Thomas J. Brooks, second from left
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.—F. Scott Fitzgerald
Whoa, horsie! Whoa, horsie! Please whoa, horsie!—Yosemite Sam
This is an interesting week in the family history saga. I seem to be alternating between lines that run hard into a brick wall, and lines that show no sign of ending. I’m working backward from the known to the unknown ancestors, and some of them are showing up and some of them aren’t. As a rank amateur at this stuff, I look at a combined list of 9600+ with great trepidation: who are all these people, and just how many ancestors can I have?
Well, of course, lots. Powers of 2. We are at least theoretically talking about the exponential increase from 1 person to 2 to…too many for a house party. I’m working with 27th great-grandparents right now. Theoretically, I should have 134,217,728 in the 27th generation back, or 268,435,456 in the 28th. That makes the 9600+ group I have look pathetic. Of course, humans being what they are, especially in isolated areas with attractive cousins, the math is not that clean and the numbers are not that large. There are more common ancestors than we realize. And that’s complicated further by the accuracy of genealogical records, which can range from pinpoint perfection to speculative fiction. Still, it's clear that I don't have much of the picture, which tends to emerge 2 people at a time.
6 March 1954: We just celebrated the 58th wedding anniversary of Ralph and Shirley Shelton. This is also the date of the final fall of the Alamo, but never mind. 58 years ago these two kids, finishing up their degrees, booked First Methodist Church in Lubbock and made it official. This year, thanks to sister Laura, they duded up in their best clothes and went to a La Traviata concert performance.
Ralph and Shirley, if I’ve done the genealogy right, have a common ancestor, making them many-generations-removed cousins. (NB: if you ever discover something like this in your own family, do not announce it to your parents by calling them Aunt Mom and Uncle Dad. The ensuing conversation will be a bit tense. This is the voice of experience here. Besides, what does that make me?) Both are descended from the Hinton line. Shirley’s maternal great-grandfather, John Hinton Walker, is part of an unbroken line of Hintons that goes back to Ulbert Dehynton in England sometime around 1000.
Skip to 1574, when Thomas Hinton is born in Suffolk. Thomas marries Catherine Palmer in 1595. Of this marriage, there are two siblings of interest here: John (1603-1682), who is a direct ancestor of my mother on the maternal side, the Walker family, and Mary Francis Hinton (Matthews) (1601-1675), who is a direct ancestor of my father’s maternal line, the Summers family. Thomas is my 11th great-grandfather; Mary is my 10th great-grandmother; you can work out the cousinage for yourself.
8 March 1790: John Hinton’s great-great grandson, Uriah Hinton Blanchard, dies in Chowan, North Carolina. His grandfather William came over from England and apparently liked the look of the Carolina countryside. Uriah (another Name You Just Don’t Hear Any More) lived there his whole life. Not until the 19th century would the south-and-west wanderlust take the Blanchards out of North Carolina and on to Mississippi and Oklahoma.
8 March 1907: Thomas W. Shelton dies in Plano, Texas, at the age of 78. He is buried there at Plano Mutual Cemetery. Thomas is one of my most frustrating brick walls. He was born in Virginia (a hotbed of Sheltons) in 1828, but so far I have no record of his ancestry. By 1850 he is in Kentucky, where in 1853 he marries Lydia Theresa Rowland. Her line goes back forever, deep into Viking territory, but his stops at his birth. There are other Sheltons that enter—of all things—the Hinton line (those Hintons!) in the 1100s, but so far I have not made these lines connect. Thomas farmed in Collin County, Texas; his son became a lawyer and judge in Plano. A newspaper article about him published 2 years before his death describes him thus: “Mr Shelton is now advanced in years, so also is his long life companion. In quietude and contentment they are waiting, on a pleasant evening, till the sun of life goes down and they, as nearly all their contemporaries have done, will make the last removal, that of going to the country sought by all the good of ages.”
10 March 1910: Thomas J. Brooks dies in McLean, Texas, at the age of 59. The wanderlust was strong in this one. His ancestry is also not known; we hit the brick wall hard here. He may have been adopted. Thomas moved from Georgia to South Carolina to Arkansas by the time he was 20. He married Sarah Catherine Wren there and moved on to Texas. They raised 12 children, of whom my great-grandfather Joseph Newton Brooks was the fourth and Art Brooks was the second.
There is a DNA project to track down the related male Brooks family members. Maybe there will be an answer to his ancestry. Maybe there will be two.