Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who Were These People?

By Keith N Fisher

For many years, in my genealogy hobby, I’ve lamented over not having photographs of my ancestors. The frustration grew stronger each time I learned of a picture in someone’s possession that wasn’t being shared.

If you are like me, you know the names and a little information about ancestors through several generations. I worked to confirm that research and find histories. I looked for personal information in unusual sources such as, historical accounts of areas, personal journals of neighbors, church records, etc.

Finding a picture of them, or of a home they lived in, made me ecstatic. I could relate a visual image to my ancestor and it made that person’s life more real to me. Seeing a face helped me forge a deeper connection to them.

I’ve never finished that project, partly because of lack of resources, partly because of changes in my life, but recently, I had an opportunity to work in the receiving part of a thrift store. (I know that’s a long sentence).

Anyway, while on the job, I noticed dozens of old documents and pictures come in. We had no way of tracing the people in the pictures, and no way to store it all. Because we knew that people often donate things by accident, we’d keep the pictures for a week, hoping they would be claimed. One day I perused the pile of throw-a-ways and found the negative of the picture above. I couldn’t tell who it was, but the mustache looked familiar somehow. I rescued the negative and brought it home to scan it.

Now, I stare into those vaguely familiar faces. They aren’t my ancestors, but they are somebody’s. In light of my quest, I’m saddened by the generations of some families who get tossed out each day. Either, by those who don’t care or they just can’t put a name to the face. Really sad, is the scenario of indifferent executors of wills tossing labeled family history collections.

My mother tells a story of her grandpa burning a stack of old papers and pictures. He’d lost the capacity to remember who they were. She cringes when she thinks about it today, so she’s gone through most of everything she owns and marked who the people were. She writes down the relevance of a document, so her posterity will know.

So, I ask you. Do you know who these people are? I hope to find a family member who recognizes the faces, then I can give them a piece of their family history.


Nichole Giles said...

You know, I've thought a lot about this lately. While we were in Washington DC, I was constantly amazed at the paintings and portraits that were hundreds of years old, originals and reproductions of the important people in our nation.

It made me wonder who of my ancestors lived back then, where they came from, what they looked like. Yes, it would be so nice to have pictures, and it's sad that we don't. Nice thoughts.

Chas Hathaway said...

What a great way to do research! It might be interesting to do some research based on the styles of their hair and clothes.