The topic for week 31 of 52 Ancestors is Oldest.
In my grandmother’s house there was a nook with a built-in bookcase. On the shelves were old books, old pictures and other knick-knacks. A few years before she passed away, she moved to assisted living. The things she didn’t take with her there where distributed among her children and grandchildren and the rest was sold. My parents took some of the old books. These are the oldest books we have.
The books are varied and range from obscure to classic. Titles include works of Shakespeare and Dickens, poetry, travel books, and books on religion. Many of the books have the owner’s name written in them. Some of the books have multiple names in them as they were passed down to new owners. Names include great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles from several generations.
The books are kept in archive boxes. One book is bound in leather that has stiffened with time. Another book has an embossed cover that has come off but sits with the book. Many of them have cloth covers. The pages of all of them are brown and some are brittle. Inside are cards used as bookmarks, newspaper clippings that have unknown significance, and sometimes notes from the owner, not always related to the text.
In one book — The Life of Gen. Francis Marion: A Celebrated Partisan Officer in the Revolutionary War Against the British and Tories in South Carolina and Georgia by Brig. Gen. P. Horry of Marion’s Brigade and M.L. Weems, which is the oldest book in the collection, published in 1831 — there is a list of names and birth dates. It appears to be in the handwriting of my 4th great-grandfather, Silas Lanier. (We have lots of artifacts from Silas, which is more evidence toward the book belonging to him. I’ll write more about him in week 35.)
At first glance, it looks like it could be a list of grandchildren since one of the names, George Washington, is the same as my 2nd great grandfather, George Washington Medlock, who is also Silas’ grandson. But the date in the book and the birth date in our family tree don’t match George (records prove our date) and none of the names match any persons of that same generation in any part of those families.
On closer inspection, the language of some of the entries provides the clue to the answer. Most of the entries follow this pattern: Charlotte was born August the 4th 1847. However, three of the twenty-one entries follow this pattern: Hanford was foalded [sic] August 22nd 1849. This should have been obvious the first time I read it. These aren’t children or grandchildren, they’re horses! I had assumed this book was kept because of it’s genealogical value and maybe that’s what others assumed as well. Instead it’s a interesting window into a small bit of the life one of my ancestors.