Mom’s Memories Page 15 AKA Keepsakes Lost

For some reason I’ve been thinking of this topic this week.  (I know the reason, I’m just keeping it secret.)  The loss of one of my mom’s family keepsakes did not sit well with her.  I think she mentioned it to us when we were kids, but she definitely talked about it toward the end of her life.  It’s a shame that some of those negative memories aren’t the first ones to go when a person starts losing their memory.  Yet we are a result of our experiences good and bad.  And both kinds make for good stories for a blog like this.  

Mom’s memories p. 15 plus a bit more

I say that the loss of her keepsake didn’t sit well with her, but it doesn’t sit well with me either.  It’s something that I would love to see.  She mentioned it in her little book she kept when she was documenting the memories she wanted to remember.  Now that I think about it, she didn’t mention that my dad sold her baritone without her permission.  It’s something else she talked about with a bit of sass to her voice.  It was another thing that did not sit well with her.  She wasn’t bitter about it, she just didn’t appreciate how it played out.

From mother to daughter – four generations: Martha, Daisy, Myrtle, and Betty

But the loss we’ll look at more closely is the loss of the trunk that was left to her by her maternal grandmother.  Let me introduce all of the players.  My mom was Betty Lou Bucklin Landry.  She was born in Elton, Louisiana, on May 20, 1933, and died at the age of 83 on January 19, 2017.  Her mother was Myrtle Sylvia Phenice Bucklin.  She was born in Hathaway, Louisiana, on December 19, 1906, and died at the age of 79 on May 7, 1986.  Grandma’s mother was Daisy Henrietta Martha Keys Phenice.  She was born April 20, 1876, in London, England, and died at the age of 76 on July 29, 1952, in Elton, Louisiana.  My great great grandmother was Martha Ann Cook Keys.  She was born November 8, 1836, in Great Wigsborough, England, and died at the age of 59 on July 17, 1896, in Elton, Louisiana.

So let’s see what she wrote.  I’ll quote it and then discuss it.  “Mama somehow got the idea that Uncle Roy had a museum in his warehouse.”  The Mama mentioned here is my maternal grandmother Myrtle.  She was married to Fred Bucklin and Uncle Roy was his younger brother.  They lived down at the other end of Bucklin Road (where Ronnie C. now lives).  I don’t know anything about his warehouse.  Was it behind the house?  Connected to the house?  or at another location?   Uncle Roy died in 1999.

“At his funeral I asked Aunt Effie – she said he had a ‘collection’ – Mama had given him the gun collection from the Bucklins.  I had Martha Cooks antique trunk.  Grandma (Daisy) gave it to me when I was in high school.  It had some of her needlework in it.  It was no longer there + had been emptied on a shelf on the wall – So I guess MY trunk went to the ‘museum.'”  I’m not sure what the 1999 funeral and the gun collection had to do with the trunk, other than that was probably another time she had tried to track down its location. 

From what I remember, my mom had left the trunk at her mom’s home when she got married and moved to California in 1952.  They spent time there and in New Mexico before returning to Louisiana in 1956.  I think it was around this time that she noticed that her trunk was missing.  She probably was ready to retrieve it and it was nowhere to be found.

It wasn’t just any old trunk, and it wasn’t just the trunk.  “We liked to look at the needlework Martha had done.  It was in bad condition but I had cleaned it up.  It came from England when they moved here in 1887.”  So it was the trunk that my Keys ancestors used when they immigrated to the United States in 1887!  It probably even spent a little time in the chicken coop that the family lived in when they were waiting for their house to be built!

I first thought that the needlework that was in the trunk was by my great grandmother Daisy, but my mom specifically says later that the needlework was by Daisy’s mom Martha.  Wouldn’t that be something to see?!  My mom and her siblings enjoyed looking at it when they were youngsters.  But sadly, I will never get to see that or the trunk.

Yet I do have a piece of cross stitch that Daisy’s brother Leonard stitched in 1883.  I’ve shared a photo of that before.  I have another photo to share, too.  This one is a small photo that I have of one of Martha’s cross stitches that has survived all of these years.  I think I can make out that it was done in Feb. 1868.  It is in the care of one of Leonard’s descendants.   I love it!

Cross stitch done by my great great grandmother Martha Cook Keys in Feb. 1868.

Mitochondrial Sisters

Fred and Myrtle Phenice Bucklin family circa 1950 in Hathaway, Louisiana.  The children from left to right are Sylvia, Loris, Austin, Alma, and my mom Betty Lou.

This post is coming together from several things that I’ve been working on lately.  I’ve been editing a lot of old photos from different eras.  It’s also time to look at my mom’s side of the family.  I think I’ve neglected them a bit lately.  I did post this really nice edited photo of my mom’s childhood family recently just to give that side of my family a little bit of family history crumbs.  But it wasn’t a bona fide post.  I’m including it in this post to make it official!

The other thing that helped me to focus the theme for this week was a new DNA match at 23andMe.   He is a grandson of Aunt Marguerite, my grandmother Myrtle Phenice Bucklin’s younger sister.  Since he matches through his mother as I do, our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the same.  The mtDNA is passed on from mothers to their children without any changes most of the time.  From time to time there are mutations.  Since 23andMe only gives an estimate of the mtDNA and those estimates are slightly different,  I’ll just say that our designation is H1.  Some of the close relatives get an -n or an -h at the end, but we’re all basically in the very common group H1.

Grace Phenice Sowder, Myrtle Phenice Bucklin, and Marguerite Phenice Hill in their young adulthood.

I also had edited photos of both Marguerite and their other sister Grace.  I recently got a blog comment from Grace’s nephew by her husband Ray Sowder.  He commented about how Grace seemed to be out of his uncle’s league as far as looks are concerned.  I have to admit, those Phenice sisters were attractive young women.  I was thinking of sharing those photo edits, as well as a photo of my own sisters that I had completed recently.  It made me realize that there are several generations along this maternal line with three or more sisters.  So I decided to make this post about all of those mitochondrial sisters.

Alma Bucklin Waldorf, Marguerite Phenice Hill, Betty Lou Bucklin Landry (my mom), Myrtle Phenice Bucklin (my grandmother), Loris Bucklin Woolley, and Sylvia Bucklin Pilcher at Grandma’s house on Alice Street in Jennings, Louisiana, on January 22, 1984.

I found several photos of my mom with one or two of her sisters, but none of just the four sisters by themselves.  I also wanted one of them as adults.  The one I decided on was this photo of Grandma with her sister Marguerite and her four daughters after the funeral of Grandpa in 1984.  It’s a good photo of all of these H1 carriers.  It includes two of the generations that are the focus of this post.  Too bad they didn’t think to include some of the granddaughters in this photo, but that wasn’t the focus on that day.  This was one of the most difficult times in my Grandma’s life and it’s nice to see her surrounded by those she cared about the most.

There are two generations before and after these two and I keep changing my mind about which two I will talk about next.  I suppose I will go with the previous generation since I’ve shared those photos before.  I’ll save the new photos (in all living color!) for the end.

Rosetta Ruth Keys Bryan, Daisy Keys Phenice, Mabel Keys Miller in 1894.

So that brings us to the Keys sisters Daisy, Ruth, and Mabel.  I’ve posted about them previously.  They all immigrated to Louisiana from England with their mother and brothers in July 1887.  Ruth lived in Jennings, Daisy lived in Hathaway, and Mabel lived in Kinder.  They stayed pretty close to where they originally settled after arriving in the United States.

Those lovely girls were the daughters of Martha Cook Keys, the brave woman that brought her five children to America after her husband had passed away.  She was a dressmaker and shop owner in London at a time when a revolution in clothing manufacturing was taking place.  I always took it for granted that she made her clothes with a sewing machine – a machine that seems so common.  But it was a newfangled thing back then.  Before that, people went through the painstankling process of sewing everything by hand.  She was part of a revolution.  I found this out from a TV program I saw when I took a break from writing this post to take a lunch break.  I have a bit more respect for old Martha now.

Martha Cook Keys and Henrietta Cook Keys were from Great Wigsborough, Essex, England. They were married to Keys brothers.

I only have one photo for both of Martha and her sister.  I think the one of Martha is a photo of a painting.  At least we have something!  She was born in 1836 in Great Wigsborough, Essex.  She was the first child of Job Cook and Ruth Horsnell. Henrietta was born in 1839 and she was the last child of Job and Ruth.  That’s because Job died the following year at the age of 38 from “phrenitis.”  Otherwise I’m sure there would have been at least one more daughter.  All the other generations that we know of had three or more daughters.  Henrietta passed that H1 down to the present also.  I have a DNA match that came directly down from her through a line of daughters.

Ruth (1816-1880) was the daughter of William Horsnell and his wife Ann (1774-1859).  We don’t know Ann’s last name.  Since I don’t know her last name, and she is the originator of the H1 DNA for all of these women, I think I may put her last name as H1.  Somehow that seems appropriate.  Ruth had two sisters, so Ann started the trend of having three or more daughters along this line.  It could have been started earlier, but we don’t know that history.

Jamie, Jodie, and Karen in 1978

Jamie Landry Perry, Jodie Landry Rhodes, and Karen Landry Fontenot on Christmas Eve 1978 in Jennings, Louisiana.

Let’s get back to the more modern era.  I had three sisters.  My two older sisters have died.  My sister Karen died this year, so that was another reason I wanted to write this post about sisters.  This photo was a photo that my parents had on a small table in their living room for many years.  It’s from 1978 and it’s a good photo of all three of my sisters.  I can see why Mama wanted it where she could see it frequently.

Jodie did not continue the tradition of three daughters.  She had two children and they were both boys.  Karen did a little better.  She started out with a son, but then did better by having two daughters.  (Just kidding, James!)  Then Jamie decided that she had to keep the tradition alive.  She had three daughters.  She really did have three daughters, but you surely know I’m joking about her trying to keep up a tradition.  It’s just a trend that happened through the years.  Mostly it was the result of large families and the law of averages.  If you have lots of children, about half of them will be female.

Sarah, Beth, and Jill Perry

Sarah, Beth, and Jill Perry in November 2020 in League City, Texas.

Here is a very recent photo of Jamie’s three Perry girls.  This was taken last month at the wedding of her youngest daughter Beth.  Weddings and funerals are usually such big family events for us, but this was the year of Covid.  Karen’s funeral had very limited attendance due to precautions for the virus.  The high point was that the cousins in Lake Charles gathered around in the distance at the graveyard to show their love and support.

Beth and Glen’s wedding was postponed from the spring because of the pandemic.  I was looking forward to the family getting together for their wedding in early November.  But Covid struck again and Allen (the father of the bride) came down with a positive test.  So we had to have a virtual attendance to the event.  It’s not as good as being there in person, but it’s much better than missing the whole thing!

Now that she’s married, she can start thinking about carrying on that tradition!  I know, I know.  It’s not really a tradition, but we can’t let that stop her.  Jill already has one daughter.  They could make it fun – like it’s a contest or game.  Our family likes games.

Let the H1 continue!

Mom’s Memories Page 8 – Learning to Sew

When I was a kid, my mom used to make us clothes and such all the time.   I never really gave it much thought at the time.  I thought that’s what all moms did.  She always knew how to make clothes, so that’s what she did.  She made shirts and pants and dresses, as well as pajamas and quilts and furries. 

Page 8 from Mom’s Memories

But she didn’t always know how to sew, now did she?  Fortunately for us, my mom wrote a little blog about how she learned to sew.  Not really.  My mom never even tried to work a computer, much less a calculator.  My favorite memories about her skills with technology was when my brother got a calculator.  He tried to show her how to work it.  He instructed her to type in the first number, then he told her to push the + button.  At that, she exclaimed, “It ate my number!!!”  She gave up after that.  She stuck to pen or pencil and paper for both mathematical problems and writing her stories.

This post is based on the pages she wrote when she realized her memory was beginning to fail.  Now these pages are getting the treatment that they deserve – digital immortality.  I thought page 8 was a good one to go with, since she was such an avid seamstress.

It starts out with talking about how she would sneak to use the sewing machine at first to make doll clothes.  She had to be oh so careful so she wouldn’t break a needle and get in trouble.  Had she broken a needle and didn’t want to get in trouble again?  Or had she just known that breaking a needle would be trouble?    She must have shown some responsibility and promise, because Grandma let little Betty Lou make some sheets when she was around 8 or 9 years old.

Enhanced photo of Betty Lou Bucklin when she was at Hathaway High during the 1946-47 school year. She was around 13 years old in this photo.

She progressed to making overalls for her younger brother Austin, and by the time she was 13 she was making most of her own clothes.  Lots of those clothes were made from the infamous feed sacks that she picked out from the Farm Supply in Jennings.  (She went along with my Grandpa when he was buying feed.)  I thought I’d post a photo of young Betty Lou from that time. 

But there is more family history to this fascination with fabric.  Her mother was Myrtle Phenice Bucklin and she was a seamstress, too.  Hence the sewing machine in the house.  She herself had learned from her mother as well.  That would have been Daisy Keys Phenice.  Again, Daisy learned from her mother Martha Cook Keys.  Martha was born in England and had a special talent for sewing.  She actually learned her craft in an apprenticeship in London.  After that, in 1860, she went to Paris, France, to gain more knowledge of the field.  This led to her opening up a successful dressmaking shop in London.

Years later Martha got married and had five children, all the while continuing to run the shop.  Daisy was the oldest daughter and she would help out in the shop.  I wonder what tips and techniques that my mom learned from Daisy had been passed down from her own mother who learned them in London or Paris?  It makes me wish (somewhat) I had learned bit more of those skills when I was younger.  The best I do is replace buttons on shirts and pants.  I know just the other day my brother was hemming his daughter’s homecoming dress.  My sisters did learn how to sew, but I’m not sure that it really caught on with them. 

But nowadays everyone just buys their own clothes.  Who has time to make their own?  My mom grew up in the Depression.  It was a different time.  When she talked about making clothes out of feed sacks, it didn’t seem like she was trying to make us feel sorry for her.  (Though sometimes we thought she was: Gunnysack Dresses) She got a lot of satisfaction out of making something nice out of something that could have been discarded.

There’s something to be said about being satisfied with what you have.

Cook-Keys Connections

As you all may recall, my great great grandmother was Martha Ann Cook Keys. She was the brave widow woman who immigrated to America with her five young children in 1887. Her daughter was Daisy Keys who married Harry Clifton Phenice. One of their daughters’ name was Myrtle Phenice and she married Fred Bucklin. Myrtle and Fred’s second daughter was my mother Betty Lou Bucklin Landry. That tells you my connection to the Cook-Keys family, but let’s look a little further back.

Martha was married to Henry Keys in 1869 in Middlesex, England. But they were not the first Cook-Keys couple. Martha’s younger sister Henrietta had married Henry’s younger brother William in 1861 and shortly afterwards started a family. Their children were double first cousins to each other. That meant that they had more DNA in common than most first cousins. This helps us now because it increases the chances that 4th cousins of these couples still share DNA.

And they do. That’s what made me think of this post for this week. I started corresponding with two different descendants of Henrietta and William Keys. And since I always like to see photos of my ancestors, I thought I’d share the ones I have. I thought some of you might like to see some of this information as well.

Henrietta Cook Keys

This is a photo of Henrietta Cook Keys. My ancestry program identifies her as my great, great, great aunt. What I really appreciate about her is that she kept a diary and wrote about some of her and Martha’s family history. How cool is that? Too bad they didn’t have blogs back in her day. We might have seen even more information!

She talked about her father Job Cook dying when she was young (less than a year old). He was a sea captain who was “free of the river” and who had traveled the world. He died after voyaging to India. On his way home he was seized with pain in the head. Since they were so close to home, the doctor had already left the ship. The sailors tried to help him by cutting the hair off of the top of his had and applying some type of poultice. His situation only grew worse and he died only an hour after returning to shore. Supposedly if they had applied the ‘blister’ to the back of the head rather than the top of the head, he would have survived.

Henrietta says in her diary that she had in her possession the letter that brought her mother the sad news of her husband’s death. Now that’s a letter I’d like to see! There are other things that she refers to that I wish she had gone into more detail about. She talked about how her mother Ruth Horsnell ran a private school to make money. And it sounds like the dress shop that Martha had was partly run by their mother. Henrietta herself was not put to a business because a family friend had decided that she was “delicate.” She doesn’t look so delicate in this photo, but looks can be deceiving.

Henrietta also identified her paternal grandfather as William Cook and talks about his grave in Walthamstow, England. She was living there when she wrote the journal and she talked about people recognizing her as part of the Cook family. William had also been a seaman and died at a young age. Henrietta was certain that there was a connection between her Cook family and that of the famous sea captain James Cook.

All of this information was in the book that cousin Edith Keys Segraves put together in 1980. She, like Henrietta, was also pretty sure of the connection, though she was never able to find a link. She said that she included the information and the diary in hopes that someone in the family will one day find that link.

The search continues…

Family tree for Martha and Henrietta Cook. A lot of this information comes from Henrietta’s diary.

To see the diary pages that I have a copy of, see this link.

Keys to the Ship

The ship Aurania of the Cunard Lines brought my Keys family to America in 1887.

I was excited to run across this photo a few weeks ago.  It is a photo of the ship that my Keys ancestors boarded when they were immigrating to the United States from England.  The name of the ship is Aurania.  It was part of the Cunard Lines.  I’ve mentioned the name of the ship before, but I had never seen a photo of the ship until I saw this one.

Martha Ann Cook Keys was born in Great Wigsborough, England, on November 8, 1836.  Henry Keys was born in Chipping Ongar, England, on April 18, 1822.  Martha and Henry were married on Martha’s 33rd birthday.  They went about starting a family of their own.  Henry Alfred was born in 1870 and Leonard James was born in 1873.

Their next child was my great grandmother Daisy Henrietta Martha, who was born in 1876.  (Daisy’s daughter Myrtle would become my maternal grandmother.)  Henry and Martha’s last two children were daughters Rosetta Ruth born in 1879 and Mabel Olive born in 1881.  The family lived in Hackney and Tottenham around London when the children were young.

Part of the list of passengers of the Aurania on that fateful trip. At the top of the list is my great great grandmother Martha A. Keys.

They decided that they wanted to move their children to America because of some increased incidents of crime where they were living.  They also had some family members already living in the United States and they must have heard some positive reports.  They began saving up money for the move, but then tragedy struck.  Henry fell ill with bronchitis.  He fought it for four months, but then succumbed to the illness in 1886 at the age of 63.

Martha mourned the loss of her husband, but did not let their dream die along with him.  She continued to save for the journey and the following year decided it was time to make the move.  They sold off most of their belongings and went to London to meet up with the Aurania.  It was the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and people were celebrating during the week that they went to London.

More details about the Aurania and the date of arrival for Martha and her family.

On June 21, the queen took part in a procession or parade.  I don’t know if my ancestors had a view of this event, but my great grandmother told her children about the celebratory atmosphere when her family was boarding the ship.  She was a child herself at the time and remembered the other passengers on the upper decks throwing candy and treats down to them.

I’m not sure when the ship left port in England, but it arrived in New York on June 27, 1887.  The family did not immediately head for Louisiana.  They spent a short amount of time in New York at the Great Exposition or some such thing.  It was some type of fair that you could enter your handiwork into competition.  Leonard entered a handkerchief and Daisy submitted a pinafore.  They both won honorable mention.

They then moved on to Louisiana.  Their intention was to go to Louisiana by boat, but for some reason none were available.  The Cunard Lines set them up with train tickets.  The tickets were for Beaumont, but according to the passenger list for the Aurania, their destination was Louisiana.

They arrived in Louisiana in July 1887, and the rest, they say, is history.

A Home for the Keys

I’ve spoken a few times about my Keys family when they first moved to the United States from England in the spring of 1887.  The main thing that people in the family talk about is how the family of Thomas Lord MacVey let the family stay in their chicken house because the Keys didn’t have a home when they first moved to southern Louisiana.

The original Keys house that was built in 1887. Mabel Keys is on a horse in front of the house.

And since the Keys arrived in the spring, it was a good time for building a house.  The matron of the family – Martha Ann Cook Keys – decided to stay in the China, Louisiana, area, so she purchased forty two acres of land.  Soon after that there was a building bee by the local townsfolk to build the family a house.  And this photo shows that house.

The lumber was hauled to the site by oxen and wagon.  The house had wooden floors with a kitchen, bedroom and living room with bookshelves downstairs.  The half story upstairs was one big room.  The house was heated with a fireplace.  A chimney can be seen on the right side of the house in the photo.

I’m sure they were grateful to have their own home to live in, especially since it had all the conveniences of a modern home.  A man named Monroe brought mail from Jennings to Art Anderson’s store where Martha would go to pick it up.  She would go to Welsh or Jennings by horse or wagon for the few needs required by the family.  Eventually there was a nice trail beaten down by the horse’s hooves.  The prairie grass was as tall as or taller than the wagon.  The different houses in the area had driveways in a sense – they each had their own beaten down path to the main trail that led to Jennings or Elton.  That main trail was on the high ground, of course.

And while we are getting closer to cars that drive themselves, our ancestors had something similar.  Since taking a trip to Jennings or Welsh could take all day, sometimes they would fall asleep on their way home.  It was no problem, though, because the horses knew the way home.  What more could you ask for?

There was one problem they had to look out for while living out on the primitive prairie during the fall, and that was grass fires.  My mom used to talk about this from time to time.  I think she was proud of her great grandmother’s resourcefulness.  Martha learned how to “back fire” a prairie fire.  This is done by starting a controlled burn of the grass near your house in the direction of the wind.  That way the grass will slowly burn toward the prairie fire and there is no fuel for the fire around your house.

When I look at this photo, I imagine that Martha is standing in the doorway looking out at her youngest daughter Mabel sitting on their horse.  It has only been a couple of years since the move, but she is satisfied with the changes that she has made for her family.  They have a home in a quiet, safe place with horses, cows, pigs and chickens aplenty.  She admires the trees that she’s planted, knowing that they will grow and produce food for her family.  She and her children are adjusting well to this new, strange land.  Yet it is already feeling like home.

Music in the Family Series Part VI – Fiddling With the Keys

As I have said previously, there have been a lot of musical members of our family/families.  My family was known as a musical family since before I was born.  If you have been reading my Music in the Family Series, you would also know that there were musical family members before my parents were born as well.  So this week I’ll take you back even further.  Further than all of my other postings in this series.  Let’s go back to the 1840s.

The musical information comes from the 1840s, but the individual I’m talking about was born in 1822.  That’s right!  Almost 200 years ago, my great great grandfather Henry Keys was born in Chipping Ongar, Essex, England, to George and Elizabeth Crouchman Keys.  The date was April 12th and he was not alone.  He had an identical twin brother named James.

April 11, 1840 – Apprenticeship contract for Henry Keys to tinman John Wright

The day before Henry became 18 years old (in 1840) he entered into a contract of apprenticeship with a tin plate worker (aka a tinman) named John Wright.  The contract was for a period of three years and was signed by Henry Keys, George Keys, and John Wright.  (Pretty cool to see the signature of my great, great, great grandfather.)

The day before Henry became 21 years old (1843) he completed his apprenticeship and became a Tinman.  (He did not have a friend named Oz.  At least there is no record of anyone by that name giving him anything!)  But the most relevant part of the completion of his apprenticeship is that he rewarded himself for the accomplishment.  He had saved up money during these three years and the cherished reward that he bought himself was a violin.  It shows you what was important to him.

As a bachelor for twenty-six years, he worked as a tin plate worker making gas meters.  I’m sure he was also playing his violin during this time, but there really isn’t much else written about this period in his life.  It was on November 8, 1869, that he married Martha Ann Cook on her 33rd birthday.  She herself was an independent person who had a business of her own making clothes and accessories for children.  She must have been a musical person as well, because the only portrait of her shows her standing next to a piano with her hands fiddling with the keys.

Henry Keys

I believe this is a photo of a portrait of Henry Keys. I estimated it to be from 1880, but it could be earlier.

By 1881 Henry and Martha had five children together.  Another sign that they were a musical family is the fact that the two boys Henry and Alfred sang in a boys choir in London.  On at least one occasion they sang with the choir for Queen Victoria.  Their daughter Daisy (my great grandmother) was known to play the piano, but I’m not sure when she learned.  From the portrait mentioned earlier it looks like there was a piano in the home, so she could have learned as a child in England.

Henry and Martha had family members who moved to America.  They decided that they would move the family to America also and began to save money for this new chapter in their life.  So again, this must have been something important to them.  But sadly, Henry suffered with bronchitis for four months and died at the age of 64 in 1886.  He never made it to America where his wife and children would eventually go.  But his violin did.

I’ve read accounts of the move to America and they always say “They sold everything they had.”  But they didn’t.  They held on to a few prized possessions.  One of those cherished items was the violin that Henry bought in 1843.  When they made it to Louisiana, at some point Martha gave the violin to her son Leonard with the proviso that he would learn to play it, as long as he practiced in the barn!  This makes me laugh.  It reminds me of my mom.  When I was in junior high, I learned how to play many different instruments.  My dad was the band director so I could taken them home with me.  The only thing my mom discouraged me from playing was the violin.  When a person is learning the violin, the notes can be rather screechy in a way that would give mom a headache.  I acquiesced.

Leonard James Keys with the violin his father bought in 1843.

And learned the violin Leonard did.  But he also learned to play the trombone and flute.  His older brother Henry played the violin, clarinet, and flute.  I’ve told you that Daisy played the piano.  Her husband Harry Phenice played the violin as well.  So did the husbands of Daisy’s sisters Ruth and Mabel.

When I was researching this information, I notice there are a lot of descendants who are musicians.  It could be that every family has a musician here and there, but it does seem like quite a few in my family.  The researching also made me wonder about that old violin from 1843.  Is it still around?  Does a family member have it?  I know that musical instruments can last a long time if taken care of properly.

So I asked my cousin Carolyn (daughter of Edith who provided me with the improved version of the photo/portrait of Henry Keys) if she knew of the whereabouts of that violin.  Her grandfather was Leonard Keys, so it is likely to be with her family group somewhere if at all.  She let me know that “Yes, indeed!” that violin is still in existence.  It is in the possession of her cousin Johnny and he still enjoys playing it!  How cool is that!?  She sent me this photo of her grandfather Leonard with the cherished violin.  A family keepsake that one day I’d like to see in person and photograph.

Here is a transcription of the apprenticeship contract of 1840 that came from Edith Keys Segraves’ book.


Dressmaking with Paints and Pixels

My great great grandmother Martha Ann Cook was a dressmaker who studied her art in Paris, France.  She had completed a two year apprenticeship presumably in Walthamstow, England, prior to going to Paris in 1860 to study.  Her sister Henrietta was three years younger than Martha and was not put to a business because she was thought “too delicate.” Being delicate was never a term I’ve heard describing my great great grandmother.

After completing her studies in Paris, she opened up her own dressmaking business in England.  She designed and made clothes for small children and sold ribbons and dress accessories.  Her business was successful and she was able to hire other women to work in her shop, which continued even after she was married and having children.  She would also travel to Paris every year to see the latest styles. It appears that she put a lot of thought and effort into her whole business endeavor.

Which would make me think that she would have been concerned with the look of her own dresses and wardrobe choices.  And this would be particularly true when she decided to sit for a portrait.  The portrait that I’m talking about is today’s photo.  When I first saw it, I thought it might be a photo.  It was a Xerox copy of a photo that was in the book “Cook-Keys Family: Two Centuries in England and America” by Edith Keys Segraves.  I’ve posted that old version before, but I just recently obtained a much better version.

Martha Ann Cook Keys

Portrait of Martha Ann Cook Keys in England circa 1865

Edith Segraves’ daughter Carolyn let me scan the best version of the photo.  I could tell from this version that it was actually a photo of an old painting.  I decided to clean it up to get it looking as best I could.  Nothing but the best for old Martha!  One of the first things I noticed was that painting hands was not the artist’s strong point.  The fact that the painting showed two hands is telling.  The old phrase “cost you an arm and a leg” was in reference to having your portrait painted (or so I’ve heard).  Supposedly the extra limbs were quite pricey.  So to have both hands in the portrait was a sign of prosperity.

It could also be Martha’s desire to show off her dress properly.  How can you show the true design of a dress without arms and hands showing?  Whatever the case, those pricey hands didn’t quite look right.  So I changed them!  That’s right.  She’s got brand new hands after well over one hundred years.  So the pixilized hands are not authentic, but I’m sure they look closer to the real thing than what was there previously.

I also cleaned up her face a little.  There were scratches across them that had to be removed.  I was careful to make sure I didn’t change the way she looked.  Then I came to her dress.  Some of it had been damaged and it wasn’t complete because it had been a circular painting.  I cloned parts of the painting with paint parts and pixels.  It ended up looking like a dress-shaped blob on the drawing.  I knew that Martha would not approve of that.  She was all about dresses!

So I did a search online for French dresses from the 1860s and came across something that might help the photo out.  It was a black mourning dress that somewhat matched what Martha was wearing.  I used that image to give the dress a bit of shading and texture.  With some helpful input from Carolyn, I think I came up with something that Martha would approve.  French fashion with paints and pixels.

The Keys Sisters – Part 2

About a year and a half ago I posted a photo of the Keys sisters.  It was taken around 1894 when the girls were just teenagers.  I explained my relation to them.  I’ll refresh that information for you.  My mom was Betty Lou Bucklin Landry.  Her mother was Myrtle Sylvia Phenice Bucklin, and then her mother was Daisy Henrietta Martha Keys Phenice.  Daisy was born in 1876 in England to her parents Henry Keys and Martha Cook Keys.  She was the third child and the oldest daughter.

In this photo, as you can see, the girls are bit older.  In the middle of the photo is my great grandmother Daisy.  This photo was taken around 1951, so she would have been close to 75 years old.  Rosetta Ruth Keys was the next daughter to be born to Henry and Martha.  She went by her middle name Ruth and that is her on the left side of this photo.  She married Herbert Bryan and they had six children together.  She would have been around 72 in this photo.  The baby sister was Mabel Olive Keys and she was around 70 as she is seen here on the right.  She married Abraham Miller and they lived in the Kinder area with their four sons.

This photo is not that good of quality, but I still like it.  It’s one that my grandmother had and I took a photo of it when I was in college.  I don’t know where the original went.  I also have another photo that was taken the same day that was of Daisy and H. C. Phenice with their children.  I don’t know if it was some kind of family reunion (like we are having on June 3 in Jennings.  Hint. Hint.) or if the families just got together from time to time since they lived in the same area.  I wonder if there are any other photos of the sisters out there?  I’d sure like to see more.  What I’d really like to see would be a photo of all five siblings.  They all settled in Louisiana and lived within 20 miles of one another.

Of course the family has spread far and wide since that time.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is family in every state.  I started to figure out where some of them were, but it became too daunting.  East coast, west coast, north coast, south coast – we’ve got it covered.  All because of the dreams of Henry and Martha over 130 years ago.  Henry died before they could act on that dream, but Martha followed through as courageously as possible.  And these girls were part of it.  These lovely, enduring, timeless girls – The Keys Sisters.

Aug. 2020 Update – I enhanced that old photo to make it a little clearer.  I think it improved it.

Enhanced 1951 photo of sisters Ruth Keys Bryan, Daisy Keys Phenice, and Mabel Keys Miller.

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