Discovering Family History in a Photograph Pendant / Clara Wilkinson 1851-1867

May 17, 2011

Clara Pendant

One of the more fascinating aspects of being a mourning and sentimental jewellery collector is that we’re blessed with having inscriptions and dedications in the pieces we collect. Unlike many other forms of jewellery, which may be discovered through manufacturer, style or material, we have an instant connection with the people who wore these pieces. This proximity makes collecting mourning and sentimental items closer to art collecting in sentimental intent.

Clara Pendant Back

This is why it’s wonderful when a collector discovers genealogy of a family through pieces. I’ve spent many hours trawling through census documents on the hunt for full family detail over pieces, and today’s research performed on a very wonderful locket is superb.

Clara Pendant Top

Of course, photography still exists in lockets and pendants today, making it one of the most resilient forms of change ever applied to memorial jewellery. The change that came about in jewellery to adapt to this new technology changed the face of sentimental jewellery and is arguably the single most popular surviving aspect of sentimental jewels today. Photographs are cheap, easily accessible (especially with the advent of digital printing) and where hairwork, or wearing the hair of a loved one, has become distant in many Western cultures, wearing the photograph of a loved one is quite common.

Clara Top

This particular piece shows exceptional engraving and a perfect balance between the photograph on the front and the hairwork on the back. Being a pendant, this takes its precedence from the turn of the century pendants with the open face and hairwork on reverse.

Clara Name Pendant

Research

This particular piece has a significant history. Owner and collector Sarah Nehama has researched the history of this piece and below is the product of this effort:
1. A copy of the death certificate for Clara Wilkinson. Cause of death listed as phthysis pulmonalis, or tuberculosis.
2. Page one of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
3. Page two of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
4. Page three of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
5. Four pages of Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
6. A postcard from 1880 showing the entrance to the Old Granary Burial Ground in Boston, site of Benjamin Franklin’s parents tomb.
7. A postcard from 1906 showing the tomb of Josiah and Abiah Franklin, parents of B. Franklin in the Old Granary Burial Ground.
8. Detail of of Melksham, Wiltshire, England, pertaining to Matthew Wilkinson, Clara’s father.
9. A picture of a stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK, commemorating Clara’s parents. Her father was the vicar of this church when Clara died.
10. Stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK,.

Dedication: Clara Wilkinson
Year: June 2nd 1851 – June 28th 1867
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

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