Monday, June 18, 2018

52 Ancestors: Effie Times Two

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “Same Name.” For YEARS I have known my father’s paternal grandmother as “Mary Effie Morrison Slade.” We always thought it was funny that her sister was also named Effie, Effie Mae to be exact. As young wives and mothers, Mary Effie Morrison Slade and Effie Mae Morrison Hanrahan lived next door to one another at 416 and 418 Randolph Street in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Mary Morrison Slade
Mary Morrison Slade
at her son Fred Slade Sr's house
7 Tanner Place, Portsmouth, VA
My research into my dad’s side of the family has been sporadic; results have been little. Brick walls aplenty! It’s time to shine the light on Mary “Effie” Morrison Slade.

Census records indicate that Mary Morrison was born about 1878 in Tennessee. However, I cannot find her there in 1880. By 1900 she was already married to my great-grandfather Stephen Slade and living in Princess Anne County, now Virginia Beach. Virginia has made death records available online, but OF COURSE Mary Morrison’s is not there! Fortunately, her sister’s is. Effie’s daughter Frances Evelyn Hanrahan Williams named her mother’s parents as Robert Morrison and Evelyn Hosier.

When searches for Robert and Evelyn together came up empty, I tried searching for them separately. Robert Morrison produced just too many hits, so I tried Evelyn Hosier. There was nothing promising there either as most of the Evelyn Hosiers were an older Evelyn married to a man named Hosier.

I have had good luck with birth records at FamilySearch, so I tried my hand with “Effie Morrison.” BINGO. Up popped “Effa Morrison,” born to Robert Morrison and NOT Evelyn BUT Cornelia F. 

from FamilySearch

Then all these little Morrison children popped up: Emma, Kate M., an unnamed Male child, and Rosa V. But no Mary Effie. All were born in Norfolk, Nansemond County, Virginia. Not a one in Tennessee.

Did the Morrisons move to Tennessee for a short period and then return to the same spot in Virginia? That does not seem reasonable to me.

The only time Robert and Cornelia Morrison appear in a census together is 1880 with one child: Kate M.  Could this be my Mary Morrison? Was she Katherine Mary? Mary Katherine? Mary Kate? Not Mary Effie at all? I cannot help thinking that since those other children were registered, surely Mary would have been also.
1880 Western Branch, Nansemond Co, VA
Another argument that Kate M could be Mary is that there is no other sign of Kate after the 1880 census. The other children all died in infancy, and their deaths are listed in the death index on FamilySearch. Had Kate died, certainly her death would have been noted as well.

A recent reminder to review old notes was spot on in pointing out the obvious. I went to Find-a-Grave to double-check Mary Morrison Slade’s death date on her tombstone. Whoever created the memorial posted her name as “Mary Cornelius Morrison Slade.” If I were a betting gal, I would bet they meant “Cornelia.” Then when I looked again at census records, I saw she was entered as “Mary C. Slade.” I had always assumed the “C” was the result of either enumerator error or error in transcription. Now I have a new thought.
Tombstone of Stephen Slade and Mary Morrison Slade
Olive Branch Cemetery, Portsmouth, VA
photo courtesy of Steve Poole
While I will not say conclusively “case closed,” I have corrected my database replacing “Mary Effie” with “Mary Cornelia.” Still, my gut feeling is that she and Kate were one and the same. Maybe “Kate” was just a cute nickname.

While I’m tossing out theories, here is another one in answer to the question, “Why did Effie’s daughter Frances Evelyn think her grandmother’s name was Evelyn Hosier?” I imagine she was told she was named after her grandmother. In Frances Evelyn’s mind, that must have meant the name “Evelyn.” In the birth and death records of her children, Cornelia Morrison was always listed as Cornelia F. In 1860, there was no Cornelia Hosier but there was a Frances, age 8, living with parents Richard and Sarah, and a passel of siblings. In 1870, Cornelia age 17 was in the household, but no Frances. Her name was apparently Cornelia Frances Hosier. Not Evelyn.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 4, 2018

52 Ancestors: Going to the Chapel - Or Not

This week’s theme for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Going to the Chapel.” What perfect timing to share a recent research problem and how our challenge leader Amy Johnson Crow helped me solve it.

My enthusiasm for researching my Irish ancestors returned when a new record popped up for the sister of my great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. The sister is Johanna Sheehan Hederman (or Heatherman!). Her story always makes me sad because only 2 of her 7 children
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman and children Catherine and John
Possibly Johanna Sheehan Hederman
with children Catherine and John
survived into adulthood; the others did not live more than a couple years, if that long.

The older of the two children was Catherine who married Charles Fraundorf on August 18, 1908. They had one daughter, Gertrude born in 1916. The little family appeared in the expected New York census records for 1920, 1925, 1930 and 1940. After that, my online searches found little more than dates of death for Charles and Catherine. A few newspaper articles revealed Charles was active in the Knights of Columbus and local politics. But there was nothing new about Gertrude.

Just this past week in a fit of boredom, I opened Ancestry and did a general search for Fraundorf. What a surprise to find a listing for good ol’ Gertrude in the New York State Marriage Index. She married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach, Nassau County, New York. Long Beach had been the Fraundorfs’ home at least since 1935. However, any celebration over the thought of new leads to follow came to a halt when the index gave me the husband’s name as Vivian Hennekey. 

Surely New York was not so progressive in 1940 to be granting marriage licenses to lesbians. Still, I clicked Miss Hennekey’s name, which took me to a page that revealed a different marriage date and location. She did not marry Gertrude Fraundorf after all! The cause of confusion is clearly the illegible certificate number.

Back to the search I went and plugged in the certificate number, “7882.” It gave me Vivian Hennekey again. So maybe the certificate number was NOT 7882, but no other number I tried gave me Gertrude Fraundorf AND someone other than Vivian.

During a Facebook group chat with Amy Johnson Crow, I posed the question, “Is there a workaround to find the correct couple in the New York State Marriage index 1881-1967?” As soon as Amy pulled up the index on her screen, she saw the problem with the smudged certificate numbers. She studied the screen and said, “Try entering just the exact day, month, year and location, no names.”

That is what I did. And it worked. Two brides and 2 grooms married on April 21, 1940 in Long Beach. (Not surprisingly, NONE of their marriage certificate numbers are clear.) 

Wallace Beers and Rita Lay married and lived happily ever after. They are even buried happily ever after together. Their descendants have shared family trees on Ancestry.

So that left Gertrude plus Salvatore DeLucia.

If, like me, you think surely a name like Salvatore DeLucia and Gertrude DeLucia would be easy to find, think again. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that Italian families - especially the DeLucias - must name a son “Salvatore.”

With an April wedding, Sal and Gert could have been in the census together in 1940, but apparently they were not. In fact, Gertrude was still at home with her parents, probably fully engulfed in wedding planning, when the enumerator came around about 3 weeks before the big day.

Possibly Catherine Fraundorf and Gertrude
Believed to be Catherine and Gertrude Fraundorf
With no supporting facts to go on, it is impossible to sift through the numerous Salvatore DeLucias and Lucias and DeLucios and Luccios and DeLucas to come to a logical conclusion about the husband of Gertrude Fraundorf. Was he born in Italy or was he an American-born son of Italian immigrants? Was he about Gertrude’s age or did she marry a much older man? My research indicates the older Salvatores were also very married with families in 1940. The single Salvatores were mostly children, too young to marry in 1940.

The best candidate for a husband was the Salvatore DeLucia who was an Italian immigrant son of Italian immigrants Angelo and Rose DeLucia. This Salvatore was born in Italy in 1908, arrived in the United States in 1914, and was naturalized by 1930. He was still single in 1940 and only slightly older than Gertrude. The fact that he was living in the right neighborhood at the right time to have met and courted Gertrude Fraundorf makes him the most likely suspect.

BUT - There is NOTHING to say I am right and EVERYTHING to say I am wrong. Family trees on Ancestry put Salvatore not with Gertrude Fraundorf but with Theresa Botticelli - MARRIED and BURIED together. The ONE and only ONE piece of information that keeps this Sal in the running is that he and Miss Botticelli married in 1947, seven years after Gertrude and whichever Salvatore married.

Did Gertrude die young? Could Gertrude and Salvatore have called off the wedding? Could they have married and later divorced? If so, that would have been tough for a couple of Catholics.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Leave It to Beavers

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of children standing in a flooded street reminded me of a photo from my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan’s album. In both photos the light caught the small waves creating the look of broken glass.

Mrs. Beavers Page County, VA about 1920s

However, I am not convinced that this woman was standing in water. Maybe it is only illusion created by the play of light and shadow. On the same page of the album is a companion photo. The man is clearly standing on rock. River rock. OK, so maybe the woman was indeed standing in the water nearby. But why? Why would someone do that?
Mr. Beavers Page County, VA about 1920s

But the more pressing issues for me are why Violetta took photos of these people in the first place and who they were to her.

They are identified simply as Mrs. Beavers and Mr. Beavers. That is not a name in our family tree. In setting about to solve this mini-mystery, I made several assumptions.
  • They were likely neighbors or friends of the family.
  • They were likely Violetta’s parents’ generation, not her friends since she called them “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
  • They likely lived in Page County or Rockingham County.
  • The photo was taken likely between 1919 and 1925.

The census records from 1910 through 1940 show that the Beaver-no S families of Page County lived in Luray or just outside Luray in the community of Marksville. In Rockingham, there were Beaver-no S families in the town of Broadway. I was disappointed not to find them in any area closer to Shenandoah, the town where Violetta and parents lived. More than disappointed, I am just confused about how the families would have known each other.

I checked my three copies of The School Ma’am, yearbooks from the Harrisonburg Teachers College where Violetta and her sister Velma attended, hoping maybe a Beaver daughter was a student there also. No such luck.

Since Luray is closer to Shenandoah than is Broadway, I decided to concentrate on just the Page County Beavers. I ruled out those who would have looked older than Mr. and Mrs. Beavers did in the 1920s. I also ruled out those who would have been close to Violetta’s age as surely she would not have called her contemporaries “Mr.” or “Mrs.” I was left with a handful of names but no answers.

My next stop was Find A Grave. There I found a photo of a man who just might be our “Mr. Beavers.”
John William Beaver
Findagrave photo courtesy Justin S. )
What do you think? Could they be the same man? His birth year puts him in the correct generation (that is, IF my assumptions are correct).

There is also a photo of a young Mrs. Beaver, but it is impossible to determine how she would have aged.
Emma Row Beaver
Findagrave photo courtesy Justin S. )

IF by some strange luck I identified the correct family, then this is John William Beaver and his wife Emma Row. John was son of John Pendleton Beaver, a Civil War Veteran, and Virginia Graves. Again, IF this is the correct family, then John William Beaver was grandson of Paschal Graves, an unusual and unforgettable name - to me, anyway. Why? Because the administrators of the estate of Paschal Graves were involved in a lawsuit against Fielding Jollett, my 3X great-grandfather. However, I doubt this is the kind of story that a young Violetta would even have known about. Even if she were aware, the case was over long before this picture was taken.

I have contacted the woman who posted some photos of John and Emma Beaver on Ancestry to see if she will compare my photos to others she might have of her grandparents. Then I will know whether to pat myself on the back or return to wondering who this Mrs. Beavers was and why she was standing in water.

I encourage you to visit the others at Sepia Saturday and flood them with comments.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


(image courtesy of Pixabay)

The clock is ticking. I have only 2 more days to figure out how the European Union’s new GDPR policy will impact my little blog beginning May 25, 2018. I vacillate between thinking, “Don’t get your pants in a bunch” and “Get your head out of the sand!”

GDPR stands for “General Data Protection Regulation.” Its purpose is to protect the personal data of citizens in EU countries, but the regulation has a far reach. Regardless of where they are based, businesses and blogs that attract EU users must comply or face heavy fines. Up to two-million euro has been a number bounced around quite a bit causing one of my blogging friends to block readers from EU member countries and another to shut down her blog altogether.

Both of those responses seem drastic to me. I’m just a little hobby blogger, not a business. However, I do not want to be the one to test whether the EU will come after a small blog either. In a recent thread on Facebook, one blogger said she thinks the EU will be watching big companies that unscrupulously use visitor information and that the real threat - if any - will be the unscrupulous EU citizen suing the heck out of us claiming we violated his privacy by not being GDPR compliant.

My blog does not have international appeal, but I do occasionally have readers from Spain and Luxembourg. Most of my foreign visitors are from Canada, Australia, and the UK. How the recent “Brexit” affects GDPR is unclear but the UK is committed to comply. So I am too.

What makes complying fairly easy for me is that
  • I do not sell anything nor make money with this blog in any way
  • I do not accept advertising
  • I do not sponsor give-aways
  • I do not ask readers to subscribe to a newsletter
  • I do not ask readers to join a mailing list
  • I do not collect or store reader information from comments
  • I do not write about the living except for an occasional reference to my immediate family and cousins who are not named or personally identifiable

A few issues of concern are cookies, those bits of text strings sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer. Most cookies are good. They are harmless. They make traveling through the Internet easier. However, cookies are now getting a second look as the culprits that help Big Bad Businesses and Big Bad Blogs monitor visitors’ behavior in order to manipulate them.

Just to be safe - or at least I hope so - I have removed social media buttons, Pinterest and Twitter. I also removed “Follow by Email,” a gadget provided by Feedburner and available through Blogger. Feedburner is known to be non-compliant and has not been updated in years. Unfortunately I do not know what removing the gadget will do to current subscribers.

There are some cookies that are out of my control. Because my blog is hosted on Blogger which is owned by Google, information about your use of this site will be shared with Google. I can’t stop that. Google uses cookies to deliver its services, personalize ads, and to analyze traffic. Readers who are now wondering what information Google collects and stores can read the updated policy HERE.

The good news is that Google has taken care of the cookies issue for bloggers. Visitors entering Jollett Etc. from outside the United States will see this message:

I suppose clicking the “Got it” button implies acceptance of Google’s policy. The other option to “Learn More” takes the reader to an explanation of what Google does with its cookies.

As GDPR gets closer to becoming our new normal, I am remembering the big Y2K scare. Remember that? It was the “Year 2000 Bug” or “Millennium Bug” that everyone thought would wreak havoc on computers and computer networks worldwide. It had to do with a problem in the coding of dates after December 31, 1999. Would computers be able to roll over to 2000? I distinctly recall that on January 1, 2000, the world kept turning. We did not die. Very few computer failures were reported. 

I hope that come Friday, GDPR will be much ado about nothing for most of us.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Review: The Wicked Trade by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Disclosure: While I was given this book for free in exchange for a review, I was under no obligation to like it. The opinions expressed are my honest views. I will not receive any commission on sales of books by this author. There are no affiliate links in this post.

I was honored when Nathan Dylan Goodwin contacted me several weeks ago offering a copy of his latest genealogical crime mystery The Wicked Trade, number 7 in the Morton Farrier series. Heck yeah! I love everything about these books. There is a crime and there is genealogy, two of my favorite topics. The books are a “series” in that each one is a story of the latest research project undertaken by Morton Farrier, a professional genealogist, but they can stand alone, so if you haven’t read any of the others, you will not miss a beat starting with the latest one.

Just like the other novels, it is a story within a story with chapters alternating between the past and present. Always in the “present” chapters is the story of Morton researching the question he has been hired to answer along with the backstory of his journey tracing his own family history as an adoptee. In the “past” chapters is THE MAIN MYSTERY unfolding just as Morton learns it by following clues to cemeteries, archives, museums, libraries, historical societies, and significant sites.

In The Wicked Trade Morton is hired by the great-grandson of Ann Fothergill to learn more of her life, how she went from being a drunk and a vagrant with a criminal record to an educated business woman in seven years. A secondary request was to learn if the family legend about barrels of gold guineas being hidden were true, and if the barrels might still be there, wherever “there” was in the 1820s.

Morton’s challenge would be finding genealogical records as the 1820s pre-dated census records and civil registration. If you have done any family research, you can feel his pain. But Morton is truly the man for the job, and he gives us amateur genealogists hope that we can solve our difficult puzzles too. With only a letter, a newspaper clipping dated 1820, and names gathered from later census records, Morton sets about following the bread crumbs that lead him to suspect Ann Fothergill had been involved with the Aldington Gang, a notorious band of smugglers along the Kent and Sussex borders of England. Possibly she was involved in a murder as well.

The social history that Nathan weaves into this story makes heroes of “the bad guys” and villains of the ones upholding the law. Those of us who have a horse thief, a bootlegger, or some other “black sheep” in the family can appreciate how the legal system of the times could make a man feel so defeated that resorting to a life of crime might be the only way to keep food on the table and his family out of the workhouse.

I am always sad when the story ends, but at the same time I look forward to the historical notes that Nathan includes at the back of the book. As he so often does, he inserts his fictional characters into real events and allows them to interact with real people documented in the very sorts of records that Morton Farrier uses in his research. Like a magician revealing his secrets, Nathan takes the reader behind the scenes to show how the book came together.

Now the wait is on for another Morton Farrier mystery to solve. And I want to know how he will get on with his half-brother.

Related Review: The Spyglass File

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: Z is for ZZZZZZZ

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for the ZZZZZZZ we enjoy when sleeping in high back oak beds inherited from my grand aunt Violetta Davis Ryan. I do not recall ever seeing them in her home, but I do recall her saying she had old beds in a shed behind one of her apartment buildings. Something about former tenants leaving them behind, maybe? Or maybe they had been in her family? I really don’t know.

I only know that my mother was the next owner. She used the beds in her guest rooms. Now I have them. After my girls moved out, the beds moved in to make pretty little guest rooms.

High back oak bed

However, like most antique beds, they are full size (also known as a double bed). I know of no married couple that owns a full bed anymore. Queens and kings are what modern couples are used to. That is why I bought a new queen bed for one guest room. The other rooms with the high back oak beds are fine for children.

High back oak bed

Jordan and rope bed
Whew - that room was a mess!
I do not know what memory I was trying to capture here.

In addition to these two beds, we have another high back and a cannon ball rope bed in the attic. The ¾ rope bed was my daughter’s “big girl bed” after she graduated out of her crib to make room for her baby sister. The bar at the foot end rolled so that people could roll their blankets and quilts onto it.

The bed frame has knobs around which ropes originally were tied to support a mattress. People routinely tightened the ropes for better support. The expression “Sleep tight” comes from these beds. Of course, we didn’t use ropes – we attached metal braces to hold the box spring and mattress which we had cut down from a full to ¾. When she was little, we used a safety rail since that mattress was pretty high off the floor.

*    *    *    *    *    *

OK, I have completed the challenge. Now give me that A-to-Z Survivor Badge. It’s time to catch some zzzzzzzzzs.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: Y is for Yard Tools

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for yard tools. I did not inherit my grandmother’s green thumb, but I did get her grubbing hoe and watering can.

Watering Can and Grubbing Hoe

My maternal grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis always had beautiful flowers and delicious tomatoes growing side by side. Her garden was not the beautifully planned and dedicated space that drives aficionados of Pinterest to pin and repin. But she did know the value of digging a $5.00 hole for a 50¢ plant.

As I looked for pictures to show off Grandma’s beautiful camellias and peonies, I just laughed at the sorry state of her flower beds.

Lucille Rucker Davis

Sadly, we didn’t catch them in their glory. Our pictures are of beds that needed weeding and a little mulch. In my mind’s eye, though, I see the sparkle of white Spirea in bloom. Camellia bushes bursting with pink and red blooms. Blue hydrangea bending under their own weight. Tulips and daffodils. Tall gladiolas in pink, purple, white, and yellow held upright with a stick. Forsythia in March. Azaleas in April. Creeping Phlox and Candy Tuft dotted here and there to mark the outer limits of foundation beds. 

Wendy in Grandma's back yard
Me in Grandma's backyard
Grandma didn’t invest a lot of time in a vegetable garden. She simply made room in the flower beds for a few tomato plants because even in the 1960s good tomatoes, “real” tomatoes, were not to be had in the grocery store. She also had a reliable fig tree that supplied all she needed for everyone’s anticipated gift of fig preserves. 

I’m no master gardener, but I like changing my flowers out with the seasons. Grandma always emphasized the importance of frequent watering to get new plants established, and so I try to follow her advice. Admittedly the watering can requires more trips than the garden hose, but I do believe flowers prefer its soft rain. And the hoe - it is always by my side if I need to chop out a stubborn root or dig that $5 hole.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

Friday, April 27, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: X is for X-tra Punch Cups

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for X-tra punch cups. Not only do I have a punch bowl with matching cups, I have EXTRA punch cups. Yes, cups that do not match anything else.

I display my punch bowl in the dining room. The Jeannette Glass Feather pattern is a common one in the punch bowl world.  (This is the same pattern as my pink party plates featured on Day J, only clear.) Maybe that is why eBay has 2 complete punch bowl sets like mine (bowl and 10 cups) - one for $32 and one for $50. Meanwhile at Replacements, the bowl is $70 with cups selling for $8 each. Yeah, they’re dreaming!

Jeannette Feather punch bowl with Ice Blue Radiance on top

The 12 blue punch cups resting on top belonged to my paternal grandmother. The pattern is Radiance Ice Blue by New Martinsville.

Radiance Ice Blue by New Martinsville

The rest are odds and ends, mostly singletons, but no more than 2 or 3 of the same pattern. Some fit in the punch bowl but others are stored in a plastic bin to be called on as needed.

Column Thumbprints by Westmoreland
Column Thumbprints by Westmoreland

Cosmos by Imperial Glass
Cosmos by Imperial Glass

Fruit by Jeannette Glass
Fruit by Jeannette Glass

Shuttle by Indiana Glass
Shuttle by Indiana Glass

One unidentified


Most of the punch cups came from my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan, which means some might have belonged to her sister or mother. Equally possible is that someone just picked up individual cups at thrift stores or antique shops in order to have enough cups for some upcoming party. Punch was ALWAYS served at weddings, showers, retirement and birthday parties, right?

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: W is for Wash Stand and Washbowl

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for wash stand and washbowl set. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the days before indoor plumbing, these were found in bedrooms, or at least among folks that could afford them. The washbowl set was the forerunner of the bathroom sink allowing people to wash themselves in the privacy of their own room. Usually water was carried by bucket to fill the pitcher and then poured into the bowl or basin where one could wash his hands and face. Afterwards the bowl was emptied either by throwing the water out a window or by dumping it into a “slop jar” to be carried away for more discreet disposal. Sets were made in plain white ironstone as well as fancy hand-painted china.

Washbowl Set
When my parents gave me and my husband a washbowl set for Christmas 1973, it was complete. The large pitcher was for cold water and the smaller one was for hot water; the bowl or basin was for washing. Completing the set are a small bowl with lid which held a cake of soap, a shaving mug, a toothbrush holder, and a chamber pot or “slop jar."

Unfortunately the toothbrush holder and lid to the chamber pot are broken thanks to little children throwing a ball in the house. (GRRR)

But back to the story. Washbowl sets were almost always placed on a small piece of furniture called a wash stand. Some had marble tops to protect the furniture from water stains.

Some had a rack for towels; some people used to hang a small quilt to protect the wall from water splashes. Almost all had a drawer for towels and a storage area large enough to hold the chamber pot.

In the 1970s and 80s, antiques were very popular but very expensive. On weekends Momma, my sister, and I scoured many a thrift store and antique shop in search of a bargain. Wash stands were high on our list, and we found quite a few.

Wash stand dining room
This wash stand in my dining room
holds serving pieces and candle holders.
Momma gave new life to an array of stands from the primitive to the more refined, although none with marble tops as those were too expensive. However, I inherited a walnut wash stand with marble top from my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan.
Living room wash stand
Walnut wash stand with marble top
from Aunt Violetta
Notice this one has a large back splash
plus small shelves to hold parts of the
washbowl set.

The wash stand currently in one of our guest rooms was in pieces when Momma found it. The top was separated from the rest and the doors were stacked inside. The towel rack was in pieces as well, and the rod for holding a towel was missing. The cost - $4. Since this project required quite a bit of gluing, Momma went to Sears to buy some clamps.

Wash stand in guest room
Bedroom wash stand in oak
is the most rustic piece.

The clerk was surprised that a woman was clamping anything. He obviously had not met my mother! She owned a drill as well as a belt sander, jig saw, and a host of smaller tools like screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, chisels, saws, and hammers.
Wash stand in family room
Wash stand made of poplar in the family room is just big enough
for a 52" tv. The drawer holds some DVDs, and the bottom part
of the cabinet holds the DVD player. 
Our neighbor once said, “It wasn’t officially summer until the garage door was open, old furniture was in the driveway, and Mary E. was in her white work shorts.” Those shorts were so covered in paint and wood stain that they probably could have stood on their own.

Oh, how clearly I remember those summer days as Momma’s assistant, both of us in rubber gloves with putty knives, a wire brush, and paint remover scraping through layers of paint to find that beautiful oak or poplar. My clearest memory, though, is that flicks of paint and chemicals STING!

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: V is for Vaseline

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for vaseline glass. It is actually glass that contains uranium. The most popular color of uranium glass is this yellow-green. It was nicknamed “vaseline glass” in the 1920s because of its resemblance to petroleum jelly as it was sold at that time.

Vaseline glass

To be honest my Vaseline glass is not an heirloom at all. These are pieces I bought at antique shops specifically to fit the color scheme of one of our guest bedrooms. However, I need to include the story in my book of Heirlooms so that my daughters will know that there is no family history and certainly no sentimental value attached to these bowls and cup.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A to Z April Challenge: U is for Underappreciated

When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.

is for those heirlooms that are “under-appreciated.” Frankly, that could be almost anything in my house! But I will limit myself to the silver.

My grand-aunt Helen Martha Killeen Parker knew she was dying in 1981, so she labeled her possessions with the names of the recipients. My dad’s sister was very close to Aunt Helen, so she received quite a few things. Whether she thought she had inherited too much for one person or simply had no interest in another tea set, my aunt gave the set to me knowing I would appreciate fine silver. 

Helen Killeen Parker silver tea set

I always thought the silver service was a wedding gift until I did a little research. The pattern is Shell and Gadroon by Gorham dating from the 1950s, almost 30 years after Helen and Herbert married. I found a set online selling for $789. Unlike the set for sale, mine has a different tray and does not include the waste bowl.

My aunt also gave me Aunt Helen’s silver punch bowl. If you’ve never drunk punch from a silver cup, you are missing out on an extraordinary experience. Silver holds the cold like no other. 

Helen Killeen Parker silver punch bowl set

Yeeaah, hardly anyone loves silver anymore. Hardly anyone wants to bother with polishing it. They should be happy with recent decorating trends that celebrate tarnish. While I do not LOVE polishing silver, I do not mind putting in the effort. All that sparkle is reward enough.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.