30 June 2010

Quest: A mysterious Baltimore tea set

The Jewish Museum of Maryland's blog recently conducted readers through a bit of forensic genealogy.

The post (and photos) revealed how museum Collections Intern Sara Patenaude-Schuster tracked down the history of a mysterious tea set.

It also took Tracing the Tribe a bit of forensic searching through the blog to learn Sara's name, as her post included several photos of her, but not her name. I eventually discovered the intro post with the photos of this year's eight museum interns and searched those photos to find a match to the young woman depicted in the tea set post!

Sara's biggest challenge so far has been confirming the details on a tea set (photo right).

Read the steps she followed as she traced the history of this item.

Last week, my supervisor Jobi and I went to visit a woman who has a tea set that the JMM may be acquiring. The potential donor told us as much as she knew about the family history regarding the tea set, but some important details were missing. The key piece was the inscribed initials “M&S” on the tea pot. The set, she said, belonged to a prominent Jewish Baltimore family. The initials of the members of this family, though, weren’t M and S. She told us that she believed the tea set to have belonged to the wife of the prominent Baltimorean’s parents.
The museum had to confirm the object's details to make a decision on whether or not to accept the object.

Sara realized the names and family relationships were confused, such as identifying the wife for the mother-in-law and a nephew for a son.

Once she figured out the relationships, she attempted to research the wife's mother, but the museum's biographical records held nothing. The Internet had details on the husband and his family, but relatively nothing [pun intended] on the wife, and nothing about her parents.

Sara's then perused the museum's vertical files containing newspaper clippings (obituaries, pamphlets and fliers), and located the wife’s obituary and the name of her family's company. A breakthrough of sorts - although the Internet still showed nothing. Back to the vertical files, where she checked for everyone with the same surname, and hit gold!

A newspaper article revealed the name of a male cousin and the family business, as well as the family history. Sara found the man, M, and his wife, S, mentioned.

See the blog post for her "Eureka!" happy dance photo. Wrote Sara:

There is something immensely satisfying about solving a mystery, even one as seemingly unimportant as identifying the initials on a teapot.
Tracing the Tribe's readers can identify with her "happy dance" moment and congratulates Sara on her successful quest.

Read the complete post at the link above to learn more and see the great photos.

Click here to see the archival holdings of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

1 comment:

  1. ZevGriner6:30 AM

    In the last 10 years, the museum has undertaken a few projects to computerize information contained in its collections, specifically, the Baltimore Jewish Times, with it's valuable lifecycle announcements, and cemetery records, which were made available to JOWBR. Other useful collections are its synagogue records and funeral home records.

    Zev Griner