Tag Archives: genealogy

Postcard from the studio

…..working on the annual family history installment

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Tales of the silver napkin rings

As with silver spoons handed down in my family, napkin rings also have stories to tell.  Some are quite straight forward:

Lemuel from Mother

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Lemuel was Lena’s second born son – my father

 Lemuel Joseph Downs

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Others have a back-story:

Mama from Evelyn    09

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‘Mama’ refers to Lena, my grandmother, married to my grandfather George Wallingford Downs in in 1909.  Lena was 19; George at 35, a widower with an 8 year old daughter, Evelyn.  The hope for relationship expressed in the engraving was not to be.  Evelyn was soon sent to boarding school; Lena and George went on to have 3 sons.  The oldest, George Jr., had no children, my father only one daughter, and his younger brother, Bernard died in infancy.
Evelyn married and had four children.  Lena, to the end of her days, only claimed two sons and one granddaughter.  She was never ‘Mama’ to Evelyn.

Evelyn Elizabeth Downs

with her grandmother

Susan Eliza Houston Downs

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Susan Eliza Houston Downs

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my great grandmother, my father’s grandmother, his father’s mother – Lena’s mother-in-law

This napkin ring does not so much tell its own story, as gives confirmation of the one just told.  Indeed, I was named for the Susan of the napkin ring, so it seems to logically follow that it would come to me…..eventually.  Nineteen years would pass between Susan’s death and my birth.  I would think that it might have been passed first during that time to Evelyn from her grandmother.  Instead, it came to me directly from Lena……

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Do you have family treasures with stories to tell???  Perhaps you have not yet listened……………

 

 

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Family history etched in silver

Silver spoons are on my mind.  I’ve just taken down the kitchen Christmas tree (the longest a tree has ever remained!!!).

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Looking at all these spoons and thinking about the family stories they have to tell….

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……I can’t believe it is my turn already!!!  I am now the grandmother with the young granddaughter who will someday use the silver previously passed down to me.  How well I remember my grandmother, Lena, explaining the provenance of teaspoon, demitasse or souvenir spoon; names, initials, dates and places engraved on some, and the story behind others.  Her words are etched in my memory as surely as the engravings on the silver.

S.E.D.  –  Susan Eliza Downs,

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my great grandmother after whom I am named.

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Lena may have received this spoon to commemorate her eighteen birthday in 1908.

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The following year she was married to George Wallingford Downs.

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Quoting Lena from a note she left with this hammered sterling sugar spoon:

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My sugar spoon given to me as a wedding present – by Edith Goodwin.  1909  LMD

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Lena took her maiden name, Miller, as a middle name when she married.  Her mother,

Mary Elizabeth Judd Miller

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passed this set of teaspoons on to her only daughter, Lena.

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My father’s baby teeth marks in the bowl of one of the spoons.

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Mary Elizabeth Judd Miller also passed her mother’s serving spoon (one of six) on to Lena,

M.A.J. – Mary Ann Judd

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the other five given, one each, to Lena’s five brothers:

Benjamin, Thomas, Bernard, Wallace, and Frederick

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Lena Miller Downs

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and this is just the beginning…..

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Filed under Family history, Holidays

The gift of roots

Always interested in family history, I have now become the family historian.

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A favorite quote from ‘Healing Old Wounds’ by Judy Ryden speaks to my love of the subject:

“All children deserve two things: one is roots, the other is wings.”

As the ‘children’ have gotten older and found their wings, they, and their spouses and children have become more interested in their roots.  Beginning with Christmas 2001, and every year since, I have given a segment of their history to each one interested.  Choosing an individual or two,

I copy pictures,

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documents,

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correspondence,

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newspaper clippings,

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– all things pertinent, interesting and many times, beautiful. 

To this I add short written summary or vignette of the ancestor’s life,

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then a ‘Key’ to explain where and how to integrate the new segment into those already given,

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and wrap them with love as a gift from my heart.

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A Stitch in Time

Associate blogger and photographer – Haven Rose

Lena laid aside her hand work, placing the needle securely in the spool of thread…………….never to be picked up again.

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Pieces of fabric cut for the Hexagon quilt, along with the pattern made of sand paper were neatly tucked into the box.

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A section of a new ‘flower’, with a needle waiting to be drawn through the fabric…..

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lay atop completed sections.….

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ready to be pieced together with pink hexagons to join them to the growing quilt top.

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And so the materials remained for 60, 70, perhaps 80 years.

Even now, half a century after Lena’s death, they remain essentially the same.

The box and twenty circles of Dresden Plates ……

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inherited along with

brown and white quilt made by my great grandmother Susan Houston Downs and my great great aunts the Houston sisters in Michigan between 1880-1890

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red and white star quilt pieced by my great great grandmother Ruth Miller in about 1900

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blue and white quilt made by my grandmother Lena Miller Downs

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along with unfinished quilt tops

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I love Nona’s quilts a lot. They’re so cool!

OOOOOOOOOOOH!

Haven Rose, age 7, is the great great great granddaughter of Susan Houston Downs,

great great great granddaughter of Ruth Miller,

 great great granddaughter of Lena Miller Downs

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