Friday, August 12, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moment - The Cole Family Violin

In 2005 my husband and I went on an east coast history trip. We had a stop over in Kansas City, Missouri and I have some Cole family relatives who live in South Sioux City, Nebraska, about a five-hour drive away. One of these relatives is a cousin to my mother and he had some family artifacts he wanted to share. My husband agreed to make this side trip to pick up the item we had been offered. We even stopped at the halfway point in Omaha to visit another relative. For some reason the drive always seems longer than one anticipates. We finally made it to South Sioux City and checked into a motel for the night. After calling the relatives to let them know we had arrived safely, we made plans to meet early the next morning.

Their home, where we visited, was also the home his mother and my great grandmother had lived in for most of her life. It is right on the banks of the Missouri River. We had a lovely visit with this couple and videotaped our conversations. He brought out picture albums that included pictures of my mother and her family. We took lots of digital pictures of his albums. We even went on a drive before going to lunch and he showed us some local points of interest, including the house where my mother had lived as a child.

Finally he showed us the old Jefferson Cole family violin. It has been well loved and brought much enjoyment to the family. We bought the largest hard sided luggage we could find for the trip and to transport the violin. The case of the violin is made of wood and leather, with a nice handle. The violin is not in very good condition, with no strings and several pieces missing. The bow is there, but it is not strung either. Nonetheless I was very happy to have it. It barely fit in the large suitcase, but we squeezed it in.

My great grandfather Jefferson Cole was born in 1876 and died in 1918 at the age of forty-two. He had tuberculosis and they had to sell their farm, as he was unable to do the work. They sold their farm at auction in Homer, Nebraska. The governor came and they made about $4,000. They were on the way to Colorado for his health reasons, with the children and new baby with them, when he died of TB in Hastings, Nebraska. They were about two hundred miles from home, traveling by wagon. She turned around and took his body back to Homer for burial.

This left his wife Rosabel Rounds to tend this large family of nine children. She was born in 1881 and died in 1960, when I was six. Two of her children died before her husband and her oldest daughter married the year her father died, so she had eight children living with her at the time. Her youngest son David was born two months before his father's death and he died the next April.

Let's get back to the family artifacts. Not only were we given the old violin, but also a large picture of Jefferson Cole, framed in a glass oval and wood frame, and the bible of Rosabel that she was holding in her lap when she passed away. In the bible she wrote many important facts about the family. We saw the actual rocking chair she had been sitting in when she died. There were a few things that we were shown that I would love to have had, but we were content to take pictures to record the items. They had three 5x7 funeral cards with pictures, one for Jefferson Cole and two for the parents of Rosabel, Jacob Rounds and Jerusha Strong. Another treasure was the actual flyer printed about the auction of the farm, listing the items to be sold. He related to us that in the flood of 1952 this paper had been found floating in a tin box in the basement of this house.

This was truly a serendipity moment for me. I had not really felt a connection to these ancestors until I sat in the home of people who knew them intimately. My grandfather Archie Orville Cole died when I was two, and we had very little contact with his family. The picture fit just right into the other large suitcase. My husband taped it carefully and I prayed it would make it back to Portland, Oregon in one piece. It was so wonderful to unpack these treasures when we returned home and shared them with our children.

Tonight I called the daughter of this couple to check up on how he is doing. I had to use what little information I had on the family to find their telephone number online, as his had been disconnected.  He is now in an assisted living facility and most of his treasures have been packed away by the family. His wife passed away about two years after we were there. I expressed to them how grateful I am for the things that he shared with us. We were richly blessed to have this time with them. The final step was to provide them with my contact information.

Connecting with relatives, close and distant, is essential in having these serendipity moments. Treasures are buried in our homes and they will be lost to future generations unless we convey an interest in them. May you dig up some of your own family treasures in the coming weeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment