Sunday, April 26, 2020

His and Her Heirlooms from When We Were Born

With the Covid-19 pandemic keeping us inside since mid-March, I've been documenting family history by writing about heirlooms that will be passed to the next generation.
Wally's baby book and silver porringer

Today is a look at keepsakes from when my husband and I were born.

His: Baby Book and Silver Porringer

My late mother-in-law (Marian Jane McClure
Wood) was given a small baby book to record milestones in the life of her first-born child, my wonderful hubby.

Shown here is the baby book alongside a silver porringer, engraved with baby's initials (WEW). Although the book contains the names of several dozen well-wishers who gave baby gifts, this silver porringer isn't listed. Nor is it listed as a gift for "baby's first Christmas." Although we don't know who presented it to my husband, it's still a treasured heirloom.

The baby book turned out to be a bonanza for my family-history research. In it are the names of many people identified by family relationship, such as "Aunt Nellie Kirby" and "Grandparents McClure." Over the years, as I've fleshed out the family tree, I've recognized other gift-givers as great aunts/uncles and cousins.

By correlating the book with other sources (such as Census records and the diaries of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood), I've confirmed who's who in the family's inner circle, and also narrowed down dates for the death of people who don't appear.

Hers: Silver Napkin Ring
Marian's silver napkin ring from the Farkas Family Tree

In my mother's Farkas Family Tree association, the traditional baby gift was a silver napkin ring.

On one side was engraved the baby's initials (mine is shown here).

The other side was engraved with the birth date and "Farkas Family Tree."

No matter whether a baby was a boy or a girl, the Farkas Family Tree bestowed this napkin ring, personalized for each child.

Because I have the Farkas Family Tree meeting minutes from 1933-1964, I know that controversy erupted when the mother of a baby boy asked whether the gift might be something other than a napkin ring. After heated discussion during a family meeting, the mother was out-voted.

According to the minutes, this aunt asked for reconsideration several times at meetings over the years, only to be voted down every time.

Tradition won out, and all babies in the family continued to receive silver napkin rings. That's part of the legacy I'm sharing with my heirs along with this keepsake.


  1. Lovely keepsakes! I remember my grandmother having some of these engraved napkin rings -- probably inherited by one of my siblings -- but did not know the significance of the engraving. I inherited a treasured set of her silver spoons, one engraved and presented each year until she was 18 by her godmother.

    1. You are so fortunate to have those silver spoons and the story of who presented them, when, and why. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. These are really unique baby heirlooms--especially the napkin rings! Do you know why your family does the napkin rings?

    1. Hi Christine, At first, the family tree discussed giving each new baby a small amount to start a savings account. But for some reason, undisclosed in the tree's meeting minutes, they switched to a napkin ring. And despite objections from the mothers of baby boys, they stuck to napkin rings! Thanks for leaving me a comment.

  3. This is a nice post. I must admit I had to look up "porringer" because I did not know what it was. Our children were given Beatrix Potter bowls & mugs by my husband's aunt when they were born. These are precious family items.