Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When HOLT is HOTT and Don't force your research into one area

This is one of those "don't believe everything you hear" or "make sure you check other spellings" and "always check the surrounding areas" stories... lots of lessons learned for me on this one.

My Great Grandmother's name was Sallie Virginia HOLT, so I was told. When I began researching the family and went to Virginia to do some cemetery research I found her mother's headstone at our Anderson family plot. It said M. M. HOLT - at the time I had no idea who M.M. was, only that Sallie's maiden name was HOLT so of course it was a member of her family. I inquired at the church cemetery office to find out more about this person. No information was available, their records also listing the burial as M.M. But, they did tell me that my Grandmother, Edna Keener was the last owner of this family burial plot, having left the state she returned several empty to the church in exchange for perpetual care of the other burials. After this discussion with the church office, they promptly went to the M.M. HOLT stone and removed a HUGE bush from the location - I guess they figured that someone was paying attention to this family and assumed that I'd want such a large plant removed. A couple weeks later I received a phone call from a very upset man wanting to know why I had instructed the church to remove the bush from "MY Grandmother's grave?" Of course, I had done no such thing, that bush was clearly many years old and while the headstone was not visible because of it, I was sure that some loving family member had planted it long ago. I would not interfere with that.

After he understood me, and realized that we were cousins, he went on to tell me about Grandma M.M. HOLT, her first name being Mary. She was from West Virginia, had been married there - although he did not know her husbands name nor her maiden name - and shortly after his death (sometime around 1900) she had taken her children to Fairfax County to live. All these years (it's been about 8 since I spoke to him) I searched for this mysterious Mary HOLT in the census records in West Virginia and in Fairfax county. I found her residing with another family member along the way, but could not find this family to my satisfaction. As I usually do, I turned to the message boards on Ancestry for any leads that someone might be able to provide. Every year I would put a post on the HOLT surname message board, never getting much response... this year was different. Another researcher came back to me stating that the spelling of my HOLT name would make it difficult, because it was probably part of the HOTT family of WV.

Okay, my father knew his Grandmother for many years. Sallie Virginia HOLT (if that's her REAL name) died in 1956. She had always been known as a Holt to him, why would I expect to find her under a different name? Turns out I didn't. I couldn't find a Sallie HOTT either. After getting the information from Ancestry message boards, I went back to my favorite WV Vital Records site and checked for a HOTT birth on Sallies birthdate.... Did you know that Sallie is a nickname for Sarah? Voila! I found Sallie (actually Sarah) HOTT, born on the exact date that I knew her birthdate to be. This had to be my Sallie! After verifying that she was indeed a member of the HOTT family, I went back to the census records on Ancestry and found her family (verified by known siblings of hers) in the census in WV. I then set out to find her mother in Fairfax... no beans. So I turned my attention to all of Virginia and found her in Fauquier County. This made sense because Sallie's son Leonard was born in Fauquier. Mary was listed as a widow, so the death of her husband was correct prior to 1900, but because I had listened to my new cousin, I had forced my search into a box and not looked in the surrounding area for Mary.

I still have not found a death record for Mary's husband Samuel, but at least now I know that I'm on the right track and that the family name was actually HOTT, not HOLT as it had become by the many mispellings over the years. Sallie's mother could not read or write, combine this with the script writing of the name - someone forgets to cross both t's and a new name is born. My 2nd Great Grandmother is buried in Fairfax County with an incorrect surname on her headstone - too bad I can't just submit a correction for that.


  1. Hi Cindy :) What neat blogs you have. So sorry I didnt get back to you sooner, I just noticed your post comment on my genealogy blog. Thank you for the compliments and I am glad your enjoying the Genealogy graphics and cip art. To answer your question, no unfortunately I don't live in WV. I reside in FL. I am a direct descendant of Joseph Ball Sr b. abt 1783 in Franklin County Virginia d. 22 Nov. 1860 Boone County WV. Seems no one has been able to figure out who Joesph's father was,so he is as far back as I have been able to go. My Father was born in West Virginia and my Mother and I, Virginia. So my roots run very deep in both States. We might be kin Lets compaire notes. :)
    Tammy Renee

  2. I've been there and done that several times. It's amazing when you finally stop listening to other people and let the evidence lead you what you can find. Then other time it's what other people share with you that will break down that wall. I'm glad to see you are making progress on your ancestor.