“As we previously established,” the lawyer told Mrs. Willick’s rapt grandchildren, “the woman in this daguerreotype is Jane Wainwright Cogswell, your grandmother’s great-great grandmother. The photo was taken in 1853, when Mrs. Cogswell was 85 years old. Back then, photography was extremely new, and families who had the money to do it were dragging their elderly relatives in to have their photos taken. The younger generation recognized this as their opportunity to preserve an image of what their beloved older relatives really looked like, rather than an imperfect representation of them in a painting. As with most new technologies over the centuries, the elderly subjects of these early photographs were frequently less than thrilled with being made to use it, because they didn’t understand the purpose of it. It just seemed like silly vanity to them. But, they usually went along with the trips to the portrait studios to make their younger loved ones happy.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t exactly look happy,” James, Mrs. Willick’s 25-year-old grandson pointed out.
“No, she doesn’t,” the lawyer agreed. “But, that is likely because a person had to sit perfectly still for ten minutes or more to get an image imprinted on the photographic plates back in those days. Imagine having to hold a smile that long. It’s why most people in early photos aren’t smiling. But, I agree, Mrs. Cogswell was likely only doing this to get her children and grandchildren off her back about having her picture taken.”
“So, where is the first clue?” Grace, James’s 23-year-old sister wanted to know.
“It’s right here in the daguerreotype,” the lawyer answered her, smiling conspiratorially, as if he were relishing every moment of this delicious reveal. “Take a closer look.”
He pointed to a spot in the middle of the photograph, right over the venerable chest of the stern-looking Jane Wainwright Cogswell. All five grandchildren leaned in closer to his desk to get a better look.
“It looks like she’s wearing some kind of shawl,” Adam, Grace and James’s 22-year-old cousin observed.
“That’s part of it,” the lawyer agreed. “Look closer. What else do you see in that particular area? Be observant. Your grandmother was particular in her instructions on this matter that you be encouraged to discover new clues on your own. I can help you with this first one, and there is a chain of previously discovered clues after that, which generations of your family up to your grandmother discovered. However, once you reach the end of that line, you’re on your own on finding more. Don’t be concerned, though. Your grandmother assured me there are more clues to be found. It’s your generation’s responsibility to discover them.”
“Well, there’s some kind of pin on the shawl,” Emily, Adam’s 19-year-old cousin pointed out.
“And… maybe a jewel on the pin?” Christine, Adam’s 29-year-old sister guessed. “It’s kind of small, and the photo is blurry in places, so it’s hard to tell. It looks like something with a square or oval shape on the pin is catching the light.”
“Exactly,” the lawyer said, beaming with pride. “You guessed it. That pin, with a deep blue sapphire in it, belonged to Francis Wainwright’s wife, Philippa Sewall. Your family legend states he purchased it for her in England as a wedding present, before they immigrated with a group of other Puritans to the New World. It’s been handed down your family line ever since, starting with the oldest Wainwright son, who gave it to his wife. It’s changed hands through the male and female lines of the family a few times, but your grandmother was its most recent owner. Here it is.”
He reached into the top drawer of his dark mahogany desk and withdrew a small black velvet pouch. Pulling on the drawstring, he lifted out a black ring box, and opened it, revealing the pin in all its full color glory.
“Wow,” Emily exclaimed. “It looks so much bigger than it does in the photo.”
“The shawl partially concealed it,” the lawyer admitted. “Plus, that daguerreotype is an original, and the originals were often quite small. Anything in them is going to look smaller than it is. This is actually a generously sized jewel in a solid gold pin setting. It’s also a 17thcentury antique. Quite valuable.”
“It’s really cool,” Grace said, nodding. “Do we get to keep it?”
“You do,” the lawyer affirmed. “You are responsible for deciding amongst yourselves who takes charge of it, and which of your lines it gets handed down. For now, it belongs to all of you.”
“Awesome,” Adam said with enthusiasm. “But, what does it have to do with locating the treasure? Isn’t it supposed to be a clue?”
“You are correct,” the lawyer agreed. “Spotting it in the daguerreotype and guessing it may be the clue was your first test, set by your grandmother. Now that you have it, you get her typewritten list of all the clues discovered by generations before you. The list includes details of how the clues were found, how one led to the other, and where your grandmother and her siblings and cousins thought the most recently discovered clue was pointing. When I give you the pin and the list, it will be up to all five of you to pick up the trail to Francis Wainwright’s treasure where your grandmother and her generation left off.”
“So, it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt,” James mused.
The lawyer nodded. “Yes. Except one that has been going on for nearly four centuries, and no one knows what, exactly, is at the end of it.”
“It must be pretty valuable for people to have been searching for it this long,” Christine mentioned.
“Either monetarily valuable, or valuable in a sentimental way to the family, like Grandma said in her note,” Adam added.
“Well, I’m curious,” Emily declared. “I’m in on this search. How about the rest of you?”
All of Martha Jane Willick’s grandchildren nodded and declared their agreement as the lawyer handed them the pin and the list.
The search was officially on.
Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)