Slaton Surname Confounders

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Surnames/tags: Slaton Staton
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The following text was extracted and lightly edited for clarity here at WikiTree by Clinton Slayton from his book: Slayton, Slaton, Slatton, Slayden, Slayton, Slaten, Sladen: A book of (mostly) questions with a few answers about (mostly) North American families. This book is a work-in-progress and past and future editions might differ slightly.

Statons, Slatters, Seatons, Haydens, and Claytons, and an uncomfortable possibility

The vagaries of old ink and hand-writing have bedeviled all researchers, but the existence of similar family names is not merely a nuisance for Slaton research (as we are for Statons and similar research targets). It undermines confidence in the interpretation of dozens of written records.

When non-standard spelling was the standard, and clarity of writing was sometimes sacrificed for “beautiful hand,” how many infants, orphans and corpses have been grafted onto another line of research by a clerk’s notation? Because the party most concerned is usually not in a position to testify, we are at the mercy of an informant. Brides and grooms with some level of literacy should have a slightly better chance of enforcing accuracy, by dint of “being there,” one would hope. But that is no guarantee. A 1921 Scott County, Tennessee marriage registry (Fig. 1) shows an unambiguous John R. Slaten marrying Zadie Thomas. His residence in Snow, Clinton County, is shown on his Kentucky death certificate (Fig 2.) which is ambiguous in all instances of the surname. But continuing research showed him as Staton and apparently, they took the liberty of burying him under that name. (Many border families tell of over the-border marriages as being more “convenient,” presumably because of less stringent requirements for parental consent or other reasons of expediency.)

Early records suggest that Statons seem to have settled in places noted for Roman Catholicism where Slatons do not seem to be in evidence. On the other hand, the Virginia county of Amherst, formed from “parent” county Albemarle, where a few Slattens are found, shows records for dozens of Statons. The Slatters are not easily discernible from Slattens in manuscript records. Haydens have been fairly discernible and are not as greatly in evidence as the above-mentioned names in the same locations as Slaydens. However, both Slatons and Clatons/Claytons are found in key locations: Hanover County, Virginia; Surry County, North Carolina; and Pendleton and Greenville counties, South Carolina. Also, the surnames Shatten and Shatteen follow a similar migration; they always give pause, always create doubt.

A careless cross or lack of a cross on some letters, a crowding of initial consonants, or an indistinct terminal letter can yank anyone off of one family tree and onto another. Most any vowel or consonant could “shift” into something else in hand-writing. The combination of the first two cursive letters “Sl” bears a resemblance to cursive letterforms for K, G, and especially H. The slight exaggeration of the second letter of Seaton can lead researchers down a rabbit-hole. Slay, Slayde and Slate are common in Virginia records and of course, catch the eye for further examination.

This points to the importance of seeing manuscript, despite the possibility that even those sources are incorrect or could be interpreted different ways. With transcribed sources we are removed from the interpretive process, just as we are with access to handwritten sources only through digital indexes. Did the indexer get it right?

Written records can lead to all kinds of misinterpretation, dependent on the handwriting and much-hoped-for literacy of the writer. In 1870 North America, not everyone wanted to be found and enumerated in census, and many were essentially homeless. On the other hand, formerly enslaved people are first enumerated as fully-named citizens. Where did their full names come from? Many descendants will never know unless DNA provides clues.

The growth of cities and proliferation of counties led to all sorts of chicanery, with duplicate entries “padding the beats” (falsely reporting population of the voting districts). And with the growth of railroading, the loss of most of the 1890 U.S. census was a double whammy, because increased mobility allowed the dispersion of family members. Some itinerant family men were working on the railroads or seeking employment alone in the cities. Because of this census “hole,” some individuals in the 1900 census will be “floaters” with no identifiable parents from 1880 census clues, requiring sometimes questionable vital or bible records or family correspondence to suggest parentage.

We cannot overlook the idea that any surname line based on written records could be the result of a mistake or a purposeful alteration. This is especially true for those whose names were recorded when they were children. An uncorrected alteration could follow an individual until death. I suspect that my surname was intentionally altered from Slatton to Slayton, but could any young child left without parents ever know their “correct” surname? For many genealogists and descendants, it doesn’t bear thinking about, but any family surname might have been uprooted by alteration to another name with a totally different origin and used today. When we get into records mentioning Amherst County, Virginia and Adair County, Kentucky, your head might spin when I mention that dozens of records for Staton are found there, in close proximity to records that could be interpreted as Slaton or Slatten.

[I cannot leave this subject without] paying tribute to the late Rev. John Samuel Staton (1907-1991). His Staton History constituted a type-written labor of love.[1] The index is virtually unusable, and . . . mistakes were made. The early connections to Staunton seem questionable, but the compilation of American information allows researchers to see continuations of Statons that might be clearly recorded elsewhere as Slaton or Slayton. John’s widow Allene continued to sell her “shedload” of these volumes until her death. We await an update by someone as diligent as Rev. John. [2]

This profile is part of the Slaton Name Study.

Research Notes and Butler County, Kentucky example

There are several counties where both both Slatons and Statons appear in records, confusing the interpretations of the individuals. This was notable in the Albemarle/Amherst cos area of Virginia, Hall County, Georgia, and much of north Alabama and Arkansas. Examples on this page are from Kentucky.

The images show a John Slaten [sic] marrying in Tennessee and dying as a Staton in Kentucky.

Census records reveal an early presence of Statons in Butler County, Kentucky, where Ambrose Slaton's son, William O., settled in the mid-19th century. Two John Statons were enumerated in Butler County in each of the 1810 and 1820 Censuses. [3] [4] [5] Continuations there show the common given names John, William, and less common, Hiram, all of which are all known to occur in the Slaton/Slatton patriline as well. One of these men was likely the John Staton who signed his last will and testament in Butler County in 1838, and who died by November 1841. [6] Note that William M. Staton lived in Butler County during the same period as William O. Slatton. Researchers need to be especially mindful of the need to be aware of other similar surnames and families that can easily be transposed across family lines.

It is also possible that the same problems come into play in Europe and the Middle East, where Sladen, Slaton, Sladin, and Sladden are seen as well as Staden Staton, Stadin and Stadden.


  1. John Staton, Staton History (Charlotte, N.C.: Delmar, 1982).
  2. Clinton Slayton, Slaton, Slatton, Slayden, Slayton, Slaten, Sladen: A book of (mostly) questions with a few answers about (mostly) North American families, self-published, July 2020, Lexington, Kentucky, page 17 of this edition.
  3. "United States Census, 1810," database with images, FamilySearch Household of John Slaton, Kentucky > Butler > Not Stated > image 8 of 9; citing NARA microfilm publication M252, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  4. "United States Census, 1820," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 July 2015), Kentucky > Butler > Morgantown > image 11 of 13; citing NARA microfilm publication M33, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  5. "United States Census, 1820," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 July 2015), Kentucky > Butler > Morgantown > image 12 of 13; citing NARA microfilm publication M33, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  6. "Kentucky Probate Records, 1727-1990," database with images, FamilySearch Last Will and Testament of John Staton, Butler > Will records, 1813-1853, Vol. 1 > image 65 of 125; county courthouses, Kentucky.

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