Archive for the ‘Shelton’ Category

Jimmie Meace Shelton was born 101 years ago – March 2, 1912.  That seems very strange to me … 100 years … in my head, Grandaddy still looks like this:

Jimmie Meace Shelton

Jimmie Meace Shelton

He died in 2004, but I could have sworn it was only a couple of years ago.  That’s how big his presence still is in my life.

Grandaddy was the son of farmers, born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  His father was a farmer, and his grandfather was a farmer.  His grandfather, James Crewe Shelton, fought in the Civil War, although I never heard Grandaddy mention it.  They were all descended from a  rather prominent pre-Colonial Virginia family, who came over from England (as best I can tell) in the 1600s.  Grandaddy never mentioned that, either.

By the time Jimmie and his siblings came along, the Shelton family was pretty spread out and most were just salt-of-the-earth farmers, making a living for their families.  Jimmie was not even 10 when his father died, and eventually left school to help make ends meet for his family.  I don’t really know that much about him as a very young man – I know the Great Depression came along and he had to leave his immediate community to get work, and that he was part of the Civilian Conservation Corps formed by FDR in 1933 to help young, unmarried men find work and send money back to their families – of the $30 per month they made, $25 was sent directly to their families.  Grandaddy always thought Roosevelt was the greatest man America ever produced, and I can understand why he felt that way.

Jimmie and Irma Shelton

Jimmie and Irma Shelton

In 1934, Jimmie married Irma Frances Elliott, and they lived for a while in Prince Edward County, where my mom and her two brothers were born.  The family eventually moved to Richmond; Grandaddy became a long-distance truck driver; they moved to Vinton, Virginia, and later to Farmville.  They were building a house in Gum Springs, Virginia, when my grandmother died, and Grandaddy lived in that house until just before he died.

Lots of names, dates, places and history … and while all of that has a lot to do with what Grandaddy’s life was like, it doesn’t really tell you anything about who he was.

Jimmie Shelton traveled a lot because of his job, and saw a lot of this country during a turbulent time – the 1960s.  But he loved this country and took it very seriously.

Jimmie Shelton was a fantastic gardener – I think that might be the thing that all of his grandchildren remember first.  I remember his tomatoes — sweet, juicy, warm from the sun, and plentiful.  So plentiful, in fact, that one summer I ate so many I got a rash and had to give them up for a week.  He would experiment, too – for some reason, I remember the year he attempted to grow Swiss chard.  I think the name was funny to him, and then he discovered he loved the greens.

Jimmie Shelton had perhaps the healthiest digestive system I have ever known.  I know, weird, right ?  But I remember that he always took his time over every. single. bite. of every. single. meal.  Savored it.  Actually tasted it.  I don’t recall ever seeing him gulp down something in a hurry.  And I remember that with almost every meal – at least, every meal over which he had any control – he ate a small red or green hot pepper.  And?  The man never once had indigestion or heartburn.  Go figure.

My Grandaddy loved to laugh.  Loved a silly joke, loved a funny story, and loved to surprise people with goofy gifts.  Christmas Eve with my extended family almost always involved a very oddly-shaped vegetable given to one of his sons or to my dad or step-father – or maybe some weird thing he picked up on his travels that he found funny.

Grandaddy loved music, and had a high tenor voice that could make you cry.  He loved Johnny Cash and Hank Williams – Senior, if you please, not Junior … he didn’t have much nice to say about Hank Jr.

Jimmie Shelton loved his family, more than almost anything.  He had some issues as a young man that came between him and my grandmother for a while, but by the time I came along (their first grandchild), he and Grandma seemed to be real anchors of the family to me.  He was so very proud of his children, and reveled in his grandchildren.  He would have given any of us anything … you know, he actually did … he gave us everything.

Jimmie and Grandchildren

Jimmie and Grandchildren

The one thing Jimmie Shelton loved more than his family was his Lord.  He felt himself to be the recipient of such grace and kindness from God that he could not keep that to himself.  It was a very personal thing to him.  I’m not sure I ever heard him say the name of Jesus without saying “my” first … my Jesus.  God’s word was never far from Grandaddy’s hand, and a blessing never far from his lips.  I never saw that man worry – ever.  Not about anything.  If ever anyone in my experience was someone who trusted God, my grandfather was that person.  And when the time came for Grandaddy to walk into those everlasting arms, he did.  Unafraid and unburdened and sure …

Like I said … he gave us everything.

Happy birthday, Grandaddy … we miss you.


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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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So this was fun ….

We were on vacation a couple of weeks ago in the Outer Banks of North Carolina – Duck, to be specific.  We’re always reluctant to leave the house when we are there, because … I don’t know … the waves or the gulls or the sea oats might do something spectacular.  You have to watch them every second.  Anyway, we were on one of our rare jaunts into Duck and stopped at a favorite gourmet food and wine shop, Tommy’s.  If you know Tommy’s, you know why we go there.  If you don’t know Tommy’s, go there.  It was Tasting Tuesday at Tommy’s [don’t you love alliteration?], and we were making the rounds, tasting all the free snacks and goodies we could get our hands on.  We tasted hand-made chocolates (bought some), homemade pound cake (bought some), kettle corn (bought some) … you get the idea, right?  This is why Tommy’s has Tasting Tuesdays.  Mr. and Mrs. Tommy are smart folks.   We only went in for scallops – I swear.  That’s all we needed … scallops.

I turned a corner while Jim was investigating some beer.  Lo and behold, THESE were staring me in the face:

Shelton and Childress Wine

Now, for you non-cousin readers, you may not know why these are significant.  So let me tell you …  Shelton and Childress are family names to me.  My mother’s maiden name is Shelton, and my father’s mother’s  maiden name was Childress.  And there they were, sitting on the shelf, right next to each other.

I know what you’re thinking … did you buy them?

You bet we did !

When we got home, I promptly turned on what Jim calls “that magic divining machine,” and searched for info on the vineyards.  Here’s what I found:

Shelton Vineyards – http://www.sheltonvineyards.com/default.aspx?shelton=42

Owned by Charlie and Ed Shelton in Dobson, NC

Childress Vineyards – http://www.childressvineyards.com/home.asp

Owned by NASCAR owner Richard Childress, in Lexington, NC

I have no idea if I am related to Charlie, Ed, or Richard … but you can bet I’m going to try to figure it out.  In the meantime, I’m going to drink some nice wine, and wish I was back in Duck.  I *always* wish I was back in Duck.

Duck 2012

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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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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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