Category Archives: Genealogy

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.