Startling Find: My Husband’s GG-Grandfather’s Sword And Other Personal Artifacts

Startling Find: My Husband’s GG-Grandfather’s Sword And Other Personal Artifacts

You know how notice of one intriguing thing on a social media site can lead to another something which leads to another something? Many times that path is a great time-waster, but this morning it led me to a startling find: my husband’s ancestor had a presentation sword that was recently auctioned along with some very personal artifacts including his razor, a bit of his hair (with extractable DNA, I’m thinking) and — oh, my goodness — family letters.

So how did the find come about? Well, first I clicked through to Civil War Photo Sleuth from a post on Facebook, I think. And, naturally, I searched for “Benjamin Trafford,” a Civil War colonel who was my husband’s gg-grandfather.

I didn’t find his photo, so I decided to create an account and upload one. And, in the process, it asked for military service details, so I Googled hoping to quickly get to a summary of his military service, maybe on Fold3 or Ancestry. Somehow, I ended up in Google Images and there it was — a photo of the inscription that appears on the sword.

Following the image led me to the Morphy Auctions website where I found a page dedicated to the Trafford lot. The description reads: “This sword is accompanied by a small archive of Colonel Trafford’s including several war time muster rolls signed by Trafford, name plate from his saddle, Infantry Manual of Arms written by Trafford and published in 1863 for the 71st Regiment, 80 pgs in wraps missing back cover with tape repair to spine, Major and Lieut. Colonel shoulder straps, cased epaulets, straight razor, swatch of his hair with old tag, several copies of his obituaries and many wartime letters and photographs, a few post-war photos of Trafford, 23 Civil War New York state seal buttons that were once on Colonel Trafford’s coat along with gilded sterling sash buckle and 1855 patent coat tightening buckle.” [1]

The sword and the various military items are cool, but it’s the personal items that excite me. Wow. Just wow. I would love to see the “many wartime letters and photographs” and “post-war photos of Trafford.”

Years ago, a family member let me make photocopies of letters written between Benjamin and his wife Cecelia before and during the Civil War and through the hours that I spent transcribing them, I felt like I really came to know them. I can even quote a few of my favorite passages.

If, by chance, these are the same letters, I would love to have color scans. And if, by chance, they are different letters, what I wouldn’t give to be able to have copies so that I could understand that much more about Benjamin, Cecelia, and perhaps even their extended family. (I have an on-going project to figure out who Benjamin’s mother’s parents were and, to date, it’s the associations among the extended family that have allowed me to make progress in answering the question.)

I called the auction house and the woman I spoke to on the phone promised to forward my contact information to the person who bought the lot. I tried very hard to make it clear that I’m not wanting to own any of the artifacts and I’m not even curious to know who does; I would just love to be able to add any new information that can be gleaned from them to my family research notes. Color photos of the letters and, if it wasn’t asking too much, of some of the other artifacts, would be something that I would cherish. And, in return, I believe there are related items in a close family collection that we would be happy to share photos of in return.

Perhaps one day soon I will find an email in my inbox or a message on my phone. I really hope so.

And, in the meantime, this is a good reminder to Google the names we’re researching once in a while — just because we never know what we’ll find.

  1. “AMES HIGH GRADE PRESENTATION MODEL 1850 STAFF AND FIELD OFFICER’S SWORD, MAJOR BENJAMIN TRAFFORD, 71ST NEW YORK “THE AMERICAN GUARD” WITH WARTIME ARCHIVE,” webpage, Morphy Auctions (https://www.morphyauctions.com/jamesdjulia/ item/53073-20-402/ : accessed 14 March 2019).

11 thoughts on “Startling Find: My Husband’s GG-Grandfather’s Sword And Other Personal Artifacts

    1. I agree. One object, carefully considered, can be rich with information. And, on the flip side, ten objects, glossed over, don’t have nearly the value. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!

  1. I enjoyed your serendipitous post, and I’ve bookmarked the Civil War Photo Sleuth for future reference. When I dug into it a bit, I saw some great resources I will want to come back to. Thanks for passing it along!

    1. I should really go back to the Photo Sleuth site and finished what I started there. Thanks for the reminder to do that. 🙂

  2. I hope you do hear from them. A lucky Google find indeed! Good thing you kept following those leads.
    I often set up Google Alerts for historical people I’m looking for information about. I’d be tempted to do that for him in case there are more artifacts, letters, etc. ‘out there’.

  3. What a cool find. I think it is artifacts and objects – whether personal or not – that really add a richness to our ancestors’ stories. Wishing you luck in finding more of these tidbits!

  4. Your post gave me so many great ideas for research! Thank you! I am hoping to write a historical fiction about my ancestor who was a colonel in the Civil War. Can’t wait to look at these resources!

  5. Oh, I hope you hear back from them. Remind them that it could also increase interest from family historians in their auctions! It’s soooo cool that you have copies of the letters!

  6. When an ancestral item came up for auction, a few years ago, the auction house contacted me through my online posts about this family. I think they wanted to know if I would make a bid. The item actually broke an auction record for an extremely high bid of $2.5 million! I was happy that a Salem, Massachusetts museum was the high bidder, so everyone can now enjoy this object. The auction house sent me photos, family letters showing provenance, and the auction catalog, which I cherish. (and of course I blogged about it, too) I hope you hear from the owners soon!

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