Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Large Piece of Family History

Until I was ten I was a very frequent guest at my grandparents home on Rider Ave in Syracuse, NY. My room was the small bedroom at the top of the stairs, the windows on the right side in the picture. Others may have occassionally stayed in that room but generally guests were given the larger back bedroom. There was a twin size bed, a small dressing table, a free standing closet, half of the set of barrister book cases and a bureau that held extra linens.

The bureau had a history. I was always told that it was brought over from Scotland to Canada by my ancestors and that it had been a wedding gift. As with all family traditions I'm sure there is some truth there.

The bureau as it looks in my home today.

John Craig was born in Scotland 20 April 1802. On 19 December 1825 he married Agnes Craig who was born 2 April 1802 Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland. They emigrated to Canada sometime between 1826, when daughter Isabella was born in Paisley, and 1838 when their son William was born in Canada.

Isabella Craig married James M. White on 31 December 1855 in Dalhousie Twp, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada. James was born November 1824 in Dalhousie Twp.

Scan of a photo copy of the marriage certificates.
Location of original documents unknown.

This is to certify that James White, Lumborer and Isabella Craig, Spinster both of the Township of Dalhousie, were married at the Manse of Dalhousie by James Geggie, Minister
Given this thirty first day of December One thousand Eight hundred & fifty five

Alex McNicol } Witnesses
Marion Park

Low Church Parish, Paisley, Dec 19, 1825.
That John Craig and Agnes Adam both in this Parish, have been regularly proclaimed in order to marriage, and no ojection made is certified

John Craig and Agnes Adam both in the Low Church Parish, Paisley
having produced a Certificate of Proclaimation of Banns, were married this 25th day of Dec 1825 by me, ........., Minister
So was the bureau a wedding gift to John and Agnes Craig that they brought with them on a ship from Scotland? Or was it a wedding gift to James and Isabella White and the part about the bureau being brought from Scotland a nice embellishment? Is it possible that it was a wedding gift to James and Isabella White's daughter, Isabella?

Isabella White was born 6 April 1865 in Ontario, Canada, most likely in Dalhousie Twp. She married James Kelly 15 July 1891 in Ottawa, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada. James was born 18 March 1856 in Adams, Jefferson County, NY. I feel fairly certain that she owned the bureau at some point.

Scan of photocopy. Location of original document unknown.

Marriage Certificate

I hereby certify that on the 15th day of July 1891
the rite of Holy Matrimony was solemnized by me, by
authority of Licence between James Kelly
of the city of Ottawa in the County of Carleton Province
of Ontario Dominion of Canada, and Isabella White
of the city of Ottawa in the County of Carleton Province
of Ontario Dominion aforesaid.

Witness my hand at Ottawa this 15th day of July 1891
In presence of Jennie McCormick
Henry Bell

(I can't read the name)
Officiating Minister
#399 registered at Ottawa

Isabella White Kelly 1949.
I'm not sure if this was taken in Ottawa or Syracuse.

The next owners of the bureau were my grandparents, Kimberly and Mary (Kelly) Berry. Kimberly Powell Berry was born 6 January 1900 Ottawa, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada and Mary Leith was born 6 Jun 1990 in Calabogie, Refrew County, Ontario, Canada. At some point Mary moved with her mother to Ottawa and Mary and Kim lived next to each other at 493 and 491 Metcalf Ave where they were married on 12 April 1922. I believe that the bureau was given to them at the time of their marriage. Shortly after their wedding they relocated to Geddes,Onondaga County, NY near where Kim's uncle, Daniel Holligton, and his cousins lived.

Scan of photocopy. Location of original unknown.

Certificate Of Marriage

Certify that I solemnized the marriage of:
Kimberly Powell Berry
and Mary Leith Kelly
Province of Ontario
on the 12th day of April 1922
In the presence of
Witness Thomas David Berry
Address 491 Metcalf St
Witness May Jarvis
Address 18 Fourth Avenue
Name A. F. Pollack
Address 138 Lewis St.
Denomination Congregational

Kimberly P Berry and Mary L Kelly.
It is thought that this is their wedding portrait.

During the Depression my grandmother hired someone to add the ivory diamonds. I'm guessing that the drawer pulls were changed at that time as well. Kim and Mary moved to the Rider Ave. house in April 1936.

Grandma died 10 October 1970 and my overnight visits ended. The bureau remained in the little front bedroom until Grandpa died 1 August 1984. My father was the executor of the estate and he gave the bureau to me telling me that that was what grandma had wanted. He was disgusted that grandma had had the ivory diamonds added as he felt it decreased it's value. To my mind it may have decreased the monetary value but it increased the sentimental value. The bureau has moved with me 5 times so far and I use it everyday. I don't plan to part with it any time soon but it is my hope that it will eventually find a new home with another female descendant of my grandmother's.

So how old is it? Who were the original owners? I may never know. I know very little about how to judge the age and I have never had it appraised. It is my guess that it originally belonged to James and Isabella Craig Kelly because I don't believe that such a large piece would have accompanied the family on the journey from Scotland c1830 and family oral history is that it has been passed down through the family.


Thomas MacEntee said...

What a great piece of furniture and family history as well.

You did a great job Apple as detective. Have you ever looked on the back or underneath for any markings? Also pulled out all the drawers and looked for labels or markings?

Perhaps Antiques Roadshow will make its way to Syracuse one day and you can haul it down to the show!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thanks Thomas!

I have looked it over for some type of marking but there are none that I can find.

I hire moves whenever it needs to be moved, that sucker is heavy! Maybe I can get the roadshow to come here. :)
There are some antique dealers in the area and I should have one come out sometime.

Patricia Marie said...

I love this story. How wonderful it is that you have a piece of your family's history. I have the original Civil War Discharge Papers of my great great grandfather. They were handed down to his daughter Mary who handed them down to her son William who handed them down to my mother (also Mary) and then from my mother to me.

Terry Thornton said...

Apple, What a link to the past you have --- and what a nice article you've written about that history. Most interesting; thanks.


I love the documents and photos!
I can tell you really love the
bureau, since you spoke with such passion about it. The local
library would have a book about
furniture, if I were you I would
document the provenance, it would
make it that much more valuable to
you and future generations.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...


It sounds like you have a wonderful piece of history too! And yours is much easier to move ;-)

Thank you

I do really love this piece. It is the what inspired me to start thinking and questioning what will happen to all my treasures in the (I hope!) distant future.

I'll see what the local library here has on furniture!