Tuesday, September 24, 2019

52 Ancestors - MAP IT OUT: Two Chestnuts and a Hickory

Beginning at two Maples and Red Oak on Little Crooked Run in Beverlys line thence with his line North 27 Degrees East 168 poles to a White Oak and Two Pines Corner to the said Beverly and Henry Field, thence with the said Field’s line North 72 Degrees West 104 poles to a White Oak ….

All early land descriptions sound similar to this, in the thirteen original colonies anyway. Only the physical features such as a stone or fence post, the distance and species of trees differ.

This system of legal description for land is known as “metes and bounds,” a system practiced in England and imported to the colonies. Every time I read one of my ancestor’s deeds, I envy those genealogists whose families settled in the Northwest Territory that employed the Public Land Survey System of 6-square mile townships. It is so much easier to find an ancestor’s land when it was located in a little square along a meridian and baseline.

As it is, I have a general idea of where certain ancestors lived, but I know for sure only a few, and that is because living descendants managed to pass along the information. I have accepted that I will not see or walk on THE land of my ancestors, but as I read the metes and bounds describing property in the Virginia counties of Page, Rockingham, Greene, Albemarle, and Orange, I still wonder what that property looked like. How could I ever find that Spanish Oak or Dofflemoyer’s fence today?

Someone MUCH smarter than I am figured out a way. It’s called Plat Plotter. I tried it out. 
Simply insert each line of direction and distance. For example: S 89 W 34
Then click Enter Survey.
(I ignored the 2 Survey Start boxes.)

At first I didn’t quite get the hang of how to insert the metes and bounds into the survey box but after a couple tries clicking this and that, I got it. I had been making it too hard by entering too much information.

As a test, I entered the metes and bounds for a plat dated 1835 in Orange County, Virginia. The legal description states:
Beginning at A which represents a Gum, Dogwood, and a Chestnut growing against a Rock in the Orange and Albemarle County line and corner to Jacob Shiflett, John Lane, and Wyatt Mills, Thence along the County line S89 W34 poles [South 89 degrees West 34 poles – a pole is 5 ½ yards] to B – Thence S85 W78 Poles to C a large water Oak Thence N66 W42 Poles to D a Chesnut – Thence N7 W20 Poles to E two Chesnuts and a Hickory – Thence N62 W 14 Poles to F some Hazel bushes and a Hickory – thence N22 W 40 Poles to G four Butterwoods and some Hazel bushes near a branch – Thence N70 W44 Poles to J a Rock a Chesnut oak at one end of it and two Chesnut sprouts at the other end, on the East side of Lick mountain – Then N17 W6 ½ poles to K a small double Hickory corner to Jacob Shiflett on Lick mountain. Thence along said Shiflett’s line S68 E242 Poles to the beginning.

This is how it turned out.

The first green box shows each direction
(degrees north or south and poles east and west).
The second green box marks the corresponding latitude and longitude.

I selected this particular plat because I have a copy of the survey and wanted to compare it to what Plat Plotter would crank out.

By George, I think we have a winner.
Plat for Jacob Shiflett
Orange County, VA 4 Feb 1835 Book 7 p 43

One disclaimer – the latitude and longitude shown in the Plat Plotter results is NOT correct, I’m pretty sure, because they were determined by where I placed a flag as the starting point. Not knowing where the land REALLY is, I simply dragged the flag to the general vicinity. If the latitude and longitude were correct, they could be entered into a GPS.

Despite not being able to generate the kind of information necessary for me to go stand on the property, it has been fun playing with Plat Plotter just to be able to visualize the land my ancestors farmed.

Here is the plat for Madison Shiflett’s land grant of 1836 for which I have no copy of a survey. I will spare you the list of Hickory trees, Dogwoods, Chestnuts, and large rocks that marked the property.

This little program supplies my need for a handy visual aid.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

52 Ancetors - COUSINS: The Cousin Who Baited Me

Findagrave Memorial 84595194

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Cathy Hecker, my half 4th cousin. She was the 3X great granddaughter of Fielding Jollett and his first wife Ann Stoutemire. I descend through his second wife Mary Ann Armentrout. Cathy compiled a great deal of Jollett research the old-fashioned way before computers, before email, before a phone call and credit card could get you a quick answer. She was in Ohio, but the Jolletts were in Virginia. She drove to court houses. She wrote letters and mailed checks. By the time we found each other, she had all but given up hope that there was anyone out there who cared about the Jolletts. 

How she found me, I do not even remember. It was well before I started my Jollett website on Geocities. Methinks she found my cousin Barbara Davis Shiflett who appreciates family history but is not a researcher. She must have given Cathy my name and number. Cathy mailed copies of her research to me.
A page from Cathy's research
Typed on a typewriter or early computer
The bulk of Cathy’s work was on the Fielding-Ann line, as it should be. But she had found deeds, wills, and obituaries for many on the Fielding-Mary Ann side as well. Her work gave me a strong foundation on which to build my own research and with which to start a website in those days before blogs were a “thing.”

Cathy and I talked a couple times a year. Her last phone call to me in 2002 was filled with expressions of thanks for my interest in the Jolletts and excitement over all the new information generated due to my little website. She was only sorry she had never had a chance to meet me in person, and had she mentioned that her cancer had come back. Then it hit me – this was a good-bye. 

I searched Ancestry for a photo of Cathy, but they are not available on public trees. Her Findagrave memorial provides a picture of her tombstone along with a transcription of her obituary. I was pleased to find she had been a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, as am I. Cathy was the last Regent of the Piqua Chapter before it merged with the Lewis Boyer Chapter.

Cathy Hecker is always close to my thoughts when I’m writing about the Jolletts.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

52 Ancestors - MISTAKE: Fake News

Nothing sparks the adrenaline quite like Ancestry’s shaky leaf alerting me to a new find. A picture! And not just any picture – a picture of my 3X great-grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Frazier. I could not click fast enough, my own fingers shaking like the Ancestry leaf.

Portrait posted on Ancestry
 Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Not so fast!

Are you sure this is little Nancy Elizabeth (1811-1895) with her parents John Frazier (ca 1770-1850) and Lucy Hardin Shiflett (ca 1778-after 1850 )?  Eh, I don’t know. They had lots of children. Where are they? Where is their portrait?

I sent a message to the gal who posted the photo and asked how she came in possession of the portrait and how she knew these were our Frazier ancestors. Her response surprised me. These are not her exact words, but close: “Oh, it’s not them. It’s just some girl with the same name.”

Even though SHE KNOWS these are not her ancestors, she is happy to let everyone think they are. She has even cropped out each person’s face to attach to their individual record on Ancestry. There’s that man’s face on John Frazier’s page, the woman’s face on Lucy’s page, and the little girl’s face on Nancy’s page.

Fifteen people have saved that photo to their family tree. Probably even more without public family trees have saved the photo to their personal database tricked into thinking they know what their ancestors looked like.

When I discover a mistake in a story I have posted on my blog, I correct it. There will be a bold notice of the correction and a link to a new and improved version of the story if I wrote one.

Honest mistakes are one thing. Perpetuating a lie on purpose is deplorable. Fake news!

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

52 Ancestors - SCHOOL DAYS: Teacher in Me

“Back to School” shopping is not something I have done in many years. However, the past couple months I have just smiled at the Walmart bins of notebooks, pens, glue sticks, and folders as parents consider the colors and numbers of supplies that will help their children be successful in the coming school year. On Facebook, parents have checked daily for bus schedules and teacher assignments.

On the flip side, teachers too have been busy with their own preparations in anticipation of receiving their class lists of bright stars and ruffians who will grace their classrooms. I know. I was a teacher - third generation, I might add.

1st Gen:  HERE and HERE 
2nd Gen: HERE

All that DNA did little to prepare me to actually BE a teacher. My high school teachers were an inspiration. I wanted to be just like Cora Mae Fitzgerald and Sharon Comer, two of my English teachers. To come even close, I thought I needed to take EVERY. SINGLE. ENGLISH. COURSE. there was in order to be fully prepared to discuss poetry and short stories with students who surely would be just as enthusiastic as I was.

Sue Yancey March 1973 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Mrs. Sue Yancey
I was lulled into thinking teaching would be a steady stream of magical moments by a near-perfect student teaching experience. My mentor was the well-seasoned and most-beloved teacher at Elkton High School in Rockingham County: Sue Yancey. We worked together well, and she handed the reins over to me early on. To demonstrate my creativity and flexibility, I quickly set about utilizing all the educational equipment of the day:  filmstrip projector, movie projector, overhead projector, and of course, mimeographed handouts. “Purple prose,” we used to call it. The students liked me. I liked them. I was GREAT!

Despite my good grades, I was unable to get a job as a teacher. The city and county schools were gearing up for evaluation, so all new hires were to have Masters degrees. I had enrolled in graduate school anyway, so I was hopeful for the next year. However, then school-wide evaluations were done, and teachers with Masters degrees were not wanted because they would have to be paid more.

Fortunately – or not – a position was available at Elkton where I had enjoyed a rewarding stint as a student teacher. It was only part time – 2 English classes in grades 7 and 8 plus STUDY HALL. (Does that exist anymore?). At the time I was glad to take it, but I did not feel that way for long. In fact, I cried every afternoon when I got home from school.
When I was there in 1973, it was a high school and JUNIOR high.
Since then several high schools were consolidated
and the MIDDLE school concept has been instituted.
There were several conditions that conspired to make my first real job as a teacher the worst year of my professional life. Because none of the English teachers had volunteered to be department chairman, there was no one in charge (how was that allowed to happen?). I had no one to go to for help, and I was too shy and too embarrassed to seek it out. Did any of the other teachers notice the new girl and offer to help? NO! Not a one came to meet me, welcome me, or offer to share ideas.

Then there was the matter of textbooks. All books were laid out in a single classroom and teachers could go and take what they wanted. What kind of system is that? I was lucky to be able to determine which books went with which grade.

Another problem I encountered was that in the mid-70s, traditional grammar had been replaced by “transformational grammar.” What’s that? Traditional grammar that most of us were taught in school is PRESCRIPTIVE – that is, it emphasizes rules and correctness. Transformational grammar is DESCRIPTIVE – that is, it shows us what we actually do when we speak or write and makes no judgment about whether it is right or wrong. I am sure someone earned a fine PhD with that piece of junk adopted by so many schools desperate to be at the forefront of innovation. However, as low teacher on the faculty totem pole, I was assigned the lower level students, and the only grammar books left were the transformational ones. A lot of good that would do them, or anyone else, for that matter.
Elkton Junior High 1975 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Elkton Junior High 1975
Do they look excited?

I admit it – I was the worst teacher on record. I bounced from thing to thing, developing little pointless units of study trying to find something that worked. Trying to just make it through the year. The only semi-positive memory was the letter writing unit. Each student wrote a little letter which we attached to helium balloons and released. Then we waited to see if anyone would find the balloon letter and write back. ONE. One student got a reply. Today I have no idea how I got the balloons to school!

That one event was the ONLY high point of a terrible year. I often regret that it was likely a terrible year for the students too. No, not likely – DEFINITELY. I did them no favors.

 I. C. Norcom High School
This building is gone, replaced by a shopping center.
But the next year, I was hired by Portsmouth City Schools. What a difference school and system leadership can make. My six years at Norcom High School restored my confidence. During that time, I enjoyed the variety and creativity of teaching English to freshmen, juniors, and seniors. I also taught creative writing, and I served as advisor for the newspaper.

My last newspaper staff was something else. What a dynamo bunch. I had investigative reporters. Editorial writers. Creative writers who liked to throw in a little something funny now and then. Most of them are friends to this day, albeit mostly on Facebook, but how amazing to have known them when they were 17 AND when they turned 50!
Norcom Gazette Staff 1981 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Gazette Staff 1981
Best EVER! Love you all!
I still have a yearbook and autograph book signed by my last groups of students from Norcom High School. They wrote such thoughtful messages. In truth, I am pretty sure I was not nearly as good as they thought I was, but I had come a LOOOONG way from that weak and floundering teacher I had been.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.