Tuesday’s Tip – Sometimes You Find What You’re Really Looking For at a Neighboring Facility – An Incredible Find of Samuel Shackford’s Correspondence at the Wonderful Winnetka Historical Society!! (Blog 369)

Samuel Shackford (1821-1908) was  born in Eastport, worked as a sea captain, moved to Chicago at the age of 37 where he served as a prominent official.  He unfortunately lost his home in 1871 during the Great Fire after which he he moved to Winnetka where he became President of the Village of Winnetka and served in other prominent positions.  He also became an accomplished and published genealogy researcher first becoming interested in his Lincoln family line and publishing The Lineage of President Abraham Lincoln in the April 1887 New England Historical and Genealogical Register and then contributing Chapter 14 of Kilby’s Eastport and Passamaquoddy titled Captain John Shackford and Family in 1888.  We knew Samuel had continued his research of Shackford family history drafting a manuscript of his Shackford research which was announced  for publication in a July 1906 New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

In 2014 we discovered that a copy of Samuel’s manuscript was at the Winnetka Library. We’d talked to one of their genealogy volunteers who had reviewed the manuscript and had shared some of his notes regarding the genealogy presented in Samuel’s manuscript which indicated a change in my own ancestral line.  While we had thought that my ancestor William Brown Shackford (1812-1866) was the son of William Shackford (1753-????)& Mercy Rose, and the grandson of Samuel Shackford (1720-1796) & Mary Coombs, the volunteer’s notes from Samuel’s manuscript reflected that William Brown Shackford’s father was William Shackford (1789-1831) & Mercy Rose and the grandson of Levi Shackford (1766-1833) and the great grandson of Samuel Shackford & Mary Coombs. His notes included exact dates of William Shackford’s birth which made more sense than what I’d compiled as the ages made more sense but there were no sources were given for this new information.

I felt I needed to see the manuscript myself to see if there were any other letters or source material related to this new information so we planned a stop in Winnetka to visit the library.  However while enroute we discovered that the Winnetka Libary had closed it’s genealogy section and was moving it’s records to another institution.  Then we learned that the records were in still storage and could be requested.  As we approached Winnetka we made a formal request for the records and then learned that the genealogy section had just been moved to the Newberry Library which had not yet reviewed them and was not able to make the available to patrons.  This was a great disappointment as we were already enoute to the Winnetka area.

winnetka-historical-societyMeanwhile we’d also been in e-mail correspondence with the Winnetka Historical Society to see if there was any chance that this manuscript had been donated to them — we had talked to them previously and knew that they had some Shackford material, we’d been told that a genealogy volunteer at the library had suggested the manuscript be moved here, and we also thought that the Winnetka library might try to keep Samuel’s donation in Winnetka where he had done most of his writing.  We called the Historical Society to see if there was a chance they had the manuscript and discovered that while the manuscript was not at the Historical Society, they did have many letters that Samuel had received.  The person we were now talking to, Rachel Rameriz, their curator had pulled some of the files and described what they had – she was so helpful and so upbeat as she helped us over the phone that we decided to visit to see these letters that she described.

And we are soooo glad we went!!!!

The Winnetka Historical Society had folders of letters that Samuel had saved along with many Family Group Sheets completed by Shackford family members who wrote to Samuel!  We’ve only reviewed a few of the records we copied (digitally using an iPhone) but we found letters from my great grandfather Joseph Edward Shackford (1849-1920) which were sent to Samuel Shackford in response to his requests for information about Shackfords.

AND we found some great sources that Samuel used to write the part of his manuscript – one in particular deals with my own family ancestry!

The Winnetka Historical Society had preserved a letter Abner R Shackford (a brother of the William Brown Shackford mentioned above) sent to Samuel Shackford on November 25, 1888. Abner is responding to a letter from Samuel and has filled out a Family Group Sheet that Samuel sent to him where he lists the ten children of William Shackford and Mercy Rose.  My second great grandfather, William Brown Shackford is included.  I’d known that he had a brother named Abner but the list which includes birth and death dates includes three sisters – Shackfords who I had never been able to connect to any specific Shackford family lines!!!  I’ve just taken a quick look at the documents but over the next few weeks, we’ll be spending more time reviewing and writing about these incredible source documents from the Winnetka Historical Society starting with Abner’s letter. After we finish with this letter I suspect we’ll find many more jewels that help with sourcing more Shackford family history in these documents.


I’m so glad we stopped at the Winnetka Historical Society on this trip as I found treasures – the sources from which Samuel wrote his manuscript!!!  In retrospect wish I’d spent more time there as I think I would have enjoyed learning more about the place where Samuel Shackford did his research.  I want to thank their fabulous executive Director Patti Van Cleave who spent hours with us as we reviewed and copied these documents.  She opened up the facility for us on a day they weren’t normally open to visitors and shared the joy I felt as I discovered wonderful documents in the collection she oversees.  I wish I’d made more time to learn about the rest of this collection and am hoping that someday in the future I’ll get back to learn more about Winnetka and the Winnetka Historical Society.

Thanks to all who have worked as part of this wonderful society to preserve these and the other documents and items that help those of us interested in learning about Winnetka history!

All posts on this website are a work in progress.  We’d love to learn of any corrections or additions to the information shared.  Also we’d love it if  you’d like the post here or at http://www.facebook.com/shackfordgenealogy) as that helps share the post with others. Thanks!


Celebration of the Bi-Centennial Anniversary of the New Jersey-Legislature. 1683-1883 (Trenton, N. J.: Naar, Day & Naar, 1883), page 25; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 16 November 2014.

Kilby William Henry, Eastport and Passamaquoddy: A Collection of Historical and Background Sketches (Eastport, Maine: Edward E Shead & Company, 1888), ; digital images,, Chapter, XIV. CAPTAIN JOHN SHACKFORD AND FAMILY. By Samuel Shackford, of Chicago, Ill., Google eBooks (http://books.google.com : accessed 1 September 2014

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. LX. 1906 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1906), page 276 [July 1906]; digital image, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 16 November 2014.

Shackford Abner R, (Roslinda, Massachusetts) to Samuel Shackford, letter, 25 November 1888; Samuel Shackford Collection, held by Winnetka Historical Society, Winnetka, Illinois, 2016. [will update this source later using the name of file & folder where it this letter was kept]

Shackford Samuel, of Chicago, Ill, The Lineage of President Abraham Lincoln (Reprinted from the New-England Historical and Genealogical Register for April, 1887, about 1887), ; digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org : accessed 16 November 2014.

Copyright 2017 Joanne Shackford Parkes  (sharing a link to this post is appreciated but please do not copy this material and paste it elsewhere)