NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Thanks to dogged detective work by Mary Ryder of Books to Benefit, a woman from Mackinaw has been united with a family Bible from the 1880s and the marriage certificate of her great-great-grandparents.
“I had goosebumps,” said Jennifer Vielhak, great-great-granddaughter of Henry and Anne Sauder, describing her reaction to Ryder’s discovery.
Vielhak’s uncle, Paul Watkins of Bloomington, a great-grandson of the Sauders, was present Wednesday when the book, certificate and other information were turned over to Vielhak at the Books to Benefit building on Wylie Drive.
“I never dreamed that this was ever around,” said Watkins. “This is a side (of the family) we don’t have a lot of information on.”
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The ornate certificate includes illustrations of a traditional wedding at the top and an older couple on the bottom, as well as a depiction of Jesus Christ turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
The marriage certificate from the Sauders’ 1886 wedding was found folded inside a old Bible that had been donated to Books to Benefit. The organization sells donated books to support literacy programs, particularly those of YouthBuild McLean County. Its next sale will be June 14-17.
Ryder volunteers as the vintage book specialist for Books to Benefit. Whenever books from earlier than 1950 are found among the donations, Ryder checks vintage books sites to see if they have particular value.
Generally, the vintage books go into a special collections room and are sold for one-third of their market price. But if a book is determined to have a scholarly or historic significance, Ryder will look to museums or academic libraries that would be interested in preserving them and making them available for research, explained Jackie Langhoff, Books to Benefit president.
That’s what happened earlier this year when Books to Benefit partnered with Illinois Wesleyan University to preserve a first edition copy of William Wilberforce’s 1807 “A Letter on The Abolition of the Slave Trade” in its special collections.
Then there are items that would be valuable to the family of the original owner, like the Sauders’ Bible and marriage certificate, or an 1862 edition of a bayonet training manual that was signed by a Civil War officer who had ties to a family in Normal.
“I guess I missed my calling,” said Ryder, a retired English literature professor. “I should have been in law enforcement.”
The German-language Bible was in bad shape, destined for the recycle bin, but Ryder said, “I always thumb through books before we pitch them.”
That’s when she found the certificate, which she had to piece together, as well as some flowers and even a four-leaf clover.
The luck of that four-leaf clover was with Ryder and the descendants of Henry D. and Anne Sauder. The certificate indicated Henry D. Sauder was from Roanoke. “That’s what set me off on the hunt,” said Ryder.
An attempt to track down descendants through Sauder Furniture in Roanoke led to a dead end, but other genealogy sources let Ryder to Vielhak. She also used a German-English translation dictionary to decipher words on the certificate and in the Bible.
“It’s been an intensive search,” said Ryder.
Ryder gave the family the genealogy she mapped, a picture of the tombstone of Henry D. Sauder and a photo of the minister listed on the certificate, Jacob Zehr, who later became bishop of the Mennonite congregation in Goodfield.
Vielhak said she is not sure what she will do with the Bible, certificate and other items. But she and her uncle agreed it might be time to organize another family reunion.
Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph
Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com