Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fine ancestors

On the Skyvington side, one of my direct ancestors in Dorset—my 5-times-great-grandmother—was Amelia Sevior [1756-1837]. Now this unusual surname is subjected to all kinds of spelling variations: Seviour, Sevier, Sevyer, Seeviour, Siveyer, Sivier, Sivyer, etc. I was intrigued by the fact that, in changing a single vowel, you end up with Savior or Saviour. Maybe I'd hit the genealogical jackpot: an ancestral line running back up to the distinguished family from Nazareth.

In fact, the Sevior surname is derived from the Old English word for a sieve. So, I surely had ancestors in the Middle Ages who worked as sieve-makers. That might explain why I'm fond of sieves: in the kitchen, of course, but also around the house, where a plasterer's sieve is an ideal tool for removing excess stones from typical Gamone soil.

Talking of sieves, look at these two portraits of the virgin queen of England, Elizabeth I.

The painting on the left [1579] is by George Gower, while that on the right [1583] is by Quentin Massys the Younger. In both portraits, the queen is holding a sieve in her left hand. Apparently this is a literary allusion to Tuccia, a vestal virgin in a story by Petrarch [1304-1374]. Tuccia succeeded in carrying water from the Tiber in a sieve, and this was thought of as proof of her purity and chastity.

In my native land, prospectors use sieves in their search for precious stones such as sapphires.

Now, you're surely wondering whether I've inherited any wonderful old medieval sieves from my Dorset ancestors. Well, no, I haven't. Neither sieves nor gems of any kind.

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