Work Sample

I thought that perhaps it would be good to provide an example of the type of work you can expect to receive from me. I recently finished the Certificate in Genealogical Research with Boston University and my final assignment was to develop a research plan and then execute it.

Sounds easy, right? Pfffttt…It’s pretty time consuming; however, Research Plans and corresponding Research Reports are exceptionally important. It’s a lot like working on math problems: you have to not just get the right answer but you have to show your work too.

Please note: a formal report would be created in a Word document with source citations listed in footnotes. I’m having problems with the formatting of this on the web page so all source citations are listed at the end. I’m a genealogist and not a computer guru. Also, each formal Research Report will have images of the documents reviewed as well.


Source: Mollie Elson’s Diary

Search Subject: Mollie Elson, 1881, Huron, South Dakota (Dakota Territory)

Objective: Identify the names of Mollie’s father and mother


  • Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996 (to determine Mollie’s maiden name. From the unsourced bio, the timeframe for Jeremiah “Jerry” Elson and Mollie would be 1860-1865 in Iowa.
  • com (search for Jerry and Mollie Elson to cross references any mentions of Mollie’s parents and brother ‘Gale’)
  • 1860 Federal Census, Iowa (search Mollie’s maiden name if found)
  • 1870 Federal Census, Iowa (to locate Jerry and Mollie and possible children Bertie and Madge; Mollie’s maiden name)
  • 1880 Federal Census, Iowa (to locate Jerry and Mollie and possible children Bertie and Madge; Mollie’s maiden name)
  • South Dakota, Territorial Census, 1885 (search for Jerry and Mollie as well as Gale/Gale*)


Much of the research is going to depend upon the results of the Marriage search; the Index, should the search provide a result, would help determine the county where Jerry and Mollie were married and may also provide a maiden name. If the search is positive in the index, further confirmation may be needed by seeking the document directly from the county sources starting with as a possibility. From there, searching the census records of 1860 just prior to the marriage date (as suspected) and 1870 (after the marriage) would help establish the location of the Elson’s and Mollies family. As the diary indicates that Mollie’s brother and mother lived close by to her near Huron, South Dakota, it stands to reason that they lived close to her while in Iowa.

Searching, specifically ‘The Daily Plainsman’ of Huron, South Dakota could also be extremely helpful should mention be made of Mollie’s family. The unsourced bio also indicated that Jerry Elson was an attorney while in Huron, South Dakota. Should this be true, Jerry Elson may be very prominent in the town and may yield many newspaper results. Searches should also be completed in for the area surrounding Linn County, IA (Cedar Rapids, IA would be the closest town to possibly have a newspaper online).

Corresponding Research Report

Date: 15 December 2018

Report For: [for private use]

Subject: Mollie Elson, 1881, Huron, South Dakota (Dakota Territory)

Background Summary:

An unsourced biography and Mollie Elson’s diary were included in a manuscript collection in which the majority of the items were letters written by Jerry Elson to his wife “Mollie”.

The following is a transcribed unsourced biography authored by an unknown individual:

Jeremiah E. (Jerry) Elson was born in Ohio in 1838 and moved to Palo, Iowa with his family before the Civil War. Jerry was certified as a teacher in the fall of 1860, and his life seemed destined to quiet and contemplative until the secessionists fired on Fort Sumter. When war broke out, Jerry and his younger brother, James, enlisted in Co. C of the Ninth Iowa Infantry. The Elson brothers were each wounded during their service: James during the May 1863 siege of Vicksburg and Jerry during the battle for Pea Ridge in March 1863. While in Iowa recuperating from his wounds, Jeremiah Elson wooed and wed Mollie. Eight days after the wedding, Jeremiah returned to the Ninth Iowa Infantry. He served with this for the remainder of the war, being made captain in August 1864. The Ninth Iowa primarily fought in Tennessee and Alabama before hooking up with Sherman’s army as it marched through Georgia. Jerry Elson mustered out of service in July 1865 and returned to Iowa.

 Jerry and Mollie lived in Shellsburg, Iowa for the next fifteen years. They farmed, rented other property, and Jerry began to practice law. The Elsons had two children: Bertie and Madge. By the late 1870s, the Elsons had grown tired of living in Iowa. In 1880, they packed up and lit out for the Dakotas. There they homestead in what was to become Huron, South Dakota. Here Mollie Elson remained a farm wife, but Jerry had himself admitted to the bar. He practiced law in Huron and worked the farm with his family. Nothing more is known about the Elsons except that Jeremiah applied for (and received) his military pension in 1895.[1]

A diary, written by Mollie Elson in 1881, had multiple entries wherein besides her husband Jerry and children Bertie and Madge were mentioned, her father, mother, and brother were referenced as living close by. It also mentioned receiving a letter from ‘Brother John’[2].

Also included in the collection were several letters written by Jerry Elson to his wife Mollie spanning several years; however, due to time constraints, they were not closely evaluated.

Objective: Identify the names of Mollie’s father and mother

 Limitations: Client has authorized eight hours for research and report writing.


  • State Historical Society Research Center, 402 Iowa Ave, Iowa City, IA 52240
  • State Historical Society Research Center, 600 E Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50319
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM-GLO Records)

Summary of Findings:

The research objective was mostly met. There is strong evidence to support that Strange Harmon Griffin Rathbun as Mary E. “Mollie” Elson’s father and Elzina/Alzina/Alvina (Hill) Rathbun as her mother. See the Research Notes section for details on sources and analysis.

Strange Harmon Griffith Rathbun married Elzina/Alzina/Alvina Hill 05 Sept 1839 in Union County, Ohio. In 1850, they along with their children Sarah E, Abigail (Abbey), Mary E (Mollie), Emma E, and Orange resided in Mechanicsburg, Champaign, Ohio. Sometime between 1850 and 1862, the family moved to Benton County, Iowa.

On 24 Dec 1862, Abigail (Abbey) Rathbun married D.P. Marshall in Benton County, Iowa. On 08 March 1864, Mary E. (Mollie) Rathbun married Jeremiah (Jerry) Elson in the residence of D.P. Marshall in Shellsburgh, Benton, IA. In 1870, Jerry and Mary E (Mollie) Elson resided in Benton County, Iowa with their son Elbert (Bertie). Strange Harmon Griffith Rathbun resided with his wife Elzina/Alzina/Alvina in Benton County, Iowa with children Emma, John, and Galen (Charles Galen).

In 1880, Jerry and Mary E (Mollie) Elson resided in Shellsburg, Benton, Iowa with their children Elbert (Bertie), Madge, and Mabel. Strange Harmon Griffith and Elzina/Alzina/Alvina Rathbun resided in Shellsburg, Benton, Iowa with their son Charles G (Charles Galen).

In 1881, Mollie writes in her diary various entries throughout the year with most days having entries while residing near Huron, Beadle County, Dakota Territory. She mentions her husband Jerry and children Bertie, Madge, and Mabel. She further mentions her brother Gale (Charles Galen) and visiting her mother and father who live near-by in various entries. She also writes of her brother John whom she receives a letter from.

Strange Harmon Griffith Rathbun dies on 30 Dec 1890 in Mitchell, Davison, SD at the home of his son C.G. Rathbun (Charles Galen). His obituary indicates that he had been residing with C.G. Rathbun and mentions that he had six children: four daughters and two sons; it names C.G. Rathbun as his son and Mrs. Capt J.E. Elson as his daughter. The obituary, however, does not mention his wife and it is estimated that she died sometime between 1881 and 1890.

The eight-hour time limitation established by the client prevented full extensive research in Beadle County, SD, especially probate, death, and cemetery records and the following conclusions presented are open to re-evaluation if additional evidence is found.

Detailed Research Report

While the biography included in the Jeremiah “Jerry” Elson manuscript collection is unsourced with no identified author, important information was gathered to establish names of individuals associated with the case as well as a loose timeline:

  • Jerry Elson resided with family in Palo, Linn, IA.
  • Jerry Elson enlisted in Co C of the Ninth Iowa Infantry
  • Jerry Elson was wounded March 1863 and returned to Iowa to recuperate
  • Jerry Elson married Mollie, returned to war 8 days later, and was promoted to Captain August 1864
  • Jerry Elson mustered out of service mustered out of service July 1865 and returned to Iowa
  • Jerry Elson and wife Mollie lived in Shellsburg, Benton, IA for 15 years
  • Jerry and Mollie had two children: Bertie and Madge
  • Jerry and Mollie moved to Dakota Territory in 1881

Palo, IA is located in Linn County, IA and Shellsburg, IA is located in Benton County, IA. Linn County is adjacent to Benton County to the east.

The collection also included a diary written by Mollie that covered the year of 1881 while living near Huron in Dakota Territory. The diary is pocket sized and very small, approximately 6”x4” with pre-printed pages for each day of 1881; it began with “January 1, 1881”. Each page contained entries for two days and had 12 lines for each day. Most pages had entries; however, there were blank entries for most of the summer. Mollie Elson described her day to day life in a very matter-of-fact way. Each entry by themselves are not particularly important; however, in its totality, they provide a wealth of information regarding life for a pioneer woman.

While the unsourced biography is helpful, it is to be considered secondary information as there are no sources to establish the information as fact. Further, as the author and their relationship to Jerry Elson and Mollie is unknown, it’s important to utilize the information carefully.

Mollie’s diary, however, is important as she is providing information directly as she experiences it. Unfortunately, the diary doesn’t allow for more space in journal style for Mollie to provide more than cursory observations.

Due to time limitations, the full diary could not be read or transcribed; however, an entry dated January, Tuesday 11. 1881. read, “Nice winter day. Had my first letter from Bro John. It was a good interesting letter, and was highly appreciated, hope to get another soon. Wrote to Ella also one for Madge to (illeg.), Ella, and Emma, sent all in one envelope. Gale received four letters, (illeg) four, Madge one. Dreamed father and mother both died last-night.”

This entry is important as it establishes two potential brothers: John, who apparently does not reside close, and Gale who does as he received four letters. It also establishes that Mollie’s parents are both alive as of 11 Jan 1881.

An entry dated June, Friday 24. 1881. reads, “Nice day Had good nights rest and feel some better but not able to go round much Mabel great-deal trouble. Left Mabel with children and went down to see Mother, said she was better. Mrs Kreader and Raff, (illeg) natural came back up to (illeg) Mabel crying for me. Misses pa and (illeg) and not well enough acquainted to be enlisted yet.”

This establishes that Mollie’s mother lives close enough for Mollie to visit quickly as she left Mabel alone with “children”. This can be read two ways: Mabel was left to watch children but was too young to do so OR Mabel was very young and left in the care of children -Bertie and Madge.

Mollie mentions traveling to Huron several times throughout her diary. Huron is located in Beadle County, South Dakota; however, in 1881, South Dakota was not yet a state and was known as Dakota Territory. Beadle County was created by the Dakota Territory Legislature in 1879 and formally organized in 1880[3]. This can be a complication when locating records as many events were not yet recorded with government entities.

Unfortunately, Mollie’s diary did not provide her parents names or surnames for her brothers John and Gale.

Reviewing the unsourced biography, Jerry Elson lived in Palo, Linn, IA prior to the start of the Civil War, entered the 9th Iowa Regiment, was wounded in March 1863, married Mollie, returned to his regiment, and was promoted to Capt in August 1864. If correct, this would establish Jerry and Mollie’s marriage sometime between March 1863 and August 1864.

E. Elson and Mary E. Rathbun were married 08 March 1864 by George Raines, Minister of the Gospel in Shellsburg, Benton, IA. The license indicates that it was issued on the testimony of D.P. Marshall and filed in the Office of County Judge, State of Iowa, Benton County on 07 March 1864. The Certificate of Marriage was returned to the County Court of Benton County on 15 April 1864 [4] (see figure A). A brief newspaper article in “The Vinton Eagle” reads, “Married: In Shellsburgh, at the residence of D.P. Marshall, Esq., by Rev. G. Raines, Serg’t J.E. Elson, of 9th Iowa Vol., to Miss Mary E. Rathbun, of Shellsburgh, Iowa.”[5]

These two documents support the information in the unsourced biography in that the couple were married on 08 March 1864 (between March 1863 and August 1864), that J.E. Elson or Jerry Elson was in the 9th Iowa Regiment or 9th Iowa Vol., and the marriage occurred in Benton County, IA which is adjacent to Elson’s residence in Linn County, IA prior to the war. There appears to be a conflict with the name “Mollie” and Mary; however, Mollie (or Molli or Molly) is diminutive of the name of Mary[6]. We now have a surname/maiden name of ‘Rathbun’ (or other common possibilities of Rathburn/Rathbone). While it is possible that Mollie had previously been married, the “Miss Mary E. Rathbun” would indicate that she was not married previously at the time of her marriage with Jerry Elson.

D.P. Marshall, as mentioned in the Marriage License of Jerry and Mollie Elson, was married to Abbey Rathbun 24 Dec 1862[7]. Jerry and Mollie were married at the residence of D.P. Marshall per the marriage announcement and both Abbey and Mollie share the same surname of ‘Rathbun’. This would denote a potential relationship such as sisters or cousins.

Jerry and Mollie (Mary E.) Elson resided in Canton, Benton, Iowa in 1870 with their son Elbert Elson and a John Rathbone. On the same page and assuming close residential proximity is D.P. Marshall and wife Abby.[8] This confirms their son’s name of Elbert or “Bertie” but also confirms a “Bro John” (John Rathbone) as mentioned in Mollie’s diary provided above.

Jerry’s age is listed as 34 which would place his estimated birth year in 1835/1836 and his birthplace is listed as Ohio. Mollie’s age is listed as 24 which would place her estimated age at 1845/1846 and her birthplace is also listed as Ohio. John Rathborn is listed as 20 years of age or estimated birth year of 1849/1850 and his birthplace is also Ohio. Abby (Rathbun) Marshall is listed as 23 years old with an estimated birth year of 1846/1847 and her birthplace is also listed as Ohio.

Jerry and Mollie Elson resided in Shellsburg, Benton, Iowa in 1880 with their son Elbert C. daughters Madge E., and Mabel[9]. Jerry’s age is listed as 43 or a birth year approximately 1837, born in Ohio; Mary (Mollie) is listed as 34 years of age or birth year approximately 1846, and born in Ohio. John Rathbun is not listed as a resident of the household and cursory search did not locate the Marshall family living close-by. The date of this census was 01 June 1880 by a J.M. Elson.

The children Elbert (Bertie), Madge, and Mabel are consistent with the unsourced biography as well as Mollie’s diary.

As Mollie’s diary was written in 1881 with the first entry of 01 Jan 1881 while residing near Huron, Beadle, Dakota Territory, it is safe to assume that the Elson family moved from Benton County, IA to Beadle County, Dakota Territory sometime between 01 June 1880, or date of the 1880 census, and 01 Jan 1881. On 20 January 1883, Jerry Elson filed a Homestead Claim in Beadle County, Dakota Territory with the Mitchell Land Office[10] (see figure C).

Mollie’s presumed maiden name was Rathbun and that she had detailed her father, mother, and brother Gale as being in close proximity while in Beadle County, Dakota Territory, a search was conducted with the 1885 South Dakota, Territorial Census; however, this met with negative results[11].

A review of a local area newspaper, The Mitchell Capital, detailed an obituary dated 02 Jan 1891 that read, “Mr. S.H. Rathbun, father of C.G. Rathbun, died at the home of the latter this morning at 4 o’clock…Mr. Rathbun was born in Champaign County, Ohio, about 72 years ago and at different periods of his life he lived in Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. The past three years was spent with his son, C.G. Rathbun in this city. He leaves to mourn his loss six children -two sons and four daughters. One of the latter, Mrs. Capt. J.E. Elson, lives at Huron…relatives had viewed the remains removed them to the hearse, in which they were conveyed to the Milwaukee depot for shipment to Shellsburg, Iowa, for burial. The remains were accompanied…on the noon train by Mr. C.G. Rathbun of this city, and Mrs. Elson, of Huron, son and daughter of the deceased (see figure D)”[12]

The newspaper article mentions Mrs. Capt. J.E. Elson living in Huron; Jerry Elson had been promoted to Captain during the Civil War in August 1864 and this individual would be referencing Mollie (Mary E). This article provides her father’s name of S. H. Rathbun but also indicates a brother by the name of C. G. Rathbun. Further confirming S.H. Rathburn as Mollie’s father is that he was transported to Shellsburg, IA for burial. It does not mention his marital status and as such, it can be inferred that Mollie’s mother, who was residing in Beadle County, Dakota Territory as of 1881 had died prior to her father. The article was printed 02 Jan 1891; however, it was the taken from the Wednesday Daily edition and it was stated that he “died at the home of the latter this morning at 4 o’clock”. This then concludes that S.H. Rathbun died 30 Dec 1890.

In 1880, Strange H. G. Rathbun resided in Shellsburg, Benton, Iowa with his wife Alzina, and son Charles G. Rathbun. He is listed as being 61 years of age with an estimated birth year of 1819 and born in Ohio. His wife Alzina was also 61 years of age and also born in Ohio. Son Charles G. Rathbun is listed as being 21 years of age with an estimated birth year of 1859 born in Iowa[13].

In 1870, S H G Rathbun (listed as Rathburn) resided in Canton Township, Benton County, IA with Alvina, Emma, John, and Galen. S H G and Alvina are 52 years of age with estimated birth years of 1817-1818 and both born in Ohio, Emma is 22 with estimated birth year 1847-1848 and born in Ohio, John is 21 years of age with estimated birth year 1848-1849 and born in Ohio, and Galen is 11 years of age with estimated birth year 1858-1859 and born in Ohio.

A search of this family in the 1860 Federal Census for Iowa met with negative results[14].

In 1850, Harmon G Rathbun resided in Mechanicsburg, Champaign, Ohio with Alzina, Sarah E., Abagal R., Mary E., Emma E, and Orange C. All the individuals listed were born in Ohio: Harmon G is listed at 31 years of age, Alzina is 32, Sarah E is 6, Abagal R. is 4, Mary E is 3, Emma E is 2, and Orange C is 6 months[15].

Strange H. G. Rathbun married Elzina Hill on 05 Sept 1839 in Union County, Ohio [16] (see figure E).

By reviewing the census records and comparing to already known information, it is becoming clearer who Mollie (Mary E) Rathbun’s parents are. From reviewing the census records while married to Jerry Elson, she was born in approximately 1846 in Ohio. She had a brother named Gale who lived in close proximity with her while in Beadle County, Dakota Territory.

It can now be surmised that S H G Rathbun is Strange Harmon G Rathbun and born between 1815-1820 (given that census records can contain errors) in Ohio. He married Elzina/Alzina/Alvina Hill on 05 Sept 1839 in Union County, Ohio. She was born between 1815-1820 in Ohio. They had the following children: Sarah E., Abagal R., Mary E., Emma E, Orange C, John, and Charles Galen.

It can be assumed that Abagal R would be Abbey who married D.P. Marshall in 1862. The 1850 census places Abbey as an older sister to Mollie (Mary E) by a year; however, in the 1870 census when the Elson’s and Marshall’s were listed on the same page in Benton County, Iowa, Mollie is the older sister by a year; however, this is very small detail that can be solved by researching exact birthdates at a future time and is beyond the scope of this review.

The brother mentioned by the name of ‘Gale’ in Mollie’s diary is considered to be Charles Galen Rathbun. Gale is mentioned in Mollie’s diary as a brother who lives close-by where Mollie had knowledge that he received letters on the same day as she mentioned in entry dated 11 Jan 1811. Strange Harmon G Rathbun’s obituary in the Mitchell, SD newspaper indicated that he resided with C.G. Rathbun, the 1870 census lists son Galen, and the 1880 census lists Charles G. Rathbun. As Charles Galen was only 11 years old in 1870 with an estimated birth year of 1858/1859, it would not be expected for him to be listed in the 1850 census. His place of birth is listed as Ohio and Iowa in different census’; however, this can be researched at a future time and is beyond the scope of this review.

The brother mentioned by the name of ‘John’ in Mollie’s diary is listed as residing with Strange Harmon G Rathbun and Elzina/Alzina/Alvina in Benton County, IA in the 1870 census. He is listed as being 21 years of age which would place his estimated birth year at 1848-1849. It is not known at this time whether John is the same individual listed as “Orange C” in the 1850 census; however, this can be researched at a future time and is beyond the scope of this review.

According to an unsourced entry in ‘The Rathbone Family Historian’, originally published in 1893: “Strange Harmon Griffith Rathbun died December 30, 1889, aged seventy-two years; his wife, Alzina Hill, died 1882, aged sixty-five years. Married in Ohio, moved to Iowa, reared their family and died there. Mr. Rathbun’s mother lived to the age of ninety-seven years and received her second eyesight.[17]” The entry confirms the full name of S.H.G. Rathbun as Strange Harmon Griffith Rathbun and provides Alzina Hill’s year of death of 1882 which is consistent with the theory of her death occurring between 1881 and 1890. It does confirm SHG Rathbun’s date of death as 30 Dec; however, the place of death of Iowa conflicts with known information and the year in the entry is incorrect. Given that it is not known who provided the information nor is the information sourced, it can be assumed that the location of death and year are errors. It’s strange that the entry was published just a few short years after his death -one would think that recent publications would contain few errors. Had the entry had listed an author or the name of the person who supplied the information, the entry could be given more factual weight. Without a source of the information, it must be taken as secondary information.

According to an unsourced entry in ‘Rathbun-Rathbone-Rathburn Family Historian, originally published January 1994: “Strange Harmon Griffin Rathbun (John, Clark, Jonathan, John), born Jan 15, 1819, in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. He was married Sept 5, 1839, in nearby Union County to Alzina Davis Hill, born July 31, 1818, daughter of James and Deborah (Davis) Hill. They moved from Mechanicsburg to Iowa in the late 1850s, and later to Mitchell, S.D., where Alzina died on August 17, 1881. He died there Dec. 31, 1890. Children: Lydia, born August 15, 1841; died Sept 23, 1842.; Sara E., born Jan 11, 1843; married Henry E. Parker on Nov. 19, 1859. Abigail R., born Nov 22 1844; married Daniel P. Marshall on Dec. 24, 1862. Mary E., born March 4, 1846; married Jerry Elson on August 6, 1864. Emma, born Jan 15, 1848; married Fred Shel on Dec 6 1842. John James, born Oct 15, 1849; married Hila Lewis. Charles Gail, born May 7, 1859; married Elizabeth Bigler.[18]

The entry is helpful in that it provides SHG Rathbun’s full name and provides his date of birth. It also confirms the date of marriage between he and Alzina in Union County. It confirms that they moved from Mechanicsburg, OH to Iowa. It confirms children: Sara, Abigail (Abbey) and that she married D.P. Marshall, Mary E (Mollie) and that she married Jerry Elson, Emma, John, and Charles “Gail”. However, there are quite a few inconsistencies with the entry: His date of death is listed 31 Dec 1890; however, it should be 30 Dec 1890 but is a small detail. It indicates that Mary E (Mollie) and Jerry Elson were married 06 August 1864 and direct evidence of the marriage license/return shows this to be inaccurate. The name of Charles Gail is inconsistent with known records to list his name as Charles Galen; however, his nickname appears to be ‘Gale’ and ‘Gail’ is simply the female spelling of the name -this could be a simple error. The issue with the entry, of course, is that it is not sourced. The listed date of death for Alzina 17 Aug 1881 is consistent with the timeframe; however, without knowing the source of this date, it can not be considered fact -especially given that death records were not maintained by a government entity in Dakota Territory at that time. Further, a review of Mollie’s diary for the year of 1881 did not show any mention of her mother’s passing; however, it must be considered as there were multiple entries missing for the summer of 1881. Alzina Rathbun’s date of death can be researched further; however, it is beyond the scope of this review.

SHG Rathbun’s obituary mentions 4 daughters and 2 sons and they can be determined now as follows: daughters Sara, Abigail (Abbey), Mary E. (Mollie), and Emma E and sons John and Charles Galen.


  • To further confirm Mollie (Mary E) parent’s names
    • Research and determine Date of Death. A listing shows that Mollie was born 04 March 1846 and died 10 Jan 1911[19]. An obituary was found in the 14 Jan 1911 Argus-Leader, Sioux Falls, SD that indicated she died “at the home of her daughter, Mrs. M. L. Redmond, in Redfield on Tuesday.[20]” This also confirms date of death as 10 Jan 1911 as it is a Tuesday (14 Jan 1911 was on Saturday). Redfield, SD is in Spink County, SD.
      • Check Spink County, SD death records; a preliminary search did not provide yield results; however, it appears that contact may be made with The Register of Deeds as they provide many records including vital. These are not listed online.
      • Review probate/will information in both Spink County, SD as well as Beadle County, SD. While this may not provide names of Mollie’s parents, it may provide information to confirm names of her siblings.
    • Research death information for SHG Rathbun including death certificate and probate information in Davison County, SD. For death record information, an application may be submitted for a $15 fee[21]. Probate information may be obtained through Register of Deeds of Davison County, SD[22]. In addition to further establishing the connection between Mollie and SHG Rathburn as her father, it may also shed some light as to the identity/identities of Orange C Rathbun listed in the 1850 census and Mollie’s known brother John Rathbun who was born in the same timeframe (1848/1849).
    • Further research death information regarding Alzina/Elzina/Alvina Rathbun.
      • As SHG Rathbun was transported to Shellsburg, IA for burial, it is possible that Alzina/Elzina/Alvina Rathbun was as well and they were buried in the same cemetery?
        • Review Benton County, IA cemetery records through Iowa Historical Society Research Centers, Benton County Genealogical Society, etc. Who paid for the cemetery plot (this may be at the county level but even town level records)? Did her children? This could also help further establish her as the mother of Mollie.
        • As time was a limitation during review of Mollie’s diary, request copies of the diary. The Research Library will do so for a fee. Perhaps her mother’s death was mentioned in the diary but was overlooked.

Other Points of Research:

  • Determine Rathbun family events between 1850 in Mechanicsburg, Champaign, OH and 1862 when Abbey married D.P. Marshall in Benton County, IA.
    • Review 1860 census again for various spellings using wildcard searches in Iowa and Ohio but also Missouri and Minnesota as they were listed in SHG Rathbun’s obituary as states he and the family may have travelled.
    • Review any land patents in BLM/GLO records in Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa during this timeframe for any land sales.
    • Did he travel with any other Rathbun family; investigate Rathbun family connections in Champaign County, OH that may have also been in Linn County, IA area at the same time.
  • Research Benton County, IA area churches for a Rev. George Raines. He married Mollie and Jerry Elson. If the church could be established, then other records may also be available regarding the Rathbun and Elson families. These may be found through Benton County, IA genealogical societies or the State Historical Research Centers.
  • Obtain Homestead Claim (Certificate No 3803, Application 14915) filed by Jerry E Elson in Beadle County, SD through National Archives (NARA). This may provide more detailed information regarding who lived on the claim.

(Note for Future Research): Is John Rathbun related to our SHG Rathbun?


[1] Unknown author, “Biography”, unknown date, Elson, Jeremiah and Mollie, 1859-1937 (MS186), Manuscript Collection, State Historical Society Research Center, Iowa City.

[2] Mollie Elson, “Diary [1881]”, Elson, Jeremiah and Mollie, 1859-1937 (MS186), Manuscript Collection, State Historical Society Research Center, Iowa City.

[3] “Beadle County, South Dakota”, entry in ( last accessed 13 Dec 2018).

[4] Benton County, Iowa, Marriage Licenses 1862-1868, Benton-088 roll 1876430, Vol B, Page 48, arranged by groom-bride index, see Elson, J.E.; Historical Society Research Center of Iowa, Des Moines.

[5] “Married”, (Vinton) The Vinton Eagle, 16 March 1864, p. 3 col 4; film archival, Vinton Eagle Feb 20, 1861-July 4, 1866, Vinton, IA Roll 254-J; Historical Society Research Center of Iowa, Des Moines.

[6] “Traditional Nicknames in Old Documents”, ( last accessed 13 Dec 2018)

[7] “Married”, (Vinton) The Vinton Eagle, 24 Dec 1862, p. 3 col 4; film archival, Vinton Eagle Feb 20, 1861-July 4, 1866, Vinton, IA Roll 254-J; Historical Society Research Center of Iowa, Des Moines.

[8] 1870 U.S. census, Benton County, Iowa, population schedule, page 135 (written), dwelling 971, families 971 and 973, Elson and Marshall; NARA microfilm publication M593, Roll 376; ( accessed 13 Dec 2018).

[9] 1880 U.S. census, Benton County, Iowa, population schedule, Enumeration District (ED) 23, p. B (stamped), p. 6 (penned), dwelling 66, family 66, Jerry E. Elson; NARA microfilm T9, roll 326; ( accessed 13 Dec 2018).

[10] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records ( accessed 13 Dec 2018), Elson, Jerry E (Beadle County, South Dakota), Document Nr 3803, BLM Serial Nr SDMTAA 132761.

[11] South Dakota, Territorial Census, 1885, (>Rath*: last accessed 15 Dec 2018).

[12] “Death of Mr. Rathbun”(From Wednesday’s Daily), The Michell Capital, 02 Jan 1891, p 7, col 4; ( accessed 18 Nov 2018).

[13] 1880 U.S. census, Benton County, Iowa, population schedule, Enumeration District (ED) 23, p. D (stamped), p. 4 (penned), dwelling 33, family 33, Strange H. G. Rathbun; NARA microfilm T9, Roll 32); ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018).

[14] “1860 Census Index” compiled by the State of Iowa Historical Society, 2003; Historical Society Research Center of Iowa, Des Moines.

[15] 1850 U.S. census, Champaign County, Ohio, population schedule, Mechanicsburg Goshen T.P., dwelling 261, family 264, Harmon G Rathbun; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 665; ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018).

[16] Union County, Ohio, County Courthouses, reference 42, Strange H.G. Rathbun – Elzina Hill, 05 Sep 1839; image, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” (>Rathbun>Ohio: last accessed 15 Dec 2018); citing “County Courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 573,776.

[17] F.P. Rathbone (editor) with multiple contributors, The Rathbone Family Historian, Oberlin, Kansas, January 1893, Vol. II, No. 1, Page 13; Rathbun/Rathbone/Rathburn Resources ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018).

[18] Frank Rathbun, editor and publisher, Rathbun-Rathbone-Rathburn Family Historian, January 1994, page 11; Rathbun/Rathbone/Rathburn Resources (

[19] “Mary E Elson” tombstone photo and entry, ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018)

[20] “Other Deaths” (Sioux Falls, SD) Argus-Leader, 14 Jan 1911, p.1, col 6.

[21] South Dakota Vital Records Request, South Dakota Department of Health ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018).

[22] Davison County Register of Deeds’ Office, ( last accessed 15 Dec 2018).