I have a few collectible dolls that were the result of a project that took ideas from two separate hobbies and brought them together. It is through the carrying out of this project, and the resulting one-of-a kind collectible dolls, that I pay some personal tribute to a just few of my ancestors. Keeping one's heritage in mind
serves as a reminder just how much previous generations gave to make the United States of America the great nation that it is. I was very fortunate to have learned about many of my ancestors at a rather young age. I have spent many years putting together my family history, both from previously gathered information passed down
from generation to generation, and from my own research. It is from this hobby that I selected two specific themes.
My surname, being Edwards, leads directly back from United States to the principality of Wales. My great-great grandparents, John and Jane Edwards, came from the northern part of Wales, near Bala Lake in Merionethshire (present-day Gwynedd), to a Welsh settlement in New York State. They arrived in Holland Patent, NY in 1852,
bringing with them 3 children. Another 7 children were born in NY including my great grandfather, Thomas, the 9th of the 10 total. I am very fortunate to have in my possession, both photos of my great-great grandparents, taken circa the 1890's and some diaries, written in Welsh, dating in the 1860's. They led a hard life, but maintained strong family values and a
faith in God. Although they passed away about 50 years before my birth, I feel as though I have had a chance to get to know them, of sorts, through the items passed down to me. I have been to the area in which they lived, know what home they last lived in, and also have visited their gravesites. I hold a very special feeling and pride about my Welsh ancestry.
Much of my mother's ancestry traces back to colonial New England, including one who arrived upon the Mayflower. Unlike my relatively late arriving Welsh ancestors, this side of the family had some individuals who played an active role in the American Revolution. My 4X great grandfather, Ezekiel Johnson, was one such individual. He
was a Private in Captain John Bradley's company, Colonel Benjamin Gill's regiment, having enlisted August 14, 1777. His service was three months and twenty-one days. He marched from Massachusetts to Manchester, Vermont to join the Northern Army and was a participant in the Battle of Saratoga, NY. As a member of The National Society of the Sons of the American
Revolution, I have developed a keen interest in the sacrifices given for the fight for independence and the establishment of a nation under God.
The second hobby is actually something I became interested in through the efforts of my wife, Beverly. She is a collector of dolls, specifically, Lee Middleton Original Dolls. Her collection of "the dolls that love you back", number in the dozens. I have collected a few of these dolls myself, the themes of
which, compliment my hobby of genealogy and history.
Since there were no specifically themed dolls available for my above-mentioned interests, I undertook the project to come up with some. From research, family notes, and pictures, I had a very good indication of the specific style of costumes needed. Next came the coordination of the various components needed to complete the
I needed the dolls themselves. I wanted to try to match hair, eye color, and perhaps even general facial expression if possible, the best I could, so I ended up selecting specific Lee Middleton dolls designed by artist, Reva Schick. My wife and I have developed a wonderful rapport with Samantha Cross, owner of Samantha's Collectible Dolls, in Dublin, GA. so I enlisted Samantha's help to furnish me with my 24" high little toddlers.
Another piece of the project was my desire to utilize the most authentic material as was possible. I visited a local yard goods store to obtain the materials for the American Revolution costume. Then came the quest to obtain the fabric for my Welsh outfits. Through a series of internet searches, e-mails, and phone calls, I made
contact with Mr. Evans at the Brynkir Woollen Mill, LTD, located in Golan, Gwynedd, Wales. The folks at Brynkir were very helpful in fulfilling my request for various colors and patterns of Welsh yard goods. This particular mill is just a short distance from where my ancestors had their own sheep farms over 150 years ago.
Since I do not sew at all, nor does my wife to any great extent, the next step was to find an artist who would create the costumes. I say create, because there were no patterns, just pictures and ideas. I was not only looking for someone who had the ability to do the sewing, I wanted someone who would have the "heart" to
embrace such a project and to actually feel what I envisioned. My research led me to Laura D. Field, owner of Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties, located in Penacook, NH . Laura and I worked back and forth, discussing and getting our hands around the project. During this planning phase, I knew I had found the right
seamstress/artist. After I received the yard goods, I packaged up the materials and one of the dolls, which would serve as a model, and sent them to Laura. Upon seeing the final results, it was clear that her efforts far exceeded my expectations.
The results can be seen in the pictures of the final products. The American Revolution doll, as my ancestor, Ezekiel Johnson would probably have looked like, fighting for American independence in Massachusetts and New York during 1777. The Welsh male doll represents the likeness of my great-great grandfather, John Edwards, in the
late 1800's. And, the two Welsh female dolls, one representing the likeness of my great-great grandmother, Jane, in her everyday outfit of the late 1800's, and the other showing the more dressy, traditional Welsh national outfit made popular by Lady Llanover, the wife of an ironmaster in Gwent. She was very influential in encouraging the wearing of a 'national'
dress, as part of a conscious revival of Welsh culture during a period when traditional values were under threat.