As we were going through all of the things we found, we came across two books that were very obviously quite old. Both books were quite small and both were leather bound. The first of the two had only a leather spine and the front and back were hard cover. Inscribed on the front cover was "The Presbyterian Hymnal" in beautiful lettering. When we opened it, the note on the front cover (seen here to the left) read, "Mrs. H. Hill Marseilles, Ohio." Our first thought was that this belonged to my grandmother, Hannah (Hill) Link who grew up in Marseilles. Then it struck me....this says "Mrs.H. Hill." When Grandma was Hannah Hill, she would have been Miss Hill! That meant that this hymnal had to have belonged to her grandmother!
Sure enough, when we turned to the publication page, it read, "Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by the trustees of the Presbyterian Board of Publication." This was a nearly 140 year old hymnal!
The second book was so unassuming that had we not stopped to take a close look, it could easily have been accidentally discarded. The book was quite small and leather bound with a flap that secured the front cover closed. There were no markings on the outside at all except for one simple word in gold lettering on the spine... Bible. After finding the hymnal, I for one was pretty excited at the prospect that this may be just as old.
When we carefully opened the bible, there was a simple, handwritten note sitting inside that read, "Grandma Hannah McCleary Helm Hill Bible - 1855. This note, which was just stuck inside the bible, was in my grandmother's handwriting, so while it seemed reliable, it wasn't necessarily conclusive about the date or ownership of the bible.
Looking a bit more, I found two notes that were handwritten on the pages of the bible. The first was in the front and it read, "Hannah Helm, Nov 4th 1855." The second was on the back cover and reads, "James Helm, Nov 4th 1855, Hannah Helm." I recognize the handwriting on both of these inscriptions as being that of Hannah's first husband, James Helm. The recognition is based on a letter I have in my possession that James wrote to Hannah before they were married.
Wow! As if the 140 year old hymnal wasn't enough, we were holding a 160 year old Bible! Based on these notes, this would appear to be a bible that was perhaps given to Hannah by her first husband. My initial thought when I looked at the date of the inscription was that maybe, just maybe, this was a gift on their wedding day or shortly after. When I went and checked my database, however, I found that they were married on 28 Aug 1854, so the Nov 4th date is over a year after their wedding. I don't know exactly what the occasion may have been for James to give the bible to Hannah, but this date has definitely gone onto my "to do" list for Hannah!
Beyond the excitement of finding two such incredibly old and personal items of my great great grandmother's, these two items did also provide just a hint of genealogical information in the form of indirectly telling me what denomination Hannah belonged to. I know it may not sound like much, but to have a personal item that answers a question like that is a genuinely fun find in my mind.
So now I am faced with one small dilemma...do I keep the items out on display in their current condition, or do I find a way to more permanently preserve these items? I'm very up in the air over this decision, and I'd love to hear some reader comments or suggestions.
What do you think?