As many of you know, family history is a big part of my life and influences me in many ways each and every day. I have photos of my ancestors all over The Castle in Kenwood and at the Ledson Hotel in Sonoma. Over the years, for some reason, I’ve always been the one who family members come to for family history. It feels like a gift, the way these tales stay with me. I play them back in my mind and learn from them and get inspired to create more of my own family memories.
And sometimes, our family history is revealed to me in the most unexpected ways and I discover the most interesting things.
Years ago, my dad gave me a cane that his father had given to him. It’s a distinctive and handsome cane, with carvings and a beautiful piece of silver on the bottom. I love the cane, and it’s been sitting in my safe for a long time.
One day I was in Canada visiting George Ledson, Sr., one of my cousins. We were enjoying a glass of wine and sharing family stories when I got up and went down the hallway toward the restroom. A photo on the wall caught my attention. It was an old picture of a guy in a chair. When I asked George who it was, he said, “A relative. I’m not sure if he’s from the Ledson side or from my mother’s side. He might be a grandfather or maybe a great grandfather.”
I asked him to give me a copy. I remember noticing that the man in the picture had a cane, and it was interesting, but it took a couple of years for it to dawn on me that that might be the same cane I had in my safe. I had the photo blown up and brought the cane out.
I called George and said, “I have that cane, the one in the photo. It’s been in my safe for years!” He asked me to send him a photo of the cane, which I did, and he called back. “That’s the cane all right. It must not be from my mother’s side, because your dad wouldn’t have had anything to do with her side of the family. So this guy must be a Ledson.”
I figured the man with the cane might be George Ledson, my great grandfather. I even went so far as to engrave a plaque with George’s name on it, and hung the photo at the winery!
Not long after that, I received an email out of the blue from a woman also by the name of Ledson. She wrote that she had reason to believe that she’s related to me through someone named Joseph Ambrose Ledson. She explained that she had traced the family tree and that Joseph had a son named George Ledson, and then she saw that George had sons, and one was Barker Ledson. “I see that Barker was your grandfather,” she wrote.
I asked her to send me any photos she had of George or Joseph. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I opened the mail, and there was the same picture of the man with the cane! She sent some articles, as well. It turns out the man in the photo is not George Ledson, after all, but Joseph Ambrose Ledson, George’s father and my great-great grandfather!
Through some of the articles she sent, I learned that Joseph Ambrose Ledson’s great grandfather, Daniel Ledson (my great-great-great-great grandfather), fell into a brewer’s vat in 1764 and drowned. I’ve heard that he owned the brewery, though I haven’t been able to confirm it.
But that’s a story for another day.