My VanZandt Roots, These are *MY* People!

Mabel VanZandt Swalls, Delphia Ann VanZandt, York, Stewart, nee Jones, and Thomas Jesse 'Jess' VanZandt

Mabel Parset VanZandt Swalls, Delphia Ann VanZandt-York-Stewart, nee Jones, and Thomas Jesse ‘Jess’ VanZandt.  Mabel & Jess are my maternal grandmothers 1/2 siblings.  This photo was probably taken months before Uncle Jess died due to an accident Old Ben #8 in Ziegler, Franklin Co., Illinois.

NOTE: DNA has most definitely proved out some of the York lines.  However,
Ancestry has strongly suggested that I come from a MOREN line which hooks into the YORK/HUDSON Line.  I am sure that I come from my great grandfather John York, but beyond that, there is a question.  I continue to let the DNA tease things out.  (Either way this goes, They all [even the ones not related by blood/dna] they ARE ALL MY People!!  (2 May 2019)

A DNA test recently proved my great grandmother told a not so small fib to my maternal grandmother.  I know this happened because I was old enough to remember and young enough to have been affected by my grandmother’s tears over being cheated out of her heritage.  Of course, by the time this transpired, the men involved were gone, and had nothing to say about the whole thing.

I can only speculate just why my great grandmother (Delphia Ann VanZandt York Stewart nee Jones, daughter of Jesse Franklin Jones and wife, Susan Ann Aiken/Eaken)  would do such a thing to my grandmother (Hazel Lorine VanZandt Coop).  That is, tell her own daughter that the father she grew up knowing was NOT her father at all.  My grandmother, probably in her early 50’s was forced to entertain the fact that  my great grandmother’s 2nd husband,  John York was her true father.  The first husband was Ulysses Grant Welch VanZandt and he was the father named on the birth certificate.

After watching Roots in 1976 with my parents I began my adventure into genealogy and it didn’t take me more than a couple of years to ask my grandmother about my heritage. She could only say she didn’t know her father very well.  I don’t remember the timing now, but there can be no doubt I did not have a great sense of timing.  She was a great sport, she wrote and told me as much as she knew [Or at least as much as she was comfortable telling a young teenaged girl].  She sent a handwritten page or two.  And I have since spent a great deal of time since asking, begging, searching for any and everything possible that I could find to do to trace John York’s line.  To get to know, John York.  Not an easy feat, I’ve never seen a photo, and he doesn’t even have a headstone.

Fast forward to 2015, I spit into the little bottle and sent it off to Ancestry.  And over the past year or so I’ve watched my paper trail be proved over and over again.  About two months ago, it suddenly dawned on me, why are there no Gulley DNA Circles? No Pedigo DNA Circles?  Not one York DNA circle   Why do I not match with a Hudson line???  And as if the powers that be were involved, it brought on the next bits of information slowly so that I would have time to take it all in and ‘get over’ the shock of finding out that John York is NOT my great grandfather.  In all honesty, I’m still in the middle of that part.

Now, DNA has not yet 100% proved the VanZandt line.  But, I think probably, the truth is the paper trail has not yet caught up with the DNA truths.

Rewind a just a few years, a nice man named Sheldon Jones in Illinois did a look up for me and pointed out that the man I knew as Ulysses Grant VanZandt was actually born with the name of Ulysses Grant Welch.  Son of Thomas J. Welch and Parathena Parthany VanZandt.  His parents were wed when he was born, he was a legitimate son.  But, sometime in his very late teens, or very early adulthood Grant and his brother, Causey ditched the Welch name and took their mother’s maiden name of VanZandt.  And Thomas J. was no more to be seen in the record after that. A nasty divorce maybe??  Wow, maybe they run in the family??!!  Really, don’t ask me why, I haven’t figured that out yet.  I’ll probably never know.  And it’s not that I look for dirt on people, but believe me, I’ve turned Thomas J. Welch over and over again!!!  Found absolutely nothing, so far.

So, the only other thing to do is to study history and see how the family fits in right?
My great grandparents were born just after the family feud in the area that lead to the days known as the “Bloody Vendetta”, and yes, that is the area of Illinois they grew up in.  Then comes the famous coal mine strikes in Williamson County, that time in history is refeered to as “Bloody Williamson” (See book by Paul Angle).  My Aunt Mabel’s husband, Uncle Jim (James Swalls), was old enough to be a witness those atrocities.  It’s good and bad that he was so young.  He didn’t get sucked into the mess (I think, I hope), but can you imagine witnessing such gross abuses against human souls and live your life into old age without the help of therapy?  Oh my,  I bet his nightmares were hell!!!  Of course, they were there when the Ku Klux Klan were in power.  Do we need more?? Well, maybe.  Turns out a VanZandt cousin was involved with the Birger (Sheldon/Birger Gang(s) Fame: It’s Prohibition time and there are moonshine runners, prostitution kings, and proprietors of violence a la carte. Think Sheldon gang? Think first aerial bombing on the USA’s mainland, and how it must have devastated Charlie Birger and his group).  Look up a photo, looks like Ralph VanZandt is in more than one.

Sometime around 2004, I wrote a York cousin (remember I thought he was a cousin still) and asked him for stories and pictures of my great grandmother.  He told me to leave great grandma lie.  He basically handed me the York line on a silver platter.  I really was very, very thankful.  I knew nothing about my York line.  As I studied it I proudly got myself and my children entry to the Pedigo Family Association.  Who could not be proud of that Hudson Line, along with the York’ folks who stayed in Tennessee and those who came west and started a town in Sonoma County, CA.  Can you imagine the name??  Yorkville!!  Really??!!! Really!!! [At the time this information came to light, I was living a quick 15 minute drive from Yorkville, and a 30 to 45 miles from Healdsburg, to be mentioned next.][Yet another aside, I’m also related to the founders of Healdsburg, Sonoma, CA–on my paternal side!]

I was pretty proud of my people!

And then, I started getting dropped into these Welch DNA circles at Ancestry.  I download my RAW DNA file and upload to…  and the same things happen.  The Welch DNA match is backed up.  I’ve only contacted a couple of Welch relatives.  Not one has written me back.  I figure I descend from some illegitimate child somewhere., and I’ll probably never know who, unless my paper trail catches up.

My York cousin, who is not a cousin at all, other than the few years my grandmother lived with the York boys and their father, that is the only connection we really have.  That and maybe one of them knew what Great Grandma was up to.  I think he had a clue, and he took it to his grave.  When I would not quit asking for stories and photos of great grandma, this ‘cousin’ called my mother’s brother, and asked him to talk to me, and ask me to quit looking at a great granny.

Really??  Am I not my great grandmother’s great grand daughter? She was known to be tough, tough, tough, and well, tough!  LOL!!  The long story short is that no one tells me no anymore.  My uncle did his family duty, if he knew what was up he took the details to his grave too.  But, he did tell me that there was a family feud where people on both sides died, and our family was somehow involved.  And that my cousin in Tennessee was very afraid I’d find out about it, knowing that I love to write, which has never been a secret, he was afraid I’d put it all on the internet and get the feud going again.  People are gonna die in 2004? From a feud that could easily be at least 100 years old??

Really?  I think not.

I’m not trying to be rude towards you, Hillious York [Deceased], but Great Grandma is long gone, except probably in my imagination.  And I’m still here putting pieces together.
That connection to Sargent Alvin C. York is long gone.  Dang it, there goes my chance at being a Cherokee Princess too!  Today, I’m kind of looking for my people!!  I don’t think for a moment that granny enjoyed putting her daughter into that place, and I think it was the only form of protection she felt she had at the moment.  Or maybe it was just another tall tale.  She claimed her name was Philadephia and that she was given that name because she was born right there in Philadephia Harbor as her Irish folks came over to America.  She did tell some good ones, but I can not believe that she was out to hurt anyone.

Delphia Ann Jones daughter of Jesse Franklin Jones and Susan Aiken/Eakin.  The Jones’ had been in America for generations.  Susan is of Irish descent and no doubt a big piece of my 25% Irish rooted DNA. I am sure that through her, I’ll find the kernel of truth in the ‘Philadelphia’ story.    Jesses’ parents Wiliam ‘Buck’ Jones and Milberry Marlow both came from the same part of the country as the Welch’s and their kinfolk- Virgina and North Carolina.  Ever watch the Waltons??  Remember the trips to Mt. Airy? And I thought it was just a story! I have roots in those Blue Ridge Mountains that I used to gaze at from a segment of Highway 52 in Ohio!  I did feel the pull, I knew I needed to go there, back in 1985ish.

Dephia's Obit from 1974

Delphia’s Obit from 1974.  She died pretty close to where she was born. Born in Murphysboro, Jackson County, Illinois.

If you have read this far, you are truly a glutton for punishment.  LOL!! Here let me feed you some more.

[insert music here, cue up Rodney Atkins]



[cue in whiny Peggy.] Sometimes when you are as heavily into genealogy as I am, you really do feel like you are chasing ghosts. When there is very little to no information out there to bring our folks to life, I at least, get sad. I want to know *my* people, they are where I come from and it is they who make me who I am. I’d often heard my grandmother (maternal) talk about her big brother, Jess (Thomas Jess VanZandt). There was real love and admiration there. Of course, I didn’t know by the time I was around he was gone. And all I had for the longest time was just the memories of hearing grandma talk about him. Which is why you feel like you are chasing ghosts….if they lived where are the records?? Today (March 14, 2015 Just after Uncle Tom’s Birthday, Thank You, Uncle Tommy], I finally found a couple of newspaper articles. My mom’s brother had told me that Uncle Jess was a hero when he died. That he’d saved a couple of other coal miners. Not sure it’s true, but don’t think my uncle would intentionally lie either. It’s pretty silly being so happy to find ‘proof’ of a person I never even met. But, I finally have found something. I’m really thankful. An educated guess that the man in the photo below is my Great Uncle Jess. My Aunt Mabel on the left, my great grandmother in the middle: Delphia Ann Jones (VanZandt, York, Stewart) (NOTE: POSTED TO FACEBOOK: 3/14/2016)

SIDENOTE: COUSIN, HILLOUS YORK, You were so prophetic, 12 years later, I am putting it on the internet.  Not to spite you, or anyone in the family.  Instead because I want to find more of my people, and know more about my people, the same thing I asked for originally when a few stories about great grandma and a few pictures of great grandma would have sufficed.  Thank you, to my Uncle Tom Coop, for lending me my grandmother’s photo albums before handing them over to my mother, and for telling me a couple of stories.  None of which I am sure is accurate, but are great stories anyhow.

My mother’s brother, Uncle Tom (Named probably for Thomas Jess VanZandt, who was named for Jesse Franklin Jones & after, Thomas Williard Coop, my maternal grandfather’s father)  Uncle Tom told me that Delphia Ann Jones was probably married at least 5-6 times.  I’ve found evidence of three marriages, with absolute proof of NONE.

Delphia Ann Jones was ‘orphaned’ when she was a girl.  Her parents died very young, first Jesse Jones, and then Susan Jones.  Turns out she was ‘orphaned’ at damn near 20 years old.  Her neighbors, the VanZandt’s took her in.  She’s found in the census of 1920, in their household as a ‘servant’.  Ulysses Grant VanZandt was a widower (first wife, Etta Davis), and well into his 30’s at the time, and it wasn’t long before the babies started coming.  Marriage must have seemed pretty inevitable at some point.  Only those intimately involved will truly know if love existed, but, man what a story!!  At this point, it has to be enough for someone, maybe even me! Except that I really want that paper trail to catch up with the DNA evidence. 

Delphia murdered at least a couple people.  These are the best stories. One I’d remembered over hearing as a kid, so I know something happened, we’ll probably never
know the exact truth.  But murder #1: Was a drunk man trying to enter her house uninvited.  I can see it, I’ve been known to hurt people for inviting themselves in drunk.  I kicked her a** right out my door!!! 

Murder #2:  Delphia was a cook, and my grandmother (Hazel Lorine VanZandt) a waitress at a restraunt somewhere there in Illinois.  A truck driver came in to eat and decided he liked the looks of my grandmother (seems pretty typical of the male species).  Apparently he couldn’t keep his hands off.  My great grandmother warned him off.  He tested, and lost.  Being a mother of four kids, three of them girls.  Oh yea, I can see this, specially considering the times that they lived in!

Uncle Thomas Jesse 'Jess' VanZandt's Obit

Uncle Thomas Jesse ‘Jess’ VanZandt’s Obit

The above article tells about my Uncle Jess, but not really near enough.  He died very young, at 35 years old.  He was a veteran of  WWII, and a Sea Bee.  He died in 1951 in Old Ben #8.  It seems to me the 50’s must have been a horrible decade for my grandmother and her family.  In that decade several family members died.

Oren Ervin VanZandts' Car

Oren Ervin VanZandts’ Car

Oren Ervin VanZandt was my grandmother’s 1/2 older brother.  His parents Ulysses Grant Welch (VanZandt) and Etta Davis.  Oren hit a soft spot on the shoulder and lost control of his car.  He killed a woman in the process of the whole thing.  He ended up with a broken neck.  I’ve yet to find his obit, but, he died just about 14 months later, aged 55.  And way too young.  Photo from the Southern Illinoisan Newspaper, March 29, 1952.

Soon, more to come!  Now to add just tidbits of this to FindAGrave.  A girl’s job is NEVER done!! 😈   😆 Oh, um, could you pass me some of that sweet potato pie?  I think I should probably try it after all! Thank ya!   😉

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