Friday, July 3, 2009

Getting Addicted

I have always loved to read. From the time I was small, I often had my nose buried in a book. At some point in my past I read some of John D. MacDonald’s books that featured a detective that lived on a houseboat. His name was Travis McGee and he had a neat philosophy that appealed to me. He would work a little while and then retire until he ran out of money. Then he would go back to work until his finances were restored. He called this taking his retirement in installments.

As long as we had kids at home Sylvia and I kept good jobs that provided a house and food for them. Sylvia did not work while the kids were small but once they went to school she joined me in the workforce. She had taught school when Mindi was small and we lived in Ohio but when we moved to Utah she became a stay at home mom. But I worked at Job Corps where I taught Horticulture and Landscaping for nearly twenty years.

But when our kids graduated from High School we planned to take off and do something exciting and adventurous with our lives. So about a year before Katie was to graduate we started looking around for something that would give us income but allow us to live on the edge. We joined the Peace Corps and were assigned to go to the small South American country of Paraguay. This was the first time we took a little bit of retirement and we have been living our lives this way every since.

In the late winter of 2005, we again found ourselves at loose ends. For some time we felt it was time for another bit of adventure. We had been working in a small private school in St. Petersburg, Florida for a couple of years. We had purchased a nice home in Madeira Beach but our lives had become routine and full of stress. Then circumstances stepped in and we found ourselves out searching for another grande adventure. We put our house up for sale, sold it rather quickly, bought a small doublewide home in a retirement park in Dundee, Florida just twenty five minutes from Walt Disney World.

We bought this home for a little over $12, 000.00 because it had been hit by a hurricane and a tornado. The house had not been lived in for several years but the location overlooking a beautiful natural lake could not be beat. We spent the next year or so fixing and remodeling to make the place our home. Wow! Does it ever take a lot of money to do this kind of project. But we finally had it two thirds done and it was time to look for a job to replenish our money.

We got on the internet and found a place in Oxford, North Carolina that sounded interesting. It was a children’s home run by the Masons and they needed houseparents. We contacted them and flew up for an interview. We liked them and they liked us and we began working their in October, 2005.

Now what does all of this have to do with my family history work? When we started working in Oxford, we were assigned to a house with eight teenage girls. But that is another story. I think we could do a whole blog just on our experiences with our girls. But, I found that when the kids were gone to school I had a lot of time on my hands. We had the internet in our apartment and I began searching on line for my family. I first found the RootsWeb.com site and I put on some of the stuff my Mom had discovered. Then I progressed to using Ancestry.com which cost quite a bit of money. I found myself addicted to family research. I was spending hours searching and adding names and sources to my family lines. I began bringing back boxes of Mom’s research when I would go home to Florida and adding that information to what I had found on the internet. My lines went back into time almost faster than I could keep up with them. Ancestry has thousands of records that it automatically searches for links to the names you put in. And it searches thousands of names that others have put in to see if they link up to your records. They also have many census, marriage, birth, and death records. I soon found myself spending several hours daily working on my family history. I had become my Family’s historian.

Because my Mom had spent so much of her time and efforts on her family lines, I decided that I would concentrate on my Dad’s side of the family and see what I could find.


My Dad’s father, Harry George Blimes, was born the 25 January 1890 near the Dardanelles on a small island between Turkey and Greece. And that was all I knew about him. He died 15 September 1954 when I was about eleven or twelve years old. I have vague memories of this jolly guy that smoked cigars and would pinch my cheek rather painfully whenever he greeted me.

The family lore was that he had stowed away on a ship when he was sixteen years old and come to America. He was accompanied by a cousin about his age. The story went on that he would never talk about his family, where he came from, or anything about his past because he was always afraid someone would come and get him. The only real hint we had to his past was in a school autograph book that belonged to my Aunt Mary, his daughter, where he had written a message in Greek and signed it with his Greek name. According to the legend, when he chose his American name, for his last name he used a part of his mother’s maiden name. My mom had obtained a copy of his American citizenship paper and it said he gave up allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey but he always maintained he was Greek.

My Dad’s mother, Mearl Edna Tolliver Blimes, was born 24 February 1894 in Floodwood, Athens County, Ohio. She was the second child of thirteen born to James Franklin and Minnie Belle Kyre Tolliver. She died on the 9 April 1969. As this was when I was in my twenties, I can remember her quite well and have many happy memories of spending time at her home off and on through my childhood. Grandma Blimes had diabetes and she watched her diet closely. She lived in a big house whose yard backed onto Canal Street but faced Jackson Street in Nelsonville, Ohio. As she got older, she first lived with her oldest son, Harry Junior, in Columbus but she always missed Nelsonville so she eventually moved back where she lived in a small house trailer in the backyard of her second son, George Franklin.

I have vague memories of her mother, Minnie Belle Kyre Tolliver, know as Granny. She lived in a little house on Poplar Street. My memories of her include her sitting in a small rocking chair, smoking a pipe. She was born the 10 February 1877 in Sciotaville, Sciota County, Ohio and died at the age of 79 on 18 November 1956 in Nelsonville.

Grandma’s father, James Franklin Tolliver, was born in Tazewell County, Virginia on 13 March 1859. All my life I had been told that Tolliver had originally been spelled Taliaferro, Taliferro, Talafer and or Toliver. But all of these were pronounced To-lli-fer with the emphasis on the final syllable.

There were family tales about a feud in Kentucky and a colorful past of many of Grandma’s family. I do remember some of Grandma’s brothers and sisters gathering at Granny’s house and my memories include a lot of cigar, cigarette and pipe smoke and a lot of beer. They were a loud, fun loving, and complicated family.

Grandma also told me that she had Cherokee blood and that some of her family came from Italy.

As I began my research into this family, I found a lot of information and even hooked up with several Tolliver “cousins” that found my postings on RootsWeb and Ancestry.com. I found a wonderful website called the Taliaferro Times that had a lot of information, some proven and some conjecture. I learned that the author of this site believed that all Tollivers and their associated spellings of the name had originated from a pioneer who came to the tidewater area of Virginia in the 1600’s from London, England but were originally from Italy. How exciting, how encouraging, I was hooked! But I learned to not always believe everything you find that others have researched.

Next time I will tell you of the exciting trip we took to the tidewater Virginia area and our hunt for the original homestead of Robert “the immigrant” Taliaferro located along the Rappahannock River not far from Jamestown.

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