23 October 2017

Did He or Didn't He? Isaac Z Shelton's Civil War Service, Part 4

This is the final post of a four-part series examining whether or not Isaac Z Shelton served in the military during the Civil War. The previous posts outlined
  1. a research plan for examining the question, 
  2. the pension applications Isaac submitted in Tennessee and Georgia, 
  3. and other documents and databases related to the question.

A Question's Answer

Did Isaac serve in the military during the Civil War? The evidence examined points to a negative answer. 

No service record was located for a soldier who matches Isaac's claimed service.

While the information he provided on his various pension applications corresponds with an actual regiment in the Confederate army, and mentions actual people who served with the regiment, the details eventually did not correlate to a serving soldier. In addition, the details changed between the documents, even the two Georgia applications filed within three years of each other.

16 October 2017

Did He or Didn't He? Isaac Z Shelton's Civil War Service, Part 3

In part two of this series, I examined three Civil War pension applications I located for Isaac Z Shelton. The information gleaned from those documents shows that while Isaac, and after his death, his wife, Amanda, did receive a pension from the state of Georgia, the question of whether or not Isaac served in the military during Civil War remains undetermined.

Civil War Service Records

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System

The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is primarily sourced from the Compiled Military Service Records (CSR) of Union and Confederate soldiers, Navy documents, and regiment and battle histories. Individual records in the database include pointers to the CSR microfilm roll.

Searching for Isaac Shelton in the CWSS database revealed no results. He did not appear using various spellings of his name including Isaac, Isa, Iza, and Ike.

Isaac's pension applications listed a few names which do appear in the database. Colonel Stanton's entry indicates he was with the 28th Consolidated Regiment of the Tennessee Infantry. The entry lists microfilm M231 Roll 41 as the source of data. Stanton was listed as one of the commanding officers when Isaac said he enlisted.

Compiled Military Service Records

My local library has microfilm copies of most, if not all, of the Civil War compiled military service records. Examining the records for the 28th Tennessee regiment, Isaac was not listed.

Other Resources

The library also has a sizable collection of relevant books concerning the Civil War including
  • Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865, Vols. 1 & 14, Ed. Janet B. Hewett, (Broadfoot Publishing Company: Wilmington, 1995).
  • Tennesseans in the Civil War (Nashville, 1964-1965).
In Tennesseans in the Civil War, Part 2, I located an Iza Shelton who served in the 28th Tennessee Infantry in Company C, though the entry did not list a rank. In his first pension application, Isaac said he served in the same company and regiment. 

The introduction to Tennesseans in the Civil War listed its sources as muster rolls from the National Archives, contemporary local newspapers within Tennessee, regimental and other histories, county histories, personal letters, and tombstones. Unfortunately the book did not list sources for each individual entry.

08 October 2017

Did He or Didn't He? Isaac Z Shelton's Civil War Service, Part 2

In my last post I introduced a research question and plan regarding Isaac Z Shelton's possible Civil War military service. This post continues the process.

Pension Applications

Pension applications are useful records for determining if an ancestor was in the military during the 18th or 19th centuries. The applications usually contain information on years and location served, as well as the unit or units the applicant served with.

For the Civil War period, locating pension application records first requires determining which side of the conflict your ancestor was on. Information for Union pensions can be found at NARA as part of Record Group 15 of the Veterans Administration. For Confederate soldiers, you have to go to the state in which they applied as pensions were granted by the individual states.

First Attempt - 1892

Isaac Z Shelton spent most of his life as a resident of Tennessee. The Tennessee State Library and Archives "Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications" collection includes a name index which included an "Iza Shelton," a name by which I have previously found my Isaac Z Shelton. Iza applied for a soldier's pension, application number S1038, in White County, Tennessee, stating he had served with the 28th Infantry.

Locating with the application number allowed me to better use FamilySearch's "Tennessee, Confederate pension application, soldiers and widows, 1891-1959," digitized application records from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Isaac's application, filed 6 May 1892, includes several interesting details from both a service and family perspective.

  • Isaac said he served with Company C of the 28th Regiment, enlisting in the "fall or winter of 1864" serving under "Col[onel] Stanton and Capt[ain] Hughs."
  • He said he was thrown from his horse and broke his thigh bone and dislocated his hip while scouting for "Batie's men" in Overton County, Tennessee. He claimed this injury caused him to be disabled. "Batie" likely referring to David Beaty, a Unionist who began fighting in Tennessee as a guerrilla in early 1862.
  • At the time of the application, Isaac's family included his wife and four children, for whom he provided ages: his wife was 41, his three daughters were 18, 10, and 5, and his son was 2.
  • He valued his property, both real and personal, at $75.
Isaac's 1892 application was rejected, though no reason was entered.

Second Attempt - 1923

Isaac and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1918. In 1923 he submitted another application for a pension as a Confederate soldier, this time in Georgia. Although again rejected, this time for lack of proof of service, the application, filed 30 October 1923, includes additional information about the family.

  • Isaac said he served with the Confederate army enlisting in 1862 with Company A of the 25th Tennessee infantry as a private, serving under Colonel Sid Stanton and Lieutenant Bill Windfeld. After two years he said he transferred to Company G, serving until discharged at Carthage, Tennessee, after the surrender in the spring of 1865.
  • He said he was captured by Union forces in the spring of 1863 in Jackson County, Tennessee, though he escaped after three or four days.
  • On the application, Isaac stated that he had been a resident of Georgia since September 1918.
The 1923 application helps to fill a gap in time for the Shelton family. Prior to locating this record, I knew that Isaac and Amanda Shelton had sold property in White County, Tennessee, on 25 January 1917. The next record for the family was the 1920 census placing them in Atlanta, Georgia. The application narrows down their arrival in Georgia to around 1918.

Third Attempt - 1926

A third attempt succeeded. On 1 July 1926 Isaac submitted another application for a pension as a Confederate soldier. Repeating much of the same information as on his 1923 application, this time it was approved.
  • Isaac said he served with the Confederate army enlisting at Camp Marrs in Overton County, Tennessee in 1862 with Company A of the 25th Tennessee infantry as a private, serving under Colonel Sid Stanton and Captain Joe Billberry.
  • He served until the fall of 1865, being discharged under the authority of General George Dibble  (Biddle?) at Carthage, Tennessee, afterward taking the oath of allegiance at Sparta, White County, Tennessee.
  • In support of Isaac's application, a witness statement was included from H. B. Martin, who resided at the Confederate Soldiers Home in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Instead of September 1918, Isaac stated he had been a resident of Georgia since 4 March 1918, a rather precise date.

01 October 2017

Did He or Didn't He? Isaac Z Shelton's Civil War Service, Part 1

Sometimes a good research topic comes about through close reading of the records. While examining the 1910 census, I found a clue that indicated Isaac Z Shelton may have served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Determining whether or not my Isaac Z Shelton had served in the Civil War surely would be simple, right? Perhaps not.

The Seed

The 1910 census included a question on the population schedule which asked if the recorded person was "a survivor of the Union or Conference Army or Navy." The instructions to the enumerators stated
192. Column 30. Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy. -- This question should be asked as to all males over 50 years of age who were born in the United States and all foreign born males who immigrated to this country before 1865. Write "UA" if a survivor of the Union Army; "UN" if a survivor of the Union Navy; "CA" if a survivor of the Confederate Army; and "CN" if a survivor of the Confederate Navy." For all other persons leave the column blank.

[U.S. Census Office, Thirteenth Census of the United States, April 15, 1910, Instructions to Enumerators (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910), 40; PDF, United States Census Bureau, (https://www.census.gov/ history/www/through_the_decades/census_instructions : accessed 11 August 2016).]
For this question, one of my favorite ancestors to research, Isaac Z Shelton, was recorded with a "CA" to indicate he was a survivor of the Confederate Army. To this point in my research, I had found no information that would indicate Isaac was a Civil War veteran.

A Research Plan

The Civil War is fairly well documented. Both sides kept detailed records on who enlisted, how long they served, where they served, and when and why they were discharged. I suspect that the purpose behind these records really boil down to the simple matter of payroll and having enough soldiers.

Isaac Z Shelton's Timeline

Before diving into the research, I decided to double-check what I know about Isaac to see if it is even plausible for him to have served in the Confederate army.

April 1844-1852    Birth in Tennessee
GA Death Certificate
1880 Census
1900 Census
1910 Census
1920 Census
31 May 1871    Marriage to Amanda Pruett in Overton, TennesseeTennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950, FamilySearch.org
About 1875    Birth of daughter Alice1880 Census
About 1879    Birth of daughter Lillie1880 Census
1880    Lived in Overton Co., Tennessee1880 Census
About 1883    Birth of daughter Jennie O1900 Census
About 1888    Birth of daughter Lula B1900 Census
13 March 1891/92    Birth of son Isaac Denton1900 Census, WWI draft card
28 December 1896    Birth of son Hubbard Beecher1900 Census, WWI draft card, Headstone application
About 1899    Birth of daughter Idumea A1900 Census
1900    Lived in White Co., Tennessee1900 Census
1910    Lived in Sparta, White Co., Tennessee1910 Census
1920    Lived in Atlanta, Fulton Co., Georgia1920 Census
25 Nov 1929    Death in Atlanta, GeorgiaGA Death Certificate

Isaac's birth date has been difficult to pinpoint. I have yet to find agreement in any sources, though I suspect it is in the later half of the 1840s.

The Confederate states enacted conscription laws in 1862 to make "all white males between the ages of 18 and 35 who were citizens of a state in the Confederacy subject to national military service for a term of three years." ["Civil War Conscription Laws", November 12, 2012, Margaret Wood] Given that the Civil War was fought between 1860 and 1865, it is plausible that Isaac was old enough to enlist or be conscripted as he would have been between 8 and 16 years old at the onset of the war.

Possible Sources

To get started, I listed record collections and resources to consult related to the Civil War and Tennessee, Isaac's state of residence, to consult in locating Isaac, starting with online resources:

With a plan of attack in mind, I dived into the online records to see what I could find out about Isaac Z Shelton's apparent service.

It Is Family History Month (2017)!

Welcome to Family History Month 2017! I have not been writing here as much as I would like in the past few months. 

I spent the summer enrolled in Boston University's Online Certificate in Genealogical Research program which was a wonderful challenge. I learned a great deal about all areas of genealogy, improved on what I already know, wrote (a lot), read (a lot), and have a list of areas to improve upon. No spoilers, so I will just say that it is a great course to take. I now have plans on hanging up my shingle as a part time professional genealogist!

For this month, I am committing to at least a post a week in order to get back into the habit of blogging. My research on the Sheltons and related families continues. Stay tuned!

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)

30 January 2017

Deed - Isaac Z and Amanda Shelton to Samuel Stewart, 26 February 1895

I Z Shelton + wife
      to deed
Samuel Stewart
For and in Consideration of five hundred and
fifty Dollars to me in hand paid. I have this day bargained
and sold and do hereby transfer and Convey unto Samuel Stewart
a Certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in the 1st Civil District
of White County Tennessee, and described as follows to-wit:
Beginning on a Hickory near the S.W. Corner of a tract of land
deeded by Richard Mauldin and his wife Ann Mauldin
to Rachel Sims, running thence East on a line of the same 3 3/4
Poles to a Rock Corner of a tract of land conveyed by Richard
Mauldin and wife to Taylor Clark (Col)[,] thence N. 10° E. 10 3/4
Poles to a Rock a Corner of same[,] thence N. 28° E with a line of
the Lowery land 23 3/4 poles to his part oaks corner of the same[,]
Thence N 60 1/2 poles to a Rock said Sheltons S.E. Corner of tract conveyed
to him by J C Vandiver[,] thence west 14 Poles to a Rock[,] thence Southwest-
hardly 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 Vandiver[,] thence S 2 1/2o
East with said line 45 poles to the Beginning[.] Also one
other tract described as follows[:] Beginning on a Rock in the
old Lowery line of said Sheltons S.E. Corner of a tract of land
Conveyed to him by J.C. Vandiver, running thence N 12 3/4 poles
to a Rock[,] thence west 13 1/2 poles to a Rock[,] thence Southwestwardly 12 3/4 poles
to a Rock[,] thence East 14 1/2 poles to the Beginning[.] [T]o have and to hold
the said tracts or parcels of land to the said Samuel Stewart and his
hers and assigns forever[.] [A]nd I do Covenant with the said
Samuel Stewart that I am lawfully seized and possessed of said
land and have a good right to Convey the same and the same is
unencumbered and I bind myself my heirs and represent-
atives to forever warrant and defend the title of said land[,] Except
about 3/4 of an acre in the S.W Corner of the above first
tract which was, heretofore was conveyed by deed to George Robinson
(Col) by said I. Z. Shelton[,] his heirs and assigns forever against
the lawful Claims of all persons whomsoever. In testimony
whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature this 26th day
of Feb 1895[.]
            I Z A Shelton {signature}
            Amanda Shelton {mark}
White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 39:  137, I Z Shelton to Samuel Stewart, 26 February 1895: FHL 507916.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

23 January 2017

Deed - Isaac Z and Amanda Shelton to George and Florence Robinson, 22 December 1894

I Z Shelton
      To Deed
For and in consideration of fifteen
dollars to us in hand paid, the receipt of which is here
acknowledged we have this day bargained and sold
and by these presents do transfer and Convey unto
George Robinson and his wife Florence and their
heirs; a Certain tract or parcel of land, lying and
being in White County, and state of Tennessee in
District no “1”, and bounded and described as
as follows: Beginning on a Rock in George Rob-
insons South boundary line, running thence West
10 1/2 Poles to a Rock; Thence North 9 1/2 Poles to a Rock,
Thence East 12 1/4 Poles to a Rock; Thence South 10 1/2 Poles
to the Beginning, Containing about one acre
more or less[.] To have and to hold said tract or
parcel of land to the said George and Florence Rob-
inson and their heirs forever: We Covenant with the
said George and Florence Robinson that we are lawfully
seized and possessed of Said land, and have a good
right to Convey the same, and that the same is
unencumbered; We further Covenant and bind our
selves our heirs and representatives to forever warr-
ant and defend the title to said land to the said
George and Florence Robinson and heir against the
lawful claims of all persons whomsoever[.]
            Given under our hands
and seals this 22nd day of December 1894[.]
attest,                                    I Z Shelton          {seal}
    W G Sims                         Amanda Shelton  {seal}
White County, Tennessee, Register of Deeds Volume 35:  256, I Z Shelton to George Robinson, et al, 22 December 1894: FHL 507916.

Transcribed: 19 November 2016 by Phillip Ciske

16 January 2017

Tracing Jennie O Shelton

One of the definitions of the verb form of trace is "to discover by going backward over the evidence step by step," a meaning which fits genealogy very well. A second, similar definition, "to follow the footprints, track, or trail of," also well describes our research.

Jennie O Shelton is one of my current research "subjects," one who is undoubtedly a good example of the trials of tracking a female ancestor through time. She appears with varying names off and on in the records I've found.

From what I currently know, Jennie was born around 1883, likely in Tennessee, the daughter of Isaac Z and Amanda (Pruitt) Shelton. I have only the 1900 through 1930 US censuses to provide evidence for her birth date. Ages and dates provided on the census are always suspect, in my mind, and require other documents to back them up.

Jennie was married to J. T. Shortridge on 31 March 1909 in White County, Tennessee. However, she appears in her father's household, also in White County, in the 1910 census. The census enumerator recorded her as Jennie Shortridge. What happened to her husband? So far, I have found no trace of him other than the marriage bond, license, and return.

Jennie appears again in the marriage records for White County, Tennessee, in 1916 when she married P. Wash Presley on 30 July 1916. On the marriage record, she is named Jennie Shortridge. It appears that this marriage may not have lasted very long, as Jennie filed for divorce on 3 August 1917 in the White County Chancery court. The case papers, however, include a note that the case was closed as the parties reconciled. The note is regretfully undated.

Jennie next appears with her father's household in the 1920 census, now living in Atlanta, Georgia. Once again the question is what happened to her husband, Wash?

Isaac died in 1929, but Jennie remained living with her mother, Amanda, in Atlanta in the 1930 census. She appears one more time, in 1932, in the Atlanta city directory, listed as Jennie Presley.

To discover more of Jennie's story, I am going to need to search sideways. Instead of focusing just on Jennie and the Sheltons, I need to look at the Shortridge and Presley names, attempting to identify J. T. and Wash in the available records. I also need to expand the types of documents I'm looking at, searching resources such as court minutes and newspapers.

I think I also need to take one or more trips to Tennessee to do onsite research. I have the vacation time, I just need to plan to use it.

photo credit: Julien.Belli Melchsee-Frutt, Switzerland, 2017 via photopin (license)

09 January 2017

Guidelines to Transcribing

I am in the middle of transcribing papers related to a court case involving one of my ancestors. Below is a set of guidelines I'm working to internalize as I work. Many of them revolve around maintaining the context and appearance of the original document.


  1. Copy what you see exactly as it appears. Do not edit the text. If a comment is needed, place them in square brackets.
  2. Use square brackets to show alterations or edits to the text.
  3. Retain the original punctuation and capitalization.
  4. Retain the original line breaks.
  5. Always include a full source citation on each page of the transcription.
  6. Take a break, especially when puzzling over a particularly strange or illegible portion of the text.