Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hidden Family Treasure

Winter blahs can be a blessing in disguise.  While my husband was away last month and the house was as quiet as it can be with a busy dog in residence, I dug out the family Bible.  Being the eldest makes me the keeper of this precious piece of my history and ever more curious about the people who came before.  Hidden between the pages, and by whose hand goodness only knows, are little bits of treasure.
The other side of this newspaper clipping from Saturday, August 1, 1959 is a poem to commemorate a visit to Canada by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (I'm not the only anglophile!).  But there was a bonus treat on the reverse side, baseball stats featuring Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

The front of an envelope addressed to my grandfather when he was ten years-old.  Who could have sent it and what did they write about?
Someone was trying their hand at a touch of needlework.  The message above is touching but the one below is worrying....
A couple of years ago I tucked in some theatre tickets but the crisp digital print looks vulgar in comparison.
Most poignant has to be the bits of flower and fern pressed between so many pages.  I would love to think this ages old lily was part of a bridal bouquet but it may very well have been part of a funeral wreath.  My great-grandfather drowned while out in a canoe and his grandson died at the age of four, that death isn't explained.

Following the line of descendants backwards, I was able to pinpoint a man named Samuel who was born in 1678 and lived in or near Exeter, England.  Woolcombing was named as a family occupation so it is fun to imagine that perhaps ancestral roots are calling this anglophile home, or responsible for the balls of wool stashed in my closet.  He left England's shores for America in 1700, a journey the likes of which I can't even imagine.  Samuel married a woman several years later with the family name of 'Sweet', delightfully one of her family members bore the name....wait for it....Valentine!  How charming.

Flipping through pages of recorded births and deaths my heart broke for Samuel's grandson and his wife.  Their two year-old son died on December 12, 1777 and then exactly one year later, to the day, another son was delivered stillborn or died later that day.  What are the chances and how cruel is fate?  It would be two and a half years before another baby was documented.  It is also interesting but not unexpected to watch the number of children born to families dwindle from double digits to just one as in our case.

I can't imagine there will be very much guessing about my life required by my descendants, what I get up to on weekends or read before bed is on my blog.  But how cool is it to have over 300 years of existence, concrete proof of a life lived before, stored cosily in my closet amongst my sweaters?  It is both fantastic and humbling to play my part.  As for that 'Watch and prey' mini-sampler, there is a great aunt who had a bear skin from her very own kill but she is from the other side of the family.  And yes, despite the pretty shoes and Cath Kidston bags, I can stack a mean cord of wood.


  1. How fascinating. And I love 'watch and prey' ... might explain the gene for your beady eye for a bookshop bargain?

  2. What a very wonderful legacy to own, Darlene! How precious.

    Our family has a coincidence with dates, but one which is slightly more redemptive. My Dad's mother died when he was a teenager, on November 7th - the same date that, 12 years later, Col and I were born, over six weeks early.

  3. Cornflower, Lovely to hear from you, thanks for stopping by!

    mary, What I wouldn't give to know the story behind that one. You're right about my beady eye when it comes to books, now if only I could be as sharp about other things!

    Simon, Oh that is eerie isn't it? Lovely for your Dad though, that a sad date was turned into a happy one. Bet your Mum was happier than anyone to be delivered of you and Colin sooner rather than later!

  4. What a WONDERFUL possession! People have to search all over to find their family history and you have it right there. Not a cold print-out from a computer, either, but handwritten, handpressed and hand-sewn (did the needlewoman have a sense of humour, or was it just that spelling wasn't her strong point? :) ).

    Such sad events, too. All those tragedies, now far in the past, but so heartbreaking to the people who lived through them. I envy you such a beautiful and moving record of your family's history.

  5. Oh that is lovely! I don't have a family bible but I have one from my godmother which went through several female generations. That is a pocket bible so there's not so much room for things to have been left inside. That cross stitch did make me giggle though!

  6. That's so lovely Darlene! What an amazing vessel of history that is - to touch what your ancestors have see dates they wrote in themselves...fascinating. You are blessed indeed! Thank you for sharing this with us! :)

  7. Penny, Something tells me that spelling is the issue but the mistake makes it all the more charming I think. Hope you are all doing well at your house and lovely to hear from you!

    Verity, Isn't it a hoot? And I love the idea of a bible being handed down through the females in your family. Perhaps not much room for momentos but a slip of paper with tiny printing might be a nice find one day for someone?

    Rachel, You're welcome! And not a gypsy in sight as far as I can gather, although, there is a woman named, Freelove ;)