Archive | July 2013

Google Search: Using + , – , * and ? in genealogy searches

Here is a great tip from on of my favorite genealogy blogs! Maybe this will help you find that one elusive relative that you’ve been searching for!

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

OK, let’s continue the search for the mysterious John Smith. The previous hint initially found 228 million entries for the simple search for John Smith. That’s a few more than anyone would be prepared to search through page by page. The we pared that down using “John Smith” and further by using “John Smith ~genealogy.

So here’s the problem with “John Smith”. If John is out there on the internet with either a middle initial or a full middle name, this simple search for “John Smith” with question marks isn’t going to work to find them.

What do we do? The * and ? and other search tools are called “operators”. The * ~ and ? are all operators as well as + and -.

If John MIGHT have a middle name, here’s what you do: “John * Smith” ~genealogy. That search will return 208,000 responses, more that the 111,000…

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Women Trapped on Rail Trestle at Wittens Mill

June 13, 1931

As I recollect the story as it has been passed down, Grandmaw Altha Davis and *Aunt Jo  were picking berries along the railway near Wittens Mill in Tazewell County, VA (just off Route 460 between Tazewell and Bluefield). It is my understanding that they were crossing the trestle to get to the other side when a train came round the curve on the mainline and over the trestle – catching the two women. Grandmaw’s big toe  was cut off and she was tossed off the trestle but landed on a bail of wire that cushioned her fall. Aunt Jo was fowled beneath the locomotive which resulted in a broken coccyx but no other serous injuries.

I remember Grandmaw showing me her big toe. It was just the top of her big toe that was cut off, but I can’t image being in that difficult and frightening predicament.

The story always amazed me because this same family of Asa Davis (Norfolk & Western Maintenance of Way Foreman) who moved their entire household in a box car from Russell County to Tazewell County obviously knew the dangers on the rails. Why anyone would walk a trestle is beyond me.

Fortunately, by God’s grace, the two recovered to pick berries another day.


Mrs. A.C. Davis and Daughter, Mrs. Forrest Mace, Seriously Injured
Mrs. Mace is Fouled Beneath Locomotive While Mother is Tossed Bodily From Structure; Victims Are Patients In Bluefield Hospital
Trapped by a locomotive as they were crossing the Norfork and Western railroad….


The white cabinet now sits in Mom’s house, but was originally her grandmother’s,  Nancy C. “Nannie” (Jessee) Davis.

MACE NF and Joella

* Aunt Jo Ella (Davis) Mace with Uncle Forrest Mace

Who was Nannie?

I’ve been told by those in Russell County, VA…
 “if you meet a JESSEE – you’re probably related; if you meet a DAVIS – you’re probably not.

Genealogy is not for those who are gratified by the completed task because family historians are always in search of the next perfect piece to fit the puzzle. Little more than 30 years ago, after a lifetime of practically ignoring my family, I became interested in my ancestors. The journey began, as most genealogists suggest, by asking question of your parents. I discovered a good bit of first-hand information from Dad about his side of the family. Mom however, knew very little about her lineage probably because she was the eighth born in a family of ten children. Her DAVIS grandfather had passed away in 1899, long before her birth and her grandmother Nancy C. “Nannie” (Jessee) Davis passed away when her namesake, Nannie Lucille Davis, was only four. I have no pictures of Doctor Caleb Davis (1853-1899) and only the one of Nannie. (below on right)

As I began to ask questions of Mom’s sisters, my elderly aunts , I quickly learned that – like most families –  there was something to hide! Aunt Jo Ella (Davis) Mace told Mom it was not a good idea for me to start digging into our family history, “she might find a horse thief – or something.”

DAVIS Nancy C Jessee w dau Mary son Charles and wife KateWell, Aunt Jo was wrong about the horse thief, but she was right about diggin’ up a lil’ somethin’.  I discovered that my great-grandmother had 5 dear men in her life.

1) As a young girl still living at home and with her *widowed mother, Sarah Fuller Jessee (3/1833-1922) , Nannie become pregnant “out of wedlock”. She had her baby in 1871 at the age of 16. At first glance this seems to be such a shock for the days in which she lived from 1854-1925, however, the more I meet other researchers, I now know that this is not uncommon, even in those days.  We’re not too sure what happened to the young *basque, but Abner Smith (Smythe) left Russell County, VA and died in Blountville, TN.  Nannie reared her first born son, William Albert as a Jessee.

*Sanford Lea Jessee (10/23/1832-1/10/1862)
*from southern France – northern Spain region

2) On July 4, 1872, Nancy C. Jessee married Doctor Caleb Davis and less than three months later delivered their first son, Samuel A. Davis on September 26, 1872. This marriage was obvious stable for the young couple since they were parents to 12 children.

1. Samuel A. 9/26/1872
2. Jefferson Bonaparte 3/29/1874
3. Charles Henry “Keen” 7/7/1876 (WORKED ON THE N&W)
4. Mary A. 12/19/1877
5. Sarah Ellen 9/9/1878
 6. Manerva Josephine “Josie” 8/3/1881
7. David P 12/1879
8. Vance P.
 9. Asa C. “Acie” 1/7/1883 (SECTION FOREMAN ON THE N&W)
10. Ida E. 5/21/1885
11. Nannie K.
12. Polly M. abt 1886

My great-grandfather, Doctor Caleb Davis died in 1899.

3) Nannie married Joseph White on July 4, 1901. White died 3/9/1911.

4) Nannie married J.A. Elkins about 1912. Elkins died 4/13/1919.

5) Nannie married a Mr. Lowe about 1920. I have no records of Lowe, but Nannie died in Cedar Bluff, VA on February 16, 1925. I cannot find an obituary or record of her burial. Please contact me if you have either.

JOHNSON Jake & Mary Johnson (Asa Davis' sister)  DAVIS Asa  BLANKENSHIP Etta May, Gilmer, Aunt Ida Davis Blankenship (Asa's sister) WALLACE Morgan and M Josephine Davis

Above – Mary, Asa, Ida & Josie

JESSEE APrivateStanfordJessee29thVA JESSEE Sarah Sallie Fuller

Sanford Lea Jessee  and Sarah (Fuller) Jessee married in 1851 in Russell County VA.

Aunt Jo Ella (Davis) Mace 9/10/1911 – 8/25/1996

DAVIS Joella

BUCKLAND Lucille Davis  babysitting

A flood in Williamson, WV

As told by L.W. Buckland, Jr.

In April 1977, Buddy was working on a train that had laid over in Williamson, West Virginia. There was a flood in the coal fields which trapped the train and its crew for four days, from Sunday night until Wednesday morning. The crew was stranded on the 3rd floor of the 10-story Mountaineer Hotel. Flood waters were 20 feet deep in the street and on 2nd Avenue the water was up to the 2nd story of the hotel. Beside the hotel was the Chamber of Commerce where there is/was a coal carved statue of an Indian. All of that was under water.

Buddy and some of his crew found mesh wire from an antenna on the roof and got 2×4’s to make fishing nets. They caught items floating in front of the hotel. In fact, they fished out food in cans and plastic, enough to feed 90 people during the stay. Crew members fished out beer, whiskey and cigarettes. Carlton Whitley, brakeman on the job, even fished out a tire that fit his truck. (Dad fished out some metal lawn chairs that Mom still uses on her front porch.)

When the water subsided, the men waded out with garbage bags on their legs and made it to the Salvation Army, setup in the school.

Microwave (?) phone systems had just gone into effect. Buddy heard Supt. Stephens on the phone and spoke with him – resulting in Robert Buckland coming to Williamson to pick up the crew.

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Railroad Payday, the Call Office and Train Order Hoops

I’m one of those people who just can’t throw away anything with a family memory attached, and we have a garage and attic full of junk to prove it. If you’d ask my husband (CSX Engineer), he’d confirm the fact that the old primitive items, handed down or salvaged by me, are my most prized possessions.

The wooden lock box below is one such treasure. At a point in time before direct deposit, people who worked received real paper checks on “payday“. And if you were like most of us who grew up in the mountains of Virginia & West Virginia, your family lived from payday to payday. The Norfolk & Western Railroad paid-off on the 1st and 15th of each month.

The “call office” on the northside of Bluefield was where the crews were called to work, reported for work and signed off when they finished work. Inside the dusty old homemade box are slots or shelves which held the coveted paychecks in alphabetical order. Notice the letters scratched inside. The crew clerks held the checks under lock and key as the employees stopped in, a crew at a time, to pick up their checks. The railroad has been our bread & butter my whole life – even before me – and for our children too.

The box itself is probably worthless, but it meant enough to my dad that when it was replaced with a more modern system, he came home with the box and stashed it in the basement.

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Dad was known for bringing home the strangest items from the railroad, usually something that would otherwise be thrown away. The iron finial below is one such piece that he had lying around the backyard for years. So heavy that I can hardly move it, I somehow managed to get it in my van and bring it back to Florida and place it among the flowers.  As a railroader’s daughter, and as a railroad clerk operator myself, I’m familiar with many of these antiquities once used on the railroad. This particular piece is the top of a semaphore board or signal board. define 2013-07-19 19.51.15

Train Order Operators would leverage the signal board (below left) from inside the depot to signal the crew. The image (below right) is a V-shaped Train Order hoop.

I actually own such a V-hoop and still have a yellow tissue copy of the first train order that I ever wrote. I have personally set the signal, written the train orders issued by dispatcher and handed up the train orders to crews as their train flew past me. I have stood apprehensively along side the mainline and held the hoop high and still.  As the engines roared by the train order office, a crew member reached his arm out the window and through the hoop. The simple design allowed the twine loop holding the orders to easily slip away from the hoop.

Ditto for the cab crew.

Train Order

Old time railroading is fascinating. If you like it, please follow the blog and my Facebook page.

See more about Train Orders here

hooping_up3          Limon6_27_2005_019

Train orders were of two types: “31’s,” which had to be signed for by a member of the train crew, and “19’s,” which did not. The former were employed when the dispatcher needed to know that the affected train actually had the order, while the latter were used when he did not.

Train-order forms themselves came in pads printed on a thin onion skin paper, or “flimsy,” which enabled crews to read them over the light of a firebox or against a kerosene lantern.source

Relatives For Sale!

It is obvious to you by now that I love old things – ancestors, personal items, hand-me-downs and things that just look used or vintage. And with this in mind, you’ll understand that I sometimes get caught up in the moment and make peculiar purchases that are otherwise unexplainable. Such is the case with the relatives below. These are not my relatives mind you – but they are someone relatives. I’ve adopted them, loved them and now I’m putting them up for sale at the French Country Flea Market held at Sweet South Cottage and Farms on October 19, 2013. My hope is that someone else will adopt these less-than-lovelies and give them a good home – at least for awhile – like I did.

The glint in the eye of the gentleman in the old time photograph caught my attention one day while browsing an antique shop. Some would say, it called my name, but really – I just thought he was adorable and I felt sorry that his family didn’t know where he was. I’d be heart broken to have missed this framed photograph if he had really been my relative. Why people dispose of these precious images is beyond me.

Any takers out there for the gentleman in the wide-brimmed hat?

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How about the stern-faced lady in the oil painting below? Could she have been a school teacher or preacher’s wife? Maybe not – with that plunging neckline….. and she looks like she could have been a woman of means. It is oil after all.  She has a look that would probably scare a child, but I called her Grace and imagined that she was likely very nice in spite of her unhappy, down-turned expression.

Could Aunt Grace go home with you? Would you love her?

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The glamour girl in the pretty frame was purchased because of the frame. I have a picture of my mother-in-law back in the early 40’s and thought it would be perfect. Unfortunately, the picture was too small for the frame and I never got around to resizing the picture. Surely, there will be taker at the flea market that will find this a “must-have” and go home with a wonderful vintage piece in excellent condition.

I have loads of images of my family and ancestors and enjoy looking at them and sharing them. Each time I make a new connection and find another picture of a long lost relative, I am thrilled. So check these out and if you find a family resemblance let me know.

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Visit SWEET SOUTH COTTAGE AND FARMS on Facebook and the website. Tell Lisa that The Railroader’s Daughter sent you. And FRENCH COUNTY FLEA MARKET on Facebook and the website.

SAVE THE DATE – October 19, 2013

A Railroad Bell

(my) Family gatherings are always sweet, but at a recent 4th of July cookout, we had an especially goflagod time. Sister and brother-in-law served up the traditional burgers, sausages, potato salad and my most favorite, a Virginia-style grilled hot dog with lots of yellow mustard, chopped onions and hot chili! Yum – Happy Birthday America!

The setting for the holiday spread and after-dinner game of corn-hole was absolutely picturesque – a lawn to be proud of indeed! It is obvious that the hosts give above average attention to their lush backyard with its deep, thick green grass- edged to perfection! There are also colorful flower beds fully mulched, an herb garden for the consummate cook and cozy vignette seating which work in harmony to create a venue worthy of a magazine feature.

However, there is one treasured, hand-me-down object that is the centerpiece of the lovely garden. And of course, it most definitely appeals to The Railroader’s Daughter.  It is a steam locomotive bell!

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Carried south, all the way from Mundy town in southwest Virginia, the bell offers more than a rich sound, it is full of history. Placed near the farm house of one of our favorite aunts & uncles, the No. 2 bell was made by C.S. Bell Company, Hillsboro, Ohio, and was once used on a railroad steam engine! I’m not sure where they got hold of the bell, but our beloved Aunt Russ and Uncle Preacher used it on the farm for a dinner bell. They referred to it as the “railroad bell” and originally it traveled many miles above the boiler of a steam locomotive through the Appalachian Mountains we call home.

Note the marking across the cast iron bell yoke. 2013-07-04 11.33.05(right)

According to Bells were standard equipment on steam locomotives in North America from around 1840 onward.  Their purpose was to make noise, alerting people and animals of an oncoming train.  Steam locomotive bells were usually made of cast bronze or brass.  They were typically between 11 and 17 inches in diameter (measured at the widest part).  They could weigh hundreds of pounds.  When a steam locomotive was scrapped, the locomotive bell was often one of the few items saved from the torch.

The bell assembly included several parts:

  • The Bell: The bell itself is one solid piece.
  • The Cradle: The cradle is the framework portion that attaches to the locomotive.
  • The Yoke: The yoke holds the bell and allows it to swing in the cradle.
  • The Clapper: The clapper is the metal piece hanging inside the bell.  When the bell swings the clapper hits the bell causing it to ring.
  • The Pull-Arm: The pull-arm is attached to the yoke.  A rope is attached to the pull-arm so that the engineer or fireman can cause the bell to swing.

On early locomotives and others that did not have clearance issues, bells were mounted on top of the boiler.  On larger locomotives where height clearances became an issue, bells were mounted on the front of the smokebox.  There were also cases where steam locomotive bells were mounted in odd places like under the smokebox or under the running board….

MUNDY Preacher Mace Russell

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I did find evidence that the beloved gardeners had just finished their green thumb magic just moments before the guests arrived. The rake and rustic bench look like the perfect respite after a long day of keeping the garden.

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Thank you so much for your warm hospitality. It’s always a pleasure to visit and enjoy family – the “other” railroader’s daughter~