Monday, June 3, 2013

Introduction to My Irish Great-Grandpa Sampler Quilt

My Irish Great-Grandpa, James Lynch
His Daughter and My Maternal Grandma, Hazel Lynch
Taken her senior year of high school

The idea for this quilt begins with a letter and a request from a big brother (my great uncle) to his only sister (my grandmother), written in 1921.  36-year-old Will writes from Canton, China to 17-year-old Hazel who is living on the family farm near Miller, Kansas.  Hazel was only nine years old when Will left for the Philippines to teach English.  He later went to work in China for the American Consular Service of the State Department.  At the time of this letter, their father, James Lynch, is 85 years old.  (You can tell by his writing that Will was something of a character!)

                                                                Canton, China
                                                                May 31, 1921

Miss Hazel Lynch
Miller, Kansas  USA

Dear Miss Hazel:

        You are a wise little bird.  You are a junior in the High School.  You’ve written biographies of all the poets, generals, and whatnots in all of your school books.  You’ve paraphrased poetry until you have butchered it all out of shape.  You can knock the socks off’n a Latin verb.  What you can’t do to mathematics is not worth doing.  I’ll bet you still say “I have went” and “I seen it,” but did that little head of yours ever jump onto a real live up-to-date task?  No, it never did.  So now after getting such a “bunk” of an education, let me put you to work on something that is real.  Something that has some value to it, a touch of human interest to your own blood and flesh.  Thusly, and in this wise, ‘tis thus I would speak and have words with thee.  Did it ever occur to you to write a biography of a member of your family?  I rather think not.  So I enclose a skeleton outline, rather sketchy, I’ll admit, but on the whole it should give one of your education an idea of my general drift.  I want you to take it as a sort of a guide and pump Dad for all the information you can get out of him on the subject of his origin and general wanderings and experiences during his hectic life.  You ought to get a pretty big bunch of exceptionally interesting data.  If you have a facile pen (and I think you should possess such an article after these past three years of high grade instruction), you should be able to write a composition, or rather a biography, that will have the “human interest” factor in it to the nth degree.  While sticking to cold facts, it should at the same time cause one’s imagination to run riot, for Dad’s been “around quite a bit,” despite the fact that ever since I knew him, he’s been “around home” chiefly.  Besides giving you a workout on a real live subject, this will have the added value of preserving in writing a few events affecting yourself.  One is, and should be, always interested in his “family tree.”  Some people calls it “lineage.”  So, here is your job.  Hop to it.  I’m sending this outline in duplicate.  You may retain one copy and forward the other to me.

        Thanking you,
                I beg to remain,                        
                           Your obedient servant.

                                         W. R. Lynch

W. R. (Will) Lynch

Will Lynch in Canton, China
He's third from the right in the back row.
Will is with the American Consular Service.

My grandmother did as her big brother asked and interviewed their Irish father about his life.  She took detailed notes at the time and then later wrote a biography of her father for her family and future generations so they would know from whence they came.

Now for my quilt.  I am making a twelve-block quilt to go with this biography of my Irish great-grandpa, James Lynch.  Each blog post will include a portion of the biography as well as an appropriately-named quilt block.  I love the combination of quilting and history!

You might also enjoy my previous blog post here.


  1. Oh, Susan, this is wonderful -- another biography quilt! I'm totally delighted, pleased beyond measure. Looking forward to seeing your lovely, precise quilting, mixed with the sometimes-funny quilt-block names that you choose to go with the poignant writings of your ancestors.

    Thank you so much for sharing your family with us!

    ~Sarah Lynn~

  2. I love the biography quilts! Theses are my favorite!!

  3. I love family history and the idea of making a quilt. (I'm working up the nerve to ask my sister for some of my mother's diarys).

  4. This sounds fascinating already. I'm looking forward to the '12 steps' of this story.

  5. I love seeing your photos. I think they are wonderful.

  6. I can't wait and how about that Will! He is/was a character! Love the letter.

    My grandma was Hazel too. Do you know what Hazel sounds like when said backwards? Well, it sounds like Lisa. LOL! My grandma Hazel and I also had/have hazel eyes.

  7. Great idea! I only wish that someone had interviewed my mother and father or my grandparents.

  8. I will be following along with your project...Both my mother and grandmother were Hazels and my niece goes by Hazel rather than her given name of Taylor.
    Anna in IL

  9. That is amazing. What a character indeed!

  10. You are fortunate to have an incredibly rich record of your family's history... thank you for sharing it with us. Will is a character, I like him already! Looking forward to getting to know James and Hazel.

  11. Estaré atenta a tus interesantes publicaciones y a tus avances. Un abrazo! Saludos desde Venezuela

  12. The insight of your ancestors to keep family records and pictures is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing! I am inspired to start an autobiography to initiate this in my family. My husband doesn't quilt, but he just delivered a cradle that he made out of natural cherry to our son and daughter-in-law for our first grandchild. We hope that it will be passed along through the generations.

    1. I think the trouble, Char, is that no one thinks their life or even the lives of their parents are all that interesting, so we don't take the time to write things down. I realize that my family is very unusual in that respect. I think it would be a great idea for you to write an autobiography for future generations. And I love the idea of that beautiful cherry cradle being passed along through your family.

  13. I am the great-grandson of James Lynch and Caroline Dunmire. I am the grandson of their son (Franklin Lynch). I am 68 years of age and I had never seen these pictures and read this story about my great-grandparents. Thank you for sharing their story of life.

    1. John, I am thrilled to hear from you, and my mother Roselyn will be thrilled when I tell her. I'm so happy you found the story.


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