Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Year in Review

As I do each December, I like to look back on my blogging year to see if I accomplished anything at all and to organize my thoughts for where I might concentrate my research and writing efforts in the coming year. Frankly, I am surprised at all the new information I managed to include this year. Getting that box of letters, receipts, and college papers from my grandparents’ attic certainly provided lots to write about. It more than made up for the inability to visit court houses that closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I managed to complete the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, but just like last year I still was off and on with my Sepia Saturday participation. I want to correct that! 

In the meantime, let’s look back using my 5 Top 5 categories: 

TOP 5 POSTS (most visited in descending order) 

TOP 5 DISCOVERIES (in no particular order) 
  • While researching the descendants of Melinda Jollett Marsh, I learned that her granddaughter Sarah Oldaker had been murdered by her grandson Bob McCoy
  • I have long known about the scandalous divorce case of Nathaniel Davis, my great-grandfather’s brother. In delving further into his life, I learned about his land deals, the life of his girlfriend, and life after the divorce.  
  • The STUFF found in my grandparents’ attic back in March provided a wealth of material to study. The best finds: 
  • Several pieces of paper outlined my grandfather’s work history.  
  • An envelope full of pamphlets showed me where my dad lived while in electrical school in Chicago.  
  • A letter from my father to my mother illuminated his life in ROTC and college. 
  • Ancestry 
  • Fold3 
  • NewspaperArchive 
  • Genealogybank 
  • DAR dues 
  • Performing research for women applying for membership in DAR continues to be important to me. I assist with establishing their lineage to a patriot of the Revolutionary War. Our chapter is happy to welcome 7 new members this year. 
  • I volunteer for the Patriots Records Project for DAR indexing names found in unpublished documents. Unfortunately, I did not put in as much time as I would have liked. Maybe over the holiday when things slow down, I can help a little more. 
  • I am a Volunteer Genealogist for DAR assisting another chapter which needs help with its applications. 
  • My DAR chapter hopes to place a plaque naming 13 Revolutionary War patriots buried at the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Portsmouth, VA. Part of the application process requires that we PROVE that these 13 were truly patriots and that they are buried there. As chairman of the project, I have been conducting the research to verify dates and service. 
  • I participated in Amy Johnson Crow’s Generations CafĂ© Circle and attended Lisa Lisson’s Are You My Cousin webinars. 
Usually I hear from a new-to-me cousin with a question or information that leads to a break-through. This year – not so much. However, 
  • an inquiry from a Marsh/Mash descendant prompted me to look again at the lineage. The result was the removal of one child. 
  • a Foland descendant sent additional information on a line that I have done little research on. 
  • an Eppard descendant has raised a question about sources to prove Catherine Beasley (wife of Johann George Eppard) was daughter of William Beasley and Mary Melone. I still don’t have an answer but have it on my to-do list for 2021. 
  • I received just a polite “hello” – no questions – nothing to add – from a descendant of Darby Quinn, one of the most obscure people in my family tree. 
  • a descendant in the Jollett/Forrester/Deboard family is looking for the same thing I am looking for: parents of that very early Mary Jollett. 

2021 – bring it on! 

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

52 Ancestors - RESOLUTION: Please Hold for Katherine Riley

A resolution is not just a New Year’s tradition that we make and break. The word implies a strong decision to do or even NOT do something, but it also implies a quality of being determined or resolute.

Katherine Riley, grandaunts Lillie Killeen
and Helen Killeen Parker
September 1965

Katherine Riley might well be described as “resolute” when she gave a vase to her good friend, my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker. Oh, it wasn’t a gift. It was for safe-keeping until she returned from the nursing home. Katherine was determined to come home and retrieve the vase. Why the vase was so important, I don’t know. All I know is that she told Aunt Helen, “You hold on to it until I come home.”

Helen held on to it until she knew she was dying. That is when she gave the vase to her niece, my aunt Betty, with instructions to hold on to it until Katherine Riley came home.

Katherine Riley never came home. She died in April 1982, about a year after Helen.

My aunt once showed me the vase. She told me it will be mine one day and that I should hold on to it for Katherine Riley.

It’s a real commitment.

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

52 Ancestors - WINTER: Snow

Some of my favorite winter photos

I LOVE these aviator caps and goggles.
I don't know who these kids are 
but the picture belonged to my grandaunts
Violetta and Velma Davis. 

My grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan's house 
about 1935 when it was NEW. 
Her car looks STUCK!

My grandaunt Velma Davis 1925
Not winter at all - it was October!
I love this photo for showing
how different our climate is now.
I love that I can see what small-town
Harrisonburg looked like before the
college expanded.

1965 - my sister, me, Momma
Although my mother looks like she wanted to be
anywhere but outside, I love this picture.
I think Daddy had just pelted my sister 
with a snowball and she was ready to pay back.
But look at me in my John Lennon hat, London Fog coat,
and ON-TREND ski pants. Stylin'!

Looking out my front door
Christmas 2010
A White Christmas is a rarity here!

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

52 Ancestors - WITNESS TO HISTORY: 18th Century Happenings

People of my generation can relay in great detail where they were and what they were doing when President John Kennedy was assassinated. We also remember watching President Richard Nixon leaving office in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. We remember when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. All of us – not just my generation – witnessed how the world changed when the Twin Towers were brought down on September 11, 2001.

Everyone is a witness to history, not just the BIG events like war or pandemics, but also the discoveries and inventions that changed how people lived and viewed their world. We remember party lines and black and white tv with only three channels. We laughed at the idea of being able to see people we talked to on the telephone until cell phones and the Internet made us believers.

If you could go back in time, what period would you like to experience? I often think the time of the American Revolution would be exciting. Witnessing the patriotic fervor that drove a group of loosely connected colonies to think they could break free from a world power like England had to have been inspiring.

My 4X great-grandfathers Leonard Davis and William Jordan were both Virginia militia. Both marched to Yorktown to meet up with Lafayette. I doubt they were aware of Lafayette’s reputation and surely could not imagine the place Lafayette holds in history today. No doubt they were aware of those big events like the Boston Tea Party and the burning of Norfolk, the convening of the first Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and ratification of the Constitution, as well as the plans to establish a capital in Washington. They witnessed the exploration of the frontier and expansion of America with the Louisiana Purchase. They lived through the War of 1812 and saw the beginnings of the American railroad. But what else might they have witnessed?


1775 – submarine   

Turtle Submarine 1775

1777 – circular saw

1783 – Ben Franklin’s bifocals

Ben Franklin's bifocals
(from Wikimedia Commons)

1785 – parachute

1793 – Eli Whitney’s cotton gin

1797 – cast iron plow

1798 – vaccination

1804 – gas lighting

Gas Lights on Pall Mall in London
(from Wikimedia Commons)

1807 – steamboat

1810 – tin can  


1817 – kaleidoscope

1819 – stethoscope

1819 – soda fountain

Had my ancestors heard of Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen? When sitting around the fire on that march to Yorktown, did they hear anyone playing “Yankee Doodle”? Did they ever hear “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

52 Ancestors - OOPS: The Virtual Red Pen

When I was a teacher, I refused to use a red pen to mark students’ papers. Too many negative connotations. Students always referred to teachers’ comments on their papers as “bleeding all over the page.” My pen of choice was green or purple and sometimes a pencil. In my view these were more friendly, more encouraging, at least I hoped so. After all, getting it right is good.

In genealogy research, getting it right is important. There are plenty of flawed family trees on Ancestry without me contributing to the confusion with more bad information. I pride myself on being a careful researcher, so discovering I’ve posted something in error distresses me. Here are some of my biggest and best blunders along with the new and improved version setting the story straight – unless I discover otherwise.

Segourney Shiflett Eppard

    Before: Genealogy Photo a Day: Week in Review

    After: Is She or Isn't She?

Velma Davis Woodring

    Before: Sport Center Saturday - Velma Davis Woodring

    After: A Doppelganger for Velma

Josie Sheehan

    Before: Pay Attention to the Woman in the Hat

    After: Hiding in Plain Sight

Robert Byrnes

    Before: Sadie's Family

    After: In Search of Nephews 

        and Favorite Photo - Helen and the Byrnes Cousins

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

52 Ancestors - GRATITUTDE: How I Learned to Cook

Here in the South, we don’t eat breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Nope. We starve ourselves so that we can make ourselves almost sick enjoying the most important meal of the year: turkey, dressing and gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, collards, green beans, jello, rolls, and pumpkin pie. If you’re the cook, you have to get it right. A dry turkey can be forgiven, but the rest must be ON POINT.

When I was growing up, I looked forward to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house because my grandmother was an excellent cook.

I wrote on the back of this photo: Grandma should not have
walked in front of the camera.
Left to right: Grandma Lucille Davis, Uncle Orvin Jr (Davis),
Aunt "Scoop" Davis, just a sliver of cousin Barbara Davis,
me with that fine perm, cousin Glenn Davis

To this day I still enjoy using her recipes, but surprisingly what skills I have at preparing Thanksgiving food came NOT from her but from ladies at my church.

In the 1980s and 90s, many of the churches hosted community Thanksgiving meals. At Cradock United Methodist Church, the Methodist Women and Methodist Men were in charge of our community dinner. We didn’t run out to a Cosco or Sam’s Club to purchase pre-packaged entrees and salads; we cooked from scratch. I don’t remember how many turkeys we roasted and carved in order to feed well over 200 people each year.


Some of the ladies in the 
Silver Anniversary Circle
Front: Cookie Muter
Back: Margaret Williams, Margaret Spruill, Sue ?,
Frances Deyerle, Marian Garrett

The Silver Anniversary Circle, of which my sister and I were among the youngest members, prepared all the sides.

Margaret Williams taught me how to make gravy. 

Betty Lewis and Margaret Spruill stood alongside me as we cut loaves of bread into cubes for homemade croutons for the dressing – no bag of Pepperidge Farm turkey stuffing at Cradock’s annual Thanksgiving Feast!


I copied the recipe - I guess we 
made this recipe at least 4 times!
For my family I have to 
reduce it, obviously.
Measuring sage. Mashing potatoes. Shuttling gravy boats to the buffet table. It was always a flurry of activity in the kitchen at Cradock Church. And always laughter. 

I have long forgotten the many casseroles and lemon meringue pies thoughtfully prepared at home by proud cooks for the numerous fellowship dinners, but I distinctly recall wonderful times spent in the kitchen with the men and women who kept that church alive. I miss those days being in the kitchen with all those wise women, those funny women, those crazy women.

Always a big turnout for a dinner at Cradock UMC
How did we ever get to our seats?

I am glad that I have my Cradock cookbook with recipes and names to remind me of so many good times in a church that once was alive and well feeding its sheep in more ways than with a church dinner.

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

52 Ancestors - GOOD DEEDS: A Frazier Two-fer

“’Deed ‘n’ double” – that’s something my mother-in-law used to say when she was pleasantly surprised. I suppose it is like saying “indeed” twice. This country quip actually has nothing to do with my story except that it popped into my head as I was reflecting on how my story incorporates two uses of the word “deed.” 

In 1871, my 3X great-grandmother Nancy Frazier Shiflet along with her children sold 200 acres to her brother Miley Frazier.

Greene County Deed Book ?
This deed Made this twenty first day of December 1871, between Nancy E. Shiflet widow of Burton Shiflett decd, John C. Shiflett and Lucretia his wife, Jas. F. Jollet and Lucy Ann his wife, Nancy F. Shiflett, George Austin Morris and Susan C. his wife, Victoria J. Shiflett of the first and Mily Frazier of the second part all of Greene County Virginia, Witnesseth, that in consideration of three hundred dollars to them in hand paid by said Mily Frazier, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, The said Nancy E. Shiflet, John C. Shiflett and Lucretia his wife, Jas. F. Jollet and Lucie Ann his wife, Nancy F. Shiflet, George Austin Morris and Susan C. his wife, Victoria J. Shiflet, hereby grant unto the said Mily Frazier with general warranty the following real Estate to wit: Two hundred acres more or less, Beginning on Lynches River at Henry Austins corner thence to Burr? Lanes line, thence with said Lanes line to Wyatt Mills' corner thence to Poison Nole? corner thence to pole hill corner thence to the beginning, the above land lies in the county and State aforesaid.
Nancy E. (her x mark) Shiflett
John C. Shiflett
Lucretia (her x mark) Shiflett
James F. Jollett
Lucy Ann Jollett
Nancy F. Shiflett
George Austin Morris
Susan C. Morris
Victoria J. Shiflett
Acknowledged by all parties 21 December 1871 before Greene County J.P. Nath. B. Chapman and J.A. Davis

This DEED is just one of many in Miley Frazier’s quest to amass large quantities of land that in time proved to be a GOOD DEED for the State of Virginia and the country as well.  

Before Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive were established as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic response to the Great Depression, hundreds of families called the mountains of Virginia “home.” My Fraziers (3G and 4G grandparents) were among them. Their presence is recorded in land records from the 1700s, but in the 1930s, the last of the Frazier families moved away from what became park land.

Miley Frazier, my 3G grand uncle, at one time owned over 1,000 acres of land on what was once called Frazier Mountain, now Loft Mountain. At his death he gave each of his children 200 acres. Over time, those children divided the land further among their own children. By the 1930s only 8 Frazier families actually had deeds to property on Loft Mountain, but more Frazier families were there tending other landowners’ farms in exchange for living on the land.

In the 1960s Loft Mountain Campground and a nature trail were built. The trail was named Frazier Discovery Trail in 1999 to honor the long history between this family and this mountain.

The trail is a short and easy hike, only 1.3 miles. Two noteworthy features are the overhanging rock cliff

and the overlook where the trail joins the Appalachian Trail for a short distance.

Many descendants of families who were displaced during the Depression in order to create a national park are bitter. Yet look at what we have now: a beautiful park for all to enjoy.

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

52 Ancestors - DIFFERENT LANGUAGE: Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch

The first time I traveled to Europe, I carried an English-Italian dictionary. Since then I have been to Hungary, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland and never packed a dictionary. One thing traveling has taught me is that English is an important language. In Europe, everyone learns English – well, people in the tourist and hospitality industries, at least.

That is now. What was it like to leave familiar surroundings and familiar language behind when my ancestors immigrated to America in the early 1700s? The Eppards and Armentrouts (then Eberts and Ermantraudts) both left the Palatinate region along the Rhine River and settled for a time in Pennsylvania.

Their language was far different from the English language spoken in America. No wonder these immigrants huddled together in the comfort of a common language and customs. While some learned English and later generations moved on and away from their old ways, the language persisted among many of those who stayed in Pennsylvania. Today we call that language “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

It took some research to understand exactly what that means. My understanding is that it is a mixture of German and English. That makes sense. Obviously, the Germanic language of the 1700s did not have words for discoveries and inventions of the 1800s and 1900s. However, Pennsylvania Dutch is more complex than that even. There was no Netherlands, no Germany, no Switzerland in the 1700s. The people who spoke the language in the 1700s came from numerous kingdoms and dukedoms all with unique dialects. There was no official language called “German.” The language that evolved in Pennsylvania sounds German but is barely recognizable to native Germans. 

My maternal grandmother said that her mother and grandmother often spoke Pennsylvania Dutch to one another when they didn’t want others to know what was going on. (I can’t imagine what was going on!) In a way, I find that hard to believe. After all, this family had been in Virginia since before the Revolutionary War. That was a long time to preserve a language in a place where it was not used. Yet, the language certainly is alive and well in Pennsylvania along with a culture that is uniquely “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

Here are two YouTube videos. One is a demonstration of the sound of Pennsylvania Dutch. The other is a discussion about the language itself, its history, its similarity to and difference from pure German. When I saw it was 21 minutes long, I thought I would watch a couple minutes and be done with it, but it was so interesting that time flew.


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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

52 Ancestors - BEARDS: Beards on Parade

No story. Just photos of bearded ancestors whom I have never met.


2X great grandfather
James Franklin Jollett

James Franklin's brother
John Wesley Jollett and wife 
Sarah Elizabeth Smith Jollett

William H. Jollett
aka William P. Boyd and wife
James Franklin Jollett's nephew

at a reunion
Susan Clementine Morris and Austin Morris
(James Franklin Jollett's brother-in-law and 
sister-in-law) and Ambrose Vernon

Jennetta Dovel Shiplett 
and Philip Pendleton Shiplett
(brother of my 2X great-grandmother Segourney Eppard)

My great-grandmother
Mary Frances Jollett Davis
with sister Emma and
brother-in-law Jack Coleman

family of Jack and Emma Coleman
in their younger years

2X great-grandfather
Mitchell Davis

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.” 


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

52 Ancestors - SCARY STUFF: Do You Believe in Ghosts?

In the days when cameras operated only with film, people paid for the processing of the entire roll regardless of the quality of the picture. It did not matter whether the photos turned out perfectly or a head was cut off or what should have been a precious memory was out of focus, they all cost the same.

Forgetting that a roll was complete, sometimes people took pictures on top of pictures resulting in photos like these:

Aunt Helen and maybe Aunt Mae
about 1919

My grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker recognized that her photo-fail looked like a ghost.

from album of
Violetta Davis
early 1920s

When I first saw this photo from my grandaunt Violetta Davis’s camping trip, I did not realize it was a double until I saw a clear set of legs under the top half of the man on the left.

Getting to the subject of ghosts, not of the photo-fail kind but encounters with the Dead kind, I have never seen a ghost or felt the presence of one the way some people claim to have experienced. My aunt “Scoop” told about her encounter with a ghost.

Aunt "Scoop" and Uncle Orvin Jr.

She and my uncle lived in the house built by my great-grandfather Walter Davis. One afternoon when Scoop was sick in bed, she felt someone gently rubbing her forehead. She said it was Mary Frances, my great-grandmother. Now, was this just the imaginings of a sick woman? I don’t know. I can’t make myself believe it was true, but I hope it was. 

I would LOVE to have a FRIENDLY encounter with the ghost of an ancestor.

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.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Keep It Simple

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the next letter is our fearless leader’s march through the alphabet: K. K for “Kiss.” The expression about applying the KISS method to any situation came to mind: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And so I shall.


My grandaunt Velma Davis kept a scrapbook during her freshman year at Harrisonburg Teacher’s College (now James Madison University – GO DUKES!). Besides photos, she penned little poems and songs. I don’t know if they are her creations or copied from another source. This one is a gem:


What? No tissue to blot that red lipstick? The back of an envelope must have been the next best option. It looks like a kiss, but not likely. However, in this collection of letters is the ultimate “kiss off” – a breaking-up letter from my mother’s then-boyfriend George. He was quite the gentleman in sending the message “it’s not YOU, it’s ME.”



My girls put me to the test in 2013: planning TWO weddings within months of each other – one in October and one in December.

 Now that’s a kiss!

Please visit the other bloggers at Sepia Saturday where hugs and kisses await.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.