By Don Taylor
I was really excited when one of my grandchildren indicated that she was interested in her family history. In particular, she wondered about her paternal grandmother’s family, the Rittenberrys. I knew very little about them, so I jumped at the chance to research some her ancestor’s history. To bypass living individuals, I thought I’d start with her grandmother’s grandfather, William Dee Ester Rittenberry.
Through the many records the surname takes many forms, Ritenberry, Writtenberry, and Ritenburg. I have settled on Rittenberry both as the most common spelling and as the modern spelling used as the maiden name by her grandmother. Also, for ahnentafel numbering, I begin with her living grandmother as person #1, making her grandmother’s grandfather Ancestor #4.
Rittenberry Project 2017 – Ancestor #4
List of Grandparents
- Grandmother: Living
- 1st Great-grandfather: L. B. Rittenberry
- 2nd Great-grandfather: William Dee Ester Rittenberry
- 3rd Great-grandfather: James Henry Rittenberry
William Dee Ester Rittenberry (1882-1961)
William Dee Ester Rittenberry, known as “Dee,” was born on 28 Oct 1882 in Buffalo Valley, Putnam County, Tennessee. Buffalo Valley is an unincorporated community in Putnam County, Tennessee. It is exit 268 on Interstate 40.
He was the oldest child of James Henry Rittenberry and Martha Taylor and had five younger siblings, namely:
- Della Jared Rittenberry,
- Lourency M. Rittenberry,
- Frances Rittenberry,
- Belle Rittenberry,
- Agness Rittenberry.
When he was 19, Dee married Dora Effie Jane Chism, known as Effie. She was the daughter of Charlotte (Chism), on 15 Oct 1902 in Putnam County, Tennessee. I am not sure about Effie’s father’s name and need to do more research regarding this family.
William Dee Ester Rittenberry and Dora Effie Jane Chism had the following children:
- Ethel Lee Rittenberry was born in 1904 in Tennessee. She died before Jan 2001.
- Evelyn M Rittenberry was born on 29 Apr 1907 in Putnam County. She died on 03 Jan 2001 in Cookeville, Tennessee at the Masters Health Care Center. She married a man surnamed Stone.
- Cecil Rose Rittenberry was born on 07 Dec 1909 in Algood, Tennessee (See Article). She died on 08 Jun 1945 in Cookeville, TN.
- John D Rittenberry was born in 1913; he died before Jan 2001.
- T J Rittenberry was born on 16 Jun 1917 in Putnam County; he died on 08 Jun 195715 in Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee at Saint Thomas Hospital.
- L B Rittenberry4 was born on 28 Apr 1920 in Tennessee. He died on 07 Dec 1976 in Goodletsville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He married Ruby Jean Shoemaker sometime before 01 Apr 1940.
- William D Rittenberry, Jr. was born about 1924.
- Lucile Rittenberry was born about 1925.
1900 – William Dee Ester Rittenberry lived in Civil District 19, Putnam, Tennessee on 01 Jun 1900. He was a Laborer at the Sparta Spoke Factory. The Sparta Spoke Factory was established in 1896 on the Calfkiller River and became the world’s largest producer of wooden spokes. As the demand for wooden spokes decreased, the company changed over to custom furniture and furniture components. Today the company is known as Sparta WoodWorks.
1910 – Cookeville and Ganesborrow Road Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee. He was a farmer, farming a rented farm with his wife, and three children, Ethel, Every, and Mary (Cecil). Living with them was his mother-in-law, Charlotte Chism.
1918 – He registered for the draft on 12 Sep 1918 in Crawford, Overton County, Tennessee. He was described as medium height, medium build, Blue eyes, and light hair. Occupation: Coal Digging with Brice Hill. Dee never served.
1920 – Dee is living in Crawford, Overton County, Tennessee. He is working as a coal miner. Living with him are his wife, three daughters, two sons and his uncle, Carnie (possibly Carrie), Rittenberry.
1930 – The depression was tough on coal mines and Dee appears to have been impacted by it. The 1930 Census shows him working as a laborer in a public works project. It also shows Dee had moved back to Putnam County, TN, and was living with his wife and kids. Also, living with him is a granddaughter, Juanita Harris.
1951 – It appears that he retired on 15 Feb 1951 and went on social security. He lived in Cookeville until his death in 1961.
William Dee Rittenberry died on 24 May 1961 at the Putnam County Poor Home in Cookeville, TN, at the age of 78. He was buried at the Shipley Cemetery in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee. Per Find-a-Grave, There are 14 Rittenberrys buried at Shipley Cemetery.
It is clear from the census records that family was important to Dee Rittenberry. Although they were poor and had little during the depression, it is clear they took on family members that needed support and helped all they could.
Further Actions / Follow-up
- Find William Dee Rittenberry in the 1940 Census.
- 1900 Census (A), Ancestry.com, Henry Rittenberry – Civil District 19, Putnum, Tennessee. http://search.ancestry.com/search/collections/1900usfedcen/60988514/printer-friendly.
- 1910 Census (A), Ancestry.com, William D Writtenberrg [Rittenberry] Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee. http://search.ancestry.com/search/collections/1910USCenIndex/27407587/printer-friendly?ssrc=pt&tid=17307912&pid=497379009&usePUB=true.
- 1920 Census (FS), Family Search, William D Rittenberry – Crawford, Overton, Tennessee, ED 65, Sheet 5A. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNP3-PXX.
- 1930 Census (FS), Family Search, 1930 Census – Dee Rittenberry – District 19, Putnam, Tennessee, ED 71-23, Sheet 2B. “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch : accessed 15 July 2017), Dee Rittenberry, District 19, Putnam, Tennessee, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 23, sheet 2B, line 89, family 46, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2269; FHL microfilm 2,342,003. http://(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SPQR-745.
- 1940 Census (FS), Family Search, 1940 Census – L B Rittenberry – Chattanooga, Hamilton, Tennessee, ED 96-97, Sheet 3A.
- Find a Grave, Find a Grave, L B Rittenberry – Memorial 62882853. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=62882853.
- Find a Grave, Find a Grave, W Dee Rittenberry – Memorial #62882879. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=62882879.
- Herald-Citizen ((Cookeville, TN), ), Genealogy Bank, Mrs. Evelyn Stone – Obituary January 5, 2001. http://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/14308AB9C4C9D480-14308AB9C4C9D480.
- Other, SSDI. Number: 412-10-6466; Issue State: Tennessee; Issue Date: Before 1951.
- Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963, Family Search, Cecil Rose Rittenberry. “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS7C-X5B : 25 May 2014), Cecil Rose Willoughby, 08 Jun 1945; citing Cemetery, Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee, 12601, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 2,137,360. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS7C-X5B.
- Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963, Family Search, T J Rittenberry. “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKM9-LKMV : 3 April 2015), T J Rittenberry, 1957.
- Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963, Family Search, William Dee Rittenberry. “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 April 2015), William Dee Rittenberry, 1961. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKMS-83FJ.
- Tennessee, Birth Records (ER Series), 1908-1912, Family Search, Mary Rose Rittenberry. “Tennessee, Birth Records (ER Series), 1908-1912”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2H5-C9Z1 : 4 November 2016), Mary Rose Rittenbury, 1909.
- Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950, Family Search, William Dee Rittenberry & Effie Chism. “Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKHQ-M4MZ : 22 December 2016), Wm D Writtenbury and Effie Chisom, 15 Oct 1902; citing Putnam, Tennessee, United States, Marriage, p. , Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville and county clerk offices from various counties; FHL microfilm 979,724.
- Tennessee, Delayed Birth Records, 1869-1909, Ancestry.com, William Dee Ester Rittenberry. Tennessee, Delayed Birth Records, 1869-1909 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.,
- S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Ancestry.com, Dee Rittenberry.
- United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Family Search, William D Rittenbeary. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ6X-M4Rv : 12 December 2014), William D Rittenbeary, 1917-1918; citing Overton County, Tennessee, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,877,604. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZ6X-M4R.