Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Tale of Family Roots.

Visiting my parents always puts the tug on the family ties.

As they get older, their connection to relatives they remember from their youth become a lifeline and an anchor to who they were, who they are, and where they come from.

These are people I either never knew because they were long gone by the time I made an appearance on the scene, or some that I only knew while I was a small child.

It’s funny the perspective we gain with aging. 

Who I only thought of as “those old people”  I now realize were likely no older than I am now!

I visited these family photographs that hang on the wall in my dad’s house while in Arizona.  The photo at the top of this post is my Grandmother, my dad’s mother as a baby.

Seeing these photos at my dad's, makes ME remember, and long for the time my Grannie called me “Bonnie Belle” and I would in turn call her “Grannie Belle” and we would laugh and love.  I felt safe with her.  Like no matter what was going on in my life, she would love me regardless, just as I am.

Grannie and my Dad.

My dad was a toe-headed cutie pie and he still is.  I see this picture, look at the child my dad was, and I still see that twinkle in his eye, even as a toddler.  Dad got Grannie’s blue blue eyes, and then passed them on to me.  I passed them on to my son Jeff.

When Jeff was little, at bedtime – before saying goodnight, I’d kiss him and hug him and say “Hey you, give me my blue eyes back!”  And he’d say “No!  You give me MY blue eyes back.”

It’s funny how memories of family flow from one thing to another.  My Grannie,  my dad, myself and my son Jeff all have the same blue eyes.  I love that.


A few years later along came my uncle Fred.

This photo was taken during WWII while my Grandpa served in the Navy.  Notice the sailor suit?

There is another photo that always resided on a side table at Grannie’s house in Minneapolis and I would stare at it endlessly in wonder, and turn it over to read what was on the back side – a clue into where my roots lay.

When Grannie passed, the photo came to live with my Dad, and I look at it in wonderment, just the same way I did as a young child.

These things I am familiar with as “items”  but really, what is the story and connection behind them?

Who were these people that were my Grannie's relatives, and in turn my Dad's, mine, and now my son's?


Dowdeswell Manor.


I remember thinking that this house MUST be haunted, wherever it was.  It looked spooky to my young self, and if you look closely, there is a woman and a man in the upstairs window.  Who were they?

The story continues on the back of the photo:


The caption on the back of the photo of Dowdeswell Manor is written in lovely penmanship gone sepia with age. It tells the story of the family line on my dad's mother's side. The caption was written to my great-grandfather, Frederick Malcolmson my dad's maternal grandfather. It reads:

"This is Dowdeswell Manor 5 miles from Cheltenham Gloucestershire England and is the home of your great-grandfather Edward Arkell who was born at Whittington Court September 10th 1792 and died at Dowdeswell Manor 1864.

Your grandmother, Fanny Arkell-Wood and your mother Emily Lavinia Wood Malcomson were both born in this house.
Dowdswell Manor was built by Lord Dr. Lile in Queen Elizabeth's reign." If only this photo could speak!
Well, the photo can’t speak, but the internet can.

I no sooner posted this on instagram when I started receiving replies that some knew this place, it was close by, and they could get me photos of what it looks like today. 

My heartfelt thanks to Sue Watters for taking this little trip for me!


Dowdeswell Manor, Jan 9th, 2017.

Same urns on the gate posts!  Same design on the gate!  My heart is pounding at this point!  And there are the windows where the “spooky people” were standing in the old photograph.


Dowdeswell from behind.


From the side of the front gate, looking toward the other buildings.

I wish I had known how close I was to this place when I was in Birmingham England for the Quilt Festival a couple of years ago.  I was VERY close!


Dowdeswell Church

Sue also sent along photos of the church, believing some of my ancestors are likely buried here.  It gave me chills.  Who were these people, and wouldn’t I just love to sit down with them, share a cuppa and let them know all about where life has lead their progeny in the 21st century?

Our family lines have taken many twists and turns over the centuries.  How many distant cousins do I still have residing in this area of England?  Could I have walked right past them at the Birmingham Quilt Festival?  Oh, it gives me goosebumps!


Crypt at Dowdeswell Church


My mind is in a whirl.

These are my roots.

**UPDATE!!**  Sue also sent along the following email!  I think she's found my long lost cousins many times removed!
Bonnie I have had a lovely morning with a Jenny the current owner of Whittington Court. The Arkells were tenant farmers at the court and the court originally belonged to Sandiwell Park which is pictured below. 
Funny enough this is now split in to rather nice apartments and 5 years ago I looked at buying one there but in the end bought a new house. The other buildings are the farm buildings around the court.  
Their are still Arkells in the area in fact the one I know of Is an estate agent and auctioneer. 
I need to go to England to hunt up my Arkell relations, don't you think?

This is my own kind of "Downton Abbey" story.  

The back of the photo never said that my family members "OWNED" the manor, just that they were born there, and died there, much like the histories of all the families who lived in such places.

As I get older, I too long for the connection with those who came before me.  I want to know them.  I wish they could know me.

And this is a Quilt-less post because I didn’t sew last night.  I started packing the car for my trip to South Carolina tomorrow.  I did some clean out and re-org of the quilting area, and of the vintage machine storage area in my basement.  I got dirty and grimy and it felt so good!

Some days are for sewing, and some days are for straightening things up and moving things out so you can better sew tomorrow.


Quiltville Quote of the Day!

Sometimes, if something isn't working all we need to do is change our approach. Vintage string quilt found in Chandler, Arizona.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

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  1. Your post gave me a chill. I was adopted but by relatives so I know my birth mothers family and have been researching as best I can with no relatives to talk to now. Half of my family were also from England - the Sutton family, but I believe we were probably tenants not born in a manor LOL. So glad you had this experience. Safe travels.

  2. Even in the colorless photos those blue eyes shine!

  3. Such a lovely nostalgic post! I also have photos of ancestors and places about which I know very little. The only one left to tell me about them is my mom, and she often doesn't know or gets confused with the details. It sometimes boggles my mind to think of all those who have gone before me and my grandchildren are the current end result. You are very blessed to have such great photos and information to give you such a deep sense of your root system!

  4. Wow! I loved this post. I have been researching my husband's family and it also goes back to England. I LOVE that the Manor still exists today and you got to see pictures of it. Hopefully you will get to visit one day. I just think quilts and family history go hand in hand.

  5. Take your time and visit England.
    love the pics
    Louise in Sweden

  6. That's so wierd that you should wtite this post today as I sent you some hostory about Dowdeswell manor this morning by email.SPOOOKY!!!!!!

  7. Love family history. It really gives you a connection to your roots. Are you recording your parents memories from the past for your children? Once our parents and grands are gone we loose that family history.

  8. Wonderful post, Bonnie! I love old photographs. Your dad's eyes do have a twinkle in them, even as a little boy! Isn't the internet wonderful, able to connect you with someone who was kind enough to send you pictures of your ancestral home as it is today. Amazing!
    Kim in KS

  9. My, my the family history you ooze!! Exciting development of the estate's current details and pictures. Pictures, oh the pictures of your Grannie, Dad, and Uncle. Such a heartfelt post. I got goosebumps too knowing you were so close but didn't know when you were there two years ago. Have a great Tuesday and an amazing trip starting tomorrow. Hugs, Allison C. Bayer, Plano, TX USA

  10. Wow! This whole thing is pretty amazing. Sweet of Sue to go & check it out. I bet you are planning a trip there!πŸ’•

  11. We found an old letter in Mom's things, after she died, that led us to cousins we knew we had but had never been able to contact. My sister sent a letter to the address on that old letter and four days later received an email from that cousin! Joy! After two years of internet chatting, my two sisters and I flew from Alberta, Canada to Cardiff Wales and met them! After the intros, it was like we had always known them and just hadn't seen them for a while. They arranged a little mini reunion and we were able to meet all four cousins and various members of their families.
    After two weeks of visiting and touring around, I cried and cried knowing we had to go home. Amazing how you can connect and love so quickly! Some say family: the ties that bind and gag....but for me family is what holds us together with love.

  12. I was raised by my father and stepmother - they "acquired" me when I was 5 (a long story). I have always been curious about my mother whom I have never seen since I was 3 or 4 (and definitely do not remember). After my stepmother (always mom to me) passed, I started a silent search for my mother - my father would have flipped if he had known. I didn't get very far - not much beyond my birth. What I did find out was that the "creepy old couple" that lived across the street from my paternal grandparents and whom my "mother" insisted I visit every year were actually my maternal grandparents - something no one ever told me. I often wonder if I would have reacted to them differently if I had known....maybe they would have shared a picture of my birth mother so I would know what she looked like at the very least.

  13. Dowdeswell dates to the 16th century if built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Amazing!

  14. 29 yrs ago I was fortunate to go meet some Aunts/Uncles in Wales, GB. I still keep in contact w my cousins. Some live in Holyhead, Llandudno & Merseryside.
    What I wouldnt give to go back!!

  15. Thank you for sharing these with us Bonnie! Your granny was STUNNING!! I love how women looked in those days. I think they all looked like movie stars!! I too have heritage in England; I think it's Lancashire. Unfortunately, my grandfather is gone, and my mother too. Sadly, I know nothing about his parents. You're so lucky to know as much as you do!

  16. Oh, I love this post! I have been working on a lot of family history this winter and your post just touched my heart. It's SO very interesting to delve into your family's past and make those connections. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Well, a picture is worth a thousand words! May we call you Lady Bonnie now?πŸ‘ΈπŸΌπŸ˜€

  18. Family history is great.... Quilting and family go together....Glad you found more of your family .

  19. Such an interesting post :0) I love that Sue was able to show you what the estate looks like now - very cool!

  20. I bet you will be looking for an opportunity to revisit England and pursue this family history at some point in the future! I know I would! Great post today.

  21. Bonnie, my heart went a flitter as I saw your family photos along with the video, of another Quilt-Ville follower, who lives near your ancestral home!!! You see my family history competes a lot with my love for fabric. I know where you will want to go in the future. So glad you shared. Who knows who this will connect you with? Cheers, "Bloody Mary on the Rocks"

  22. My Roots are in England as well. I have a Trip to visit someday on my Bucket List. My father had Blue eyes. I got my mothers Brown eyes! I love seeing the pictures in black white and Sepia. Days gone by, but treasured and still on display in your father's home.

  23. Oh Bonnie how lovely! What a treasure you have gotten! I just know you will make it back someday! Thank you for sharing!

  24. Thank You Bonnie for sharing this part of your life with us. Your Grandmother was beautiful, I see the family resemblance for sure.
    As you know England has a beautiful countryside. I hope you get to soo the home of your ancestors in person.
    God Bless you as always in 2017. May all you wishes come true.

  25. That's the kind of thing that makes you want research your family genealogy. I remember when I accidentally fell into it. I came across my maternal great-grandmother's obit on the Internet because my dad had been a pallbearer at her funeral. I went to that website's homepage to see why that was online and wound up sending an email to the site owner, giving him all the family information my mom had written down from her side of the family as well as from my dad's. Lo & behold, within a couple days the site owner answered my email with an attachment that turned out to be pretty much the complete family history of my dad's side going back to the 1300s on my paternal grandmother's side and quite a bit about my mom's side. Those ancestors lived on Insel Fehmarn, currently part of Germany, but part of Denmark at other times. And that was the beginning. Since then I've had assistance from others in Germany and Australia as well as from some in the Netherlands on my husband's family. It's all fascinating and I love the hunt.

  26. Delightful pictures of your family. There is a strong resemblance between you and your father's mother - her smile - your smile and the shape of your eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  27. How fun! I love genealogy. I have not been able to trace much of my father's side though because they immigrated from Scotland to Canada, and I'm not having a lot of luck before Canada. My mother's family though has been in the US for a long long time, so that's easier.

  28. More than blue eyes came to you through your grandmother. There is a resemblance.

  29. Oh, I foresee a trip to England in your near future! You have to go; you just must! There's more than just genes in genealogy; it's a sense of belonging that pulls at your heart and thoughts.

  30. Oh yes...you need to return to England again. It is interesting how we crave to know more as we age.

  31. And this is why I LOVE England! They don't tear down their amazing old buildings and build 'new' like we do in America... they cherish and keep the past intact. It's so wonderful that the place is virtually unchanged from when your family was there, and you can go and see it.

  32. I have two loves...Quilting and Family History... they both tug at my heart and scream for my time. I have been working on Family history for twenty one years and quilting for 24 years(sewing since I was eight). After deciding to just enter the people I know in a Family tree program. I now know 5580 of my closest and dearest relatives. Totally amazing.

    I recently loaded the app "We're related" from Ancestry.com on my phone and am finding out some very interesting new people that I am related to everyday...One relative, upon further investigation, provided me with the 32nd Great Grandparents of my Mother dating back to 1045 in England. They are the Spencer Family and nobility....Nobility family are the only family records that I have the ability to go back that far. I was needless to say, stunned. I have had so much fun with this. These people talk to me as I discover and learn about them.

    Be careful Bonnie, a new obsession is brewing...Yes you need to go to see this home and when you are there you will feel the energy of your family all around...you will get goosebumps again. I have a blog if you are interested...http://jlsmithfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/

    I try to write a blog every week. Sometimes life gets in the way. Jan Smith

  33. What an interesting post and so exciting for you. I loved reading about your roots and how lucky you are that someone saw your post so quickly. You have a treasure in those photographs and the ancestors who came before you were very smart to record so much history on the back of the pictures. I definitely think you should make a special trip/vacation and go back to your beginnings. What a wonderful experience that would be!

  34. Well Bonnie Bell you never disappoint and this post was one of the best!!! Your grandmother was gorgeous, she could have been a movie star. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Have a wonderful trip.

  35. Bonnie, when I see photographs of your Dad I always think that he was (and still is) a handsome fellow. But wow, was his mother a most beautiful woman. She was absolutely captivating. So now I know where Dad gets it from. Get searching girl, you never know what you might find. So much can come through the Internet, contacts very often come out of the woodwork. Good hunting.

  36. Fantastic isn't it! I've been tracing my roots. Most of my family were from London, but only for a short while before moving back out into the countryside. I moved into deeper countryside even more. Weird thing is I have discovered that one side of my ancestors lived 20 minutes away from me - I have driven along the roads and possibly walked paths that they had walked on. Also attached to a manor house - that belonged to a former Mayor of London (a shifty one it seems too) and being coachmen and livery bods they moved to Kensington as a result. On the other hand my brother lives in Wiltshire and he isn't far from another set of ancestors and one of my uncles lives in the same town as yet another side of our family - and nobody knew! Maybe it's instinct that drew us back to our roots? Yet on my mum's side I've tracked back to Gloucester - one was a town hall clerk in Gloucester Town Hall and on the other side we have the Brady bunch and that's proving a bit more difficult and there we have the Irish side.

    Enjoy the trip if you can find the time - it is terribly fascinating - like a jigsaw puzzle.

  37. such a great post! I got goosebumps too! My mum is from England as well. She was a war bride during WWII

  38. Fantastic photos and a fabulous story.. thank you so much for sharing it all.

  39. Bonnie, it sounds like you have another hobby waiting for you. I went to Birmingham last August and if you go again, I'll be there! Geneology is so interesting. We were stationed with the AF in the 70's in Suffolk England and while researching relatives, found that they came from that area! My husband used to drive by the town on his way to work. Going back soon.

  40. Your "Grannie" was gorgeous! I see a lot of you in her smile. Families are the most important thing in life. Thanks for sharing. And that Sue is such a sweetie isn't she!!

  41. I loved your post. It's so exciting to find information on long lost family. A couple of years ago we found cousins that grew up only 30 miles from us.They're grandmother and our grandmother were sisters but because of a rift with the sisters in their early years we never knew of family living so close. We had a reunion a year ago and it was so good to meet long lost relatives.Because of this reunion we were able to find great great great grandparents in western Europe through Ancestry. We thought we only had Lithunian blood but we also have Polish and Russian in the mix.

  42. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post of your family. How exciting that someone recognized your photo and were able to share your ancestral home with you and in turn, us. This truly brought home the power of the internet!

    Congratulations also on your new home in Virginia. It is truly lovely.

  43. I always enjoy your posts but this is ma all-time fav. Oh, to have photos of grandparents and where they lived! My parents and in-laws are long gone and only 5 years ago, after doing a DNA test, I discovered that the amazing man who was my father, (who taught me to sew!) is not, biologically. No one left to question, not much hope to find out where my bloodline flows. Treasure the knowledge of your lineage, Bonnie.

  44. So enjoyed reading about your family and the history you've learned. That is a true gift & privilege. I would love to trace my family, but for the most part, only the grands & greats that I've have physically known are all that seems to be available, and even the homes they lived in are gone. I hope you get to pursue more looks at the past and give us updates a long the way.

  45. Thanks much for sharing. I love old photos and family stories.

  46. I love your post about your family history! Please post more if and when you find stuff. I think it would be wonderful to find any living long lost relatives.
    It was just one small part of the reason I went to Lima, Peru before joining your tour last year.
    Sloth Sister Jamie

  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. I started my family history in the early 1980's and now have piles and piles of notebooks and photos. My fabric stash and genealogy are constantly fighting for space in my craft room. Quilts are like family. They come together piece by piece. I have even made genealogy quilts out of old photos. Both are great hobbies and take time and patience to make progress. Keep on looking for your roots. You are bound to find some interesting characters that give your family quilt a "pop".

  49. What an adventure. I do hope you can visit the area and maybe meet some distant family. I love old pictures. Your grandmother was beautiful. I have a long wall outside our bedroom that is covered with family pictures from both my husband's family and mine dating as far back as the Civil War. When we lived in Illinois, I had the pictures on the stairway wall. Our children would ask how each person in the pictures was related to them. Nancy A: rangerer@sbcglobal.net

  50. I've been interested in family history for most of my life. I understand your feelings.Whenever I get that Facebook post asking "If you could spend an hour with someone who has passed, who would it be?" I always think of a Great Aunt that I knew as a youngster who could possibly answer many questions about my father's Swedish roots.

  51. I too feel that "tug" at my heart when I think of my ancestors would are long gone. I have found quite a few cousins that I was unaware of, but I still have so many to licate.

  52. Love the post and the kindness of Sue. My Dad's Mom was born in England but came to the US as a 13 year old. Family of 13 children so she came over to help ease the finances. My cousin did find some of our cousins so we've gotten a start on our family over there.

  53. I love this post! I was reminded of some ancestry.com research I did a year or two ago. If you haven't been on ancestry, I recommend giving it a try. It is fun and addicting! And with all of this information you received you may be able to find other distant relatives, pictures, stories. I will pick up my research sometime in the near future, but it was SO addictive that I had to take a break from it.

    Good luck!

  54. You are a marvelous writer Bonnie! I was watching a movie in my head as I was reading, pulled in, reading quicker.
    I'm so happy for you, new discoveries of those who came before, locations, buildings, glimpses of their life.
    Me? My dad born in Holland,his family came by ship to Ellis Island when he was 6. Settled in Pasadena, CA. My mom born in Illinois; her mom from Sweden,in 20's she with 3 sisters came to USA by St Lawrence waterway; Moms father roots were English many generations prior. Interesting mix ��

  55. I agree with Amy - the Ancestry website is a terrific help. In fact it linked me up with my dad's cousin(s) that we never knew about for one reason or another - she had a photo that she thought was an uncle - but it was my dad in his Naval uniform! We since met up and I've met the extended family. Not only that but the lost links with Australia have been found via the cousin and I also have another distant relation living in New Zealand - and these two ladies now chat on the phone regularly - so it's wonderful!


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