Archive for June, 2012

Actually, the title should probably be, “Here’s What I THINK I Know.”  William Stewardson is a bit of a mystery.  I have enough tantalizing bits of information to let me know that I don’t really know anything … much.

Gravestone – William M. Stewardson

The stone says:  “Sacred to the Memory of William M. Stewardson of Westmoreland County, England Who departed this life January 23, 1851, Aged 72 years. If thou my Jesus still art nigh, Cheerful I live and cheerful die Secure when mortal comforts flee To find ten thousand worlds in thee.”

Based on this gravestone*, William M. Stewardson was born in 1778 in Little Asby, Westmorland County, England.  He died in 1851 in Nelson County, Virginia, USA.  In addition, I know that one of his sons was James A. Stewardson (perhaps named after William’s father?); James had a son, George William Beauregard Stewardson (how much do I love that name??); and George had a son, Harry Folsome Stewardson.  One of Harry’s sons is my father.  And then there’s me.

The earliest US census mention of William is (I think) from 1810, which shows William “Stuardson” living in Albemarle County, Virginia – thus, I think I know that William came here as a relatively young man, since he would have been 32 in 1810.  I know William married Sallie Wingfield in 1827 in Albemarle County, BUT his son James was born in 1821 in Nelson County, Virginia.  William had two other children, Jane and Mary Ann, who were both born before his marriage to Sallie, and he had six children with Sallie.  However, I can’t find any information on William’s first wife – no name, no date of her death, nothing.  All of William’s children were born here in the US as far as I can tell.

Here’s what I don’t know:

Who was William’s first wife?
Where were they married – in Virginia, or in England?
When and where did she die?  Why?

For me, one of the more intriguing questions is why did William come to Virginia in the first place?  According to research done by other Stewardson branches, the family in Little Asby had some prominence, and I don’t think William was the eldest, so perhaps he came to the new country to strike out on his own, create his own legacy.  He was listed as a farmer in the census forms (1810-1850), so I assume he wasn’t a businessman of any kind.  What brought him here?

The thing I’m learning is that “what I know” inevitably leads to a lot more of “what I don’t know.”  I can safely assume that half of what I’ve written above could be incorrect.  I haven’t been to Nelson County to search at the courthouse – all of the information I have found has been online.  What treasures are waiting for me in the archives of a small Virginia county?

I’d love to hear from someone with more about our family’s origins in Virginia.  If you have any information, give me a shout.

*Photo found at:  http://www.art-rageous.net/Stewardsonstones.html.  According to the photographer, this headstone (along with that of his daughter, Sarah) is located in Nelson County, Virginia, just east of the Rockfish Depot off of Rt. 617 on Silver Lane.


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When I began researching my mother’s family line, I was rolling right along, because her family was the one I knew the most about.  My mother’s maiden name? check – Janet Shelton.  Her mother’s maiden name? check – Irma Frances Elliott [who would absolutely kill me for putting that on the internet, if she had lived long enough to encounter the internet].  Her mother’s maiden name? check – Carrie Frances Mills.  I figured that was enough information to really kick off that branch of the tree, so I started filling in the blanks on Ancestry.com and watching all of those little leaves pop up and start waving for my attention.  I didn’t know the name of Carrie’s mother, but it didn’t take long to find it.  Pocahontas Ann Elliott … wait, WHAT???? [insert sound of screeching brakes here]  POCAHONTAS ???

That can’t be right – I never heard that – ever – not even a hint!  So I started following some of those little leaves, and every single one of them led to the same conclusion:  my great-great-grandmother’s name was Pocahontas Ann Elliott [a distant cousin to the Elliotts her daughter eventually married].  I found U.S. census records and even a couple of other Ancestry trees that seemed to confirm it.  Pocahontas Ann Elliott, born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in 1857 —  I could not WAIT to call my mother.

“Mom!  You never told me your great-grandmother’s name was Pocahontas!”
“It wasn’t – that’s silly.”
“Yes it was … I found it on-line.”
“Then you found the wrong person.  I never heard that in all my life.”
“I’m not kidding. She’s listed in census forms and everything.”
“I am absolutely certain that’s the wrong person.  No one ever, ever told me my great-grandmother’s mother was named Pocahontas, and I know my grandmother would have mentioned something like that.”
“But Mama …”
“Nope – it’s the wrong person.  Keep looking. ”

So I did.  I ordered records from the Virginia Department of Vital Records.  The birth certificate of Carrie Frances Mills lists her mother as Pocahontas Ann Elliott.  There is a birth certificate for Pocahontas Ann Elliott, listing the same parents I had found for her – Samuel L. Elliott and Nancy Hutson Elliott.  There is also a marriage certificate showing Pocahontas Ann Elliott marrying John Henry Mills.  Yep – it all checked out.  I could not WAIT to call my mother.

“Mom! HA! I was RIGHT!”  [I *LOVE* to be right.  Ask my husband.]
“Right about what?”
“Your great-grandmother’s name was Pocahontas Ann Elliott Mills.”
“I don’t think so.”
“I have documents that prove it,” and told her about them in detail.
“Well … then I guess it has to be right.  Wonder why nobody ever told me?”

We still have no idea where the name came from, or why she was named that.  Her brothers have perfectly normal names – John and William.  I assume she may have been called Ann, but she is not listed as Ann in anything I can find – it all says Pocahontas.  I know she’s not related to THE Pocahontas (of Virginia history fame), but Samuel and Nancy obviously liked the name enough to tag their daughter with it.

I don’t have any pictures of her, but am trying to coordinate with some of Mama’s cousins to figure it out and see if anyone has a photo.  I’m also not certain where she is buried – I’m dying to know what her gravestone says.  In fact, I don’t even know when she died.  She was in the 1900 U.S. census, but I don’t see anything after that.

Still … Pocahontas.  Terribly cool.

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I’m 500 miles away from my Daddy today, but we’ll talk, as many fathers and daughters do.  We’ll catch up on what we’ve both been up to, how he’s feeling, and what the weather is like up there and down here.  I’ll tell him about our trip to New York, and he’ll listen politely, probably thinking that he’s glad he didn’t have to go.  He’ll ask when I’m coming home, and I’ll tell him I’m not sure, but I hope it’s soon — and I do.  I’ll tell him I’m not coming unless he promises to make his special ribs, and he’ll chuckle.

My daddy does so many things well.  He’s still, at age 80, great with his hands.  He does woodworking, takes care of their house, and has discovered late in life that he’s a fantastic “grill chef” – ha!  He was always like that – when he decided he wanted to do something, he’d study it, talk to people who did it, and figure it out … then do it.  I think my brother and sister and I all inherited a bit of that.  My brother does it with cars and house stuff, I’ve done it with jewelry and genealogy, and my sister does it in raising an amazing kid.  As we were growing up, Daddy built us swings, repaired our bikes, took us camping, introduced us to the Outer Banks, and loved us a lot.  Life came along and shook things up a bit, but none of that changes the fact that our childhood featured a father who was present and loved us, and he still does.  I love you, too, Daddy.

I also want to remember my father-in-law today.  He passed away last summer, after several declining years with Alzheimer’s.  I only had the privilege of knowing him for about 20 years, but those 20 years were a gift.  He was a gentle man, and a gentleman.  He loved baseball and a good laugh.  And he adored his son … so do I.  We miss you, Bill.

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As I mentioned on my other new blog* (because, really, you can never have too many, right?), one of the very first discoveries I made when I began researching my family’s history was a photograph of my great-great-grandfather, James Crew Shelton (1844-1923), of Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  I was in the midst of posting information on Ancestry.com, when one of those little shaking leaves popped up and seemed awfully persistent.  I clicked, and among the listed hints was a link to a photograph:

James Crew Shelton

GULP! He appears to be a right fierce old gentleman, doesn’t he?  And if I look very closely, I can see the features of his grandson, my grandfather … Jimmie Meace Shelton.  The person who had posted the photograph was generous enough to let me copy it to my tree, but was uncertain where she had gotten it.  All she knew was that she had found the image online.  I would love to credit the owner of the original, but don’t know who that is.  So, if you are in our Shelton family, and this is your original photograph, I’d love to get in touch, and I would also love to know if you have any other photographs from that generation, because this one is wonderful !!

I think that discovery was the moment I was officially hooked on this process.  I dabbled in some on-line genealogy several years ago, but it was all so new.  I must admit, I am a sucker for instant gratification, and the sheer volume of information we can tap into now is amazing.  However, all of this available information on-line has made me want to dig around in old courthouses and archives, and get my hands on “real paper.”  The online images are terrific and I’ve learned so much already, but to actually see a document that was produced in the life of someone who is responsible for me being here … that would be a goose-bump moment for sure.

So when I hit those brick walls – and boy, have I hit some doozies! – I remember the goose-bump moments and it is enough to keep me digging.  I’ll share some of them here, as I go along.  And if we’re related, I hope you’ll reach out and share some of yours with me, too.


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“Cousin bait” … I love it !!  When I began working on my family’s history a little over a year ago, I began reading several genealogy blogs, and ran across that phrase a lot … cousin bait.  Typically, it’s about putting information out there so it can be found by cousins you haven’t met yet.  So here we go … straight and to the point:

If your last name is Stewardson, Shelton, Childress, Pettit, Elliott, or Mills, and you are from Virginia, get in touch.  Let’s share what we have, what we know, what we don’t know, and what seems odd.  Other names of interest include Drumheller, Noel, Saunders, Leadbetter, Parker, Hines, McGhee, and Crider.

And don’t even get me started on the in-laws … Marion, Brown, Hazel, Hatfield, Hancock, Hopkins, Clements, Henning, Montgomery, Wiise, McFarland . . . .  well, okay, but save it for another post.

I’ll blog about what I’ve found, what I’m looking for, where I think it is, where it wasn’t, and how frustrating it is to try to search Virginia roots while living in Georgia.

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