Digging for Deep Roots
An Annotated Bibliography
As I seek to understand my family’s unknown past, I have to better put things in perspective. I know virtually nothing about West Virginia, the region history and culture, the Jarrett family, or what their lives were like. In addition, I understand very little about my living family, my grandmother and father, and what motivated them to leave behind our family’s past, creating a new life a thousand miles south. My next phase of discovery is research. I plan to dig deep into various categories affecting my family history, connecting individual pieces together to form my individual story.
I see this research in a few distinct categories: (1) West Virginia history and James Jarrett I, (2) general history, things that tie into my family, (3) the sociology of my family, and (4) the present, the things that influence my family and myself still today.
Sources on the history of West Virginia and my family history:
Morris & Jarretts of West Virginia: Descendants and Connecting Families.
Beeler, Flora Maye Dowell, and Janette Beeler Bishop. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1974.
I am uncommonly lucky. When attempting to locate sources for the project, I searched “Jarretts + West Virginia” on Google Scholar and happened across an entire book written specifically on my family’s lineage. I requested the book through UGA’s inter-library loan system and two weeks later, I had it in my hand all the way from Missouri.
Morris & Jarretts of West Virginia details the famous and lengthy Jarrett family lineage beginning with James Jarrett I, my fifth great-grandfather. Before his time little is known; but the authors hypothesize that the Jarretts could descend from France. This connection, however, is spotty. Unfortunately, twenty-four spellings of ‘Jarrett’ have been found in use, making it difficult to distinguish which links are valid or invalid.
My previous research and familial understanding is that we are likely Scotch-Irish, so I choose to not pursue possible French connections.
Beeler and Bishop go on to detail what is known about James Jarrett’s life, including a copy of his last will and testament. They describe his settlement of the Muddy Creek area, including his creating Jarrett Fort and later the famous Jarrett House, laying a few miles north of Alderson. His home is described in detail and the authors assert that James’ descendants still own the home today. They go on to list his children, my fourth great-grandfather, Isaac Jarrett, being his tenth child with his first wife.
The authors continue to track Jarretts, but unfortunately my connection to the family ends with Isaac Jarrett. Beeler and Bishop state,
“We have record of one child: 2.10.1: D. G. Jarrett died November 12, 1890, age 46 years, of fever.”
Isaac’s other children, including my third great-grandfather, John Jarrett Sr., are not listed. Not only did my family lose track of the Jarretts, but apparently they also lost track of us.
History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia: Embracing an Account of the Various Expeditions in the West, Previous to 1795.
De Hass, Wills. Philadelphia: H. Hoblitzell, 1851.
This lengthy history of the West Virginia region includes historical context of the establishment of West Virginia, how various historical events influenced the region, the culture of settlers, and biographies of various influential figures.
Westward settlement of the United States took quite some time from original settlement along the coasts. The West Virginia area was late in comparison to the earliest American foundations.
“…the march of the Anglo-Saxon westward was slow in the extreme. It was not until more than one hundred years had elapsed from the settlement of Jamestown, that a project was conceived for crossing the great rocky barrier, whose frowning heights seemed to shut out all communication between the primitive settler and the region west.”
Once westward expansion began in this area around the 1730s, it was focused in the eastern Virginian valley.
Previous to the 1750s, no settlers had ventured into the western Virginia region. In the Greenbriar County region, where James Jarrett I settled, little activity occurred prior to 1769. On settling the Muddy Creek area, where my fifth great grandfather constructed his fort,
“… a royal proclamation of the next year , commanded that all who had settled, or held improvements on the Western waters, should at once remove, as the claim of the Indians had not been extinguished ; and it was most important to preserve their friendship, in order to prevent them coalescing with the French.”
This kept most out of the area.
“Those families already in the enjoyment of their improvements, refused to comply with the King’s mandate, and most of them were cut off by the savages in 1763–4. From the date of these occurrences, up to 1769, the Greenbriar country contained not a single white settlement.”
James Jarrett moved to the area immediately following this is 1771, making him one of the first founders to settle the area.
The rest of the book goes on to detail other historical events and their effect on the region, including the highly influential French and Indian War, along with culture in the region and various other facts on West Virginia. This allows me to better comprehend the lives of my ancestors, including their livelihoods, culture, values, and the world around them.
One chapter describes the character and mental state of the pioneers; painting the dark uncertain future as a source of excitement for the few adventurous and brave souls.
“Although a dark cloud hung upon the horizon, and fear trembled upon the heart of the pioneer as he looked tenderly, devotedly and affectionately at his little household,- scarcely knowing at what moment the destroyer might fall upon him, yet all was joy and happiness within…
Such was the Western Pioneer. How many are there not in the haunts of civilized life, who would gladly exchange their condition for that of the rude frontiersman?”
When I read this description, I feel my heart swell. I know that this is my family. This spirit of adventure, of resilience in the face of darkness and uncertainty- this is my father. I have seen my father exude this sort of courageous and resilient vivacity throughout his life. I have heard my grandmother tell stories of my grandfather in which he exudes them, too. I know that this is my family, and that no matter what the distance between our lineage, these things are still present, connecting us to our core.
“A Brief Sketch of the Late Col. Andrew Donally.”
Donnally, Miriam Welch, Mrs. West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly, Vol. I, Jan. 1901: 52–64.
Colonel Andrew Donally was a prominent figure in 18th century West Virginia. Born in 1778 and died in 1849, he held many important military roles, possibly serving in the Continental Army under Washington during his lifetime. Donally lead many raids and battles against the Native Americans during the settling of West Virginia.
This article details the life and work of Col. Donally, which better paints a broader idea of what life was like in 18th century West Virginia when James Jarrett I lived there. Animosity and suspense boiled between the new settlers and the Native Americans; settlers often establishing forts for protection. Donally constructed a fort which neighbored Jarrett’s Fort, and the two possibly knew and worked with one another.
Donally’s biography also illustrates the extreme importance of religious affiliation during this day and age. His race for office was highly contentious; opponents accused him of being a Papist to harm his reputation. Religious affiliation determined status, as the founding pilgrims in the region were ironically intolerant of those practicing beliefs differing from their own.
Col. Donally’s story illustrates what life was like during the 18th and 19th centuries in the West Virginia region. His history is West Virginia history, American history, and my family history. His story relates to that of my fifth great-grandfather, which makes it relate to my own personal story.
Sources on general history and how it ties to my family:
Thernstorm, Stephan. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard University, 1980: 895–908.
I understand that the Jarrett family is likely Scotch-Irish, but that does not help much when I do not even understand what Scotch-Irish means.
The Harvard Encylopedia of American Ethnic Groups explains,
“The term Scotch-Irish is ambiguous; it does not refer to people of mixed Scottish and Irish ancestry, as the name might seem to imply, but to the descendants of the Presbyterians from lowland Scotland who settled in Ulster, the northernmost province of Ireland, in the 17th century and subsequently emigrated from there to America.”
The mass emigration of Scotch-Irish to America throughout the 17th and 18th centuries fits well with what I know about my Jarrett ancestors. Most Scotch-Irish arrived and settled in America at approximately the same time as my family likely did, and they settled in the same regions.
The early Scotch-Irish exodus began mostly due to Thomas Wentworth:
“Thomas Wentworth, whom Charles I appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1632, so antagonized Ulster Presbyterians by his arbitrary rule and his campaign against nonconformity that some looked to America for refuge.”
From that point, large-scale emigration from Ulster began in 1717, continuing on for the next 60 years.
Once migrants arrived in America, Scotch-Irish were key in settling the Pennsylvania, New England, and Virginia areas. Their Presbyterian religion primarily influenced where the Scotch-Irish settled, often choosing tolerant locations where one could easily practice.
“The most distinctive characteristic of the Scotch-Irish, and the one that left the deepest mark upon them, was their Presbyterianism.”
I have no religious affiliation and neither do my parents, so I cannot relate to this incredible value my ancestors placed on their faith. I discovered that Elizabeth Griffey, my fifth great grandmother and wife of James Jarrett, was a dedicated Presbyterian, like our ancestors before her. Their faith was held very closely to their hearts. With this work, I can better comprehend how their faith influenced their lives and culture, allowing me to become closer connected to my lost lineage.
The Great Wagon Road: from Philadelphia to the South.
Rouse, Parke S., Jr. United States: Dietz Pr, 1973.
The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road along with Wilderness Road were primary paths of settlement in the mideast region, stretching from New Jersey to South Carolina and extending to Tennessee.
Many immigrants followed this path in search of land to settle and make home, and my ancestors likely followed such a path to their West Virginia home.
Because my family was likely Scotch-Irish, I chose to utilize the fourth chapter titled, “Enter the Scotch-Irish,” as it details the push and pull factors bringing Scotch-Irish immigrants to the region, how they established settlements, and what their culture and lives were like.
Most Scotch-Irish immigrants left Ireland around 1718 due to poor treatment to by the Irish and English. This mass exodus concerned the Irish landowners who tried to restrict emigration. I do not know precisely when my family immigrated, but this exodus could have included my family. Even if not, these push factors likely still influenced their lives.
Religion highly influenced cultural establishment in the new settlements, often determining a hierarchy of social power and status. Most Scotch-Irish were Presbyterian and settled in areas with high populations of fellow Scots.
The Wilderness Road came closest to West Virginia and was likely a well-travelled path for many of the early West Virginian settlers. This pathway allowed access to the land, bringing people, culture, religion, social institutions, and many other human factors to the area. Without such a pathway, settlement could have been delayed and would not have occurred in the way that it did, likely developing all whole different lifestyle.
This unique cultural melding of Scotch-Irish with new American determined the livelihoods of my ancestors and influenced how our roots took hold.
Presbyterians: Their History and Beliefs
Lingle, Walter L., and John W. Kuykendall. Atlanta: Westminster John Knox Press, 1978.
I am not a religious person, nor is anyone in my immediate family religious. Because of this, I understand very little about religion and know even less about the beliefs and practices of specific religions.
Religion, however, was incredibly important to my ancestors. In order to better understand them as people, I should better understand what they believed in and held so deeply to their hearts.
My fifth great-grandmother, James Jarrett I’s first wife, was a devout Presbyterian like most of the family. Sources believe Elizabeth Griffey walked miles through the wilderness every Sunday to make it to her church, despite the supposed threat of Native American presence nearby. This source delves in to Presbyterianism, specifically its history, the beliefs, and the practices.
Presbyterianism began during the 16th century Protestant Reformation of the Catholic Church. John Calvin and John Knox were theological founders of the denomination, giving it ties to Calvinism. For the most part, Presbyterianism is differentiated from other denominations based on their doctrine, church order, and worship.
There is heavy value placed on elders, especially in the structure of the church. In addition, education throughout the lifespan is highly valued and regarded.
Most of Presbyterianism originates from Britain, Scotland, and Ireland, explaining why it was so prevalent in the Scotch-Irish that my family came from. When the Scotch-Irish immigrated to America, they tightly held on to these beliefs, constructing their lives with religion at the forefront.
Because their faith was so important to them, understanding Presbyterianism helps me to better understand my ancestors and the way in which they lived. Faith, however, was just another thing that got lost in the disconnect between my current family and the family we came from.
Sources on the sociology of my family:
“Young Widows Speak out about Managing Grief, Seeking Support.”
Italie, Leanne. Detroit Free Press. The Associated Press, 26 May 2015. Web.
My grandmother never talked about my biological grandfather when I was young. She still does not like to mention him often. I never heard stories about the kind of man Frederic Jarrett was, other than assumptions made by my father. My mom said that the memories were too painful for my grandmother and she was never able to grieve.
Because my adoptive grandfather was overly jealous and paranoid, he did not allow photos or memorabilia of my late grandfather in the house for my grandmother or dad. John Douglas did not want to hear anything about Fred Jarrett. He cut my father off from the Jarrett side of his family, only allowing annual birthday cards from Frederic’s mother, Mary, to my father.
My grandmother, an extremely young widow, was never allowed to properly mourn her late husband. Even today, she still will not put John Douglas at fault, defending him and growing sensitive to the subject.
I can never understand the kind of trauma and pain my grandmother went through; I can only imagine and empathize. This article articulates the experiences of young widows, giving me a window into exactly what my grandmother could have gone through and helping me better relate to her struggles.
I hope to better understand my grandmother’s experiences, being twice widowed at a young age, and how this led to her leaving behind our family in West Virginia for the hot Florida sand.
Many women lose friends as their peers become uncomfortable and awkward with their widows. Widowed women often seek comfort from other widows, only to be met by 70 or 80 year old women; no one who could relate to their particular struggles.
“I walked in and I was the only one who didn’t have gray hair. They were totally just as sad as me, but it’s just so different. They lived with their spouses for years. For me, I felt very gypped. I didn’t get all that I was supposed to get. My kids were also just so gypped.”
-Wendy Clough on her time at a bereavement support group
These women feel isolated, misunderstood, and hundreds of other complex emotions. Their perspectives better helps me to understand my grandmother, her life choices, and her overwhelming resilience, allowing me to relate to her better during our interview and in my personal life.
“The Truth About Leaving Behind Everything You Know And Starting A New Life.”
Bowman, Emma. Elite Daily. Elite Daily, 28 July 2015. Web.
I cannot relate to my grandmother’s decision to leave behind her family. I have not and still do not have perfect relationships with my family members, but I could not live without them. In her weakest, most vulnerable and broken time, my grandmother chose to escape from her surroundings which reminded her only of pain. I cannot imagine such circumstances, but I especially cannot imagine going through that without my family by my side.
I recently found out that my grandmother might have been following a boyfriend on her move to Jupiter, Florida. However, one does not leave everything behind and take their two young children one thousand miles away from all family and support for a passing relationship. In addition, this relationship obviously did not last and she still decided to stay.
I want to better understand how my grandmother made such a decision, one that is so inconceivable to me. I want to understand how she survived such a monumental transition.
A young woman wrote this piece after she left behind all of her family and roots to move across the ocean to Ireland and started over from scratch. Her perspective is unique, but allows me a sense of empathy and closeness to my grandmother as a young mother and widow. I can better understand how my grandmother left the only home she had ever known behind.
“When you leave behind the home you grew up in to live and grow roots somewhere else, “home” will never be the same once you go back. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t go back; I knew what I always thought of as “home” wouldn’t be there for me anymore…
“Once you realize you don’t need a place called “home” to give you comfort, you will be able to find a home just about anywhere in the world.”
While I do not think I would be able to make the same decision, I can better understand those who have. My grandmother made her own home out of the Palm Beach sand and a new family out of their community. She raised her children with love and as much as she could provide for them. She survived. I praise and admire her bravery and strength.
“Impacts on Families over the Life Course.”
Green, Anne E., and Angela Canny. Geographical Mobility: Family Impacts. Bristol: Policy, 2004. 22–26. Print.
When considering my father’s adolescence, I sort of organize it into particular events. I see the pre and post Fred Jarrett’s death. I see John Douglas marrying my grandmother and adopting my father. I see my dad’s life with his mom and John. I see after John’s death. I see their move to Florida. To me, this move was just another event that happened to my dad. I have not accounted for how this relocation was a loss for him or how he grew from it.
This source, a textbook based on family interactions and the impact that geographic location has on them, gives more perspective on the implications of such a move.
“… relocation is not just about changing people’s jobs; it is about changing lives. Hence, relocation (and other kinds of geographical mobility) has consequences that extend far beyond an individual’s employment, disrupting what Jarvis (1999) refers to as the ‘tangled web’ of networks and relationships that characterize the household economy and behaviour.”
The text goes on to portray the different possible types of responses to such a move, viewing relocations as a potential catalyst for family fission or even fusion.
I, personally, expected that when my grandmother left West Virginia and all of her family a thousand miles behind she likely created a rift, or fission, within the family. Familial fusion, however, is also a possible response. They say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ and her move from everything could have maintained familial closeness despite the odds, or even have brought it closer together.
These suggestions for familial response and impacts, however, are still only suggestions. The only way to know for sure what the move did to my grandmother and her family, as well as what it did to my father, is to ask.
Sources on the present (a.k.a. me):
“West Virginia Tells The Story Of America’s Shifting Political Climate.”
Gonyea, Don. NPR. NPR, 24 Oct. 2015. Web.
I am an aspiring politician. I do not like saying that often; most people assume that anyone who wants to be a politician is an elitist narcissist with a hunger for power. I am none of those things. I love politics because, to me, it is the most original and authentic form of public service. Politicians should be public servants, listening to their constituents and making decisions and efforts that best benefit those people with less of a voice.
Not to mention, politics helps me understand the world around me. Whenever I am confused about someone or something, relating it to politics helps me clear the air. It is the thing I understand best; the thing I am good at.
When looking at my long lost West Virginia family, I am lost in mystery and frustration. I like knowing all the answers.
It may seem like an odd-ball, but West Virginia politics helps be to better understand and relate to the environment and the people.
Demographically, West Virginia is high in white middle-class workers, a population beginning to primarily lean Republican. West Virginia was built and thrives on coal- a slowly dying industry. Liberal environmental policies that are strict on coal and various fossil fuels alienates their West Virginia constituents and those like them.
“White, working-class Democrats are abandoning the party over environmental issues like coal, and on things like gun rights and abortion. There’s been a similar shift among such voters nationally.”
For the time being, West Virginia is still mostly evenly split, with a slight Republican leaning. Of their two national senators, one is Democrat and one is Republican. Republicans make up all of the West Virginia state representatives. The Republican party tends to dominate state legislature, while Democrats thrive in local elections.
The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state was Bill Clinton in 1996. Some West Virginians feel that the country as a whole has been shifting progressively in recent years, making conservatives dig their heels in. In addition, Democratic policies of recent have been alienating previously Democratic West Virginians, converting many to Republican voters.
In the 2016 election, West Virginia turned red yet again, giving their electoral votes to Donald Trump. Like most of this election’s trends, I think a great deal of this result is racial. The 2010 West Virginia census revealed that 93.9% of the state population is white alone. The second highest demographic is black, making up a tiny 3.4% of the population. This election was highly racially divisive. Trump made frequent racist remarks and his rhetoric was often alienating and offensive to people of color. Hillary Clinton carried a majority of the votes from people of color, while Trump was the popular choice among white America. West Virginia is becoming a “Republican stronghold” as it becomes a white stronghold.
As a far-left Democrat, I cannot relate to such rightward shifts in views. West Virginia has never been my home personally and, even now that I have discovered my deep roots there, I still feel disconnected from it, especially ideologically. I can, however, empathize and begin to better appreciate their livelihoods and opinions.
“What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.”
Waldinger, Robert. TED. Nov. 2015. Lecture.
In all honesty, I do not think I have ever gotten over my grandfather’s death. I never knew him- he died long before I was born; yet I still feel a loss, a longing to know him and be close to him, anytime I hear about him or see a picture of him.
He died so young. I find myself sometimes worried that his life was never fulfilled. He barely knew his son, only getting to see him as a toddler. He never got to see his parents age and die. He never got to see his son grow, graduate school, marry, remarry, have children. He never got to meet his grandchildren. He never got to see his wife, his teenage love, grow into a woman and a mother. My heart aches for the life that was taken so soon.
This source, a TED Talk on what constitutes a good life, is for me. I used this as a reminder that my grandfather’s life is not about what he missed or how short it was cut, but what he did experience.
The speaker, Robert Waldinger, is the fourth director on a 75-year study of human lives and happiness. He details the experiences and lessons from a group of men who have been studied and interviewed throughout their entire lives, looking at the factors which created the most positive impact. It all boiled down to one main thing.
“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier- period.”
Good relationships, Waldinger says, are the key to living a good life. Conversely, loneliness is quite literally a killer. Authentic and meaningful human connection makes us happier and makes us live longer.
In my grandfather’s case, no amount of human connection could prevent his death from a car accident. It can, however, ensure that his years alive were still meaningful and fulfilling.
I know his relationship with my grandmother was spectacular and special. When she speaks about him, the love she felt and still feels for him is so evident. The two were young and beautifully happy. Their relationship was unlike any that they had experienced before. They had loving and supportive families, a home, a life together, and a new son.
My grandfather’s short time on this earth was meaningful, beautiful, and I know that he was happy. I can mourn for my grandmother’s loss, my father’s loss, and my own loss, but I should not mourn for him. He lived a good life.
Beyond that, his death made my family strong. My grandmother grew in ways she never knew she could. Her resilience and courageous optimism is astounding. My father reflects these same qualities; he is stronger for what he has endured. I would not change a thing.
“Depression, the secret we share.”
Solomon, Andrew. TEDx. Oct. 2013. Lecture.
This source does not fit neatly within a category, but I feel that it is essential. It relates to the sociology of my family and to myself. This source, a TED Talk on depression, relates to my father, our family history of depression, and to myself and my own struggle.
For years, I struggled to understand my father and to empathize with him. He is imperfect and struggles much. As a child, I could not grasp this. I saw his flaws as reactive, something that I caused. I could not comprehend that his struggles are not his fault nor my own, but something he cannot help.
My father has depression, along with other struggles. Only now, as I come to terms with my own mental health and diagnosis, can I begin to empathize with and understand my father. I believe that my own diagnosis has allowed me to begin forgiving my father for something which he could never control.
The speaker asserts,
“Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability.”
It runs in our family. My father received it from somewhere before him, and I got it from him. It is not either of our faults, but something we share.
Unfortunately, depression, and mental illness is general, is highly stigmatized. It is all too common, but we scarcely discuss it. The speaker, Andrew Solomon, shares his story of severe depression and what it was like for him to begin sharing his story publicly. He describes the phenomena in which many people came up to him to share their own stories and connections to depression after he shared his own.
“… depression is a family secret that everyone has.”
I understand why so many people reached out to Solomon. His story is jarring and incredibly inspirational. He depicts depression in an incredibly authentic manner, making it relatable to even those who have never experienced it. He describes the way it affects him mentally and physically, making day-to-day tasks impossible and unbearable.
“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
Despite my own experience, I still have so much to learn and understand about the lives of others. Our shared disease does not mean we have shared experiences or circumstances. We all experience depression uniquely, and this talk provides necessary perspective for myself towards others and towards my father.
These sources all combine to provide an insight into my mysterious family. With diligence, I can better understand where I came from, how I got where I am, and where the Jarrett line will continue to go from here.