Thursday, 6 March 2008

Family History

Today was certainly a day of surprises. I was hunting for a button to include in a new summer top for my Etsy shop and remembered I had some spare buttons in my bedside table drawer. While digging around I came across a small plastic bag which had seen better days. Thinking that it may contain some elusive buttons, I pulled it out and was stunned by what I saw.

Back in 1999 my mother died three days short of her 85th birthday. We were soul mates and losing her was particularly difficult for me. I had remembered her showing me a coin when I was a child - a coin of a young Queen Victoria which had been turned into a brooch, long broken. I knew she had kept it in an old handbag, her logic being that "no one would think of looking in an old handbag for anything valuable". Obviously she was not a fellow traveller of criminals.

Shortly after her death, the time came to clear out the family home - a painful task that all children must face up to at some stage in their lives. I asked my two dear brothers, husband and adult children to keep an eye out for this particular coin, as I feared it may be tossed out if no one knew of its existence. Sadly, we didn't find it.

Back to today. Back to that drawer and the plastic bag. Yes - there it was as large as life, along with a coin we had given my mother minted in the year of her birth (1914) and a silver bracelet that my father had given my mother some years before his death in 1986. How did they get there? The only explanation I can find is that somehow they were bundled up unknowingly with my mother's few items of jewellery, brought back home to Brisbane from Sydney and put in my bedside table drawer. I was gobsmacked.

I used to ask my mother the origin of the coin, but all she knew was that it was handed down to her from her grandmother and that it had probably belonged to her great-grandmother. I wish she was here today, because I could enlighten her a little further.

I have been doing the family history thing for a couple of years now (long before I had even heard of Who Do You Think You Are?) and knew that my great-great grandparents had married in Singleton, NSW, in 1845. This silver crown turned into a brooch may well have been a wedding gift from my Irish great-great grandfather, Francis Belfield, to his young Scottish bride, Christiana Munro. From the wear and tear on the front of the coin and the relative newness of the image of Queen Victoria on the back, it was probably turned into a brooch when it was newly minted. My great-great grandmother who travelled with her playwright/actor husband through cities and goldfields must have worn this brooch with great pride.

So now I have something which directly connects me with my great-great grandparents. It has made my day.

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