I had a very productive afternoon poking around Ancestry.com at the library. (But, really, Ancestry? To use the Library edition I not only have to be physically located in the library, I have to take up one of their machines?) Just based on the freely available info (sorry, Ancestry, no credit card number for you. Not that I don’t trust free trials I can cancel at any time…but I don’t really trust free trials that I can cancel at any time; it’s not just you, it’s me, too.) I thought I’d identified the quilt’s donor. Today confirmed that, fleshed out some family information, provided the Philadelphia and Drexel connections, and gave me a lot of interesting biographical tidbits for the twentieth century.
It’s just as well I’m taking a break for the moment, otherwise I’d be going off on fun and ultimately nonproductive tangents. This is why I know about the suicide of a Singapore economics professor in the 1930s and the subsequent travel and literary achievements of his widow, even though they have nothing to do with the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
My fun tidbits have given me a few new angles to pursue. But what they have not clarified is the identity of “L.”* I have plenty of names in the donor’s family, but besides “Louise” (born after 1887) there’s only one male, a few years older, whose initial fits. And so the combination of initial and date remain a mystery.
My thinking had been that the quilt was an heirloom, a thing made by women and kept by women. Now I wonder if I should look at the husband’s side, and if I need to seriously consider the possibility of the quilt as a commodity, if not something purchased then something given by one outside the family. Argh, if Louise had been born two years earlier, it would’ve been much easier to shoehorn the quilt into a comfortable narrative of family production.
Stupid facts. This is why we hates them. Not because they’re a dangerous oversimplification of the process of creating historical knowledge, but because they gum up a perfectly straightforward narrative.
* Though not written with intent, I am kind of amused by the possibility of people finding this post when googling for information about Death Note or biometric solutions. Hello, misdirected folks who are still reading!