Do you have a family heirloom sitting around gathering dust? Curious about the ancestor who owned it? Are you trying to find some ways to interest your teen in family history? Introduce them to this month’s Instagram challenge at makefamilyhistory.org and watch the magic begin. Teens love social media. Combine that with a fascinating family heirloom and you’ve got them hooked.
I don’t have any teens left at home, but I am helping a group of teens from my church learn how to do family history. This looked like a fun activity, so I encouraged them to give it a try. I needed an Instagram account to participate in this challenge, so I took the plunge and entered another social media world.
I chose to upload a picture of the glass compote my Great Aunt Cal gave me for a wedding gift. The compote had belonged to her mother, Mary Margaret Peterson Creer, my great grandmother. Out of her many descendants I was the privileged recipient of this family treasure and this challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to share a piece of my family’s history.
I created a fun photo with the compote, my wedding photo, and the Creer family photo, uploaded it to Instagram with the @makefamilyhistory tag and voila, mission accomplished!
I wish the compote could tell me it’s story. Where did it come from? Was it a gift? For what occasion? Did it sit on a shelf or did Mary use it to serve dessert? Out of the six daughters, why did Aunt Cal inherit it? Since I didn’t have anyone to ask, I decided to do a little digging into Mary’s life to see if I could discover any clues.
Mary Margaret Peterson Creer, wedding photo
Reading Mary’s life history on FamilySearch.org, I learned that both of her Danish parents emigrated separately to Utah, then married in 1867. Mary was born in 1871, the third of eleven children, and her mother died soon after she turned fifteen in 1886. Could the compote have belonged to her mother? As the oldest living daughter, Mary had to take on much responsibility for her three younger siblings. As a young girl, she exhibited unusual musical ability and her father purchased one of the first organs in Spanish Fork for her. She became the organist of several church organizations. She often accompanied the leading vocalist in the city. Maybe the compote was a thank you gift for her musical work?
In 1892, when Mary was almost twenty-one, she married Charles Cannon Creer in the Manti LDS Temple. They celebrated their wedding with a reception and supper at their home and even had a printed invitation. Could the compote have been a wedding gift?
The wedding reception took place in the house Charles had built for his bride, the two story white brick home which still stands today on the corner across from the Spanish Fork city park. The original living room, kitchen, and bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs were expanded to accommodate the large family. A parlor and bathroom were added downstairs and two more bedrooms upstairs.
The Charles and Mary Creer home
My grandmother, Florence Matilda Creer was born nine months after Charles and Mary’s wedding. A new baby born every year or two kept Mary busy. The family suffered a loss with their fourth child, a little girl, who was stillborn. Eventually six girls and three boys lived in the home.
Charles farmed and Mary kept house. She was known for cooking delicious Danish foods, sewing for her six girls, and her musical ability. One day a very large crate came to town on the train. The children watched in awe as Charles pried it open and surprised Mary with a large, elegant, upright piano. Charles liked to surprise the family with unusual gifts like the piano, was the compote also a special gift?
The Creer sisters: Alvera, Clara, Sarah, Lillian, Ann, Florence (my grandmother)
After Charles and Mary had been married for about fifteen years, Mary fell and broke her knee cap. Without proper treatment, she lost the use of her leg and needed a crutch or cane to walk. She generally sat in a wheel chair and directed the affairs of the family. She suffered pain from this injury for the next sixteen years until she died at the age of fifty-five in 1925.
Creer family about 1925, the last picture taken before Mary’s death.
When Mary passed away, her fifth daughter, Clara was just twenty-three. Somehow Clara, who always went by Cal, ended up with the compote. Over fifty years later, she gave it to me for a wedding gift. My grandmother always said I inherited my musical ability from her mother, Mary Margaret Peterson Creer. Thanks to Aunt Cal, I also inherited a little bit of the Creer family history.
I wish I had solved the mystery behind this heirloom. But for now, I’m just grateful to know the stories about my great grandmother, Mary Margaret Peterson Creer, and feel our connection through a beautiful glass compote.
Ideas for connecting to your family’s history through heirlooms:
- Take a photo of each heirloom and upload it to your ancestor’s page on FamilySearch.org.
- Participate in the @MakeFamilyHistory challenge.
- Encourage children and teens to be detectives and find out more about the heirloom.
- Photograph yourself or your children holding the heirloom and your ancestor’s photo.
- Display the heirloom somewhere in your home.
- Use the heirloom, if possible, on special occasions.
Best of luck in your family heirloom endeavors!