12 February 2014

Lost Family Treasure

Folded and kept tucked away in the family prayer book, not bigger than the size of his pockets, his marriage certificate was a precious document that reminded him of his commitment to his wife, his family and his community. In 1838, Francis Cohoe was a member of the Society of Friends in Norwich, Ontario, Canada. They were a tight-knit community and members married during their Monthly Meetings after two months of announcing their intentions. 

From the history of the area, we learn that in 1809 Peter Lossing, a member of the Society of Friends from Dutchess County, New York, visited Norwich Township, Canada. In June, 1810, Lossing, with his brother-in-law, Peter DeLong, purchased 15,000 acres of land in this area. That autumn, Lossing brought his family to Upper Canada and early in 1811 settled in Norwich Township. The DeLong family and nine others, principally from Dutchess County, joined Lossing the same year and by 1820, an additional group of about 50 had settled with the tract. Many were Quakers and a frame meeting house, planned in 1812, was erected in 1817. These resourceful pioneers founded one of the most successful Quaker communities in Upper Canada.

The marriage certificate itself is a carefully handwritten document typical of the Society of Friends. It states their names, places of residence, date of their marriage and their wedding vows.

It is a large document, measuring about 14 by 20 inches, parchment, and written in brown ink.. possibly black in 1838. One can see the marks of the folds quite easily.

However, the most amazing thing about this certificate is that both Francis Cohoe and Elizabeth Willson, his wife... signed it... in 1838.

Among the witness signatures were members of the above mentioned Peter Lossing's family and other prominent pioneers of the Norwich Community.

From earlier research, the date was known and documented in the records of the Society of Friends. These very detailed records of their monthly meetings have been indexed and are available in various repositories. Finding or even looking for this document never crossed my mind.

Having been discovered behind some yarn art in 2002 by a distant relative in Canada, it came into my possession in 2009 during a trip to Canada for research. A long and serendipitous route for a piece of Family History to survive, yet alone be in good condition. Francis Cohoe evidently treasured this document and I am lucky that it is now on my wall, carefully preserved for generations to come.

--written originally in the class exercise at SLIG 2014--