We are used to using documents and records to research our family history. But sometimes we use heirlooms and objects to assist in the search. And oftentimes it takes a widespread search to locate all of the information. It is not unusual to find that pieces of the puzzle rest in different branches of the family.
Jan Frazier of Pekin, Illinois, is a genealogist. She is also a quilter. One of her possessions is a quilt she inherited from her grandmother. She didn’t know much about the quilt, but she did know that it was made from the velvet fabric used to line coffins and was extremely heavy.
One day she brought it to her quilting group. Her friends were quite impressed by the fabric and the unusual stitching used to put it together. They were certain it was quite old, and challenged her to find out more about it. And what genealogist could resist such a challenge?
She consulted various experts from funeral homes, upholsterers, and a quilt appraiser. She determined that the cloth was more than a century old. The appraiser said it was one of the heaviest she had ever appraised. Six months later, her local newspaper ran a story about the quilt and her search. The story was seen by Diane Ayers, who lives more than 150 miles away.
Diane had her own quilt, passed down from her great-great-grandmother. But more importantly, she had the story behind the quilt. The great-great-grandmother was working on a quilt as a wedding present for her son’s wedding. She was joined by her two sisters, who made quilts for their children.
Jan believed that the quilt came from her great-grandmother whose maiden name was Dully. She enlisted the assistance of a cousin who is working on a book about the family. They immigrated to the United States from Bavaria almost 150 years ago, and using the information about the family, they were able to locate the third quilt.
This is a perfect example of how collaboration is key. It also shows how objects and heirlooms can assist in confirming familial relationships. The answers are not always on paper. Sometimes they can exist in the most interesting areas. And they can reunite disparate branches of the family that have long ago lost touch.
Jan’s story is very interesting. You can read more about her journey, and the reunion between different family members (and find out who had the third quilt) in Quilt Helps Woman Find Her Family History.