Friday, February 17, 2012

Family 'Heirlooms'... Tangible Genealogy Memories

The names, dates and places that support the basic building blocks of genealogy are important to everyone! But there is nothing more exciting than to hold a tangible item that belonged to one of our ancestors. I've always felt it is important to honor items that our relatives treasured, and I'm very fortunate to have in my possession many invaluable items that once belonged to my forebearers.

One of my most treasured belongings is this lovely little painting that my Great-Great Grandmother Frances "Frankie" (Fancher) Mapson painted on glass. She painted this sometime after her 1896 marriage and before her premature death in 1905 at age 28. It hangs with honor in my living room. It is a fascinating reminder that this talented young wife and mother managed to have a creative outlet at the turn of the century, a time when life was not easy.... and it leaves me wondering what other great things she may have accomplished had she lived to an old age!?

The origins of this cane are unclear... it belonged to my Great- Great Grandfather John Lewis Yore... though prior to him it may have belonged to his brother, William Yore. Grandpa Yore lived in a rural part of Northern Missouri, near the Iowa border and somehow this decorative cane found its way into his family. After his 1930 death, the cane eventually came into the possession of my Great-Grandfather John Orion Yore. A few years ago, my Great-Aunt brought the cane to me from Washington and it proudly stands in my living room. I've often wondered if the dagger (which is quite long!) was ever used in some fashion, or if it's always just been a fun novelty. At some point, many years ago, the carved beard of the man's head broke off, but the area has been worn smooth by many years of use. My Yore family genealogy always was, and remains a source of mystery, but this interesting heirloom adds to the history I may never entirely know.

Ralph and Minnie Maine were my Great-Great Grandparents. They lived many years in rural Cass County, Minnesota and were what I would call poor... They had little in the way of property and it must have been a struggle to raise their 6 children... I've often thought life would have been so much easier had they remained in Southern Minnesota where the land was more hospitable and infrastructure more developed... But they continued on in Cass County, leaving a lasting legacy... And what they lacked in money they made up for in the values they instilled on their family. It goes without saying that people who don't have a lot of money, don't leave a lot in the way of 'heirlooms' for their descendants... So I feel very fortunate to now have in my possession this lovely carnival glass pitcher that belonged to them! Of course at its inception carnival glass was very inexpensive and it's likley that this pitcher was earned, or even free, by the purchase of something else. My Grandpa remembers his Grandma making lemonade in this pitcher and it was the only item I ever remember him mentioning he'd like to have someday. I'm honored to now have this pitcher, which is probably one of the few beautfiul things Minnie ever had, and even more incredible it survived 6 grandchildren and countless grand and great-grandchildren... which inspite of its beauty, was used to serve everyday lemonade.

Early in my genealogy quest I was to gain valuable friends in a number of local historians. One of these locals was Florence Garletz, a spry octogenarian with a wealth of knowledge. One day while discussing my Park family from the Huntley-Granada, Minnesota area, and a particular tragedy involving my Uncle (4x great actually!) Judson Park, Florence proclaimed, "I knew his wife, in fact after she died (in 1944) there was an auction and I drove my Grandpa out there for it." Uncle Jud took his own life after becoming despondent after the death of their only son in 1914, and since there was no immediate family after the death of his wife Jennie, their large home and household was auctioned off. Florence went on to say, "We bought a whole bunch of things that day, Grandpa & I... including some walnut chairs that I still have, and you should have one!" I was thrilled and Florence explained that a couple of them needed some work-- to be refinished and the caned seat replaced. So I refinished the little chair and Florence taught me how to cane and we replaced the seat as well. It's great to have this chair of Uncle Jud's-- he was the younger brother of my Great-Great-Great Grandmother Amelia (Park) Fancher, who sadly died from complications after the birth of her daughter Frances [see above entry on bird painting]. It seems since Amelia & her daughter died so young there was little, if any, history or heirlooms passed on to their descendants. So this chair has even more special meaning! Florence was a treasured Friend, who passed away in 2011 at 95 years old... leaving me with many fond memories... and Uncle Jud's chair.

This beautiful punch bowl is a true family heirloom! It belonged to my Great-Great Grandmother Sally "Essie" (George) Bruce Crosby, and my Grandma had it and used it for many years, until it became mine. Grandma always describes her Grandma Crosby as "poor" and it was evident in her 79 years, that life was hard and she was indeed always "poor". So I've often wondered where in the world Essie got this punch bowl?! I can't imagine her purchasing it, as it seems a rather extravagent & somewhat unnecessary item for a woman who lived in a tent for a year in the late 1910s. Was this punch bowl a gift? Did she inherit it? If so, from whom? Her second husbands family was from out East, and Essie did live on the East Coast for a brief time in the 1930s. Maybe it belonged to her Father & Step-Mother? They lived in Iowa, which would have been a more managable place to bring a large punch bowl set home from. Unfortunately, the people who might know the origins of this beautiful piece have long since passed on. Regardless of where it came from, I'm thrilled to be the caretaker of Grandma Crosby's lovely punch bowl. 

What fun or beautiful family 'heirlooms' are you the proud owner (or caretaker, if you wish) of?! Make sure that the history of these treasures is recorded somewhere, so that when the time comes to be passed on to the next person, the history of these great items from our forebearers continues on!

I have many more treasures... and will spotlight them at a later time

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