My cousin Fontaine and I have spent the past four years trying to track down our great grand uncles – the sons of Daniel Henry Sheffey, Sr. Looking at the family tree below, I’m descended from Daniel Henry Sheffey, Jr. Fontaine is descended from Daniel Adam Sheffey. Fontaine and I connected online a few years ago and, to-date, he’s the closest living relative I’ve met from my branch of the Sheffey family. It’s been great having such an enthusiastic researching co-pilot.
Our missing great grand uncles were: Wade Sheffey, Jefferson C Sheffey and John Sheffey. We just couldn’t find them after 1866.
We think we found John Sheffeylast year. If we have indeed find the right John Sheffey, his end was pretty tragic. However, we still need to confirm if the person we found is indeed our great grand uncle. Wade Sheffey still remains elusive.
Thanks to a random hint via Ancestry.com two days ago, I found the missing Jefferson Sheffey. What a pleasant detour that turned out to be.
Here’s Jefferson and his family in the 1860 Slave Schedule (I haven’t been able to identify the other two female slaves). Julia Ann Crockett Morrison is their mistress . Interestingly, Daniel Sheffey Sr appears both here and in the 1860 slave schedule of Julia’s sister, Susanna Crockett Spiller.
All trace of Jefferson seemed to simply vanish after 1866. Fontaine and I began to presume he had died between the 1866 and the 1870 Census.
Far from it.
So I get this hint from Ancestry for a Jefferson C Sheffey. Of course it got my immediate interest. I know that a staggering amount of new records have been added to the database, so I was hoping to discover something good: a birth certificate, perhaps a death certificate or, better still, a marriage certificate.
The hint from Ancestry.com turned out to be a series of records for Jefferson from the Freedmen’s Bureau. The reason why he seemed to disappear was the fact that he stopped using his first name, Jefferson. He was known by his middle name, Crockett, which was quite the revelation.
I had come across a Crockett Sheffey years ago in a Civil War Pension Record. I knew he couldn’t be the Crockett Sheffey I’ve already written about – the buffalo soldier who left the US for the Philippines. The Crockett in the Civil War Record clearly belonged to the generation before Crockett the Buffalo Soldier. Without a race being cited in the record, I put this new Crockett Sheffey on the back burner of my research. There simply wasn’t anything that connected him with anyone I was familiar with in the family tree.
However, the record below, one of the hints from Ancestry.com, is the one that sealed the deal in terms of who this new Crockett was (I’m going to keep referring to him as Jefferson to avoid confusion about which Crockett Sheffey I’m referring to). Living in Wythe County (my line of the Sheffey family’s stronghold), with Daniel Sheffey as a father, there was only one person it could be…Jefferson. As you’ll see below, he was a very young soldier during the Civil War:
I was happy enough finding out that Jefferson hadn’t died as a child. The remaining hints were pure gold dust.
It turns out that in 1869 Jefferson was a day teacher in Cripple Creek, Wythe County, VA. His name appears quite often in the school’s administrative papers. I’ve included the more interesting ones on the gallery below. They’re great for academics curious about late 19th Century educational administration.
By 1870, Jefferson was teaching at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia: http://www.hamptonu.edu/about/history.cfm
The above image is how the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute looked when Jefferson began teaching there.
This institution would later become the illustrious Hampton University that we know today. I’m pretty proud of Jefferson. To be a school teacher in this era was a big deal. It was a position that came with respect and prestige. To be an African American education was a very big deal. Not only did you have to be an educator, you also had to be a role model for the African American community. Fontaine and I are speculating as to whether this is why Jefferson’s older brother Daniel Henry Sheffey gave his firstborn son the name Crockett.
Naturally, I was curious if there were any actual pictures of Hampton that dated to this period. It was a prestigious school from its beginning. It was as strong a candidate for pictorial prosperity as any other learning institution – all the more so as it was among the first such higher education institutions for African Americans. I found a veritable treasure trove.
There are a number of contemporary Hampton pictures via: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=LOT%2011051&fi=number&op=PHRASE&va=exact&co!=coll&sg=true&st=gallery
And here Jefferson’s story ends…for now. I haven’t found a death certificate for him. I don’t know if he married, had children or how long he taught at at Hampton. What I did finds is a great nugget of story…and a family connection to a superb (and historically significant) university.
It’s kind of nice to know I continue the long tradition of carrying the university lecturer’s torch for the family.