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)