Just when you think you know an ancestor, another bit of information trickles in to add a new detail to their lives. Genealogy is amazing this way. It will always provide clues and hints enabling you to learn more and more. I find this to be true in all of my genealogy projects. For over 40 years now, I’ve devoted much of my personal time researching the past. If I am able to live an additional 40 more years, I will still not complete my task. Family history is ongoing and will never cease unless you make that decision. No matter what the size of the tree or how grand the landscape is around it, the work continues to change it. So, after adding my small two cents worth of genealogy 101, allow me to focus on the subject at hand. The Doss surname is a personal one that can be found on a main branch of my family tree. The article below will share a few pointers in regards to my personal line and share a few memories embellished with stories as well. Just another two cents worth of happiness that I love sharing with all of you.
I wasn’t at anytime properly introduced to my great grandfather Jim. I can still hear the words from my Mom, “He died before you were thought of.” And, indeed he did die before my parents even knew one another, but as a kid growing up, I was always the one with questions and my Nancy Drew personality would come up for air. My grandmother had a huge picture of Jim and Mandy hanging on the wall in her bedroom. It was old surrounded by a dark wood oval frame and extended from the wall by a gold tassel rope. I always thought the frame was much older than the picture itself. In the photo you could see a tall elderly man dressed in faded blue overalls, a yellow button shirt and a wide brim straw hat on his head. Beside him stood a short petite lady with a calico print dress. A small apron appeared in her hand with the strings hanging down past her dress. She wore her hair tight in a bun at the back of her head and stood just to the side in the photo. Tall corn was seen in the background with a wooden fence in between the couple and the corn. It appeared to be taken on a dirt road just in front of the entrance to their farm. An old car was in the photo too, but only parts of it as it pulled off the main road possibly visiting. This is my first memory of Jim and Mandy Doss.
My grandmother had other pictures of them, but they were all black and white. The photo described above was printed in color and my grandmother cherished it very much. Of course, she would tell me a few stories here and there about her parents, but time was of the essence as our visits were often spaced far apart and other things were in need of discussion whenever the family would get together. Oh, make no mistake about it, as I grew older, I learned how to butt in with the conversations and swing them to my way of thinking eventually. But, when I was young, I had to grab the info as it was made available for me which never satisfied my hunger.
The actual names on the headstone are not the real names for these two. In fact, I didn’t learn of this until after I was married and already on my own. You would think all through the years that someone would have pointed this critical information out to me. But, I guess everyone who personally knew them only knew them by the names of Jim and Mandy. They lived in Eldora Township near the Ararat River in Surry County, NC. A beautiful area filled with long winding roads, small creeks and majestic huge oaks if you know your trees. Jim was a farmer by trade and Mandy “kept house” as majority of the census records would state. They were married April 25, 1908 when Jim was 24 and Mandy was just 16 or even younger. Age was not important to anyone back then unless you were tied to the government as grandma would tell me. And she has proven herself right so many times all through the years. If I had $1.00 for every discrepancy I’ve located among the legal documents disputing an ancestor’s age, I would be receiving a foot massage right now while I’m dictating this very article to someone else to type. Instead, I’m laughing at myself and trying to type correctly at the same time. Multi-tasking once again.
At any rate, not only did the age suffer with lack of correctness, but apparently legal names didn’t matter either and so the games begin as we all strive to know our ancestors on a level playing field. The real names for these two are James William Doss and Amanda Elizabeth Johnson Doss. If you refer to the ages in the above census record of 1910, you can quickly see that Jim states he is 28 and Mandy is 18 when in reality, Jim is 26 and Mandy is almost 17.
Additional interesting things about these two are that Jim was very well known for his corn whiskey and love for good music. His son, Broner Doss, would later encourage my Dad to learn the guitar. Daddy often stated how well Broner could play a guitar. He became crippled over the years and died without marrying. As for my great grandmother Mandy, she did indeed get to meet me as Mom quoted years later. Mom placed me in her lap when I was 3 months old. Mandy lived for 15 years after Jim died. She loved her rocking chair and it was there that she too passed away as one evening was bringing a threat of snow in the air. Today is the actual anniversary of great grandfather Jim’s death, December 8, 1954. I dedicate these memories and this article to him. To the man in the photo that I’ve grown to love and cherish so much.