Friday, October 18, 2013

Have You Ever Wondered What Your Great Grandmother Looked Like?

Well, this could be her, but we'll never know, because there are no markings on this gorgeous photo. She was important enough to someone that they wanted a picture of her, but now she's "A Victorian girl." Let's make sure we preserve our pictures for our descendants. They'll want to know.

When I was a young child, my maternal grandmother told countless stories about her life and growing up at 87 Thompson Street in New York City.  Grandma “Porch” and her brother were raised by their maternal grandmother, since their own mother passed away when they were very young children.  Throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s Grandma was a professional singer at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey (where Harry James discovered singing waiter Frank Sinatra).  The singing troupe had many pictures taken during those decades.  (WNEW Radio broadcast from there.)  Well, in the 1950s, my dear grandmother lost all of her treasured pictures in a basement flood.  Except for one single picture of my mother and her two sisters as children, one picture of my grandmother at 23 years old, and one picture of my grandfather at about the same age, nothing was left but stories, lots of stories.  My grandmother mourned the loss of those pictures her whole life.  I will always treasure her stories.  (She passed away shortly after her 94th birthday in 2001. -- My grandfather had passed away many years before, in 1957.)  

To the contrary, when my paternal grandmother passed away (at 97 years old in 2009), we discovered a trunk in her basement stuffed with hundreds of pictures.  Our family was thrilled to find this treasure.  Decades of pictures of babies dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s, pictures of cruises taken with dear friends, pictures of homes, weddings.  BUT…who were these people?  Where were these places?  Not a single picture was marked with an identifier.  My paternal grandfather passed away very young.  This trunk likely contained pictures of him as an infant or young child…but we would never know.  I wish Grandma “Florida” was still here to tell us stories about all the people in those photographs (and because I miss her).

This is why I’m so passionate about helping families preserve their precious history, their heritage.  I will never forget my maternal grandma’s stories.  She held those stories so dear, and it’s my special tribute to her. 

(Grandma “Porch” had a porch off her second-floor apartment in Brooklyn – so…she’s Grandma Porch.  Grandma “Florida” had a perpetual tan, as she would have had she lived in Florida – so…she’s Grandma Florida.)

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  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers!! Yes we need to put names on the back of our pictures and digitize them so they are preserved and available to people. I do a blog on my gg grandfather Stephen Sherwood.

    Regards, Grant

  2. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels in The Homeplace Series such as: "Back to the Homeplace"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

  3. What a lovely poem. I also have a 'box of strangers' who I would love to identify!

  4. Very nice post. And oh so true. A picture is worth a thousand words they say. But, not to a family member who has no idea who is in the picture.
    Thank you for following my blog.
    Diane aka Michigan Girl.

  5. Hi new friends. Thanks for your warm welcome. And for taking a moment to comment on my blog/post. A picture is worth a thousand words...but not to a family member who has no idea who is in the picture...Michigan Girl...nicely said.

  6. I enjoyed your post. What you write is SO true. I also have many unlabeled pictures of family (?) members. Maybe in the years to come we will be able to connect some of these people and identify them.

  7. Lovely post, Deborah! You're SOOO right. If we don't note who those people are, no one will ever know. I recently went through my mother's scrapbook with her...a number of photos had been removed (because she didn't want us to know she had dated other men before she met my dad!) and because she hadn't written anything about them, I recorded her telling me about each of the photos and then transcribed it. Better than nothing, right?

  8. Hi Deb, Hi K. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your comments. I'm on a mission myself to be sure all my photographs are clearly marked to the best of my ability. In addition to them being printed, I've been scanning them and creating "talking photographs" by narrating stores about each one (3-5 minutes each pic). How luck are we that we can now document our personal history in some many ways? Sure beats the Brownie camera!