Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whose Mother Are You?

I love old photos and portraits. I certainly don't have enough of such items from my ancestors though I do have some good ones. I love all the ones I have and treasure them.

That is why it is beyond me when I go into an antique store or visit an estate sale that I see old photos and portraits for sale. I just can't understand why people would be willing to part with such objects reflecting their heritage.

I have a good friend, Karen, who loves antiques. After a long career as an executive secretary at Whirlpool Corp., she was able to take an early retirement and devote her time to her passion which is antiquing. She goes to estate sales, auctions, has booths at various antique malls in our area, shows her wares at our annual Antiques on the Bluff in St. Joseph and sells items on eBay. She enjoys this and does quite well.

The other day I was at her house and noticed she had a lovely portrait in an even lovelier frame sitting in her back room where she traditionally puts all her antique "finds". I commented on the portrait and she remarked that she had picked it up that day from an estate sale. Her intention was to take out the picture, dump it and put the frame for sale at her antique booth.

I immediately commented that she should most definitely not destroy the photo as it was beautiful and obviously an original oil painting. In her ever generous spirit, she then told me to take the frame and portrait if I liked it so well and believe me, I did. Here it is:

Thomas & Ida Padgett
ca 1888

I told her that I could only wish that I had such a portrait from one of my ancestors and she told me she had been to an estate sale at one of our local mobile home complexes. That was all she knew about the portrait other than the estate sale was from an elderly lady who had recently passed away and her adult daughter was conducting the sale.

The genealogist in me wanted more information. So, I put on my Nancy Drew 'hat' (I did read all her books and have them all still) and went on a mission. I knew someone who lived in that particular mobile home complex so I called her and inquired if she knew who had recently had an estate sale in her area. She did, she told me the name of the daughter of the deceased as well as her phone number and I called the woman.

Once I explained why I was calling, the woman was very receptive to giving me more information. She told me the couple in the portrait were her great-grandparents and she knew his name was Thomas Padgett and the great-grandmother's name was unknown to her but that was all she knew. She told me that her grandmother was this couple's daughter and her name had been Edna and she was born in 1888 or 1889. She explained that her mother had had the portrait, nobody in the family was interested in it and there were no descendants to come so she and her brother decided to sell it. She was delighted that the portrait had found a good home with someone who would appreciate it.

Off to I went in search of more information on Thomas Padgett and his wife. I also searched for the obituary in our local paper from this recently deceased lady who had had this portrait. Armed with the information from the obituary and the sketchy information from the great-granddaughter, I learned quite a bit.

Thomas Padgett was born in Cuyahogo County, Ohio ca 1859. He was married on June 1, 1887 to Ida Mills in North Plains, Ionia County, Michigan. Ida Mills had been born in 1868 in North Plains, Ionia County, MI. Her parents were William Mills (born in 1832 in Michigan) and Emma Wright (?) (born in 1849 in Michigan).

Census records showed that this Thomas & Ida Padgett had had a daughter, Edna, born in 1888 who married Chester Barr. Edna and Chester Barr had had a daughter, Ida Lucille Barr, who was the lady who had recently passed away and who had had this portrait.

I was able to find vital records on this family, information that extended back further generations indicating Ida Mills Padgett's family had come from England and generally found more information in a shorter amount of time than I ever spent on any of my personal lines. It was exciting and challenging and the information just flowed from the computer on this family.

Today, on Mother's Day, I hope Thomas & Ida know that their portrait has found a good home and someone is appreciating it and thinking of them.

Above photo from personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Heirloom Hallmark Family Tree

I will admit that my cousin, TK, of Before My Time is one talented artistic person. When she wrote her 3 posts about her Heirloom Hallmark Family Tree and discussed the photo ornaments that she created for her tree, I was mesmerized.

I did go out on eBay and found a similar tree for sale. A good bid later and the tree was mine. It was shipped promptly and was easy to assemble. TK and I had several e-mails back and forth about how I was going to adorn my tree. I will probably also do the photo ornaments as she did and she graciously offered to help me with the preparation of the photos.

In the meantime, though, I had another seasonal use for the tree:

Easter eggs handmade by Ella Kolberg Kijak
ca 1945
St. Joseph, MI

These egg ornaments were all made by my grandmother, Ella Kolberg Kijak, approximately in 1945. She displayed these eggs on a tree at her home in St. Joseph every Easter. Her tree consisted of using a large crystal vase and putting live tree branches in the vase with stones and sand at the bottom to hold up the tree branches. It was the focal point on her buffet and something that stands in my memory of "Easter at Grandma's house".

She gave my mother the eggs perhaps in the early 1970's and we have displayed them in a variety of ways over the years. However, this year, I thought this Hallmark Family Tree was the ideal display option. I don't remember how many eggs there were originally. I do remember the detailed work that went into creating these eggs, though. We have only broken a few over the years and there are 23 remaining. Today the tree was disassembled and the eggs packed away for safekeeping.

Now it is time to begin collecting locket ornaments and creating my own Heirloom Family Tree. TK, are you ready?

Above photo from personal collection of Cheryl Schulte