All family ephemera is not on paper. Nor are all itemsgrandma_rug older than the genealogist. That’s the case with the item illustrating this post.

It’s a picture of a rag rug made from the flannel lining of a sleeping bag I had as a child. There’s some additional fabric included to add visual interest.

There’s a little bit of family history behind this item. My Grandmother Ida (Trautvetter) Neill cut the lining into strips approximately an inch or two wide sewed the short ends of the strips together  and rolled up the resulting long strip into what we jokingly called footballs.

The footballs were then taken to Grandma’s cousin Florence who would turn the footballs into rugs. Grandma seemed to always have a few footballs around somewhere in the house and periodically she would take them to Florence for their conversion into rugs. There was never a specific trip made to see Florence. The drop off of footballs and the pick up of the return product was always a part of a larger trip, sometimes to Quincy, Illinois, to see a doctor, to Loraine, Illinois, to visit Grandma’s relatives, or to Ursa itself to visit Grandma’s sister-in-law. All I ever knew about Florence was that she lived in Ursa.

It did not take much work to learn that Florence’s husband, Arthur, was the actual relative (his mother was Ida Etta [Trautvetter] Henerhoff, a sister to my Grandma Neill’s father, George). Florence’s obituary (which appears to be reproduced on her FindAGrave page) mentions her loom and the rag rugs.


If a FindAGrave page includes “obituary-like” material and sounds like an obituary but does not cite or reference any actual obituary, do not refer to the text as an obituary. Cite the FindAGrave page. Personally I would look for an obituary as FindAGrave memorial pages sometimes are compiled by individuals with a knowledge of the deceased that has been hastily acquired.

Consider watermarking your images. We will discuss watermarks in a future series of posts. This illustration’s watermark may be a little excessive, but we’re looking for something that serves the purpose and isn’t overwhelming.

A “cousin” to Grandma may not quite be a “cousin” in the way you think. Try and ask the relative for specifics of the relationship, if possible. If that’s not possible (or Grandma tells you to “bug off”), consider the “cousin” relationship as being indicative of some relationship more distant than parent, child, sibling, grandchild, and possibly through biology, marriage, or long-term proximity.







4 Responses

  1. Point well taken. We call two of our r friends as aunts because they have been there to watch r kids and be there 4 all kinds of occassions.

  2. My mom made rag rugs from the strings left over from her quilting pieces. When she had them tacked together she would crochet them with a big wooden needle. I do not know this for sure but I think my Dad probably whittled her needle.

  3. I love the part of the story where your sleeping bag remnants are incorporated into the rug. I have a quilt hand-quilted by my maternal grandmother on which she created flowers using scraps of fabric from dresses she made for me as a young girl. Cherish it, I do. I too remember balls of fabric strips saved up for the purpose of making rugs.

  4. Again you have brought to mind an old memory. (Is it because we are both Illinois “kids”?) We lived in a large farm house when I was young. The living room was 18×24 feet, and the floor had an old linoleum “rug” that had seen better years…and was also fairly noisy. One day mom decided that she really wanted a rug. (I suspect she mentioned that to dad but did not get a very positive response.) So she started to crochet one. It’s a long time ago now but I think she told me that her mother had crocheted a similar rug for their house when mom was young. So she set to work, and spent some time each day cutting lengths of cloth into appropriate widths, and then crocheting them into a “pad” about 12X18 inches in size. When she had a batch, she would dye them in a pinkish wine color (which depended on the color of the rags to a great extent). Eventually she planned to have enough to stitch them together for the living room. I didn’t think they were overly pretty…but they would have quieted and warmed the space. Eventually she was over half-way done when my father gave in, took her to the store, and they brought home a real wool carpet. I never knew whether mom knew she was “conning” him or if she was surprised that he gave in.

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