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I'm sure we all have ancestors who we know so little about that they are only a list of dates to us. Mary (Polly) Tolbert is one of mine. She was my 3rd great-grandma, she never married, and she was the mother of four daughters including my great-great-grandmother, Ellender Tolbert. She was a daughter of Allen and Eleanor (Sutphin) Tolbert.
I have so many questions!
Who was the father of her children? I don't judge, but I find it very inconvenient that she didn't make sure that future generations would be able to figure this out! Is it a clue that Ellie Tolbert was called "Eleanor Helm" in the 1850 census?
I would be interested in knowing what the life of an unwed mother in the mountains of Virginia was like during her lifetime. Was she looked down on? Did her family help support her? Did she get any help from her children's father(s)? A cousin once told me that she believed there were so many unwed mothers in our families after the Civil War because there were so many men killed in the war that there weren't enough men to marry them all. However, all of Polly's children were born before the war, so that couldn't have had an effect on her.
I don't know where she was buried. The date for her death came to me from another researcher, but I have no confirmation of it's accuracy except for the fact that I trust the person who told me!
I have one tiny piece of personal information about her. The following tidbit was taken from an email on a list I'm a member of concerning an estate sale for a man named Elijah Turman in December of 1868:
Polly Tolbert was shopping that day too. She bought 1 oven for .80, 1 sill baker for 1.50, 1 large oven for 1.60, 1 large wheel for .15 and a flax wheel for 15. 1 sifter for .75.
She's one of those people in my family history that I wish I could sit down and have a conversation with. She left so little behind, yet I know that if she hadn't lived, then neither would I!