Ancestor Bio – Willie Hayes Shoemake (1905-1962)

52 Ancestors – Week 2018-11
By Don Taylor

Willie Hayes Shoemake was born, grew up, married three times, and died – all in Putnam County, Tennessee. He was too young to have been drafted into World War I and too old (and married with children) to have served in World War II, so it is possible he never left the county.

Rittenberry 2018 – Ancestor #RS-06

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Willie Hayes Shoemake
  • 1st Great-grandfather: James “Jim” M. Shoemake Sr.

Willie Hayes Shoemake (1905-1962)

Willie Shoemake was born 15 March 1905 in Putnam County, Tennessee, probably near Cookeville, which is about 80 miles east of Nashville, to James “Jim” and Mary Fannie Shoemake. He was in the middle of 11 children.


His siblings included:

  • Homer Blain Shoemake 1891
  • Maggie Shoemake 1894
  • Oscar Bell Shoemake 1898
  • Haskell Shoemake c. 1900
  • Marshel M Shoemake c. 1902
  • Willie Hayes Shoemake 1905
  • Andrew W Shoemake c. 1907
  • Ethel Madelia Shoemake c. 1909
Photo of Willie Hayes Shoemake
Willie Hayes Shoemake

The 1910 Census finds a family of James & Fannie, with seven of their children, Homer, Oscar, Haskell, Marshel, Willie, Andrew, and Madelia, renting a house along Cookeville and Smithville Road. Willie’s father, James, is a “sawer” at a lumber mill; older brothers Oscar and “Haskie” are laborers at a lumber mill. “Haskie” and Oscar are only 11 and 13 respectively, neither are attending school, and neither could read and write. Willie’s oldest brother, Homer, is a laborer doing odd jobs. Besides appearing like a family in poverty, the 1910 Census also tells the story of great loss. It reports that “Fannie” had 11 children and only nine were living in 1910. So, two children were born and died before 1910. There is also one more child of James and Fannie whose name I’m not confident about.

The next census, 1920, shows the family as James and Fannie with five of their children still at home. “Osker,” Haskell, Marshell, Willie, and Ethel. None of the children are attending school. However, all are reported as being able to read and write. Willie and Ethel are still home, but Oscar, Haskel, and Marshell are farm laborers “working out.”

Marriage 1

In 1923, Willie married Berchie A Bryant. Willie was 18 and Berchie was 15 years old.

The 1930 Census finds the young family of Willie, Berchie with 4-year-old Gladys Rosalee and baby James Cecil (8 months old). Willie owns his home and is a truck driver for a planning factory.

Birchie died on 12 March 1932 at the age of 24.

Marriage 2

Willie married Ruby Foster Wilmoth in 1933.

The 1940 Census finds Willie’s family consisting of him and Ruby. With them is 10-year-old James plus two young children, five-year-old Ruby J and a newborn, Robert. Willie is a painter and decorator. Fifteen-year-old Gladys does not appear with them in the 1940 Census. Further research will be needed to determine where Gladys went.

On 18 March 1943 Ruby gave birth to another son, Willie Paul Shoemake. Willie Paul died eight months later on 28 November 1943.

Willie and Ruby separated sometime between 1943 and 1958. (Ruby passed in 1966.)

Marriage 3

Willie married Rosa Burris in 1958. In 1958 Rosa was 50-years-old, so Willie and Rosa had no children.

Death & Burial

Marker of Willie Hayes ShoemakeWillie died on 25 April 1962 at the age of 57 at Cookeville General Hospital. He was buried at the Judd Church Cemetery, Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee. His wife Rosa joined him in death 13 years later and was buried with him.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • None – Research of James and Fannie should fill in several of the known holes in the tree.


  • 1910 Census, Various, James M Shoemake – Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee (FS). Family Search.
  • 1920 Census (A),, James M Shoemake – Putnam, TN. 1920; Census Place: Civil District 16, Putnam, Tennessee; Roll: T625_1759; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 88.
  • 1930 Census (FS), Family Search, 1930 Census – Willie Shoemake – Putnam, TN. 1930; Census Place: District 1, Putnam, Tennessee; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0002 – Ancestry.
  • 1940 Census (FS), Family Search, Willie Shoemake – Putnam, Tennessee. “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (  accessed 8 March 2018), Willie Shoemake, Civil District 1, Putnam, Tennessee, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 71-5, sheet 1A, line 19, family 5, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3928.
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 11 March 2018), memorial page for Willie Hayes Shoemake (15 Mar 1905–25 Apr 1962), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58511255, citing Judd Church Cemetery, Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Papa Randy (contributor 46864588) .
    • Tennessee, Death Records, 1914-1963, Family Search, Willie Hayes Shoemake – Death 25 Apr1962. “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963”, database with images, FamilySearch  24 October 2016), Willie Hayes Shoemake, 1962.
  • “Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 May 2014), Willie Paul Shoemake, 28 Nov 1943; citing Judd Cemetery, Cookeville, Putnam, Tennessee, 24298, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 2,137,340.
  • Tennessee, State Marriages, 1780-2002,, Willie Shoemake & Birchie Bryant – 24 Jun 1923. Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1780-2002 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm.

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Ancestor Bio – Dora Effie Jane Chism

Rittenberry Project
By Don Taylor

Today, I look at the Rittenberry family and the life of Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson of Tennessee.

Rittenberry Project 2017 – Ancestor #5

List of Grandparents

  • Grandmother: Dora Effie Jane Chism [Rittenberry] [Johnson]
  • 1st Great-grandfather: John Wesley Chism

Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson (1888-1946)

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at
Dora Effie Jane Chism was one of the ten children of John Wesley and Charlotte (Clark) Chism. She was born 12 May 1888 in Putnam County, Tennessee and was the youngest of the three children of Charlotte living in 1900. Her older known living siblings were Amey and John Chism. The 1900 census reported that Charlotte had ten children only 3 of which were alive in 1900. The Chism surname is spelled in many different ways, Chism, Chisam, Chisem, and Chisholm in various documents. We also know that one of her sisters married an (unknown) Kinnaird and had two children, Kilmer and Clarence. She died before 1900, and her children are the grandchildren living with John Wesley and Charlotte in the 1900 Census.

In 1902, when Effie, as she came to be known, was only 14 years old, she married 20-year-old, William Dee Rittenberry. They had eight children. All of their children have since passed.

William Dee and Effie (Chism) Rittenberry’s Eight Children

Name [Married] Birth Death
Ethel Lee Rittenberry [Webb] 1904 1980
Evelyn Maybell Rittenberry [Stone] 1907 2001
Cecil Rose Rittenberry [Willoughby] 1909 1945
John D Rittenberry 1913 1979
T J Rittenberry 1917 1957
L B Rittenberry 1920 1976
William D Rittenberry, Jr. 1923 2005
Marguerite Lucile Rittenberry [Lindsey] 1925 2004

Through the years, the Rittenberry’s show up together in various locations in the area. In 1910 they were in Cookeville, Putnam County, in 1920 in Crawford, Overton County (about 30 miles away) and in 1930, back to Cookeville. Sometime in the 1920s, they lived in Algood, TN (about 5 miles from Cookeville).

On 9 August 1931, Effie was shot by her husband in the abdomen with a 32-caliber handgun. A newspaper article indicated that she was in critical condition and might die from the wound. Effie shot Dee as well in the chest, just missing his heart. Dee ran but was captured by the sheriff shortly after the double shooting. The Sherriff’s department said it was a domestic disturbance base upon jealousy. Both of them lived through

Photo of the marker of Effie Rittenberry Johnson
Marker – Effie Rittenberry Johnson (1889 – 1946) – Photo by imagal49 (#47223808) via Find-a-Grave

I have been unable to find the divorce record between Dee and Effie, but the gunfire exchange was probably reasonable grounds. I presume the divorce occurred sometime between August 1931 and March of 1940 because on 17 March 1940, Effie married Mike Johnson.

Dora Effie Jane Chism Rittenberry Johnson died on 14 June 1946 in Nashville, TN. She was buried in Shipley Cemetery in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Find Mike and Effie Johnson in the 1940 Census.






Ancestor Bio – Dee Rittenberry

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.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:

  1. Ethel Lee Rittenberry was born in 1904 in Tennessee. She died before Jan 2001.
  2. 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.
  3. Cecil Rose Rittenberry was born on 07 Dec 1909 in Algood, Tennessee (See Article). She died on 08 Jun 1945 in Cookeville, TN.
  4. John D Rittenberry was born in 1913; he died before Jan 2001.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. William D Rittenberry, Jr. was born about 1924.
  8. 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.


Marker - W. Dee Rittenberry (1882-1961) - Photo by imagal49 (#47223808) via Find a Grave
Marker – W. Dee Rittenberry (1882-1961) Photo by imagal49 (#47223808) via Find a Grave


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.


Twins or Not Twins, that is the question

Cecil and Mary Rose Rittenberry

Rittenberry Project 2017

By Don Taylor

Cecil Rittenberry Birth Record
Mary Rose Rittenberry

At first, I thought they were twins.  Two children, Cecil Rittenberry and Mary Rose Rittenberry, born on the same date, December 7, 1909, to the same parents, Dee and Effie Rittenberry. The two records were entered by the same clerk one week apart seven months after the children’s births. Cecil was a boy and Mary Rose was a girl. It seemed clear to me. Then I started to get confused.

The 1910 Census shows Dee and Effie “Writtenberry” with their daughter “Merry” and no son. I thought ‘aww’ – The son, Cecil, must have died as an infant.

The 1920 Census really adds to the confusion as it doesn’t show Mary, but rather it shows Cecil as the correct age but as a daughter.

1910 Census – Rittenberry
1920 Census – Rittenberry

Other records follow Cecil through her marriage to Berry Willoughby her early death in 1945. In every record other than the birth record Cecil is always a female.  Likewise, other than the birth record and the 1910 Census Mary has no other records.

I think the key to the facts in the case is in the 1910 Census.  It shows that Effie had had three children and three were living. The three were Ethyl Lee, Evelyn M, and Mary Rose/Cecil Rose.

What I think happened

With a healthy dose of speculation, I believe the child of Dee and Effie born on December 7, 1909, was registered with the County Clerk’s office initially as Mary Rose. After the registration, someone went back to the County and registered the same child as Cecil and the clerk got the sex wrong but everything else correct, including the surname.  Whoever responded to the 1910 Census was the family member who called the child “Mary.”  By 1920, when the child was 10 years old, everyone knew the child as “Cecil” and that name stuck the rest of her life.

This is the first time I’ve encountered two birth records for the same individual recording different names and different sexes. As I said, I initially thought Cecil and Mary were twins. Now, I’m fairly sure that they are one individual. I’ll hold that view unless I find some compelling reason to believe otherwise. I am reminded to hold all records with some level of skepticism.