Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Olive Jane Hollis

Today I learned yet another lesson about trusting the research of others, even sources you believe to be reliable. For years I have accepted the research of the very thorough Zela Sain McBride, whose research on the Sain and related families has been valuable to me and other researchers for decades now. However, today I browsed through the book “The Life & Times of James Hollis Sr.” [henceforth abbreviated as L&T] and the accompanying “And His Descendants” (two separate books bound together as one) by Shirley A. Hollis, PhD and Mary Nell Hollis Franks (2002 – Family Tree Press) and found that they did not agree with Mrs. McBride’s assertion that my 4th great grandmother, Olive Jane Hollis, was the daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate of Wayne County, Tennessee. Rather, they countered that she was the probable daughter of Stephen Hollis, James Hollis III’s half-brother, both being sons of James Hollis, the title progenitor of the book. This assertion made me decide that I needed to take another look at Olive and find out if I have her parentage correct. Olive being the daughter of Stephen Hollis would mean big changes for my tree, primarily because it would mean I am not a Choate, but rather a Drake. Stephen was the only known son of James’s first marriage to Sarah Drake, while James Hollis III was the product of James Jr.’s second marriage to Sarah Choate. If I descend from Stephen rather than James III, then my tree is going to look significantly different.

Hollis and Franks’s “L&T” states: “The [Olive] Jane Hollis and Asa Absalom Holmes family in Arizona, feel that she was the daughter of James Hollis and Sarah Choate, according to the research of Zela Sain McBride. She had Olive Jane Hollis descending from this line. The family thinks that since Olive Jane died so young (about 1855 Newton Co., MO), the family in Tennessee forgot about her and her children in records, settlements, etc. (It does not personally matter, at all, to the authors as to which line she descends from, we just haven’t found the proof to make that definite decision.) The AUTHORS think she is probably the daughter of Stephen and Nancy Loggins Hollis…” They go on to list a few reasons why they believe she is the daughter of Stephen, rather than James, with the primary points being:

-          Olive Jane Hollis is not listed in the estate settlements of James Hollis III , in family Bible records, or in the family lawsuits later

-          1840 Census shows William Allen Hollis, son of Stephen Hollis, near Absalom Holmes

-          This same William Allen named one of his daughters “Olive”

-          Olive’s first daughter was named Nancy, perhaps in tribute to Stephen’s wife Nancy, her possible mother

There were other bullet points listed that did not seem relevant in attaching her to James or Stephen. The lack of mention of Olive or her children in any records concerning the family of James Hollis III does seem to make it appear unlikely she was a member of that family; asserting that she was simply “forgotten” doesn’t make a lot of since, as the administrator of James’s estate would have been legally obligated to contact all heirs of James regarding the estate’s settlement, so barring the possibility that Olive was disowned or otherwise estranged from the family prior to her death, it is highly unlikely that the estate’s administrators would simply conveniently “forget” to reach out to Olive’s surviving children, who would have been legal heirs of James III were they his descendants.

Further giving strength to the argument that James was not Olive’s father is James’s Census records for 1830 and 1840, which each includes two girls who would have been in Olive’s age range (5-9 and 15-19, respectively); both of those girls can be accounted for as confirmed heirs of James, namely Catherine Hollis (born about 1822) and Louisa Jane Hollis (born 20 Jan 1824), wife of James H. Gambrell. As Olive cannot be accounted for in James’s households in Census records, nor in any estate records or subsequent lawsuits regarding said estate, I believe I can firmly say that she was not the daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate.

Now that we have deduced she is not a daughter of James Hollis III, it’s time to start from scratch. Let’s look at what we know:

-          Olive Jane Hollis was born about 1823, presumably in Wayne County, Tennessee. Her maiden name is given in a book by her daughter, Phoeba Louiza Holmes, compiled late in life outlining what she knew of her ancestors and keeping track of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

-          Olive married Absalom Holmes on 9 Nov 1840 according to various online sources, but no proof of this date has been found. Wayne County, Tennessee marriage records for this time period have been lost. As Absalom was a resident of Wayne County in the 1840 Census, and the Hollis clan was also from Wayne County, we presume that is where the marriage occurred. Listing their date of marriage as “circa 1840” seems to be the most appropriate route; in the 1840 Census, Absalom is still married to a woman in the 20-29 age range, his first wife Julia Ann Gamble, but Nancy Ann Holmes, daughter of Olive and Absalom, was born about 1841, so the two of them were likely married somewhere in late 1840 or in 1841.

-          By 1850, Olive and Absalom have moved to Van Buren County, Arkansas with their children and Absalom’s brood from his first marriage.

-          Sometime before 1856, when Eliza J. Holmes was born, Absalom remarried to Elizabeth Hannon, indicating that Olive had died sometime between then and Phoeba’s birth in 1851.

Now we should try and logically deduce the potential candidates for Olive’s father. It’s clear she was born of one of James Hollis Jr.’s sons, but which? There aren’t actually very many plausible candidates outside of James and Stephen. Thomas Carroll Hollis would have been old enough, but his only daughter in the 1830 Census is under age 5, and in 1840 is only in the 10-14 age range, likely making her too young to have wed Absalom Holmes. William Newton Hollis would also be old enough, but he presents an odd dilemma. He has no daughters in the 1830 Census, only a male under 5. However, in 1840, he has a 15-19 year old girl living in his household who fits Olive’s age. While Stephen is left to appear as the last remaining viable candidate, as Hollis and Franks clearly deduced, but he does not have a girl in his household fitting Olive’s age; he has only a 10-14 year old girl, though it is possible that a) the census-taker mistook Olive's age or b) she is actually younger than she gives her age to be in the 1850 Census, the only record we have indicating her age. This leaves William with the only one of the three with a female in his household Olive’s purported age. I have not found any trees or records indicating that William had a daughter Olive’s age, so the 15-19 year old female may not be Olive at all.

Some trees list that James had sons named Charlie and Silas, but no substantial proof has ever been identified proving their existence. John Hollis, born 15 Jan 1805, would technically be old enough to be Olive’s father, but his age makes it unlikely. Further, he has no daughters in his 1830 household. There is still a possibility that Stephen is Olive’s father; after all, he did migrate to Missouri at approximately the same time the Holmes clan move to Arkansas, but even when Olive moved to Missouri, it was to the opposite end of the state from Stoddard County. Stephen is missing from the 1830 Census, so we do not know with certainty whether or not he had a daughter Olive’s age; he very easily could have, and she simply was not at home when the 1840 Census-taker came around, or else she worked or resided elsewhere with other relatives, or, as previously mentioned, her age in 1850 may be incorrect or the census taker could have mistaken her age.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any conclusive evidence as to Olive’s parentage. Just about the only thing that can be determined is that she was most certainly not a daughter of James Hollis III and Rhoda Choate, but whether she was a daughter of Stephen or possibly of William we do not know. I plan to look into acquiring probate records for Stephen and William to look for mentions of Olive’s children, but should that avenue be fruitless, we may be left with never knowing with certainty who Olive’s parents were. While William Allen Hollis’s proximity to Absalom Holmes in 1840 and his naming a daughter “Olive”, as well as the fact that Absalom’s brother/nephew (exact relationship undetermined) Abram Holmes resided in Stoddard County makes it tempting to add her as Stephen’s daughter, I don’t believe she should be until further evidence is discovered. I do hope, however, that she will be removed as a daughter of James Hollis III on trees and that perhaps someday we will find definitive evidence tying her to her father.

UPDATE, 10/20/2014:

Some great DNA evidence supporting Olive as the daughter of Stephen has popped up in my DNA results.

As most know, we all get certain amounts of DNA from different ancestors, and sometimes we get more of one ancestor's DNA than another's. But then our sibling, or first cousin, could have more or less DNA from one of your shared ancestors. And the DNA from a certain ancestor could be all but gone from your genetic code while still being present within one of your siblings, cousins, or your parents.

I have DNA samples on Ancestry.com for my grand uncle, Robert Ronald Moose, as well as two of his first cousins, Jurhee Anita Moose and Dale Hubart Moose Jr., who are half-siblings, sharing the same father, Dale Sr., brother of my uncle Ronnie's father, Robert Royer Moose.

One of Dale's 5 closest DNA matches on Ancestry turned out to be a direct descendant of Stephen Hollis. The sample was from a woman with the initials M.J.B. whose sample was submitted by her first cousin, user RodgerHuffman1949. She is the descendant of Seth Grant Hollis through his son Cary Pope Hollis. Their match was with 95% certainty of being 4th-6th cousins. If Olive is Stephen's daughter, then M.J.B. and Dale are 4th cousins. M.J.B. would also be 4th cousins with Ronnie and Jurhee.

M.J.B. does appear as a match for both Ronnie and Jurhee, but at a smaller likelihood. With Ronnie, they share a "Low" certainty of being 5th-8th cousins, and the same goes for the match with Jurhee. This sheds a little doubt on the results, until I found that Dale had another match with a Stephen descendant, though not a close one. He has a "Very Low" confidence match to use osuolivers1, a descendant of William Allen Hollis through his son Stephen Compton Hollis. This user did not match Ronnie or Jurhee.

However, collectively, I feel these DNA results make a very good case for Olive being the daughter of Stephen. Though still not entirely conclusive, these DNA results are certainly supportive. As previously stated, we all get different amounts of DNA from different ancestors, so it's very possible that Dale simply got more Hollis DNA than Jurhee or Ronnie. That is my interpretation of the results, anyway.