NYROCKLA-L ArchivesArchiver > NYROCKLA > 2006-02 > 1139149495
From: "JAH" <>
Subject: RE: Just a story for your scrapbook to read in a quiet moment
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 08:24:55 -0600
Thanks so much, for this story, Keith. It was wonderful and I'd challenge
any genealogist to read it and not get a tear in their eye.
I'd like to pass on something I started doing a few years ago, that has
given me moments of great joy - perhaps some of you would like to join the
I'm not into antique stores particularly, but a few times a year will go in
with friends who enjoy looking. I head straight for the usually small pile
of old photographs. It has always bothered me that these photos are sitting
in a store, for sale.
I look at the back of each, to see if there are any names that could be used
to locate the descendants. I also look for the printer's mark on the front,
These photos cost me between $1.50 - $4 a piece, generally, and when I find
one where I think I stand a chance of finding the family, I buy it.
I have had a good few experiences of actually finding the descendants, and
continue trying with the stack I'm slowly accumulating.
Here is the story of one "find" of mine, that you may enjoy:
I bought a circa 1880s photo of a young couple and their very young daughter
and son in an antique store on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The
names were on the back, and the printer's mark from the east end of WI.
There was no family tree information in the normal places on the web, so I
started to Google the fairly unusual, German name. I came up with an
article written 20 years ago by someone of that surname, for the centennial
edition of a town newspaper, very close to the town on the printer's mark.
It was an article about the history of the town, and the author obviously
knew a great deal of this, first hand. I was concerned that he may have
died in the 20+ years since the writing. I looked for his name in the Yahoo
White Pages, and came up with the surname and initial, and placed the call
on a Sunday afternoon.
Mr. G answered, and was then (a few years ago) in his mid 80s. I asked if
he was related to the people whose names appeared on the photo, and he told
me they were his grandfather, g-aunt and g-gps. He sounded skeptical, and I
could tell he thought some kind of con was coming. I told him about the
photo, and that I purchase these to get them back to the people they matter
to, and asked if his current mailing address was the one I found on Yahoo.
He still sounded skeptical, but confirmed the address.
I told him I was going to mail the photo out to him the next day, and when
he asked how much I was charging for it, I explained that I NEVER charge
people for these and wouldn't accept his offer for postage reimbursement
He told me he had never seen a photo of his grandfather as a child. The
grandfather was 3 in the photo I had purchased. He had never seen a photo
of his g-gps when they weren't elderly. He was stunned that his 20+ year
old article was on the internet, and couldn't imagine how it ended up there.
He didn't have a computer, and didn't know how to use one. We ended the
I got the envelope and supporting cardboard ready, and thought it wouldn't
kill me to do a hour or two worth of digging around on the net for this
family. I found a few news clippings from the very early 1900s - one about
the fire that destroyed his g-gps barn, and some minor damage that occurred
when the house started to catch fire, before it was put out. Another
article, talked about how his g-gf had "this week", purchased the first
Oldsmobile in the town. A third, talked about his g-g-gps in relation to
his g-gf, who were German immigrants and had some detail about when they
I cut and pasted these to Word, and sent them along with the photo.
Two weeks later, I arrived home from the office and found a large, manila
envelope in the mail from Mr. G. He had received my envelope, and went down
to this local library to photocopy some additional photographs of his family
to send to me, and included a long letter telling me about his family. He
mentioned that he'd never known about his g-gf's barn burning down, or the
car, or his g-g-gps year of immigration.
He thought that the photo I purchased most likely ended up in the shop
through a 2nd cousin who lived in the area I made the purchase, who he heard
had died a year earlier. This cousin's children were probably cleaning out
the house and sold everything there, including the photos.
He apologized for sounding tentative / stunned / skeptical when we had
talked on the phone. He related what he felt, and I had to agree, was the
strangest thing. Just prior to my phone call that afternoon, he was waiting
for an old friend to arrive for a cup of coffee and some chat. He pulled
his old photo album off the bookshelf in the living room, that he hadn't
looked at "in years". He had turned a page and was looking at a photo of
his grandparents (the grandfather in the photo), and the phone rang, with me
on the other end. I tingled when I read this.
I enjoyed reading about his family story, as everyone's family history is
interesting to me. I had to wonder about the kismet that caused me to buy
that photo, caused some unknown person to put his very old article on the
web and caused him to be looking at a photo that he hadn't seen for years,
when I called him. I believe his family wanted me to get that picture to
Why do I do genealogy? Because I have to. At the risk of sounding
'wooey-wooey', I know that I'm acting as an emissary for the deceased - my
own, and sometimes other people's. I feel privileged to walk with one foot
in our realm and the other in theirs.