06 September 2017

Deed - J. L. Newlin to Isaac Z Shelton, 22 September 1905

Deed, J L Newlin to I Z Shelton

For and in Consideration of the sum of 
three hundred and fifty Dollars Paid + 
to be Paid by I. Z. Shelton as follows, two
hundred and seventeen Dollars Cash the 
Receipt of which is hereby acknowledged. and one hundred 
and thirty three Dollars to be Paid in two annual insta-
llments of $6650 each for which he has this day executed  
his two Promissory notes due in 12 and 24 months 
Respectively, and Bearing interest from date. We J. L. 
Newlin have Bargained and sold and by there presents 
do transfer and Convey unto the said I. Z Shelton heirs 
and assigns a Certain tract or parcel of land in the 
1st Dist of White County State of Tennessee as follows.
Beginning on a Rock in the Center of the Smithville 
Nashville Road a Corner of the Abby Gamble tract 
Nashville Road Susan Paul Corner. Thence on her line 
in the Center of Said Road west + passing her Corner 
at 5 1/2 poles and with a line of A. J. Cesly in all 20 1/2
Running thence north 15o East on a line of the Same
44 poles to a post oak the S. W. Corner of Chas Bandens 
trast of land. Thence on a line of the same N 85o East
104 poles + 7 links to a Rock Bandens Corner. Thence S.
twoo west on Said Bandens line + passing his Corner 
and with a line of the Susan Paul tract in all 42
poles + 15 links to a Rock in the Center of the Smithville 
poles. Thence North 86o west on a line of the Same 8
poles. Thence north 88o west in Said Road 28 Poles.
Thence north 85o west with Said Road 12 poles. Then
South 77o west with Said Road 26 poles. Thence South
84o west with Said Road 6 poles. then north 78o 
west with Said Road 18 3/4 Poles to the Beginning Contain
ing 31 acres more or less. Being the same land Conveyed 
by Ed Peffer + wife to J. L. Newlin.

To have and to hold the said tract or parcel of 
land with the appurtenances estate title and interest thereto 
Belonging to the Said I Z Shelton heirs and assigns 
forever, and I J. L. Newlin do Covenant with the said 
I Z Shelton that I am lawfully seized and possessed of
said land in fee simple have a good Right to Convey 
it and the Same is unencumbered. and I J. L. Newlin
do further Covenant and Bind myself + my heirs and 
Representatives to warrant and forever defend the title to 
Said land to the Said I.Z. Shelton his heirs and assigns 
against the lawful Claims of all Persons whomsoever.
a lien is expressly Retained upon the Property herein
Conveyed to Same all the deferred Payments of Purchase 
money. Witness my hand this 22 day of September, 1905.

J. L. Newlin
Amanda Newlin

Source: White County (Tennessee) Register of Deeds, Deeds v. 56, 58-59 Oct 1912-Mar 1917 (FHL film #507921), Shelton Ike from J. L. Newlin, p. 307-308

Transcribed: 20 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

17 May 2017

Indirect Evidence for Vesta's Parents

As genealogists, we collect sources. They are the cornerstone of documenting and analyzing our ancestors' lives. How many times, however, do we find a source, extract its information and evidence related to our current problem, and then file it away to be forgotten?

My current primary research quest is identifying the parents of Vesta Hudson. Born in 1912 in Georgia, she married George Alvin Shelton in 1929 in White County, Tennessee. According to family sources, Vesta's mother's maiden name was Norred.

I found plenty of sources with information about the Hudsons and Norreds, but could not manage to link them to a daughter named Vesta. My number one suspects for Vesta's parents are George Henry Hudson and Emma Lou Norred. The names match, the locations match, but no Vesta. It wasn't until I looked at George and Emma Hudson's children, along with occupations, did I begin to find indirect evidence linking them to my Vesta Hudson.

George and Vesta Shelton lived in the area of East Point, Georgia, during much of the 1920s through at least the early 1940s. Today, East Point is a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, but in that time it was a separate town.  George worked in the wool mills around Atlanta.

In the 1930 census, George and Vesta lived at 109 Davis Street, East Point. Next door, in 109A Davis Street, resided Melvin and Nina Hudson. Melvin is recorded as 4 years older than Vesta in 1930. He is employed as a textile worker. Who is this Melvin Hudson? Could he be related? I believe he is.

Melvin's parents are the George and Emma Hudson I believe are Vesta's parents. He appears with them in the 1910 census. I have yet to find any of the Hudsons or Norreds in the 1920 census, though the search continues. In 1930, George and Emma Hudson are found in Sargent, Georgia, where George is employed in the wool mills.

In 1940, everyone is living in East Point, Georgia. George and Vesta Shelton reside just a couple houses from Melvin and Nina Hudson on Fairfax Avenue. George and Emma Hudson live nearby on Center Avenue.

At this point in my research, there are too many similarities to chalk up to coincidence. I believe Melvin is the older brother of Vesta, and both are the children of George Henry Hudson and Emma Lou Norred. Like always, more research and analysis are needed to make for a sound case.

24 April 2017

Deed - Isaac Z and Amanda Shelton to James A Roberts, 11 December 1901

I Z Shelton + wife
  to deed
James A Roberts

For and in Consideration
of one hundred and
seventy five Dollars $175.00[,]
seventy five paid in hand the receipt of which
is hereby acknowledged[,] the remainder $100[,] one
hundred Dollars due in twelve months for
which a note is executed and lien retained
until paid[.] [W]e I Z Shelton and wife Amanda
Shelton have this day bargained and sold and
do hereby transfer and Convey unto James A
Roberts the following described tract or parcel
Lying in the 6th District of White County
Tennessee and bounded as follows: Beginning on
a post oak and two post oak [???] the South
west Corner of a tract of land Conveyed to us
by W S Paine and wife Martha Paine
running thence North with the line of said tract
thence South 56 poles to a stake and black [???]
painters thence west 144 poles to the beginning
containing 50 acres to [???] and to [???]
said tract of land to the said James A
Roberts and his heirs and assigns forever[.]
[W}e covenant with the said James A
Roberts that we are lawfully seized
and possessed of said tract and have
a good right to Convey the same
and that the same is unencumbered. [A]nd we
further covenant with the said James A Roberts
that we will forever warrant and defend the
title to said land against all lawful claims of
all persons whomsoever[.]
Witness our hands and seals this December 11th

I. Z. Shelton
Amanda Shelton

White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 49-51 Jun 1907-Jul 1910: 134-135, Shelton I Z to James A Roberts, 11 December 1901: FHL 507919.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

02 April 2017

Finding the Parents of Elodia Varin


Elodia “Lydia” Varin is the wife of Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais and mother of Gilbert Leo Desjarlais, born 27 September 1928 in Burrilleville, Rhode Island.


Who are the parents of Elodia Varin, wife of Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais and mother of Gilbert Leo Desjarlais of Rhode Island?


Elodia Varin was married to Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais in Providence, Rhode Island, on 16 February 1915. By locating and examining sources related to her marriage and birth, Elodia’s parents are identified as Joseph Varin, born about 1862 in Canada, and Georgiana Gagnon, born about 1867 in Canada.

Marriage record for Elodia Varin and Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais (16 February 1915):
  • Father: Joseph Varin
  • Mother: Georgianna Gagnon
Birth registry entry for Elodia Varin (21 July 1898):
  • Father: Joseph Varin
  • Mother: Georgina Gagnon 

Research Notes

Elodia Varin married Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais on 16 February 1915 in Providence, Rhode Island. Elodia is recorded as sixteen years old, giving an approximate birth year of 1898-1899, while Eugene is seventeen years old, giving an approximate birth year of 1897-1898. The record names Elodia’s parents as Joseph and Georgianna Varin [1].

Elodia’s birth was registered in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Recorded in February 1899, the registry lists her birth date as 21 July 1898. Her parents are listed as Joseph Varin and Georgina Gagnon, who resided in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Joseph and Georgina are also noted as being born in Canada. Joseph’s occupation is listed as a mill operator [2].

Joseph Varin married Georgina Gagnon on 20 April 1885 in Southbridge, Massachusetts [3]. The marriage register for Southbridge, Massachusetts, records Joseph’s age as twenty-three, giving an approximate birth year of 1862, and Georgina’s age as eighteen giving an approximate birth year of 1867. Both Joseph and Georgina are recorded as born in Canada. Both are also recorded as employed as weavers residing in Southbridge. They were married in Notre Dame church in Southbridge.

Joseph’s parents are identified on the registry entry as Louis Varin and Joset Surprenent. Georgina’s parents are identified on the registry as Peter Gagnon and Rachelle Marcereaux.
Georgina died on 8 March 1900 in Southbridge, Massachusetts, of heart failure. Recorded in June 1900, the registry lists her maiden name, Gagnon, and also her spouse, Joseph Varin. Her parents are identified as Pierre Gagnon and Rochel Marsereau [4].

This death registry entry lists Georgina’s age at death as forty years old in 1900, which gives her an approximate birth year of 1860. This conflicts with her recorded age of eighteen in the marriage registry entry from fifteen years earlier in 1885. Additional research is needed to resolve this conflict.


  1. “Rhode Island Town Marriages Index, 1639-1916,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 February 2017), entry for Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais and Elodia Varin, 16 February 1915; citing Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 411.
  2. “Massachusetts, Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 February 2017), entry for Elodia Varin, 21 July 1898; citing Secretary of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts Archives, Boston, Births: v. 477 (1898). Suffolk - Worcester; FHL microfilm 1,843,706. 
  3. “Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 23 February 2017), entry for Joseph Varin and Georgina Gagnon, 20 April 1885; citing Southbridge, Massachusetts, United States, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,415,221.
  4. “Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 25 February 2017), entry for Georgina Gagnon, 8 March 1900; citing Southbridge, Massachusetts, 455-65, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,843,728.

12 March 2017

Change is Big and Small

Change is a constant in life, from the small, like growing from a child to an adult, to the big, like moving to an new home or starting a family. Our ancestors experienced many of the same changes we do today, only the small details are different. Society changes, technology changes, family changes, they all continue to happen. Placing our ancestors into the larger context of life around them is, I believe, an important step in gaining insights into who they were and why they may have made the decisions they did as revealed by the documentation they left behind.

One of my favorite current ancestors of study is Isaac Z Shelton. Isaac was born between 1844 and 1852 in Tennessee. I'm still working to determine a more accurate birth date, as his Georgia death certificate states April 1844, the 1900 US census states April 1847, while the 1880 US census claims 1852. Isaac died on 25 November 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

During Isaac's at around eighty years of life, he lived in, at least, Overton County and White County in Tennessee, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. Eighty years is enough time for a great deal of change. Plotting Isaac's life on a timeline of historical events gives a great picture of the kinds of changes that occurred. For example:
  • The transcontinental railroad in the US was built
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Increased industrialization
  • Economic depression (1873-1896)
  • The first flight (1903)
  • Automobiles were built and then became common place (Model T in 1908)
  • World War I
  • Women's suffrage in the US

23 February 2017

Gathering All the Information From a Document

One of the cornerstones of effective research is pulling as much information from a source as possible. As Elizabeth Shown Mills points out in "QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof," a source contains information, the raw data which we evaluate to provide evidence toward a research problem.

I recently found a birth register, via FamilySearch, containing an entry for Elodia Varin, one of my great grandmothers. While I could have stopped at collecting just her birth date, I found a great deal more information by taking a moment to examine the entire page. From the entry I was able to note that:
  • Elodia was born on 21 July 1898 in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
  • Elodia's parents were Joseph and Georgiana Varin.
  • Georgiana's maiden name was Gagnon.
  • Joseph and Georgiana resided in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
  • Joseph worked as a mill operator.
  • Joseph and Georgiana were both born in Canada.
  • All of the entries on the page have a record date of February 1899.
Even though this is a birth register entry for Elodia, the information culled from that entry goes beyond just her.

photo credit: Kristofer Williams 'Icy Surf' - Brei├░amerkursandur, Iceland via photopin (license)

12 February 2017

Writing to Find the Gaps

Keeping track of my research on my personal family tree is an ongoing project in itself. It is very easy to get sidetracked (oooh, look at that document!) while trying to focus on a single individual and research question.

I spent much of the last year focusing on my Shelton ancestors. At the beginning of 2016, they were the family I knew the least about. I had the fewest documented facts about them. I could only go back one generation past my Shelton grandmother. A year makes quite a difference. My Shelton ancestors are now perhaps the best documented part of my tree.

And now I'm faced with the question: Do I continue working on the Shelton line or do I spend time on other branches of my ancestry? To help make up my mind, I decided to write a genealogical summary of what I have documented for each of my four major lines of research. The results of that effort show I definitely have gaps in my documentation.

The summary for the Shelton line contains three generations ending with my great-grandfather. The documentation includes census records, vital records, and court records.
  1. Isaac Z Shelton (abt. 1847 - 1929) and Amanda Pruitt (abt. 1853 - 1940)
    1. Isaac Denton Shelton (1892 - 1924) and Margaret Adelia Rice (abt. 1886 - 1972)
      1. George Alvin Shelton (1907 - 1998) and Vesta Estelle Hudson (1912 - 1991)
The Desjarlais line also contains three generations ending with my great-grandfather, though the documentation is heavily reliant on just census records. The information I currently have in my database is sparse.
  1. Jean-Baptiste Desjarlais (abt. 1842 - ?) and Eugenie (abt. 1845 - ?)
    1. Edouard Alma Desjarlais (abt. 1866 - ?) and Azama May Joubert (abt. 1865 - ?)
      1. Eugene Alphonse Desjarlais (abt. 1897 - ?) and Elodia Varin (1898 - ?)
My summary of the Ciske line is much like the Desjarlais line. It is heavily sourced from census records. There is a bit of flavor for Franz Cziske, my first direct line ancestor to immigrate to the United States, which is a step in the right direction.
  1. Franz Cziske (1835 - before 1900) and Justina Malest (after 1839 - 1926)
    1. John Ciske (1871 - 1876) and Christina Schubert (1865 - 1950)
      1. Gerald Lawrence Ciske (1901 - 1990) and Leona Strelow (1906 - 1998)
Of my Ratzman ancestors, I know very little. I have traced back to my second great-grandfather, though I only have his and his wife's names. Perhaps they are my focus for the year so that I can catch them up to the others.
  1. Edward T Ratzman (? - ?) and Alice Sailer (? - ?)
    1. Gordon Edward Ratzman (abt. 1907 - ?) and Margaret Boelter (abt. 1908 - ?)
The act of formally writing a report, for my own files, summarizing what I know and have documented for each line, has given me new insight into possible research paths for the future. There are branches that are flowering, while others are a tad stunted.

photo credit: Andi Campbell-Jones Scottish Weather via photopin (license)