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Biographies and Histories

    The History of the Shinn Family in Europe and America

    John R. Shinn

    Heman Doyle Shinn: 1, 2, 3

    Elmer John Shinn, Sr.

    The Shinn Ranch of San Joaquin County, CA  

    The Denver J. Shinn Family of El Dorado County, CA


    John Shinn Store Ledger

    John R. Shinn’s 1850 Journal

    Land Deeds for the Shinn and Doyle Properties in California

    Map of the Route Taken By John R. Shinn in 1850


Allied Surnames

  Haller | Snedigar | Bancroft | Atwell & Detert | Deviny | Lyons

  J. Pittman | D. Pittman | Keeler | Smith | Whitehouse

Related Surnames

  Healey | Tock | Doyle



~Shinn Family History~

Early History


From The History of the Shinn Family in Europe and America by Josiah H. Shinn

Note: I have a copy of the whole book.  I do not plan on uploading or transcribing any more of the book beyond what is listed above and various snippets throughout this section.  However, if you e-mail me I will be more than happy to scan and send copies of whatever pages you want.  I’d also be willing to do look-ups in the book for various names if you’d like.  My e-mail is on the home page of this website, a link to that page is above.



The Shinn Family in New Jersey: Generations


Taken from The History of the Shinn Family in Europe and America by Josiah H. Shinn:


"John, third child of John and Jane (Herbert) Shinn, born in New Hanover Twp., Burlington County, New Jersey, 12/8/1785; married Elizabeth Asay in Monmouth County, 11/1/1809, and moved to Mansfield Twp., Burlington County, New Jersey. The following is the record of children as taken from the Bible of his daughter-in-law, Hannah (Lyons) Shinn. John died 12/20/1840, near Georgetown, New Jersey. Elizabeth died 7/26/1863." Children:


John Irick Shinn

b. 8/9/1810, m. Hannah Lyons Wilbur

Mary Shinn

b. 6/26/1812, m. James Pittman

Charlotte Shinn

b. 10/20/1814, m. Samuel Whitehouse

Jane S. Shinn

b. 10/8/1816, m. James Deviny

Sarah Shinn

b. 9/1/1818

Hannah Shinn

b. 3/11/1821, m. Daniel Pittman

John Shinn

b. 4/21/1823, m. Mariah Adelaide Doyle

Edith Shinn

b. 8/28/1825, m. Chalkley Keeler

Jacob Asay Shinn

b. 8/28/1829


California History


Note: To view a map of the route John R. Shinn took (as documented in his diary) to California, please click HERE.


About 150 years after the John Shinn family first came to "the new world" on board the ship Kent, another adventurous John Shinn was born. John R. Shinn was born in 1823 in the Burlington area of New Jersey, the seventh of John and Elizabeth Asay Shinn's children. John R. was Panning for gold on the Mokelumneevidently a restless soul, even before his trip to California (as documented by his 1848 Bible, bought in Indiana). And, perhaps there was a falling-out or some kind of unhappiness at home which helped inspire him to go to California since there was no known communication between him and his New Jersey relatives after his emigration (and seen in the fact that in the book "The Shinn Family in Europe and America" by Josiah Shinn, there is no mention of John R. beyond that he "went to California."

Whatever the reason for his relocation, when news of the California gold rush reached the east coast in 1849, he joined a wagon train and went west. John R. actually made two trips west, one in 1850 and another a few years later after he had married and had a son in New Jersey. On the first of his trips, he kept a diary, meant as a guide for other wagon trains. His entries are more about the horticulture and terrain of the land they crossed as John R. was a farmer (this being his reason for going to California to begin with). Amongst his fellow travelers on this first trip was Heman Doyle, a New York lawyer who would later become John R.'s father-in-law and a prominent lawyer in early Nevada and Northern California (even serving as the first DA for Douglas County, Nevada). The journey west and the diary really begin on May 24th, 1850 with the wagon train crossing the Missouri River and starting their four month trek.

The party followed the Platte River through Nebraska to where it divided at the town of North Platte. They then took the North Platte River, stopping at Scotts Bluff and Fort Laramie along the way. The party continued through much of present day Wyoming, eventually turning south-west and following the Sweetwater River to the Uinta Mountains in Utah. They followed these mountains to Salt Lake where they stayed for a few days to rest and regain strength for the trip across the Sierras still ahead. The party left Salt Lake and crossed the Salt Lake Desert between August 13th and 14th, 1850 during a 27 hour span and covering 80 miles. The party reached Pilots Peak, Nevada on August 28 and separated. John R.'s party then crossed Donner Pass and followed the Humboldt River to Truckee River, following this through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At Nevada City, not too far from where he would settle, John R. ended his diary on October 1st, 1850. At the end of his diary is written a passage from the poem Lament of the Irish Emigrant:

"I'M sittin' on the stile, Mary,

Where we sat side by side

On a bright May mornin' long ago,

When first you were my bride;

The corn was springin' fresh and green,

And the lark sang loud and high-

And the red was on your lip, Mary,

And the love-light in your eye.


The place is little changed, Mary,

The day is bright as then,

The lark's loud song is in my ear,

And the corn is green again..."

The journey was not an easy one, but certainly interesting to read about. Lightning storms, loose cattle and stampedes occurred and graves and animal remains were common to see along the way also, especially in desert and cholera stricken areas. However, the Indians along the way were pretty harmless and mostly ignored the party, though some were said to be "pesky beggars" and others would occasionally steal or shoot the horses and cattle. If anything, the terrain was the roughest part of the journey as the party had to cross many rivers, mountain ranges and deserts along the way and usually at a pace of 18 to 25 miles a day, grueling to be sure, especially in a covered wagon or on horseback in the summer heat.

What We Have, We Hold

Though the trip was successful, John R. only remained in California for a short time before he returned to New Jersey where he married Mariah Adelaide Doyle, the eldest of Heman and Alzina Jackman Doyle's three daughters. Not long after, their first child, Heman Doyle Shinn or H.D., was born on December 8th 1853 in New Jersey. In 1854, John R. sent Mariah and the baby west through the Isthmus route while he went west by land again. For a short time after his arrival, he lived in Hangtown (now Placerville) where he did some gold mining.  However, in the same year of 1854, he came to San Joaquin County and set up his farm which is the present day Shinn Ranch, originally 400 acres.

John R. and his family resided on the homestead until his death in 1867 from either malaria or typhoid. John R.'s death at the relatively young age of 44 left his wife Mariah to raise their family and keep the homestead on her own. Mariah and her young son Heman, had their work cut out for them keeping the homestead going in the early years, especially with claim jumpers and Paiute (referred to as the Digger tribe) camping on the land. Heman even had to sleep on different plots of land every night to win the homesteading rights. Under Heman, the ranch blossomed and grew, producing many different types of products with the newly imported Tokay grape vineyards the focus of the farm.

Heman married Emma Sophia Tock on his 21st birthday, December 8th, 1874. They would go on to have three children, two daughters and a son who would take over the farm after Heman, Elmer John. Elmer John married Gladys Viola Healey a "city girl" from San Francisco on December 9th, 1922, when he was 45 and she was about 24. They would go on to have four children, some of whose descendents would go on to work the homestead. The ranch, though changed, has endured and remained in the family for over 150 years, proving the family motto, "What we have, we hold," true indeed.

The Shinn Family in California: Generations

John R. and Mariah Doyle Shinn had the following children:

Heman Doyle Shinn

B. 8 Dec 1853, M. Emma Sophia Tock

Denver Judson Shinn

B. 4 Jan 1859, M. Servilla Hallor (also spelled Haller)

Ida Mae Shinn

B. 12 Aug 1867, M. Robert O. Snedigar


Heman D. and Emma Tock Shinn had the following children:

Flora Mae Shinn

B. 18 Dec 1875, M. George Mason Bancroft

Elmer John Shinn

B. 5 Sept 1877, M. Gladys Viola Healey

Bessie Shinn

B. 10 Oct 1888, M. Clarence Atwell, M. Delmar Detert


Elmer and Gladys Healey Shinn had four children, one

of whom was my grandfather who married a Berger,

thus explaining my inclusion of the Berger and Wellons

lines on this website.

(c) Shinn Collective 2008, 2009

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