Never Give up on Learning

Sometimes we think we are too old to try something new. The old adage states, “You can’t teach old dog new tricks.”   Well, they never met my grandmother.

Virginia Odelle Moss was born 3 October 1916 in Petersburg, Virginia. She was not her parent’s first child, but she was the first child to survive infancy. Her parents Thomas Irving Moss and Carrie Lou Hicks went on to have three more children, Lillian, Thomas, and Margaret. I will talk more about them in a later story.

I want to share you some of the things about Odelle. She went by her middle name, I am not sure why. Anyhow, Odelle’s family moved from Petersburg to Lynchburg, Campbell County before the 1920 census. Odelle seemed to have a typical upbringing in the 20-30’s. Her senior yearbook states she was in the Honor League, Be Square Club, Girl’s Glee Club, Spanish Club, Volleyball 1933, Basketball 1933, 1934 and the Girl’s Hiking Club. She wrote a fabulous poem that is in her high school yearbook. I have tried to ascertain whether she actually wrote it or if it was one she liked. I have “googled” it to no avail, so I think it is an original.


Oh, to be a gypsy girl,

A life so glad and free,

Oh, to wear the tattered clothes,

Of a wondering, gay gypsy.


The wide, wide world before me lies,

No binding ties to keep;

Just to ride in a gypsy van,

Oh, how my heart does leap.


With ever the changing landscape

Moving before my eyes,

The riding sun, the song of a bird

Would make a paradise.


Yet when all is said and done,

Perhaps ‘twould loose its zest

To roam always like a gypsy girl,

And I’d find that home is best.


When my grandfather died in 1983, Odelle was 66 years old. She did not let her life as a widow define her. According to my Aunt Carol, she enrolled in the local community college and took Music and Art Appreciation classes. When she was 70, she took a beginners art class. Over the next 10 years or so, she painted a vast amount of priceless artwork. I have included several of her works below.  You will see not only how good they are, but also how we all cherish them.  They can be found in the homes of my siblings, my mother’s and my aunt’s home.

Grandma with her painting

Grandma with her painting


This one hangs in my brother's home

This one hangs in my brother’s home


This one hangs in my mother's home

This one hangs in my mother’s home


house on cliff-odelle-kw

This one hangs in my home.


This one hangs in my sister's home.

This one hangs in my sister’s home.


My memories of her include shopping.  She like to go shopping. I do not think she bought much, but she liked to go, go go. She would iron everything; I mean everything, even the sheets and her underwear! She loved her daughters and her grandchildren so much. Family was very important to her. Her kisses had a bit of static in them, I am not sure why. I just remember that.   Mom, Carol, others, what do you remember most about her?


Until later, I will be exploring backwards.




Epictetus once said, “Man is not disturbed by events, but by the view he takes of them.”

This is true in genealogy as well. It is interesting how people of the same family or attending the same event have such different perspectives of things. My father has two siblings, both older than he is. Viv was born in 1927, Annette in 1935 and my father in 1936. My Aunt Viv had 8 years as the only child. Therefore, her perspective of things is different. She was a “Daddy’s girl,” although she recognizes the deficits that Fred had as a drinker. She was still his girl. My father on the other hand, did not see it the same way. He had a father that drank and probably caused his mother stress as a result. Fred died in 1950; my father was not yet 14 years old. So, he had an entirely different perspective.

Over the years, I have heard some stories about my grandfather. I know he was a gregarious outgoing man. He was probably the black sheep of his family growing up. He did not come home after the war. He landed in Chicago. There are documents to suggest that he was court-marshaled for an infraction. (I have sought his military records for verification of this. So I will post an update once the documents are received.) He was the third of four children born to his parents. His eldest sibling, George was a genius, attending Balliol University as a Rhodes Scholar. His other brother, Walter Joe, was more like his father; he stayed home after the war and went to work in the family business. His younger sister, Martha Ann, was the sole baby girl of the family. Their father, Walter Everett, was a very strict man, held his patriotism in high regard. Papa was a Georgia State Senator, Mason, Reserve Corps Major, Mayor of Carlton.

Fred seemed to be a bit of a cut up. Viv wrote that Fred always “remained docile to his strong father, although he had a way with Papa (Walter) that none of the other children had.” Martha Mae Whitehead Snelling wrote in the little book of Whitehead Family history that Fred’s “outgoing personality endeared him to all who knew him.”

There is another story about Fred that his sister wrote and included it in her booklet she gave her granddaughters. I wish to share it in her voice.

Fred gets double punishment

Fred was about 12 years old and in the 8th Grade at Carlton. They only had 10 grades, and all 3 High School grades, 8-9-10, sat in the same room.

Mr. Smith was the teacher.

He was having trouble with a 10th Grade math problem.

Fred, who was watching, held up his hand and said,”Mr. Smith, I believe I can work it.” Come right up,” said Prof. Smith.

Fred went to the black board and quickly solved the problem. But he didn’t stop there. He wiped the chalk dust off his hands and said “Aw shucks, twasn’t nothin’. All us Whitehead’s are good ‘rithmetickers”. (Not very good English.)

Prof. Smith pulled off his belt and gave Fred a good licking right there before everyone.

When Fred got home and told Papa about it, Papa gave him another good whipping.

PS Papa was chairman of the School Board.

PS2 Whipping was a very common form of punishment. Not abuse.


Aldous Huxley wrote, “What we perceive and understand depends upon what we are.”

I will end here with some great photos of Fred. So, the next time you think you are right and the other person is wrong, just think you are coming at things from a different perspective.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

Fred with sombrero


Whitehead’s on the beach


Fred Whitehead acting silly 001

Fred acting silly


Fred and Margaret

Fred and Margaret

Fred with his children

Fred with his children


The wallet

I have been somewhat neglectful on my blog and genealogy lately and I was sitting here looking for some inspiration. When I opened the drawer that contained some keepsakes, I knew exactly what I would do.

A few years ago, my Aunt Carol gave me a few wallets and a coin purse of our departed loved ones. I still consider them among my most treasured keepsakes. They are a time capsule to the past. The things they hold are a clue into what was important to them at the time of their passing.

Today I picked up my grandfather’s wallet. He died in 1983, I was 14 years old.

The image on the leather wallet is of a hunting dog. He did not own dogs, so I am not sure the significance. My guess is that it was a gift. The pictures inside were somewhat predictable, school pictures of all my siblings and I, as well as my cousins. However, Lacy had multiple years worth. There was a studio portrait of my cousins together, as well as the one my family did. Additionally, there were two portrait pictures of him and his wife Odelle. A portrait of Odelle by herself. There was a small image of Jesus; this is interesting to me as I did not recall him being a religious man. In fact, I recall my grandmother going to church without him. However, since Pete Seeger’s quote about church is dear to my heart, I figured the same could be true of my grandfather. We do not have to go to church to be believe in God.

pete seeger church quote

Another image that was in the wallet is a photograph of a much younger Odelle. If I would guess, it was probably taken about the time they were courting. From my research, I know my grandfather was married before Odelle, but I do not believe he ever loved anyone as much as he loved her. I see it in his eyes. There are countless photos of them together, he always looked so in love.

3-lacy-odelle 001

Lacy and Odelle

Lacy and Odelle

Lacy and Odelle

Lacy and Odelle

Lacy and Odelle

Today I spent a few minutes thinking about my grandfather. He was the only one I met. I believe I know him better because I have been able to reminisce with his wallet.

Grandpa's wallet

Grandpa’s wallet

Virginia Odelle Moss Sublett

Virginia Odelle Moss Sublett

What is in your wallet? That is an advertisement about credit cards these days, and with the advent of mobile phones, most people do not carry images in their wallet. I do carry one. It is from a photo booth with Cheryl and my sister. We are being silly. I think after today though, I am going to find a few more to put in there. I hope you do too.


girls being silly

girls being silly

Until we meet again, I will be exploring backwards


Georgia on my mind

I recently went to Georgia to go through the home of my ancestor, Walter E. Whitehead. When you think that this house has been in continuous family ownership and operation since it was built around 1920.

Carlton Home

Carlton Home

That means for nearly 100 years, someone in my family has lived there. That also means almost a 100 years’ worth of papers, pictures, antiques, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it is not full to the brim of just stuff (like an episode of Hoarders), the place is more museum like. It has been well-loved and well taken care of.  This brings me to my point.

While I was there, I went through two trunks and a curio cabinet. I did not even scratch the surface. But, I found my Grand Uncle’s Rhode Scholar information; I found a grammar book that was my grandfather’s when he was about 11 years old. I found a picture of my grandfather and his siblings.

I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to my cousin Sara and her daughter Christine for the colossal endeavor that is going on. If I only lived closer I would be able to help.   I plan to go down again, but needless to say, it takes an airplane and a rental car to get there, so it will be a minute.

Below are some pictures of the recent discoveries by Christine and a few that we took while we were there.  So many stories to tell.

Walter E. Whitehead

Walter E. Whitehead

Marge Walter E Mae Pellie Gus or George W Cynnie Fred

Whitehead Family

G. S. Whitehead Passport

G. S. Whitehead Passport

Papa's wall of fame

Papa’s wall of fame

Luna Mae Stevens Whitehead

Luna Mae Stevens Whitehead

Until later,

I will be exploring backwards

P.S. Things have gotten busy this summer.  I hope to post more soon.

Birthdays are a funny thing


We take for granted that you will always remember the day your child is born. Today, we have pictures, videos, documents to fill out, stork signs to put in our front yard. This was not always the case. If you are into genealogy, you look for birth records, these are a type of holy grail. It gives us birth information for the child. It also gives us information on the parents. The birth, death and marriage records are considered vital records. Historically states did not keep vital records until the 1900’s. Each state is different and started keeping them at different times. So, as a genealogist, you need to know what year the state in question started keeping track. Prior to vital records, people used the family bible as the place to indicate the vital records for one’s family. However, family bibles did not always last, they got lost, and they went to one family member so you might lose crucial information. recently uploaded Virginia Vital records that were previously only available individually at $12.00 a pop. I know, because I have given the state many dollars. So, the other day, I went through my family tree and tried to get these vital records for all of my Virginia ancestors.

I came across one of my great-aunts records. It was a “delayed certificate” as she was born prior to 1912, the year Virginia started recording vital records. I had her recorded as Anne Holmes Sublett. However, the record indicates that her father John Thomas Sublette and her mother Georgia Kate Holt had named her Annie Holmes Sublette (notice the “e”, we will talk about that later). Well, the funny thing is that they must have brought the family bible in with them as it indicates that the bible was published in 1902 and the mother had recorded the birth in the bible as 1908 or 1909, but they were attesting that Annie was born on 7 February 1904. I tend to believe the vital record instead of the bible because in the 1910 census, she is listed clearly as 6 years old. Lacy (my grandfather) was listed as 11/12th (meaning he was 11 months old), and that is accurate information. I do wonder why Annie’s mother got it wrong?

Annie Holmes Sublette

Annie Holmes Sublette

Okay, let’s talk about that “e.” When my ancestors first arrived in the new world their name was Soblet, but at some point the name was changed to be more phonetic, Sublette. My grand-father dropped the “e” at some point because he thought it was uppity.

I met a third cousin while blogging, his family kept the “e.” It is interesting because some of the Soblet descendents that traveled to Kentucky and Texas and beyond also dropped the “e.” I can tell you it does make researching ancestors more challenging when you have to search Soblet, Soblets, Sublet, Sublette, and Sublett to make sure you find everyone.

Annie was a character from what I understand.  Here a couple of pictures of her.  Until later, I will be exploring backwards.


Annie Sublette

Annie Sublette

Annie Sublett

Classy Annie Sublette

Unknown friend and Annie Sublette

Unknown friend and Annie Sublette

Elusive Ancestors

Elusive Ancestors and breaking the brick walls

I have been researching my ancestors for several years now. Some familial lines are easier to trace than others. I know I have discussed my brick walls in the past. But sometimes by writing about them, you are able to clarify details in the process. That is what I am doing today. It is a hot June day and instead of melting in the sun, I am inside desperately trying to piece puzzle pieces together.

I recently made friends with a fellow genealogist searching the Moss family name. This line has been intangible to me for some time. I have never felt confident with the connections I had made. She has in her line that a Moss married a Moss. Excuse me for a moment while my head mildly explodes. Is this why I can’t seem to untangle the mystery? In order to prove or disprove something in the genealogy field, you must have some set standards of proof. While I am a still a neophyte in this regard, I do my best.


Let us look at the Moss facts. I know that Thomas Irving Moss was born 20 Jan 1877 in Buckingham County, Virginia. The items that support this are his World War I and World War II Draft Cards. I know he married my great-grandmother, Carrie Lou Hicks on 30 August 1913 (I have the certificate of marriage).   On this Marriage Certificate it indicates that his parents names were Thomas and Margaret Moss. It also lists him as widowed. My newly found friend’s research indicates that Thomas Irving Moss married Mahala K. Newton prior to Carrie Lou. So, I will need to find verification of this at a later time.

My friend, Ms. Kim also sent me an electronic version of Margaret Ann Moss’s Death Certificate. The certificate lists her parents as Thomas Moss and Lucy O’Bryant. It is signed by T.I. Moss. The date of death is 12 July 1915. So, is this Thomas Irving Moss’ mother? We need to look at signatures. Are these the same people?



Signature on Death Certificate of Margaret Ann Moss

Signature on Death Certificate of Margaret Ann Moss

Birth Certificate Information (not sure who filled this out)

Birth Certificate Information (not sure who filled this out)

Thomas Irving Moss WWI Draft Card

Thomas Irving Moss WWI Draft Card

Thomas Moss WWII Draft Card

Thomas Moss WWII Draft Card

If it is, then I am going to have reconstruct my line. What are your thoughts.


When Cotton Was King

“When Cotton Was King” is the title to a painting by Jack Deloney. This painting hangs with pride in the Carlton home.  This should also be the title to my father’s paternal lineage.  Having southern ancestors I have learned about the historical times in which they lived.  But to truly understand a family you have to understand the occupations and the stories of them as individuals as well.  My family not only farmed they ran successful mercantile businesses and cotton gins.


When Cotton was King

When Cotton was King


My Cousin Sara encouraged me to look at the price of cotton in a historical sense to gain an understanding of the life and times of our ancestors. The image below is a time from the website I just wanted to focus on the period 1912-1940. You can tell by this graph that cotton was about $35.00/pound in 1919 and at $5.66 at its historical low in 1931. Think about all the money it takes to farm a crop and you are getting less than six dollars a pound!


Cotton Prices 1912-1940

Cotton Prices 1912-1940


What does mean? Well, there are a few things we need to understand about this time period. Share cropping became the business model for many large land owners after the Civil War throughout the south. Share cropping was essentially the system in which “black families would rent small plots of land, or shares, to work themselves; in return, they would give a portion of their crop to the landowner at the end of the year (“Sharecropping”, 2010). While this system was not what the recently freed slaves would have wanted, it was the way things were.  Many of the newly freedman expected more in return from the Federal government, but it did not happen.


Though the system (sharecropping) developed from immediate postwar contingencies, it defined the agricultural system in rural Georgia for close to 100 years. By 1880, 32 percent of the state’s farms were operated by sharecroppers; this figure would increase in the fifty years following. By 1910 sharecroppers operated 37 percent of the state’s 291,027 farms (Giesen, 2007).

I have found some property Tax Records for my ancestors. George Wiley Whitehead and Columbus Augustus Stevens two of my great-grandfathers and they both owned quite a bit of land. I have been able to locate some of the older land records as they have been made available on-line. The records that they kept for taxes were pretty basic. Number of polls for a poll tax, how many workers were employed (Hands); acres owned; value of acres; value of household furniture, livestock, and agriculture “crops” value. These records are very interesting but hard to determine the time period.

Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892

Roughly, George Wiley had between 500-1500 acres during the 1870’s. He also reported between 9-20 “hands” that worked his property. These “hands” would be what we call sharecroppers. Cousin Charlie told us during our most recent visit that the sharecroppers in our family were provided all the tools and live stock and they would work the land. The families would go to the Stevens & Martin store and make necessary purchases on credit until the crops came in. Miss Kitty recollected that the Stevens’ family had 2 white families that were sharecroppers.


Through the course of my blogs, I have “met” online a person who has a familial connection to mine. I will call her Ms. Sheila. She wrote on blog many years ago that her family was owned by my family. This statement gave me pause. I know slavery is part of our historical past. Many times as I explore backwards, I find myself bewildered by our country’s past mistakes. But then I realize country’s make mistakes like people do, so I can only hope that we learn from our past mistakes. So, if you have these blemishes in your family, it is better to acknowledge it straight on and focus on how your family dealt with them. In my case, Ms. Sheila stated that our family did not employ overseers. I didn’t quite know what to make of this at first. I have come to realize that since our family lived on or near the property they were farming, they did not have to employ others to be the supervisors. Ms. Sheila and I have exchanged a few emails and she later told me that some of her family then became sharecroppers. I plan to talk to them so I can get more information.


Until later, I will be exploring backwards




Cotton Chart, Trading Economics, retrieved 6/2/15 from

James, Giesen, “Sharecropping” Georgia Encyclopedia, retrieved on 6/19/15 from

Sharecropping, 2010,, retrieved on 6/19/15 from