Archive for the ‘Elliott / Mills’ Category

The question of where I am  from isn’t just about a geographical location.  I think it is also about the various influences that create the person I am becoming (yes, at my age, I am still “becoming”).  Those influences include such things as food, religion, education, hobbies, travel, and even music.  Maybe music isn’t as much of a “from” for other people, but it certainly has been for me.

I come from a family that loves music, especially on my mother’s side.  Mama sang to us as young children, we all sang in choirs at church, I was in chorus in high school, I took piano lessons forever ….  I just don’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of our lives.

At home, what you listened to depended on where you happened to be standing.  When Daddy had a project, I could wander into his work shed and hear the local country music station – Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Kitty Wells.  Inside the house was a different story.  Mama had albums from The Mamas & The Papas and Glen Campbell, while back in my room, Bobby Sherman, the Osmond Brothers and The Partridge Family had taken up residence.  Later, I invited in Olivia Newton-John, Rita Coolidge, Barbra Streisand, and a K-Tel album that introduced me to Eric Clapton.  My high school boyfriend listened to Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, and The Who’s “Tommy,” but I was also listening to Heart and The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.  Somehow, I discovered Broadway, and the soundtrack for “A Chorus Line” can still bring out the aspiring gypsy in me.  Along came disco, and things got weird for a while (however, I am still grateful for “Boogie Shoes”).  The 1980s brought me to a new wave of country (Willie Nelson, “Urban Cowboy”) and the CDs I bought in the late 80s and early 90s range from Clapton, Elton John, and Rod Stewart to Bette Midler, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and k.d. lang.  I think I officially “aged out” of pop music at some point in the 1990s, and here in the 2000s, I find myself drawn back to older music, although from new voices, like Michael Buble and Harry Connick, Jr.  “Someone To Watch Over Me” will put Jim and me on the dance floor every time, even where there *is* no dance floor.  These days, my car radio is set on the 1970s station, and I personally believe that if you don’t turn up “Born To Run” or “Born To Be Wild” when you are in your car, you should have your drivers license suspended.

So how does this have anything to do with “where I’m from?”  I can only answer that music has always been a huge part of my life, and a song can take me right back to a specific moment in time.    Elton John and Bette Midler eased my transition from Richmond to Atlanta after a broken heart.  Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings accompanied my mom, my step-father, my sibs and step-sibs and me to the beach on many long weekends in the Outer Banks.  Stevie Nicks and Ann and Nancy Wilson showed me that girls can rock and roll, too.  And that “high lonesome” sound of Hank Williams Sr. puts me right back under a big ol’ tree at my mother’s Aunt Mamie’s house, at a family reunion.

Picture a table absolutely groaning with food (note to self: another blog post waiting to happen), children and adults playing horseshoes and softball, kids in trees and on (and under) the front porch, a field lined with cars … and after we ate, a group of folks sitting around with guitars, with a banjo and (I think) a mandolin thrown in for good measure.  I knew things were getting good when the instruments came out, and I was right.

The musicianship was amazing, and the harmonies were tight.  In my memory, one song flows right into another, from folk to country, and they eventually got to the good stuff – the gospel songs – and every song was true and right.  I can still see their faces as they sang, and as I look back from the vantage point of adulthood, I see that those songs felt like that because the singers knew the One they were singing about, personally and without doubt.  When they sang about “a closer walk with thee,” it was because that’s what they really wanted.  When they sang about the “old rugged cross,” it would make you cry.  And when they sang about the circle being unbroken, it was.

That circle is where I’m from.  That’s my family’s genealogy.


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Family Pictures

Where am I from ?  What an easy question !  What a hard question ….

If I asked you where you are from, your first instinct would likely be to tell where you grew up, or maybe where you live now, depending on the context of the question.  But to a genealogist, even an amateur one like me, that question is loaded.  A genealogist hears not only “Where did you grow up?”, we also hear, “Where are your parents and grandparents from? What about THEIR parents and grandparents? Did your family originate in Europe? Asia? Africa? the Mideast? How did they get to America? When did they get to America? Why did they come to America?”  (At least, that’s what an American genealogist hears … I have no clue what a European/Asian/African/etc. genealogist hears!)

All my life, I was convinced I had Irish roots.  I mean, if you could see me, you’d agree … dark hair, light skin, a smattering of freckles (even at my age), green eyes.  SCREAMS Irish, doesn’t it?  Plus, once I read “Gone With The Wind,” I was convinced I was Irish.  Me and Scarlett (with her Irish father) … soul sisters for sure.  At some point, someone (not sure who) mentioned we were Scots-Irish, but at the time I (a) had no idea what that meant, and (b) cared only about the Irish part.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the dream died.  OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic.  The point is, as I began to explore my family’s heritage, I discovered that we are very, ummm … white bread.  Not a melting pot.  No hyphenated heritage.  Not a blend of anything, unless you consider a blend of various towns and villages from England to be a blend.  Yep, that’s right.  I’m as English as they come.  Both sides.  No forking of that part of my family tree … one straight trunk all the way deep into English soil.  Queen Elizabeth likely has more variants in her bloodlines than I do.  If Henry Louis Gates, Jr. were to search my tree, he’d fall asleep.  (If you have no idea who he is, let me recommend “Finding Your Roots” on PBS – fascinating stuff.)

I was so disappointed.

But then the questions began, and disappointment faded.  Why did William Stewardson come here from England in the first place?  What about Ralph Shelton?  And the more questions I had, the more interested I became.  How did the Childress family, the Pettit family, the Elliott family, and the Mills family come into the picture?  And how about the Noels? The Parkers?  The Drumhellers?  WHAAAAAT ??  Drumhellers??!!??  Look! Germans!  Oh, for heaven’s sake!  How did THEY get in here ???  I was making a point … I was on a roll !!

My point is this … even the most direct line has some surprises.  You may know about them, you may not.  But every single one of those people had something to do with you drawing breath as you read this.  The fun of genealogy is stumbling over those surprises, meeting those people (even if it’s only on paper), and figuring out where they lived, how they lived, and how they fit into your history and the history of their society, wherever it may be.

So one of my goals of this blog is to explore where I come from geographically.  Mostly, that answer is Virginia, Virginia, Virginia, England, England, England. And Germany. Maybe Scotland.  And (oh please oh please oh please) maybe even Ireland.

Next post … where in Virginia ?

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Four Generations

This is one of my all-time favorite photographs, for so many reasons.

Four Generations

First, there’s the obvious … four generations of women on my mother’s side of the family – what a gift to have this image.

Carrie Frances Mills Elliott – seated
Irma Frances Elliott Shelton – checked dress
Janet Arlene Shelton Stewardson – dark dress
and me … cute as a bug, right ?

Second, it makes me laugh.  Look at Grandma.  She does not look happy to be doing this at all.  Who knows? Maybe she wasn’t feeling well that day. I remember she wasn’t crazy about having her picture taken, so you kind of had to sneak up on her to get a good smile.  But, boy, when she smiled?  Best grandma face ever!  I could talk about her forever … the woman was born to be a grandma.  She was a lovely daughter, a terrific mother, and a great friend … but her gift, her reason for being put on this earth, was to be a grandma.  She cooked like a grandma, she sewed like a grandma, she told stories like a grandma, she grew flowers like a grandma, she spoiled us like a grandma, she hugged like a grandma, and she loved like a grandma.  Still – she didn’t like to have her picture taken.  Silly Grandma.  (Please note – my Grandma was not a giant … this was taken from an odd angle, probably to get us all in.)

Third, I like this because it’s really the clearest image in my head of my great-grandmother.  She died when I was barely 5 years old, so my memories are sketchy at best.  But they all look like this – a tiny little woman, with soft white hair and a serious smile.  My little sister is named for her, and was born the same year Granny died.  The only things I really know about her, I know because Mama tells me the stories.

Fourth, I like it because it gives me a real sense of how I came to be me.  I am exactly like them, and nothing like them.  I have characteristics of each of them, and of none of them.  When I look at these faces, they don’t just hold memories for me, they feel very “here and now,” even though two of them are gone.  They feel immediate and relevant and still influential on my character.  These women – particularly Grandma and Granny – are salt-of-the-earth women.  Their stories are very blue collar, hands in the soil, feet on the ground stories.  When I first began searching my family history, I thought those stories were boring, that they weren’t really stories at all.  I was wrong.  It’s a very solid place to stand, which has allowed my mother and me (and my brother and sister and my niece and nephews and cousins) to stretch and reach far beyond the boundaries of these women.

I think that’s what families are for, aren’t they ?  To ground us, teach us, bind us, and set us free.  And when I search our history, and find another name or place that connects me, I gain  insight and encouragement.

Hard to believe one little snapshot says all that, huh ??

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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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