Hotty Toddy and All That!

“Seven years of college down the drain!” – Bluto in the movie Animal House

Baldwin Rockett’s father-in-law, Jacob Ware, grew up in Menheniot, Cornwall, England. When he was about 20, he enrolled at All Soul’s College in Oxford, England, in March 1674/75. Even though Jacob appears to be the first born and his father was a “Gentleman” (landed gentry), was it the call of God or of wanderlust that led him to become an Anglican priest?

At that time, the Church of England was concerned about reports that their flocks in the Colonies were morally going astray, even so much as to ignore going to church! Fewer parishioners meant fewer tithes. To counter this, the Church of England agreed to pay for the cost of education and for passage across the pond if the student would commit to serving the Church while in the Colonies. I can’t help but think of modern-day programs at colleges where expenses will be paid if you agree to study medicine, science, or math in exchange for two years of your service in a rural community after graduation. My daughter Holly is interested in nursing, and in our area, there’s a shortage of nurses. Given the rising costs of college, perhaps she should follow Jacob’s lead and look into one of these expense-paid programs to become a rural nurse after graduation!

Like Jacob, Holly will be working and mostly paying for her way through college. When Jacob entered college in 1675, he signed in his own handwriting:

” Jacobus Ware e Coll: Om: An: pau: fil: ” which translates “Jacob Ware of All Souls College, the son of a pauper” (Photo courtesy of Kay Rockett)

Pauper means that he worked his way through school and was not financed. Holly worries about being a pauper when she graduates and starts paying back school loans! Sure there are alternatives like community college, but I want her to experience more than two years in a class room and then immediately start working. College years are vibrant and fun with so many people about the same age, all focused on graduating and their futures, and looking for fun things to do when they aren’t studying hard! That’s an incredible mixture when combined with freedom from home (many times in a new town) and less rigid school schedules. That’s when real college life begins.

It’s not like home, but that’s part of the draw. If Holly starts out in one of the old freshman dorms, her room will be very small and shared with one other girl: one chair, a small table against a wall, small closet, one window, a mini microwave sitting on top of a mini refrigerator, and a mirror over the small table. Sounds like the description of a dorm room from All Soul’s around 1791:

“…if we may judge from contemporary cuts, that show a few chairs, a small table with central leg, a cap and gown on the wall, an inkhorn hanging by the window, a pair of bellows and tongs by the fire, and over the mantel-piece a picture or mirror…” (p. 242 Old Oxford Days)

But, I doubt she’ll spend much time in her tiny room. In addition to college football, she’ll just be discovering a whole new world of social opportunities – so many new things to do, new ideas to consider, new places to see and all of those new faces – hundreds of attractive young men all over the place! Parties, dating, drinking songs, and… speaking of songs…

Surely, the students at All Soul’s had heard of the legend of the school’s founder dreaming that a mallard flew out of a drain on the site where the school was to be built. When this actually did happen, a new tradition began of electing a student to be the “Lord Mallard” who would be paraded around in a sedan chair while holding a wooden pole with a “dead” wooden mallard on the tip of it. In 1801, a student looked out of his window and saw the students of All Soul’s carrying torches and raising their rum-coated voices loudly singing the “All Soul’s Mallard Song”, which concludes by inviting those listening to seek out a “watering-hole” just like a mallard seeks out a watery pool:

Then lett us drink and dance a Galliard
in ye Remembrance of ye Mallard,
And as ye Mallard doth in Poole,
Lett’s dabble, dive & duck in Boule.

While in college, I remember my granddad Louis Rockett (who was a university graduate) always asking me (with a wink) how my extracurricular activities were going. I’d roll my eyes and say “Fine”. Looking back on it as a parent thirty years later, and with Holly going to college in the fall, I realize now that “Fine” really is all the information that parents should ever really know!

Why I Live At The Archives

“But here I am, and here I’ll stay. I want the world to know I’m happy.”  Sister in Why I Live at the P.O., Eudora Welty

Some of the happiest times of my adult life have been spent at the Mississippi Archives doing genealogy research. When I was pregnant, I would spend every day at the Mississippi Archives from opening until closing looking at microfiche, microfilms, books, journals, collections, compilations of marriage records, census indexes – all of it revealing new names, filling in missing details, and printing proofs for most of my family lines back to about 1800. Since I was becoming a “regular”, the director and her assistants were worried that I’d go into labor at the Archives! That would’ve been OK with me to have my daughter born at my favorite genealogy place!

After my daughter was born, the only time I could do research was in the first months when babies sleep most of the time. I’d go to the Archives with my mom and car-seat stroller in hand, and stay until dinnertime. In time, though, the research slowed down a bit, and it became clear that it was time to hit the road.

Armed only with family group sheets and diapers, I found fascinating, old record books hundreds of years old while visiting county court records’ offices revealing land maps that show the plats where ancestors lived including their neighbors, original marriage bonds and licenses, tax and militia rolls, state censuses, original wills and estate inventories in MS, AL, SC, NC and TN!

I have found records and changed diapers in most of the archives and county seats across the South.  However, for me, the Mecca of all Archives where the angelic choir sings is the Library of Virginia in Richmond. When I visited Richmond with my young daughter and mom, it was for fun and seeing the old haunts where the first Rocketts lived. It wasn’t for research at the Library. Perhaps, someday. Maybe with a grandbaby and diapers in hand. Someday.

There and Back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)

Earlier this month, watching my daughter board a plane for the first time to head overseas for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the Rocketts who boarded boats in England bound for colonial America. Who saw them off on their voyages? Who paid for their voyages? Were they motivated by wanderlust or money?

Since some of the colonies started out as money-making ventures, perhaps many families in England assumed their relatives would eventually come back. There must’ve been moms, sisters, or aunts who cried many tears seeing their family members get ready for their voyage, and like me, they must’ve wondered every day what new and exciting adventures were awaiting their child, brother, or niece. What new ideas, gifts, or illness would they bring back with them?

Many Rocketts, including my colonial Virginia line, were captains and mariners. My earliest Rockett ancestor in America, Baldwin Rockett, had 5 sons: Ware, appears to be a mariner who married and settled down in VA; Francis, a mariner who left VA later in life to spend his final days in the port area of Wapping, London, England; Baldwin Jr., a bachelor and mariner who lived in VA with no family of his own; John, a mariner who eventually left VA for NY; and Richard, my ancestor, who was a vestryman settling down in VA and who was a power of attorney for all of his brothers whenever they set sail! Baldwin’s estate inventory lists 6 Mapps (sic), which ended up in Richard’s estate inventory years later.  So, ships and the sea were part of their lives, whether they captained a ship or not.

Recently, it occurred to me that all of the research on these early Rocketts has been focused on church records, land records, wills, and court records, but none has been focused on maritime records. Having reached a bit of a dead-end on finding out more about Baldwin, I am hopeful that the sea and this new-found source type will reveal even more.

Sources – A Necessary Evil

Exploring my roots has never been a constant past-time. The desire usually surfaces while dusting off my bookshelves and seeing all of the genealogy books gathering dust. Or when looking for Christmas stuff in my cabinets and finding a huge stack of papers on my Morris line that I still haven’t gone through after 16 years. All it takes is coming across some book or tidbit of information that sparks a potential research idea, and then – I’m off exploring! Searching the internet for databases or photos, or hunting down and copying info at the Archives from dawn to dusk, like a blood hound hot on the trail.

And, then…the scent disappears. Nothing. I look over what I’ve collected, copied, and researched for days, months, even years. But, Nothing. And, what is this Nothing throwing cold water on my exploration? Nothing is hitting a dead-end because there are no sources or the sources quoted in a book or email can’t be found or verified. So, if after a few more attempts Nothing is still there, then I usually set the genealogy stuff aside. You know, “Fiddle-dee-dee” to quote Scarlett O’Hara.

Sources are truly a necessary evil in my genealogy life. Would I ever consider not having them? Absolutely not. Would I ever consider every source I have as being the final word? Absolutely not.

After purchasing a new genealogy software program this past weekend, I could feel the stirrings in my blood. Time to blow off the dust, drag out those huge binders full of papers, and find a trail with a scent. So, as a warm-up, I ran a small family group report on my granddad and noticed that his death certificate had a source with the wrong repository. Tennessee? He died in Mississippi. Oh nooooo!!! It hit me that this must be how a Rockett lineage on a popular genealogy website had Tennessee listed as the death place for my granddad.

Years ago, I must’ve sent a GEDCOM to someone not realizing one or more sources had gotten combined or mixed up when switching from one software program to another. How many more sources are wrong?

The great Pit of Despair descended upon me as I realized that I was going to have to go through all of my source citations and verify them one by one:

  • My source citation report is 101 pages long.
  • It took me 5 hours last night to find and compare my source documents for 5 Rocketts from my daughter back to my great-grandfather, so I’m averaging 1 hour per person for the people I know!
  • I have over 2,900 individuals in my genealogy database not including my husband’s lines.
  • I’m 50 years old. You do the math!

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind.

A Source by Any Other Name

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

What matters is what a source is, not what it’s called or categorized as.
But, you say, what about sources called birth certificates, for example. They’re a great primary source.
Or, are they…

Everyone knew that my grandmother, Rita, was one year older than my granddad, Louis Rockett. She was born in 1911, and he was born in 1912. No big deal. He was taller, so it evened out.
I never saw her birth certificate until years after she’d passed away, and I was documenting my lineage so I could get in the Daughters of the American Revolution society (D.A.R.). Her birth certificate shows her name as Rita Hall and that she was born March 13, 1911. Great! I have a primary source documenting the dates and info I need from the state Health Department. This is etched in stone, right?
Upon further inspection, though, I noticed at the top it said “Delayed Certificate of Birth”. Hmmm. I don’t remember all the details but it seems like some states didn’t require birth certificates until a certain year or some birth certificates had been destroyed or damaged. Anyway, this certificate was notarized and filed in 1959. Forty eight years after her birth. Hmmm. I also noticed that it has her signature, her mother’s signature, and her sister-in-law’s signature (the latter was the notary). Totally cool. Very different. But, it’s from the state Health Department, so it’s all good.
As I got more serious about documenting sources, and joining more societies, I started hanging out at the Archives. That’s where I discovered census records, a wonderful primary source. I love census records! My first discovery with a real source was with a census record. Good times! So, I’m looking up every surname I have on the 1910 U.S. Census, and I get to the page showing my grandmother’s Hall family. Hey look! Here’s her dad James, her mom Vienna, her sister Nona, her brother Cecil, and an infant named Xylda Marie who wasn’t even 1 year old. Hmmm. There were only 3 kids in her family. When I started asking my family what they knew, turns out grandmother always hated her name Xylda Marie and insisted everyone call her “Ree” or Rita. OK. Name solved.

BUT LOOK AT THE YEAR! It’s 1910. Grandmother was born in 1911, right? Maybe, the census taker was wrong or accidentally put a neighbor’s child on the line with the Halls. (A stretch, I know, but I had a birth certificate from the state Health Department. Right?) So, I’m combing over this document and noticed who the census taker was: James N. Hall. That’s right. Her dad!

Now, I’ve got 2 primary sources with conflicting information. Which one do I think is right? The census. Which one holds weight as the source to most people? The birth certificate.

“Family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.” – Disney’s Lilo and Stitch

Well, ancestors and their stories do get left behind and forgotten over the decades. And for those who take up researching their family history, nothing compares to finding information on those unknown people who can fill in the missing pieces of the family puzzle!

I became fascinated with family history when I was about 10 or 11. Granddaddy had received a letter asking for information on our Rockett family from John F. Rockette, who was putting together a book on the Rockett families. Granddaddy didn’t seem too interested in following up, but I pressed him to talk to me about what he knew. He got out his mother’s scrapbook full of postcards and memorabilia about her Cooper family, relatives and children, and as he flipped through the large, brown, rectangular paper pages, he began to talk about what he knew about his Rockett ancestors.

He didn’t know much about his ancestors but had heard that it all began in Virginia with 3 brothers coming over on a boat…