Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brick Wall #1 - Nathaniel Shelton...Who's your daddy?

A friend, who happens to be a professional genealogist, defined a brick wall as a "solvable problem." I like that definition, especially when I feel like I'll never get past a certain point.

Like this one. I'm hoping that by gathering my thoughts enough to write this post, I may notice something I had not before. If not, then I'm hoping that perhaps another person researching this family line will have a piece of the puzzle I do not.

His name was Nathaniel Shelton. He is my great-great grandfather. He's the one sitting in the chair. It's my understanding that the man standing next to him is his nephew. I can't confirm that becuase I have NO idea about Nathaniel's family of origin. What I would love to find out is who Nathaniel's father was.

According to his death certificate, Nathaniel was born 19 Feb. 1839. This is not sure since the 1900 Census lists the year as 1843. The death certificate says he was born in Kentucky, although census records say different at times. (No town names are ever mentinoed). He died in Memphis, Missouri.

The census records are a mystery. I have been unable to locate him for sure prior to 1870. I know that 2 of his wives names were Sarah, and the names of his children. That is how I am able to say for sure in 1870 that it is my Nathaniel.

1840 Federal Census
I haven't done much here becuase the only named individuals are heads of households, and I don't know Nathaniel's father's name.

1850 Federal Census: Illinois>Hancock>Warsaw Ward 1>page 21
Thomas Shelton, age 36
Marena Shelton, age 25
Nathaniel Shelton, age 12
Nancy E. Shelton, age 7
Stephen Shelton, age 1

This may be him--I don't know for sure. One of my problems is that I don't know his father's name. His death certificate names a "Samuel Shelton" from Kentucky as his father. His widow was the informant on the record, so she may not really know herself.

1860 Federal Census: Illinois>Hancock>Warsaw Ward 1>page 21
Thomas Shelton, age 45, teamster, born in Kentucky
Angeline Shelton, age 29, born in Tennesee
Nathaniel Shelton, age 21, farm laborer, born in Tennesee (actually used " beneath Angeline)
Nancy Shelton, age 15, born in Illinois
Martha E. Shelton, age 9, born in Illinois.

Oh how I wish they asked about relationships in these early records!!

1870 Federal Census: Illinois>Hancock>Township 4, Range 9>Page 4
Nathan Shelton, age 27, born in Illinois, farm hand
Sarah Ann, 22, born in Indiana, keeping house
Cora, 6/12, born in Illinois.

The ages are a bit off here for Nathaniel. If the 1860 Nathaniel were the same as this one, he would be about 31, not 27. But look 10 years later...

1880 Federal Census: Missouri>Scotland>Union>District 87>Page 15
Nathaniel, 35, farmer, born in Indiana, fathers birthplace Kentucky, mother's birthplace Germany
Sarah Shelton, 24, born in Iowa, father and mother born in Virginia
Cora Shelton, 11
Thomas Shelton, 6
Viola Shelton, 2
Kate Brown, 18, boarder, domestic servant

Now Nathaniel is listed as being 35. He should be either 41 or 37!
I know all the reasons why there could be errors here (uninformed informant, human errors, etc).

I do know that the 1870 and the 1880 Nathaniel's are the same person since I do have compiled family records from his wife Sarah Deen Shelton's side of the family, which has the same names of the children.

Also, this is the first time we see anything about a foreign born mother. Interesting....

1890 Federal Census: Veteran's Schedules
Nathaniel is listed here as a Civil War veteran. This confirms other military records I have. Unfortunately, the 1890 census records are largely lost.

1900 Federal Census: Missouri>Scotland>Union>District 149> Page 11
Shelton, Nathan, born 1843, age 57, born in Indiana, Father born in KY, mother in Penn.
Sarah F. Shelton, 1855, age 44, mother of 9, 7 still living born in Iowa, parents birthplaces unknown
Hettie S. Shelton, age 18
Molly Shelton, age 16
Ira Shelton, age 12
Samuel Shelton, age 10
Bennie Shelton, age 5
Ruth L. Shelton, age 1

Some thoughts on this one, the age would match up with the 1870 census. However, it doesn't jive with the 1850 record (assuming it is the same Nathaniel) If he was 57 in 1900, he would have been 7 in 1850....not 12. If he was 7 in 1850, Marena (who was then age 25), could certainly be his mother, having borne him at age 18.

Also, a German born mother, or one born in Pennsylania? There were a lot of German immigrants in Pennsylvania. Could be one or the other. But again, I have NO clue about Nathaniel's parentage. Does Marena sound German? Could be...

1910 Federal Census: Missouri>Scotland>Mt. Pleasant>District 154>page 13
Nathaniel S. Shleton, age 68, married 3x, born in Indiana, Father born in KY, mother in Penn, farmer.
Sarah F. Shelton, age 55, married 2x, mother of 10 children, 7 still living, born in Iowa, parents born in VA
Samuel Shelton, age 19, born in Missouri, father born in Indiana, mother born in Iowa
John B. Shelton, age 14, born in Missouri, father born in Indiana, mother born in Iowa
Ruth Lu Shelton, age 10, born in Missouri, father born in Indiana, mother born in Iowa

Nathaniel died on May 19, 1915 in Memphis, MO at the age of 76 (maybe). The informant on the death certificate was his wife of 35 years, Sarah. Information she gave about her husband for the certificate:
  • Date of birth 19 Feb 1839
  • His occupation was a teamster. (Strange since census records all say farmer)
  • His birthplace was Kentucky (again, census records all say Indiana, except 1870, which says Illinois)
  • His father's name was Samuel Shelton (first time we see this name)
  • No birthplace of father or mother is listed, nor is mother's maiden name filled out.
After writing this over the past few hours are re-examining the census records, I've come to one hypothesis: Nathaniel's father was Thomas, his mother Marena. He was born in 1843. Thomas was born in KY, Marena in either Germany, or in Pennsyvania of German ancestry.

Of course, this all could be completely wrong. I suppose I now need to start researching Thomas Shelton (and Shelton's in general) in Kentucky??

My head is getting sore!

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