Tag Archives: Photographs

An Instagram find

Mim (at right) and friends in Congress Park, 1922. Courtesy of Skidmore College Special Collections

One night several years ago, I recalled that it had been a while since I last Googled some of my favorite ancestors. Slouched in my chair, I scrolled idly through the Google hits for “Miriam Shakshober,” my grandfather’s aunt whom I never met but regarded with interest. Towards the end of her life she was supposed to have been a recluse, dying quietly in her house in December 1980 as Christmas cards piled up in her mailbox. The house she died in—her childhood home, possessing the uncanny power of always drawing her back—is now rented out to multiple tenants. Continue reading An Instagram find

Pastel portraits

We all have them, those ancestors who seem to fade into the long-ago background of family history. Perhaps they’re not even our relatives, just names heard frequently but without context, or in a wedding guest book, a newspaper column, or in an obituary. The figures are distinguishable, but so unfamiliar that they are blurred whether pastel in color or in sepia or gray. Continue reading Pastel portraits

“Miss Ida with a smile”

“This is war, Peacock. Casualties are inevitable. You can not make an omelet without breaking eggs, every cook will tell you that.”

~ Martin Mull, in the role of Colonel Mustard in Clue (1985)
My first cousin three times removed Ida Florence (Lee) (Sullivan) Barager (1891-1967).

Please forgive the irreverent quote above! It’s just that a quote like helps me muddle my way through Ye Olde Branches in my attempts to go up against Chris Child in yet another game of “Genealogical Clue.” Imagine if you were setting out to countervail Curt DiCamillo in a discussion of classical architecture, or engage Scott Steward in talking through the relationship of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse, to “Archie.” (Hey, I had to make it easy on myself, right?) In any event, I think you can see where I’m going with this. Suffice it to say: It just ain’t easy. Continue reading “Miss Ida with a smile”

Peter Marié’s collection

Peter Marié (1825-1903). Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Many years ago, now, I visited a cousin outside Baltimore with the marvelous name of Camille Steward Marié (1918-2002).[1] He was the son of one of my great-grandfather’s first cousins, but because of the way our families were constructed, Camille was closer in age to my father than to my grandfather, his actual second cousin. In part this was due to the two marriages of our common ancestor, John Steward (1777-1854): I am descended from the first one, while Camille’s grandmother was the sole survivor of the second. Continue reading Peter Marié’s collection

Family groups

I was struck by a couple of points Penny Stratton made in her recent ICYMI post on managing a project including lots of images: “Select photos showing family groups” and “Include images of homes.” I happen to be particularly rich in photos of both types!

The very large family group photo at left was taken in Goshen, New York, in 1857. It shows the extended family of my great-great-grandparents, John Steward[1] and Catharine Elizabeth White, and includes Mrs. Steward’s mother, Harriet Le Roy White.[2] Continue reading Family groups

ICYMI: Selecting images for a family history

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 5 April 2019.]

My late mother-in-law, with her father, in 1927.

How do you choose photos for a family history? Someone recently asked me that excellent question. She happened to have dozens, if not hundreds, of photos and didn’t know how to start. I had never really come up with guidelines for selecting photos, but as I answered the question, I realized that I do have some rough rules of thumb: Continue reading ICYMI: Selecting images for a family history

Beaver Hill miners

The yards at Beaver Hill mines. Courtesy of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Last fall I was asked to do some research for a local historical society called Oregon Black Pioneers about a group of coal miners recruited to work in Coos County, Oregon, at the end of the nineteenth century. The project was entirely open-ended, so I decided to present it in two main sections: an organized compendium of newspaper articles about the Black miners at Beaver Hill, Oregon, and an attempt to trace the history and descendants of every Black miner in Coos County who appeared in the 1900 census. Continue reading Beaver Hill miners

Good deeds

360 Prospect Street, Fall River, Massachusetts, 1962. The houses to the right have been torn down or moved. The cupola of Sacred Heart Academy, far right, is another demolished building.

In the summer of 1962, when I was three, my parents bought their first home on the corner of Prospect Street and Highland Avenue in Fall River, Massachusetts. They paid $9,500! The house had 13 rooms, four fireplaces, two heating systems, servant call buttons – and my favorite device for childhood eavesdropping, speaking tubes (literally pipes through the walls). All light fixtures had combination gas jets and light bulbs. Like many substantial homes of the late Victorian era, a separate enclosed servants’ staircase went from the cellar to the third floor. That portion of the house had never been renovated, the carpeting on the stairs worn thin. Continue reading Good deeds

‘Pruning the tree’

The Misses Ogle and Long

With all of their ‘lives’ so scattered about, I really had nowhere to run and certainly nowhere to hide. There were papers and pictures everywhere, and in the midst of the fray of utter ancestry I caught my grandmother “Miss Ogle” (no pun intended…) staring back at me. Carefree and young in her photograph, she ‘watched’ as I rifled through my great ‘genealogical reduction.’ Her gaze appeared to crisscross over all those lives, and over the hodgepodge of paperwork connecting me to a host of pilgrims and witches … and other assorted knuckleheads. From her grainy Kodak vantage point, Miss Ogle seemed to smirk in humorous disbelief at my genealogical disarray as if to say “Well, isn’t that just the living end…”[1] The only thing I could think in reply to the memory of her long-ago voice in that near-forgotten photo was“Sorry grandma. I need to. It’s time.” Continue reading ‘Pruning the tree’

Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three

My wife Susan and Danny Cotten at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum.

My third lesson follows on from the events of the second – explorations into family history can result in rich and rewarding personal relationships.

So who was this man in Hotchkiss? His name was Danny Cotten and for all but a few years in California, he had spent his whole life in the area known as the North Fork Valley of Colorado, which encompasses the towns of Hotchkiss, Crawford, and Paonia, and lies just north of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Continue reading Lessons in genealogical research: Part Three