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  • I volunteer for the Patriots Records Project for DAR indexing names found in unpublished documents.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.