"Pioneers of My People"

Digging for Family Roots

By BethShelby

As long as I can remember I was interested in learning about what my kin who lived before me were like. I was fortunate enough to grow up with three grandparents. My dad’s parents lived in the next house over, and my mother’s mother lived with us most of the time.  Her dad had passed away several months before I was born. 

Neither my mom nor dad knew their grandparents, so their knowledge of the past was limited. From my grandparents, I constantly begged for stories from their memory. I got a pretty good view of what life was like in the early days of the twentieth century and who their parents were, but very little information going further back than that. 

I did have an aunt who was interested enough in her roots to hire a professional genealogist to trace her Davis line. Although some of what she learned proved later to contain errors, she was thrilled to report to the family she had learned "none of our ancestors had hung by their necks or their tails." I later learned she’d been misinformed, because one of our distant cousins was hanged by his neck when he sought revenge for the death of his son at the hands of the local sheriff. Darwin might have disagreed about those he felt hung by their tails, but that is not an argument I would care to engage in.

When I got my first computer and purchased a genealogical program, enabling me to organize names and dates, a whole new world of knowledge opened up. was free back then, and putting the names into the computer program gave me insights into generations of my own family stretching back years. 

We have the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Utah to thank for so much knowledge being available on the computer. Their members are encouraged to trace their own ancestors and as many other people’s as possible back as far as they can go. The reasoning behind this practice has something to do with a ritual they engage in called “baptism for the dead.” Their belief is baptism is necessary for salvation and perhaps those in the past were unaware and God has provided a way for them to be saved. It is their purpose to make sure those who have gone before aren’t excluded from rewards of heaven. 

In Salt Lake City, the church contains the most extensive databank in the world of the names and dates of those who have lived before. This doesn’t mean all of the information is correct because those who put it into the database are not infallible. When accessing this information, you need to be aware it is only as accurate as the knowledge of those who placed it there. When DNA testing began, the information became a lot more accurate and will continue to improve over time. 

As far as what I have learned about my own family, it is hard to say which facts are the most interesting or impressive. I was surprised to find there were good records kept when the early colonists first came to America. Maybe because there weren’t so many people to keep up with back then, it was easier. Some of the early settlers were writers, who recorded stories for historical records. 

I was able to trace one of my lines accurately back to Jamestown, and it was exciting to realize that in the first colony there were five people who arrived on the Mayflower who were a part of my family line. It addition there was a great story about how one of my ancestors fell from the boat and nearly drowned.

Apparently, when someone becomes well known, like a president of the US, their family lines are sure to be traced back. I was surprised to learn that all of our presidents were found to have royalty somewhere in one of their family lines. I thought it strange, and wondered if some type of conspiracy might be behind it. Perhaps, only certain special people could ever stand a chance of becoming president.

Later when tracing back my own lines, I realized by six generations back, we have over a hundred lines. This is because the number of individuals in our ancestry doubles each generation we go back. With so many lines, it is likely all of us might discover more than one line containing royalty. Many of the first settlers who came here were from wealthy families. Some came to escape persecution. All of them seem to take the Biblical commandment to "go forth and multiply" seriously.

If you study the history of Europe, you might note how many members of the royal family ended up having their heads chopped off. You can’t much blame them for fleeing to a new land. I’ve found a lot of my lines go back to lords and ladies or counts and countesses and some to the sons or daughters of a king. So far, I’ve found none of them in direct line for the throne. I’ll keep looking. 

One of my family lines belonged to a Quaker group, and they also kept very accurate records. The Quakers made friends with the Indians and managed to convert some to Christianity. They often took orphaned Indian children in as family. Records show some in my line as having Native American blood, but I’ve not been able to prove that with my DNA. I’m not convinced Ancestry has tested the Native American blood as much as they have other groups. Until I can confirm it, I can’t share the interesting stories I’ve learned about what might be my Native American ancestors.

One thing I did learn is that I have a second cousin who is afraid to find out how she is related. Learning the truth might prove embarrassing for her family since it means the person, she has always believed to be her father, isn’t. It also means one of my cousins may have strayed into territory where he shouldn’t have been. Some stories are best left untold.

Prologue: Pioneers of My People

By BethShelby

Prologue: Pioneer of My People
My Interest in genealogy has prompted me to want to preserve as much as I can about those people of bygone eras whose DNA flows through my veins.

This book will contain, not only stories about those people whom I only know about from what I’ve been told, but also those I knew personally during the years when I was growing up. I find it alarming that we can live our lives out on this earth, and unless we achieve something notable, our memory only lasts until those who knew us best have passed from the scene.

I hope those of my family and others who have an interest the history of how the people lived in the early days of America and what might have prompted them to leave Europe and take the long journey to a new land might find this book worth reading.


Chapter 1
A Simple Hero

By BethShelby

My father’s side of the family came to this country in the late 1700’s from Northern Ireland, as part of a group headed up by a Presbyterian minister. The little group started a church and settlement around an area known as Fishing Creek in South Carolina. According to what I’ve learned since, the Weir family had originally been French, and the name was changed from de Ver to Weir. They fled to Scotland and later Ireland to escape religious persecution during the French Revolution. The original John Weir was my grandfather, 3X removed. Like most of the new settlers, the family became landowners and farmers.

My line of Weirs left South Carolina and moved to Alabama and then on to Mississippi to homestead government land once belonging to the Choctaw Tribe and available as a result of the Treaty of Rabbit Creek. My great-grandfather started a grist mill with a waterwheel on the banks of a small lake. My grandfather and one of his brothers continued operating grist mills, using gasoline engines, rather than water.

Grandpa was already sixty-three when I was born, and my grandmother was ten years younger. Early on, he became the hero of my young life. I earned his deep affection by being his only grandchild. He had little money to spoil me by buying things, but he showered me with attention. For this reason, I adored him, and the feeling was mutual.

My grandparents lived a few minutes walking distance from our house, so I spent almost as much time with them as in my own home. Our houses were on a dirt road running along a thirty acre tract of land a mile out of the small town where my dad managed a grocery store.

Grandpa had a tall gaunt frame. His usual attire was a long-sleeved blue shirt and tan pants held up by wide suspenders and brogan work shoes. He had a hooked nose, pale blue eyes and thinning gray hair. He shaved daily using a straight razor and a wash pan of warm soapy water. To me, his facial features resembled pictures of Abraham Lincoln, but he was less than flattered when I told him that. His father served as a Lieutenant in the Confederate Army and was captured during the Civil War. He didn’t regard Lincoln as a friend of the South.

Grandpa suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and walked with a cane. In spite of his infirmities, he stayed active running his gristmill, plowing his fields, making cane syrup, keeping bees, chopping wood, and butchering hogs for meat. The remaining meat, which wasn’t ground into sausage, was salted down and suspended in a smokehouse he had constructed. 

Their unpainted frame house was heated by one fireplace in the room where they slept. A long wide hall separated the four large square rooms. At the end of the hall was a large dining room and tiny kitchen where Grandma cooked three meals a day on an iron wood-burning stove. I loved that old house. I loved the sound of rain on the tin roof and the loud ticking of the mantle clock. I was fascinated by the notion he and Grandma lived like pioneers, keeping off the grid and requiring little other than what their small farm provided.

They weren’t bothered by the fact there was no indoor plumbing. They had a well with an iron hand pump in the back yard and a two-seater outhouse stocked with last year’s Sears Roebuck catalog. I never understood why people carved out more than one seat for an outdoor toilet, when taking care of needs so personal isn’t a group activity.

He owned 70 more wooded acres farther down in the country. When he visited his other property, he traveled in a horse-drawn wagon. My Dad was embarrassed, because his parents lived so simply. He was especially humiliated when Grandpa took the wagon to town. Most country people had cars, but it was still possible in the forties to see a few wagons parked off the street.
My favorite time of day was late evening, sitting with Grandpa on the front poach swing, while he taught me how to call birds and have them answer and draw closer. If I asked for a story, he’d come up with one, either about his childhood or Pat and Mike, Irish stories told in the Irish brogue and always with a punch line. Those were stories passed down to him from his own father.

Grandpa made toys for me in the form of whistles carved from a dried cane stalk, even if it meant he had to cut off the end of one of his fishing poles. He also hung tree swings, made from his rope plow lines with a wooden plank seat. Then, there was the pair of stilts I never quite mastered. I think Grandma hid those, fearing I’d kill myself. He’d often put me on his plow horse and lead me down the road. I was ecstatic when I got to drive his wagon pulled by two mules.

I was convinced there was nothing Grandpa wasn’t capable of doing. In addition to the already mentioned things Grandpa did, he was an expert carpenter, blacksmith, a dowser and well digger, and a brick layer, capable of making his own bricks. People who knew about his skills came to him for haircuts, and even to have their teeth pulled. He had the tools for all those things.

When Dad was young, Grandpa had run a country store and rented out three tenant houses he’d built in the woods on his land. The store hadn’t lasted, because Grandpa let people buy on credit and never insisted they pay when times were hard. The houses eventually burned, along with some of his timber.

Grandpa was a very accurate weatherman. He could stand on his back porch and study the sky, and then, he could tell you what to expect weather-wise for the next few days. His forecasts were far better than any I find on the weather station or the internet today, in spite of all the technical equipment available.

On his acreage down in the country, Grandpa discovered an area of acid bearing soil. He built a v-shaped container which held several feet of the soil through which he distilled a strong acid. The liquid could stop a blood flow instantly and had many other health benefits. He had the soil analyzed and was told that the dirt was so rare it had never been found anywhere else in the world except in one area somewhere in Russia.

He and another man went together and obtained a patent on the distilled substance and planned to put it on the market. They named their company The Bogue Falimma Corp. I have no idea how the name of the company originated, but since Bogue is Choctaw for river, I have an idea it has to do with a creek which flowed through his land.

Because the man who had agreed to fund the company backed out, Grandpa didn’t pursue it further. Somewhere, among the many boxes in my garage, is the heavy iron stamp meant for embossing papers with the company name. It was never put into use.

As long as Grandpa lived, people, who knew about his miracle acid, came from all around to buy bottles and to praise the benefits they had derived from it.

Maybe the admiration I still have for this man is prejudiced by the love I know he had for me. He was capable of doing so many things, yet all he cared about was staying busy, enjoying the simple life, and being of what help he could be to the many people, who were willing to exploit his talents.


Author Notes My grandpa, Ebenezer Lloyd Weir was born in 1874 and died in 1959, My grandparents weren't interested in modern conveniences but they did eventually allow their house to wired for electricity. I think their were happier with their kerosene lamps.

Chapter 2
An Excellent Helpmate

By BethShelby

James Symonds was the first of the Simmons family from my maternal grandmother’s line to enter this country from Norfolk, England. The year was 1635, and 28 years had passed since the Mayflower had landed and formed the Jamestown Colony. James was twenty years old when he arrived on a ship named The Constance from London.  James had left his young wife, Susannah and children in England who joined him a little later on another ship.

The English settlers felt they had a right to the land by virtue of the fact they had discovered it. They pushed the Indian tribes back and made treaties, when necessary, in order for the recently formed Virginia Company to be able to grant land to the new citizens. Tobacco grew in the Americas and had been used and traded by the Indians for centuries. There were new markets demanding this product in England. For those who wanted to grow tobacco, the Virginia Company granted large tracts of land, because tobacco depleted the soil rapidly, and much land was required for rotating the crops. He was granted land in one of the new Virginia counties, and he started a tobacco plantation. Not long after arriving, James changed his last name Symonds to Simmons.

My grandmother, Alma May Simmons, was a part of the tenth generation from the original Simmons settlers. Her branch of the family had migrated from Virginia down through the Carolinas into Georgia and eventually into Mississippi. The land her father had homesteaded was near the land owned by the Weir family. Like generations before them, they too were a farm family.

My grandfather thought the tiny dark-haired neighbor girl was getting prettier every time he saw her. In fact, in his opinion she was the prettiest girl around. He got a chance to talk to her at community church singings. His family were all Presbyterian and her family were all Baptist, but people of all faiths came to socialize at the singings. When he got around to asking her to marry him, she was barely 17 and he was 27. Grandma was only five feet tall and he was six feet four. She had a dainty little nose, deep-set blue eyes and an olive completion. When I was born, she was 55. She wore her long hair in a bun at the back of her neck. She was quick moving and always busy. Grandpa couldn’t have found a better match for his pioneer spirit. She enjoyed the simple life and thrived on hard work.

She cooked three meals daily on the wood burning stove using the vegetables she grew in her garden. She milked cows daily, churned and made butter and scrubbed her rough wood floors often. She washed clothes once a week, using a heated wash pot for boiling the clothes. Then she scrubbed them on a rub board in a galvanized tub on the back porch. For detergent, she used big bars of lye soap, which she made herself. She heated her flat iron on the cook stove or in the fireplace.

Many times, I went with her to the back pasture as she mended fences or gathered dry brush and broom sage, with which she made the brooms she used. Sometimes, I looked on as she took lime, salt and water and mixed them to make whitewash. She painted it on the area around the chimney so it would look white and clean.

Grandma raised chickens which hatched from fertilized eggs in an incubator inside her house. I loved seeing the babies peck their way out of their shells and turn into fluffy little yellow balls. Later as they grew feathers, they would walk freely around the yard and the hens would lay eggs. Those she didn't use would prove a small income for her. People, who went to grandpa with dried corn to be ground into meal, would come to grandma to buy eggs and milk.

She kept a fruit jar full of change accumulated from her sales. When I was just beginning to understand money was needed for buying things, I gave her credit for teaching me how to make change. She would dump the money out on her bed, and we would play store. I was thrilled to learn how to make pretend purchases using the correct change.  

Grandma loved doing needle work, and she enjoyed crocheting, embroidering, quilting, tatting lace, and sewing. She made all of her own clothes including her underwear, as well as dresses for her sister, Eva, and many for me. She crocheted doll clothes for me. It was necessary to fit  the craftwork around her usual daily chores. The one accomplishment she took pride in was an award she won on a quilt. She created a beautiful and colorful quilt using the double wedding ring pattern. She had it shipped to the Chicago World Fair in 1933 and won a cash award and a blue ribbon.

Another thing which showed Grandma’s willingness to work hard was during the years Grandpa planted cotton on the 30 acres which comprised our two small farms. I was very young at the time, although it might have been done in years before I could remember, as well. The work was backbreaking labor and something once required of slaves on Southern plantations. When the plants were up, they had to be chopped around to remove the weeds. In addition to her other work, Grandma had to spend many hours in the hot sun with her hoe.

When the cotton matured everyone had burlap sacks with straps that went across the shoulders. The sacks were long enough to drag the ground. The pickers had to tie rags around their fingers and hands leaving their finger tips free to separate the cotton from the bolls. Without protection, the sharp hard bolls would cause bleeding.

I was excited about the cotton and liked to pull the white fluff from boll. I insisted I was going to pick cotton too. Grandma made me a little burlap bag with a strap and an old fashion bonnet to wear so I wouldn’t get sunburned. I was told to pick away and have fun.

Grandpa went around and found eight or ten people looking for work and hired them to help with picking, but the rest of us went to the field to do our share. I was around five, and I don’t think anyone expected me to last over half an hour, but I surprised them and filled my little bag to the top three or four times before I’d had enough. As the sacks were filled, they were weighed and the picker’s name was put by the number of pounds picked, as they paid by the pound. At a penny a pound, I earned my first paycheck. It was almost a half dollar.

The cotton was then dumped into the crib until it was all picked and could be taken to the gin. I loved diving into the cotton as the crib filled. I can still remember that windowless enclosure and the hot stale air that almost robbed me of my ability to breathe. I also recall the little black weevils and tiny bits of cotton bolls scattered among the white. My fascination with picking cotton only lasted that one year. The magic was gone by the time I was six.

Grandma toiled on and never complained. Yet, I think that might have been the last year they grew cotton. I continued to show up at their old house almost every day after school, and grandma always had a cup of hot chocolate waiting. I was usually there at supper time, because her cornbread was the best I'd ever tasted, and I loved to get it while it was hot. Those are the precious memories that linger, and I wish I could share them with my own grandchildren.

Author Notes My grandpa wasn't the only member of my family that had an impact on my life. After writing about my memories of him, I decided there where others whose memory I could share with family and others who might be interested.

Chapter 3
Grandma, Annie

By BethShelby

As a toddler, one of my earliest memories was of an older lady who seemed to come and go in our home. I soon learned she was my grandmother and someone my own mother referred to as Mama.

I would never get to meet my Grandpa Lay, because he had died about seven months before I was born, leaving my grandmother a widow. Her own four children insisted she not continue to live in their home alone. The house was deep in the country without close neighbors.

Grandma didn’t like losing her independence and having to depend on her children for support, but she didn’t feel she had a choice. She did what she called ‘breaking up housekeeping,’ and she split her household possessions between her two daughters. Her girls lived in the area, but one son was in Texas and the other was in Michigan. All of her children told her she could come and live with them, but she didn’t feel totally comfortable in any of their homes. For that reason, she moved around, not wanting to be a burden on any one family.

My grandmother was a Davis by birth. Her father, a quiet man, had served as a Confederate soldier. Her mother, the more dominant parent, was the community doctor and midwife, even while she raised her own six sons and four daughters. My grandmother, Annie Jane, was the youngest girl with one younger brother.

The Davis family had come from Wales and settled in the Isle of Wight section of Virginia early in the 1600’s. Our early Davis line had migrated down through the Carolinas and into Mississippi by the early 1800’s. Grandma was born in 1877. Her formal education ended after fifth grade because of the difficulty of getting to the one room school, and the fact once girls could read, write and do math, it was thought to be all the learning they would ever need.

Her family traveled by horse and buggy, and their social life revolved around church activities including picnics and socials. As a young girl, Annie fell in love with fellow named Will she met at a church social. Her older brothers got involved, convinced the young man wasn’t worthy of their baby sister. I guess they made it to clear to him, because his last words to her were, “I’m going far away, and I’m not coming back until I’m as rich as old Jay Gould.” Jay Gould was a railroad magnate and one of richest men of late nineteenth century.

When Annie was 26, she gave up on waiting for Will’s return and married Eugene, a young man who was serving as a constable. They had a daughter born the following year. Christine was tiny and frail. She was nearly three when Eugene was shot and killed by a man he was attempting to arrest for stealing. Shortly after Eugene's death, Annie realized she was pregnant again. Times were hard and she was having to depend on her mother for help.  When her son, who she named in honor of her dead husband, was born, he was a large and difficult baby. Following Eugene, Jr.'s birth, she suffered from female problems the rest of her life as a result of the delivery.

Mr. Lay, a well-respected farmer Annie knew in the community, had lost his wife a few months before, and he wanted to remarry. He was twenty years older than Annie. He was the father of ten children by his deceased wife, and 7 of them were still at home, ranging in from ages 5 to 17. A boy, who was 7, was crippled. Bob Lay approached Annie and asked her to marry him. With two babies of her own, I can only wonder why she agreed, but again, I think she felt she needed someone who had the means to support her.

Her mother told her she would take care of Christine, the 3-year-old. Annie agreed because she was afraid her frail little girl might be in danger of being hurt with so many big boys around. If she had any way of providing for herself, I doubt she would have remarried. Her dream was to open a small hat and dress shop, where she would tailor-make dresses for ladies, but the venture wasn’t something she could afford or was free to do.

After Annie married Bob, the man who would become my grandfather, she still couldn’t bring herself to call him anything other than Mr. Lay. Her life wasn’t easy having to take care of so many children. Two years later, she gave birth to yet another son she named Newman, and in three more years, her last child, Lucille was born. This last child would become my mother. Clyde, the cripple boy, who had been 7 when Annie married Bob, died at age 17. With  Bob's original 10 children and the 2 he'd fathered with Annie, plus the 2 she already had meant there were 14 children in the family
By the time I got to know my grandmother, she already had 4 other grandchildren, so I didn’t get the attention from her I got from my paternal grandparents. Kids were just another mouth to feed and to train. She showed she cared by making most of the clothes I wore. Later when I was older, someone came around selling encyclopedias. I wanted them badly, and Mom said we couldn’t afford them. My grandmother, who had hardly any money, paid for them, because she believed they would contribute to helping me get the education she wasn't able to have herself.

 Like my other grandmother, she also loved to quilt, and she kept busy while living in our home. She cooked and cleaned, and took it upon herself to scold me for every little infraction. My favorite memories of her were times she made teacakes, and even occasionally, she let me help with a taffy pull. It was something she had done with friends as a young girl.

Grandma often wrote letters to her children and stepchildren. She kept a dictionary handy so she wouldn’t dare misspell a word. She never stopped regretting the fact her schooling hadn’t lasted longer. Something I heard from her lips hundreds of times was “You need to get yourself a good education, and get a well-paying job. Don’t ever be dependent on any man.”

Mom seemed to think her mother and father had a happy marriage, but I believe it was a decision Grandma made because she felt she had no other choice. As long as she lived, she never stopped mentioning the first love of her life and wondering whatever become of him.

I don’t think Grandma was unhappy. She felt she had done what life dictated she should do. She had a sense of humor and often found reasons to laugh. She read the Bible daily. Because of a near-death experience as a young girl, she had no fear of dying. She trusted God would take her home, only at an appointed time. She wanted the best for her children and  grandchildren and was free with her advice as to how we should go about making our lives better.

In spite of the unsolicited advice, which sometimes grated on my nerves, I loved her dearly. I don’t want to ever forget what an important part of my life, she was. I was glad she lived to see me graduate from college and marry the man I loved. She was also able to hold my first child.


Chapter 4
The Grandpa I Never Met

By BethShelby

The earliest record I’ve found of my Lay family in England dates back to around 1600 in Great Bromley, Essex, England. But the first Lay to enter the colonies was Abraham Lay, a 9-year-old cabin boy born in 1701. He was apprenticed to Captain Charles Broadwater, whose ship, Robert & John, made trips to the colonies to bring tobacco back to England. Abe's family had fallen on hard times, and the mother, having trouble feeding everyone, allowed him to go with the captain.

The first of many voyages reached the colonies in June of 1715. The boy continued to sail with Captain Broadwater for several years, until the captain obtained land and started a plantation. Abraham stayed on as an apprentice, managing the plantation until his contract expired, and he was free to start his own prosperous plantation. He was a neighbor and friend of George Washington in Fairfax County Virginia.

Slavery was a way of life for all plantation owners. Abraham, having been indentured himself, had lived with the slaves at the time he was managing the plantation for the captain. He understood their situation and gained their trust and respect. He treated them kindly and showed compassion, but like others of the day, he saw them as property. He’d avoided separating families, but when it came time to make his will, the slaves were left to his wife and several of his daughters. Sarah, his wife, asked that one she'd grown attached to be set free.

My grandfather, Robert Buckhanon Lay, known as Bob, was born five generations later in 1858. Descendants of Abraham continued to own plantations and slaves, until the results of the Civil War ended slavery. By that time, my Lay ancestors had migrated down into Georgia and Alabama and had eventually obtained farm land in Mississippi.

Although, I never met my Grandpa Lay, who died the year before I was born, I knew all of his children who were my aunts and uncles and my mother. Mother only shared both parents with one brother. What I know of Grandpa is what I’ve learned from those who knew and loved him.

Bob was only 4 when the Civil war started. He had three older sisters; the oldest was 10. His mother also had a baby boy less than two. Her husband, Lewis, served as a Confederate soldier. The family farm had no one left to keep it going while Lewis was away. Bob was seven by the time the war ended, and his father came home. Early on, he was expected to help with the chores. By the end of the war, there was another baby boy and a year later another sister was born, who died at age four.

Altogether, Bob had six sisters and three brothers. When he wasn’t in school, he was working on the farm. When he was 24, Alice, the girl he had been courting, agreed to be his wife and they started their own farm. They had their first child, a little girl, the following year. During the next 19 years, there were eleven children born. One son was born with birth defects, leaving him crippled and slightly mentally impaired. One daughter was born with a cleft palate causing her speech to be difficult to understand. 

After having so many children, Alice was in poor health, and she suffered from epileptic seizures. The doctor warned another child would likely take her life. Alice’s health continued to decline, and she died at forty-four. Her last child was five when she passed away. Bob was devastated. Three of his children had married and had homes of their own, but he still had eight children with him. The two oldest girls helped with the cooking, but they were courting age and would likely marry soon. Bob was grieving the loss of his wife, but he felt he needed to find another helpmate soon. He had a 5-year-old son and handicapped child of 7.

When he approached the widow, Annie, with a marriage offer, her response hadn’t been encouraging. She was nearly 20 years younger, but she agreed to think about it. She finally consented, and he couldn’t believe his good fortune, even though she would be bringing a baby along with her. She was a fine-looking woman of 30. At 50, he was still young enough to have an active sex drive. He loved all his children, and he knew he would love her son as well.

Annie wasn’t enthusiastic about having more children, but she felt sex was a married woman’s duty and a burden she was expected to endure. They had been married two years, when a son was born. It would be 4 more years before another child was born. This time it was my mother. Mother was three when Clyde, the handicapped child, died. The family grieved, but the doctor hadn’t expected him to live past infancy. He was 17.

The Lay boys were a handful. No one had disciplined them, and they gave my grandmother fits. They ran the countryside and developed a hearty taste for liquor, in spite of the fact their father was active in the Baptist church and didn’t drink. They experimented with making their own liquor, and several of them became alcoholics later in life. At one point, they overstepped their bounds with my grandma by getting my mother, who was only 5 at the time, drunk.

Mother was the last to marry and leave home in 1932.  Her dad died four years later. My grandparent’s marriage lasted 28 years. Bob was 78 when he had his fatal heart attack. At the funeral service, officiated by four ministers, he was called one of the town’s most prominent and best-known citizens. All of his children grieved his loss. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. At the time of his death, he had 12 living children and 29 grandchildren.


Author Notes This is about the how the Lay family entered this country and specifically about Robert B. Lay my grandfather. The picture is my grandfather and five sons by his first wife Alice.

Chapter 5
The Community Doctor

By BethShelby

The first of the West family to enter the colonies was John West born in 1590 in Hampshire, England. He was the twelfth son of Lord Thomas West.  He completed college in England and came to the colonies in 1618, immediately establishing himself as a leader. Being a member of a wealthy family, he was able to acquire 3,300 acres of Virginia farmland on which to start a plantation. The land eventually developed into what is now West Point. His plantation was actually named West Point Plantation.

Four generations down the line from him, a member of this original West family relocated from Virginia to North Carolina where the first West, from which I can trace my family with certainty, was born. William Nelson West, born in 1775, was the son of Thomas O. West. William’s family moved again and this time into Mississippi. He was my Great grandfather three times removed. His family had eleven children. One of William Nelson’s grandsons was involved in an incident that caused him to be hanged by a lynch mob, along with three others, in 1909 in Ada, Oklahoma, but that is a story for another day. There has already been a book written about that scandal.

The member of the family I’ve heard the most about was my great grandmother, Sarah Ann West born in Jasper County, Mississippi in Jan 1839. She was a granddaughter of William Nelson West and the daughter of Shadrach Nelson West and Penelope Moody. She was one of the 5 girls in a family with 15 children. It was apparently a very spiritually motivated family, because several of Sarah’s brothers chose to go into the ministry.

Sarah Ann was only 16 when she married 24-year-old Elias Davis in January of 1855. The couple's first child, a son, was born a year and a half later. The following two years brought two more sons into the family. The Davis family didn’t own slaves, but rumors of trouble for big plantation owners was filtering in and the family was starting to be uneasy.

Jefferson Davis was serving in Washington as a Democratic senator representing Mississippi. Sarah Ann wondered if her husband might be related. Elias said he certainly hoped not, because he didn’t care for what he knew of the man. In 1860, Lincoln was elected president as a Republican.

In December of 1861, Mississippi became the second state to cede from the union behind South Carolina and to become a part of the newly formed Confederacy. Jefferson Davis became its president. Not all Southerners were concerned about slavery, but they didn’t feel Washington should be telling them what they could and couldn’t do. The first soldiers to fight in the Civil War were volunteers, but later the Confederacy passed their own version of a draft in order to make sure there were enough men to fight.

This meant it was necessary for Elias to leave Sarah Ann and their 3 small boys, and enter the conflict. Elias had some close calls. At one point, a soldier hit by fire from a Union soldier fell back against him, chipping a tooth. My grandmother boasted that the father still had perfect teeth at 80, except for the chip.

One side of the Davis property was on the edge of a Choctaw Indian Village. There were five tribes of Indians who also fought in the Civil War, and the Choctaw tribe was one of them. Most of the Indians were unhappy with Washington, because so many treaties had been broken, and their people had been pushed from their native lands, so they were willing to fight with the Confederacy.

Sarah Ann found the Indians friendly, and she was comforted by having them close while Elias was away. Many of their own men were away fighting as well. She was amazed at their knowledge of herbs and cures for various
. She asked questions and studied their methods and cures. Sarah Ann would put what she learned to use later when she became the self-trained mid-wife and country doctor.

In the Spring of 1863, the Union was tightening its grip on the Confederacy, and in order to win the war General Sherman needed to secure Vicksburg. Col. Benjamin Henry Grierson was sent down with Union troops to conduct raids through Mississippi. An incident known as Grierson’s Raid occurred at the Depot in Newton, the town where I was born. It’s a long and complicated tale. There was a movie made about the raid, starring John Wayne and William Holden in 1954, called The Horse Soldiers. Also, for anyone wanting to know more, check out The Battle of Newton Station.

After the raid at the station, the Union soldiers continued 15 miles farther south which took them through Elias and Sarah Ann’s property. Soldiers ransacked their home, ripping up pillows and bedding and allowing feathers to fly in the wind. After taking what they wanted of food, livestock and poultry, they continued south.

In the summer of 1865, the war officially ended. Sarah Ann and Elias continued adding to their family, having three more sons and four daughters. Her last child was born in 1880. My grandma was 3-years-old that year. The oldest girl was 13. By that time, everyone who knew Sarah Ann was calling her to deliver babies. Her reputation spread, and she was in demand for any kind of medical care. One of her treatments for infectious diseases was a medicine she derived from the fungus which grew on bread. She treated the black people as well as the white people in the community.

One black lady Sarah Ann had gotten to know well, had an incurable cancer. She had a baby boy, and she asked Sarah Ann if she would take him. Sarah Ann promised to raise him like one of her own. She enclosed an area on the porch, and built a room for him. Her children treated him like he was a brother.

My grandmother often said that her mother insisted on things being so clean you could eat off of the floor. Her yard was swept clean daily. People didn’t allow grass on their yards in those days. She also said she never heard a cross word pass between her parents. Because Sarah Ann was paid by those who could afford her services, she was able to keep her children dressed in nice clothes. She also took in several of her grandchildren to raise when their mothers had passed away from the complications of having birthed too many children.

Elias died in 1911 at age 80, and Sarah Ann lived another 12 years. She was 84. If I could pick someone who once lived to have a conversation with, I think Sarah Ann might be my choice.


Author Notes This is the story from the West side of my family and specifically Sarah Ann West (Davis)
1839 -1923.

Chapter 6
The Mayflower Ancestors

By BethShelby

I had to go back a lot of generations to realize, some of my ancestors were on the Mayflower which departed Plymouth, England and docked, in November of 1620 on the shores of what became the first English colony in the new world, the Virginia Colony.

I found out of 120 passengers on that ship, five of them were my ancestors. The Tilley family accounted for three of them, consisting of John Tilley and his wife, Joan Hurst, a widow of John Rogers and their young daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth would marry into a union which would produce most of today’s Mayflower descendants.

John Tilley’s wife, Joan Hurst, was the youngest daughter of Baron William Hurst, the son of Sir Henry Hurst and Lady Agnes de Dalton. Most of the passengers on the Mayflower were of simple lineage. Joan was an exception. John and Joan Tilley’s daughter Elizabeth was 13 at the time of the voyage.

John Howland was another of my ancestors. John, at 21, from Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England, was an indentured servant to John Carver, a man of means, who was willing to use his personal wealth to finance the trip for a group of Separatists from the Church of England. The passengers came from Holland and England.

John Howland made a big splash (pun intended) on the trip crossing the ocean. Numerous artists have attempted to paint depictions of what took place.  John, who was described by a writer of his day as ‘a lusty young man’, went out on the deck of the ship during a severe storm. He was swept overboard into the churning sea. He managed to grab a topsail halyard which hung overboard and clung to it, until he was able to reach a boat hook. Some of the fellow passengers managed to drag him back on board, close to death from drowning. Thankfully, he survived, or maybe many of us wouldn’t be here today.

John Carver was elected the governor of the group, while still aboard the ship. Howland became his personal secretary and lived in his home. Elizabeth Tilley’s parents died shortly after arriving, and the Carvers took in their orphaned daughter. In the Spring of 1621, both John Carver and his wife died. John Howland became free from the indenture, and took an active role in helping the others keep the waning colony going. Many of the passengers didn’t survive the first hard winter.

In 1625, Elizabeth Tilley was 18, and she and John were married. There has been a lot written about John Howland and Elizabeth, because so many people have descended from their line. John and Elizabeth had ten children, and all of them survived and had large families. At present, it is estimated there are about 35,000,000 of the Howland and Tilley descendants worldwide. This information makes me feel less than special.

Their second daughter, Hope Howland, is the child from which my family line descended. She married John Chipman, a minister, who migrated from Dorchester, Dorset, England to the colonies in 1637. A lot has been written about him as well. He and Hope were the parents of eleven children.

The last of my Mayflower ancestors was Richard Warren from Huntingdonshire, England. I get the impression he was not one of the Separatists, but rather he came alone, leaving his wife and children to come later after he’d checked out the area and decided if it was a suitable place to live. The rest of the family did arrive shortly afterwards. He was listed as businessman. Men with money were needed to help fund the trip. The fact that he was listed as 'Mr.' indicated he was of  inportant linage and possibly a title holder.

Richard Warren was the son of Barron Richard Warren and the grandson of Sir Ralph Warren, a wool merchant and Lord Mayor of London. The great granddaughter of Richard Warren, was Mary Marcy Skiff, and she married John Samuel Chipman, the son of John and Hope Howland Chipman, thus making Richard Warren a part of my Mayflower Ancestors.

The Honorable John Samuel Chipman, son of Hope and John, who married a member of the Richard Warren line was a magistrate and member of the general court in Rhode Island in 1722. His sons were patriots who fought in the American Revolution.

From that point, we come down through five generation of Chipmans. The families migrated from Barnstable, Massachusetts, through Connecticut, into North Carolina. The fifth generation, Hezekiah Chipman patented land and was listed as having a farm in Alabama. His daughter, Eliza Chipman was my great-great grandmother and was married to James M. Lay, who moved from South Carolina into Greene County, Alabama.

When Civil War broke out James and Eliza Chipman Lay’s son Lewis Simpson Lay, who was farming land in Mississippi at that time, was required to serve in the Confederacy. He was married to Nancy McClendon and the two of them were my great grandparents on the Lay side. Lewis was taken prisoner in Resaca, Georgia. The POWs were put on trains under guard and taken to Indiana to be held. From what is now Fort Harrison, near Indianapolis, Lewis. S. Lay wrote to his wife, Nancy McClendon Lay. The letter was dated June 6, 1864.  It reads: 

Dear Beloved Wife,
Will write you a few lines to let you know that I am yet on the land of the living. I am well. This morning I was captured at Resaca, Ga. On the 9th day of May, with 7 of my Co.  Will give you their names so you can send their families word: (Here he lists the names of the seven men taken prisoner with him.)

We are faring very well.  We get enough to eat and have ground enough to stay on to exercise and good barracks to stay in at night. My health has been good since I’ve been here. The Federals treat us very well.

When you write me you will have to send your letters by City Point, Va. We are not allowed to write but one page.

Dear wife, I haven’t heard a word from you and my dear little children since I have been in prison.  Hope the Lord will bless you. Pray for me. I am praying to be once more set free to return to loved ones at home.  Hope this may find you and the children well. Often think of you so far away. Bye, Bye,

You loving husband, L.S. Lay
(Indianapolis Direct to Camp Morton, Indiana, 11, Eleventh Division) 

The letter was written on tablet paper and pencil, and is still very legible. One of my cousins has the original. There is so much to be learned about genealogy on the internet.

I hope you don't find these names too confusing. My children are more interested in stories than mere names. I was surprised to learn there were some stories written at the time these people lived. Discovering them is like locating a treasure. Learning about my ancestors is making my own life a little richer.


Author Notes I'm sorry there are so many names. Each time a generation passes all the ancestors double. Soon, you have hundreds of people with who you share bits of DNA. I'm not including nearly all of the names. Picture depicts John Howland

Chapter 7
The Shelby Family

By BethShelby

When I married my husband, Evan Shelby, his people became my people, so although they aren’t literally a part of my DNA, they are very much a part of my children’s DNA, and I feel they should be part of this series.

I was 16 when I first encountered the man who would become my husband. We met briefly in my uncle’s café when I served him coffee. We didn’t exchange names, so I forgot about the encounter until a couple of days later, when I received a very long letter from someone named Evan Shelby. It was a shock to me, because I knew an old man by that name, whose son had married into my mother’s Lay family.

As it turned out, the young man I met had wanted to get to know me and went back and asked how to get in touch with me. He was unaware he had a distant cousin with the same name living in our town. The Evan who wanted to meet me lived in another county and was passing through when he saw me walk into the restaurant. For those who may not know, I answered the long letter I received, and after two years, our friendship ended in marriage. We had a lot of wonderful years together. Evan died in 2019, but we have four living children.

Evan, which mean a young warrier, was a popular name in Wales. The name Evan Shelby has been passed down through the family for many generations. Among the many Evan Shelbys, I guess they lived up to their name because it seems most served in the military in every imaginable war or conflict. There is a Military base in South Mississippi called Camp Shelby named after our first immigrant, Evan's son, Isaac Shelby, who was a military leader and the 1st and 5th governor of the state of Kentucky. 

The earliest Shelby I found was an Evan Shelby in Wales in 1594. The head of the first Shelby family to come to this country from Wales in 1730 was named Evan Shelby. It is believed he had a good deal of money. It isn’t clear why the family left Wales, but it is likely they saw America as a land of opportunity. Evan and his wife, Catherine Davies Shelby, first settled in Maryland. Ironically, my line of Davies also are from Wales. Maybe somewhere in the dim past our families were related.

The large Shelby family, including 7 sons and 3 daughters, entered this country and was granted land by the king of England, who was George II. However, Evan Shelby believed the land actually belonged to the Indians, and he insisted on paying them a sum which they were satisfied with. The family was able to maintain a good relationship with the tribes. Soon Evan Shelby and his sons owned large plantations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina.

The sons of Evan and Catherine Davies Shelby played important roles in the American Revolution
. One of the sons of Evan, also named Evan was a Brigadier General in that conflict. Others of the sons had ranks of Captains and Colonels. After the war, one son, Isaac Shelby, became the first governor of Kentucky. Our line came from Evan’s son Reese Shelby. Reese Jr.’s son had a son named Evan, born in 1775. He left North Carolina with his wife Penelope and moved to Mississippi. That Evan’s grandson, also named Evan, was the grandfather of my Evan.

Evan Eli, my husband’s grandfather died before he was born. Evan didn’t get to know any of his grandparents. There were five girls and four boys in his father's family. His Grandfather ran a country store.

Shortly after Evan and I began dating, I got to know Evan's parents. His father's name was Arthur. I found him to be warm, generous and pleasant to be around. When I became a part of the family, I couldn't have wished for better in-laws. I’ll say more about his mother when I write about the Martin side of the family.

My husband grew up with three sisters and one brother. He was the third child and oldest son. They lived in a rural area of Mississippi in a community where many of the other Shelby families lived. When Evan’s mother was younger, she had attended something called a normal school and afterward taught for a few years until she became a housewife and mother.

In the 1900s, education was designed for men. Very few women were able to continue their education past elementary school. Normal schools started in Paris, but by mid 1800s, they were in the United States. They lasted into the early 1900s. They were usually two-year schools designed to allow women to get more education. The normal schools were a type of teacher’s college where women were trained to teach the younger students.

Evan's father farmed and supplemented his income by driving a school bus and doing some truck farming. By the time I met him, he was working with his son-in-law who owned a factory which made church pews.

Evan attained some statewide recognition by winning an award in a crop judging competition while still in high school. His mother encouraged him to do something other than farm, so after finishing high school, he enrolled in an engineering course in college. He also worked as a surveyor during summer months and took an engineering correspondence course. The Korea War was underway and he was drafted into the army before completing college. When we met, he had just gotten a job as a draftsman. Throughout our years together, he worked as draftsman and drafting supervisor until he retired.

We have often been asked if we are related to Carroll Hall Shelby, the race car driver and auto designer of the Shelby Cobra and other cars. His branch also came from the same Reese Shelby as our branch, but where our line came through Reese Jr., his came through Reese’s son Jonathan. We are distantly related, but we never met the man.


Chapter 8
Martin Pioneers In America

By BethShelby

My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Martin. The story of her line of Martins in America started with Joseph Lynch Martin, born in 1698 in Bristol, England. If the researchers are correct, his father, William Martin, was a wealthy man in England who had started a shipping line with three vessels. His youngest son, Joseph, was trained by his father in the merchant shipping business which was becoming a very prosperous business in the new world.

Joseph, in his early twenties fell in love with a young lady in England. The family considered her beneath him, and sent him off as Captain of the ship Brice on several missions to Barbados and to Virginia, hoping to put an end to the relationship. Eventually, the ship was taken over by pirates. In 1724, Joseph collected compensation money for the ship and purchased an estate in Charlottesville, VA. 

There, he met the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner named Susannah Chiles. He and Susannah were soon married. When news of the wedding got back to England, his father was enraged, believing his son had still married beneath his stature. His father disinherited him, cutting him out of his will.

Joseph and Susannah settled on a Virginia plantation after obtaining a 2,200-acre land grant. Their nearby neighbors were Dr. Thomas Walker, Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Lewis and Clark clans. These were connections which would soon prove useful to the rambunctious Joseph. His grandson later described Joseph as "a perfect Englishman, -- large and athletic; bold, daring, self-willed and supercilious.”

Joseph and Susannah had nine children. One son, Joseph Martin, Jr., born in 1740, became a brigadier general in the Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War. His diplomacy with the Cherokee people is credited with averting Indian attacks on the settlers. He was able to keep the Indians from siding with the British during crucial battles. He helped win the battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens. The success in these two battles signaled the turning of the tide of the Revolutionary War in favor of the Americans.

According to DNA, this man was my husband's grandfather, 4 times removed. General Joseph Martin was married three times. His first wife, Sarah Lucas, from my husband’s line had seven children. Apparently, Joseph was away from home and with the Cherokee people much of the time, so he also married a Cherokee wife at the same time as he was married to Sarah. He fathered two children with Elizabeth Ward, a half-breed Cherokee, whose father was Bryan Ward, a Scottish fur trader.

Joseph’s Indian wife was the daughter of Na-ye-hi, a well-known and beloved woman and political leader among the Cherokee people. There is much written about her on the internet. You can find her under the name Nancy Ward on Wikipedia and other places. I had visited her grave site and the memorial erected in her honor in Tennessee, long before I knew her daughter had married an ancestor of my husband, Evan.

One of the General’s many sons, John Pigg Martin, became a well know Baptist minister and moved first to Georgia and then to Mississippi. He was the great-grandfather of my mother-in-law, Merle Martin who married Evan’s father, Arthur Shelby.  Merle’s father was James Martin who owned a farm in Mississippi.

Merle, born in 1901, was the fourth born of five girls. Her mother died at 31, shortly after giving birth to the youngest girl. Merle had just turned 5. Her father, devasted over losing his wife and blaming himself for her death, went away to be with relatives living in another county, leaving the girls in the care of his mother. The grandmother, Louisa Martin, held the family together. James did return occasionally to bring funds to keep the family going.

I couldn’t have asked for a better mother-in-law. She treated me like a daughter. She loved children and she loved teaching. She had taught in elementary school before she married, so she continued teaching children in Sunday School. My husband credited her for his deep conviction in the Christian faith. She was a hard-working homemaker and a lover of flowers. She was a very literal minded person and didn’t always understand my sense of humor, but she never wanted to hurt anyone, and I along with her five children loved and respected her.

My husband and his family knew nothing of their pompous ancestors. They were humble down-to-earth people. The more I learn, the more I realise most of us have no idea what traits we may have gained or from where the DNA in our cells may have originated. No person is of greater value than another. Descending from wealth, royalty, or poverty has no bearing on who we are today. Still, it is fun to find out a little bit of what went on before. Every generation we go back doubles the amount of lines and adds so much diversity to our DNA. By four generations back you have 64 different lines mixing in possible traits you might inherit. It is interesting to discover what stories might be lurking in the past yet to be uncovered. 

Author Notes Learning stories of your roots gives history new meaning. No longer are they just names on paper, but people with real stories who lived in troubled times and their legacy is like a bridge to the past. It is amazing what you can find by doing a little digging.

Chapter 9
Searching for Waltons

By BethShelby

My Paternal Grandmother, whom I wrote about earlier under the title “An Excellent Helpmate,” was Alma Mae Walton before she married my grandfather. The Walton line was a hard line for me to trace, because these people not only have large families, but they like to use the same names over and over. For a long time, I was sure my Walton line was among a group of Quakers who settled in Bayberry, Pennsylvania since the names were matching. Actually, they used rather common names like Robert, James, John, George, Edward, Samuel, and William. Since I found those same names everywhere I found Waltons, I assumed I was on the right track.

A lot of researchers of the Walton family seem to want to be related to the George Walton, who signed the Declaration of Independence and later became Governor of Georgia. I put it down to wishful thinking and stuck with the Quakers. When I realized I was looking in the wrong direction, it turned out our George was connected to the signer’s line, but he lived a couple of generations earlier than the better-known George. He turned out to be a nephew to our George Walton.

The Walton line, which proved to be ours, goes back to Oxhill, Warwickshire, England in 1570 and his name was William. His son, also named William, was a minister in the Church of England. He had a degree from Emanuel College in Cambridge. When he emigrated from Devonshire, England in 1635 and came to the English colonies in America, he came as a Puritan minister. He was married, and he brought his wife, Elizabeth and their four children, ages 7 to 1 year. They landed in Boston, and by 1637, the family had obtained land and settled in Marblehead, Essex, Massachusetts. The family had five more children.

The Waltons were some of the first settlers in the primitive settlement. There was no form of government, but in 1651 a congregational form of church government was established by law in Massachusetts. The settlers built a rough-hewn log chapel where William Walton preached and taught for thirty years. The men sat on the front pews of the church with muskets loaded in case of an Indian attack. The settler’s houses had large fireplaces, and the women cooked in kettles or on spits overhanging the open flames.

William and Elizabeth’s oldest son, John, born in 1628, became the next link in my chain of ancestors. John, of my line, left Massachusetts and moved to the Norfolk, Virginia area. He became a landowner, a surveyor and a lawyer. The next three generations of my line of Waltons remained in York County, Virginia. Another of William and Elizabeth’s nine children was Samuel Walton born in 1639. His line eventually led to the birth of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club. Samuel’s line went into Maine and eventually moved West. Sam of the Walmart Store was born in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, in 1919 and died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1992. His children still run his business.

My next link down was Edward Walton I, Esq. born in Virginia in 1645. I believe in America the Esq. behind the name indicates that he was a lawyer. One of his sons became my next link, Robert Walton, born in 1690. He only lived to be 43, but he and his wife managed to have at least eight children before he died. This Robert was also the great-grandfather of the George, who was the last one to put his signature on the Declaration of Independence. 

Although this George, born in 1749, isn’t my direct line, he is an interesting historical figure. Both of George’s parents died when he was quite young. He and his sibling were taken in by several relatives to raise. He was raised by an uncle in a home with nine other children. The uncle was a carpenter and made him an apprentice in the trade. The uncle discouraged education, but George studied anyway and when his apprentice ended, he moved to Savannah, Georgia and studied law. By the eve of the American Revolution, he was considered the most successful lawyer in Georgia. He was elected to congress in Georgia and served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.

He was commissioned as colonel of the First Georgia Regiment of Militia and was wounded and taken prisoner by the British in the Battle of Savannah, but later released during a prisoner exchange. He served as governor of Georgia and was later a member of the US senate. There is much information written about him on the internet. Although living in a time when most successful people in the south owned slaves, George Walton was never a slave owner. When he died in 1804, he was survived by a wife and two sons.

His body lies beneath a memorial designed to honor signers of the Declaration of Independence in Augusta, Georgia. There is a Georgia county and several schools named in his honor. He is further memorialized in the Constitution Gardens in the National Mall in Washington built to honor the 56 signers of that document.

The George Walton from my line was born in 1724 in Price Edward, Virginia. His son John Curtis Walton left Virginia and lived in South Carolina for a while, before moving to the county where I was born, Newton County, Mississippi, and my Walton line continued there. This is where my grandmother and great- grandmother were born. All of the Waltons I ever knew were decent hardworking people. Most of them were landowners. Many of the men served as confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and later generations served their country in all the wars America has been involved in since.

The long running TV show, The Waltons, was supposed to be about a fictitious family of Waltons who lived on Walton’s Mountain in Virginia in the forties. Since my Walton family line remained in Virginia for so many years, I wonder if it was just a coincidence that name was chosen. I imagine my own Walton family was not so different from the family portrayed on television. All of the Waltons had large, lively families and their lands and homes were likely passed down through the generations to other members of the family. I visualize the grandparents continuing to live with the family as they aged, just as they did on the TV show. At any rate, this is the way the Waltons exist in my mind.


Chapter 10
Dearing, A Confusing History

By BethShelby

After writing about my grandfather in a story I called A Simple Hero, I decided I wanted to explore the lines of my ancestors, so my quest began to find out what I could about the family lines with whom I shared DNA. My grandfather was a Weir and that was my maiden name so that became another of the chapters in a book I’ve named Pioneers of my People.

I’d written about others in my line, but I’d not explored my grandfather’s mother’s line. His mother's maiden name was Dearing. Other genealogists have complicated this line with a number of errors. Her name was Linsey Alva Dearing. Because of the poor handwriting of the census takers of that day, a lot of people have listed her as Lucinda Angie. I remember my grandfather telling me her correct name, and the name had been passed down to others in the family. This was the first mistake which had to be corrected.

Her father was Simeon Malone Dearing, a Baptist minister. He had eight children with his wife Elizabeth Tucker. This is where another mistake arose. In the census, she was only listed as Elizabeth. Another Elizabeth living in the same area was the same age. Researchers listed his wife as Elizabeth Cooper. By finding marriage records, I discovered Elizabeth Cooper was married to someone else. Other marriage records confirm that Simeon married Elizabeth Tucker in 1823 in Georgia. I was able to correct this on my record. On it is still listed incorrectly.

The third error, made by others, complicated things further and made it very difficult, if not impossible, to correct. Too many researchers had taken the incorrect information and transferred it to their own lines without questioning the discrepancies. Ancestry goes along with the errors making it appear a person is closely related to an ancestor who is not the correct one. In this case, Simeon’s father is listed as someone who lived in Kentucky rather than Georgia where other records show he was born and married.

I won’t go into all that is involved, because it would seem too confusing to someone who has not yet worked with tracing their lines. I will say it has kept me from knowing exactly who Simeon’s father really is. As it is, I have only one missing link in my chain, and I believe if I keep looking, I will eventually be able to connect the two links.

Now, back to my great-grandmother, Linsey Dearing; I should tell you a bit about her. She was born in 1839, in Alabama. Her family had left Georgia, and after living in Alabama a short time, moved to Mississippi. In 1860 at age 21, Linsey married a young man named John Wall. Their son was only four-months old when John was drafted to serve in the Confederate Army. He was killed at the siege of Vicksburg leaving Linsey, a young widow, with a child to raise on her own.

My great-grandfather, Robert Weir, was also in the Confederate Army, but he managed to survive. His first wife was Nancy Thompson. He and Nancy had two daughters and a 2-year-old son when she died at age 29. A year later, in 1865, Robert Weir married the young widow, Linsey, blending the two families. The couple then had four more children, three boys and a girl. My grandfather was the third and youngest boy in this blended family of eight, five boys and three girls. Linsey and Robert were able to raise their children and see them all married with families of their own. Linsey lived to be 64 and Robert lived to be 84.  If the men were not killed in one of many wars our country fought, they seemed to have longer life spans than did women of that day. I suspect childbearing might have taken a toll in large families.
The earliest Dearing, I have found was John in England as far back as 1545. The Dearing name at that time had an “e” attached making it Dearinge. Before that time, it appears the name was completely different. The name with various spellings was first found in Kent, England. It is said the family was of Norman decent.

The first Dearing family to reach the shores of North America came from a suburb of London, England. John Dearing was the first to be shown as living in the United States. He was born in October of 1650. He was only fifteen when the ship on which he sailed docked in Baltimore, Maryland in 1665. It is possible he was a cabin boy, but there is some indication his father might have also been on the ship. If so, he returned to England, because records show he and his wife died in England. John married Elizabeth Browne from Orange County, Virginia. The records I’ve found list only one son for John and Elizabeth, but there might have been other children.

John’s son, Robert Marshall Dearing, had a large family. My DNA indicates is is off my Dearing line. His son, Robert Marshall Dearing, Jr. is the only one of his children shown to relocate to the state of Georgia. Robert Marshall, Jr.’s children settled in different parts of Georgia. Census records before 1850 failed to list family members and ages. What they do show is the number of males and the females between certain ages. You can only hope someone wrote birth and death dates in a family Bible or kept other records. I’m reasonably sure one of the sons of Robert Marshall Dearing, Jr. is the father of Simeon Malone Dearing.

Many of the Dearing men served in the American Revolution. The Dearing who was best known in history was Gen. James Dearing who was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. James was the son of a Virginia plantation owner born in 1840. He was the great-grandson of William Marshall Dearing. James Dearing attended the U. S. Military Academy and led troops into 12 battles of the Civil War. He was fatally wounded in the 12th battle and died at the young age of 24. I find it amazing a brigadier general would be someone so young.

Gen. James Dearing was also the great-grandson of Colonel Charles Lynch, a Virginia planter and American patriot. He was a military leader during the American Revolution. Lynchburg, Virginia bears his name. He is also responsible for the word “lynch” coming into our vocabularies. He is not of my line, which suits me, because I don’t care for his brand of justice. He headed up a people’s court and used hanging as a brand of vigilante justice designed to punish Tories, who were loyal to the British crown. Those who came before Charles Lynch’s mock court were tried and hung without due process, and the lynch law came into existence. 

I hadn’t realized that nearly a third of the people living in the newly formed states during the American Revolution were Tories and would likely be hanged if caught by those who wished to free this country from British rule. During the 19th and 20th century, nearly 1,300 white people met their fate at the hands of lynch mobs and almost three times that many black people. America has some very dark history which we don’t always read about in history books. Times seem bad now, but perhaps they have been worse.


Chapter 11
A Jewish/German Connection

By BethShelby

Sarah Elizabeth Sides was my mother's great-grandmother, but Mother only knew of her through her father, who told her there was Jewish blood in the family. Sarah was born in what is now Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1811. She was the daughter of James Sides. Back then much of Louisiana was considered Spanish West Florida.

I wish I could sum up how this came to be, but I'm not sure I understand it myself. Thomas Jefferson had hoped he was buying the New Orleans and Baton Rouge Areas when in 1802, he purchased from France 827,000 sq. miles of land West of the Mississippi River reaching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase. Borders were uncertain, and Louis and Clark needed time to survey and map the newly acquired US territory. It was found that a large part of the area remained under the control of Spain, including, West Florida, Mobile, Natchez and good portions of Louisiana and Texas.

When Sarah was two, her grandfather, Peter Sides, was 62 years old. Peter, who was born in North Carolina in 1752, had moved his family into the Spanish territory where they now lived. He had a large tract of land in Terrebonne
 Parrish on which he operated a plantation with slave labor.

I visualize Peter as a strong-willed, hot-headed man who often acted without having a firm plan in mind. Peter had fought in the American Revolution and in several other wars, and he considered himself a military leader. When he learned Spanish forces were advancing into the area around the Alamo, Peter headed to Texas to lead troops against the advancing forces. Around 1,400 men had joined him with the intention of going up against the better trained 1,800 soldiers led by the Spanish military leaders.

The armies met near the Medina River about 20 miles from San Antonio in August of 1813. Peter's poorly trained troops were no match for the Spanish Army. The battle was over in four hours. Only about a 100 of Peter's men were left alive. Peter lost his own life, as well. The Spanish Army only lost 55 men.

The Battle of Medina was the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. The Spanish government refused to allow the men's bodies to be retrieved. They lay on the field where they died for nine years. Peter Sides was no hero. He had gone to battle at age 63 without the support of his family. Neither his family, nor the state of Texas ever wanted to talk about what happened on that battlefield.

In 1819, after years of negotiations, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams achieved a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially put the lands known as Spanish West Florida into U.S. hands.

If you are wondering about the Jewish blood mentioned earlier in this story, we need to go back to the early roots of this family as far back as 1500s in the Palatinate part of what is now Germany. Although I'm not sure exactly when the Seitz family first entered Germany, I believe they were Jewish at the time of their arrival. The Seitz family name was changed to Sides to sound more English after the family had been in America for a while. There had been Jewish people in Germany since the year 321. Persecution of the Jews began with the first crusades in 1096 and continued throughout the years.

While the Seitz nationality is of Jewish origins, apparently the family no longer held to the Jewish traditions. When Johann Peter Seitz, born in 1684, came to America in 1727, he was part of a group of German immigrants brought from Rotterdam on the ship, William and Sarah. He and his wife were among 400 members of a German Reform Church led by George Michael Weiss making the journey. They left the Palatinate to escape persecution. Not only was there religious persecution, but Germany was trying to rid the country of all full blooded Jews.

Weiss brought the group into Pennsylvania where he organized a Dutch Reform church at Shippack in Montgomery County.

Johann Peter Seitz and his wife, Anna Christina Reinhardt were the grandparents of the Peter Sides who lost his life in the Battle of Medina in Texas. Peter's granddaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Sides, who I mentioned earlier, was the daughter of James Sides and Dorothea Key. James and Dorothea only had two girls. Sarah's sister, Mary Polly Sides was a year younger than Sarah.

The family left the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana and moved into Mississippi where Sarah met Louis Bruce McClendon, a 22-year man of Scottish decent. She was only 15 when they married. The two of them had 10 children. One of Sarah's daughters, Nancy McClendon, married Lewis Simpson Lay, and they were my great-grandparents and the parents of my grandfather, Robert Lay.

Mary Polly, Sarah's younger sister, married a man named James Shelton when she was 17. She died young when their only child, a daughter, was a year old. Dorothea and James Sides, her grandparents were granted custody of the child and raised her. The girl, Susannah Shelton, married into the Simmons side of my genealogy. If you live in the South, your heritage can become a bit complicated.

Sarah and Lewis McClendon became charter members of the Bethel Baptist church in Newton, Mississippi, the town where I grew up. Until I did some research on this family, I often wondered why someone who claimed to be Jewish was okay with joining a Baptist church. I now understand her family was Jewish in ethnicity only. The religious and traditional parts of their heritage were several generations in the past.


Chapter 12
The Clan McClendon

By BethShelby

My great grandfather on mother’s paternal side was Lewis Bruce McClendon. He was the one who was married to my Jewish grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Sides. He was born in North Carolina, but he’d lived for a while in Louisiana. Both he and Sarah were in Copiah County Mississippi when he and Sarah were married. From there the family relocated into my county of Newton, Mississippi. The couple lived out their lives and are buried in Newton, but most of their children moved to Texas. If any of the McClendons remained in Mississippi, I never met them. When I look for those who share my McClendon DNA today, I find them scattered throughout the state of Texas.

Lewis Bruce McClendon, born in 1804 in North Carolina, was four generations removed from Dennis McClendon II, who was among the first to come to the United States and settle in North Carolina. He was the son of Burwell Shadrach McClendon and Polly Woods. Lewis’s sister, Annas McClendon, is my great grandmother on my father’s side of the family. She married my great grandfather, Charles Simmons. Once again, my family line becomes complicated. Believe it or not, in spite of all those cross marriages, my mother and father were not related. At least, I don’t think so.

Lewis and Sarah had ten children. Eight of them were girls. I found nothing to indicate that Lewis’s family fought in the Civil War. Lewis himself would have been too old. His two sons, born late in the marriage, would have still been teenagers at the time, and perhaps too young to be drafted to serve.

The McClendon family, with different variations of the name, was found both in Scotland and Ireland, but my earliest record is of Thomas MacLennan, born in 1550 in Kintail, Ross-shire, Scotland. The family remained in Scotland until around 1683. About six generations from the original Thomas, some of the family entered America. There is some disagreement among genealogists as to whether the family came directly here or was first on the Island of Barbados.

I’m inclined to believe the older Dennis McClendon was in Barbados for a while with his family. Dennis II born in 1683 Cromarty, Cromartyshire, Scotland was first mentioned in Bertie, North Carolina. However one his brothers, Bryant McClendon died in Barbados because his will is on record there. Another of his brothers, Thomas, is first mentioned in Louisiana and later in Texas. Like most of the new southern settlers, the McClendons were granted land and started plantations.

There is in Tyler, Texas a house called the McClendon House, built in 1878. It is a high Victorian style house and is on the National Register of Historic Houses. The last McClendon to live there was Sidney Smith McClendon born in 1907. He was a prominent Texas Lawyer and a descendant of Dennis’ brother, Thomas McClendon. The family occupied the house for around 100 years, and the original furnishing and artifacts are on display. Tours are available on Fridays and Saturdays. The house may also be rented for weddings.  Another activity conducted there is the murder/mystery entertainment for limited groups with dinner provided. The guests are led from room to room in an attempt to solve the mystery the group provides.

There are a lot of historical facts, as well as legends, surrounding the earlier McClendons. Here is one of the things I found. "The Clan MacLennan is an ancient Celtic clan and descended from the royal family of Ireland. The chiefs were anciently titled Lords of Loch Erne. St. Colman Mac-Lenen was the chief poet of Ireland (524-602)”

Another tradition carries the origin of the clan back to a certain chief of the Logans of Druimdeurfait at the end of the thirteenth century. After a bloody battle with the Frasers, in which the chief was killed, his widow was carried off by the victors, and soon afterward gave birth to the chief’s son. The story relates that the boy was deliberately deformed in order to prevent his ever attempting to avenge his father’s death. The deformity apparently caused him to be a hunchback. “He was educated at a monastery and known as Crotach (Hump-backed) Mac-Gilliegorm. He became a priest and travelled up and down the west coast of Scotland establishing churches. He married and had several children. One son was named Gillie Fhinan after the famous St. Finan. That son's son was, of course, called MacGillinan, which was in time shortened to MacLennan.”

Still another clan legend is that a great castle built in AD 901 by Cormac MacCullenan, Bishop of Cashel is in Tipperary County, Ireland, and said to be the origin of the name McClendon. It was burned by the Earl of Kildare during the reign of Henry VII of England, and now stands roofless, except for the magnificent, barrel-vaulted chapel, built by Cormac in the twelfth century. These ecclesiastical ruins are a tourist attraction.

These are the related names in the clan; Logan, McClendon, McLennan and others. The name McClendon is not found in Scotland, but in America where the English spelled the name MacLennan like they thought it sounded.

This inscription is on a McClendon headstone in Mount Zion Cemetery at Calhoun, Louisiana: ‘A people as sturdy as the oak, Stalwart as the pine, Gentle as the brook and as enduring as the hills.’


Author Notes The picture is of the McClendon House in Tyler, Texas.

Chapter 13
Digging for Duckworths

By BethShelby

My husband Evan’s maternal grandmother was a Duckworth. The name Duckworth Is Anglo-Saxon and comes from a location in Lancashire, England called Duckworth Fold. The surname Duckworth was first found in Cambridgeshire where one of the earliest records is of Hugo de Duckworth in 1216 and his descendant Sire John Duckworth who  was summoned to a great council of Westminster in 1324.

As to the meaning of the name, there seems to be some uncertainty surrounding it. In the seventh century the name Ducca was a given name. The name 'worth' means homestead so it is likely it is combination of the given name Ducca and the word homestead. The Duckworth family seems to have migrated in many directions such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the West Indies. At present in the United States there are around 12,435 people with that name.

Nancy Elizabeth Duckworth, my husband’s grandmother, was eighteen when she married a man eleven years her senior. James Martin had a small farm, and Nancy worked willingly, helping him to keep things going. They started a family right away, and within ten years, they had five little girls and one boy, who was severely handicapped and required constant care. At thirty-one, Nancy had given birth to her fifth little girl. She had so hoped this one would be a boy. Jim wanted another son since the only boy they had was physically and mentally handicapped. The doctor was surprised he had survived as long as he had.

The last birth had been a hard one, and Nancy had been in bed longer than normal. Jim needed help with the planting. Baby Artis was less than two months old, but Katie was eleven. She could watch the baby while Nancy got out to help Jim in the field. It was still cold in early May, and the doctor warned against her trying to do much since her condition was so fragile. The doctor was right. Her immune system was down. She got pneumonia and died two days later. My husband’s mother, Merle, was only five.

Jim Martin was heartbroken and blamed himself for having allowed Nancy to go to the field in her condition. Jim asked his mother to take the children and raise them, and he left for another county to find work around other relatives. Merle and her sister were raised by their Martin grandmother. Their brother lived only a couple of years longer.  Merle didn’t get to know her Duckworth relatives as she would have if her mother had lived longer.

The first Duckworth in the Shelby line to come to this country came from Lancashire, England. Records found in New Jersey show that Jonathan Duckworth or John arrived in the United States in 1684. It appears that he was married at the time to Grace Williams also from Lancashire. The couple was in their twenties at the time. Some of their children remained in Burlington, New Jersey while other relocated to Frederick, Virginia. The line scattered throughout the Southern states. I was surprised to learn the name Duckworth is not that uncommon and several others Duckworth families from England came to the states later.

I’ve not been able to learn a lot about the extended Duckworth family other than they had farms and large plantation and fought in various wars like most of those who chose to move into the southern states. There have been several Duckworths who served in Congress over the years.The latest is a lady who is serving in the US Senate at present. Her name is Tammy Duckworth. She has an interesting background, and although I can prove she is from my husband’s exact line, she traces her family back to New Jersey and later to Virginia, so I would assume it is the same branch of Duckworths that came to this country in the latter part of the 1600’s.

Tammy’s father, Franklin Duckworth, was born in the United States, but he married a lady of Chinese origin. Tammy was born in 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand. Because Franklin did refuge work for the United Nations, Tammy’s early life spanned the countries of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia and Hawaii. She graduated from high school in Hawaii and obtained an undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii. She got a Master of Arts degree in international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and later relocated to Illinois where she got a further graduate degree.

While attending Northern Illinois University, Tammy enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps with the Illinois Army National Guard where she trained as a Blackhawk pilot. In 2004 Duckworth left NIU when she was deployed to Iraq. In Iraq, Duckworth flew Operation Iraqi Freedom combat missions until her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in the autumn of 2004. 

The explosion took both of Duckworth's legs and robbed her of full function in her right arm. She was nevertheless proud to have served her country and claimed she would do it again in a heartbeat. Following her injuries, Tammy was promoted to major and awarded the Purple Heart. During her year's recovery time at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she became an activist, advocating for better medical care for wounded veterans. 

In 2012, Tammy was elected to Congress, as a Democrat representing Illinois. Her victory was twofold: not only did Duckworth now have the platform to advance her political agenda, but she also became a living example for fellow female veterans, as the first disabled woman ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Prior to her injuries, Duckworth married Major Bryan Bowlsbey of the Illinois Army National Guard. She announced her retirement from the military in October 2014, shortly before giving birth to a daughter. In 2016, Duckworth successfully ran for the U.S. Senate becoming the second female Asian American to win a Senate seat. 

In January 2018, Duckworth announced that she was expecting a second daughter in April, which would make her the first senator to give birth while holding office. Noting it was "about damn time" someone achieved this, Duckworth said, "I can't believe it took until 2018. It says something about the inequality of representation that exists in our country."

Tammy continues to serve in the Senate and she had sponsored and advocated for many bills having to do with the rights of Veterans, women, and human rights in general. Whether or not you agree with her politics, she is a gutsy lady and a person who cares deeply about her country.

Chapter 14
Kings in America

By BethShelby

The only one of my husband’s two sets of grandparents I’ve not touched on has the last name of  ‘King.”  This lady was my husband's paternal grandmother, Jeanette King. Jeanette was born just after the end of the civil war in which her father, Samuel Sanders King, served as a confederate sergeant. Jeanette and Evan’s grandfather, Evan Eli Shelby, or Bud, as he was known, had five daughters and four sons. Arthur, my husband’s father, was one of the younger children, and he was only eleven when his mother died.  Needless to say, Evan, never knew his grandmother, and her own son didn’t have a lot of time to get to know her either. Jeanette’s father, Sanders King, outlived his wife by five years.

From what my husband had to say about the King family, I got the feeling he wasn’t thrilled with his relatives. He indicated they were a family, it was best to stay clear of. I should have asked more questions, but since he didn’t seem to know them that well, I let it go. They were from a part of Mississippi with a reputation for feuding, but I’ve never heard this involved the King family. I did see a picture of Jeanette and Bud with their nine children, and she was one grim looking lady. Photographers of that day made no attempt to look for a softer side, so maybe it wasn’t her fault.

I will say her parents did her a big favor when they named her Jeanette. She has a sister named Caledonia and brothers named Ippingtas and Eppenedus. They went by Ipp and Epp. Who names kids that?

The direct line of the King family with whom my husband’s shared DNA goes back to when they entered the states. The line traces from Boston to Virginia, to Bertie, North Carolina, and then, to Taylorsville, Mississippi. Like many of our roots, the origin of the King family is buried deep in the soil of England.

William Henry King was born in Huddersfield, Hampshire, England in 1600. One of his relatives wrote about him at the time, and mentioned “he served his time with John Wright,” which leads me to believe he was possibly an indentured servant. At any rate, by 1686, he had a nice brick home and a large plantation in Nansemond, Virginia. His relative mentioned he had slaves and a large copper still.

My first thought was this must be a way of processing copper, but with further research, I learned that copper is the preferred metal for the distilling equipment in the production of liquor. Maybe in addition to his plantation, he sold liquor on the side.

One record indicates Captain William King commanded the ship “Diamond” and was lost in a storm near the British coast in 1609. His son, John, was captain of the ship, “Falcon” which had trade routes to Barbados. This ship was said to be the first to reach the shores of what became Virginia. This would have preceded the Jamestown settlement.

Michael King born in 1628 in Norwich, England was the son of John, and he also settled in Nansemond, Virginia. English records claim William Henry King was the son of Sir Thomas King of Dorset England born in 1540. Even though the records I’ve seen confirm he had a child named William Henry, I needed more proof. There is a 60-year gap between the ages of these two, so it seems there would have been another generation or so between them.

One of the earliest mentions of a version of “King” in use as a family name pre-dates the 1086 British Doomsday Book. In 1050, prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066, the name Aelwine se Cyng or “Aelwine the King” is mentioned in a byname register in Devonshire, England.

King is identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a surname which has more than 100 occurrences in the United States in the Decennial Census survey. In the most recent statistics, the King surname is from the 2010 census data. 

I decided I should mention a few well known people who have the name King. There are more famous people among the black race such as Martin Luther King, Jr., but the ones who didn’t deliberately change their name to King, have families that trace their roots to slavery, so their original name would not have been King. 

Among the white race, I thought of Larry King, Steven King, Alan King, Carole King, and Billy Jean King. Without exception all of these peoples names have been changed to King from an entirely different original name. This leads me to believe people might desire this name, because it sounds like royalty. It is possible there aren’t many people who have the true King family DNA.

It was then I remembered two of my daughters had attended Grace King High School when we lived in Metairie, Louisiana. Grace King must be someone special to have a school named after her. Maybe I’d finally found someone who truly was a member of the King family. I looked her up on the computer and learned Grace Elizabeth King born in 1852 in New Orleans to William Woodson King from Georgia, had a family with an aristocratic background. The family traces its roots back to Virginia where my husband’s original Kings were from. Many of the given names used by her family are the same as those used by Evan’s family leading me to believe there is a likely link. 

Grace’s father was a prominent lawyer, slave owner, and part owner of a sugar plantation, in south central Louisiana. Grace became a well-known writer at that time. Over the years she became acquainted with Julia Ward Howe and became good friends with Mark Twain. She published novels, short stories for Harper magazine and later histories.

In the 1890's, Grace began writing books and stories focusing on colonial Louisiana. Encouraged by the editor of McMillan Publishing Co., she wrote a novel based on the experiences of her own family during the Civil War. The book didn’t receive wide acclaim. However, many critics viewed the novel as King's masterpiece. It tells the story of two families, white and black, in St. Medard, Louisiana. The novel follows the families through the social, economic, and psychological effects of the Civil War, including the crisis of masculinity experienced by southern patriarchs and freedmen. She also described the new roles women played after the military defeat.

Her own family lost most of their fortune during this period. As an author, she was able to become financially independent. Because of my own interest in writing, I felt she was worth featuring as one of the true King clan who shared DNA with my husband and children.


Chapter 15
Overcoming the Moody Blues

By BethShelby

For years, everyone on the DavisWest sides of the family who dabbled in genealogy regarded Penelope Moody West as the end of the Moody line. All we knew about her was she was born in South Carolina in 1805 and she was my maternal grandmother’s grandmother. She was married to Shadrach Nelson West also born in South Carolina. We knew quite a bit about the West line but nothing about the Moody line. Penelope was the only person we knew about with the last name of Moody, and no one seemed to know who her parents were.

The West family was proud of Shadrach Nelson. He was the grand patriarch of a very large family. He sat on his ornate, antique chair like a king on a throne, wearing a double-breasted suit, vest and bow tie and holding his cane like a scepter as he posed for numerous pictures. He had a full crop of snow-white hair and a long white goatee. If a picture was taken of his wife, Penelope, I am not aware of it.

On the census records, he is listed as Nelson Moody. He and Penelope had five daughters and ten sons. Several of the sons became well-known Baptist ministers in spite of the fact the Moody's were slave owners. The family moved from South Carolina to Louisiana and later to Mississippi, where one of their daughters, Sarah Ann, married my great-grandfather Elias Davis, and became the country doctor I wrote a chapter about earlier. She remained in the area where I grew up. Nelson and Penelope moved, with several of their children, to Nakoma, Texas in Montague County, where they lived out their lives. Sarah Ann never saw her parents again.  In those days of horse and buggy travel, it was a long way to Texas.

Because of all the preachers among her uncles, my grandmother often wondered if there was a possible connection between Penelope Moody West and Dwight L. Moody, the well-known evangelist who was born in Northfield, MA. in 1837. Since we had no way to connect Penelope without knowing her parents, it didn’t seem likely we could find out.

After having my DNA analyzed in 2015, I decided to look for any Moody family I could find who had lived in South Carolina in the early 1800s, and see if my DNA showed me to be a part of their family. It worked out well. The results were my DNA matched strongly with the family of Jesse Isaac Moody born in 1752 in Granville, North Carolina. He had one son who had moved to South Carolina and had a number of children who weren’t listed. The son, Daniel Moody, had to be Penelope’s father. There were no other Moodys in South Carolina with matching dates. 

Since I now knew for sure I was on the right tract, I only needed to follow Jesse’s line back to when they entered the states. Four generations farther back, I was able to learn that Thomas Samuel Moody, born in 1624 in England, had emigrated to Charles City, Virginia. Dwight L. Moody’s line seemed to have entered the US through another  Samuel Moody born in 1634 in Suffolk, England. He settled in Hadley, MA. The lines in both my family and Dwight Moody’s family are very similar. Both families came from Suffolk, England, although they arrived on different dates and at different ports, there were sea captains in both families. The given names of family members were almost the same with both families using mostly Biblical names like Joel, John, Samuel, and Daniel.

I continued to trace my family back in England and found that Penelope and Dwight L. Moody have a common ancestor with, yet another, Samuel Moody born in Suffolk, England in 1592. Going further back the line continues to Edward Moody, who was a member of Parliament during the time of Henry VIII and whose name was mentioned in King Henry’s will. Some researchers claimed he was a knight, who saved the king's life while hunting with his hawk. However, what I’ve learned from Wikipedia was he was a Captain. It seems he shared the name Edward Moody with a footman in the king’s court who actually did save the king from drowning. Perhaps that Edward was knighted for his deed. From the things I’ve read about Henry VIII, this Edward Moody should have let him drown. The deeds of the king were so evil that killing and torturing his wives were only the beginning of his atrocities.

Back to Dwight L. Moody, for those who might not know much about him, I would need to be brief because there is so much information available. Anyone interested in knowing more need only to put his name in a search engine.  This man became known worldwide in the 1800s for his Christian zeal and dynamic speaking style. 

When he was four, his father died leaving his mother with nine children to support. She was forced to send her children out to work for their food. Even at his young age, Dwight was also sent away. His mother saw to it her children attended church. At the time, they attended a Unitarian church. At 17, Dwight was converted by his Sunday School teacher and decided to devote his life to evangelism. He refused to serve in the Union Army on the grounds that he couldn’t kill other men. At that point, he claimed to be a Quaker. He worked with the Union Soldiers through the YMCA. I had no idea the YMCA was around back then.

Dwight Moody's preaching became so well known, the newly elected Abraham Lincoln attended some of his services. He had a church in Chicago which was destroyed in the Chicago Fire in 1871. He preached throughout the United States, Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries, drawing in crowds of thousands. He established the Moody Bible Institute and other schools which are still around today. His beliefs, according to Alexa, were similar to the Congregationalist Church. I’m assuming he could be compared to Jonathan Edwards, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham as to his popularity with those who heard his messages.

The name Moody is of English Origin and some forms of it date back to the 12th century. It is listed as one of the 200 most well-known surnames. The surname Moody is derived from the Old English word modig, which means brave, impetuous, or bold. You will find well-known people having this name in almost every imaginable field, such as medicine, art, music, writing, all types of sports, politics, government, and business.

Chapter 16
A Questionable Royal Connection

By BethShelby

When going about tracing lines of my ancestors, I found some who came to this country were poor, and some were very rich.  Some had royal blood, and others were indentured servants. It didn’t really matter, because we don’t have a class system in this country. It is a land of opportunity, and the chips fall either way. Those with nothing can become quite wealthy, or those with great wealth can lose it all.

By the time things had filtered down to my generation, all the lines were pretty much equal. Most of my ancestors started out as farmers. Whether they owned small tracts granted by the government or huge plantations which they paid for themselves, they worked with the soil this new land allowed them to have.

Most of my family lines arrived in America in the 1600 or 1700's. Many left Europe to escape religious persecution. This was a time of turmoil in the old country. It wasn’t a safe time even for the very wealthy. The kings and queens in Europe seemed to have no problem putting to death those they saw as a political threat. If people of royal descent were fleeing Europe, who could blame them?

From what I had learned about the history of Europe, one king, who seemed to be more brutal than most, was Henry VIII. He wanted a male heir so badly he was willing to behead any wife who couldn’t provide him with one. I saw no reason why I would have any desire to learn more about this man. Imagine my surprise when I discovered one of my lines went right back into the palace of this evil king.

The wealthiest of my ancestors to come to America were those of the West line. By the time this line involved my immediate family, needless to say, it was no longer any more prominent than any of the other lines. Still, I discovered some of my distant West relatives held titles, and had been wealthy enough to own a plantation large enough to later become West Point, Virginia.

Digging deeper into this family’s past, I learned that my direct ancestor, Thomas Leighton West, was married to Lady Anne Knollys, Baroness De La Warr, Lady at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Her Father, Sir Francis Knollys, was married to Lady Catherine Carey, who was known as the “Illegitimate Tudor”. Why was she illegitimate? Because she was the daughter of the other Boleyn, and she was conceived and born while Mary was the mistress to, none other than, Henry VIII himself.

I was aware that Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII, and that she lost her head because Henry wanted to move on to the next wife, but I didn’t know anything about the other Boleyn children, Mary and Henry, nor about their father Thomas. I’ve since learned there have been many books written and movies made about this family, and much of what has been written is not historically accurate.

Henry was attempting to rid himself of his wife Catherine who had given birth to a daughter but no sons. He wanted the marriage annulled on the grounds Catherine had been married to his brother. England’s religion was Catholic and the church was against divorce. Since the church refused to grant the annulment, Henry decided to start his own church and make England protestant.

Mary Boleyn had recently married William Carey, and she was serving in the court of Henry’s present wife, Catherine. Henry had lost interest in his wife and decided he wanted Mary as his mistress. Some sources say one couldn’t refuse, even though married, if the king decided he wanted you for a mistress. I’m not so sure, because her sister, Anne, refused his advances until the king made her his wife. Maybe Mary’s husband didn’t object because William Carey was serving the King himself and was at the time one of the King’s favorites.

Because Mary gave birth to two children while she was the mistress of Henry, most people assumed Catherine Carey to be the king’s daughter, even though she took the name Carey from Mary’s husband. By that time, Henry had gotten rid of his wife, Catherine, and had decided to marry Mary’s sister, Anne, hoping a son might come from a legitimate union.

Anne gave birth to a daughter and a stillborn son, and after several miscarries, Jane Seymour, another of the ladies of the court was gaining favor with Henry. Anne was falsely accused of adultery and other crimes and sent to the tower of London to be beheaded.

I’ve never been interested in the royal family, but I have to admit, I’d like to learn more about the Boleyns. I’d like to learn what is true and what has been fictionalized. I’m not impressed with their morals nor their political ambitions by what I’ve learned so far. I’ve never understood the reason countries  would choose to have a ruling family. There was a time when the ruling family had a lot more power than it has today. That is a good thing. There is a saying that states, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I think it certainly applies here.

There is a PBS on television running weekly called, “The Boleyns: a Scandalous Family” which I'm watching, since this is the direction one of my lines has taken me. There is a movie called, “The Other Boleyn Girl” and a book called “Mary Boleyn” written by a historical novelist, Alison Weir. Hey, Weir is my maiden name. Maybe I need to do more research on that line. I might find another English cousin.



Chapter 17
Tucker, A Surprise Connection

By BethShelby

Until just recently, I didn't realize the name Tucker had a connection with my family. The reason I’d not heard the name was because no one in the family seemed to know much about Simeon Malone Dearing, other than he was a preacher who had arrived from Georgia by way of Alabama bringing his wife and family to Newton, Mississippi.
Simeon was born in 1798 and back then, no one in our family seemed to be keeping accurate records. One of his daughters, Linsey Alva, my great grandmother who was married to my grandfather, Robert Weir, Sr., Simeon and his wife Elizabeth had died before my Grandpa, Eb Weir was born, so he didn’t get to know much about his grandparents.
When I started digging into the genealogical records on file with, I learned from Georgia marriage records that Elizabeth, who other researchers had attached to Simeon Dearing, was the wrong Elizabeth. They had listed her family name as Cooper. The mistake came because this Elizabeth was the right age and lived in the right area, but marriage records showed Simeon was clearly married to Elizabeth Tucker rather than Elizabeth Cooper.
Once I’d established that fact, I realized why my DNA wasn’t matching with the Cooper family. I knew I was correct when, I found my DNA did show close matches to members of the Tucker family. It is often difficult, but necessary, to change many of the records once an error has been made. It turns out the Tucker family wasn’t so hard to trace once I had the error corrected.
Elizabeth Tucker was the daughter of William Jefferson Tucker and Delanie Lindsey of Georgia. The Tucker family came from England, but the Lindsey family originally came from Scottish nobility. Elizabeth’s grandfather Thomas Tucker had moved the family down from Almeida, Virginia into Georgia.
The branch from which our Tucker family decended had arrived in the colonies from England in 1633. Richard Tucker was listed as an agent or trader. I looked up what that meant, and it seems England sent representatives to the new territory to promote trade with the English East India Company. The goods for sale were silks, cottons, spices and other merchandise, but politics were also involved and this was a way of extending the British influence among the new settlements. Richard Tucker made trips back and forth to England for a while.
Richard was partners with a man named George Cleeve, and together they bought 15,000 acres of land along a river separating Maine and New Hampshire. Both men were considered to be gentlemen and men of high birth, although not necessarily titled. The two of them settled the area which became known as Portland, Maine.
The names Richard, Thomas, John and William were the given names most often passed down in this family. Some of the Tuckers remained in Maine as a prominent family. A mansion known as Castle Tucker located to Wiscasset, Maine was built in 1807 and furnished in Victorian style. This house which is open for tours tells the story of  a later prominent shipping family’s life on the coast of Maine. It offers a glimpse into the everyday life of Mollie and Richard Tucker and their five children at the turn of the twentieth century. With three generations of family possessions on view, Castle Tucker is a time capsule that echoes with the voices of a remarkable Maine family.
My own branch of the Tucker family migrated from Maine into Maryland and from there into Virginia. After leaving Virginia, they were living in Georgia when my Dearing ancestor, Simeon, whose own family settled in Virginia, was joined in marriage to Elizabeth Tucker. It is possible the two families were acquainted before either of them moved to Georgia.
The name Tucker is derived from an occupation essential to the wool trade, as are the names Walker and Fuller. All three names are taken from the job of walking on, washing, folding, and fluffing the wool cloth after it has been woven into thread and cloth. Wool in its first stages of preparation is a coarse and stiff material. The Walkers and Fullers beat the material and washed it to make if softer and the Tucker refined the cloth to give it fluffiness and body.
It is believed that the first of the family was John Tucker, who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066 and fought in the battle of Hastings. He was assigned large estates in the county of Devon. All Tuckers apparently trace their descent from a common ancestor of a remote period.

Author Notes I have another chapter in which I've written about the Dearing family, but until recently I didn't know we were connected to the Tucker family.

Chapter 18
Gaston, My Huguenot Ancestors

By BethShelby

My 2nd great-grandmother on my father’s side was Margaret Gaston born in 1794 in Chester County, South Carolina. She was married to my 2nd great-grandfather, Charles Weir. She was the daughter of Justice Hugh Gaston. The Gaston family, like the Weirs (or deVeres as they were originally known) were from France. They had relocated to Scotland and from there to Northern Ireland before joining with a group of Presbyterians who relocated to South Carolina.

When the Weir family moved to Alabama, Margaret’s father Hugh Gaston moved as well. He is buried in Wilcox County Alabama. Charles and Margaret’s son, Robert, later moved to Mississippi where my grandfather and father were born.

Justice John Gaston, the father of Hugh, was among the Gastons to come to America from Clough Water, County Antrim, Ireland. They arrived in this country around 1735. He and his wife, Esther Walsh had 13 children within 26 years.

John and his family are characters in a historical novel about Revolutionary War period which was written in the twentieth century, "Polly of the Pines" by Adele E. Thompson of Ohio. I was able to download the book to my computer. The story starts from the children’s point of view during the pre-war period as they overhear disputes occurring among their elders who were members of both the Whigs and the Tories. I've not finished reading it.

John Gaston, an American patriot, was Justice of The Peace in Craven County (1764) which later became Chester County. He had nine sons in the Revolutionary War. Seven sons were in Charleston to repel the British naval attack June 1776. All nine sons were at the Battle of Old Field. Three sons, Robert, David, and Ebenezer were killed at the Battle of Hanging Rock, Aug. 1780.

Three generations back from John was Jean John Gaston of France born in 1608. He was also known as Comte d’Orleans Jean Gaston DeFoix. There has been much speculation regarding his ancestry, ranging from descendancy from the Grand Duke of Tuscany to the possibility that he belonged to the Bourbon family and was a cousin to King Louis XIV of France.

It seems to me the evidence points to him being the son of Count Gaston de Foix II and his wife Eleanor. It is evident he came from a prestigious family. He was married to Agnes von Hapsburg who the daughter of King Philip III of Navarre Spain and Queen Margarete of Austria.

Jean Gaston was born in France when the country was primarily Catholic, but John Calvin, a French theologian, and some of the other religious reformers had left the Catholic Church. They believed many of the doctrines and traditions of the church were in conflict with the Bible, which due to the spread of the printed word, was now in the hands of the people. At one time, about 10% of the population of France were Huguenots. The Huguenots were a group of French Protestants lead by Jeanne III, queen regnant of Navarre from 1555 to 1572. She was married to Antoine de Bourbon. Her son was to become King Henry III, the first Bourbon king of Navarre and France. In order to become king, Henry had to return to the Catholic Church.

Jean Gaston was a member of the Huguenots. The Protestants had been persecuted by the Catholics from the beginning. On Apr 13 1598, King Henry IV of France endorsed the Edict of Nantes, which granted rights to the Protestant Huguenots. But the edict was abrogated in 1685 by King Louis XIV, who declared France entirely Catholic again and embarked on a policy of persecuting all Protestants.

Because of the political and religious climate, at age 40 Jean Gaston fled with his family to Scotland, and his estate in France was confiscated. His brothers and sisters in France remained Catholics and sent money to him in Scotland until he became established there. Some 25 years later, his three sons fled Scotland for Ireland with their wives, also for religious reasons. Jean died in either Scotland or Ireland.

Like the Weir family, by the time the Gaston family left Ireland for the United States, their religion was Presbyterian which was not unlike the Huguenot beliefs. One of the Gaston brothers who first came to this country was a Presbyterian minister.

The name Gaston is of French and German origin, and the meaning of Gaston is "guest, stranger". French name from the Germanic word gast. This was the name of a sixth-century bishop who was a missionary to the Franks, which led its use as an aristocratic name in the early Middle Ages. The name may also mean "man from Gascony", whereby Gascony is a region in the south of France whose inhabitants are reputed to be hot-tempered. 

Like most families from 1700 and 1800’s the given names were repeated and passed down through the generations. The most common male names for this family were John, David, Charles, James, Hugh, Alexander and Ebenezer. Since the Weir and Gaston families were related by marriage the names were common in both families. The name Ebenezer was passed down to my Weir grandfather and the name Hugh was passed down to my dad. It seems the prestige and wealth of the earlier Gastons were not among the things my family inherited.

Author Notes The Gaston Febus Fortress

Chapter 19
Lucille's Story

By BethShelby

Mattie Lucille Lay was born in October of 1914 in Newton, Mississippi. It was a home birth in a large house in the country. She deserves a place in my genealogy record because she was my mother. Her mother named her Mattie for one of her own sisters, but she'd not made up her mind on a second name. The doctor who delivered her suggested Lucille. That became the name she always used. She was the last of my grandmother’s four children and the last of my grandfather’s thirteen children. It was the second marriage for both of my grandparents.
Grandma’s first husband, who worked as a constable, had been killed by a bicycle thief shortly after the birth of her first child. Not long after his death, she learned she was pregnant again. With two babies to raise and no means of support, she remarried a widower with eleven children by his first wife. It was a marriage of convenience for both of them. Robert was a good man, and he treated Annie well. His first wife had only been dead six months when the marriage took place, but my grandmother had waited two years.
My grandmother, Annie, gave birth to her first child with my grandfather, Robert Lay, three years after they married. Lucille’s brother, Newman, was four when she was born. Newman was her only whole sibling, but counting her Mom’s first two children, she had thirteen half brothers and sisters. Some had already married and left home. There were six boys and two girls still living at home and the older children often visited bringing their own children. Keeping house and cooking for such a large family didn’t give my grandmother much time to spend with her new baby.
Newman being the youngest boy was grandma’s most difficult child. He loved to tease Lucille and when she cried, he blamed her for causing the problem. The older half-brothers and sister did a bit of spoiling and liked to buy toys and other clothes for their baby sister. I have a picture of Mom when she was around four wearing an Indian costume complete with bow and arrows, that one of the sisters bought for her.
Lucille’s older half-brothers, the Lay boys, were inclined to drink liquor and even resorted to making their own. At one point, they amused themselves by offering sips to Lucille. I can’t imagine her actually liking the strong liquid. She was repulsed by it when she was older. She probably relished the attention and was pleased her actions amused them. She adored all of her siblings. By being a willing participant, she consumed enough liquor to make her drunk enough to stagger. The boys were forced to enlist the help of a horrified sister to keep her out of sight long enough to get her sober, so their step-mother wouldn’t learn what they had done.
The house where she grew up stood high off the ground and had a long hallway running through it. It was a noisy place with so many children living there. Grandma had a player piano, and Lucille learned to play the notes as well as pedal fast enough to make the player part knock out the popular tunes of the day. Player pianos were powered by foot treadles, like old sewing machines, that pumped air through the machine. It was “programmed” by a paper roll with up to 88 holes — one for each key. When air went through a hole, it caused a small pneumatic device to strike a particular key.
The older children taught her the latest dance steps which happened to be the Charleston. The family were members of a local Baptist church and Lucille took a lot of interest in religious activities. The school she attended was a two room country school where grades were grouped. The school only went through eighth grade. After completing the last year, the kids were bussed to a larger high school in town.
Lucille’s older half-brother, Eugene, from grandma’s first marriage had gone into the Navy and after the service was living in Detroit. When Lucille was 14, Eugene took her back to Detroit with him for a visit. He told her he wanted her to move to Detroit after high school and he would pay for her college education. He set up and funded a bank account so she could write checks for clothes and other needs she might have.
Lucille was attractive and popular with guys in school. Since Lucille had half-siblings who were already grown and married when she was born, she was the aunt of people who were older than she was. One of these was Lewis Simmons, three years her senior, who was the son of her half-sister Nanny. The man Nanny had married happen to be the uncle of another young man who was destined to play a big part in her life.
She might have met Glover, who was five years her senior, through Lewis or she might have been introduced to him through a friend. He was a clerk at one of the stores in town. Her mother had been waited on by him while shopping and she informed her daughter she'd met a very polite and nice-looking young man, and he would be a good one for Lucille to ‘set her cap’ for. This was an old-fashioned saying meaning, he’d make a good husband. He owned a car and seemed to have a career in retail ahead of him. He and Lucille begin dating when she was in tenth grade. They double dated with friends. Glover, who would later become my dad, was popular and well-liked. Lucille had just completed her junior year, when Glover asked her to marry him.
Her plan had been to finish the final year and move to Detroit for college. At this point, Lucille had a dilemma because Eugene, who’d promised to pay her way through college had married a Canadian girl and now they had a child on the way. Lucille didn’t feel it would be right to take his money when he was now supporting a family. Still, she badly wanted to graduate from high school.
Glover had been told by his boss he was looking at the possibility of buying a store in Knoxville and having him manage it. He used this tactic as well to persuade Lucille. Ever since she'd driven through the state on the way to Detroit with her bother, she thought it was a state where she would love to live. Her mother encouraged her to go ahead with the marriage. Finally, she agreed to marry him as long as it could be kept secret until she graduated. Glover agreed. The couple went to a nearby town and were married by a Justice of the Peace. The marriage was consummated in the back seat of Glover's Model T Ford.
Before the month was over, any plans they had for keeping the marriage a secret fell apart. The local newspaper published a list of all the marriage licenses issued during the month. News travels fast in a small town. Everyone they knew was talking about it and offering congratulations. Since the secret was out and Glover's job in Knoxville didn't happen, Lucille gave up on finishing her senior year and agreed to move in with her new husband.
To be continued...

Author Notes This story of my Mom will be a little longer because obviously I know more about her. I'll probably do one of my Dad because they are the initial source of my DNA. These stories will likely go nearer the beginning.

Chapter 20
Lucille 's Story, Part Two

By BethShelby

Since Lucille had gotten married at seventeen, she felt it was her duty to become the best wife a girl could possibly be. The first few weeks they lived with Glover’s parents, but they were anxious to have a home of their own.

Glover bought 15 acres of land on credit for $500. The land bordered the property that was owned by his father. It was probably the only thing my dad ever bought on credit. After the Great Depression, people weren’t inclined to trust banks, so a neighbor agreed to sell the land and hold the mortgage.

Glover’s father and some neighbors came together and started framing a house for the couple. Not wanting additional debts other than the land, the couple decided to only complete the two front rooms, leaving the other bedroom, a small bath area and the kitchen until they could afford to seal and finish the rooms later. They had no indoor plumbing or wiring and cooking was done on a small iron stove.

Lucille got busy turning the house into a home. In 1932 the US was just emerging from the Great Depression, and money was scarce. The first year, it was bitter cold. The new wood shrank, allowing snow to drift through the cracks in the unfinished walls. As soon as spring arrived, Lucille got busy creating a garden to supplement grocery expenses. She was energetic and enjoyed working and growing things outside. She planted flowers and trees to help landscape their humble abode.

Having been raised in a large family, she was eager to start her own, but Glover wasn’t interested in children and didn’t feel they could afford any right away. Although he loved her, she soon realized he had a quick temper and was easily irritated. He used swear-words she’d never heard from her father’s lips.

Each week the couple saved most of the meager salary Glover earned. Every time they accumulated $100, they converted it to a single bill and buried it in a fruit jar inside a small dirt-floor shed. At the end of the year, they had accumulated the $500 they needed to pay off the mortgage. Eager to own their property debt free, they dug up the money. They were horrified to see the money inside the damp jar was covered with a white mold. The bills were unreadable. They were sure the money was ruined. Fortunately, after a while the bills dried and they were able to blot the white mold away. They vowed they would never to go into debt again.  

Lucille was outgoing and missed interacting with people other than her in-laws who lived nearby. She was thrilled after five years to learn she was pregnant. When the baby girl was born, she was ecstatic. In spite of thinking he didn’t want children, Glover was also excited by the new addition. He was proud to show me off as long as I was in a good mood. Once when I had colic, my dad headed for the woods. Mom wanted more children, but it never happened.  

Lucille’s dad had passed away shortly after she got pregnant, leaving her mother alone. After the older Lay children got what they wanted from the home, Annie gave her two daughters the rest of her possessions. Lucille got the piano and loveseat. Unable to live alone without transportation, Annie moved from the house with only her clothes in a suitcase. She divided her time between her daughters, Lucille and Christine. She was with Lucille to help with the new baby. She stayed useful on her visits, and tried not to wear out her welcome by being too long in one place. Her two sons lived in Texas and Detroit. She visited them as well, but her visits were shorter and less frequent.

Lucille loved nursing her new baby and rocking her to sleep. Of course, I was the baby who got all of this attention. She started reading books and singing to me, before I was old enough to know what was going on. By the time I was two, she had me reciting little poems and showing off my skills like a trained monkey. She was convinced I was smarter than other children. My dad, on the other hand had me braying like a donkey. Mom taught me about God and heard my prayers every night. She took me on long walks and taught me about nature. She was my world, until I got old enough to realize she wasn’t perfect.

She insisted I take private piano and speech lessons, but wouldn’t let me take dancing lessons, which I would have preferred. She didn’t allow me to choose the clothes I wore, even when I started going to school. During my elementary years she was always a room mother. She came to school every Friday to read Bible stories to our class and made cookies for every party.

She embarrassed me by telling people about times I did stupid things, like thinking a praying mantis was a little green man, and crying when I learned the pretty rock I found was actually a turtle. She always fixed my hair the way she wanted it. She was so God conscious that she embarrassed me by trying to convert everyone. Since I had no siblings to share my concerns, I wondered if we were a normal family. When she changed her religious affiliation, there were certain things my friends were allowed to do, which Mom didn't permit me to do. This made me feel isolated and different from the other kids. 

Mom was emotional and often overreacted to things. She laughed and cried easily. She and Dad were often at odds over little things. He was easily irritated, and he tried to control her. He would yell and curse and she would argue and cry, so those times kept me on edge.

Mom taught herself to drive and to type. One of her hobbies was knitting, and she insisted I wear the itchy knitted garments she made for me. She loved flowers and she made our home beautiful by planting flowers. She loved people and was always active.

After I married at eighteen, Mom decided she had had enough of being controlled by Dad. She left him and went to a college and quickly obtained her GED. She then enrolled in college courses, planning to become a teacher. Dad was devastated and begged her to come back home. He said he loved her and couldn’t live without her. He promised he would let her do anything she wanted to do. She gave in and returned and lived out the rest of her life with him. He did his best to treat her better.

She was the caregiver type. She took in Dad’s parents and his aunt, and became their fulltime caregiver. She visited people in nursing homes, bringing them treats. After Dad retired, she took care of all his needs as well. Mom died at eighty. She had a stroke and a heart attack while in the process of mowing their huge yard and making Dad’s lunch.

I loved her dearly and will always miss her, but she was always the mother figure, who thought she knew best and felt it her duty to tell me the things she didn’t approve of in my life. I was always trying to live up to her expectations. I wish we could have reached the stage of accepting each other as we were.

Author Notes Part 2 is about the years my mother and father were married. She was 17 when they married and they were together 62 year unil 1995. Part 1 is in my portfolio in the book "Pioneers of My People."

Chapter 21
Glover's Story, Part one

By BethShelby

Hugh Glover Weir was born December 15, 1909 in the little southern town of Newton, Mississippi. His parents Ebenezer Weir and Alma Simmons Weir lost their first baby, a little girl they named Mary Elizabeth, at birth. They wanted more children but Alma was frail and having trouble carrying a baby to term.
Glover was born nine years after their marriage and five years after the first baby died. He would be their only child. Since Glover would grow up to become my father, he deserves a spot in my genealogy book as well as my mother, Lucille.
Being an only child, it is likely he was pampered, even though his family wasn’t wealthy, and they were simple country people. They were so thrilled to have this long-hoped-for child, and so fearful that something could happen to him that they gave him a lot of love and attention. Alma was still grieving the loss of a younger sister who had died the month before Glover’s birth, from what is now known as hepatitis. It was called yellow jaundice in those days.
Glover’s grandfather, Robert Weir, was living with the family. He was 81 at the time of Glover’s birth. Being crippled and unable to do much more than sit around, the old man adored the child and was said to have spoiled him rotten. He passed away when Glover was only five.
Glover loved animals and was able to find a baby squirrel and turn it into a pet. The squirrel lived in his coat pocket and was around for several years. Living in the country on a farm, all children were expected to help with chores. Plowing was a dreaded task, but it was a necessary one. Glover preferred the task of stocking and waiting on neighbors in his father’s country store, but he wasn’t inclined to learn to run the gristmill his father operated. Operating corn-fed gristmills was a family business which had been handed down for generations.
As a young boy, Glover had red hair and freckles, a characteristic inherited from the Waltons, his maternal grandmother’s side of the family. When he started going to school, he took some teasing from his peers, and he despised being labeled a carrot top. Over time his hair turned black, and the freckles became less noticeable, except on his arms and chest.
For children living in outlying communities, there were one-room district schools, where students of all grade levels were grouped together in a single classroom with wood-stoves used for heat and windows for light. There was no electricity so far away from town. Most had a nearby well and an outdoor toilet. The kids took tin buckets to school each day for lunch. Glover’s bucket usually contained a couple of biscuits and sometimes a piece of cold chicken or a baked potato.
Glover’s mother's youngest sister, Eva, was only eight years older than Glover and a student in the same school when he was still in the lower grades. She looked after him like she would a little brother. The school only went through eighth grade. 
Glover was a good student and he excelled in math and reading. He had the potential to be an artist as evidenced by the numerous designs and bits of doodling drawn on the edges of the pages of his textbooks. He was proud of his ability to do the fancy handwriting which was considered an artistic skill in that day.
Alma's parents had both passed away from the flu by 1917. Glover was eight when his parents took in his mother's sister, Eva, who was 16 and her single brother, Willie, who was 27 and still living at home. Glover’s father agreed to provide them a place to live and keep up the taxes on the Simmons’ acreage which bordered his land. Willie had been drafted into the Army at the beginning of WWI, but after getting the smallpox vaccine, he became ill and almost died. The Army had given him an honorable discharge, and sent him home to recover. With the money from the Army, he managed to buy a car. Up until that point the Weir family had traveled by buggy or wagon.
After completing the eighth grade, students who chose to go were bussed to the larger school in town. Seeing the way the town boys dressed for classes, Glover was ashamed to be seen in the overalls he was accustomed to wearing. He told his father if the family could move closer into town, he would quit school and find work. In those days, most of the country boys were satisfied with only an eighth grade education. 
His mother had hoped to see him go further in school, but she didn’t push it. His father sold some of the acreage where the waterwheel gristmill stood by a large pond and moved the family into a large old house a mile from town. It was unpainted and had a tin roof and two porches. With four bedrooms, it met their needs. Glover's dad quickly built another crude structure to house the gristmill which would be powered by a gasoline motor, rather than the waterwheel.
At fourteen, Glover was able to find work as a stock boy at a clothing store in Newton. There was a need for workers. So many young men had been drafted to fight in WWI, and help was scarce. The Jewish family who owned the store soon learned their new employee was good at lettering signs which they used to advertise their merchandise. They were very pleased with his work and in a short time, he began waiting on customers. Having worked in his father's country store, he quickly caught on to how a larger business was managed.
The customers found Glover friendly and helpful. By the time he was 18, he’d managed to get enough money together to buy a pre-owned Ford Model T. The Great Depression started shortly after he acquired the car. Many stores were going out of business, but his boss, Ira Levine, was a shrewd business manager, and it seemed Glover’s job was secure. He was interested in girls and some of them seemed to enjoy chatting with him, but with money so tight, he didn’t feel he could afford to date. No one knew what would happen with the economy. It was a scary time. 
When he was twenty, he’d met Lucille and was starting to get to know her. She was only fifteen, and she was related to his cousin, Lewis. They had a chance to talk one day while both of them were visiting Lewis. She was fun-loving and outgoing, and he got up the courage to ask her out. He thought she was beautiful, and after a few dates, he started to believe she was the one for him.
It was about that time his boss, Ira, told him he was thinking of buying a store in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he would like Glover to manage it. He and his boss started on a trip to check out the store, but when they were halfway there, a severe storm struck. The rain was coming down so hard, Ira decided not to risk driving further and turned to go back home instead. The trip was on hold for the meantime, but Ira never got around to pursuing the idea further.
After much persuading, Lucille finally agreed to marry on the grounds they not tell anyone until she finished school. They drove to another county and were married by the Justice of the Peace. Their secret would be made public in less than a week. It would mean the end of school days for Lucille.
To be continued....

Author Notes I'm writing these storeis for those who are interested in genealory to leave behind stories of family that might otherwise be lost forever. I hope even those who don't share my DNA will find something of interest in the history of the times.

Chapter 22
Glover's Story, Part 2

By BethShelby

After the plans fell through to keep their marriage a secret, and it appeared Glover’s boss, Ira, had given up on the idea of buying a store in Knoxville for him to manage, the couple decided to start living together. 
Glover’s father, Eb, or Papa, as he called him, said, ”Y’all come on and move in with us. Nobody’s using that front bedroom. Y’all can stay there till you can get your own place." My grandfather was very fond of his new daughter-in-law and always called her “Sealy” instead of Lucille. Alma accepted her like a daughter as well.
Glover vowed they’d be living in their own home in a couple of months. He was a bit ashamed of his parent’s unpainted home. He approached a neighbor, who agreed to sell him some land next to his papa’s place. They struck a deal for 15 acres for $500. The owner had homesteaded the land, and he agreed to give them a year to come up with the mortgage money. No bank was involved. Since Alma's unmarried sister and brother were also living in the home, moving in didn’t seem to be a good long-term solution. Lucille made herself useful while there. She and Alma’s younger sister, Eva, made it their project to improve the yard by trimming and shaping bushes and planting flowers.
The couple picked the spot for a building site, and Glover sketched out a rough idea for a plan. Eb had some building experience and was anxious to help his son. The two-bedroom frame house would sit on concrete blocks, designed to keep the rooms level. No one worked from actual blueprints. Eb got a few neighbors together and took charge of the project. Glover purchased the building material as needed. Three weeks later, their house was roughed in and roofed. Friends got together and had a housewarming party, giving them used furniture and other things to get them started.
By the time the couple had been married five years, Lucille realized she’d married a short-tempered young man, not given to patience. Since she’d stayed in school longer and completed three years in the city school, Glover felt a bit inferior. He thought he had to stay in control and make sure she understood that he was the wage earner.
Mom cringed when Dad cursed over minor irritations, but she was determined to make a go of the marriage. When she learned she was pregnant after five years she was ecstatic. Glover, who didn’t think he ever wanted children, realized he would have to adjust to the fact he was going to be a father. His parents were certainly excited about being grandparents. 
When I turned out to be a girl, my dad was relieved. He had no desire for a boy. He didn’t have the patience to deal with their more active nature. Years later when he had a grandson, he gave him a hard time, but he adored his granddaughters. With me, he was delighted when people said, “Nobody has to wonder who her daddy is. She's the spitting image of you.” At least I didn’t get the red hair and freckles he’d hated as a youngster. 
By the time I came along, Glover’s Jewish boss had sold his clothing store to a nephew and had moved on. Another man had purchased a grocery store and hired Dad to manage it. This meant long hours of work. He did all phases of the operation like stocking, bookkeeping, sales and often the delivery of groceries to shut-ins who ordered by phone. On Saturday nights most of the stores were open until nine p.m. He was often at the store well past midnight. All the stores were closed on Sundays and Dad often slept until noon.  In the summer, the stores closed on Thursday at noon, allowing him time to do a little farming to supplement his income.
Sunday was the one day of the week, Glover could relax after having spent days on his feet running the store. He brought home a bag of groceries on Saturday night costing around $7. He would pick up a loaf of bread or other necessities during the week. On our 15 acres our family kept several cows which Mom milked. She churned and made butter and maintained a large garden. She kept free range chickens for meat and eggs. We never needed a lot of groceries.
In September of 1940, Glover got a draft notice for WWII. He managed to be exempt from serving for several reasons. Aside from his flat feet, grocery stores were considered a necessity for the civilian population. He was also taking care of his aging parents. In those war days some items were rationed. People were issued cards allowing them to purchase only limited amounts of gasoline, tires and many other goods. Everyone was buying war bonds.
Dad adored me and each night he brought me a bar of candy or chips from the store. He might yell at Mother, but he never raised his voice at me. Mother was the disciplinarian. He played games with me, taught me to ride a bike, and took me fishing. He didn’t believe any man existed who would ever be good enough for me. He liked having me with him when going on errands in the car, and I enjoyed going along for the ride. 
Dad believed the old adage “early to bed and early to rise.” He wanted everyone in bed and lights out shortly after the sun went down. Around five a.m. the alarm would go off, and he expected Mom to have his breakfast ready by the time he was dressed for work. Maybe he dreaded the day ahead, but it was during these times while I was still in bed, I would hear angry words directed at Mom. The threats he made, kept me on edge, because I didn’t realize they were just empty words. He never physically harmed anyone.
I didn’t ask for much, but I never really wanted for anything. It didn’t occur to me that we might be poor. My parents were thrifty and managed well on what we had. In time, Mom had turned our completed house into a comfortable, nicely furnished home. Our family seemed as prosperous as any of my friends' families. Dad could have owned the store which he managed, but fear of being in debt kept him always as an employee.  
After I married at 18, Mom had had enough of Dad’s verbal abuse, and she left him with no warning, intending to continue her education. She was only away long enough to make him realize what he had lost. His pathetic letters begging her forgiveness brought her back home. She was with him 61 years until her death in 1995. He even joined the church he'd objected to so verbally years before. When Mom died, he was at the point of needing full-time care, and he became my responsibility. He was 87 when he passed away.

Author Notes Lucille's Story and Glover's Story overlap. There may be details in one that aren't in the other,

Chapter 23
Picture What DNA Might Reveal

By BethShelby

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather’s lap and begging him to tell me a story. Grandpa wasn’t brought up on fairy tales, so all of the stories he knew to tell were either from his own boyhood, or stories which had been passed down to him from others. Grandpa, who was born in the late 1800’s, said his stories were told to him by his father.

Grandpa's family had migrated from Ireland to South Carolina in the late 1700's. The stories his father had told him were in the form of Irish jokes. Grandpa used the Irish brogue and slang while retelling these Pat and Mike stories to me. Pat and Mike were simple characters who had just immigrated to the states, and they were usually drunk or in trouble and trying to understand their new country. Somewhere in the joke the character would utter the expletive “faith and begorrah.” Begorrah, I later learned, was something the Irish people would say, rather than saying ‘by God’ or ‘Golly’.

My great-grandfather, who ran a grist mill by trade, had passed away in 1912 when my dad was only three-years-old. Because of grandpa’s stories, I found him to be an interesting character, and I wanted to know more about him. When great-grandpa was young owning a personal camera was rare. Professional photographers' pictures were usually on tin or glass. I was disappointed when Grandpa told me no photograph had ever been made of his father.

As I grew older, my curiosity concerning my family roots grew. Questioning my relatives yielded information only going back about three generations, and even that was sketchy. In the 1970’s, a couple of other family members became interested enough to pay an expert to trace one of my mother's family lines back six generations. It wasn’t until I got my first computer that I realized there are ways to trace family lines without having to hire an experienced genealogist.

My first attempts to trace my roots involved the genealogy department at our local library. They had census records on microfilm and many books written about prominent families. My family tree was soon expanding. Then I learned the “Latter-day Saints,” for reasons dealing with their religious beliefs, were engaged in tracing their roots. In Salt Lake City, the Mormon Church had established a databank of thousands of records gathered from sources all over the world. Eventually, I joined their Ancestry web site, which is open to anyone for a fee.

In the 1980’s, DNA profiling began to be used. Great strides were made in mapping the genome and in 2012 Ancestry and Twenty-three and Me were advertising ways to learn all about your family roots by having your DNA mapped. I decided to find out more after realizing how much you could learn from just submitting a sample of your saliva. They ran specials from time to time, and it seemed worth the price to have mine and my husband’s DNA mapped.

In addition to genealogy research, mapping the genome has made great strides in the health field. In the near future, medicine will use DNA profiling to determine the ideal treatment designed specificantly for each individual and can lead to cures of all major illnesses, many of which have been considered uncurable. 

Ancestry DNA testing includes a short membership in their website giving you access to thousands of files. In my opinion, you need to continue to pay for membership longer, because the amount of information you get is amazing. It is important that you start a searchable family tree on their site, including all the information you have, even if it is only a generation or two. Once you put names and dates into the tree you have started with Ancestry, you will find a world of information on all of your family lines.

A leaf pops up, and you click on it. It opens up more about your family, and soon you are tracing your family lines back to the 1700’s and beyond. It didn’t take long for me to learn that one of my family lines ran to two passengers from England, who were on the Mayflower. The early settlers kept good records, and I learned some interesting stories about both of them.

I used to be skeptical of the fact that every American president, including Obama, had lines running back to royalty. When many of my own lines ran to royalty, I realized we are all likely to trace back to royalty. With every generation you go back, everything doubles, and soon you find you share DNA with many well-known people. You can’t fool DNA. It knows who you are related to and how close the kinship is. It is accurate for at least five or six generations back. In time, it may go much furthur

Another surprise for me was my Irish lineage wasn’t Irish at all. The family migrated to Ireland from Scotland, and before they were there, they had fled from France to escape religious persecution. In the process, the family went through a name change. My family name wasn’t very close to what it had been originally.

Now, back to the great-grandfather, whom we believed had never had his picture made, I found we were wrong. When he was a young man, before the Civil War took place, he had a picture made with his brother. Relatives of the brother posted it on I now know I share DNA with these relatives, and they were pleased to get pictures I had posted of my side of the family.

The original portrait I am sharing is on glass, but it shows up well to be so old. This wasn't the only one of the many relatives' pictures I was able to get by having a membership with Ancestry. I was so thrilled to see how my great-grandfather looked. He didn’t resemble my grandfather at all, but his brother did share some similar features.

My great-grandfather is the one on the right. His looks had skipped a generation. If he had less hair, he would look just like my father.


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