Friday, June 29, 2012

The Sheltons, A Typcial Knight's Family

By Anne Clinard Barnhill

     In his book, THE SHELTONS, Z.F. Shelton traces that typical knight's family all the way back to biblical days.  I find this a bit fanciful, but he then declares that all the Shetons mentioned in his book (my great, great, grandfather, Spencer Mundy included) are descendents of the Prophet Mohammad and his last wife, Ayesha.  When I first read this, I scoffed.  Then, two things happened.  While researching another topic, I discovered there is a name for the slight bulge at the back of my head, an Andalusian hump, which is a genetic trait found among those with Arabic blood.  Okay, that might hint the story could  be true.  Then, I read that AB positive blood, my type, is indicative of a mix of Arabic and European ancestry and is, along with its double, AB negative, the newest blood-type, occurring when Moslems moved across Europe all the way to Spain.  Of course, neither of these can prove the Sheltons are descended from Mohammad, but it does lend a little credence to the theory.

     Z.F. Shelton spent well over twenty years studying the genealogy of the Shelton family and based some of his findings on  a previous book, THE SHELTONS IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA, by Mrs. Mildred Whitaker.  There has been much debate over the years about the accuracy and reliability of Mrs. Whitaker's book, though I have not read more than commentaries on various websites--I have not thoroughly researched the arguments disagreeing with Mrs. Whitaker's findings.  It seems everything hinges on whether or not Sir Ralph Shelton, 26th Lord, had issue or not.  All are in agreement he married Jane West, sold his Norfolk estate, died in battle on the Isle de Rhe.   Some say there are no descendents; Mr. Shelton names four, one of whom, James, came to Virginia in June of 1610 with his relative, Lord Delaware.  An online source, The Shelton Family Tree, also names at least four children.  Other genealogists claim Sir Ralph had no issue, though he did have two wives.  They claim James Shelton is no kin to Sir Ralph.

     Part of the problem is spelling; until relatively recent times, there was no uniform spelling.  Hence, the Shelton name could be spelled Chilton, Skelton, Shilton, Sheldon, etc.  This makes it difficult to track down who was who.  Though there are differences of opinion regarding the connection between the Sheltons of America and those of England, here are some interesting facts about the British side of the family:

*  Shelton is a place  name in Old English, from scylf and tun, which means a plateau in the landscape.

*  The Sheltons are also descended from the Druids (who kept meticulous records of genealogy because if you had no pedigree, you were considered an outlaw) in the person of Charles Martel, King of France, b. 689. 

*  Other famous ancestors include Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Chalemagne, Eleanor of Aquitaine, James Butler-Earl of Ormond,  and Anne Boleyn (sister of Thomas Boleyn, father of the infamous Queen Anne).

Anne Barnhill in her Tudor petticoat.

     Whether the information in Z. F. Shelton's book is completely accurate would be impossible for me to say.  But I love the little asides about various apples in the family tree--I enjoy them so much I wrote a novel based on them.
The Sheltons, by Z. F. Shelton, 1962.
The Druids, by Peter Berresford Ellis, 1994.
The Shelton Family History, by Robert and Harold Casey (online).
message board from

Anne Clinard Barnhill's debut novel, AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN (St. Martin's Press) is about Lady Margaret Shelton, one of three named mistresses of Henry VIII.    


  1. A delightful article. The bump on the head and the blood type particularly interesting. I have the fold in the corner of the eye typical of American Indians -- thanks to my Mohawk great grandfather, also a shelf-like structure at the back of the front teeth -- ancestry shows up in such obscure ways. from your photo I think you might enjoy this site: I love looking through the costumes just for fun.

  2. Thanks, Katherine. I'll check it out!

  3. I wish someone would do such research into my surname! *sigh* It'll have to be me, I suppose... :)


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