Thursday, January 30, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Old Homestead, A Clock and A Fire



I mentioned this clock in the post I did Tuesday. I had originally set out to write down a story about the clock but wandered a bit. In this post, I will try to stay on track so that this story does not get forgotten:

That this clock was rescued from a house fire is somewhat obvious when you look at the back of it where it is blackened. My father had told me of the two-story home owned by his grandfather, John Willis Watts (who died long before he was born). My dad said the kitchen was built away from the house and that there may have been a fire in the kitchen. My father told me that this clock damaged by fire probably came from that house, although my father is no longer here to help me with any more details unfortunately. He remembered there being a lot of old stuff in that house and wondered what became of it all. My dad also remembered his dad’s Uncle George having a house near them.

I had often listened and asked my grandfather (Cephas Bryant Watts, called C.B. or Clip) about the family, too, before he passed away. He told me back in 1991 (and I am going on notes I wrote down and not on memory which I’ve mentioned before can be faulty) that his father was afraid of fire and wouldn’t let anyone build a fire upstairs.  He also told me that he and his brother Pete slept upstairs and at one time a rat bit Pete on the ear. He also talked about the house itself and I remember wishing that it still stood so I could walk through it. But my grandfather told me that he eventually tore it down after he bought the homestead and built the house where my father was born in 1940. My grandfather did not even have a picture of the old house. According to my grandfather, the old house had a big room downstairs and a dining room. A closet door opened to a winding stairway that led upstairs to two rooms and a fireplace. That’s all I know about it. It’s long gone and so are my grandfather (1995) and my father (2009). I always wished I could have seen it.

In 2011, I met my cousin Julia online (see my post about that here) who descends from my grandfather’s Uncle Sam Watts. She shared with me an old photograph album that she had, originally from her Watts grandparents. I scanned many of the photos and recognized several of them. One of them was a photograph of my father as a small boy. One was a photograph of the home my father was born in. Directly opposite that photograph in the album was one of an older house with a chimney and a porch. There’s a man standing on the porch but the picture is too fuzzy to identify clearly. (There were other homestead photographs of Uncle Sam but this one was not the same house.) Could this be is the old home on the property that C.B. Watts purchased from his father, John W. Watts? Is this the house I’ve been longing to see? My father would know but I found this after he died.



I posted a copy of this photograph to a closed online family forum which a few of my dad’s cousins have access to and identified it as from an album owned by S.L. and M.A. (Wortham) Watts. I asked if anyone recognized it and said it was probably from the Sinking Fork/Gracey, KY area. One cousin said it appeared to be the old house on Uncle Clip and Aunt Amy’s farm, across the yard from their house and an Uncle Bill lived in it. Another cousin said she was correct and remembered going there as a child before they built the new house. The cousin also said that she thought the old gentleman who lived there was Clip’s uncle. Another cousin who still lives in the general area said no it was another family house in the area. I guess I may never know for sure, but my heart wants it to be the one.

There’s another part of this story, though. About the fire. I wrote a long time ago about the Radford Moorefield family who was kin to my grandfather on his grandmother’s side. His grandmother was a Chaffin and two of her sisters married Moorefield brothers. I knew a Moorefield child, Josephine, had died in a fire but I wasn’t sure when. This blog post here discusses my research and best guess that the fire probably took place about 1878. This Josephine Moorefield would have been a cousin to my great-grandfather, John Willis Watts. He was born in 1860 and so would have been about 18 when the fire occurred. This probably explains his fear of fire that my grandfather told me about. I don’t know if it was the same fire that did damage to the clock. I am thinking probably not, but it is interesting nonetheless. The time period could be right for the clock. The information from the card my father had said that the clock was manufactured by the New Haven Clock Company popular between 1880-1900 (the company was in existence as early as 1856). The card also said that walnut wood came into vogue in the late 1870s and that an exact copy of this clock is in the Henry Ford Museum. Maybe someday I’ll find out more.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Time and Memory



This clock was given to me by my father. He had someone appraise it for historical purposes and gave me a laminated index card with that information on it as well. Having misplaced this card several times over the years, I have decided to put it right in with the clock now so the item and information will always be together. Even genealogists lose their “census” and I am surprised by how much I do not remember about research I have done. A recent example: During the past eight years or so of friendship, I have been helping a friend and her family gather information on their family history. Recently, this friend showed me photos she had taken of an old family bible in her aunt’s possession. I swore I had never seen that bible before. When I looked at notes I had taken about eight years ago though, I saw that I already had copies of the family history pages of that same bible! I guess I just didn’t recognize the cover as well the content.

I have cautioned this same friend to write down and take inventory of what she has and where it came from. She has been blessed with lots of old things that were her grandmother’s originally and then passed to an uncle who in turn gave it to her. Letters, old photos, bibles, books, etc. It’s been an amazing collection to look through and I’ve felt privileged to help in whatever way I can. I shared with her how my dad’s cousin sent me a lot of tintype pictures and tintype photo albums in the mail just after his mother, my great-aunt Ruby, died. I didn’t even know they were coming and was overjoyed to receive such a gift (it made me nervous to think that this might have gotten lost in the mail, too). This was back around 1991. At one point, having a rudimentary knowledge and fascination with historical artifacts, I decided to write an inventory of all the photographs and items he had given me in order to establish the provenance. Again, I am so surprised in looking at that inventory now how much I do not remember about what he sent. Even writing this up, I had to stop and think, “Wait a minute, did he mail those photo albums to me, too?” Luckily I have notes to refresh my recollection of this acquisition. My attention to detail has been a very useful trait in my work, but memory can be faulty or unreliable. I do wish now sometimes that I had pursued something more along the lines of archivist in my professional life, but at this point it’s not really a viable option.


It is the same with family stories. They need to be set down and archived in such a way that their historical value and provenance are preserved. The attention to detail is important so that we can accurately say that this photograph or story goes with this family and not another so as to not muddy the waters and get the truth mixed up with fiction. Historical accuracy is important. Even tiny details that might seem insignificant can lead to clues that will help in future family historical research. I guess if there’s a moral to my post, it is “write it down.”  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sentimental Sunday: A Few Buttons and Some Cloth

I wrote the last post in memory of the twin infants of my grandfather’s cousins. I had mentioned that I began gathering information in anticipation of self-publishing a book on my Watts family. The story of the twins did not make it in that final publication. I found that I needed to condense some information in order to make it more manageable to get it published. I decided to include only birth and death information on most of the later generations.

Although that story and others might be considered insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it’s the urge to preserve these stories that makes me a family historian in the first place. Here’s another story that I want to tell about children who might otherwise be forgotten. This story was told to me by my Uncle Perk Watts when I first started gathering information on the family back in 1989:

“Aunt Ivy’s kids, Ollie and Eva died around age 1 of colitis and were buried on the farm [in the small town of Sinking Fork in Christian County, Kentucky].  When the family moved to town (or when the parents died and were buried in Riverside Cemetery), the children's graves were dug up and moved, but all they found was a few buttons and some cloth.” A cousin on the Diuguid side later told me that she thought Aunt Ivy was ”a little funny” and that maybe it was due to having lost her only two children at such a young age.

Aunt Iva May Watts (daughter of John Willis Watts and Ollie Spencer) was a sister of my grandfather, Cephas Bryant Watts. She was born 29 November 1889; married F. Travis Diuguid 17 January 1912; died 8 February 1972, buried in Riverside Cemetery. Aunt Ivy and Uncle Trav had:

Ollie May Diuguid born 4 October 1912 Christian County, Kentucky; died of colitis on 19 July 1914.


Eva Lee Diuguid born 10 May 1915 Christian County, Kentucky; died 3 April 1916 of cattaral pneumonia. Whooping cough was contributory to her death. (This was from the state death certificate.)

Much later, I noted that there were two hand-made gravestones with the name "Watts" on them listed in the Brick Church Cemetery in Sinking Fork and wondered if it might be these girls. The only problem with that is that they should have had they name "Diuguid" instead of Watts. I don't know what mystery Watts these stones memorialize then. This was literally just down the road from where my Watts family lived. Further down that same road is a family cemetery housing most of them with many of the rest of them buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville.  In looking through my files, there are no Wattses in the area of my kin whose burial is not accounted for. Hmmm, sounds like a mystery.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sympathy Saturday: In Memoriam

I developed a morbid fascination with post-mortem photographs of children a few days ago. It started out because of this blog post by Lorinne McGinnis Shultz on the subject. Then I kept searching the web for more images. There are several boards on Pinterest dedicated to the subject, though I have found that errors and misinformation abound. For instance, some of these sites state that when one can see the stand behind the subject, it means that the subject was dead and being propped up by the stand. This is an error. The stand was actually used by photographers to keep their living subjects still for the long exposure time photographs took back then. That is not to say that some photographers did pose their deceased subjects as this vintage photograph appears to illustrate. One cannot use just the appearance of a stand as evidence of a post-mortem photograph any more than one can use the appearance of hidden mothers holding their infant children (such as those found here) as evidence that the photograph is a post-mortem of the infant. What better way to keep a live infant from squirming than to have it held by its mother?

After several hours of looking at these photos, I had to stop; though it seems I can still see the images of their haunting faces when I close my eyes. And haunting is what this one photograph shown below has done for me since I saw it when I was a young girl. (It must have also haunted my daughter as she wrote a poem about it which I highlighted here.) It is obvious that there is something wrong with this infant but I knew nothing of post-mortem photographs back then. This was among my grandfather Watts’ photographs and is identified on the back as “Harold Lynn Hall 2 mos, 9 days old, wt. 5 lb 2 oz.” This is a RPPC and bears a date of Dec 23, 1946 stamped on the back. I knew that my grandfather’s cousin Mildred married a Hall and figured this was part of her family.




In 2001, I called cousin Mildred on the phone to ask about her family in preparation for the Watts book I was getting ready to self-publish. During that interview she mentioned her twin sons who were born in 1946 and died when they were two or three months old. She said they were deformed.

Later cousin Mildred sent more complete information that included the twins’ full names and complete birth and death dates. When putting that information together, I realized that the photograph I had of the one twin Harold was actually a post-mortem photograph.

Harold Lynn Hall, born 11 October 1946; died 13 December 1946
(ten days before the date stamped on the photograph of him)


Howard Glenn Hall born 11 October 1946; died 18 January 1947. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Matrilineal Monday: Rollie George Backus

WWI Draft Registration Card for Rollie Backus
from FamilySearch.org

I have completed several posts on my former mother-in-law's Backus line and wanted to provide a research summary of what I've found so far: 

Rollie George Backus was born in New York in 15 August 1881. He was listed as a nephew in the household of Adelbert Hitchcock and his wife Clarissa in the town of Yorkshire, Cattaraugus Co, NY during the 1900 U.S. Census. I have found nothing definitive to determine Rollie's exact connection to the Hitchcock family yet, although I should post a summary of that work soon. 

There was a Backus family living in the Kill Buck/Great Valley area of Cattaraugus Co. for which there appears to be no relation.

The only other Backus in Cattaraugus County in 1900 was an Elsie Backus, born in February of 1881. She had been married for 4 years (to whom?) but was living as a servant in the household of Cyrus Rhoades in the town of Leon. A Lucy Lyons was also listed as Cyrus' 84 year old widowed mother.

A Charles Backus family lived in the town of Evans in Erie Co in 1900 but I have been unable to establish a connection, if any, at this time.

Thus far, Rollie has not been located in New York for the 1892 state census nor the 1905 state census. There was a Walter G. Backus in Evans in 1905. Rollie was not with the Adelbert Hitchcock family during the 1892 state census. He would have only been 8 years old at the time.

According to the burial card for Rollie's son, Herman, Herman was born in Java on March 1, 1905 in the town of Java.  This is verified by an electronic newspaper image from the Warsaw NY Western New Yorker 1905 which stated that a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Backus on March 1.

By 1910, Rollie, aged 27, was listed as a machinist in a saw mill in the town of Java (Wyoming Co), NY. He had been married to Jennie for nine years (ca. 1901) and had two children Herman born in 1905 and Pheobe born in 1908. Jennie was listed as the mother of three children with two living, so it appears there was a child that died young. Another newspaper image indicates that a Miss Iva Hayes of Lime Lake had returned home from visiting her sister Mrs. Rollie Backus of Curriers Corners from the Ellicottville Post (1903-1905). It is assumed for now that Jennie's maiden name might have been Hayes.

According to Ancestry.com, Rollie George Backus was living in Erie County when he registered for the draft for WWI between 1917-1918. This is where we get his complete birth date. 

In 1920, Rollie, aged 38, was in the Wales township of Erie Co, NY. He was in the lumber business. It was noted that his mother was born in New York, but his father was born in Germany. He was still married to Jennie (born in New York as was her parents) and his two children were listed age 14 and 12.

For the 1925 state census, Rollie and his wife are listed in indexes as "Bachus" in Lancaster, Erie County, New York. 

By 1930, his son Herman was married and living in Lackawanna, (Erie Co) NY. Rollie was in the town of Marilla in that county, aged 47 with wife Jennie and daughter Phoebe Graves. Lloyd Graves, age 26, in the household must have been Phoebe's husband and a child Jane Graves age 1 was probably their daughter.  In Herman's death notice in 1952, it states that his sister Pheobe Graves was of the town of Portville.

He is indexed as Rowlie Bachus aged 58 in the 1940 census. He was a carpenter for transit freight line industry. His wife was listed as Louise, age 54. Did Jennie die? They lived at 880 Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo City Directories show no Rollie Backus in 1932 or 1936, but Rollie was listed as a laborer r(esiding) at 284 Franklin St. in 1937. Listed as a trucker r at 140 N Division in 1938. Rollie was listed as a carpenter at 880 Michigan in 1942, same residence in 1942 although a riveter for the CW Corp. In 1948 listed with wife Louise same address, as sh mtl wks for occupation. In 1950 Louisa (wid Rollie G) listed at 880 Michigan Ave. She is not listed thereafter.

Further research strategies for this family would include:

1. Obtaining a birth certificate for Herman Backus;

2.  Exploring the 1900 US Census in the Cattaraugus/Wyoming County areas for Hayes families with children Jennie and Iva. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thriller Thursday: Bizarre Symbolism


I just love it when I find a kindred spirit out there in blog-land! I stumbled across the photo-history blog Hunting and Gathering by accident (or serendipity) the other day on 19th & early mid-20th century Georgia photographs and their associates. A photographer’s project has just started taking shape with me because of access to early photo cabinet cards I’ve had from the Cattaraugus County, New York area. The blog posts and work done on Hunting and Gathering inspired me to do more with this project of mine and I plan to post some of my work soon.

This post reminded me of the above photograph I have from a friend’s genealogy collection. My guess is that it is from the early 1900s as it appears to be a snapshot similar to ones I’ve seen from that time period and may have been taken with a Brownie camera. From what I understand from Maureen Taylor’s Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, Kodak had sold a quarter million of these cameras by the year 1900.


The unusual subject of this photograph is certainly puzzling. You can see a skull and a pocket watch but any other details seem obscured. Anyone have any ideas about the origin or meaning of this?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Workday Wednesday: All In A Day’s Work


In the novel People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks,* the central character, Hanna Heath, is a rare-book expert and conservator. Hanna describes her work as not merely technical but having something to do with an “intuition about the past” wherein she links “research with imagination” and eventually adds a “few grains to the sandbox of human knowledge.”

I resonate with those thoughts when it comes to doing family history research. I’ve been researching for some twenty-plus years. So now when I go on a hunt, I usually have a feel for what records I can find to uncover a little more about an individual and flesh out a more concrete identity. Sharing it with others is my way of adding a few grains to the sandbox of human knowledge about the past.

Take for instance my recent foray into the ancestry of Harvey B. Potter.  I knew about Harvey because his great-granddaughter showed me a picture of him and said that he played the fiddle all over the area. His youngest daughter Velda was born in 1917, over ten years after the last daughter was born. 

Lottie (Herrick) Potter holding her daughter Velda**

She was somewhat spoiled then, according the family, as the youngest of five girls. Harvey was married to Lottie Herrick and they had Gertrude, Olive, Doris, Alice and Velda.

Harvey & Lottie Potter with their five daughters

Of Harvey’s ancestry, the only clues I had to start out with was that his parents were Alpha Potter and Susie Hitchcock. Harvey was born about 1875 and died in 1948. He is buried with his wife in Black Creek Cemetery in Black Creek, New York a hamlet of the town of New Hudson in Allegany County.

By running through searches of census records online and other tidbits of information gleaned from the familysearch.org website, I eventually found that Harvey’s grandfather was also named Harvey B. Potter. This first Harvey was found in the 1855 NY State Census in the town of Wirt, Allegany County, New York. He was a 22-year-old farmer with a 23-year-old wife named Amanda and his son Alpha, just one year old. The state census indicated that both Harvey and Amanda had been residing in that town for six months.

The next time the family was found was in 1870 when Amanda Potter, her son Alpha and a 9-year-old by the name of Elijah V. Potter were living in the town of Caneadea (also Allegany County, New York). Five years later, in the 1875 NY State Census, Amanda M. Potter was a housekeeper in the William Crawford family in the town of Belfast (Allegany County, New York). Twelve-year-old Elijah V. Potter was also living with the family. The last I saw of Elijah V. Potter census-wise was during the 1892 NY State Census, when he was listed after the Elam Seward and Frederick Cline families as a 31-year-old shoemaker.

The most curious record was Elijah V. Potter listed in the US Veteran Administration Payment Cards 1907-1933 on familysearch.org. The card had dates of 1902 and 1920 and a certificate number of 552427. The name of the soldier was Harvey B. Potter with service listed as “Sgt B6 Mich V Cav.” Finally a google search yielded posts from 2004 and 2007 by Nancy Dearing Rossbacher, a descendant of the second Harvey B. Potter’s father, Isaac B. Potter, indicating that Isaac originally lived in the Caneadea, New York area in 1850 and migrated to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

A combination of clues and tracking methods illuminated one man’s ancestry in a matter of hours thanks to the ease and convenience of the internet. Now after collecting the facts, a more comprehensive story can be told, one that can add to the historical knowledge of the area and its people. It is knowledge like this that can sometimes spark a writer’s interest and lead to great reads such as in the historical fiction novels Geraldine Brooks has written.


*Probably all novel writers use liberties when writing historical fiction and perhaps Vienna, Austria was different than the United States, but my research and knowledge of old photographs here in the U.S. indicates that ambrotypes waned in usage in the 1860s. Brooks has one of her characters unearth an ambrotype dating from the 1890s.


**All photos courtesy LuAnne Everett

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Why (Genealogy) Blog?



I wrote an article for the WMGS newsletter, Michigana, to share my blogging experience and reasons why one should create a blog (Vol. 58, No. 1, Jan/Feb/March 2012). I have tweaked it a bit to add as this post:

First off, the word “blog” is a shortened term for “weblog.” According to Wikipedia, a blog is a personal journal published on the internet consisting of entries (typically called posts) that are usually displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. The word “blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Blogs can be specific to a subject, such as genealogy, which is what this is all about.


Basically, there are three reasons why you should create a genealogy blog: the past, the present and the future.

Past:
You should create a blog because of the voices in your blood. Author GG Vandagriff wrote an aptly titled book, Voices in Your Blood: Discovering Your Identity Through Family History. In this book, she writes, “Every name on your pedigree tells a different story. You have thousands of stories in you. What are they?” GG even has a blog of her own at http://www.ggvandagriff.com/blog/

Helen Hinchliff, Ph.D., wrote in her forward on Henry Z. Jones, Jr.’s book Psychic Roots that “It appears that untold numbers of ancestors have asked to be understood and to have their stories told, fully and accurately.” Who will tell their story?

Present:
Family stories need to be told for the present generation. I’ve been writing stories for years—not only stories of my family but also about my research experience. Family stories have been handed down to the current generation in one form or the other for thousands of years. Some of us remember hearing stories while sitting on the front porch with elderly relatives. Blogs are certainly not front porches, but they can be the equivalent of one, especially in a time when family is often geographically far-flung.

“As genealogists we are passionate about the past but we also need to be equally passionate about the present. By writing up the present we leave behind a trail for our own descendants.”  Gena Philibert Ortega at http://philibertfamily.blogspot.com/

A blog is also a good place to record your thoughts on a particular research problem. You probably have a family puzzle that you go over again and again. You may even share your ideas on this particular problem with other researchers again and again. I’ve had many people contact me and mention that they heard my ancestor Samuel Watts (died ca. 1812 in Halifax County, Virginia) was from England. I finally posted information on my blog that details my thoughts on this possibility. Now I can direct folks with that same question to my blog instead of having to re-write my explanation each time. Sometimes I even have to direct myself to my blog in order to refresh my memory, so I don’t have to keep going around the same mountain in terms of research about what is known and not known so far.

Greta Koehl mentions in her blog at http://gretabog.blogspot.com/ about the “fabulous social aspects and cousin connections” of genealogy. Using a blog to connect with other bloggers is also a social enhancement to the sometimes isolated world of researching the past. Fellow bloggers can always relate to your wanting to do the happy dance at finding a long-lost relative after ten years of research--something that sometimes leaves your family shaking their heads in wonder at you. Fellow bloggers can provide advice on ways to break through a research brick wall and also encouragement when everything you’ve tried has met without success. Most everyone would agree that Geneabloggers (a term coined to describe bloggers who blog about genealogy) are a great bunch of people.

Future:
Those interested in the past are also interested in the preservation of it. Most of us who have been doing this family history stuff long tend to accumulate things such as old photographs and other memorabilia. Uploading to your blog scanned copies of old photographs or pictures of memorabilia helps to preserve these items for future generations. What a cost-effective way of sharing as well.

Consider blogging as a new medium with which to work in. In this digital age, there is always new medium. I can remember 45rpm records, eight-track and cassette tapes. These ways of recording are all becoming obsolete. Even VCRs are starting to fall by the wayside to be replaced by DVDs and heaven knows what next. Future generations will not know what to do with an old record and will eventually not have access to technology that will unlock the media embedded in such. Blogging is another step towards the future of accessible technology. Granted, based on our knowledge of history, we can predict it will not be the final step. But just as we have transferred reel-to-reel home movies to VCR tapes and now to DVD, this will ensure that we will be able to update our material and make it available for those inevitable future technological advances.  

A blog could be the beginnings of that book you’ve always wanted to write – saved for posterity before it even becomes a book. There are several bloggers I know that blog for the writing experience, for the basis of a future book. Yvette Porter Moore blogs about her research for a future book at http://www.thecullyfamily.com.  Even if you never get around to publishing, years from now a descendant will be delighted to stumble across the work that you have made available on your blog.

“We may think writing about ourselves is boring or egotistical but stop and think how excited your descendants would be to find a journal or dairy that their great great grandmother (you) wrote.”
Lorine McGinnis Schulze at http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/

It begins with you

Just like the start of your ancestor or pedigree chart, it begins with you. You are the link between yesterday’s past, today’s present & tomorrow’s future. A bridge, if you will, to span the generation gap(s). And just as every individual is unique and every family is unique, your reasons for doing a blog will be unique as well. Your blog will reflect who are you and where you come from. Don’t think there’s no reason to add another blog to the web world, there is no other blog like the one you will create and it deserves to be out there. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sibling Saturday – Baby Pictures

(l to r) Agnes (VanderWerf) Katsma, Margaret Katsma DeWitt,
Gertrude Katsma Houtstra, Theresa Katsma Timmer

This blog post is for Sibling Saturday because this photo is of my grandmother and her sisters (and a sister-in-law). Another reason is because a deeper look at the photo itself also reveals information about my mother and her siblings.

My grandmother, Theresa Katsma Timmer (the woman on the right), died in March of 2007. After conferring with our Aunt Marcia who took care of the estate, my sister brought Grandma’s photograph collection back to her house. On a visit shortly thereafter, I went through them. One of the first photographs in the pile was a large 8 x 10 sized photograph of an infant. My sister told me that when she asked, Aunt Marcia said she wasn’t sure who the infant was. I set it aside and kept digging. I was looking for older photographs and pulled a few that I wanted to scan. The photograph of my grandmother and her siblings caught my eye. I set it aside; it was a nice family picture and worth keeping for genealogical value.

As I was getting ready to scan them, I looked at this photo again. It occurred to me that I recognized one of the four pictures on the wall behind them. The first one, closest to my grandmother on the right, was my mother Helen. I knew this because I had looked through my grandmother’s photos with her one year while she was still alive and she had shared this one with me. In the photograph, my mother is about four years old. My grandmother related to me how it was the first photograph they had ever had taken of my mother. My mother was born in 1933 and since the country was in the midst of a depression, my grandparents did not have much money to spend on such items. My grandmother had also shown me a snapshot of an infant in a pram. This infant, grandma explained, was my mother’s first cousin Anna Mae Katsma, born in 1929. It was always said that Helen looked just like this when she was a baby. (This photograph resurfaced among my grandmother’s photos and I was able to identify it because of that conversation.)

Anyway, after identifying that the first picture was my mother, I realize that the next three pictures on the wall were probably my mother’s siblings in order of their birth! There would be Uncle John, then Aunt Marcia and then Uncle Bill born in 1946. Scrambling back through the photographs, I grabbed the one of the unidentified infant. When comparing it to the pictures on the wall, guess who it was? Aunt Marcia, the one who couldn’t identify it in the first place!


This is also an interesting lesson on using internal clues for help in identifying old photographs. The next time you pick up a photograph, be sure to look at ALL the details. You just never know what you’ll discover. If you find something interesting, I’d love to hear about it!