Sunday, February 16, 2014

It Happened in the Most Unusual Place

             Look closely at the picture above.  Some time ago, I was researching for a friend of mine in the area.   I was able to find this picture of her great-great grandparents.  It was found in the "Funderburg book" at the Piqua Library (Piqua, Miami, Ohio).[1]  I was very familiar with the book because I am a descendant of the Funderburg family too and my family pages were in the same chapter!
            But, the story becomes even more interesting!  One day, my mother and I were visiting downtown Piqua and went into several of the little antique shops along Main Street.  They all had wonderful collections of old photographs.  As I viewed these old photos I would wonder what their story was.  I thought, ‘How on earth did you end up in a shop being sold and not passed down through generations of family?’  But not everyone is as interested in family history as I am!
            I spotted an old album filled with pictures.  I scanned through each of the pictures and low and behold, I found this:

a picture card of the original of the photo I found in the Funderburg book!  I was near tears.  I just couldn't believe my luck!!  What were the chances? 
            Yes, I bought the little photo and presented it to my friend so that she could have this photo of her great-great grandparents...for $5, I might add!
            After purchasing the card, I asked the owner of the shop how likely it was to find a picture that you recognized.  To my surprise, he said it was not at all unusual.  His explanation was this:  When a photographer of the past finished his "photo session", he would file these original prints away in his case. At the time of the photographers death, the family took ownership of possibly thousands of pictures. Now sometimes, a child would hold on to them and pass them down to yet another generation. Over time, the pictures became collectible and the descendants decide to try to sell them or donate them to a society or library.  The individual might bring these cases of photos to a flea market or antique shop and sell them on consignment.  You all know how it works in many of our little towns across the country...people don't move away.  So your ancestors and the photographer were probably living in the same vicinity.  Perhaps the photographers descendants have not moved far away either and so the pictures end up somewhere local.  Checking flea markets and shops in your ancestors locale may lead you to an awesome find.
              The only problem with this?  What if you don't know what your relative looked like!?  Well, that IS a problem.  Few cards have names, however, if you have seen photos of your loved ones in books or at Great Aunt Susie's house, perhaps you may recognize them.
            I have been fortunate enough to find photos of loved ones in a variety of ways.  Other successful methods have been to contact the local historical museum(s) in the area of the targeted ancestor.  I was able to find three pictures of family members at the Bureau County Historical Society in Princeton, Illinois.  They have a photography collection that is indexed.  By writing to the society with surnames you are interested in, they will search the collection and send you a description of photos they have with that surname.  You can then order a reprint.
            Another suggestion:  follow the genealogy trail to present day relatives.  Here’s a hint…follow the oldest daughter...she usually gets the good stuff!
            I wondered who would have pictures of my great-great grandfather that I had seen in a book.  I wanted to get a better copy and see if there were others.  The author of the book made mention of who owned the photographs at the time of publication (as all good authors will!).  I used this name and tried to locate the individual on the internet.  She had died, but in her obituary two living children were listed.  I found her daughter and contacted her.  She did not have any photos, but her brother did.  Her mother had been living with him at the time of her death and everything was at his home in Kansas!  She put me in contact with him.  He didn't have the picture I was looking for, but he had something better, a picture of my great grandfather as a young man.  No one in my family had ever seen it!  We were delighted!
My Great grandfather as a young man.  George H. Bowser ca. 1890's

             What pictures will you be on the lookout for? Spring is right around the corner (I hope!), so here's to visiting old shops and using creative methods of tracking down photos of your ancestors!

Do you have family records written in another language? Here's how to get them translated!

[1] Funderburg, Alvin K., “Descendants of Jacob and Eve (Boone) Funderburg”, published 1978, page 202

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