Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines on Our Family Tree

Sarah Ann Valentine Burr Ackley
My husband and I have three Valentines on our family tree--Valentine Mink, Valentine Smith, and Sarah Ann Valentine. I love them all.

Valentine Mink was born in Germany in 1805 but lived much of his life as a farmer in Floyd, New York. He carefully crafted his will to divide his estate fairly among his children. “The Cow or the thirty five Dollars that I gave to Janetta C. and the Horse or one hundred and twenty Dollars that I give to my sons George Franklin and John Philip is to make them equal to the elder children and not be included in the one eighth which each of them is to have.” I love him for that.

Valentine Smith was born in Chicago in 1873. As a descendant of an early settler and successful entrepreneur, she inherited a place in society that gave her the freedom to focus on her passions and one of them was history. She served, briefly, as Chicago’s first archivist and spearheaded a number of important local history projects. Many people who worked with Valentine found her difficult and demanding, but in the early 1900s she served as a constant reminder to the city fathers that Chicago’s history was worth preserving and worth celebrating. I love her for that.

And then there’s Sarah Ann Valentine, born in Schodack, New York in 1837. As a young woman she married a widower with children and then, three years after his death, she became my great-great grandfather’s third wife.

Sarah’s life was simple. She cooked. She cleaned. She went to church. She mothered stepchildren in addition to her own. Sometimes she was happy. Sometimes she wasn’t. But, she was grateful for family and friends.

On 8 Feb 1883 she wrote: "quite a pleasant Day washed flanel sheets, Baked Bread, commenced Mr A shirts, sewed some. … roads drifted some. Alone with my little family this eve my heart rises with thanks … "

I feel a surge of emotion when I read those words. I love Sarah for taking the time to keep the journals that allow me to feel close to her.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and to the ancestors you love.

(This blog post originally appeared in the February 2013 Genlighten.com newsletter.)

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