Treasure Chest Thursday: Hair Wreath

woven from the hair of the women of the family, 19th century south central Illinois.

The Hair Wreath

One of my families, the Carrolls, had a very odd family heirloom for over a hundred years: A hair wreath. Apparently, it was some sort of tradition that the women of the family would weave their hair into a large wreath that was made up of other family members’ hair. This practice went on for about 4 generations, I believe, and it included the hair of my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Jernigan Carroll, born in 1812, her children, grandchildren and a few of the next generation. This hair wreath was rarely if ever added to after the turn of the century in 1900.

When I visited the original Carroll home place in 1982 where some descendants still live, the wreath was very fragile and beginning to show signs of disintegration. We took several pictures of the oddity.

When passing through about 20 years later, one of the granddaughters of the previous inhabitant of the farm told me that the wreath had long since disintegrated. Attached is a picture of the strange, beautiful wreath made up of my ancestors’ hair.

Has anyone else heard of such a thing?

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About glamberson

I am an amateur genealogist and a professional technologist, having experience in both areas that goes back to the 1980s (at least). My genealogical interests really began in 1979 when my grandfather died. Computers & technology have been primary interests since the early 1980s. My first personal computer was an Apple IIe bought shortly after they first became available.
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4 Responses to Treasure Chest Thursday: Hair Wreath

  1. I work at a local museum in Cottage Grove, Oregon, and we have a hair wreath on exhibit. It looks very similar to your picture. Ours was said to be a “Friendship Wreath” made by a group of friends.

  2. Jo says:

    A little weird, but wonderful! Lucky that you were able to take a photo before it disintegrated.

  3. Nancy says:

    Our metroparks has an old 1880s working farm with the original farmhouse. I first learned about hair wreaths there when I saw one and didn’t know what it was. I was intrigued by it and yet didn’t really like it. As a weaver and spinner, I should have been thrilled, but it was just such an unusual thing to imagine human hair in a wreath, on the wall. I’ve grown to enjoy them, though there aren’t many around. Yours is a beautiful one. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. It’s great that you took a photo of the wreath before it disintigrated. I know I’ve seen them at museums in the past, and when I looked it up on the Internet found lots of info. It sounds as if hair wreaths peaked in popularity between 1850 and 1880. As a genealogist, all I can think of is what a source of DNA!

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