Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm Not Related to Johann Scheid

Long before I "found" genealogy, I was a seeker of antiques.  Weekends would often find me taking a detour through the local antique malls on my way to the grocery store.  The dates of two large antique markets were marked on my calendar. . .lest I forget.  I was particularly fond of "women's work" antiques.  My family shares meals at a round oak table I refinished, a spool cabinet sits next to the sofa with my morning coffee on it, a European armoire is handy for my sweaters and bath towels, a pie safe holds my cook book collection and my sewing room. . .  Yes, I have a whole room devoted to sewing . . . has a shelf around the top of the room lined with toy sewing machines and pincushion dolls. I even planned my kitchen remodel a few years ago to leave a spot for my oak dry sink cupboard.

This is but a fraction of the antiques that I live with. . . but you get the idea.  I don't remember that I ever purchased an item knowing the name of the previous owner except for a book here and there.  Then one day at the Allegan Antique Fair, I spotted it.  "It" is a grain painted immigrant chest.  Most amazingly, it has the name of the immigrant and his destination carved into the front. That day, I told myself I would only look for small (translation: cheap inexpensive) items, but this chest grabbed me.  I looked it over inside and out, walked away, randomly looked at other offerings in the booth, went back and just stared at it.  I pulled myself away and began to walk along the aisle past more booths.  Nope, I don't need it, I told myself.  Where would I put it, I told myself. It was not in my budget, I told myself.  Well, it could be a new coffee table, I told myself.  The family room would be perfect, I told myself.  Now, about that budget . . .   I'll figure it out later.  I turned back toward the booth, and walked up to the owner to begin a little bargaining.  In the end, he only came down 10% but he knew  I was going to purchase it even if he didn't come down a dime.

 The time period for grain painting was the first half of the 19th century so I am guessing that it is circa 1840.  

Johann Wilhelm Scheid

Translation: Immigrant to New York

The pine chest is impressive, and the top was made from a single board 21" wide with hand forged hinges and side handles.

This piece of someone's family history sits in my family room with a quilted runner protecting the top which has split from age and dryness.  It is too big for the room, but I don't care.  I love it.  I have posted on the message boards of Ancestry to see if there is a descendant who would like to see it.  So far, no one has contacted me.  I've found a Johann Scheid but not a Wilhelm, although I haven't searched with much intensity.  

So, for the time being, I'm taking care of Johann's chest.  I hope he was prosperous in this new land.  Is this a chest of a poor, a middle class, or a man of means? My uneducated guess is middle class, but that is just a feeling and nothing more.  Did he have a skill or trade?  Did he marry and have a family?   Now I browse antique stores infrequently, but when I do, I pause at the framed marriage certificates, the boxes of unidentified photos, and the signature quilts sad that they have lost their families.  

Do you care for the family history of another?  If so, take your responsibility seriously.


  1. Love this post. It's clear that you take the stewardship seriously.

    I have purchased orphaned family photos from flea markets for years. I scan and post them, and if I'm lucky enough to have stumbled upon labeled ones, I try to reunite them with relatives of the subjects after I scour Ancestry family trees.

    I've re-homed a few of these over the years in that fashion.


  2. What a beautiful thing to have, Margel. Maybe you could have a piece of glass cut to sit on the top? (more expense!) Like Dee, I have purchased a couple of named photos and blogged about them, but no joy in finding relatives yet. Jo

    1. Since I use the inside to store pillows and an extra napping quilt, I need to be able to lift the lid. That is why I use a quilted runner - to protect but easy to remove.

  3. Beautiful post, beautiful pine chest. It's too bad you have not made a breakthrough finding out about it's owner (yet). Thanks for sharing your treasure - I'll bet if you hadn't purchased it, you'd still be kicking yourself. :)