
  • Ancestry
  • Fold 3
  • Genealogy Bank
  • Newspaper Archive
  • Dues to the Greene County Historical Society and Virginia Historical Society 
I am determined to do better in 2019 because I have missed blogging and I have missed reading my favorite bloggers’ blogs. You need to stay on me. Don’t let me slide.

© 2018-2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Another Scrapbook Moves On

In 1924 my grandaunt Velma Davis was just 16 and heading to the Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University - Go Dukes), about 20 miles from her home in Shenandoah, Virginia. Like many girls of the time, she delighted in taking pictures of her friends to glue into a black paper scrapbook. Close friendships, dorm life, silly antics, snow, and school activities are documented forever in those pages, pages now dusty and brittle, chipping away.

I am not sure why I was elected to be the caretaker of Velma’s scrapbook, but what a gift it has been. The tattered scrapbook has worked overtime providing me with lots of material to write about. Nearly every photo has been featured in my blog at least once, some multiple times. No wonder faithful readers have come to know Velma on a first name basis.

Wellington Hall 1924 Harrisonburg Teachers College James Madison University
But it was the photos of Velma’s dorm Wellington Hall that caught the eye of Dr. Philip Herrington, Assistant Professor of History at JMU. An ongoing project in his Historic Preservation course is documenting the area that was demolished and redeveloped as the Forbes Center across the street from the Quad.

A simple Google search brought him to my blog. According to Dr. Herrington, surprisingly very little information about the houses and buildings is available despite the fact that they were in use as late as 2006. He remarked that Velma’s scrapbook contains the largest collection of historically significant photos of the area. To me that is both sad and funny considering the poor quality and condition of some of the photos.

Velma Davis 1924 with Wellington Hall and other buildings across the street where Forbes Center is now
BEFORE: Velma 1925 with buildings demolished to make way
for the Forbes Center

Forbes Center James Madison University
AFTER: Forbes Center on Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA
Across the street from the Quad of JMU
NOTE: tunnel UNDER the street
One email led to another. When Dr. Herrington asked if I would allow the Special Collections department of the library to scan the photos, I realized it was easier for me to finish scanning what I wanted and just give them the scrapbook.

So on Friday, October 12, 2018, Velma’s scrapbook returned to its first home, the college campus. It will reside in an archival box in Special Collections on the second floor of the Carrier Library, a building that did not even exist when Velma was a student.

I must admit that I have an even greater appreciation for Velma’s photos after meeting with Dr. Herrington and Tiffany Cole, Special Collections Archivist. Both were eager to see the photos. It was fun to watch their faces as they looked for architectural clues, saw for the first time the outdoor pool which no longer exists, and spied the old hockey field now filled by a science building. While some photos are purely nostalgic, others will help Dr. Herrington’s students in their effort to develop an architectural history of the college. Without a doubt Velma and her sister Violetta would be thrilled to know the scrapbook is of interest nearly 100 years later. 

Three years ago, my sister and I proudly gave our father’s album recounting his time in the Coast Guard to the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Like Velma, Daddy was just a teenager killing time taking pictures with no thought of lasting influence. Inheriting such personal items as a scrapbook can be a burden when contemplating what will become of them when you’re gone. Donating them to a school, a museum, or a society that will preserve them feels good.

That good feeling never gets old.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

When the early days of summer suddenly became the late days of summer, I began thinking about my upcoming 7th blogiversary. What profound insight could I offer about research? About blogging? Nothing. Nothing came to mind.

Many bloggers like to look back over the year or years and highlight the most popular posts. My “most popular” ones have such elevated page view numbers that I believe they are victims of spy bots thus making it impossible to determine their so-called popularity.

Instead I present to you the LEAST popular post for each year. The page views are so low that clearly even spy bots weren’t interested.

OK, those first 3 years, I get it. But Year 4? You can’t open Facebook without being bombarded by photos of everyone’s dog - cute dogs, funny dogs, injured dogs, abused dogs, rescue dogs, dogs wearing clothes. What happened with my cute little series? Trust me, there were several “Gone to the Dogs” entries in the running for “worst post of the year.” The photos were all from old albums and shoebox photos passed along to me. I thought it was a clever series, but people and spy bots must have disagreed.

This is the post I feel most sad about. It features a St. Patrick’s Day card sent to my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh by her niece identified only as Myra from Limerick. That little bit of information was key to pushing my Sheehan research back one more generation.

I guess the title made everyone imagine a snoozefest. The post is NOT about a pedigree chart; it is about an actual TREE where family members posed for pictures. Still a snoozefest? Eh, maybe.

I LOVE this post. It is about discovering the identity of “Captain Dick,” a name mentioned several times on photos and in letters that once belonged to my grand aunt Helen Killeen Parker. Too bad more people didn't share my view.

My blogging has slowed down considerably this year. I’m still here though. Let’s see what Year 8 brings.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Book Review: Letters from the Dead by Steve Robinson

Disclaimer: I received a pre-release copy of the book to review. I was under no obligation to like it. The opinions expressed here are my honest views. I will not receive any commission on the sale of books by this author.

Decaying mansion with rotting floors giving way. Mysterious watchers in the night. Greed. Forbidden love. Illegitimacy. Family feuds. Murders. What more could you want in a book?

How about letters written in 1823?

Or maybe a mysterious ruby known as The Blood of Rajputana, as big as a man’s fist?

All that and more can be enjoyed in Steve Robinson’s latest book Letters from the Dead due to be released on August 14, 2018.

The plot of Letters from the Dead alternates between the chilly and misty outskirts of modern day Perth, Scotland and colorful colonial India under British rule in the 1820s. The hero is professional genealogist Jefferson Tayte. The story begins when Tayte’s latest client asks him to answer a simple question: Who was my four-times great grandfather? Not such a daunting task. It sounds much like what most of us geneabloggers do routinely. But Tayte quickly finds this is no routine task. There are plenty more people wanting to find the answer to that question too, but not for personal curiosity or to flesh out a family tree. Their eyes are set on something bigger: the location of a valuable ruby known as the Blood of Rajputana.

With the aid of a single letter penned in 1823, Tayte almost effortlessly determines the identity of his client’s ancestor. However, as friends and family hoping to find the ruby begin dropping like flies, more old letters mysteriously appear like bread crumbs leading Tayte closer to the ruby and closer to personal danger.

As a genealogist, I enjoyed observing Tayte’s research process. (I have to admit I admire his ability to resist going down a rabbit hole.) I also like the structure of the story alternating past and present. When Tayte reads a news clipping or detects a possible clue in an old letter in the “present” chapter, we get to see those events played out in the “past” chapter. I am equally drawn to both of those worlds. I enjoyed the client’s decaying old mansion with its rotting floorboards, its library full of books about art and India, its cellar containing a sarcophagus, and its tunnels with hidden entries. I was also swept up in life at the grand British residence and garden, home of the Resident of Jaipur, the political agent for the East India Company.

Even better than the beautifully descriptive passages is the way Robinson builds the mystery and plants the clues. I am usually pretty good at predicting the outcome, but with this book I confess to being Wrong. Every. Time. Like our trusty genealogist, I was suspicious of everyone. It was impossible to tell who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. At one point I was ready to throw down the book thinking Robinson had made a very amateurish mistake making the location of the ruby too obvious. WRONG! Robinson surprised me at almost every turn. I like that!

What I find a little annoying though is that some of Tayte’s word choices do not fit his character. He is supposedly an American, but an American would not ask if someone were planning on “selling up.” I’ll blame the editor for this minor misstep.

Endings in which the murderer rattles off his list of reasons for killing this person or that always seems like the author couldn’t think of a better way to conclude an otherwise good story. While I LOVE the surprise of the ending, I was disappointed in how the ending was written. Eh – that’s just me being picky. I still like the book and look forward to reading more of the Jefferson Tayte mysteries.

Author Steve Robinson has been writing genealogy crime fiction for quite some time, but he is new to me. Letters from the Dead is book seven in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series. The term “series” might cause a future reader to think he must start with book 1, but that is not the case. Each one easily stands alone. If the other six books are anything like Letters from the Dead, then Robinson has a new fan.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Mathias Homestead

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo has made me imagine what my early ancestors might have looked like sitting at some home-crafted table in their roughly-hewn log house in the wilderness of frontier America. My children and grand-baboos will not have to work as hard to imagine it as I do because they have an ancestral home to look to.
Mathias homestead Mathias, WV
Mathias Homestead Mathias, Hardy Co, West Virginia 1989

This is the John T. Mathias Homestead in where else but Mathias, West Virginia. This historic home was built by my husband Barry’s 4X great-grandfather in 1797 and remained in the Mathias family for over 165 years before the last owner deeded it to the Mathias Civic Center Association in 1974. Four years later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mathias homestead even has its own Wikipedia page. Yeah, we’re pretty famous - in a small town.

John Tobias Mathias (who doesn’t love a rhyming name?) was among the earliest settlers in the area. Like many of our German ancestors, his family emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine to escape religious persecution. His family first settled around Philadelphia and then moved inland into Lancaster County. From there they moved to Frederick County, Maryland and then on to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Their last stop was the Lost River Valley in Hardy County. At the time it was a frontier county of Virginia; since the Civil War, it is in West Virginia.

Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 
John T. acquired the land in 1791. The house he built had four rooms, an attic loft, sturdy interior stairs, a good number of windows, a double porch and fireplace on both floors. It was considered quite substantial for its time. However, the next generation found the house to be too small and so SOMEONE - probably his son John T. Jr. or grandson - built an addition in 1825.

Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV
Back view
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 

Mathias Homestead Mathias, WV
End view
courtesy Justin A. Wilcox 2014
Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 4.0 

The Mathias house was considered rather grand for its time, especially for poor farmers living in the Lost River Valley. Its location on the main road made it a natural stop for travelers seeking a safe place to rest overnight. Not surprisingly the Mathias family found themselves hosting some famous people and events.

Lee Sulphur Springs Lost River State Park
Lee Sulphur Springs
Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV
One such guest was General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee of Revolutionary War fame. Supposedly he made the Mathias house his headquarters prior to purchasing his own tract of land just up the road in what is now Lost River State Park. In an earlier version of the park, it had been known as Howard’s Lick Resort, a popular vacation spot boasting the medicinal benefits of Lee Sulphur Springs. And just so you know, I’ve stood at those springs at many a Mathias reunion. Pee-yoo!

The Mathias homestead was also the site for some county court meetings. During the Civil War, Hardy County was divided over whether to support the Union or the Confederacy. From Barry’s ancestors’ Civil War records, it appears the folks in and around Mathias supported the South. Nearly a year after West Virginia was formed, a VIRGINIA County Court meeting was conducted at the Mathias house on May 2, 1864. Southern sentiment was still running deep, it seems.

The house likely passed from John T. in 1806 to his son John T. Jr who passed it to his son John B. in 1866. From John B. the house passed to John Thomas who in 1891 passed the house to Philip Seymour Mathias, a great-great grandson of John T. Mathias.

Philip’s family was the last to occupy the home. They are pictured here probably about 1905 judging by the assumed ages of the youngest children and the absence of two who were not yet born. The house had been modernized with clapboard siding and whitewashed.  

Photo courtesy RunionStrawderman on Ancestry
On the porch: Dock See, Virgil with father Philip Mathias, Roxie Mae Mathias,
and Philip's mother Mary A. Bowman Mathias
In front: Sadie Caldwell Mathias and Philip's sister Mary Etta Mathias Moyers
The last resident of the home place was Sadie Caldwell Mathias, Philip's widow. After her death in 1969, the house sat empty until sons Virgil and Wendell Mathias sold it to the Mathias Civic Center Association in 1974. The association also purchased additional property for the construction of its civic center.

For many years, the Mathias reunion was held at Lost River State Park on Father’s Day. One year failure to reserve a spot prompted the family to gather at the Mathias Community Center instead.  
Mathias Reunion 1989
1989 - Daughter #2 outside the community center

Mathias Reunion 1989
1989 - Descendants of John T. Mathias around the table
Mathias Reunion 1989
1989 - Making room for all the food

Looking at the 1989 reunion pictures, I am amused by the two-tone wall - just the opposite of the walls in the prompt photo.

Everyone is invited to the table at Sepia Saturday.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

52 Ancestors: Independence

The theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge is appropriate: Independence. After all, the 4th of July is one of the favorite patriotic holidays in the United States. Parades, fireworks, and family cookouts are happening in every community. Patriotic organizations like Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) honor their ancestors with wreath-laying ceremonies at national monuments and placing flags at graves of patriots.

I am proud to claim a number of patriots who helped America achieve independence. For over a year I had been trying unsuccessfully to join DAR through Leonard Davis of Rockingham County, Virginia when I received an email from a gentleman who was transcribing records for Albemarle County. As part of his project, he searched online for additional information relating to the documents he was working on. That is how he found my blog. He saw names on my blog that were also included in a chancery suit he was then transcribing. He offered me a copy. As I read it, I immediately saw my express ticket into DAR through my 4x great-grandfather William Jordan.

Service Record of William Jordan, a soldier from Virginia
Thanks to Fold3, I have a copy of William Jordan’s pension application containing many details about his early life and service to his country. Apparently his first attempt to secure a pension was denied for failure to provide actual PROOF of service. His discharge papers had been lost years before in a house fire. Subsequent hurdles to obtain a pension included several court appearances like this one:
Questions posed to William Jordan in court
Sworn to and Subscribed in open Court and thereupon the Court propounded to the applicant the following Interrogations.
1. Where and in what year were you born
A. I was born on the Schuylkel [sic.] river about six miles from Philadelphia the 20 Jany 1760
2. Have you any record of your age, and if so where is it?
A. I have none.
3. Where were you living when called into service? Where have you lived since the revolutionary war and where do you now live?
A. When called into service I lived in Augusta County Virginia. About the year 1783 or 4 I removed from the County of Augusta to Albemarle County and lived some years in the adjoining county Orange, but now live in Albemarle County Virginia.
4. How were you called into Service were you drafted did you volunteer or were you a substitute and if a substitute, for whom?
A. I was drafted as a militiaman
5. State the names of some of the regular officers who were with the troops where you served with Continental and Militia Regiments as you can recollect and the general circumstances of your service
A. In the first tour I was drafted and served under Capt. Wm Kincaid. In the second under Capt Patrick Buchanan Major ___ Brooks Col Howard & General Morgan. In the third under Cap Givens Major Boyce Col Cameron & Gen Campbell in the fourth under Capt Wm Findlay Major Wilson (he believes) & Col Vance

And the said Court do hereby declare their opinion after the investigation of the matter and after putting the interrogation prescribed by the war department that the above named applicant was a revolutionary soldier and served as he states
State of Virginia
I Ira Garrett clerk of the Court of Albemarle County do hereby certify that the foregoing contains the original proceedings of the said court in the matter of the application of William Jordan for a pension.

In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal of office this 15th day of November 1832 in the 57th year of the Commonwealth
Ira Garrett CAC

In May of the following year William Jordan tried again by offering further information. A. Broadhead, a Justice of the Peace for Albemarle County, submitted an affidavit in which he explained that “William Jordan . . .  by reason of old age and the consequent loss of memory . . . cannot swear positively as to the precise length of his service. . . .” However, William Jordan was positive he served as a private from May to October in 1779. He took part in an expedition against the Indians on the West Fork of the Monongahela River as a private in Capt William Kincaid’s company. Then from October 1780 until May 1781 he served again as a private.

Affidavit of William Brooks
An affidavit provided by William Brooks revealed more about their service together as militiamen. They marched from Albemarle under the command of Capt Patrick Buchanan and joined General Daniel Morgan at Six Mile Creek in North Carolina. They then were commanded by Col Howard from Maryland and General Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens (South Carolina), 17 January 1781. Using a little battlefield trickery, the American troops fooled the British into thinking they were retreating causing the British to run straight into concentrated rifle fire and cavalry charge. Due to heavy casualties inflicted on the British by American troops, the Battle of Cowpens is regarded as a major battle and a turning point in the war.
Painting by Don Troiani depicting the Battle of Cowpens
British Light Dragoons against General Morgan's cavalry
image from Wikimedia Commons
On a side note, the Battle of Cowpens was the inspiration for the final battle at the end of the film The Patriot starring Mel Gibson. Sweet Liberty, an earlier movie starring Alan Alda, parodies how film companies often take liberties with the depiction of the Battle of Cowpens.

Another affidavit provided by John Diddle said that William Jordan was at the Battle of Jamestown, the last major land battle in Virginia prior to the Siege of Yorktown. The American forces were ambushed near Green Spring plantation 6 July 1781 but did not fare very well in a battle that is thought to be one of the bloodiest and most intense of the war.  

Jordan was less certain about his final tour but remembered serving in Capt William Findlay’s company and Col Vance’s regiment before becoming ill following the march to the Siege of Yorktown, the battle that marked the end for England in the American colonies. It also marked the end of William Jordan’s service as he was furloughed and never able to return to service.

Pension card

William Jordan eventually received a pension of $33.77 per annum. According to one inflation calculator, that amount had the same buying power as $870 today.

In the beginning, the thirteen colonies did not have in mind becoming one big country. Rather they sought independence from England to become thirteen little countries, each with its own government and its own money. The leaders who framed the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution looked into the future and saw that no new little “country” would be a match against possible future invasions by Spain, France, or England. Uniting would be the best course.

images from Wikimedia Commons
And my William Jordan at age 19 aided the cause marching to and fighting in three colonies; he was right there in the company of our heroes, men like Marquis de Lafayette, “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Nathanael Green, and “Old Wagoner” Daniel Morgan.

I wonder what he thought about that.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 18, 2018

52 Ancestors: Effie Times Two

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “Same Name.” For YEARS I have known my father’s paternal grandmother as “Mary Effie Morrison Slade.” We always thought it was funny that her sister was also named Effie, Effie Mae to be exact. As young wives and mothers, Mary Effie Morrison Slade and Effie Mae Morrison Hanrahan lived next door to one another at 416 and 418 Randolph Street in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Mary Morrison Slade
Mary Morrison Slade
at her son Fred Slade Sr's house
7 Tanner Place, Portsmouth, VA
My research into my dad’s side of the family has been sporadic; results have been little. Brick walls aplenty! It’s time to shine the light on Mary “Effie” Morrison Slade.

Census records indicate that Mary Morrison was born about 1878 in Tennessee. However, I cannot find her there in 1880. By 1900 she was already married to my great-grandfather Stephen Slade and living in Princess Anne County, now Virginia Beach. Virginia has made death records available online, but OF COURSE Mary Morrison’s is not there! Fortunately, her sister’s is. Effie’s daughter Frances Evelyn Hanrahan Williams named her mother’s parents as Robert Morrison and Evelyn Hosier.

When searches for Robert and Evelyn together came up empty, I tried searching for them separately. Robert Morrison produced just too many hits, so I tried Evelyn Hosier. There was nothing promising there either as most of the Evelyn Hosiers were an older Evelyn married to a man named Hosier.

I have had good luck with birth records at FamilySearch, so I tried my hand with “Effie Morrison.” BINGO. Up popped “Effa Morrison,” born to Robert Morrison and NOT Evelyn BUT Cornelia F. 

from FamilySearch

Then all these little Morrison children popped up: Emma, Kate M., an unnamed Male child, and Rosa V. But no Mary Effie. All were born in Norfolk, Nansemond County, Virginia. Not a one in Tennessee.

Did the Morrisons move to Tennessee for a short period and then return to the same spot in Virginia? That does not seem reasonable to me.

The only time Robert and Cornelia Morrison appear in a census together is 1880 with one child: Kate M.  Could this be my Mary Morrison? Was she Katherine Mary? Mary Katherine? Mary Kate? Not Mary Effie at all? I cannot help thinking that since those other children were registered, surely Mary would have been also.
1880 Western Branch, Nansemond Co, VA
Another argument that Kate M could be Mary is that there is no other sign of Kate after the 1880 census. The other children all died in infancy, and their deaths are listed in the death index on FamilySearch. Had Kate died, certainly her death would have been noted as well.

A recent reminder to review old notes was spot on in pointing out the obvious. I went to Find-a-Grave to double-check Mary Morrison Slade’s death date on her tombstone. Whoever created the memorial posted her name as “Mary Cornelius Morrison Slade.” If I were a betting gal, I would bet they meant “Cornelia.” Then when I looked again at census records, I saw she was entered as “Mary C. Slade.” I had always assumed the “C” was the result of either enumerator error or error in transcription. Now I have a new thought.
Tombstone of Stephen Slade and Mary Morrison Slade
Olive Branch Cemetery, Portsmouth, VA
photo courtesy of Steve Poole
While I will not say conclusively “case closed,” I have corrected my database replacing “Mary Effie” with “Mary Cornelia.” Still, my gut feeling is that she and Kate were one and the same. Maybe “Kate” was just a cute nickname.

While I’m tossing out theories, here is another one in answer to the question, “Why did Effie’s daughter Frances Evelyn think her grandmother’s name was Evelyn Hosier?” I imagine she was told she was named after her grandmother. In Frances Evelyn’s mind, that must have meant the name “Evelyn.” In the birth and death records of her children, Cornelia Morrison was always listed as Cornelia F. In 1860, there was no Cornelia Hosier but there was a Frances, age 8, living with parents Richard and Sarah, and a passel of siblings. In 1870, Cornelia age 17 was in the household, but no Frances. Her name was apparently Cornelia Frances Hosier. Not Evelyn.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 4, 2018

52 Ancestors: Going to the Chapel - Or Not

This week’s theme for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Going to the Chapel.” What perfect timing to share a recent research problem and how our challenge leader Amy Johnson Crow helped me solve it.

My enthusiasm for researching my Irish ancestors returned when a new record popped up for the sister of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. The sister is Johanna Sheehan Hederman (or Heatherman!). Her story always makes me sad because only 2 of her 7 children
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman and children Catherine and John
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman
with children Catherine and John
survived into adulthood; the others did not live more than a couple years, if that long.

The older of the two children was Catherine who married Charles Fraundorf on August 18, 1908. They had one daughter, Gertrude born in 1916. The little family appeared in the expected New York census records for 1920, 1925, 1930 and 1940. After that, my online searches found little more than dates of death for Charles and Catherine. A few newspaper articles revealed Charles was active in the Knights of Columbus and local politics. But there was nothing new about Gertrude.

Just this past week in a fit of boredom, I opened Ancestry and did a general search for Fraundorf. What a surprise to find a listing for good ol’ Gertrude in the New York State Marriage Index. She married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach, Nassau County, New York. Long Beach had been the Fraundorfs’ home at least since 1935. However, any celebration over the thought of new leads to follow came to a halt when the index gave me the husband’s name as Vivian Hennekey. 

Surely New York was not so progressive in 1940 to be granting marriage licenses to lesbians. Still, I clicked Miss Hennekey’s name, which took me to a page that revealed a different marriage date and location. She did not marry Gertrude Fraundorf after all! The cause of confusion is clearly the illegible certificate number.

Back to the search I went and plugged in the certificate number, “7882.” It gave me Vivian Hennekey again. So maybe the certificate number was NOT 7882, but no other number I tried gave me Gertrude Fraundorf AND someone other than Vivian.

During a Facebook group chat with Amy Johnson Crow, I posed the question, “Is there a workaround to find the correct couple in the New York State Marriage index 1881-1967?” As soon as Amy pulled up the index on her screen, she saw the problem with the smudged certificate numbers. She studied the screen and said, “Try entering just the exact day, month, year and location, no names.”

That is what I did. And it worked. Two brides and 2 grooms married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach. (Not surprisingly, NONE of their marriage certificate numbers are clear.) 

Wallace Beers and Rita Lay married and lived happily ever after. They are even buried happily ever after together. Their descendants have shared family trees on Ancestry.

So that left Gertrude plus Salvatore DeLucia.

If, like me, you think surely a name like Salvatore DeLucia and Gertrude DeLucia would be easy to find, think again. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that Italian families - especially the DeLucias - must name a son “Salvatore.”

With an April wedding, Sal and Gert could have been in the census together in 1940, but apparently they were not. In fact, Gertrude was still at home with her parents, probably fully engulfed in wedding planning, when the enumerator came around about 3 weeks before the big day.

Possibly Catherine Fraundorf and Gertrude
Believed to be Catherine and Gertrude Fraundorf
With no supporting facts to go on, it is impossible to sift through the numerous Salvatore DeLucias and Lucias and DeLucios and Luccios and DeLucas to come to a logical conclusion about the husband of Gertrude Fraundorf. Was he born in Italy or was he an American-born son of Italian immigrants? Was he about Gertrude’s age or did she marry a much older man? My research indicates the older Salvatores were also very married with families in 1940. The single Salvatores were mostly children, too young to marry in 1940.

The best candidate for a husband was the Salvatore DeLucia who was an Italian immigrant son of Italian immigrants Angelo and Rose DeLucia. This Salvatore was born in Italy in 1908, arrived in the United States in 1914, and was naturalized by 1930. He was still single in 1940 and only slightly older than Gertrude. The fact that he was living in the right neighborhood at the right time to have met and courted Gertrude Fraundorf makes him the most likely suspect.

BUT - There is NOTHING to say I am right and EVERYTHING to say I am wrong. Family trees on Ancestry put Salvatore not with Gertrude Fraundorf but with Theresa Botticelli - MARRIED and BURIED together. The ONE and only ONE piece of information that keeps this Sal in the running is that he and Miss Botticelli married in 1947, seven years after Gertrude and whichever Salvatore married.

Did Gertrude die young? Could Gertrude and Salvatore have called off the wedding? Could they have married and later divorced? If so, that would have been tough for a couple of Catholics.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Leave It to Beavers

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of children standing in a flooded street reminded me of a photo from my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan’s album. In both photos the light caught the small waves creating the look of broken glass.

Mrs. Beavers Page County, VA about 1920s

However, I am not convinced that this woman was standing in water. Maybe it is only illusion created by the play of light and shadow. On the same page of the album is a companion photo. The man is clearly standing on rock. River rock. OK, so maybe the woman was indeed standing in the water nearby. But why? Why would someone do that?
Mr. Beavers Page County, VA about 1920s

But the more pressing issues for me are why Violetta took photos of these people in the first place and who they were to her.

They are identified simply as Mrs. Beavers and Mr. Beavers. That is not a name in our family tree. In setting about to solve this mini-mystery, I made several assumptions.
  • They were likely neighbors or friends of the family.
  • They were likely Violetta’s parents’ generation, not her friends since she called them “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
  • They likely lived in Page County or Rockingham County.
  • The photo was taken likely between 1919 and 1925.

The census records from 1910 through 1940 show that the Beaver-no S families of Page County lived in Luray or just outside Luray in the community of Marksville. In Rockingham, there were Beaver-no S families in the town of Broadway. I was disappointed not to find them in any area closer to Shenandoah, the town where Violetta and parents lived. More than disappointed, I am just confused about how the families would have known each other.

I checked my three copies of The School Ma’am, yearbooks from the Harrisonburg Teachers College where Violetta and her sister Velma attended, hoping maybe a Beaver daughter was a student there also. No such luck.

Since Luray is closer to Shenandoah than is Broadway, I decided to concentrate on just the Page County Beavers. I ruled out those who would have looked older than Mr. and Mrs. Beavers did in the 1920s. I also ruled out those who would have been close to Violetta’s age as surely she would not have called her contemporaries “Mr.” or “Mrs.” I was left with a handful of names but no answers.

My next stop was Find A Grave. There I found a photo of a man who just might be our “Mr. Beavers.”
John William Beaver
Findagrave photo courtesy Justin S. )
What do you think? Could they be the same man? His birth year puts him in the correct generation (that is, IF my assumptions are correct).

There is also a photo of a young Mrs. Beaver, but it is impossible to determine how she would have aged.
Emma Row Beaver
Findagrave photo courtesy Justin S. )

IF by some strange luck I identified the correct family, then this is John William Beaver and his wife Emma Row. John was son of John Pendleton Beaver, a Civil War Veteran, and Virginia Graves. Again, IF this is the correct family, then John William Beaver was grandson of Paschal Graves, an unusual and unforgettable name - to me, anyway. Why? Because the administrators of the estate of Paschal Graves were involved in a lawsuit against Fielding Jollett, my 3X great-grandfather. However, I doubt this is the kind of story that a young Violetta would even have known about. Even if she were aware, the case was over long before this picture was taken.

I have contacted the woman who posted some photos of John and Emma Beaver on Ancestry to see if she will compare my photos to others she might have of her grandparents. Then I will know whether to pat myself on the back or return to wondering who this Mrs. Beavers was and why she was standing in water.

I encourage you to visit the others at Sepia Saturday and flood them with comments.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.