During a recent visit to my mother’s house, we went through two very old, battered suitcases, one oak chest, and three steamer trunks, each filled with family items. Out came handmade quilts, antique linen tablecloths and napkins, plates, vases and cutlery. There were also reams of aging photographs, tin types, and crinkly yellow documents: marriage and death certificates, titles and deeds, letters and postcards, children’s scrap books and a ticket for a steamer that brought one of my ancestors here from Liverpool, England in 1890.
My Grandmother Dawson and two great-grandmothers were obsessive about collecting these things. Grandma Dawson also did extensive research into family history in order to qualify for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her typed up genealogy reports were exhumed from one of the suitcases.
When I was a teenager, it might have found it an interminable drag to go through trunks like these, but as early as my twenties I learned to love it. Now it’s like Christmas, carefully opening wrappers of tissue and newsprint to discover unexpected delights.
Here is a tiny sampling of the photographs, history and genealogy we uncovered.
The actual ticket used by my relative William Dawson to come over from Liverpool in 1890
Working the oil rigs in El Dorado Kansas
Girls basketball team from 1907. My great grandmother Mabel Effie Tarkington–who I had the privilege of knowing–is second from the left in the middle row.
The Talkington family farm
Bonus Photo: Portrait of the artist as a young man. It’s me!
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