Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unraveling Time

Prior to going to the Virginia Tidewater area to search of Robert “the immigrant” Taliaferro’s homesite, I had been in contact with Emma Lee Tolliver who lived in Columbus, Ohio and was the founder and organizer of the Tolliver Family reunion held in Morehead, Kentucky every year. We had corresponded quite a bit about the roots of the Tolliver family and she had suggested I write to a gentleman who was working on a DNA project for the Tolliver’s. Just before leaving on our trip I had written to him asking him for more information. When we got back to our hotel in Fredericksburg from finding the Robert Taliaferro homesite, I found an email from him. This email explained that we were not actually related to the Taliaferro line at all! What a downer. At first I refused to believe it but how can you argue with science. Here is the story as I learned it over many emails with many Tolliver descendants.

Emma Lee wrote: “We know we go back to John Toliver b. abt. 1760 (you have 1764, but he was listed as 100 in the 1860 census). There is no proof of the John Toliver b. 1720 in VA. There were 2 Tolivers in Surry Co., NC in 1771 Tax records: William Tolliver had 4 polls (4 males over 16) and John had 1 poll. We do not know the exact connection with our John or the other 4 brothers. We need to find some documentation.

As to the DNA: Wayne Rogers started this study to prove/disprove the connection between the Toliver/Tollivers and the Taliaferros. The study showed absolutely no connection with the Taliaferros. The old Tolliver researchers had thought for years that they just couldn't find the connection because of the burning of Courthouses during the Civil War. And then we have the startling finding about John not matching the other 4. My husband is one of John's descendants and the other is John Tolliver in GA, the brother of Eleanor Waters, a longtime Toliver researcher. John goes back to John through Lytte and then James and then John 1760. My husband goes back to John through Hugh then William and then John 1760. They matched exactly but they do not match the descendants of the other 4 brothers. My husband has had the 37 marker test done so it is quite certain that they were not blood relatives. The interesting thing is that John's descendants have Jewish DNA. Wayne "says" (not proven) that John's father was a Dr. Symmer/Symmes who was Jewish and let John go with the Tollivers to avoid persecution. There is no proof of this.

We do believe John was raised in the household with the 4 brothers. He swore to the government that he was in the Rev. War along with his older brothers, Moses and Jesse. We also have a copy of a letter written by the child of one of the brothers and it states that "Uncle John" is doing well but is blind.”

I then wrote to the man, Wayne Rogers, who was conducting the DNA research and received the following information from him: “I have spent the best part of my life trying to solve the Toliver problem. When DNA became within my budget and I was offered the Toliver Surname Project, I jumped on it. We found descendants of all three Tolivers - Robert Taliaferro had four sons with descendants. All of them are exactly the same DNA, All the descendants of Alan Tolliver, a descendant of William Tolliver who married Mary Hopper in Virginia but moved with your John to North Carolina. We have over 400 DNA matches with his branch. Your John appeared when a Pererz descendant in the Philippines found that her father's DNA was the same as a John Tolliver in Georgia, not far from Atlanta. I knew his sister and we got his DNA and it was also a match.

We all have a tendency to jump to conclusions about the Tolivers. Here are the only facts for any explanation of how, when and where, the two families took the same name, traveled together to NC and raised their children to think they were from the same family.

They both appear in Goochland County in the late 1780s when there was a bad crop year, British merchants were pressing the colonists for taxes to pay the French and Indian War as well as the debts they owed to the Brits during the Revolution. Adding to this was the bankruptcy of the Colony, created by the Treasurer who spent most of his life trying to please his wealthy family and their associates. When he died, a famous lawyer named Pendleton was given the job of taking the property of those who did not pay their debts to the Treasurer.
Most of them were immediately bankrupt and running to the neighboring states for a fresh start. We have evidence that William Toliver lived in Fauquier County before he appears in Goochland to marry Ms Hopper. There is also a record of a John Tolliver who married Elizabeth Symmer in Goochland. Dr. Symmer was famous along the banks of the Rappahannock River but he died and his 1500 acres and all his property were sold to pay his debts.

William had several children of age while John had only one son. Have I given you the background? John's only son married Tabitha Howell and raised a large family. His mother is not mentioned after the wedding and John Sr. appears in several real estate deals in neighboring counties.

Perez is a Biblical name dating back to Adam and Eve. His male descendants were scattered after the Roman conquest of Israel. There were 400 families with the name in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Most of them scattered across northern Africa and eventually reached the Atlantic and the way to Europe. In less than 2000 years, they established families and survived persecutions from everyone else. They were forced from Catholic Spain in 1492 and many chose to go the New World, where they have also thrived. Be proud of your heritage. It is a long and famous story.”

As I have continued my research I have found many of John Toliver’s descendants who believe the above accounts but I have found others who discount the validity of DNA and insist the line goes back through the Taliaferros. As for me, I tend to believe the account that is given above. I think John’s father married Dr. William Symes daughter and when Dr. Symes became ill and saw he was about to lose all of his property, he gave his young son to his daughter and son-in-law to raise as their own. It is a romantic tale and what can I say, I am just an old fashioned romantic guy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Visit to Wigmore

A couple of years ago I traveled with my wife and two cousins to England to look for our ancestral homes. One of the places we went was to the ruins of the castle at Wigmore in Herefordshire. The following is an account I wrote after that visit.
As I approached the ruins, a feeling of ancient history overtook me. I experienced a sense of family. It was strange to realize I was walking in a place where my ancestors had lived for such a long time. It was chilly. Every once in a while a little drizzle fell upon me, but I was in no hurry to leave. The place had put a spell on me. Even after returning home to North Carolina, I felt a pull or urge to learn all I could about the castle, the village and the people who lived there. I found a book that had been written about the first Roger by an English historian. And, of course, the internet is a great source for furthering my research.
One of the reasons for our trip to Great Britain was to look for places where our ancestors had lived before. I had studied our family history and poured over maps before we actually traveled so we could stay near places we wanted to visit. I had located several places and we were excited to find them. While we visited many places, Wigmore stands out far above all the others and found a special place in my memories.
It was a cool, cloudy day in Herefordshire, England when we set out to find one of our ancestral homes. Wigmore Castle is located in the northern corner of Herefordshire, together with the ancient village bearing the same name. The castle site is located on a spit of land at the end of a row of hills pointing out into a fertile valley. When the castle was inhabited the valley consisted of marshlands to its diagonal north and a backdrop of thick forest-covered hills. Today this marsh, together with its accompanying lake, has been drained; the result of the need of later generations of owners and tenants to extend land suitable for cultivation. In the castle's hey-day, however, this wetland provided inhabitants with ample supplies of fish and game, as did the forest on the remote side of the ridge.
Wigmore Walls
Centuries of decay, neglect and attackers' efforts have now left the castle a scattering of ruins with features such as towers, curtain walls and a barely discernable gatehouse, for the visitor to carefully view due to their deterioration and the growth of heavy vegetation. Things should not get any worse as the current owner, Mr. John Gaunt, has handed over the site which defines Wigmore, in guardianship to English Heritage. This national agency has the responsibility for the conservation of historical sites. Work, of both research and a stabilizing nature, has been completed.
Wigmore Gate
The site of Wigmore Castle is located on the remains of an earlier fortification. The age of this structure, built on a piece of land called Merestun, is not clear, but it is known that to be of very early origin, having been repaired and held by Edward the Elder in 921. Vikings later attacked this fortification, but were defeated. The village close by was called Wigingamere.
At the time of the reign of Edward the Confessor, (about 1042 – 1066) the barony of Wigmore belonged to Edric Sylvaticus, the Saxon Earl of Shrewsbury. He refused to submit after the Norman Conquest and was defeated in battle and taken prisoner. His possessions were subsequently granted to William Fitz Osbern, the Earl of Hereford under William the Conqueror (1068 to 1072), as a reward for his services.
Among these possessions were the remains of the earlier fortification on Merestun. Fitz Osbern subsequently rebuilt Wigmore Castle, as it became known. Although it was initially only a small castle built of earth and timber, it was to become one of the main English border castles along the Welsh Marches. The Welsh Marches is a term used to describe the counties along the border with Wales, mainly on the English side during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Fitz Osbern's son Roger de Breteuil took part in the Revolt of the Earls. The Revolt of the Earls in 1075 was a rebellion of three earls against William the Conqueror. After the Earl's subsequent defeat William seized the castle and gave it to another of his supporters, Ranulph de Mortimer. From this time on Wigmore became the head of the barony of the Mortimers, Earls of March.
Some time after 1135, the castle was rebuilt (still with timber) on a larger scale by Ranulph's son, Hugh de Mortimer. The new structure included a large motte. A motte in French is a raised earth mound, like a small hill, topped with a wooden or stone structure known as a keep. The earth for the mound would be taken from a ditch, dug around the motte or around the whole castle. The outer surface of the mound could be covered with clay or strengthened with wooden supports. There was an enclosed bailey or large courtyard to the southeast. At this stage the buildings and defenses are still made of timber. In 1155 the castle was besieged by Henry II because of Hugh's support for Stephen of Boulogne. Two small earthworks to the east and west of the castle have survived to the present day. These were probably siege-works built for the campaign.
In 1181 Hugh's son (also called Hugh) began to rebuild parts of the castle in stone. This process was completed by 1246 by Hugh's grandson, Ralph de Mortimer. This included the curtain wall that surrounds the bailey, which still stands to this day at its full height on the east side and the south side between the south tower and the gatehouse.
Wigmore Tower
In 1304 Roger de Mortimer, (my thirtieth great grandfather) succeeded his father Edmund. He strengthened the position of the Mortimer family considerably, eventually becoming Isabella of France's lover. To further complicate the situation Isabella was also the wife of Edward II, King of England. Roger became a trusted advisor to Edward II and eventually became very powerful. But he allowed greed to overcome his good sense. Roger and Isabella plotted to overthrow Edward II. Edward II became aware of the plot and had Roger thrown into the Tower of London. Some of Roger’s supporters managed to bribe a keeper in the Tower who allowed Roger to escape. (Roger is only one of two people who ever successfully escaped from the Tower of London.) Roger’s friends were waiting for him in a small boat on the Thames and helped him escape to France. Once in France he began to plot and work to get Isabella to make a royal visit to her family who were the current rulers of France. She managed to get Edward II to allow the visit. She then joined up with Roger. They raised an army of about ten thousand men. Soon they invaded England and captured Edward II. Here the story becomes a little murky. Some historians say, Roger had Edward killed, while others say he had Edward banished to a castle in Scotland where he was imprisoned until his natural death. At this point Roger also acted as Regent for Isabella's son (later Edward III) while he was still a minor. This was for a period of four or five years. During this time, Roger also rebuilt Wigmore Castle in its present form. Wigmore became a scene of many royal tournaments, parties and great revelry.
Wigmore Courtyard
In 1330 Edward III succeeded to the throne and had Roger de Mortimer once again imprisoned in the Tower of London. This time there was no escape and Roger was executed. While many of Roger’s holdings and riches were seized by Edward, he allowed Mortimer's grandson (also named Roger) to keep Wigmore Castle.
This Roger became a trusted royal servant of Edward III and because of this he was able to have his grandfather's sentence reversed and he was restored all the Mortimer estates. His son Edmund married Edward III's granddaughter Phillipa. In 1381 their son, Roger, inherited at the age of six and was declared the heir presumptive should Richard II (Phillipa's cousin) die childless.
Wigmore Arches
Roger de Mortimer was killed in battle in Ireland in 1398 and in 1399 Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) deposed Richard II and seized his throne. When the male line of the de Mortimers died out in 1424, the castle passed to the crown.
Edward, Duke of York, another member of the Mortimer dynasty, was almost certainly based at Wigmore Castle before his victory over the Tudors at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461. He eventually deposed Henry VI and was crowned King Edward IV the following year. During his reign the castle ceased to have any real significance and was barely maintained. Nearby Ludlow Castle (which the Mortimers had inherited through marriage in 1314 and was their administrative centre) supplanted it as a royal castle.
Throughout the 16th century Wigmore Castle was managed by the Council of the March, partly as a prison, although the castle was already beginning to decay.
In 1601 Elizabeth I sold Wigmore Castle to Thomas Harley of Brampton Bryan. His son, Sir Roger Harley, a Puritan and Parliamentarian, later inherited the castle. During the English Civil War, Harley left the castle in charge of his wife, Lady Brilliana, while he went off to battle for the crown. Lady Brilliana had a reputation as a fierce warrior in her own right and when she felt the castle might be taken by the Royalists she had the castle's defenses dismantled and the walls breached in order to prevent the Royalists using it as a stronghold against the Crown and her. In fact, the castle played no part in the Civil War and was already in a state of ruin by 1644, the buildings being left roofless and crumbling through natural decay.
Despite not being in a premier league in terms of size where medieval castles are concerned, Wigmore was an edifice graced with a significant degree of splendor for those years of Mortimer ascendancy, particularly in its latter two centuries. This importance was not diminished by its distance from royal courts. Its barbican (A tower or other fortification on the approach to a castle, especially one at a gate or drawbridge.) saw a whole aristocracy pass through it, and not just that of England. Welsh, Scottish and Irish nobles would variously have been visitors, probably combining political business with pleasure. Guests would also have included the envoys of many a Western European court, engaged in similar duties and celebration.
Wigmore Keep
The manner in which these noble guests were hosted would have been sumptuous. There would have been no fear, on the incumbent family's part, of the welcome offered not being to the level to which the guests were accustomed. The castle's environs provided all that was required in ordinary fare, and the family was rich enough to import the more exquisite items of the hall's board. The same would have applied to the furnishings and decor, and also to the service that the family would be offering to the aristocratic arrivals. Entertainment too was varied, particularly in the field of tournament. Here, events were on a massive scale - on one occasion the grandfather of the infamous Roger, of the same name, provided a spectacular participation and viewing for a hundred knights and their consorts for three days.
As I sat high on that hill, alone among the ruins of the castle keep, I imagined I could hear the voices of my ancestors. In my mind’s eye I could see that young boy who would become a ruler of England. I could see him learning the basics of becoming a knight. I could see him with his boyhood companions, riding his charger, playing at jousting; polishing his skills to be the warrior his family expected him to be. I see him at the early age of fifteen being married to a young girl to unite two powerful families. As the years go by the castle evolves into a “happening place” where the rulers of the world gather to decide the affairs and futures of the known world. A great sense of history filled my mind and lifted me into those long ago days. As I walked down the hill through the ruins of walls, towers, moats, and living spaces, I kept looking back, feeling a sorrow at leaving that I couldn’t comprehend.
Wigmore Valley

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Bubble Burst, A Family Found

For many years it has been assumed that there were 5 Tolliver brothers from North Carolina. This would be William, Moses, Jesse, John, and Charles. And there were two sisters Lucy and Sarah/Nancy. It was thought they were related to Robert, the immigrant, Taliaferro who lived in the Tidewater Virginia area in the seventeenth century all Taliaferros, Tolivers, and Tollivers branched from the same tree.
Robert Taliaferro left England shortly before his 21st birthday. He boarded the ship 'Honor' at the Stepney docks only two days after his father, Francis Taliaferro, died and was buried. He left his older sister, Anne, to act as Administrator of their Father's estate.
The date, August 1646, the likelihood that his uncle was a close adherent of the deposed King, and the haste of his departure in company of Robert Lee, seems to signal that Robert Taliaferro fled England in the wake of the defeat of King Charles I by the Parliamentary forces. Soon after he arrived in Virginia, he took up a patent adjacent to the earlier patent of Richard Lee, progenitor of Virginia's famous Lee family and a known Royalist. Richard Lee invited King Charles to take refuge in Virginia where he would be welcomed.
Robert first resided in York County; the records showing that his name first appears about 1645. He was a man of consequence; for he had large grants of land in Gloucester County and on the Rappahannock River, including one of 6500 acres which he patented jointly with Major Lawrence Smith. The grant in Gloucester is dated 1655, and in the document the name is written"Toliver," thus showing that the pronunciation is the same as it is today.
Having found all of this information on my ancestors, Sylvia and I decided we would take a few days and go to the Tidewater area of Virginia and see if we could find where Robert and his descendants lived. We decided to make Fredericksburg our headquarters and so reserved a nice hotel room and prepared for our trip.
We drove along a road that on maps is called “Historyland Highway” which in reality is State route 17 which follows the Rappahannock River which we knew from our research Robert had lived along. Imagine our surprise to find a roadside historical marker that referred to the Taliaferro home that was located nearby. Across the road from the Historical Marker was a couple who were working on their driveway. Sylvia rolled down her window and asked if they knew where the homestead was located. They were familiar with the site and gave us good directions to find it. Off we went full of excitement to find the historical site. After a few turns and misses we came to the place they told us about. It was the offices of a development company. They were developing several thousand acres along the Rappahannock River into a planned community. The site contained the remnants of the Taliaferro homestead which we learned had been built of red clay brick. The owner of the company offered to take us down to the site where the house had stood and five unmarked graves had been found. We were so excited! He told us that he had invited a team of archeologists from the Virginia Historical Society to do a “dig” of the site. They had found thousands of relics. We reached the site and got out to wander about the area. He showed us the foundation of the home, where a dairy had been and the grave sites. He then said that he was currently living in Robert’s son, John’s home, and invited us to tour it. As we were making our way back to our vehicle, he picked up a piece of brick that he said was from the home and a pottery shard and gave them to us. We were thrilled! We followed him back up to the main road we had come in on to the site of the large two story redbrick home where he was living. He took us through the home and it was an awesome feeling to walk where my ancestors had walked so long ago. Robert had actually lived in one side of the house until his death. It was getting towards evening so we bid the kind gentleman goodbye and made our way back to the highway and to our hotel in Fredericksburg.
I turned on my laptop with the idea that I would write my feelings of the day while they were still fresh in my memory. Now came the bursting of my bubble. Before starting to write I decided to check my email. I found an email from a lady that I had been corresponding with about the Taliaferro/Tolliver line. And she told me that a descendant of John Tolliver (1760-1863) who my line came through had just had DNA testing done and it proved that John was not actually a Tolliver. Even though all the records said he was one of the five brothers and had been raised in the Tolliver home, his lineage was not the same as the other members of the family. At first I went into denial but eventually came to the conclusion that John must have been taken in by the Tolliver family for some reason and raised as one of the family. I wrote to the man who had had the DNA testing done and he wrote back and gave me the information he had received. He said the testing revealed, “The Y-DNA of descendants reveals there are three families involved. The smallest is that of the Taliaferros, who are of Italian origin and came to Virginia early in the 17th century. The second, began by William of NC, has its roots in Western Europe and is common throughout the US. The third group, revealed by the DNA of John Tolliver has Biblical roots.” I was told that John was descended from the Perez Family, a Jewish line that went from Jerusalem to Spain and eventually to America. I then contacted another Tolliver researcher and received the following, “A DNA study conducted in 2003 by the Taliaferro DNA Project found a genetic match between descendants of four of the "Five Brothers" (Jesse, Charles, William, and Moses). A descendant of the fifth brother, John, did not match the others. However, John, Jesse, and Moses did consider themselves to be brothers, proven by a declaration that John Toliver filed in 1856 in support of a Revolutionary War pension application by the widow of Capt. Samuel Johnson. In the declaration, John refers to his "older brothers" Jesse and Moses Toliver. It is possible that additional descendants of John Toliver need to be tested to verify the DNA results. If the results are valid, then John Toliver must have had a different father than Jesse and Moses.
None of the Five Toliver Brothers matched anyone from the Taliaferro family of Virginia, which rules out the Taliaferros as ancestors of the Toliver Brothers, at least in a direct male line. It is possible that the Tolivers could be related to the Taliaferros through a female line, such as a child born out of wedlock who took the Taliaferro (Toliver) name. Although it is difficult to speculate about the actual relationship between the Tolivers and the Taliaferros, it is true that the Toliver family of Wilkes and Alleghany County occasionally spelled their name Talifer, Talifero or Tollafaro rather than Toliver, and there is even an example of the exact spelling Taliaferro in an 1867 deed involving the heirs of Jesse Toliver's son Solomon Toliver.
So, the Five Toliver Brothers continue to be an intriguing source of speculation, conjecture, and debate among their descendants. Was their father John or William? Did they really come from Fauquier County, VA? Were they really brothers, or perhaps cousins? Were they related to the Taliaferros of Virginia? We may never know all the answers to this riddle.
To say that I was a little bummed by all this information that directly concerned the site I had just visited is an understatement.
But as with most walls that appear along our path of Family Research, I began to look for a gate, tunnel or other way to get through, over, under or around the wall. This quest has put me in touch with many wonderful people who have added to my information about John and his descendants. Through these contacts I have visited the graves of John and his wife Tabitha Howell Tolliver near Sparta, North Carolina; talked with descendants scattered all over the United States, and exchanged stories, photos and documents.
So as of now here is how I am connected to the family of John Tolliver (1780-1863); James Franklin Tolliver (1795-1861); Wiley Gordon Tolliver (1835-1906); James Franklin Tolliver (1859-1937); Mearl Edna Tolliver (1894-1969) and Bill Blimes, Jr. (1921-1980). Some of these folks were explorers of new lands, fought for independence in the Revolutionary war, fought against each other in the Civil War, took part in an infamous feud in Kentucky, were jailed on suspicion of murder, worked in coal mines, farms, and factories and fought in World Wars. I am proud, whatever their circumstances, to be associated with them.

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.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In the beginning;

Back in the dim and distant past when I was a young man, my mother was heavily involved in Genealogical Research. Sometimes she would drag me along on her research trips to find overgrown country cemeteries, lavender smelling old ladies in big old houses, and trips to musty sections of libraries. I usually went kicking and screaming but she didn’t like to go alone. She especially didn’t like to go to cemeteries alone. She had a friend, Helen, who had had a dream about a horrible experience in a cemetery and she had convinced mom not go to cemeteries alone.

My mother’s people included Morris’, Goodspeeds, Harrolds, Cranes, Bradds, and Littles. My dad’s family was a very colorful collection of characters including Tollivers, Kyres, Richards and Angels. My paternal Grandfather had emigrated from a Greek Island when he was sixteen, and at this time, we knew very little about his family. In fact, even to this day we still don’t know much more but I’ll cover that in a future post.

In late May or early June of 2001, Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The cancer was attacking the lining of her brain and the doctors told her she could opt for treatments that could prolong her life or she could accept her fate and die. After much prayer, counseling with her children, and her bishop, Mom decided to die. To understand this decision, you must know a little more about my Mother. She and my Dad were high school sweethearts. They had been married for 38 years when he died on Halloween evening, October 31, 1980. About a year before Mom died, she and I were talking and she told me not a day had gone by since Dad died that she had not missed him. Her firm faith in an afterlife had her looking forward to the day that she would leave this earth life and be reunited with him.

Anyway, as she lay in her hospital bed, she had each of us kids come one by one to her bedside to talk. In her discussion with me, she said she was appointing me her successor as our family historian. What could I do but agree to her request. At the time of this bequest, I was 58 and I have to tell you that I still had little or not interest in researching my family tree. I did enjoy learning about the family as Mom found information but that was all the involvement I wanted.

After her death, my sister and my sister-in-law packed up all of mom’s research notes, notebooks, computer programs, photographs, historical documents, and books. It took sixteen computer paper boxes to hold it all.
I was living in Florida at the time and so we packed the boxes in our van and took them home. They sat in storage for about three years. I had made an attempt to look at some of it, including letters that my Dad wrote to my Mom during World War II when he was in the Navy in the South Pacific. But I found it too difficult and emotional. So I put them away.

Then the time came when my wife said I needed to go through the boxes and at least get rid of the duplicate records and useless paper. She set up a Saturday when my sister and my brother and his wife and us to go through the boxes. I found it much easier to do in a group situation but it still wasn’t easy. But we got it down to about ten boxes which went back into storage.

Next time I will tell you how I became addicted to Family History Research and some of the things I found in those boxes…