Genealogy Keep-doing, not a do-over: Part 3 – John Shadinger

*This series of posts allows 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. 

Picking up where we left off last time, we still have not identified the parents of John Shadinger. In the last post, I conducted a survey of available and known information which laid the groundwork for a robust research plan including typical genealogy records and careful analysis. Mr. Guffin, the author of a report from which some notes were extracted by my client, did not have his research notes available so we will proceed with our attempts to prove John’s parents. From the end of the last post:

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:

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!

Track and Trace through Census records

From past research, I know that John’s wife was Frances Ellen Jones[1] and family legend is that John had no siblings that lived into adulthood. The clues indicate John’s mother was widowed at least once and probably twice and that she had a sizable estate, which according to his children’s accounts, John inherited upon her death. Not knowing when Elizabeth died or when she was widowed or if she married a third time, searching for her among the census records would be inefficient. My first step is to trace John through his adult years to pinpoint where he may have lived when his mother died – as it is very likely she lived nearby and probate records may help answer our question.

From the census records, we find:

1880:[2] John and Francis Shadinger reside in the Lowell District of Carroll County with five of their children. There is no entry for Elizabeth Jones in or near the household. A cursory search for Elizabeth Jones in Carroll County, apx age 72 yields nil results.

1870:[3] John and his wife live in Carroll County, Georgia with at least eight of their children and Elizabeth Jones, age 52 and born in South Carolina, is also in the household. The 1870 census does not list relationship or marriage status.

1860:[4] John and Francis “Shammer” are enumerated in the household of Eliza Richards, age 53. The relationship of Eliza to John and Francis is unknown, but the children in the household match the known children born to John and Frances and the area is within reason for the family to be found in 1860 in Carroll County. Next door to The Richards household is Elizabeth Jones, age 52, born in South Carolina. She is enumerated along in the household and her real estate is valued at $3000 and her personal estate at $9600.

Initial searches using online indexes for the “Shadinger” surname were unsuccessful, and the family was eventually found using a combination of the children’s names to search with surname wildcards in Carroll County. Misspellings are common on census records and sometimes even known variations do not yield the results we need. Seek out the wildcard options in your favorite online search tools. 

The 1860-1880 censuses narrow the location for searching for probate and tax records which may yield clues. Carroll County probate records are not indexed in either of the major online databases and are not found in the FamilySearch historical record films. However, there are some state tax registers available online, so those were used to help narrow the dates even further. This information will be used to create an efficient research plan for our visit to the Carroll County Courthouse at a later date.

Tax records narrow dates for courthouse search:

From the tax records,  we discover that John resided in the Lowell District of Carroll County from 1873-1887 and that between the years of 1873 and 1881 he was executor for the estate of Elizabeth Jones. The earliest entry for John in 1873-1877 digest appears on image 150 of 971 in the online database. The pages in this register are unnumbered and undated but scrolling backward from image 150 reveals the entries are in district order number and appear to be the earliest records for this register – 1873. Therefore, in 1873 John Shadinger was listed in the Georgia Property Tax Digest as executor for Elizabeth Jones’ estate.[5]

A hypothesis forms:

Through available online records and a review of known information, we can hypothesize that John Shadinger’s mother was Elizabeth (?) Shadinger Jones born before 1810 in South Carolina and who died between 1870 -1873 in Carroll County, Georgia.

This theory aligns with the notes in Mr. Guffin’s report that Elizabeth married Willis Jones, who predeceased her. I would not expect the probate records surrounding Elizabeth’s estate to yield any information about John’s father since Elizabeth apparently remarried. However, a will may provide direct evidence of a relationship between Elizabeth and John – something we still do not have at this point in our search. Since the probate records for Carroll County are not available online our search will take a bit of a different tack at this point – let’s see if we can figure out who Elizabeth was prior to becoming Mrs. Jones.

Who was Elizabeth Jones?

Given the theory that Elizabeth Jones was John Shadinger’s mother, our next step working backwards is to determine who Elizabeth Jones was before she became “Jones” and where she may have been prior to Carroll County since her (presumed) son John was born in Fayette County. Assuming Elizabeth was married to John’s father – Shadinger and assuming a widow would retain her deceased husband’s name, it makes sense to search available online databases for variations of “Elizabeth Shadinger” who married an unknown Jones in Georgia between 1826 (John’s birth) and 1860 (the earliest census listing Elizabeth Jones without a spouse).

Using FamilySearch “Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967” we are presented with six results, two of which are the same record for Elizabeth “Shadner” marriage to Willis Jones in Troup County, Georgia, on 04 October 1832.[6] (interestingly, this spelling of the name also appears in John’s marriage record.) Since Mr. Guffin’s notes place Elizabeth in Troup County, this seems a reasonable lead to follow.

In analyzing sources, it is always recommended that you click through all the available links in the online record’s information and scroll through all of the record notes. In this case, the record entry opens to indicate “no image available” but below where the image would be is a GS Film number film number. Clicking this hyperlinked film number takes you to a search window for the film. Entering “Shadner” in this search bar reveals the same results as before, but now there is a third entry – this one with a camera icon – indicating an online image is available. Seeing the indexed entry is helpful, but seeing an original document reduces the chance of an indexing error. In this case, the original record appears to be a chronological register of Troup County marriages with an index. The book cover is not imaged and the index is at the beginning of the film in both type and manuscript form. A register in chronological order, rather than alphabetical, may have been the only record of the marriage – or at the very least it was likely created at the time of the event. A register in alphabetical order is almost always a derivative, and may have been transcribed at a later date and more prone to errors of time and distance between the recorder and the event being recorded.

Amended Hypothesis:

John Shadinger’s mother was Elizabeth (?) Shadinger Jones born before 1810 in South Carolina; who married Willis Jones in Troup County, Georgia, 4 October 1832; and who died between 1870 -1873 in Carroll County, Georgia.

This is still a hypothesis at this point because we do not have any direct evidence of the relationship between John Shadinger and Elizabeth Jones. We can make several assumptions, and without any additional information, a case could be made that she was his mother based on the very thin indirect evidence we do have: their geographic proximity in her later years; John being identified as executor for her estate; and her name being recorded as “Shadinger” on her marriage to Willis Jones. But this is all very weak and relies on derivative records with no primary information relevant to the question of relationship. For example, the same sources could be used to argue that John was Elizabeth’s nephew or a brother-in-law. Indirect evidence of one relationship does not preclude others from being possible. Our search for information will continue:

Next Steps:

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.

Keep fingers cross that Mr. Guffin responds and has his source notes handy!

Search “Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990” at to browse extant Troup County probate records for “Shadinger.” (assuming Elizabeth Shadinger was widowed with minor children, she would have required guardians for their legal and financial interests in accordance with existing laws.)

Obtain probate records from Carroll County Courthouse for Elizabeth Jones’ estate which was administered by John Shadinger between 1870-1873.


Stay tuned for the next post, the final installment in solving this question. It may seem tedious, as so far the information we’ve uncovered very closely lines up with the information in Mr. Guffin’s report. I have no doubt, given his expertise in genealogy and his many years of experience with these records, that his information will turn out to be exactly the answer we seek. However, that is not always the case with published genealogies which do not include sources or documentation. Mistakes can always be made by anyone – in editing this simple post, I found two such mistakes that would have caused someone confusion. With a well-documented genealogy information can be more readily trusted if the reader can see the types of records used to make the assertions presented. As explained above, we could stop here and I could tell you that based on census records, I believe Elizabeth to be John’s mother. But there’s no proof and there is room for other possibilities. So we will continue…


[1] Coweta County, Georgia, “Record of Marriages, Book B, 1832-1855,” p. 327, 17 December 1846, for “John Shadner”; image online “Georgia, Marriage Records From Select Counties, 1828-1978,” ( : accessed 14 February 2018), image 370; citing County Marriage Records, 1828–1978, Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[2] 1880 U.S. Census, Carroll County, Georgia, Lowell District 1163, enumeration district 30, population schedule, p. 36 (penned), dwelling 335, family 345, John Shadinger; NARA microfilm publication  M593, Roll 137.

[3] 1870 U.S. Census, Carroll County, Georgia, Tricum District, population schedule, p. 3 (penned), dwelling 1203, family 1203, John Shadinger; NARA microfilm publication  M593, Roll 139.

[4] 1860 U.S. Census, Carroll County, Georgia, population schedule, p. 175 (penned), dwelling 17, family 17, Eliza Richards; NARA microfilm publication  M653, Roll 113. And also household 18, Elizabeth Jones.

[5] “Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892,” Carroll County > 1873-1877, ( : accessed 14 February 2018), images 150 and 851, entry for “John Shadinger”; citing “Georgia Tax Digests [1890]. 140 volumes. Morrow, Georgia: Georgia Archives.” Additional entries: Carroll County > 1878-1881, image 861; and Carroll County > 1885-1887, image 432.

[6] Georgia. Troup County. Marriage Records 1828-1837, p. 53, Willis Jones-Elizabeth Shadner, 04 October 1832; database, “Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967.” FamilySearch ( : 29 January 2018). Database results do not include image. For image, search “Shadner” FHL Film #310914, image 76.

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