I’ve spent much of the last week traveling to Binghamton, spending time with my friends and family celebrating Christmas. It was a really nice break and I enjoyed all of it – the food, the parties, the presents – with the exception of missing my brother and Michele (who spent Christmas in Switzerland this year) and my cousin Jeff and his fiance (who were in Ohio).
Each year, it seems like there are a few truly memorable gifts that are given or received. Last year, Chris and I made “Fix-it-Club” hats for my dad, Carol & DJ, as part of the “club” that was founded based around DJ’s propensity to break things, and my dad’s skill at fixing them. And last year, Michele gave all the women in my family bracelets in support of Breast Cancer Research, in memory of my grandma – it was our first Christmas without her, and the first Christmas Eve that we celebrated in my lifetime that wasn’t at her house.
This year, three gifts top my list. Chris gave me two of them – a flute, which I mentioned to him in passing that I would like to start playing again; and tickets to see the Nutcracker in Boston. We went to the show last night, and it was fun and magical, just like it is every time I see it. If you live in Boston, go next year! It is worth it.
The other gift was something that I got from my Aunt Mary, and is incredibly special. The back story is that when my grandma was alive, she used to have a collection of about 50-100 old postcards that she would pull out from time to time to show people. My grandma had a ton of information bits like this – she would clip articles from the newspaper or find old photos and she would keep them in a drawer in her living room and would show us various things when we came to visit. She also would write all over these pieces of paper in her cursive scrawl, I think to try to make sure that she remembered the names of the people in the photos for when she was telling the stories about them.
So for Christmas, my Aunt Mary framed this collection of holiday postcards and gave a bunch to all the people in my family. SO COOL! I love these things. She knew that I would love them so she gave me six – I’m still trying to decide how best to display them. My favorite three are pictured in this post.
The coolest thing about the postcards, though, is that you can still read the backs of them. All of these were sent to someone (an ancestor of mine, possibly?) named Miss Frances Jennings from Candor, N.Y. That’s all that can be found in the address line – I guess you didn’t need too much information to get the postcards to the right house back in 1909, when sending a postcard cost only 1 cent.
Thanks to the Internet, I was able to do a bit of research on the people who sent and received the postcards. This is all speculative, because I can’t be sure that any of the people in the postcards are 100% definitely the people who I found on the Internet, but it’s interesting either way!
The back of the first postcard (pictured above) provides a huge hint – which is that J. Herbert Jennings, Jr. was somehow associated with Miss Frances Jennings (likely her father). And I managed to find out some information about a J.H. Jennings Sr., namely that he was the local druggist at Candor Corners in 189? (random fact: at some point, the store burned down). It appears that he may have also been the town supervisor, the chief office in town, from 1894-1896. He married Matie Wells on December 21, 1871, in Oneonta, N.Y. I think that this is the father of J.H. Jennings, Jr. and the grandfather of Frances Jennings.
Some sad news for the Jennings family on September 29, 1904, when Mary Augusta Wells (the proper name of Matie?), wife of J.H. Jennings, passed away. In 1933, it appears that the Jennings were still in business and that both J.H. Jennings Sr. and Jr. were still living in Candor, based on the information in this old phone book.
The postcards were all sent by different people, but at least two of them seem to be from family members in Seattle, Washington – one from Auntie Ric (pictured above) and the other from Cousin Mable. They are postmarked with a stamp from the World’s Fair Seattle 1909, which appears to be the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a fair that was put on to publicize the development of the Pacific Northwest. I have no idea if the relatives were involved in that World’s Fair, but it’s wild to think that they were in Seattle in the early 1900’s when Seattle still looked like this and there were no airliners to take you there from New York:
One of the most interesting people in the Jennings family line is Eleanor Jennings, whose obituary says that she was born on May 1, 1924, to J.H. Jennings Jr. and Daisy Wales Hunt Jennings. Eleanor graduated from Candor High School in 1941 and in 1944 magna cum laude from William Smith College. She wrote a book about her family and their role in Candor called Echoes from Yesterday. (I am trying to get a copy.) She also taught and travelled extensively, and published both prose and poetry. She had a half sister named Frances Mary Jennings, who I believe is the Frances from the postcards.
There was also an Eleanor Jennings from Candor, N.Y., who served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928, but this must have been a different Eleanor – maybe another family member? This is still amazing to me, however, as the first woman didn’t get elected to the Senate until 1932. (The first woman went to the Republican National Convention as a delegate in 1900.)
I realize that this is just a lot of rambling about the possible history of some people that may or may not be my ancestors, but it’s very cool how much of the past the Internet has opened to us now that many old documents have been scanned and indexed. I hope that one day all of the books and documents that we have stored in warehouses and libraries are archived digitally.
Happy Holidays, everyone!