Select Shelton Surname Genealogy

The English Shelton surname derived from the place-name Shelton that was to be found in Nottinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Shropshire and Staffordshire.  The root of the name was the Old English scylf, meaning “shelf” or “ledge,” and tun, meaning “settlement."

Select Shelton Resources on The Internet

Select Shelton Ancestry

EnglandThe Shelton place-name near Long Stratton in Norfolk provided an early prominent Shelton family.

.  John de Shelton, born around 1140, was the first lord of the manor of Shelton.  It was said that Nicholas de Shelton was among those barons presenting the Magna Carta to King John in 1216; while Ralph Shelton was knighted for his services on the field of battle at Crecy in 1346.

By the Tudor period Sheltons were living at Shelton Hall in Shelton (long since demolished) and at the manor house at Great Snoring (still standing). Sir John Shelton and his wife Anne were entrusted with the custody of the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth as children, partly because Anne was the aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn and the mother of Mary Shelton, said to have been the mistress of Henry VIII during his marriage to Anne.

Hugh Astley in his 1908 book Memorials of Old Norfolk has suggested the following:

“John Skelton, poet laureate in Tudor times, may well have been of the Shelton family.  The poet had a Norfolk background and the names of Shelton and Skelton seem to have been used indiscriminately at that time.”

The Sheltons were never so close to the English throne again.
  Sir Ralph Shelton, the 26th in the line of these Sheltons, was the last to live at Shelton Hall.  He died in a battle off the coast of France in 1628, leaving no children.  However, there were related Shelton lines established in Ireland and, later possibly, in America.

.  The Sheltons have left little footprint in Norfolk.  There were only 21 Sheltons recorded in Norfolk by the time of the 1881 census.

The largest number at that time, representing 14% of all Sheltons in England, was in Nottinghamshire.  That county had its own Shelton place-name, in the south of the county near Newark, and John de Shelton first held the manor there.  The manor later passed into other hands, but the Sheldon surname remained.

Shelton lines in the proximity of Nottingham in the 18th century began with the following marriages:
  • that of Robert Shelton and Sarah White at Stoke Bardolph in 1780
  • that of William Shelton and Sarah Lee at Attenborough in 1781.
  • and that of William Shelton and Martha Slack at Gedling in 1784.
Sheltons have been recorded at Gedling since the 1600’s.

From Nottinghamshire, the Shelton name extended across the Midlands into Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Staffordshire.  Benjamin Shelton married Esther Langston in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire in 1774.

.  John Shelton from Norfolk came to Ireland and was the Mayor of Dublin in 1537.  His son Henry was its Sheriff in 1579 and his grandson John was to have been the Mayor in 1604, but was denied because he was a Catholic.  Thomas Shelton, possibly his brother, was educated in Spain and arranged for Cervantes’ Don Quixote to be published in an English translation in London in 1612.

Sheltons were also to be found in the Castletown area of county Limerick from the early 1700’s.  Captain John Shelton fought with the Royal Dragoons of Ireland under Marlborough (and he died in Belgium); while a later Captain John Shelton fought under Wellington in the Peninsular Wars and at Waterloo (where he was severely wounded but survived).

Their Limerick home was Rossmore House.  The Rev. Grantley Shelton was an Anglican minister there in the 1850’s.  Interestingly, there were also Catholic Sheltons living in the area.

.  The main Shelton influx into America was through Virginia.  The first here was Captain James Shelton who arrived in Jamestown in 1610, but later departed for Bermuda where he died in 1668.

.  Some of the early arrivals - from the 1630’s to the 1660’s - probably came as indentured servants.  It was hard to keep track of them – their spellings often shifting around between Shelton, Skelton, Chilton, and other similar-sounding names.  However, it was not the case, as some have suggested, that they all come from one source.

John Chilton had arrived in Northampton county in 1666 and later moved to Westmoreland county where he built his plantation house Currioman.  This home remained with his Chilton descendants.

The origins of John Shelton who built the plantation house Rural Plains in Hanover county are uncertain.

“According to family lore, John and two brothers came to America together, with John settling in Virginia and another brother going to New England.  That version of the family has never been possible to prove.”

His son John inherited Rural Plains on John’s death in 1725.  A line through another son David led to Colonel Joseph and Major Thomas Shelton, brothers who both fought in the Revolutionary War.

Ralph Shelton had been born in Middlesex county, Virginia around 1685.  During his lifetime he moved to Essex, Amelia, Louisa and then to Pittsylvania county where he died in 1771.  One line of his descendants migrated to North Carolina, Tennessee, and later to Arkansas.

“Edmond Shelton, born in 1827, married in Tennessee, and then brought his wife and four children to Arkansas where they got malaria and all died.  Edmund remarried and had more children.  In the Civil War he fought in the Confederate army, was captured by the Yankees, and died in prison.”

The line from Jeremiah Shelton, born around 1740 in Amelia county, led to his son Jeremiah who moved to Kentucky sometime in the 1790’s.  His family was the subject of Kenneth Shelton’s 1987 book The Shelton Trek Across Kentucky. 

A line out of Louisa county led to David Shelton who came to Talbot county, Georgia in the 1830’s.  His plantation was soon one of the largest in Georgia, with 90 slaves recorded there in 1850.  Then there were the descendants of Thomas Shelton who left Louisa county for North Carolina and then to Georgia and Texas. 

Some Virginia Sheltons departed for Alabama:
  • John Shelton married Carolina Messer in Virginia around 1810 and they moved to Jackson county, Alabama in 1833.  
  • George Shelton who had married Jane Johnston in Virginia in 1820 had already left for Fayette county, Alabama in 1824.  After George’s death in 1857, Jane moved the family from Alabama to Arkansas.
African American.  Sheltons were plantation owners and slave holders in the South and the Shelton numbers were boosted by slaves or freed slaves adopting the Shelton name.  One such was Pollard Shelton who was born a slave in North Carolina and became free in Alabama.  Frederick Shelton had been a slave in Arkansas who lived long enough to have his reminiscences recorded in the 1930’s. 

.  Daniel Shelton was first recorded as a merchant in Stratford, Connecticut in 1687.

“According to family tradition, Daniel Shelton was sailing in his own ship when it was wrecked off the coast of Connecticut, cut off by the Indians and prevented from returning to his people in Virginia.” 

The Shelton name has been perpetuated in Stratford.  One part of the town is named Shelton after a descendant, Edward Shelton, who founded the Ousatonic Water Power Company and started the Shelton Company there

Caribbean.  Shelton was an early name in Jamaican history.  John Shelton received a land grant from Charles II in Jamaica in 1674.  A generation later his grandson, also named John, bought neighboring lands in St. Ann parish to make a large sugar plantation which he named the Richmond Estate.  This estate was sold in 1784. 

Australia.  Early Shelton arrivals in Australia were convicts:  
  • William Shelton from Limerick in Ireland who was transported on the Andromeda to Sydney in 1830 
  • and Thomas Shelton from Nottinghamshire who was transported on the Circassian to Tasmania in 1832.
Select Shelton Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Shelton Names

Sir John Shelton was a powerful Tudor courtier during the reign of Henry VIII.
Shelton was a large landowner and banker in Texas after the Civil War.
Anne Shelton
, born Patricia Sibley, was a popular English singer for soldiers during the Second World War.

Select Sheltons Today
  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous in Nottinghamshire)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page