Q is for the Quinby Quilt

QI don’t need a prompt to write about the surname Quinby. If you’ve read my About link, you know that I’ve replaced my given middle name Lee with Quinby to honor the Quinbys who adopted me and to eliminate the alliterative overkill of Linda Lee Lambert.

My interest in family history was invigorated when I discovered  my father’s name (!) Leslie Robert Quinby (1907-1987) in a book published in 1915: The Genealogical History of the Quinby (Quimby) Family in England by Henry Cole Quinby.

That book gave me the data to trace my adoptive family back to the original family that migrated from England. Now, of course, through libraries and individual accounts, we all have digital access to mammoth databases via Ancestry.com and the Mormon Church’s Family Search software. I continue to collect data but stories are my current preoccupation.

IMG_4098In the eighties, my Aunt Julia (Quinby) Coke (1916-2008) told me about an 18th century quilt that had been handed down to her. Mid conversation, she turned and wordlessly went to her bedroom and brought out the quilt, a blue and white woven remnant. I noted the pin holes on a half sheet which had been attached to the fabric. She handled the fabric with care and love. It seemed a sacred moment and I wrote about the experience for a national women’s magazine.

On April 6th of this month my cousin John Coke (Julia’s son) and his wife Cathy, took me to lunch at the Mission Inn in San Diego. They said they had a present for me. Before I opened the bag, tears began. I had the feeling that something special was about to happen.

I lifted a bundle swathed in lavender tissue from a colorful bag and saw what I’d been calling a quilt: a remnant made over 250 years ago by an ancestor named Deborah Thorne. I saw the same pinholes on the half sheet I’d seen decades earlier. Then I read the words:

H I S T O R Y    O F   T H E   O L D   B L U E   W O V E N  S P R E A D   Spun and woven by DEBORAH THORNE in the year 1752. She gave same to her daughter SARAH THORNE, WHO MARRIED ISAAC VAIL on or about 1778, afterwards given to her son LOT VAIL, who kept it until his death in 1883 Then given to Julia Vail Quinby, his niece, who gave it to her son ROBERT C. QUINBY in whose possession it is now in 1930.-Entered by Mrs. Walter S. Gates, sister of Robert C. Quinby. 

How can I best preserve THE OLD BLUE WOVEN SPREAD and to which child should I pass it on since I am the last of this line of Quinbys?



3 thoughts on “Q is for the Quinby Quilt

  1. A very poignant and touching personal bit of family history. Loved reading it! Thank you for sharing.

    Forgive a complete stranger for making gratuitous suggestions – pass on the quilt remnant to whoever is worthy, someone who can value and love it like yourself. Being related in spirit matters more than blood. Or if someone likeminded is not available, consider donating it to a textile museum These are part of our collective heritage and must be preserved,

    Ninja Minion, A-Z 2016


    1. Nilanjana, Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I have thought about giving it to a textile museum. I suspect that one of my children will want it, but I’m going to wait and see their reactions. Most of them haven’t met the quilt yet.


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