17 November 2018

Inherited Objects Tell Their Own Tales

In my family, both immediate and more broadly, I have the reputation as the one to whom family items can be entrusted.  Relatives near (my parents, uncles, aunts) and more distant (a half-second-cousin once removed, for example) have given me family artefacts, papers, books and other objects over the years. I’ve been fortunate to obtain objects from all four branches of my family.  (See my post Getting Started and Getting Organized for more information on how I segment my family research into four branches.)
RMS Carpathia in New York
after rescuing survivors of the Titanic disaster

From my Woodruff side, I have inherited a large collection of china that came (I had thought) from the family of my dad’s father.  I didn’t believe there was much handed down from my dad’s mother and assumed the china was all from my grandfather.  Although my grandmother was born into a wealthy Canadian family, her family lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash when she was 16 years old.  The following year, she moved to the States and started out on her own in New York City (see my post The Life of an Aspiring Actress – New York in the 1930s).  I always believed that she didn’t bring anything from her family, as they weren’t in a position to keep much.  Her mother went from living in a mansion with servants to living with strangers, her husband having abandoned her after losing the fortune, in boarding houses, so I knew that it was unlikely she would have had any fine china to give her daughter.  I proved to be wrong about this assumption when I researched my Woodruff china and found a possible connection to my grandmother’s family and the Carpathia, the famous ship that rescued survivors of the Titanic.