My great-great-grandmother Alice Paak (the brave woman who survived a horrific near-tragedy that I wrote about last spring) gave her middle child Cora a gift for Christmas 1907. Perhaps she gave one to each of her three children.
You can see from the photo that it’s a hand-painted genealogy shell.
My grandfather and grandmother inherited it, and my grandmother gave it to me.
Let’s take a look at what she wrote over one hundred years ago, and how it relates to the information I have received more recently.
If you remember my story about Alice’s near tragedy, you might also remember the post I wrote about her beautiful handmade shawl. Or the post I wrote about Alice and all her sisters.
On the shell, she names herself “Alice Paak ,” which is the name Grandpa had told me. But genealogical research in the Netherlands shows that she was born Aaltje Peek. The source used for that name was this:
Lexmond, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands, birth record, 1852, 36, Aaltje Peek, 9 September 1852; digital images,
Familysearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-159370-202016-19?cc=1576401&wc=6426532 : accessed 23
Apparently, she accepted the American name “Alice.” Her granddaughter, Alice Leeuwenhoek, the daughter of Jennie and Lou Leeuwenhoek, was named after her. Later, my own aunt, the granddaughter of Alice’s daughter Cora, was given the name Alice.
Alice Paak’s birth date is given on the shell as 17 September 1852. But my genealogical information (the source I listed above) shows that she was born on that same month and year, but on the 9th, not the 17th. Wouldn’t she know her own birth day? That confuses me.
On the shell, she lists her birth place as Leksmond, Nederland. That sounds right, and I think it’s the same place as Lexmond, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands.
My great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn was born Dirk de Korne. But he clearly changed both his first name (Americanized it) and the spelling of his last name (maybe to make it easier for others).
He was born on 21 Aug 1851. The shell corroborates the date.
However, his birth place is listed on the shell as Goes, Zeeland, Nederland. But wait! In another post I mentioned that I had always thought he was born in Goes, but the genealogical documentation shows that was born in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands! This is the documentation:
Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands, birth record, Dirk de Korne, 21 August 1851
Born March 18, 1873. That’s according to the shell. But my information is March 8, 1873. I have to check on this!
Born January 2, 1875. That’s according to the shell and to my records.
Joseph Peter DeKorn
Born June 30, 1881. That’s according to the shell and to my records.
The treasure itself
The design is beautiful with holly branches. The berries are raised to look like real berries. Originally there was a gold leaf paint trim around the shell, but it has worn off in many places.
Her use of “Xmas” because it fit better on the small surface seems astonishingly modern, as does the use of metallic gold and red and green for Christmas.
What I find particularly poignant, though, about this family heirloom is the date. She gave this gift to her daughter on Christmas 1907, and on May 5, 1908, a little over four months later, she passed away.