|Detail of The Wister Family Tree Quilt|
International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2005.059.0001
Researching the names on the Chester Criswell Quilt is a lot like researching a family tree. The big difference is that with the quilt you already have all the names, you just have to figure out how they fit together. Imagine all your family history records put into a big pile, and then you have to put them back in the right spot. Warning: Don't try this at home!
There are fourteen Criswells on the quilt. Last year I had about half of them in place but there were still some mystery people. There were a number of Criswells located at Woodland that I just could not find. I searched through census records on Ancestry.com, checked the family Bible again, followed up Criswell cousins that had migrated to Ohio, no success. I looked for Woodland as a place name, it was nowhere near the other quilt locations.
Then I had one of those eureka moments. I logged on to that favourite genealogy site, findagrave.com, and located James, William, Jane and Elizabeth Criswell. They were the siblings of the bride Mary Criswell that had all died before the year that Mary and Jesse Jackson Smith were married.
|William Criswell's block made by Alice Criswell|
Alice Criswell made the bridal quilt for her eldest daughter and had included blocks for each of her deceased children. In the 21st century we keep death and dying at a distance and leave the management of death to professionals. If we experience the death of a child or a young person - or even someone our own age - it feels wrong and unfair. In the 19th century death was closer. People died at home, women died in childbirth, children died from illnesses that we never experience. I think Alice was saying to her daughter Mary, your family is larger than the people you live with, don't forget the rest.
The mystery is not totally solved. The dates attached to Elizabeth aren't right unless Alice became pregnant again when she was 58. Susanna Criswell shares a block with Elizabeth. Susanna was living in 1850 but there is no record of her after that date. I think if she was living in 1852 when the quilt was assembled that she would have her own block. Woodland could be a cemetery name, but Margaret Criswell, Woodland was definitely alive so I think Woodland is the name of the family farm.
|William son of Andrew G and Alice Criswell|
Born 1836 Died May, 1848
Manor Presbyterian Church Cemetery