Patsy said she did not find much when searching for The O's mother-in-law. I don't know if she was serious or not because I felt I found a lot of information when I searched. There is even a book written about her ancestors, 'American Tapestry' just published last year. I remember reading about some of this when the O was elected the first time and being somewhat skeptical of the claims. But, after looking at some of the online data and Ancestry.com census records, I think the only claim that cannot be supported is the actual identity of the white man that fathered the slave girl’s children.
In 1940 Marian Shields, The O's mother-in-law is listed on the Chicago census with her father Purnell Shields, her mother Rebecca, Aunt Robbie Shields, and Grandmother Anna Coleman. Purnell Shields father was Robert Lee Shields of Birmingham, Alabama. Robert Lee Shields married Anna Lawson (or maybe Laws) in 1906 in Alabama.
They are living in this house in Chicago, according to this online article.
in this house.
If I remember correctly, Purnell Shields appears on one census records with Robert and Annie Shields in Alabama. Robert Lee Shields is a son of Dolphus Theodore Shields. Dolphus Shields was born a slave in Bartow County, County Georgia around 1859. He can be found on the 1870 Bartow County census living with his mother Melvina Shields. Melvina’s race is listed as Black and Dolphus is listed as Mulatto. I think this is all pretty much clear from the census and marriage records. What is not so clear is the father of Dolphus and Melvina’s other children. The author of the Tapestry book claims Charles Shields a white man listed on the 1870 census as head of the household next to Melvina is the father of her children. While this may be likely, it does not seem to be proven from the records I found. Prior to 1865, Charles Shields was Melvina’s owner.
Dolphus Shields and the mother of Robert Lee Shields were divorced and Dolphus went on to marry twice more. Whereas Mrs. O’s Shields family migrated to Chicago after 1920, Dolphus stayed in Alabama. He lived until 1950 and became a well known Baptist Minister locally. This is his Alabama family pictured below.
Melvina Shields, the former slave girl, can be found on the 1900 through 1930 census in Bartow County, Georgia with her son Henry Shields. By 1930, she was calling herself Mattie McGurder, but I found no record of a Mr. McGurder. She died in 1938 and is buried in the Kingston City Cemetery in Bartow County. What I did not find in my search, was a photo of Malvina ‘Mattie’ Shields McGurder. She lived until 1938, and was with family all those years. Surely there is a photo of her somewhere. If I were numbered among her descendants, a photo of Melvina would be what I would be searching for now.