Ancestors, desks, “someone else’s treasure”

After I co-wrote the biography of my Irish great-great grandmother in 2016 (Harriet Susannah Ellis), I decided to keep going and write the biographies of all four maternal great-great grandmothers.

The most specifically matrilineal of these four women – my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother – had a daughter – my matrilineal great-grandmother – who became a school teacher in the early 1900’s. Nellie taught school in Minnesota and Idaho.

For that reason, I was happily surprised today when I came upon an old-style wooden desk that someone had set out on a street corner. A freebie give-away.

As the saying goes, “One person’s unwanted item is someone else’s treasure.” I looked at this old-style desk and thought, “this could be similar to the style of desk that students sat at when my great-grandmother was teaching school in Minnesota and Idaho.” I thought that even if the desk is a bit newer than the desks used at the turn of the last century (at least some of the desks in those days had chairs attached), it is still a “fun find” for a genealogist of my variety.

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked inside the desk. I found that several scores of old sheet music were used to cover the inside of the desk – likely a common custom “back in the day.”

I happily brought the desk home as a nod to my great-grandmother, Nellie.

After bringing the desk home, I discussed the scores of music inside the desk with a musician friend. He recognized the style of scores – Quanttilles written for the trombone – as potentially dating back to the 1890’s. I looked up the musician who wrote several of the scores (Geo. Southwell); one of his Quantrilles was registered with the U.S. Library of Congress in 1883 – seemingly speaking to the desk’s authenticity as an “older desk.”

The desk needs to be painted. I look forward to sanding and painting this desk.

Learn more about Kim Burkhardt’s “out of obscurity” genealogy services and Women of Yesteryear books here.


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