Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Friday, August 21, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - My Hair Book (c1859)

(Hmm, my posts are making a habit of becoming a day late and a dollar short....)

The family heirloom I've been mentioning lately (and posted a picture of in my last entry) is a small black book that belonged to my great-great grandmother Eliza Ursula Nichols, the daughter of Joseph Nichols and Delinda Jane Plymell. Eliza was born in 1847 in Crawford Co., IL, and it is there that the book has its origins.

This book is made of some sort of stock lined with something resembling a thin piece of fabric that gives it some amount of flexibilty. Though the picture of the front cover that I posted yesterday might give the impression that it's made of leather, it's not. It's on the small side and can fit in the palm of your hand with just a little bit hanging out over each side.

There are a total of 61 pages, each page lined like today's notebook paper. Not all the pages are filled in and some of the pages are sewn together. Names are written on the bottom of many of the pages, some with dates beside them and some without. The earliest date in the book is 1859 and the latest is 1861. Although it's obvious there are later entries, none of those are dated. There are 41 different names in the book and some are repeated more than once. It's quite apparent that two people wrote the names in the book; there are two vastly different writing styles represented. The first style is written in dark brown or black ink that has faded to brown and was almost certainly written with a quill pen. The handwriting is spidery and rather severe. The second style is in pencil and the handwriting is larger, more open and loopy.

The first writer I can definitively identify because I have samples of her writing -- she was Eliza Ursula (Nichols) Swan, born 1847. If I were to hazard a guess as to the identity of the other, later writer, I'd say she was Eliza's daughter Estella Jane (Swan) Browning. Though I can't say for sure I feel very safe in assuming she's the second writer because one of the entries refers to "My Gramma DJ Nichols" and Estella was Delinda's only surviving grandchild. Estella died young and her mother Eliza moved in with her spinster sister Missouri. Both women lived in the same house together for the majority of their lives and helped raise Stella's boys -- my grandfather and his two brothers -- after their mother's untimely death. That second author (Estella, in my estimation) filled some of the pages in with names of friends and relatives.

What makes this book truly unique, though, is WHY the pages are sewn together. Dotted throughout the book are samples of hair sewn onto the pages, mostly with thread but every so often with ribbon. The hair samples belong to the person whose name is listed under the sample. My grandmother always called it a Hair Book and told me she remembered people making such things when she was small (in the early 1900's.)

I can't adequately describe how I feel about this book. Awe, most certainly, and wonder too. It gives me such a feeling of connection to my ancestors when I can reach out and trace the contours of a braided piece of my 3rd great-grandmother Delinda Jane (Plymell) Nichol's hair. Her hair! It's not words on a page or my imagination working overtime. It's a solid fact and a true physical piece of her, a person born in 1822! Wow. It simply makes it all REAL, doesn't it?

I am so very lucky to have this book. Even if it didn't have the hair it would be a wonderful help to me, genealogically speaking. Many (indeed, most) of the names in the book are of relatives and in some cases this is the only documented way we have to link some of the family members together. No relationships are mentioned except the one I mentioned above. Most of the people in the book (28 out of 41) are people I recognize. There are many names without existing hair samples, though remnants of thread or empty holes where a needle once went through the paper tell me that they were there at one time.


The names in the book are as follows (with all spelling errors left as written, blank pages left out, asterisks by those who have hair samples, and capitalizations for those written by the second author):

Joseph Nichols*
Delinda J. Nichols*
Lorinda Emry
Missouri A Nichols
Alzina D. Emery 1859
Eliza U. Nichols
Elton Amos Emery 1860
Elmer F Emery
Joseph A Plymell
Nathan A Plymell 1861
James F Plymell
Rebecca Ann Plymell 1861
Arvine Plymell
William F Plymell
John Vane 1861
George Vane
Shanon Vane
Adline Vane 1861
Semantha Jane Vane 1861
Mary Emry 1861*
Thomas Emery*
Effie M. Steward 1861*
Wallace W Plymell
Jane Plymell
Dovey Ann Gaddis
Olive A Plymell
Marget Plymell
Mary J McCarty*
John Plymell*
Ann Nichol
Mary A McCarty*

The major players in this book are the Plymell family (specifically, the children of James Plymell and his wife Margaret, rumored to be half Wyandot) and the families they'd married into: the Nichols, the Emerys, and the Vanes. The Nichols and Plymell families had come together with the 1844 marriage of Joseph Nichols, son of John Nichols, and Delinda Jane Plymell, daughter of James and Margaret. The Plymell and Emery/Emory families had meshed with the 1838 marriage of Thomas Emery and Mary Plymell, daughter of James and Margaret. The Plymell and the Vanes blended together with the 1848 marriage of John Vane, son of Arthur Vane and Eleanor Blair, and Adaline Plymell, daughter of James and Margaret.

By 1859 (the earliest date in the book) all three of these couples had children. Eliza, my g-g-grandmother, was 12. Many of the other names written in the book are her cousins, the children of her aunt Adaline and her aunt Mary. Other names are those of her aunts and uncles. Still others are friends of the family, and a few I am completely unfamiliar with. I'd sure like to remedy that.

Next time I'll concentrate on the collateral families -- Plymell, Nichols, Vane and Emery.

Update: I'll keep a record of the other posts in this series here, as well as on my sidebar:

Pt 1 - The Thomas and Mary (Plymell) Emery Family

Pt 2 - The John and Adaline (Plymell) Vane Family

Pt 3 - The Joseph and Delinda Jane (Plymell) Nichols Family


  1. This is one of the most amazing heirlooms I have ever heard of. If I had something like this, I know it would get my daughters hooked on genealogy. I'm so jealous. But, you know, it gives me an idea. I have some of my old hair and some from my daughters' first hair cuts (or actually, for one, adventures in cutting her own hair, but that's another story).

  2. Greta....

    I know what you mean about the Hair Book inspiring me. I took up the tradition and took hair cuttings from my grandparents, parents and my daughter. I've got them saved and one day soon I will add them to a Hair Book of my own!

  3. This is amazing! I've never heard of such a thing and am thrilled to know that such things exist!