A sister

Our roots say we are sisters, our hearts say we are friends. ~Unknown

I have been thinking about the special relationship that sisters have with one another. I have a very special one with my sister. It is interesting since we are 5 years apart; we did not spend a great deal of time with each other growing up. I would have to say grammar school was the only time we were in the same school together. I do not actually recall that, but I think it is true. We just did not have the same circle growing up. I was closer in age to both my older brother (3 years) and my younger brother (3 years). However, brothers are different. I will explore that another day.


The first time I truly remember my sister becoming my friend is when we went clothes shopping. When I went off to college, my sister was planning her wedding. I was to be the bride’s maid. I would come home on some of the weekends to partake in certain wedding rituals and we became closer. She was married and moved to Chicago. She would send me care packages. I went to visit her in Chicago we would become closer. She had children, and I became an Aunt, we became closer still. To this day, I would have to say that aside from my partner in life, my sister is my best friend. I can call her, text her, send her goofy pictures and she “gets me.” She does the same. I feel sorry for people who do not have that special relationship with their sibling.

Sisters are true blessings. They can be our friends, confidants, nemesis, and a host of other adjectives. I am fortunate that all of my adjectives are positive. There are families that are not as fortunate.

Kathy and I (Christmas 1970)

Kathy and I (Christmas 1970)


I have seen great quotes about a sisters bond. I put a few here to paint that picture.

“I smile because you are my sister, I laugh because you can’t do anything about it.’

“In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips.”

“Side by side, or miles apart… we are sisters, connected by the heart.”

“Life made us sisters, love made us friends.”

“A sister shares childhood memories and grown-up dreams.”


My mom has an older sister, Carol. They are exactly two years apart. I mean it. Mom was born on Carol’s 2nd birthday. I am sure that was a stinker to little Carol, having to share her birthday with this new baby. I have heard some good stories about the two of them over the years.

Carol and Betty 1955

Carol and Betty 1955

One of my favorites was the imaginary line they would have on the bed they shared. Or the fact that they would snicker over who would be the last one to say “good night.” Carol told me in an email that she liked playing dolls more than Betty. My mom was into cowboys and Indians.

1-Mom and Carol 3

Betty and Carol 2012

My grandmother had sisters too. We will explore those another day.

On my father’s side, he had two sisters, Vivian and Annette. I know they have a special bond as well. In fact, once when Viv went to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for missionary work, she gave me a portrait of Mary Cassatt’s 1884 painting of Children on the Beach for safe keeping. Annette got upset because this portrait represented their relationship as sisters. I gave the portrait back to Viv. I think she was forgiven.

Mary Cassatt  1884

Mary Cassatt 1884

Annette and Vivian

Annette and Vivian

Annette and Vivian 2014

Annette and Vivian 2014

So, if you are reading this and you have a special bond with your sister, give them a call, write them a note. Let them know what they mean to you. Kathy, I know you will read this. Thank you for being the great sister that you are. I wouldn’t choose anyone else, even if I could!









Mary Elizabeth Whitehead

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. My father’s cousin, Betty Whitehead Sweeny died suddenly this past week. Betty was technically my first cousin once removed. It was weird to address her as such, so I called her Aunt Betty. I did not know her well. But, I felt that she was a key connection to my father’s side of the family.

You see, my father’s father, Fred Whitehead, joined the Army as a young man and essentially never returned home. He met and fell in love with a city girl, Margaret Kersten. I do know that the family did take family trips to Georgia over the years, but it is not the same as remaining geographically close with family. Betty was born Mary Elizabeth Whitehead on 14 September 1927 to her parents Walter Joe Whitehead and Emma “Chloe” Adams. She was the second child born to this union. We know a lot about her early life as her mother, was the family historian. Her children Mae and Betty published The Adams Family  James Adams Line upon her death.

In that book a classmate had written in her Wesleyan Annual, “In Betty, we find a combination of ideal standards, quiet understanding, loyalty and dependability all rolled into one. Outstanding in all athletics, Betty is a living example of one who has the courage of her own convictions, and her sincere friendliness is felt by all who know and love her. ..Those who know her well can see clearly personified in her a ‘wagon hitched to a star (p. 324).’ ” As I reflect on this quote, I bet people would say the same thing about her today 67 years later.

When I began to explore backwards this was one of the key books that I used for my information and inspiration. I guess that is why I feel like I knew her more than I actually did. I learned that Betty was on email, so I began a written correspondence with her. While she provided me with some good information, I always got the feeling that she just didn’t slow down often. She was always on the go or taking a nap (which who can blame). In my last email from her 25 August 2014, she stated “I have had many days to get with you in the past years and have taken naps instead.  This is not JUST YOU –I am guilty with everyone.”

I regret never making a visit to the family home before she passed. Believe me, it will be a regret that I will have to live with.

In an email she wrote to family after the passing of her sister, Mae, she talked about being prepared to lose someone. “God prepared me for losing Mae through my listening now and in the past month to Billy Graham’s book “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well”.   I will listen again.”  I think I will have to take a look at that book.


Mae and Betty Whitehead

Mae and Betty Whitehead

For those of her that knew Betty, I am so sorry for your loss. I know she will be missed by all who loved her.


Betty Whitehead Sweeny

Betty Whitehead Sweeny


Walter Joe Whitehead

Walter Joe Whitehead

Walter Joe Whitehead was born 6 October 1898 in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Walter went by the name Joe. His father’s name was Walter Everett. Joe is my Grand Uncle. He was the brother to the grandfather that I never met (Fred Whitehead).

I am fortunate to know so much about Joe, due to the genealogical book that his wife, Emma Chloe Adams Whitehead compiled prior to her death.

According to Aunt Chloe, “Joe attended grammar and high School in Carlton…He graduated from the High School division of Gordon Military College in June 1914 (Whitehead, 1983, p.285).”

His college life was interrupted by World War I. Joe was one of the Army’s six-month wonders. He rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant with the infantry. You can read more about this phenomenon here: http://blog.pressrepublican.com/archive/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46960:%27plattsburgh_idea%27_helped_prepare_u.s._for_wwi&catid=34:news-articles

Joe eventually graduated from the University of Georgia following the war in June 1920.

University of Georgia Graduation

University of Georgia Graduation

Several pages in this book give the readers a close glimpse into the courtship of Joe and Chloe. My favorite is the where she describes sitting in the lobby of their hotel following their marriage. The bellhop walked through repeating several times that there was a call for Mrs. Whitehead. Not familiar to answering to that name, Joe had to tell her that she was wanted on the telephone (Whitehead, 1983).

Joe worked at as the bookkeeper for the Stevens-Martin Mercantile. This business owned five cotton gins, two in Carlton (Madison County) and three in Oglethorpe. The store was eventually closed in 1962, after farming of cotton and corn had diminished.

Stevens Martin Mercantile circa 1940

Stevens Martin Mercantile circa 1940

Joe was elected to the Madison County Board of Education in 1934. Although he was very civic-minded like his father, he never went into politics like his father. Joe had many friends that were into politics. Joe retired from the Madison County Board of education and became a member of the Georgia School Board Association in 1964. Joe was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of Governor Earnest Vandiver’s staff in 1959.

In his mid-sixties, Joe’s health deteriorated. He was initially diagnosed of having a paralyzed left vocal cord. He ultimately was diagnosed with lung cancer and he died 17 May 1965 at the age of 66. My father, Larry Whitehead was one of the pallbearers as was Joe Augustus Stevens, Junior, my dad’s cousin.

Walter Joe Whitehead

Walter Joe Whitehead

(Source: The Adams Family James Adams Line, 1795-1982, Emma Chloe Adams Whitehead, 1983.)

Join me next time as we continue to explore backwards.

Mathias Kersten

Mathias Kersten (my second great-grandfather)

Mathias was born to Daniel and Margaretha Gierten on 24 March 1843 in Manderfeld, now Belgium. He was baptized at the St. Lamertus Parish in Manderfeld. We will explore St. Lambertus in more detail at a later time.

St. Lamberts Church

St. Lambertus Church

In order to understand my family history, I have had to learn about the history of my ancestors. For my ancestors lived through a tumultuous time. The borders are the remains of history and the symbols of the struggles faced.  As I have mentioned before, I am grateful for the research done by my genealogical minded ancestors.

If you look on a map for the Eifel region, you can see that it west of the Rhine River. As we zero in on the Hamlet of Hergersberg and nearby Manderfeld (both are today on the Belgian side), we begin to learn much about our German roots.  The village of Manderfeld  is located in the eastern tip of eastern Belgium.

Mathias had four siblings, Gertrud, Magdalena, Peter (not my grandfather), and Wilhelm. Mathias was the oldest son, and according to “Stockerbenrecht”, (the practice where family property could not be divided and only one son or one daughter inherited the property. According to Agnes Perings (my second cousin, one time removed), “most of them remained single, stayed in the house and went on working with the rightful heir” (p. 7). Or they moved outside of the village. This is one of the reasons people from this region moved to the Ruhr region, where they could work in more urban areas or the mines of Northwest Germany.

Mathias grew up in Manderfeld. It is likely he took over the family farm, as so many of the families did in those days. His older brother Peter immigrated to the United States in 1887 (we will talk more about him in a later post).

Mathias and Anna Maria Kersten

Perings wrote that Anna-Maria and Mathias lived in the house Buresch after getting married, then they build the house of Kersten in 1873 (Perings, 1990). Anna-Maria and Mathias had nine children. Their oldest son Peter (my great-grandfather) immigrated to the United States, followed by his younger brother Hubert. Mathias died in January 1905 at the age of 61. Below are there children:

Margaretha, the eldest daughter of Mathias and Anna-Maria went to the Ruhr Region; she died at the age of 32. She married Aloys Heitkamp

Christoph the second child to Anna-Maria and Mathias died at the age of four.

Peter (my grandfather) immigrated to the United States

Johann Peter died at 13 years old

Maria stayed in the House of Kersten and married Kaspar Perings

Wilhelm-died at age 3

Magdalena married Aloys Heitkamp they went to live in Castrop (Ruhr Region) (not quite sure if this is the same Aloys as her sister married).

Katharina-died at age 9, by diphtheria

Johann-Hubert-emigrated to Chicago married Emma


I plan to write more about these ancestors.  Join me as I continue to Explore Backwards!




Ancestors and descendants of Mathias Kersten and Anna Maria Reiter by Agnes Perings, 1990.




Raleigh Hopper Mathews

When Raleigh Hopper Mathews was born on October 30, 1809, in Oglethorpe, Georgia, his father, Littleberry, was 23 and his mother, Jerusha, was 19. Raleigh grew up in Oglethorpe County and lived there his entire life. To give some context to this time period, James Madison was president of the United States. At that time there were 17 states. When Raleigh died, Lincoln was president and the country was at war with each other and there were 34 states in the Union.


Confederate States of America flag, circa 1861

Confederate States of America flag, circa 1861

Raleigh or Rolly as it was written on many documents was the oldest son of 14 children. Raleigh married Mary Ann Dowdy on 26 October 1835, in Oglethorpe County (Palmer, 1994). According to records that I could find, they had 11 children. Mary Ann Dowdy (1818-1889) was the daughter of Richard and Nancy E. Jones Dowdy.

Raleigh’s four eldest sons all served in the Confederate States of America. Fleming Jordan Mathews (1836-19908; Surgeon), Francis Marion Mathews (1838-1925), Richmond Butler (1842-1932) and Berriam McPheron Mathews (1843-1864? presumed to have died during the war). The youngest son, James Calvin Mathews (1855-1937) was too young to fight. Raleigh himself died during the first few months of the Civil War, he was only 51 years old.

I keep thinking about Raleigh’s wife, Mary, she would have had to bury her husband, and wake up every day knowing that four of her sons were off at war. The strength she must have had to carry on to attend to her other seven children (Cena Ann (my 2nd great-grandmother), Sarah Jane, Emma Jerusha, Mary Susan, James Calvin, Nancy Ella and Martha E.  Then in 1864, she loses another son Berriam to the war (I am still researching this event).

Additionally, what a financial toll this would have. In the 1860 Census, the value of property for Raleigh was $2000 and the value of his estate was $5000. In the 1870 Census, Mary’s property value was listed as $1000, and the value of her estate was only $500.


Genealogy of the Mathews Family of Ancient Wales, England and America by Jerry Mathews Palmer, February 3, 1994.

US Census



Mrs. J. T. Sublett

The last time I posted, I wrote about Georgia Holt Sublett. Today, I write about her again but this time it is her obituary. I have a slip of paper that equates as her obituary. It has a jagged edge and is faded with the years. However, it tells us a story, and even more facts.

Georgia Kate Holt Sublett

Georgia Kate Holt Sublett

It reads, “Mrs. Georgie Holt Sublett, 67, wife of J.T. Sublett, died at her home at Naruna Monday night at 9 o’clock. “

I am not an expert in obituaries, but I suspect most of the current ones do not give the specific time of death. I am not sure why this one does.  Do you?

What the slip of paper cannot tell me because it has been cut away, is that Georgie died on 10 April 1950. She was only 67 years old. The obituary does not tell us the cause of death, but it does tell us that she was survived by her own mother and her husband.  I may have to send away to find out cause of death.

The obituary also gives us a look into her family, as we read that all of her daughters are married. It seems like an oversight or something as only one of the daughters is listed by name. As an amateur genealogist, I like to see the names of the siblings and their locations. This helps me in finding out more about them.

Below is a great picture of her and her mother.  My grandfather Lacy is standing there in his overalls.  I believe it is Clarice, the youngest in her arms, but I am not certain.  I do not know how old Lacy is, but he looks younger than 10, if this is true, we can safely say that this photo was taken before 1920.  I wish there wasn’t a shadow on my grandfather’s face.

Susan Holt, Georgia Sublett, Lacy and Clarice-Pete- 001

Until next time, I will keep exploring backwards.

Another Tract of Land

One of the important things about genealogy is placement of our ancestors in the time and space in which they lived. I have learned more about history than I ever thought I would.

Recently, I found another piece of property for sale that has a family Tract name. The name Holt was my great-grandmother’s maiden name. Georgia Kate Holt was born 26 Mar 1883 in Naruna, Campbell County. I wrote about her father, Guilford “Walker” Holt last July on this blog.

Holt Aerial

Google Image of the Holt Tract

Google Image of the Holt Tract

The interesting thing about find this property is to ponder all of the life’s events that occurred here. Georgia Kate was the eldest child of Sue and Walker Holt nine children. Raising nine children is rough anytime but this was after the Civil War, and the Wild West was in full swing. Jesse James and Billy the Kid are both shot and killed. The Brooklyn Bridge and the Washington Monument are both completed before the turn of the century.

Georgia and her siblings were born and raised in Campbell County. The census records indicate that they lived in the Falling River District, which is located near and around the town of Naruna. Tobacco was the major crop for Campbell County. “Brookneal served as a major tobacco market for many years” due to its proximity to the Staunton River (Campbell County Website). This was probably the crop of my ancestors.

 Georgia Holt Sublett 001

I cannot seem to find the marriage date for Georgia Kate and John Thomas, however, according to the 1910 Census, we find them living in Campbell County, and luckily, one of the census questions was how long in present marriage. They indicated 9 years. Therefore, it is safe to assume that sometime after the 1900 census, they married. There is no way to know how far away the lived from her parents. We do know that they remained in the same Enumeration District (Falling River) during the 1910 and 1920 census. Georgia’s father dies in the spring of 1929. On the 1930 Census, Georgia’s mother Sue Etta Wood Holt is now living in the home with Georgia and her husband John Thomas.

Georgia and John Thomas go on to have children of their own: Claudia, Anne, Lacy, Mae and Clarice. We have already discussed my grandfather Lacy Luke Sublett, but we will soon discuss the others.

JT Sublett and Georgia 001

Until later, help me explore backwards.  If you have anything to add, please let me know.