I have recently been contacted by a new third cousin on Terry's mother's THOMAS side, both of them connected to the CHAMBERS and OAKHILL families. It seems that this branch of the family had a tradition, at least upheld for 3 generations. Girls would be taught embroidery, starting with cross stitching, by making "samplers". Often these included the alphabet, enhanced by simple designs or borders. Luckily these particular samplers are dated and signed and have survived to be admired by later generations.
I now have photographs of 3 framed samplers. The oldest one was created by "Phebe Oakhil Aged 11 . 1823". I know because it says so right in the sampler. Phebe OAKHILL was Terry's great-great-grandmother who was born about 1812 and married William CHAMBERS in 1845 in Leicester England. When her daughter Sarah Chambers was old enough, she created a similar sampler in 1857 when she was age 9. Sarah and her husband James JOYCE had two daughters, and when the older daughter Alice was only 7 she created a sampler that had more content than the ones done by her mother and grandmother. Could there have been some competition involved here?
It seems that these ladies also shared and passed down family recipes. I have seen 3 of these, which not only provide examples of their cooking practices but also their handwriting. The one for plum pudding was likely written by the Alice JOYCE who made the sampler, but was titled "Great Grandmothers Receipe" so had obviously been in the family much longer. We're not sure which great-grandmother it was, but perhaps it was Phebe's mother Henrietta WARD who was born in 1788. In part the recipe calls for 4 pounds each of raisins, currants and sugar, with two and a quarter pounds of suet, 15 eggs, etc. This would provide quite a kick to the blood sugar, not to mention cholesterol levels! No cooking directions were included, so it was obviously something you were taught and then remembered how to make. This recipe produces a huge quantity, so was likely a favorite treat at Christmas time. Perhaps we can assume that they had large family meals during the holidays, although these puddings (like fruitcake) could be stored for long periods as well. Someone else had written a different version of the recipe underneath, divided by 8 to make a more manageable quantity.
The recipes for mincemeat and almond paste were in "my grandmother's writing ", who was likely the Sarah CHAMBERS above. More Christmas treats.
Hopefully even more family keepsakes will come to light. Do you have some family heirlooms that you treasure?