Monday, December 19, 2011

Genealogists for Family Project

   Kiva - Loans that Change Lives
You don't Need to be a Genealogist to Join - you Just Need to Care!

My last blog post was about a small trinket box which my grandmother gave me many years ago. In other posts I have narrated stories telling of my adventures in discovering Swiss, Irish and Scottish ancestors.  I have even written anecdotes about a great uncle who was suspected of spying in WW11. This post is different. As genealogists, part or full time, we focus a lot on the past. We do so, importantly, in order to preserve the past for the future.

Sometimes we just need to focus on the present... and right now, there are many people who do not have lives so fortunate that they can even enjoy the luxury of researching ancestors, nor do they have a certain future. For some, it is a daily struggle just to survive, to educate children, to start a business or just to feed and care for livestock. 

Kiva is an organisation which allows us to make loans of $25, NOT DONATIONS, to people less fortunate than ourselves. There is an element of self esteem involved, which makes it important for people to be able to accept a loan and to repay it. There is undoubtedly a sense of fulfillment in helping others to make a better present and future for themselves and for their families.

At this time of year, especially, as you decorate your Christmas tree and prepare to enjoy the festive season with your family, or participate in whatever other traditions or festivities that are a part of your family life, please think about joining the Genealogists For Families Project and Kiva in caring about the future of other families.

Wishing you a Happy and Holy Christmas....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Blog, a Trinket Box and a Mystery Solved!

Little Boxes, little boxes.....
Mauchline Ware Box with transfers of Burns Monument

I wrote a blog recently about a small box which had belonged to my Irish grandmother, which she had given to me many years ago. I knew nothing about the origins of the box or its age, and I hoped that through my blog, I might discover some information. Blogging has connected me with interesting people all around the world, many of with whom I have exchanged information about family history matters. I decided to see whether my blog might connect me with someone who could help me solve the mystery of my little box. I entitled my story, "Family Treasures - where did they come from?"

I was tremendously excited to receive a comment on the blog, almost immediately. Ursula Martin, who is a genealogist and a blogger,in the UK, recognised my box and kindly left a comment on the blog giving me a link to the following site   

My Small Box

  Ursula kindly wrote " I found a similar box with 'Burns Monument' on it. Could be the same maker?"
As soon as I clicked on the link I saw the box pictured at the top of this page and knew at once that it was very similar to mine, except for the picture. My box has a picture of 'Burns Cottage' on the lid. Although the photograph I have taken does not show it, my box is exactly the same colour as the one pictured on the Projects Beyond text website.

Beyond Text is a ' ..program to support a multi-disciplinary community of scholars and practitioners drawn from Higher Education, museums, galleries, libraries and archives, business,  policy. media, technology and the law to explore how human communication is articulated through sound, sight and associated sensory perceptions both the past and the present.'

 Burns Cottage on another box similar to mine.

One of the projects within this program is the Robert Burns inventing Tradition and Securing Memory, 1796 - 1910 project. On the page of images which Ursula's link directed me to, was the picture (above top) of the Mauchaline Ware Box, 'made of wood which grew near to Alloway Kirk on the Banks of the Doon'  

What was of particular significance for me was that the manufacturer of the Box was named as  W & A Smith, Maucheline, Late 18th to early 19th century. I now had a starting place to begin researching my box.

Further investigation into Mauchline Ware, confirmed that  Mauchline, pronounced Moch'lin was souvenir ware made by the Smith family of Mauchline, Ayrshire (now Strathclyde). Mauchline Ware was very popular in the Victorian Era with people who travelled abroad. Souvenirs, in particular, boxes, were decorated with well known scenes of Scottish landmarks. Many towns, villages, churches and landscapes were preserved in photographic images which were transferred onto different forms of Mauchline Ware, including a range of items, from snuff boxes and tea caddies to trinket boxes. The exact date of the first use of transfers is unknown however, it appears that they were used to adorn mauchline Ware from 1850 until 1933. The transfers were applied before a final appilcation of copal varnish was applied by the craftsmen making the souvenirs.

The bottom of a Mauchline Box identical to the bottom of my Box.

A View of Burns Cottage Similar to the transfer on my Box

By far the most popular scenes to be transferred onto Mauchline Ware products were 'Burnsian' scenes such as those on the boxes above.

So popular is Mauchline Ware that there is a Mauchline Collectors Club which has a searchable website.

A photograph of the Mauchline Factory, Mauchline, Ayrshire, in the 1800's. (photo found discovered in 2002).
Having established that my little trinket box was quite likely an example of Mauchline Ware, I became curious to know something about the brothers responsible for manufacturing the popular souvenir ware.

Somewhere around 1852, brothers, William (1795-1847) and Andrew (1795-1869) Smith, established a factory to manufacture Snuff Boxes in their home town of Mauchline, Ayrshire in Scotland. The brothers were the sons of a Mauchline mason named William Smith and his wife Jean Merry. Prior to thier venture into thier own Box works, William and Andrew Smith followed their father into his trade and in the 1820's were running a Hone Stone factory at Milton Mill on the northern bank of the River Ayr.

Their venture into snuff boxes quickly grew into a successful Victorian industry which produced wooden souvenirs adorned with transferred engravings of scenes and buildings mainly representative of the Mauchline area. In the late 1850's the railway expansion in Britain created a boom in tourism. Wooden Souvenir boxes became extremely popular keepsake of one's travels. This also coincided with the growing popularity of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott and the Smith brothers capitalised on both, manufacturing wooden souvenir boxes bearing views of scenery and places, the 'Burnsian' views becoming the most popular of the Mauchline range of products. W & A Smith produced at least 11 different views of the Burns Cottage, Alloway, which is pictures on the souvenir boxes above, including the one on my own box.  Mauchline ware was not limited to boxes however. The brothers produced a vast range of wooden souvenirs and their Mauchline Ware production survived for three generations.

Image of Burns Cottage on my Trinket Box

Another view of Burns Cottage on a Mauchline Box

It remains for me to identify whether my trinket box is a genuine Mauchline Box. My grandmother gave me the box many years ago and I have always believed that it came to Australia either with her parents, Hugh and Sarah White who arrived in Australia from Northern Ireland in 1913, or with my grandfather and his parents, John and Elizabeth McDade who arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in 1923. It appears very likely that my box is, indeed, a Mauchline Ware souvenir box. I have always been fond of the little box for sentimental reasons and now I have a new respect for it. It has been taken out of the drawer that it was kept in and has pride of place where I can admire it for its historical significance as well as sentiment.

Many thanks to Ursula Martin, for kindly taking the time to provide me with a web link which has taken me on a most interesting journey into the world of Mauchline Ware and most importantly has helped me to solve the mystery of my Little Box's origins.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Family Treasure - Where did it Come from?

The Small Box

I wonder how many small items we have around our homes, handed down from one generation to another, that we think of as treasures, but don't know the origins of? 

When I was a teenager, my paternal grandmother gave me the small box pictured above to keep jewellery in. I have treasured the little wooden box for many years however, possibly, because I have had it for so long, I have given little thought to where it came from or how old it might be, until recently, when I took it out of a drawer and made time to look closely at the picture on the top of the lid. It is a picture of Burns Cottage. 

The Picture on the Lid of the Box

Since my grandmother, Jemima Florence MacDade [m.s. White] arrived in Queensland, Australia from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, as an 11 year old in 1913, I had always assumed that the box had come from Ireland. Recently, I realised that I knew nothing of the origins of the little jewellery box and decided to see if I could find out something about it. With my grandparents and parents passed away, there is no one who might tell me where this small box came from, not how old it might be. I am hoping that through this blog, someone might recognise my small box, or have one similar,  and have information to share with me. 

Did my small box arrive on board the Ship 'Ayrshire' in 1913 with Hugh and Sarah White and their five children, William, Violet, Jemima, John and Andrew? Or could it have belonged to my grandfather's family who were Scottish? My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade arrived in Australia in 1922, aged 19. He arrived with his family, parents John and Elizabeth McDade and seven siblings from Cumbernauld, Glasgow in Scotland. It is possible that the box may have travelled with  the McDade family on board the 'Largs Bay'. After all, the Robert Burns Cottage, the place of his birth and his home until the age of seven years, is in Alloway, South Ayrshire, in Scotland, not far from Glasgow.

'Burns Cottage' - The Birth Place of Robert Burns
A Picture of Burns Cottage

Pen showing the size of the Box

The cottage was built was built in 1757 by William Burness, father of the well known poet, Robert Burns (a most famous of his poems being 'Auld Lang Syne').

My Scottish grandfather never lost his Scottish accent and was fond of Gaelic songs and rhymes, including those written by Robert Burns. This, of course does not solve the mystery of the origins of my little box. My great aunt Violet, sister to my grandmother, made annual trips back to Ireland and also visited friends in Scotland, so it is entirely possible that she brought the little jewellery box back for her sister from one of her journeys overseas.

My own 'little treasures' inside the Box.

Inside the little box, I have a collection of old pieces of jewellery and small trinkets which I have owned for many years. There is a locket with an unidentified photograph of an ancestor, a rose broach which belonged to a great aunt, earrings which I wore as a teenager, an eternity ring given to me many years ago by an old beau and other odds and ends. I have enjoyed looking through the small box and reminiscing, but I would dearly love to know something about the little box itself.

Back of the Box

If anyone has any information about my Small 'treasure'. I would appreciate your help in finding out where my little jewellery box originated.