WE CONCLUDE our look at the life of pioneering manufacturer John Sheldon by following his family line through successive generations, including a thread to descendants who settled in America. John had fathered ten children, four of whom were sons, yet within three generations his male line died out…
Family’s pilgrimage back to Birmingham
BACK in 2006, seventh-generation American descendants of the eminent Victorian entrepreneur and manufacturer John Sheldon embarked upon a pilgrimage back to the city where he made his fortune.
Guy Tiene, his wife Joanne and sons Philip and Charles were following in the footsteps of Guy’s mother, Mary Tiene, the two-times great-granddaughter of Sheldon, who had made a similar trans-Atlantic journey to the city of Birmingham some three years earlier.
By the time of her 2003 visit she had been able to donate six rare examples of Sheldon’s work, carefully preserved by the family down the generations, to the Pen Museum then newly-opened in the city’s famous Jewellery Quarter, telling the story of the 19th century Birmingham pen trade and its impact on worldwide literacy.
But the New Jersey-based Tiene family were not the only descendants of John Sheldon to make their home in the New World.
The Tienes arrived Stateside between the wars, with Mary Tiene, nee Mary Woodman-Sheldon, four generations down from her illustrious ancestor.
As near as we can tell John Sheldon’s male line died out within three generations.
The only one of his four sons to survive into adulthood, John Henry (1857-1932), the only son of John by his second wife, Elizabeth Yates, first married Martha Adcock, with whom he had two sons, John Charles (1881-1930) and Phillip Henry (1882-1955).
John Charles married Gladys Woodman, by whom he had a son, John Keith Woodman Sheldon (1907-1948), who in turn married Marie-Paul Littaye, Mary Woodman Sheldon's parents.
Embarking on a brief sojourn to Canada
John Henry married a second time, to Elizabeth Lewes in Aston, Birmingham, in 1885. They went on to have three children, May Elizabeth (b1886) Harold Percival (b1887) and Jacquetta Amelia (b1891). This second family are found living in the town of Fredericton in the Canadian province of New Brunswick in the 1891 census, with John Henry’s occupation given as farmer.
Intriguingly, another Sheldon family with English roots are also found in Fredericton in the same census, namely Alfred, aged 28, his wife Carrie (18) and son Lewis (1). Was there a connection between the two? So far I’ve been unable to find a conclusive birth record for Alfred, which was a popular name in the 19th century. Lots of Alfreds were born in England around 1863.
John Henry’s family must have returned to England by the time of the 1901 Canadian census, which has no record of them.
The next we learn of the family comes in the 1911 UK census, which shows John Henry’s two daughters, May Elizabeth, aged 24, and Jacquetta Amelia (20), living with their maiden aunt, Amelia Elizabeth Sheldon, in Chester Road, Erdington, Birmingham.
John Henry’s son, Harold Percival, is living with his half-brother, Philip Henry, also in Erdington, Birmingham. Both brothers are working as bank clerks. Philip Henry went on to have a very successful careers in banking, before retiring as a bank manager. He and his wife Fanny retired to Exmoor in Devon, where he died in 1955. As far as I can tell the couple had no children.
Harold Percival shows up at the age of 39 on the passenger list of the SS Baltic when it arrived in New York in 1927, perhaps en route to visit his nephew John Keith Woodman Sheldon. Harold also had a successful banking career, and is recorded working as a bank manager in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in the 1939 UK Register. He died in 1972.
Harold had married Alice Maud Plaistowe, and they had one son, Norman John Sheldon (1919-1991). Norman married late in life, in 1975, and died in Westminster, London, in 1991, the last of John Sheldon’s male descendants.