Though I have not specifically mentioned our NHPRC funded project lately, it certainly continues. Yesterday we completed our 2400th record. That leaves us with 600 to complete in the next seven months, definitely an achievable goal. Since we began this project in September 2008, over 5400 collections have been cataloged (3000 during the first two-year grant, the current 2400 in the second grant period). These days, when I head into the stacks to find manuscripts to work with, there are so many fresh, acid-free envelopes and Hollinger boxes lining the shelves that it is more of a hunt to find uncatalogued material. But I do find it!
As I combed the shelves yesterday I found a slim manilla (very acidic and therefore harmful to collections) envelope bearing the name of Ann Frances Darling Ibbotson, and stating that it contained letters to her parents. It did indeed contain those letters, and a few other items as well. My initial reaction, though, was to be perplexed about the relation of the items to Connecticut. Why do we have a collection of letters being sent from England to New York? However, it is this sort of mystery that makes this job exciting.
Following an afternoon of research, I figured out the Connecticut connections. Ann Frances Darling Ibbotson is a descendent of the Ely family, who first settled in Lyme, Connecticut in the 1600s. Her father, Thomas Darling, is said to have been of New Haven and New York. Ann Frances and Henry Ibbotson were married out of her father’s New Haven house. Later, the Ibbotsons’ son, Henry William, married Lucy Matilda Cary and settled in her hometown, Portland, Connecticut.
Of the early letters (1832, 1833 and 1840), three describe life for Ann Frances, a bride in her husband’s native England. She obviously misses her family, and in October 1833 wrote to her mother,
Wherever we are, under every variety of circumstances in which we may be placed, ones thoughts naturally turn to home,_ the abode of our earliest friends with feelings of the liveliest affection: is it not so? I know my mother can, from her own experience, appreciate my feelings, for doubtless after she was left in a strange country, altho among very dear friends, yet often, like me, did she long for the presence of her Parents, and in a thousand trivial matters to as a mother’s advice, and many a time the knowledge of what she approved determined her conduct.
She continues to share information about their travels and activities in England. In the same letter Ann Frances describes the reaction her black servant, Eliza, has been receiving.
She attracts great notice, and crowds gathered round her when she first went to chapel to look at the novel sight of a black woman, and many shook hands with her…Perhaps Eliza is more looked at on account of her appearing better dressed than the servants here, whose apparel is subject to the direction of their mistress.
I have not had time yet to completely read Ann Frances’ letters, but am certainly curious what other observations she has.
After 1833, the letters skip to 1840 when Ann Frances and her children have arrived in Brooklyn. Her next letter is written in 1882, from her home in Binghamton, New York, to her granddaughter Anne.
Aside from the genealogical connections, I was also able to connect these letters with items in our museum collections.
The CHS has two pairs of shoes and a pelerine owned by Ann Frances, including the pair she wore at her wedding on 23 July 1833. It is so great to be able to read Ann Frances’ thoughts on paper and also catch a glimpse of how she presented herself in public. Overall, we come away with a more complete image of this former Connecticut resident.
The shoes, pelerine, and Ann Frances (Darling) Ibbotson papers (Ms 71966) are open for research. A catalog record for the papers will be uploaded to our online catalog, HistoryCat, in early February. The shoes and pelerine may also be viewed on eMuseum. Come visit!