Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Give Me an "A"

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

This week Sepia Saturday begins an alphabet challenge with a photo of a Curling team from Alberta, Canada. With no curling teams in my family and no residents of Alberta, I went looking for interesting relatives and ancestors whose names start with “A” and I found one: Alpharetta. The first in the alphabetta.

Alpharetta Susan Shiplett did not make a big splash in this world, from what I can tell within the limits of online research, but she certainly carried an interesting name. In the family tree, she was a niece of my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother.

Alpharetta was the oldest daughter of Philip Pendleton Shiplett and Jennetta Dovel. She was born 15 Nov 1861 in Rockingham County, Virginia, around the farming community of McGaheysville. 

Photo courtesy Jan Hensley
Philip Pendleton Shiplett and Jennetta Dovel with 9 of their 12 children
Alpharetta is the 2nd from the left on the back row.

In 1880, she married Joseph Harner, and the two moved right next door to her parents and went to farming like everyone else. Alpharetta and Joseph had 8 children, but only 6 survived and lived to adulthood.

Photo courtesy Jan Hensley
On the porch: Alpharetta holding baby Malcolm born 1901, Jennetta and Philip P. Shiplett,
and Joseph Harner
On the steps: Richard Howard, Della, and Mary Arbutus
Left: Maybe Joseph and woman unknown, perhaps one of the Shiplett sisters
Right: Maybe Edgar and man unknown

Joseph died unexpectedly in June 1920. In December, Alpharetta (aka Susan A. Harner) sold the farm animals and equipment. 

Oakland 5-passenger car 1912 model

Also up for auction was an Oakland 5-passenger car often advertised as “Not the cheapest, but the best” and “Finest medium-priced automobile.” My favorite slogan for the Oakland was “The Car with a Conscience.”

 Alpharetta then went to live with her son Malcolm and his family.


In census records from 1900-1940, she was enumerated as Susan. It was probably easier than spelling “Alpharetta.” In her obituary and on her death certificate Alpharetta was the prominent name used. Her tombstone included both. She is buried in the Mt. Olivet Church Cemetery in McGaheysville, Virginia.

Joseph Marion Harner 1856-1920
Alpharetta Susan Harner 1861-1954
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

Please visit the other Sepia Saturday bloggers whose pictures and stories will surely score A+! 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Photo Friday - Emma

Emma Jollett Coleman

1 Feb 1863 Greene Co VA  – 10 Apr 1945 Shenandoah Page Co VA

Mary Frances Jollett Davis
Jack Coleman and Emma Coleman

Emma was the oldest sister of my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis, thus my great-grandaunt. She had been critically ill for two days. 

It would be interesting to know how Emma’s mother’s name was reported as “Tracey” in the obituary. It was actually “Lucy Ann.”


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

52 Ancestors - GREAT: 2X Great Granduncle

I have written several times about my 2X great-grandfather’s brother John Wesley Jollett. Nevertheless, I must devote this blog to my 2X great-granduncle again today. Why? Because it is the 189th anniversary of his birth on 6 April 1832.

John Wesley Jollett and Sarah Elizabeth Smith
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

John Wesley Jollett was the second child and oldest son of Fielding and Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett. He was born in the Naked Creek community of Rockingham County, Virginia on April 6, 1832. He grew up close to his future bride, Sarah Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Manson Smith and Melinda Hensley. The two married in 1852 and raised 5 children.

Jollett Methodist Church group
John Wesley and Sarah Elizabeth in the back

From 1850 to 1880, John Wesley was enumerated in the census as a farmer, but he was also a Methodist minister even though he was not enumerated as such until the 1900 census. At times he was also the postmaster and a trustee of the school board. Certainly he was regarded highly in the community.


John W. Jollett’s property grew in value from $500 in 1860 to $8000 in 1870. He had purchased a few small tracts of land in 1858 and then more in 1859, the latter being 37 acres which had belonged to his father Fielding Jollett. The significant jump in value can be attributed to the purchase of his wife’s grandparents’ 180 acre-farm in 1866.

Jollett house 

 Five years later, John Jollett declared bankruptcy.

from Richmond Daily State Journal 15 May 1871

Fortunately, he had taken out a Homestead exemption that same year which protected the family home from creditors. He still owed his in-laws $200 for the purchase of Gabriel Smith’s farm, which was to have been paid off in three years. A homestead is comprised of the home and surrounding land, including any related buildings such as barns, outhouses, spring houses, smokehouses, and the like set aside for the family residence.  A “homestead exemption” prevents the forced sale of the homestead to satisfy any debts of the householder. 

Homestead of John W. Jollett April 1871

Page County Deed Book O: 383

This Deed made this 5th day of April 1871, Witnesseth that John W. Jollett of the County of Page and State of Virginia being Householder and the head of a family claims as his Homestead under the Constitution of Virginia and the Same possessed is __ thereof. The following property Viz:

P. B. Borst

Witnesseth the following signatures and seals the day and year first aforesaid.
John W. Jollett {seal}

State of Virginia
County of Page

I W. W. Hampton a Justice of the Peace for the County of Page and State of Virginia, do hereby certify that John W. Jollett whose name is signed to the within writing bearing date on the 3rd day of April 1871, has acknowledged the same before me in my County aforesaid given under my hand this 5 day of April 1871.
W. W. Hampton J.P.

Page County To Wit
The within Deed was received in the Clerk’s office of said County with certificates of acknowledgement and United States Revenue Stamps of the value of twenty-five cents therein and admitted to record. April 5, 1871
J. W. Watson

The Homestead is an interesting document that reveals a lot about the way they lived in the community that came to be named for him: Jollett Hollow.

I wonder what economic downturn caused him to declare bankruptcy. And what a way to spend his birthday!

If you want to read more about John Wesley Jollett, check these earlier stories:

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.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Sentimental Sunday - Happy Easter!

Some of my favorite Easter Sunday photos ~

Easter 1960
Easter 1962 or 1963

Easter 1967



© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Making a Spectacle

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features tables lined with hungry guests. What was this - an optometrist convention? As one who needs glasses just to cut up my meat, I can’t help noticing all the eyewear.

 These eyeglasses are hardly an “heirloom,” but they are one of my favorite things I inherited from my grandparents Orvin and Lucille Davis. Supposedly they were my granddaddy’s glasses from his childhood. The size would suggest that is true, but I have no photos to prove he ever wore them. I wonder if whoever said they belonged to “Granddaddy” actually meant Walter Davis, my mother’s “granddaddy.”

Walter Davis
Do these look like the same glasses?

Let’s see who else wore glasses:


Nancy Frances Shiflett Morris
sister of my 2X great-grandmother

Captioned "Uncle Billy Long"
but he wasn't related
He was uncle of a good friend 
of my Davis family
Unknown - I guess a Davis family friend


Leota Sullivan Racy

Leota Sullivan was my granddaddy’s cousin. It is easy to see how her glasses always help to identify her in old photos.

Top row: My grandaunt Violetta Davis, there's Leota again,
and friend Florine Fisher 
Bottom row: Pauline Bennett and my grandaunt Velma Davis

High School chum of 
my in-laws




Mary Frances Jollet Davis



Grandaunt Lillie Killeen

Let's jump ahead a few decades.


Oooh high school hunk!

Sister-in-law in her cat-eyes!

Even the older chicks wore the cat-eyes
Catherine Reilly, Lillie Killeen, Helen Killeen Parker


Big wire-rims 


Who can forget the "Sally Jessy Raphael" glasses of the 80s? They were HUGE!

Some of my students 1981
Silver Anniversary Cirle of the 
United Methodist Women


Aunt Betty and Me 2009

Check out the bling
on Mary Jollette's glasses!

Moi and Mary Jollette

The Grandbaboo wanted to do a Selfie

This is my latest pair of glasses. They are multi-colored (rainbow according to the Baboo) with a tricky shape - almost Sally Jessy Raphael-esque.

Grab a seat at the Sepia Saturday table to see who all made a spectacle of themselves.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Photo Friday - Easter Preparations


Mary Jollette and Moi Easter 1965
Stickers to make funny faces on the eggs was a new thing!

As children, my sister and I always looked forward to dying eggs for Easter. We hid those colorful boiled eggs for days and even weeks after the chocolate bunny and buttercream eggs were gone. I’m sure chips of shell were lodged in the nooks and crannies of the sofa and chairs.

Mary Jollette Easter 1969
Boy, was she mad at me for seeing where she hid an egg!


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

52 Ancestors - MUSIC: Music to My Ears

During the month of March, I will be shining the light on my Irish roots.

Adhering to both the themes of 52 Ancestors AND my commitment to honoring my Irish ancestors requires me to get creative this week. This photo of my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker is one of my favorites. 

Helen Killeen with Victrola

She was on a camping trip with friends and someone brought along a gramophone – the 1920s version of ye olde boombox or the modern day Spotify and earbuds. Read two versions of the camping trip HERE and HERE.

But what would really be music to my ears would be if

  • I could identify the parents of little John Jr and his sister “Bob”
  • I could find John Sheehan in New York City
  • I could determine which Daniel Sheehan in County Limerick, Ireland was mine
  • I could find out how Thomas Gorman who witnessed Johanna Sheehan’s baptism was related to her mother Bridget Gorman and if this was the same Thomas Gorman who witnessed the marriage of Bridget Gorman and Daniel Sheehan
  • I could find out how Elizabeth Sheehan Enraght who witness John Sheehan’s baptism was related to his father Daniel Sheehan
  • I could find out how Patrick Gorman who witnessed Margaret Sheehan’s baptism was related to her mother Bridget Gorman
  • the descendants of Johanna Sheehan Hederman, Margaret Sheehan Nagle, Delia Sheehan Christian, and Elizabeth Sheehan Byrnes would contact me


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.


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sentimental Sunday - New York Cousins

During the month of March, I will be shining the light on my Irish roots.

Most of Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh’s sisters remained in New York following their emigration from Limerick, Ireland. It seems that Mary Theresa made sure her children got to visit their cousins. 

Probably Johanna Sheehan Hederman
with children Catherine Hederman Fraundorf
and John Hederman

My granny Julia Walsh Slade
Elmira Christian, daughter of Delia Sheehan
and William Christian

Grace Christian, Julia Walsh, Elmira Christian

My granny Julia Walsh
Sadie Byrnes, daughter of Elizabeth Sheehan and Patrick Byrnes

Julia's sister Helen Killeen with Robert Byrnes 1919
son of Elizabeth Sheehan and Patrick Byrnes

Jack Byrnes son of Elizabeth Sheehan and Patrick Byrnes

Sadie Byrnes and either Joseph or Patrick Byrnes 1919
children of Elizabeth Sheehan and Patrick Byrnes


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.