Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - A Family Heirloom (Actually Two)

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musing has a new mission this week.

Our mission this week is to:
1)  The Family History Hound listed 20 Questions about your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next few months.
 2)  Please answer the question - "What heirloom do you have that has been handed down through the generations?"
 3)  Write your own blog post, make a comment on this post, or post  your answer on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a link to your answer in comments on this post.
This was an excellent challenge for me. I began thinking about heirlooms that I have and that I had not previously taken photos of them. An now looking that them, I realize I need to buy some archival boxes and tissues to preserve them properly. I get my archive advice from Melissa Barker, The Genealogist in the Archives blog writer, who wrote this post about using archival boxes.

So I have two items that meet Randy’s requirement and since I took the trouble to get them out and photograph them both, I am going to write about both items.

Mother-of-Pearl Opera Glasses
The first item is a pair of opera glasses that were given to me by my aunt, Virginia Gertridge, who told me they were owned by her great aunt, Elizabeth Gleeson. Nothing was written down and I don’t remember her exact words as I received the gift. It is possible that Virginia’s mother, Anna Sullivan Hork, had the opera glasses first and then were passed down to Virginia.

Clues about the glasses. They are stored in a leather case which is falling apart. Inside the lid is written “A. N. Wright, Importer, Portland, Or.” Checking, an A.N. Wright was listed in Portland city directories from 1891 to 1906. A.N. Wright was listed on the Watches, Clocks, and Jewelry section of the classified business directory, at 293 Morrison. In the household listings, he was listed as Amos N. Wright, jeweler at 293 Morrison and living at 403 Larrabee.[1]

Looking online for mother of pearl opera glasses brought up several sites selling old opera glasses. This one here has a pair from the 1930s valued at $600. The image looks just like my pair! They seem to have been made in France.

Provenance: Elizabeth Gleeson (1865-1942) was the daughter of John Gleeson and Margaret Tierney. She never married. She may have given the glasses to her niece, Anna M. Sullivan Hork sometime in the late 1930s. They both were living in Southern California before my grandmother moved to Napa with her children in 1940. It was also possible that Anna or her daughter, Virginia, received the glasses after Elizabeth died in 1942. Sometime in 2011 or 2012, Virginia gave the glasses to me.

The second item is a straight razor that belonged to Amos Gorrell (1837-1928). Amos Gorrell was the great-grandfather of my husband. This item came with two notes, one written by Amos’ son, Joseph Norman Gorrell and the other note was typed by Joseph’s daughter, Ada M. Gorrell Thomason. The handwritten notes says:
This razor was given to my Father by Arthur Gorrell, then was sent to me after my father’s death. It is a fine Razor. I think Arthur had it hollow-ground. Keep it in its case.
Ada typed the above note and added, Grandfather Amos Gorrell died I think in 1928. My father, J.N. Gorrell, gave razor to me before he died in 1960.

Sometime later, Ada gave the razor to her brother, George Jospeh Gorrell, who in turn, gave the razor to his son, Norman Gorrell. That is how we have possession of it. I don't have any clues as to who made the razor though. 

Provenance: Amos Gorrell was the son of Amos Gorrell and Leah Wollam. His son, Arthur Gorrell, gave the razor to his father, sometime before Arthur died in 1916. Amos gave the razor to his son, Joseph Norman Gorrell. Joseph gave the razor to his daughter, Ada M Thomason, probably because she was interested in the history of the family. Ada later gave it to her brother, George J Gorrell. George gave the razor to his son some years before he died in 2011.

[1] R.L. Polk & Co, 1906 Portland City Directory, pp. 1165 (Amos N. Wright) & 1353 (A.N. Wright), digital image, ( : accessed 19 Aug 2017). 

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, My Trails into the Past. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Very nice family items. I love the opera glasses!

    1. The photo above doesn't do it justice. It was just a quick pic for the blog post. When I get the archival boxes, I'll try taking better photos to document them before packing them away safely.


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