So I wanted to get at something of the history of my grandfather, who almost undoubtedly had untreated PTSD, who could not make himself whole again and had no one whom he trusted to talk to except a quiet grandson. I wanted to do this as part of working with my father to put his family history together for what is perhaps the first time.
My grandmother Shelton’s family tree, the Keese and Summers line, is huge. They married young and often, had lots of children, intermarried distant and not-so-distant cousins, and in general would keep a professional genealogist busy for a long time. (Six Hardeman boys married six Keese girls over the years. And some of their kids married some other of their kids. It looks less like a tree than like kudzu.)
My grandfather Shelton’s line hit a brick wall very early on. I could take it back two generations, no more. We went from Ralph Sr. to Robert Thomas Shelton to Thomas W. Shelton, then the rest was silence. Thomas W. was born in Virginia and died in Plano, Texas. There are lots and lots of Sheltons in Virginia, and the men have a limited set of first names: they tend to be Thomas, William, Ralph, Robert, and Richard. Lather, rinse, repeat. The ur-Sheltons are English and in some instances come from Shelton, Norfolk, UK. They connect to the Boleyns, to Patrick Henry, to Meriwether Lewis. Not all of them were nice, or even sane, but they have an interesting history.
Which Thomas W. could not be connected to in any of the information I was collecting.
I’ve told several people that, in my amateur experience with it, online genealogy ranges from pinpoint accuracy to speculative fiction. People write down the wrong information. Boys lie about their ages to get into the military. Parentage is misrepresented to descendants. Some people want desperately to be descended from Charlemagne rather than from Charlie Smith. Look at the consternation over the acceptance of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sallie Hemings.
Still, I wanted to know if my small Shelton line connected to the bigger one, so I collected data on all of them I could find, especially the ones in Virginia. Oddly enough, I was related to them through other lines (those Hintons are everywhere!), just not directly.
Until I checked the 1870 census for Thomas W.
And there, in addition to his wife and children, were two older people in his household, both in their late 60s: Elizabeth and Theophilus Shelton.
I had a Theophilus in the Shelton lines. There was only one. The dates matched. If, as I assume, this was Thomas W.’s father, the lines connected.
That ticking noise you hear was the sound of a row of hundreds of dominoes falling over and landing in place.
Theophilus Quincy Shelton, meet your descendants. Hopefully. If I did this right.