Baptismal record from 1567 where priest has omitted the father’s surname, Onorati.Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses 15 common ways we make mistakes in genealogy, and offers tips on how to separate fact from fiction in your family history. It’s easy to get hooked on the act of discovery when researching our family histories. We love finding…
There are four old, old photo albums I found in the attic of my great grandparents home where I grew up. This album, with the beautiful leather cover embossed with bright-colored flowers, has the name of the owner on the first page: my great grandmother’s eldest sister, Mrs. G.W. Flynn, Thirza Getchell Flynn.
I sit and search through this beautiful album, looking for photos that I recognize.
The first photograph in the album is a handsome man I do not recognize. Perhaps he is Thirza’s husband, George W. Flynn. It is also possible he is one of the Getchell men.
This man’s photo was taken at Edouart & Cobb, a studio located at No. 504 Kearny Street, in San Francisco, California. In 1869, Alexander Edouart joined David Cobb and opened a studio on Kearny Street. Their partnership lasted until 1881. Thus, this photo dates between 1869 and 1881.
On the next page, there is a beautiful child holding a doll. This is one of two photos with a name written on the back. Sophie Palmer, age six years, 1882.
I search for a connection between the Getchell and Palmer families. I find that my great great great grandfather John Getchell had a sister, Olive Getchell Palmer, born in 1810. Perhaps Sophie is her granddaughter.
On the next page, I find this man and woman. I have seen her before among the Getchell/Means family photos. This couple may be Thirza’s mother and father – my great great grandparents, Marshfield (1821 – 1892) and Martha Jane Holmes Getchell (1825 – 1913). I have Martha Getchell’s linens, blankets and quilts in my home.
I run upstairs and carefully sort through the family photos stored in my great grandfather’s secretary and find two remembered photos of her, one is with a family, likely her son, Lysander or Osgood, his wife and child.
As I search through the secretary, I discover a color tintype photo that resembles this woman at a much younger age.
I turn the page of the photo album. There is a baby, photographed by Ezekiel Vose in Machias, circa 1870s.
On the same page, there is a photo of young child, the name “Thirza” written on the back. Unless there are two Thirzas in the family, this may be Thirza Getchell Flynn as a child. Thirza was born in 1842 making that photo pre-1850. Is this even possible? It will take more research to figure this one out.
A young girl photographed with her doll at E Vose in Machias is dressed regally!
Then, I see my great grandfather William when he was young, age 21. I have seen this photo before in his autograph album. William Means was Thirza’s brother-in-law. He married my great grandmother Nellie Getchell Means.
The rest of the photos in the album are a mystery. These men, women and children could be from the Getchell, Flynn, Means or Holmes families. It strikes me how most of these photos are not stern, instead artistic. I find the clothing, poses and photo settings fascinating!
My great grandparents secretary today.
On the back of her portrait Grace wrote:
Eleanor Berry Means. Second daughter of Benjamin Berry and Sarah Fuller Berry – sister of Elsie Fuller Berry Means.
My grandmother always said “Aunt Eleanor as a girl was the beauty of the family.” This picture – between 70 and 80 – surely confirms that.
To Will from Grace –
Eleanor was born in 1816, four years before her sister Elsie, and died in 1893 at the age of 77. She was buried with her husband Mattias Phinney (1800 – 1880) in the Churchhill Cemetery, Machiasport, Maine.
Grace Means Photo Collection. 1924.
Preservation pays off—read stories of family discoveries people have made due to the preservation efforts of others. Piles of old documents sitting around in the attic. Old family keepsakes gathering dust. Each piece of your family’s past has a story to tell, but unfortunately, these stories can be forgotten or lost if steps aren’t taken…
“The few worldly possessions she left behind, accumulated over the course of more decades than you or I will probably live, didn’t take up much space in the tiny two-room church-owned apartment where she spent the last 27 years of her life.”
“We have too many things, too many distractions, too many items offered to us, too many messages, and a person like Emma struggles to emerge,” the Rev. Giuseppe Masseroni, who himself is 91, said at Ms. Morano’s funeral on Monday.”
The cover detail of these albums is intricate. When I first pulled them from a trunk in the attic of my parents ten years ago, I didn’t recognize anyone. I wondered why no one wrote any names in these family albums. Who did they belong to?
I expect the owner/collector of these photos did not envision a time when no one would know the family members in the photos. It was a reminder not to make the same mistake in my lifetime. Have I written on the back of my memorable photos? Rarely. Are photos collected in my lifetime organized? Not yet. I’m working on it.
This year, I open the ancestors’ albums again while sitting in the old rocker my grandmother rocked me in. I gingerly remove the photos to look at the back. There are no names written there; some have the photographer’s stamp. I decide to investigate one album at a time, beginning with the smallest leather-bound one with the clasp, pictured in the front above.
In this album, I find photos of ancestors I now recognize for I have been immersed in them for a time now. The first two photos are of my great-great grandparents, Otis and Elsie Fuller Berry Means by photographer E. Vose in Machias, Maine. The same photos were in the Grace Means’ photo collection sent to the family in 1924. The next two photos are of a young woman that I cannot identify. I turn the page and find my great grandfather William, nearly the same photo is in his autograph book. The photographer was J.M. Goins, South State Street, Chicago. Was William doing business there I wonder?
Most of the album pages are empty, either never filled or distributed among the family. I do not recognize ten of the photos in the album. Are most of these men, women and babies William and his four brothers and sisters at different ages? Perhaps one of the women is William’s eldest sister Harriet, for she was not included in the Grace Means’ photo collection. Whoever she is, she does not resemble William’s other sister, Francis. The photos of this woman were taken in Boston where Harriet lived, as did William’s eldest brother, Andrew Means. I don’t see his two brothers’ likeness in these faces either, Andrew or Eliphalet. But then, I didn’t recognize William’s younger self in the autograph book at first. The elders in the album may be members of the Berry family.
I ask myself questions, think about the research required to find answers. I suppose it will help to just hold each album in my hands and ask whether I have spent enough time with my ancestors to answer these questions.
From the age of my great-great grandparents in the photos, I estimate the date as 1870s. The photographer, Ezekiel Vose, was listed in the 1876 Briggs’ Maine Business Directory. The photo of my great grandfather William is from 1875 or 1876 as the photographer, JM Goins, was located on State Street in Chicago for those two years. William’s age was 20 or 21 years old at the time, as he was born in 1855. The tintype photo of the baby in the carriage could range from 1855 to 1870s. My grandparents, William and Nellie Means were married in 1880. It seems likely that this one album originally belonged to William’s parents, Otis and Elsie Means of Machiasport, Maine and was handed down and stored in the attic where I discovered four old albums over 120 years later.
I’ve explored and documented one album. What might I discover in the other three?
My great-great grandparents Otis and Elsie Means; My great grandfather William Means.
Photos that I cannot identify. Yet.
The back of the postcard reads: “Louise and Robert on a sleigh ride with Chris the man who cares for Billy’s trotting horses. This is Wm’s horse.” ~ Albert J.
The children on a sleigh ride in Machias, Maine, are my Mom and her brother, Louise and Robert Johnson. Billy is their uncle, Billy Means and Wm is William Means, the children’s grandfather. The horse drawn sleigh is on the wooden bridge across the Machias River with the Getchell Grist Mill and the roofline of the Phoenix Opera House in the background.