125-year-old wedding gift returns to Zumbrota family

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An engraved silver set of a covered sugar bowl, creamer, and spooner (for holding teaspoons) was purchased in an antique store in Texas. Through online research and phone calls, it was determined it was a wedding present for Andrew and Maria Ylvisaker, married December 1, 1888. The set was sent to Dolly Ylvisaker in March. Her husband, John, was Andrew and Maria’s grandson. A photograph of Andrew and Maria (date unknown) taken in Zumbrota, and a marriage certificate document is in the background.

By Marilyn Anderson

ZUMBROTA – At least three things are needed to supply “missing links” to family genealogy or unique family stories: individuals who know something about the family history; others outside the family with an interest in genealogy; and an added measure of luck or coincidence. It doesn’t hurt to have an uncommon name (like Ylvisaker) rather than a common name (like Anderson) to assist in making connections. All of these scenarios fell into place for the return of a 125-year-old engraved silver wedding gift to the Ylvisaker family by an antique shopper in Texas.

In March, Dolly Ylvisaker received a phone call from a woman in Texas asking, “Do ‘A. and M. Ylvisaker’ mean anything to you?” Dolly responded, “Sure do. They were my husband’s grandparents.” Dolly had been married to John Ylvisaker for 63 years before he passed away in January 2012. The woman went on to ask, “Does the date, December 1, 1888, mean anything?” At that time, Ylvisaker responded, “I don’t have a clue.”

The Texan, C. Pennington, had purchased a silver set consisting of a covered sugar bowl, cream pitcher and a spooner. The cover for the sugar bowl had etching which caught Pennington’s eye: “A & M Ylvisaker” around the top of the cover and the date, “Dec 1st 1888.” below where a handle had been attached. (An ornate handle was broken off, but was still with the set.)  

Pennington had once received a picture of her family farm from someone who had taken the time to trace the family and locate her. She was very appreciative of their effort, and decided if she could ever do something similar for someone else, she would. Finding the engraved antique silver set seemed to be an appropriate opportunity.

Pennington contacted Ylvisaker after calling the Zumbrota Public Library and speaking with Library Director James Hill. Pennington had traced the Ylvisaker name to Zumbrota following research done on the internet. After making the connection with Ylvisaker, Pennington offered to send photos of the set. Ylvisaker connected Pennington with her daughter, Jean Ohman, to communicate further. In the meantime, Ylvisaker found a marriage certificate among some old family papers and documents. It was for Andrew C. Ylvisaker and Maria Erstad, documenting their marriage of December 1, 1888 in Minneola Township of Goodhue County.  

Within a month of first speaking with Pennington, the silver set was in Zumbrota. How had it ended up in an antique store in Texas? For now, that remains a mystery. Pennington asked the antique store owner where he obtained it. He thought he received it from a Colorado antique dealer. Andrew and Maria had seven children, including John’s father, Johan. Johan was a missionary in Africa for many years. With families spread out not only throughout the United States, but also the world, it is unknown where the silver set has traveled.

December 1, 2013 will mark 125 years since Andrew and Maria Ylvisaker were married. As Pennington wrote to Ylvisaker, “I think that Andrew and Maria would be happy it is back where it belongs.” Plans are for the set to remain in the Ylvisaker family.



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