As I have pursued my family history over the past few years, I have gotten to know my ancestors through the records they left behind. As for all genealogists, the wills, deeds, court records, etc became part of the intricate puzzle that was the lives of my ancestors. One of the benefits of exploring my family history is becoming a keeper of sorts of the family heirlooms. I was attempting to bring a sense of order to my numerous heirlooms recently. I didn’t get very far in my organizing that day. I realized quite suddenly that the letters, clothing, and ordinary household items told stories far richer than what I had previously found in the "official" records. I began to get a glimpse into my ancestors' lives I had never quite envisioned.
Consider Winnie Haley Carr’s (my great grandmother) iron. Actually she had two.
Ironing in my great grandmother’s day must have been hard. At the very least it could have been considered a workout! Her iron weighed about 7 pounds and two irons were needed to complete her ironing chores. While one iron was in use, the other was heating on the wood stove. The heat of the iron had to be monitored so as not to scorch the fabric. A thick pad was needed to grip the hot handle. I wonder if Winnie ever burned her fingers? Did she grow weary from the lifting and frequent changing of the irons? Can you imagine ironing on a hot summer day in southern Virginia?
Winnie’s iron tells of a woman who took pride in being a homemaker. It tells the story of a woman who took pride in her appearance and that of her family. She paid attention to the details. The iron tells me of a woman who persevered in her chores despite the heat and heavy work involved.
What stories do your heirlooms tell?