Friday, February 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 7: A.J. Shaffer - Finding the A and J

Hard to believe another week is here!

Last week I mentioned that Aaron and Rose Shaffer's second youngest son Albert was an interesting story, so this week I will tell his story. It's kind of short, I don't really know a lot.

On May 13, 1900, in Lost Creek, Miami, Ohio, a son named Absolom Joshua was born to Aaron Shaffer and Rosa Circle. (sic)

"Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003," index and images, FamilySearch (

If you notice, the birth was not reported until July 26, 1901. (It's hard to see here but trust me, that's what it says.) I didn't think anything of this until I had a hard time finding him anywhere else. You see, *I* thought it was really cool that they named him Absolom Josh - he was the only child named after anyone in the family!! Absolom Shaffer was Aaron's father. Joshua Zirkle was Rose's father. So it made perfect sense that he was named after his grandfathers. But in the 1900 census, he is listed as Andrew J. Shaffer. I just thought maybe this was a typo. In the 1910 and 1920 censuses, he is listed as A.J. But I couldn't find Absolom Joshua Shaffer's death record.

I found Albert James Shaffer's death record, and it listed his parents as Rose Zirkle and Aaron Shaffer, and the informant was his sister, Esther (Shaffer) Fisher. So I thought - hmm, twins run in the family. Maybe he was a twin? When I looked back at the birth record, I noticed something written next to his name. I couldn't read it. No matter what I did on, I could not read what was written. I thought for sure it would say there was a twin. I went down to the FamilySearch library and grabbed the microfilm.  AHA! I was able to manipulate the microfilm to read what it said next to his name -- "See birth correction #29085 Book 10 p. 1." So I pulled up that birth correction, and voila! He changed his name.

Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003 Miami Delayed births with index 1942-1943 vol 10 No. 29085 Book 10 page 1
Now why he changed his name I will never know. Why did they put down Absolom Joshua one YEAR after his birth but had already been calling him Albert James? OK, I suppose Absolom wasn't the greatest or most popular name, but it was a family name, and once upon a time, the Zirkle and Shaffer families named all their kids after family. I don't know why it stopped here!

I next found an Albert James in Maine. I couldn't believe this was my guy. He married Edna Atkins in Maine in 1923 and they lived in Portland, Maine in 1927-1936, per several city directories and the 1930 census. In 1940 he was back living with his sister Esther and her family in Troy, OH, and he is listed as married. I'm not sure whether Edna was still alive or not, his death record lists her as wife but not any life status (ie. widow etc) and I haven't researched her much. I do know she was married prior to Albert.

Anyway, I was interested in why he was in Maine. I still haven't figured that out, but somehow he enlisted in 1917 (ahem, said he was almost 19 -- um, no. But I know lots of boys lied to get into the military, they've been doing it since war was invented!) and ended up in the 54th Artillery Regiment in Maine, serving to protect the coast of Portland.

Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918, accessed from

According to the little I've read, they were called to active duty in 1918 and sent to France. They sailed on the Baltic from Hoboken, New Jersey on March 16, 1918. (see here and here for more info)
I couldn't find a picture of the Baltic, I thought that would be easy, but I also couldn't find much more info at all on it. Only because I just did a cursory internet search, I am sure I can find lots more in an archive and doing some legwork. For this little sketch, however, I don't have time.

I would love to know the details as to why he was in Maine, and find more out about his military service. Maybe there would be a photo. (Since he is missing from the only photo I have of his siblings, but that was taken in the late 1950s and he was already deceased.) Maybe I can locate descendants of his step children, Floyd D. VanKeuren, Jr. and James H. VanKeuren. They lived with them in 1930. Oh! I also just discovered that they lived in Ohio in 1920 with their parents, Floyd and Edna (Atkins) VanKeuren. Hmmm, I need to explore that a little more. Maybe there is more to this story!

Albert James Shaffer died  1 May, 1946 in Troy, Miami, Ohio, and is buried in Troy Riverside cemetery, where most of his siblings are also buried. See here for the memorial on Findagrave.

As always, this exercise reveals more work I need to do when I have time. Be sure to check out the other #52Ancestors entries!

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