52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 9: Disaster

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks:  Week 9 Disaster

I am taking part in the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge By Amy Crow Johnson. After a couple of weeks where I was unable to take part, I am jumping back in with this week’s topic, disaster. Many of my ancestors experienced disasters of varying degrees during their lifetimes.

I chose a small-scale disaster in the grand scheme of the world but one that had a profound effect on people near and dear to me. The death of my paternal grandfather. His name was Jay D. Fulkerson. I never met him. He died 3 years to the day before I was born.

Jay photo

Jay died of an accidental death at the age of 47. It was May 11, 1976. Jay was working his job operating a street sweeping machine for the city of Flint. He stopped to check to do a check of the machine and while trying to remove a jam the machine malfunctioned. The machine slammed shut on the neck and shoulders of my grandfather and killed him.

When he died, he left a wife, 3 sons aged 23, 21, 18, and a 9 year old daughter.

The life of Jay

Like so many kids born during the same time period, my grandfather didn’t have an easy early life. He was born 11 February 1929 just months before the stock market crash and start of the great depression. Even prior to the collapse of the economy he didn’t come from a privileged family. On his Father’s side, his dad was an orphan. Both of paternal grandparents died within 4 months of each other while his father was a teen. On his mother’s side, the level of dysfunction was high with his maternal grandparents divorced and the extended family at the center of a strange murder plot. It was into this world that Jay Dee Baker was born. The only child of Willie Baker and Lily Weatherspoon.

Life only got rockier for Jay from his rocky beginning. His father was a mean drunk. The marriage of his parents devolved. Lily and Jay left Willie and the next several years are a mystery. One sparse clue about his life during the time is this photo labeled Jay 1935. A few photos appear from during the time period with no date. The only clue to who the photo holds in several cases being my grandfather’s distinct ears.

Jay Fulkerson as child
Jay with unknown girls

In 1937 Lily shows back up in records. Using an alias, she married a second time. I am not sure the circumstances which led to my great grandmother meeting her second husband. He was a widower living in Flint, Michigan and several years her senior. They married in Indiana and built a life together in Flint. From that point on Jay seems to have a vastly improved lot in life. His stepfather was glad to take on the role of Father and the two were close. Eventually, Jay was adopted by his stepfather, Moman Fulkerson, and his surnamed was legally changed to Fulkerson.

Lily and Jay

From his humble beginnings, Jay seemed to have lucked out into a charmed life. He went onto graduate high school and meet and marry a local girl, my grandmother. Pictures of the two of them together show a couple very much in love.

At the time of his death Jay and Loree had been married for almost 27 years. The arrival of grandchildren was blessing the family with a new generation and Jay looks every bit the excited grandpa in photos. It was all cut short with the tragedy that struck that spring day in May 1976.

Jay and Loree

For the world it was just one small tragedy. A moment in the newspapers quickly forgotten as the world went on. For my family it was a disaster that it would never recover from. Perhaps it was something simmering under the surface bound to happen, or maybe it was just the stress of the events, but from that point on there would be fractures in my family that could never be repaired.

I grew up being very aware of the fact that my birth was a day of distinction in my family, and not just because it was my birthday. It was the day of my grandfather’s death. The day disaster struck.

I cannot recall my grandmother and great-grandmother ever being in the same place at the same time in my lifetime. They both lived until I was an adult. Holiday gatherings were spent not together in one place remembering times gone by but instead separated. It was as if in death the two women who were the most momentous in my grandfather’s life battled over his memory. They have both been gone for years and years now. The family they left behind is distant and frayed as the result of battles none of us even had a part in.

The death of my paternal grandfather was not a disaster on the global scale. It was just a small tragedy easily forgotten by most but for my family it proved to be a disaster.

From Crowns to Coal Mines?

#52ancestors Week 3 – Long Line

This week the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks prompt is Long Line. For my ancestor this week I actually chose a branch of my family which has very long researched roots. This Claypoole branch has what is considered a gateway ancestor. Through him lineage has been tracked back to the Emperor Charlemagne.

The Virginia Branch

I have spent a lot of time lately working on some of my other family lines.  Recently I decided it was time to revisit some of my Shuck ancestors and see if I could get further with some of my loose ends.  I began working on the line of Malinda Claypoole.  Malinda was the wife of George Edgar Shuck and the mother of Perry Addison Shuck from which the P.A. Shuck Cemetery got its name.  That would make her my 4th Great Grandmother.


Malinda was born in 1819 in Buchanan County, Virginia.  Her family had been in Virginia for generations.  Her Great Grandfather, James Claypoole, had come to Virginia from Delaware sometime prior to 1761.  He settled first in Augusta County and later Hardy County.

Malinda was the daughter of Ephraim Claypoole and Lucinda Arbaugh.  Ephraim (1763-1840) was the son of Joseph Claypoole and Abigail Osborn.  Joseph Claypoole (1735-1790) was the son of James Claypoole (1701-1789) and Jane Elizabeth.

The Three James

James, our Virginia settler was the 3rd of his line to carry the given name of James.  His father, James Claypoole II, was born in England about the year 1664.  James Claypoole II (1664-1706) came to the American colonies in 1683 aboard the ship Concord; also immigrating to the new world at the same time were his parents, James Claypoole I(1634-1687) and Hellena, and six of his siblings.  They were Quakers, and closely associated with William Penn.  James I was a successful merchant both in England and in the colonies.  The family made their home in Pennsylvania and Delaware region.

English Roots

As I started to research the origins of James Claypoole before he left England I quickly discovered that extensive research has already been done on the line from this point.  I’m still connecting all the dots but it gets interesting quickly.  It led to places I didn’t expect it to go.

James Claypoole was the son of John Claypoole and Marie Angell.  Sir John Claypoole (1595-1664), Knight of Latham, was a man of substantial means for his time.  During his lifetime he was both knighted and made a Baronet, he was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and likely served as Sheriff for his county.  His family home was an estate called Northborough Manor which still stands today.

Northborough Manor as it is today

John Claypoole was the son of Adam Claypoole and Dorothy Wingfield.  The Find a Grave memorial for Adam Claypoole (1595-1634) had an interesting fact that made me decide to work on the line of Dorothy Wingfield (1566-1619) first.  “Through her father’s lineage Dorothy was a direct descendant of King Edward I of England” the line reads.  Statements like that make me curious but I tend to take them with a huge grain of salt.  Mythology and genealogy can often be close friends.  Upon quick inspection it looks like the information could very well be legit but I’m reserving my grain of salt.

Chasing Royalty

Dorothy Wingfield was the daughter of Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Cecil.  Robert Wingfield (1532 – 1580) was the son of Robert Winfield I and Margery Quarles.  Robert Wingfield I (1491 – 1576) was the son of Henry Wingfield and Elizabeth Rookes.  Each generation the ancestors appear to have managed at least a relative amount of success in life although nothing extraordinary.

Sir Henry Wingfield (1440 – 1494) seems to have lived a noteworthy life.  He was the youngest of 11 children born to Sir Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Goushill.  Henry fought for the House of York in the War of the Roses and both Henry and his brother, Thomas, were knighted by King Edward IV at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.  At the end of his life Sir Henry served as Governor of Orford Castle.  Sir Henry and his wife were both buried in elaborate tombs that featured effigies.  The tomb and the effigies no longer exist.

At this point chasing the possibly royal link led me up the line of Sir Henry’s wife Elizabeth Goushill (1404 – 1466).  Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Robert Goushill (1350 – 1403) and Elizabeth FitzAlan (1371 – 1425).  Sir Robert and Elizabeth FitzAlan, Duchess of Norfolk, were married about 1400.  Elizabeth was a widow and the couple married without license and as a result King Henry IV seized the lands belonging to Elizabeth.  Family connections helped smooth over the issue and the King granted them a pardon and restored her lands soon after.  Robert was knighted at the Battle of Shrewsbury by the king while still wounded on the battlefield.  According legend Sir Robert was murdered for his valuables on the same day her received his knighthood from the King.  He and Elizabeth had been married a few short years and only two daughters were born to the union.  Sir Robert and Elizabeth are buried in an elaborate tomb in St Michael’s Church in Nottinghamshire, England.

Tomb of Sir Robert Goushill and Elizabeth FitzAlan in St Michael’s Church Nottinghamshire, England

Elizabeth FitzAlan was the daughter of Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel (1346 – 1397), and Elizabeth de Bohun (1350 – 1385).  She is the connection of the Claypool family of West Virginia to the ancient Kings of England.  Through her father’s side she is the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England.  Through her mother’s side she is the 2nd Great Granddaughter of King Edward I, known popularly as Longshanks, and the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England once again as her parents were distant cousins.

Royalty Found

So it does indeed appear that the modern Shuck family and connected lines indeed carry the blood of Kings.  Upon further digging I have discovered that James Claypool of Pennsylvania is already listed as an descendant of Charlemagne through genealogical societies that trace royal descendants which means that cousins somewhere along the line have even proved the information as accurate.  This just goes to prove you truly never know what genealogical research will turn up.  I expect to dig much further into this fascinating family line.

For what it is worth on the topic of Charlemagne…here is a great article that tackles the topic of his descendants. So you’re related to Charlemagne

See inside Northborough Manor and further details on the estate here

52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Favorite Photo

This week’s 52 ancestors challenge has been a struggle for me. To choose just one photo out of so many seems like an impossible chore.

The photo I chose is a unique one. Look closely.

My Photo Choice

Critchley and Brown family abt 1919 WV
Adults L to R Joe Critchley, Della Brown, James C. Brown, Unknown female friend, Minnie Brown, and Jennie Brown. Circa 1918-1920 West Virginia

There are so many things going on in this photo.

The first time I saw this photo I didn’t give it much thought. At a quick glance it is just a group of random people.

Odd Prop

With a closer look the next thing I noticed was the snake. Interesting photo prop but okay. I do come from a long line of interesting folks. To this day I have no clue what the deal is with the snake. I assume it made an appearance as they were trying to take their family photo and it wound up in the photo.

With even deeper examination and discussion with various relatives I learned even more about the photo.


This is a four-generation family photo, and one of the only photos that I have seen of my Great-Great Grandfather, James C. Brown. James is the tall guy in the dark suit jacket in the back row. The lady standing to his right, holding the snake on a stick, was a female friend.

The two younger women are Della, on the left, and Minnie on the right. They were James C. Brown’s daughters, my great grandmother’s (Lucy Brown) sisters.


The elderly woman at the right end is Virginia Jane “Jennie” Osborn Brown, the mother of James C. Brown. “Mother Brown” as she was known locally would have been about 80 at the time of this photo. She went on to live nearly two decades after this photo. Her obituary boasted her ages as 105 at the time of her death but records show she was closer to 98. Still quite a longevity feat.

obit of Mrs Jennie Brown 105

The children belong to Della and Minnie either through birth or marriage. Judging by the ages of the children in this photo I date it to be between 1918-1920. The location is somewhere in West Virginia, likely Fayette County.

One child in this photo that really caught my eye was the little girl standing next to the snake. Just something about her and the way she seems to be watching that snake out of the corner of her eye. I made it a task one day to figure out who that girl was and learn about her life.

Life is fragile

Her name was Luella. She was born in 1915 to Della Brown and Joe Critchley. Sadly, not long after this photo was taken Luella died of diphtheria. She was 10 days shy of her 5th birthday at the time of her death.

Luella death certificate. Died 1920 of diphtheria.

I chose this photo as my favorite because I like how there is so much here that is noteworthy. I like the fact that it is a 100-year-old photo which shows 4 generations. I like the odd snake prop that makes no sense…yet at the same time makes complete sense. I like how when investigated this photo is such a great representation of both human longevity and fragility.

52 Ancestors – Week 1 – Fresh Start

I contemplated for a couple of days on this week’s 52 Ancestors topic of fresh start deciding how to approach it. I settled on one of my ancestors who made a fresh start which had the most effect on my life. My ancestor of the week is Lillie Mae Weatherspoon, my father’s paternal Grandmother. Her fresh start in life not only changed her life but led to a whole branch of “Fulkerson” family members which are not Fulkerson at all. I am one of those Fulkerson relatives and this is the tale of how I was born with the surname Fulkerson.

Lillie Weatherspoon

1912 – 1999

Lillie Mae Weatherspoon was born into a poor family in the boot hill region of Missouri. Her date of birth was 22 January 1912. She was the second child born to the union of William Weatherspoon and Fanny Bennett. An older sister Nellie died in childhood. After Lillie’s birth, brothers Claude, Clyde, and Cledeth joined the family.

Humble Beginnings

The 1920 census supplies the rare snapshot of the family unit, lacking only Nellie who was already deceased. Also living in the household is Elmer Bennett. Elmer was Fanny’s nephew, the illegitimate child of her older sister Victoria. While it is impossible to understand the level of dysfunction in the family from a simple census record, family lore and other documents paint a picture that is less than rosy.

1920 Census

Shattered Childhood

Not long after the 1920 census Lillie’s family dissolved. Her parent’s marriage split up. Her mother abandoned the family to marry a man named William Denbow in 1923. Lillie remained with her father, William Weatherspoon, and helped care for her brothers.

Murder, Marriage, and Mayhem

Behind the scenes a bigger problem was brewing as a grisly murder rocked Ripley County, Missouri. In June 1926, the mutilated bodies of the elderly Van Patton brothers were discovered, and the consensus was that they were murdered.

Within the year, James Wesley Bennett, Fanny’s brother was charged with the crime of murder. The shock of the involvement of her son in the grisly crime helped contribute to the death of Lillie’s maternal grandmother.

Amidst all the chaos in her family life Lillie decided to get married. She accepted the marriage proposal of William Baker, a man 13 years her senior. Lillie Weatherspoon and William Baker were married on 24 September 1926. She was 14 years old at the time.

In July 1927 Lillie’s father died. It seemed to be a final blow to whatever was left of her childhood family. On 12 February 1929 Lillie gave birth to her only child, Jay Dee Baker.

1930 census
1930 Census

Turning the Page

Tales told by Lillie late in life tell of a marriage plagued by alcohol and violence. The marriage was ill fated and short lived. According to the stories told by Lillie the ultimate end came about one morning after Bill Baker returned from a night of drinking. He spilled hot coffee on their child and according to Lillie she hit him in the head with a cast iron pan, grabbed the baby, and didn’t quit running until she made it to Iowa.

The next several years are a period of mystery. Tales she was willing to share with me tell of her operating what she called “beer gardens” with her mother. I have heard tales from other families that say she may have lived a very rough life during the period and dappled in prostitution to support herself and her child.

Seven years pass with no known documents of Lillie’s life. She appears again in records on 5 June 1937. She married Moman Harold Fulkerson, a widower with no children who lived in Flint, Michigan and worked in the auto factories. On their marriage record Lillie used an alias. She was still married to William Baker.

Lillie Mae Weatherspoon and Moman Harold Fulkerson wedding photo

On 7 Nov 1938 Lillie took the final step to her fresh start. She officially divorced William Baker.

On the 1940 census Lillie and her son are living with her 2nd husband in a working class neighborhood in Flint, Michigan. Lillie would live out the rest of her life in the house.

1940 Census
1940 Census.

A name change

On 4 February 1947 M.H. Fulkerson adopted Jay Dee Baker and changed his name officially from Baker to Fulkerson.

adoption papers for Jay Dee Baker and name change to Fulkerson.

Lillie Mae Weatherspoon is my fresh start ancestor. Through her life she managed to find ways to create a fresh start for both herself and her son. Her fresh start led to me being born with the surname Fulkerson.

Lillie Mae and M.H. Fulkerson