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Long-lost piece of family history found hidden tucked inside donated painting

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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BOLIVIA, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) – A thrift store owner found a marriage certificate that is nearly 150 years old tucked behind a painting that was donated to the store last month.

Assistant manager Pam Phelps told WECT she found the hidden gem as she was cleaning the given items to prepare them to hit the shelves.

“I was going to take the frame apart and clean the back of it, clean the front of it with the glass,” Phelps explained. “When I took it off, that’s when I discovered that it was there.”

The marriage certificate of William Deworth and Katey Havey was hidden inside the frame. The delicate piece of paper from 1872 practically falling apart at the touch.

The executive director of Hope Harbor Home posted an image of the painting and the marriage certificate on Facebook in hopes of reconnecting the missing memento with family members of the New Jersey couple.

Looking at the certificate, genealogist Connie Knox could make out the writing easily: William Deworth and Katey Havey, married in 1872 in New Jersey.

Knox tracked down Irene Cornish, the couple’s great-granddaughter, on Ancestry.com and sent her a link to the post.

“I still can’t believe it,” Cornish said holding the certificate for the first time Monday. “I’m going to have it for my family – I’m so overwhelmed.

“It feels good to have this back. I’m still really in a state of shock about how it happened.”

Though it’s unclear how the marriage certificate ended up inside a painting, Cornish thinks her great-grandmother put it there for safekeeping and an unsuspecting relative sold or donated it to another thrift store.

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