My aunt and uncle called the other day. Would I like a set of dishes? Would I like a desk? While I was tempted by the dishes as I have a weakness for vintage china, I could not squeeze room in my china cabinet for one more teacup let alone an entire set. But when my uncle told me this desk had been in the family since the 1880s or so, he definitely piqued my interest. “Tell me more about the history”
He thought it was from his dad’s side of the family and was told someone made it maybe as payment for a debt, or to pay for his room and board. Or was it someone in the family made it? He didn’t know much and sounded like one who has been told the history of the piece when he was younger but hadn’t really been listening at the time. He mentioned someone had written a name on the underside of one of the drawers…maybe Morris or Maurice? Maybe he is the carpenter? My mind instantly jumped to “no…if it says Maurice then it is not from his father’s side, but his mother’s side. I knew in our family tree there is a Maurice who was his mother’s uncle.
Without knowing what it even looked like, I accepted. They are retiring to Mexico soon and can’t take it with them. I couldn’t take the risk of having it sold at a garage sale and disappearing from the family. I’m the sentimental old genealogist of the family so was their first choice to inherit the piece. Surely I can make room for a seventh desk in my house?
My husband and I arrived with our pickup to get the desk on the next sunny dry day. To my relief, it was a rather attractive, if not slightly primitive but not overly large desk.
While I had dreams of opening the drawers and finding them stuffed full of family letters, cards, and documents also dating back to the 1880s, alas, that was not to be. What a genealogy treasure that would be! My uncle did pass along several papers and more importantly a questionnaire booklet his mother had filled out decades ago. It was one of those school projects kids do …have your grandparent answer these questions about what life was like for them growing up. Nice find! While I already knew the answer to many of the questions, one certain question intrigued me. “Are there any family treasures that have been passed down in the family? In her answer she writes about the desk. My desk! Proof positive that it came from her family, not her husband’s.
As soon as the desk had been placed in our living room, I started pulling out all the drawers and inspecting them. There it was. In pencil “Maurice” in little boy handwriting. That would date the desk in the house by to around 1900 when Maurice was 6-10 years old. On another drawer was even more detailed writing. Maurice’s older sister Nellie had written the birthdates of herself and another sister. My genealogical records I found were off by one day. I had some corrections to do!
Although my little cottage style house doesn’t really have room for, or need another desk, I am grateful to be the recipient of this family treasure. A month ago I didn’t even know it existed. I managed to squeeze it in to my living room, and will need to do some adjustments to placements of all the furniture for it to look right. I am anxious to rehang the artwork on the wall behind it. (Yay, just what my husband loves…more holes in the drywall!) I have already decided I will use the desk to store all my genealogy research and little family treasures I have collected. The old books inscribed with family signatures will belong here. Great grandmother’s round box full of buttons will go there. Great grandfather’s desk clock will go there. It will fit right in.
All because I inherited a desk.