musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Sunday, August 06, 2006

family ghosts

Great-Grandma's Treasure Chest
I'm feeling haunted tonight, but the spirits haunting me are kind. They're ancestors and they've been keeping me company this weekend, thanks to the contents of this box — one of the treasures unearthed last month in the Great Closet Excavation.

A hand written card glued inside the lid reads:

M. S. Gainfort
from I. Sawyer

I'll probably never know who "I. Sawyer" was, but "M. S. Gainfort" was Margaret Susan, my maternal great-grandmother. Her lovely Christmas treasure chest was crafted of dark, burled wood with delicate mother-of-pearl inlay on the lid and around the key hole. She must have thought it a fine gift! But the real treasures now are the bits and pieces of history that Margaret, her children, and her grandchildren left inside for me.

Five sheets of brittle, yellowing paper trace my roots back to Ireland, c.1600, with the birth of Daniel Dickinson: "born in the Parish of Lample, and County of Cumberland, 1674, and came into Ireland in 1694, and took to Wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Scott." Daniel and Elizabeth settled in Edenderry where they raised their family. Sadly, three of their six children died in infancy. Life was harsh in 1700.

The handwriting changes on page 3 of the history and I recognize my grandmother's neat, precise script. At the bottom of page 4, in 1965, my Mom recorded Grandma's passing and continued the history herself until 1980, when my youngest son was born. It seems the pen has now passed to me.

Deeper in the box is a faded letter from the Town of Norwich, Ontario, to Margaret's husband Noble Dickinson (my great grandfather) marking his retirement as town Postmaster in 1884. Noble and Margaret's daughter, Edna Irene Dickinson, married Harry Arnold May of Port Dalhousie in September, 1908. Harry was my grandfather. Here he is with his brothers, Louis, Arthur, and Charles. Harry is on the right.

Harry May and his brothers, c.1896

And there's more. So much more! A rock chip with a shiny vein of gold — is it real? A tiny, leather-bound New Testament, published in 1886. An ivory hair comb. Hand-written record books listing purchases and incomes dating back to 1826.

My Dad got involved in the treasure box, too, contributing a history of his family. One note reads, "Great Grandfather - sea captain. Great Grandmother - from Sweden - she owned a 'Pub', 'The Foxes', in Wolston - near Coventry."

My missing writer's muse is stirring! Thanks, ancestors, for a box full of inspiration!

2 4 6


At 9:11 pm, Blogger burekaboy — said...

wow, what an amazing treasure trove to keep care of with literally hundreds of years of family history & stories contained within. that is truly something to cherish and be able to hand down to the next generations.

an incredibly interesting post! now you have to go back to ireland to visit where these people actually lived! or have you? :-]

At 10:10 pm, Blogger Ostara said...

It's been a dream of mine to see where my family began - definitely on the "to do" list!

At 12:34 am, Blogger burekaboy — said...

one day, one day ... as they say. i am sure it'll be the trip of a lifetime when it comes to be :-] (notice i didn't say "if").


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home