26 December 2016

Cziskes in Harrison Township

One item on my ever-growing to do list is to research the land records of Calumet County in Wisconsin for deeds related to the Ciskes (also written Cziske). The Plat Book of Manitowoc and Calumet Counties, Wisconsin, published in 1893, shows two Cziskes on pages 60 and 61.

Cziskes, Plat of Harrison Townships 19-20 North, Ranges 18-19 East, p. 60-61.
 Who are J. Cziske and Jos Cziske?

Jos is a common abbreviation for Joseph. I know of at least three Joseph Cziskes who were living in Harrison township in Calumet County during this period. The first is Joseph Cziske, born around 1839 in Prussia. One of his sons is also named Joseph Cziske, born around 1870. Both are enumerated in Harrison in the United States federal censuses and Wisconsin censuses from 1870 through 1910. The third possibility is Joseph Cziske, born about 1875. He was the son of Franz Cziske and Justina Malest, who immigrated to Wisconsin from Prussia in 1866, settling in Harrison township.

J. Cziske may be one of the Josephs or it may refer to John Ciske, who was born in Harrison in 1871, but who moved to Menasha in Winnebago County around 1890.

Like most genealogy questions, this requires more research.

13 December 2016

Book Review: How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes. Mark Stein (New York: Smithsonian Books, 2008), 331 pages.
Location is one of the cornerstones of genealogy. Knowing where your ancestors were at a given time helps in finding documents and record repositories.

I came across How the States Got Their Shapes while browsing the shelves at the local library. A mixture of geography and history, Stein examines how the boundaries of each of the U.S. states changed over time to their current form. Maps accompanying the text to illustrate the boundary changes on a state-by-state basis.

After reading the account for each state, I came to a greater appreciation for the many factors involved in setting state boundaries, as well as understand the reasons for border shapes. Even the regular rectangle borders of Colorado and Wyoming have a story behind them.

Stein's writing is very approachable and often humorous. The book includes a select bibliography of source material, most of which are authored works from the twentieth century. The narrative text does point to more source-based material which would be very interesting to research. If only I had the time.

09 December 2016

Deed - Thomas J Vandever and Lucy Vandever to Isaac Z Shelton, 12 April 1892

For and in consideration of twelve dollars 
paid to me in hand, and his this promiss
ory note being of date with this Conveyance 
this first note for the sum of $3800 and due the 24th day of 
December 1892, the second for the sum of $5000 due Dec
24th 1893 both of said notes bearing interest from date and a 
lien actioned on the land for the payment of the same
I T J Vandever and wife Lucy Vandever have this day 
bargained and sold, and do herby transfer and Convey to I 
Z Shelton the following described tract of land. Lying in White 
County Tennessee about 2 1/2 miles south of Sparta, and bounded 
as follows to-wit: Beginning on a Hickory near the south west 
Corner of a tract of land deed by Richard Mauldin and his 
white Sam Maulden to Rachel Sims. Running thence E. 
on a line of the same 35 1/4 poles to a Rock Corner of a tract 
of land Conveyed by Richard Mauldin and wife to Taylor 
Clark (Col) thence N 10o E. 10 3/4 poles to a Rock a Corner of the 
same thence N 28o E with a line of the Lawery lands 23 3/4 poles 
to two post oaks Corner of same thence N 60 1/2 poles to a Rock 
Sheltons S. E. Corner of tract conveyed to him by H Vandever 
thence west 14 poles to a Rock thence South westwordly 45 poles 
to a Rock thence West 34 poles to a Rock in the line of a 
tract sold by a H P Sims to J. C Vandever, thence south 
2 1/2o East with said line 45 poles to the Beginning
To the said I Z Shelton his heirs and assigns to have and 
to hold forever And we the said T J Vandever and wife 
Lucy Vandever do covenant with the said I Z Shelton 
that we are lawfully siezed and possessed said land, and 
have a good right to Convey the same, and we do bind 
ourselves and heirs and representatives to warrant and 
defend the title to all of said land except one acre in the 
South west Corner of said tract Claimed by David Bryoles
(leal) which a hereby convey and quit claim to the said 
I Z Shelton his heirs and assigns forever against the
lawful claims of all persons whomsoever And I the 
said T J Vandever in making this Conveyance reserve
Enough of the posts[?] on the out side fence on the tract 
hereby conveyed to build 79 poles of fence 10 posts[?] high 
between me and the said Shelton in Testimony whereof
we have hereunto affixed our signature, this April 
12, 1892
T J Vandever
Lucy Vandever

Personally appeared before me J D Goff Clerk of  
the County Court of said County the above named T J 
Vandever and Lucy Vandever the bargainers with 
whom I am personally acquainted and who acknowledged 
that they executed the within instrument for the pur-
oses herein contained and Lucy Vandever wife 
of T J Vandever having personally appeared before 
me privately and apart from her said Husband 
the said Lucy Vandever acknowledged the execution of 
the said deed to have been done by her freely voluntarily 
and understandingly without Compulsion or Constraint 
from her said Husband and for the purposes therein 
Witness J D Goff Clerk of Said Court at Office, this 
25th day of July 1892
J D Goff Clerk

Filed and noted in Reception Book No 2 & page 128 on the 
2nd day of December 1893 at 11 o clock A.m.
H L Fraser Register
White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 33: 490-492, T J Vandever and wife to I Z Shelton, 12 April 1892: FHL 507915.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

03 December 2016

Deed, Isaac Z Shelton and wife to Thomas J Vandever, 12 April 1892

I Z Shelton
   to deed
T J Vandever

For and in consideration of one Dollar to part
in hand paid, and other valuable considerati-
ons to my Satisfaction we I Z Shelton and
wife Amanda Shelton have this day bargained sold
and do hereby transfer and Convey to T J Vandever the
following described tract of land Lying in the 1st Civil
District of White County Tennessee, and bounded as
follows to-wit Beginning at a Rock in Rauls West
boundary line, It being the North East Corner of the
tract Sold by J C Vandever to me, running Thence
South 8½ poles to a Rock, thence West 111 poles to a
Rock Thence Southwardly 12½ poles to a Rock Thence
West 27½ poles to a Rock Thence North 2½° West 22 poles and
nine Links Thence East 61¼ Poles to the Beginning
Containing seven and one half acres by estimation[.]
To the said T J Vandever his heirs and assigns to have
and to hold forever[.] And we I Z Shelton and wife
Amanda Shelton do Covenant with the said T J Vande
ver that we are lawfully seized and possessed of said
land, and that we have a good Right to Convey the same[.]
And we do further Covenant with the said T J Vandever
that we will forever warrant the title to said land to him
his heirs and assigns against the lawful Claims of all
persons whomsoever[.] In testimony we do hereunto
affix our signature this the 12th day of April 1892
attest J D Goff                     I Z   x   Shelton
                                            Amanda   x   Shelton

State of Tennessee
White County

Personally appeared before me J D Goff
Clerk of County Court of said County the
above named I Z Shelton Amanda Shelton the bargain
ors with whom I am personally acquainted and acknowledg
ed that they executed the within instrument for the
purposes herein contained and Amanda Shelton wife
of I Z Shelton having personally appeared before me
privately and apart from her said Husband the said
Amanda Shelton acknowledged the execution of the
said deed to have been done by her freely voluntarily
and understandingly without Compulsion or constraint
from her said Husband and for the purposes therein
Witness J D Goff Clerk of Said Court at Office, this 25th
day of July 1892
                    J D Goff Clerk

Filed and noted in Reception Book No 2 page 114 on
the 4th day of Nov 1892 at 2 o clock p.m.
                Houst[?]n L Fraser Register

White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 33: 200, I Z Shelton to T J Vandever, 12 April 1892: FHL 507915.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

02 December 2016

Deed, James C Vandever and wife to Isaac Z Shelton, 11 July 1888

We James Vandiver and wife Francis
Vandever, have this day bargained and
sold, and by these presents do Convey to
I Z Shelton, the following described tract of land, for
the Sum of Eighty Dollars to us in hand paid, the
receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged; Lying in
the 1st Civil District of White County Tennessee,
bounded as follows: Beginning on a Rock in a line
of a tract of land owned by the Heirs of Eadley Raul
Decd, Thence North 70° East on a line of the same
22 poles and 7 links to a Rock Thomas Vandevers
Corner, Thence West on his line 61¼ poles to a Rock
Said Vandevers line Thence South 2 1/2° East
on a line of the same 22 poles and 7 links to a Rock
J C Vandevers Corner Thence East on his line
61¼ poles to the Beginning Containing by estimation
8½ acres more or less[.] We James Vandever and wife
Francis Vandever Covenant with the said I Z Shelton
his heirs and representatives, that we are lawfully
Seized and possessed of the Premises, herein Convey
so, we have a right to Convey the same; and we
further Covenent with the said I Z Shelton his
heirs and assigns and Representatives to forever
warrant and defend the title to the said I Z Shelton
and his heirs and representatives forever to said
land against the lawful Claims of all Persons
whatsoever[.] I testimony whereof we have
hereunto set our hands and seal, this 11 day of
July 1888.
                J C Vandever {seal}
                Francis  x  Vandever {seal}
White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 33: 492, James Vandever and wife to I Z Shelton, 11 July 1888; FHL 507915.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

28 November 2016

Metes, Bounds, and Meanders, Oh My

Deed from James C Vandever to I Z Shelton, 1888, White County, TN

a limit or boundary

I recently located several deeds involving Isaac and Amanda Shelton from White County, Tennessee. The property descriptions are classic metes and bounds surveys, using such terminology as "Beginning at a Rock" and referring to poles, links, and compass directions. Understanding the descriptions is a nice challenge in paleography, deciphering the clerk's handwriting, and basic geometry. I look forward to platting out the deeds and attempting to locate them on a modern map.

11 November 2016

Armistice Day 1918 in Tennessee

It is Veterans Day in the United States. Originally called Armistice Day and signifying the formal end of World War 1 in 1918, November 11 became known as Veterans Day in 1954.

My Shelton ancestors were living in White County, Tennessee, on 11 November 1918. While browsing the Library of Congress newspaper collection online, I came across The Chattanooga News, published in Chattanooga, Tennessee, located about 100 miles south of Sparta in White County. Their headlines read "Final Terms Drastic" and "Terms of Armistice Tie Hun Hands Completely." One article, with a more home-front focus, has the headline "Wilson Orders All Draft Calls to be Cancelled."

Source: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038531/1918-11-11/ed-1/seq-1/
While I am unsure whether or not my ancestors received a newspaper, I have no doubt that the news of the war's end spread quickly throughout the state.

29 October 2016

Look at the Record - Going Beyond the Search Results

Indexes are great. They help us focus our research and enable us to jump straight to records of interest. However, they are finding aids, not records. Indeed, sometimes indexes will only present a partial picture of what is, or is not, available.

I came across such a weakness while examining the 1891 Enumeration of Tennessee Voters on Ancestry, one of the primary replacements for the lost 1890 federal census in Tennessee, for members of the Shelton family. Since I have already found Isaac Z. Shelton in Overton County, Tennessee, in the 1880 federal census and in White County, Tennessee, in the 1900 federal census, I first focused my search in those two locations.

Among the search results were the following males over the age of 21 within my two counties:

  • O. L. Shelton in White County
  • Jacob M. Shelton in Overton County
  • Jake Shelton in Overton County
  • Spolwood Shelton in Overton County
Seeing that Isaac is not represented, nor does he appear with his name or various variations, I could have stopped there, but good research practice means looking at the actual images, not just relying on the search results from the database index.

Paging through the images for White County I discovered another Shelton who was somehow missed by the indexers:
  • M. L. Shelton
I have so far not uncovered an ancestor by those initials, but I am certainly filing him in my to-be-researched list.

Double-checking the entries from Overton County, I found that "Spolwood" is actually recorded as Spotswood Shelton on the image. The cross bar for the t is located above the vertical stroke, but is consistent with other Ts on the page.

Have I located my ancestor Isaac Z. Shelton yet? No, but I now know that I will likely need to continue examining each image to truly say he is not in the 1891 census substitute.

Without indexes we would spend hours having to page through records. However, indexes can contain transcription errors and/or may not contain all of the information we need. Always look at the actual record.

24 October 2016

Ancestor Profile - Isaac Denton Shelton

Isaac Denton Shelton was born about 13 March 1892 in Tennessee1 to Isaac Z. and Amanda (Pruett) Shelton.

Denton spent most of his life in White County, Tennessee, primarily near the town of Sparta. The 19002, 19103, and 19204 federal censuses all record him in White County, though perhaps not always in the same residence.

Like many in White County at the beginning of the twentieth century, he was a farmer, until he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1920s, where he worked in a saw mill.

Denton married Margaret Adelia Rice on 30 January 1910 in White County, Tennessee.5 They had eight children together.

Denton died in Atlanta, Georgia, on 12 December 1924 at the age of 336. According to his death certificate, a tree fell on him causing fractured cervical vertebrae, spinal cord damage, and total paralysis. He passed away within 12 hours of the accident at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.


1. "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918", FamilySearchDenton Shelton, 1917-1918; citing White County, Tennessee, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,877,748.

2. 1900 U.S. census, White, Tennessee, population schedule, civil district 6, enumeration district (ED) 153, sheet 3B (penned), dwelling 47, family 49, Iza Shelton; digital image, FamilySearch; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1604.

3. 1910 U.S. census, White, Tennessee, population schedule, civil district 1, enumeration district (ED) 188, sheet 3B (penned), dwelling 61, family 63, Denton Shelton; digital image, FamilySearch; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1526.

4. 1920 U.S. census, White, Tennessee, population schedule, civil district 8, enumeration district (ED) 147, sheet 15B (penned), dwelling 116, family 119, Denton Shelton; digital image, FamilySearch; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1770.

5. "Tennessee, Marriages, 1796-1950," FamilySearchDenton Shelton and Adelia Rice, 30 January 1910; citing White, Tennessee; FHL microfilm 507,886.

6. "Georgia, Deaths, 1914-1927," FamilySearchDenton Shelton, 12 December 1924; citing certificate 36299, Department of Archives and History, Atlanta; FHL microfilm 2,322,736.

15 October 2016

Where Did I Find This Map?

I have worked on tracing my Ciske ancestors off and on for more than ten years. I would count at least eight of those years as a newbie, also called a "baby," genealogist. I happily spend hours online clicking, reading, downloading, and completely ignoring and not documenting where I found information.

In my files I have an image of a plat map showing portions of Mantiwoc and Calumet counties in Wisconsin. One of the plats is labeled "J. Cziske," so I am sure I saved it because it relates to my family. However, that is all I can recall. I know I saved in the morning on 10 November 2010, a Wednesday of all days, but where I found it, no clue.

Thankfully I found an alternative map for the same location and year which I can correctly document with a source citation.

My lesson learned is two-fold:

  1. I will probably need to relocate the source for many of my early finds which I excitedly downloaded and neglected to document. 
  2. Everything, regardless of how I obtained it, needs to be documented in some fashion so that I can properly source it later.

04 October 2016

Reading the Instructions to Understand the Census

Do you read the instruction manual when you get a new gadget or appliance or game? When it comes to something familiar, or something I think is familiar, I admit I at most give the table of contents a quick scan. While recently examining the 1920 census for information on one of my ancestors, I found myself wondering at what seemed to be an irregularity in the data recorded.

The census enumerators were only human and often made mistakes. Our ancestors also share in the blame. After all, the enumerator could only record what they were told by the person they were interviewing. In this case, however, the combination of data across three columns at first look seems okay, but after a moment of thought just did not seem correct.

1920 U.S. census record for Ike Shelton
Ike Shelton's occupation is recorded as the manager of a wood yard working on his own account (OA). What does "own account" really mean? If he ran his own wood yard, I expected Ike to be recorded as an employer. I turned to the 1920 census instructions for enumerators to see if the enumerator simply made a mistake or if I was making the wrong assumption.

The 1920 census instructions defines own account as
A person who has a gainful occupation and is neither an employer nor a salary or wage worker... Such persons are the independent workers. They neither pay nor receive salaries or regular wages. Examples of this class are: Farmers and the owners of small establishments who do not employ helpers...
In contrast, an employer is defined as
...one employing persons...in transacting his own business. The term employer does not include the superintendent, agent, manager, or other person employed to manage an establishment or business...
With this distinction in mind, I realized that Ike Shelton likely owned and ran his own small business. He was his own boss and employee.

As genealogists, we spend hours examining the population and non-population schedules of the census for our ancestors. We faithfully record the who and when and how old, and maybe make note of occupations and other items of interest. Attempting to understand the reasoning behind the responses recorded by the enumerator, by reading the instructions for each census, helps to make the information gleaned that much richer.

03 October 2016

The Who and What

A first blog post traditionally is a "who I am" and "what this blog is about" introduction. As a budding genealogist and lover of history, I find that tradition irresistible.

Who am I?

My name is Phillip and I am a budding genealogist. Over the past few years, I have found myself spending more and more time researching my family lines and seeking genealogical knowledge. The research fascinates me. I have a life-long interest in history, and placing my own family within the larger world provides hours of fun.

What is this blog?

I decided to start this blog to help fulfill a couple of goals. First, I wish to become a better writer, especially regarding writing about family history. Practice, practice, practice! Second, I wish to share what I have and continue to learn regarding my family history and genealogy in general.

Here's to the journey.