I am trying to locate any information on my grandfather. His name (I think) was Allie T. Russell and he was born 2/29/1892 in North Carolina. I do have a copy of his revised birth certificate. It says his name is ALLIE TOMAS RUSSELL he was born 2/29/1892. His mother's name is IDA CLIFTON RUSSELL. His father's name is THOMAS TALLIAFERRO RUSSELL. Affiant's name is ELIZABETH COCKERHAM (AGE 56) his Sister. Dated May 30, 1942. I have a copy from the internet for his death (in Zanesville OH newspaper) He died 24 Aug 1942 in Zanesville, Muskingum, Ohio, USA. I have searched all over for his parents but can't find a thing.

I heard from my Aunt that his mother died when he was quite young so I'm thinking Ida was the one who took care of him because Ida Morgan Russell died in 1927 so that doesn't make sense. His birth certificate says his mother's maiden name was Morgan but I can't find any information on her. Also, his father's name was Thomas Russell but I can't find anything for certain on him as well or who his Mother/Father and siblings were. I have done DNA through Ancestry and get hints but I can't see how I can be related because the names don't match up.

  • 2
    How do you know he was from North Carolina? FamilySearch has records for Allie Thomas Russell, born Feb 1892 in Nashville, Tennessee, living & dying in Zaneville Ohio in 1942 (1940 census, WW2 draft, Ohio death cert).
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 9, 2014 at 13:18
  • Would you be able to edit your question (there is an edit button beneath it) to revise it with the additional information from @bgwiehle's and your comments (which would seem to be highly relevant background), please?
    – PolyGeo
    Sep 10, 2014 at 1:42
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    Asking for any information is understandable, but it is too broad. I'd like to see Janie add to her question a brief timeline, a list of what records she has, and some idea of how she knows the information that she has already given us. Does she have a birth certificate? What info came from her dad, etc. Do we have a date of death for Allie T? We should pick some event later in life and work backwards from that systematically.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 11, 2014 at 23:21
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    What record collections have been searched, and how?
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 11, 2014 at 23:23
  • Janie, I understand that there was a story that came down through the family that his mother died when he was 9 years old. Where does the information come from that Allie was born in North Carolina? What connections (if any) does the family have in North Carolina? Could the heirloom passed down have been from a grandmother instead, who might have died when Allie was 9 years old? Sometimes the stories have a kernel of truth but over the years they become attached to different people.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


ALLIE TOMAS RUSSELL was born at 32 Hazel Street in Nashville, Tennessee (Ward 15) on 29 Feb 1892, son of THOMAS TALLIAFERRO RUSSELL and IDA CLIFTON RUSSELL. ALLIE TOMAS RUSSELL Birth Record from Nashville, Tennessee

He and his mother have several photos on Ancestry.com's public tree and have been well sourced. His Russell line appears to go back to the 1400's. He is listed as Ale, Allie, and Allen in several records. His father died when Allen was nine years old on 20 Jan 1900 in Nashville, Tennessee. His mother died on 9 Feb 1927 in Memphis, Tennessee. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/71151661/person/32234522287?ssrc=

siblings --

Thomas H. Russell   1884 – 1885

Elizabeth Russell   1886 – 

Eula Alcone Russell   1889 – 1975

Irma Russell   1894 – 

Annie Russell   1899 –  
  • 1
    Nice find, Rusty! Also attached to the tree you linked to is a Tennessee Delayed Birth Record -- the applications seem to be in alphabetical order, and on the same image as Allie's application is one for a revised birth certificate for Allie's sister Eula from 1954. Backing up on the images, one can see other records about this family, including the lot numbers for the cemetery where Tomas and Ida are buried. Sister Elizabeth, the informant on the revised birth certificate cited in Janie's question, lives in Memphis at the time of Allie's death -- a clue to search in Tennessee as well as NC.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 14:59
  • They also have a submitted tree on FamilySearch familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/33LG-PC1 Sep 12, 2014 at 21:03
  • Looking at prior research is useful, but as I said in another comment, it needs to be analyzed. I have a friend whose family appears in someone else's online tree on Ancestry. Everything on the other person's tree above one of her great-grandfathers is not her family, because the other tree owner attached records belonging to a different person who happened to have the same name. If Janie has the same problem, where someone has grabbed onto a same-name Ancestry hint and gone off researching a different family by mistake, it's no wonder her DNA results don't match.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 22:37

When you find yourself saying "help! I don't know anything! I can't find anything!" it can help to write out everything that you do know, and how you know it, and then to put all those bits and pieces into a timeline about the person. Imagine you have an assignment to write a short biographical sketch, as if you were writing the person's obituary. Make an outline of the things you know and would like to include. It's okay to also add in some notes about the things you don't know (when and where he died, when and where he married, and so on).

Then after you have your list, you can look at what you've assembled and see what questions you might be able to ask and answer. Make a 'wishlist' of records you would like to have but haven't found yet, like an obituary.

Now you can use the research guides to work the individual problems. If I'm reading your question correctly, you think your grandfather Allie T. Russell was raised by people who were not his birth parents. Congratulations! You can have twice as much fun as people who only have relatives who were born and grew up with their birth parents. You can research his adoptive family and his birth family.

Important resource: RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees, Guide No. 31: Adoption and Orphans Research

Your grandfather's birth record is going to be a challenge no matter what because he was born in 1892, before many parts of the United States had statewide birth registrations.

The section about Birth Records in the Family Search Wiki article on North Carolina vital records tells us:

Statewide registration of births and deaths began in 1913 and was generally complied with by 1920. In some cities record keeping began earlier. For example, Raleigh began recording births in 1890 and deaths in 1885. Counties where the births and deaths occur keep a duplicate copy of the information they send to the state office.

Tennessee is about the same, with statewide recording in 1914 and general compliance in the late 1920s. FamilySearch Wiki: Tennessee Vital Records.

From this we know that any record of your grandfather's birth will have to be found at the county level. Sometimes people who were born before the beginning of statewide registration apply for a birth certificate later in life -- these are called delayed birth records. Family Search's article for North Carolina says:

Due to Social Security requirements and other federal acts, many people needed proof of birth. If no birth record was available, they could go to the county where they were born and file a delayed registration of birth. These may be found in county offices of the Register of Deeds. These records may list births from the 1870s to the 1960s. They usually give the exact date of birth, town or city of birth, and often the full names of both parents, as well as the volume and page.

FamilySearch's article on Tennessee Vital Records says that Tennessee began issuing delayed birth certificates in 1935.

FamilySearch's article about North Carolina vital records also says:

Birth records usually give the name and sex of the child; the names, birthplaces, and ages of the parents (with the mother’s maiden name); the occupation of the father; and the number of children born to the mother. Birth records of adopted children may give the birth parents but have frequently been amended to show only the adoptive parents. A year-by-year search of birth records may reveal other children born to a couple.

So while it may be more common these days for adopted children to have a delayed or amended birth registration instead of a regular birth certificate, once you get back to births before the 20th century in the USA, most people don't have a state-issued birth certificate unless they specifically asked the state to issue one for them. Their birth record will be at the local level -- if they live in New England, it might be a town record (those can go back quite far), or a church record, or their might only be a record in the family Bible.

For that time period, I wouldn't automatically assume that someone was adopted simply because they had a delayed or amended certificate. An amended certificate might be issued to someone if their parents didn't decide on a name until after the initial birth record was made. Some cultures don't name a child until what we might consider a long time after birth (as much as two years after).

One caution I would make is to set aside the term "real parents" since it doesn't convey any useful information. For research purposes, I encourage you to record exactly what the historical records say. When you refer to someone's parents and must make a distinction, "birth parents" or "bio-parents" vs. "adoptive parents" or "foster parents" (for those cases where you know that is what happened) is more neutral than saying "real parents". Describing what a record actually says, and being careful to note your own assumptions when you write them, will help keep things clear.

From the obituary in the newspaper, you have the names and residences of two sisters. Studying the siblings as a group may give you clues that you wouldn't find by searching for A. T. Russell by himself. Determining when his sisters were married may help narrow down which census records might show the family as a family group. Narrowing down the time frame for when A. T. was taken in by his adoptive family will help set the bounds for the death of his biological parents.

For every piece of information you find, add it to the family timeline, and consider what other records you might be able to find that would confirm that information. Examine each new find to see what might be a clue to something else. For instance, the newspaper gives his church affiliation. It isn't guaranteed that a person worships at the same denomination that his parents did, but it gives you a place to start from.

Here's a list of the records that have been mentioned in the question, bgwiehle's comment, and Rusty's answer, in reverse chronological order. Working backwards from the person's death in small steps makes it easier to follow the trail.

  • "A. T. Russell Rites Tuesday" published in the Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) on Tuesday, August 25th, 1942, page 8, column 4, accessed on Ancestry.com 12 Sep 2014.
  • Ohio Death Certificate from the collection Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953 on FamilySearch.org
  • WWII Draft Registration Card also found on FamilySearch.org
  • 1940 Census from Zanesville Ohio for Allen T Russell on FamilySearch.org (showing a Tennessee birthplace, and clues that Allie previously lived in Wisconsin and Illinois)
  • 1927 Death Certificate for Ida Morgan Russell on FamilySearch.org has Elizabeth Cockerham as the informant
  • 1900 Census from Magisterial District 6, Allensville, Hadensville (south part) Guthrie city, Todd, Kentucky, United States, on FamilySearch.org Ale T Russell in the household of Thomas F (sic) Russell, wife Ida, children Lizzie, Eula, Ale, Irma, Annie.

And the birth records (found on Ancestry.com, linked to the tree posted in Rusty's answer):

Corrected information submitted for Eula's amended birth certificate

Note that Ida is the mother of 7 children, five living, and there are five children in this household. Searching for other records about the entire family, including the records of the children who were born and died before 1900 might help resolve your question about whether Ida Clifton Morgan Russell is actually Allie's birth mother. No matter how well-documented this family might be, there are still questions to be answered -- the Ancestry tree that Rusty links to only shows six children, so if the 1900 Census' child count is accurate, the author is missing one of the children who died before 1900.

(From my original answer)

Here are some general guides for researchers working in North Carolina:

The State Library of North Carolina's Genealogy Research page has a lot of resources that can help you get started. See the downloadble PDFs for:

Other Guides and research portals:

  • The Library of Congress Resources for Local History and Genealogy by State: North Carolina
  • The FamilySearch Wiki's article North Carolina
  • BYU's Research Outline (somewhat dated, but still useful) for North Carolina

There are similar pages and guides for Tennessee.

  • 1
    Jan, you can add following item to list of records: Ale T Russell in household of Thomas F Russell, United States Census, 1900, Magisterial District 6, Allensville, Hadensville (south part) Guthrie city, Todd, Kentucky, United States familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M9CS-DBB. Household includes Thomas' wife Ida, other children Lizzie, Eula, Irma and Annie.
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 12, 2014 at 17:23
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    @bgwiehle, since you found most of the records that trace Allie T. Russell back to Tennessee, I'd like to see you write up your own answer so you can get proper credit for all of these finds. Feel free to copy all the links out of this answer.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:24
  • Other records that could be added: a WWI Draft Registration on FamilySearch.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:32
  • Jan Murphy, my first comment was intended to verify that the easy FamilySearch finds were actually for the right person. I still don't understand why the OP Janie thought Allie was born in North Carolina and whether she was rejecting all other finds because they didn't apply to NC. Or whether she further solidified her brick-wall by not considering how the the family story of a parent's early death might have been handed down incorrectly. Your answer more than adequately addresses how she could have overcome those self-limitations.
    – bgwiehle
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:38
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    Yes, but it isn't enough to take the information at face value. Even if you find the whole kit-and-caboodle in someone else's compiled genealogy, the evidence still needs analysis. And if there is a family story that doesn't match up with the records, it's natural for someone to be curious about why the pieces don't add up, and how the family story came into being. Assume that Allie came from a different family and was adopted into this one. It is possible to solve puzzles like that, but it takes a one-place study to do it, and often the evidence needed to solve it cannot be found online.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:46

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