Genealogy challenges: Part 3 – The White family of Pulaski County, Virginia

I was elated when I could finally provide my father’s maternal grandmother, Jane, with a surname.  For the best part of a year she was in the family tree as “Jane A”, surname unknown. Seeing her name n the family tree like that was like having a finger waggling at me through time saying “give me my name”.

All I could glean about her was from my first introduction to her: the 1910 Census. It had her approximate year of birth (abt 1861), that she was born in Virginia, her parents had been born in Tennessee, her husband (my great-grandfather Daniel Sheffey) and the names of their children (which, incidentally, were all spelt incorrectly!).  So there wasn’t terribly much to go on.

My grandfather’s marriage certificate provided no further illumination.  She was cited as Jane A Sheffey.

It wasn’t until I saw a physical copy of my grandfather’s death certificate (no digital version of the document exists as of this date), that Jane was given her maiden name: Jane A White.

I inwardly groaned more than a little.  On the one hand I was pleased she had her rightful name.  On the other…looking for a Jane White in online genealogical records would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Further searches did reveal more clues: her date of birth, the county of her birth (Pulaski County, Virginia), her date of death and eventually the names of her parents (Cornelius White and Ann St. Clair).  Ann, as mentioned previously, was born in Tennessee.  I had no knowledge as to when she left Tennessee and arrived in Virginia. Cornelius was a native of Virginia.

Now at this point I did get excited.  I had two very distinctive names to research.  It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t have a year of birth for either parent or a county of birth. Or so I thought.

I made a few assumptions for the initial search parameters.  If Jane White was born in 1860, then her parents could have been born at any point between 1820 to 1840, give or take a half-dozen years either side. That’s a fairly big slice of time to search within.  Technically it’s an entire generation. I wasn’t fazed. I focused on the fact that I had two quite distinctive names to work with.  This had worked in the past.  So why not now?

I started with Cornelius White.  I searched for any Cornelius White born in Virginia between the years 1820 and 1840. The list was staggeringly enormous.  Filtering out all of the white Cornelius Whites still left me with quite a list.  None were married to an Ann. And none with a daughter Jane.And none, as far as i could tell, lived in or were from Pulaski County, VA.

As for Ann, I searched for her through official records in Tennessee and Virginia during the same time period – and again, nothing for her either. Searches for Ann St. Clair and Ann White yielded no results.

I’ve searched for a marriage certificate for Cornelius and Ann – and again, nothing.  Nor have I been able to find death certificates for them.  If they had children other than Jane, I can’t find them either.

So here’s a rare example where having distinctive names to use in your search doesn’t lead to tangible results.

So the White family will join the Turner Family on the backburner.  More than likely it will require a visit to Pulaski County to search through physical records to find more information about them.

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