“Ephemera” is defined as “anything short-lived…items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, especially pamphlets, notices, tickets, etc.”That is the catalog term used to describe what I recently viewed at the Portsmouth (NH) Athenaeum last month. It was a scrap of brittle, yellowed paper (but encased in a protective sleeve) in a folder with miscellaneous pamphlets, notices, and tickets. And the staff at the Athenaeum brought it out almost immediately after I walked in cold and said I was reasearching the surname Odell.
Ephemera? It was so much more.
It’s apparently a single page from a Bible documenting the offspring of James Odel (1758-1834) and Hannah Veasey (1751-1826), residents of Stratham, New Hampshire, their births and their marriages. It’s impossible to do the usual family Bible analysis without a title page documenting publication date. Nevertheless, it’s a very interesting fragment. (1)
The children of James and Hannah are listed in large block letters – with spouses and marriages entered in small script above. The name of Charlotte, the youngest born in 1795, looks different from the others – at an angle and lighter – as if her name were added later. One interpretation is that the Bible was obtained between her birth and that of her next older sibling in 1793. My husband’s line is descended from the oldest child listed, James Odel – still in the one “l” era. So maybe its earliest use was in the 1790s. There are also some barely legible entries in lighter ink below the main list of siblings.
The scrap of paper, according to records, was donated by the Odell family (probably descendants of George Odell, but I’m checking on that) about thirty or forty years ago. There wasn’t a lot of new information (to me) on the page but that wasn’t the point.
I was moved by its very existence, and by the fact that somehow I was brought to that place to see it. This was a very special niece trip (see The Odells of New Hampshire) but, on this day, it was Elizabeth who led me. [Cissa says thank you!] I doubt that anyone else had ever looked at this item. Yes, I was moved, and maybe even shaken — at just about the same time a rare East Coast 5.8 earthquake was taking place at home.
I am grateful to the Odell family donors and the library staff who made the relevant retrieval possible.One of those genuinely, genealogical WOW moments….. (1) Courtesy Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth Historical Society Collection, Ephemera, 1842-1946, Ms. 22, 1.16.