Honora and Her Irish Spinning Wheel

Since I was a young lad I have been what you may call an "ancestry nerd".  I have fond memories of my first “family tree project” in junior high school, and even fonder memories of spending time with my Mémère (my grandmother) walking through some old family cemeteries, and recalling stories of relatives long past.  Currently, my family tree contains 522 people, and I have successfully traced my family’s origins back to the mid 1700’s.     

Yesterday, a new (well, new to me) photo of my Great-Grandmother popped up on Facebook.  When I saw it, and read the story behind it, I could hardly contain my nostalgic excitement!

This photo is of my Great-Grandmother.  My mother’s grandmother.  My Mémère’s mother.

Her name was Honora.  She also went by Nora, or her nickname “Guppy”.  Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting her as she passed some 14 years before I came along.  From the stories I have heard about my Great-Grandmother from my mom, my Mémère, and other family members – I have no doubts she would have gotten along famously!!   

The photo was posted on Facebook by one of my mother’s cousins in celebration of what would have been my great-grandmother’s 150th birthday on January 1st.   I was told that my Great-Grandmother was about 88 years old when this photograph was taken (circa 1955-1956 - some 62 years ago) and likely taken inside her home in Finlayson, Minnesota.

The tale behind the photo goes a little something like this...

The Minneapolis Star or The Minneapolis Tribune (I am not certain which local paper it was, but they merged in 1982 and the combined papers are now known as the Minneapolis StarTribune) was going to run a piece about Honora and her Irish spinning wheel.  This photo was taken for that article.  Unfortunately, shortly before the story was completed and published my Great-Grandmother passed away.  I was told that because she passed away prior to the story’s completion, the article was never printed.  Family members expressed their disappointment in this fact.  Sixty-two years later, the disappointment continues.  I would have LOVED to have been able to read the article.     

The Facebook status update with the photo opened some further dialogue with extended family members that included memories of Honora and of the spinning wheel.  I learned that Honora’s oldest living grand-daughter still has the spinning wheel displayed in her living room!  (I have asked for photos – and if they come, I will be sure to update this blogpost!)  This also led to some discussion about the original “draft” of the story for the newspaper.  I learned that it may have been saved after all and  (fingers crossed) that there is a possibility it could be retrieved.  That will also surly guarantee an update – and a very happy Father of Five!

Oh, and as a BONUS - I also received a copy of a photo of of my Great-Grandmother with a number of HER grandchildren (which includes my mother, two of her three brothers (my uncles), and their cousins).  My mother and her brothers highlighted with yellow arrows.  I would guess my mother looks about three years old in this photo (and appears to be pouting).



  1. This makes my heart happy :-) Thank you for the post. Happy New Year!

  2. Cool stuff about your great grandma.
    I;m impressed with all you have done for your family tree. Pretty amazing stuff.

    1. Thanks Larry! I appreciate the kind words. It's been something I have built upon for a number of years, and have worked up my tree, and my wife's tree - so there are a number of "branches" to work from! It's so exciting to find something (or someone) new!

  3. What treasures!
    Have you explored Family Search or Ancestry.com?

  4. Thanks Barbara! I keep the data on a (free) ancestry.com tree - but use FamilySearch for most of my research. It is AMAZING what has been done on FamilySearch!!


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