Genealogy Keep-doing, not a do-over: Part 2 – John Shadinger

*This series of posts allow me practice in documenting sources and provide the reader some insight to my methodology through a bit of a travelogue of my efforts. I have already solved this particular problem, so while I am happy to provide fodder for my reader’s research passions and while I welcome any corrections to blatant errors, I am not soliciting crowd-sourced answers to any questions posed. These posts should also not be considered final reports, as they tend to ramble around the problem and take the reader on a sometimes circuitous trip! My hope is that you learn a bit about reasonably exhaustive research or new record sets, or at least be mildly entertained. 


In a keep-doing project currently occupying my life, many of the lines have been easy to verify and original sources with primary kinship information is readily available. Though some cases have required a careful analysis of secondary information and indirect evidence to prove the kinships, even in the South in the late 1800s you can piece together some births, marriages, and deaths with certainty and without too much trouble.

The original researcher, my client, didn’t “attach” sources as is now so easy to do in online genealogy programs, but she diligently used the notes section of her software to capture research hints seemingly relevant to her thought process. Though like most personal research notes, there is sometimes a shorthand or logic that seems elusive to the next reader – me, in this case! The effort is also stymied by the use of internet urls rather than full citations, leaving this researcher to abandon some leads when the wayback machine ( can’t find a dead link.

Having moved backward through three generations, my next task was to prove the life and kinship of my client’s 2nd Great Grandfather, John Shadinger. John was one of the beloved elders in Carroll County, Georgia, having lived there for over sixty years and raised multiple children. At his death in 1915, John was survived by seven children, 79 grandchildren, and 109 grandchildren, many of whom still lived in the area.[1]

Among the client’s notes for John was an excerpt from a narrative which described how John moved to Carrollton, Georgia with his mother when he was young and how his father was killed by a falling tree. This seemed like it would be the piece I needed to complete this generation – it had all the facts! I just needed to know where it came from – you know, analyze the source. The weblink provided was no longer functional, but the snippet had a title in quotations. A few online searches revealed a robust report on the descendants of Henry and Mary Mitchell, which included the excerpt.[2]

Alas, the report did not include any sources. I was no further along in proving this generation, despite the well written narrative that seemed to line up with my John. Hoping the original author was a) still living and b) had his source notes handy, I dug around online and found contact information for him. In searching for his contact information, I discovered that the author was a research professor and had at one time been affiliated with the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). This bolstered my hopes for an easy resolution to this problem.

While I waited for a reply, I pushed forward with my research as if I never saw the article and had no idea who John’s parent may or may not have been. Starting with what I knew from researching his children and from family lore, I soon found an Indigent Soldier Pension application submitted by John himself in 1906. John stated that he was born in 1826 in Fayette County, Georgia and had lived in Georgia all his life.[3] This called in to doubt the obituary of his daughter, Martha Ann, which claimed that her father had come to Carroll County from Pennsylvania.[4]

The pension application is an original record with primary information providing direct evidence of John’s birth – John would know firsthand from where he came, although as a newborn infant he would not actually recall the event. He would have grown up with the knowledge and perhaps he lived in Fayette County long enough to remember being there and moving to the next place. The pension application which describes John’s physical infirmities, does not give any indication that John is not mentally competent. The author of his daughter’s obituary written some 110 years after his birth, however, would not have been present at his birth and may not have even known John, who died in 1915. For these reasons, we give more weight to the pension application when we are considering the circumstances of John’s birth. John’s own obituary gives no hints to his parents’ names or birth location, only his age when he died and the name of his wife.[5] This information is corroborated by the pension application.

There are no primary records extant in John’s adult life which name his mother directly. Birth and death certificates were not required during his lifetime and his obituary does not name them. But I had a decent starting place while I waited for a reply from Mr. Guffin.

So…here’s what we know:

John Shadinger was born 06 July 1926 in Fayette County, Georgia.

Here’s the question:

Who were the parents of John Shadinger born 06 July 1926 in Fayette County, Georgia?

Here are the clues from the unsourced narrative:[6]

  • John’s mother was Elizabeth Mitchell who married Andrew Shadinger, possibly in South Carolina.
  • Andrew Shadinger died in/around Troup County, Georgia ca. 1830.
  • Elizabeth married Willis Jones around 1832.
  • Willis Jones died by 1850.
  • Elizabeth’s brother Hardy was appointed guardian for Andrew’s children.

And here are the next steps – results of which will be detailed in future posts:

  • Trace census records for John Shadinger in Georgia ca. 1850 (the earliest census with all household members named)
  • Search Troup County probate records for Shadinger/Mitchell ca 1830.
  • Search Fayette and Troup county census for 1830 Shadinger household with at least one son age 4.
  • Search Fayette County, GA marriage records for Shadinger-Mitchell.
  • Search Fayette County, GA probate records for Shadinger
  • Keep fingers cross that Mr. Guffin responds and has his source notes handy!

The bold sections above are the beginning stages of a research log and will ultimately become the final report. In working on this project, I have become a firm believer in – though not yet a true practitioner of- the write-as-you-go method. As fun as it can be to breeze through the records, barely taking note of the lesser details, making the leaps of logic without writing out your reasoning, adding ancestors to your collection – that isn’t “research” and the end result does not withstand scrutiny. Hours, days, weeks or years later, it is almost impossible to efficiently recreate the logic or even recall why you thought a thing was true. 

How will your efforts withstand time and scrutiny?


[1] “In Memory of Uncle John,” obituary, Carroll County (Georgia) Times, 18 March 1915, p. 11; Neva Lomason Library, Carrollton, Georgia; microfilm, “CC Times”, reel 6.

[2] R. L. Guffin, “Two Generations of the Descendants of Henry and Mary Avera Mitchell of Chester Co., SC,” 18 May 2009.

[3] Indigent Pension Claim, 20 September 1906, John Shadinger, Company 2, 2nd Georgia State Line Regiment, Georgia Confederate Pension Applications, Georgia Confederate Pension Office, RG 58-1-1, Georgia Archives; images, “Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960,” ( : database accessed 18 January 2018), image 145-153.

[4] “Mrs. Rebecca Martin, 82, One of Carroll’s Leading Women, Dies,” obituary, Carroll (Georgia) Free Press, 3 September 1936, p. 1; digital image privately held by Mrs. Weathers, Norcross, Georgia, 2018. Image is intact with printed date and handwritten annotation of periodical name.

[5] “In Memory of Uncle John,” obituary, Carroll County (Georgia) Times, 18 March 1915, p. 11; Neva Lomason Library, Carrollton, Georgia.

[6] R. L. Guffin, “Two Generations of the Descendants of Henry and Mary Avera Mitchell of Chester Co., SC,” 18 May 2009.


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