Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Treasures Belonging to Grandmama McKinley

When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and record your memories so the family treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question, it’s the story which holds the value.

Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Treasures Belonging to Grandmama McKinley

Ola Askew McKinley


Grandmama McKinley’s  spelling book, glasses and thimble


I came across Grandmama’s spelling book just the other day… it was given to me by my mother, telling me that it was her mother’s. Grandmama had very few items saved from her childhood, and what she did have, like this spelling book… meant something to her.

The complete name on the spelling book is…The Elementary Spelling Book Being an Improvement on the American Spelling Book. While it doesn’t appear to have been an actual school book, it may have still been given out in school. Listed on the bottom front of the cover is… Sold by all the principal Booksellers throughout the United States of America and its Territories, and printed by the American Book Company of New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago; it was often referred to as the “Blue Back” spelling book.”

My grandmother could read and write, reading everything that came into the household as my grandfather didn’t read. Mama remembers how she read all the mail to him as he sat listening. She kept all the letters and cards, in the trunk – in the hall, that came to the house; grandmama often read and reread them over again… placing them always back in the trunk. She also read stories to mama and her brother before bedtime; Grandmama read a chapter a night until the book was finished, reading only by the light of a lantern.

As I first looked at grandmama’s spelling book, the name of Noah Webster on the cover, listed as the book author, first caught my eye. Inside is a copyright date of 1908, which brings the book to an age of 109 years old. In further skimming through the pages, it didn’t remind me of the spelling books I remembered in school, as it begins with the analysis of sounds and even lists the alphabet letters in many different forms, even a cursive script form. If we continue on today in not teaching our children how to write cursive, they won’t even be able to identify the letters. What worries me about “not learning cursive” is that the future genealogists will have an even harder time in reading those old wills and documents than we do.

I was quite intrigued with grandmama’s spelling book and as I continued to look through, I saw that much of the information given… is still pertinent today. In the center of the book, there were several fables and illustrations for the reader. I can easily see that this small “blue back” book as I found it referred to was a very useful and handy reference guide for any student.

I researched the book for a value and found it listed in several places, beginning at around $21.00 and up, depending on condition. I will be packing grandmama’s spelling book back in the trunk, along with a copy of this blog post.

My grandmother’s glasses remind me of all the many times she used them in reading books and writing letters, but they most benefited her when she sat piecing quilts in the evening, using only a lantern. I have a hard enough time sewing in the evening with electric lights…. so I can’t imagine trying to sew from the light of a lantern. She enjoyed her crafts of quilting and crocheting and I’ll soon share pieces of her handiwork in a future Heirloom Friday post.

I’m surprised that one of grandmama’s thimbles survived the years, but I have one and treasure it as I know how important it was to her as she sat piecing quilts. If you have ever sewn by hand, you know how sore the tip of your finger becomes from the needle going in and out.

When mama found the thimble and gave me, she laughed saying, “I’m surprised there’s even one of my mother’s thimbles left as I played the game of “hide the thimble” so many times… and lost so many of her thimbles.

My love of crafts connects me to Grandmama Mckinley, but it’s her craft DNA that I feel I strongly inherited from her. Her talent in quilting expertise never quite meshed with me although; I can quilt, I just don’t like all the time entailed in cutting, assembling and sewing to put together each one. It’s too much of a time-consuming project for me, although I have done several small quilted crafts.

 Thank You Grandmama for sending me your DNA craft genes !

Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to  read more stories…

© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Family Heirloom Bloggers:

I started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join me in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Writing the stories of the family heirlooms I’ve been entrusted with has been on my mind for a long time; the time is now and I plan to write their stories on a weekly basis.

Please check out the weekly Family Heirloom stories of…

Blogger: Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Blogger: Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Blogger: Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Blogger: Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Blogger:  Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
Blogger: True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Blogger: Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons                              Blogger: Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Blogger: Kathy Rice at
Blogger: Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
Blogger: Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Check out her Blog at –  52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap  for links to more Heirloom posts.

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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2 Responses to Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Treasures Belonging to Grandmama McKinley

  1. Evelyn Smith says:

    Wonder why I’m just seeing this now, as it appears to be a post from December. Anyway, good story. I really wish I had one of those old Spellers but all I have are reprints that I discovered a few years ago and have since tried to acquire as many as I can.
    I have a few old books but the titles escape me at the moment.
    Folks just don’t seem to appreciate the skills of our ancestors and sadly think many of them pointless, so they are disappearing. I do know how to make a quilt but don’t have the necessary space required for piecing it together properly. The only quilt I have is a lap quilt my grandmother Grace made and gave me in the mid 1980’s. I do have a couple from Mother’s stuff that I’m supposed to be finishing for my sister.
    I think I have a thimble in my sewing things but I don’t use it. I never quite got the hang of it, so I deal with the sore fingers when I do a lot of hand sewing.
    Yes, I love sharing your memories with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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