Friday, August 17, 2012

Family History and Quiltmaking

About fifteen years ago my Australian husband began his family tree.  He started, like we all do, with information from parents and grandparents.  Then off to the library for hours spent in the microfiche index records finding names, dates and places.  Once the right index was found, it was down to the mailbox to post a cheque to the Births, Deaths and Marriages.  A few weeks later a little slip of paper would arrive and, hey presto, a few more bits of information were added to the family tree.
We gave him a software program to transfer all his little bits of paper safely into the computer.  Then we changed computers and everything disappeared.  That was the end of that family history adventure.

Researching the makers of the Criswell quilt is similar to family tree research. is certainly my first port of call, especially as I live in Australia and the records are all in the USA.  The big difference is that I already know all the names; I just don't know how they relate to each other and to Mary McClelland Criswell.

I have made an online family tree called the Criswell Quilt Tree.  It not really one tree but more of a grove of saplings.  My starting place is the 1850 Federal Census records for Chester County; the quilt was made in 1852 and farming families didn't move around a lot.  There are about 80 signatures on the quilt and I have recorded about 400 individuals in the Quilt Tree.  I know something about a majority of the people on the quilt although some are reluctant to be verified.

Let me tell you about my latest 'win' in the family history game.  I was looking for that most elusive family name - Smith.  If you have a Smith in your family tree, you know how difficult it is to find your Smith and not everyone else's Smith.

James R and Nancy C Smith

This block is signed by James R Smith and Nancy C Smith, East Nottingham.  From the 1850 census I know that they have two little children.  In the 1860 census there are more people in the family; but when I looked at the original census page the image is too light to read.  I send a note to that it was illegible and then went on with something else.
That was a few months ago.  I decided to have another look at the Smiths the other evening, went to the census page and ... the original has been rescanned and is now clear as day!  This is what I found:

James R and Nancy Smith still married and farming.  Mary and William are ten years older, and in addition there are Jane, Elizabeth and Alice.  But wait, there's more!  Dorcas Smith aged 60 and Jahn Carlisle aged 73 are also family members.
Many families in these records are multi-generational.  I take a small leap of faith here and assume that Dorcas Smith is James' mother and John Carlisle is Nancy's family. Nancy's middle initial C probably stands for Carlisle.   Dorcas Smith is a new person so I add her to the tree.  Carlisle/Carlile is a common name on the quilt - Mary McClelland Criswell's mother was a Carlile - so I look to see if I have a John Carlile of the right age.  Bingo!  John Carlile is in the tree, in 1850 he was living with his wife Mary and son James Taylor Carlile - who also has a block in the quilt.

James Taylor Carlile, Elk Dale
 That makes Nancy Smith and James Carlile sister and brother, another link is made, and my family quilt tree grows another notch.

(I made some more Smith discoveries, but I'll save them for another time.)


  1. What a fascinating story this is turning out to be Sharon. I am enjoying it. My husband's mum was a Smith too.

  2. Thanks for sharing Sharon....I also know a Smith whose family is American on her Father's side and was also farming around the 1800's in America....might be another notch in your family tree.

    Adele xx

  3. Congratulations on your research success. Wonderful to see the pieces fall into place.

  4. Be careful, genealogy can be as addicting as quilting. At least it is for me.

  5. how intriguing!! so many twist and turns it's like a who-dunit..i LOVE it!! can't wait for the next instalment :)) cheers...Marian

  6. Sharon, this MUST turn into a book!! I am first in line to purchase!!! you are working so hard to research the life and times of this wonderful quilt!

  7. by the way - LOVE that Smith block - can it be published soon? Please? ;)
    Kirsten :)

  8. Have enjoyed the way you have researched these names. How does one find the 1850 census??? etc.


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