When I was growing up, I loved going to antique shops with my mom and my Aunt Pat. They would scrounge through dusty shelves for anything that struck their fancy, coming home with World War 2-era sewing ephemera to decorate Mom’s craft room, old hunting and fishing equipment for my dad, or unique artwork for my aunt.
While the adults picked through blue and green depression ware, I was drawn to the boxes of old photos. I flipped through the sepia-toned images of unsmiling families standing stiffly in ruffles and laces, and I wondered where they came from, where they lived, and what brought joy to their lives.
My mom called them “instant ancestors.” “You can always buy a few,” she would say, “and hang them on your wall. Then, tell your friends about your Great-great Grandma Hazel’s sister, Elizabeth!”
Mom was being silly, of course, and we never bought any instant ancestors, but I loved the idea of making up stories. It was fun for me to examine the details and clues in the photos and rewrite the histories of the farmers, bankers, and housewives at the turn of the century.
At the same time, however, I thought it was incredibly sad. The abandoned photos represented stories that only needed to be rewritten because their actual stories had been forgotten. Did the children in the photos lived to adulthood or grew to have families of their own? Did they live in the same small town their entire life, or did they leave a big city and move away from their friends and family? What was their cultural history? Were they recent immigrants, or were they descendants of the first colonists?
The real stories of the flea market photos are lost forever, but I can do something about the heritage photos that I have been entrusted with. I have beautiful studio portraits and snapshots of family members through history. Thanks to my dad’s genealogy efforts, I even have a photo of my great-great-great grandfather in his Union army uniform in 1863!
Sometimes, little is known about people in my family tree, but at least their names are known. And, because of them, I am who I am, and I know where I came from.
Page by Lori Smoll
Gezelligheid Complete Collection by Art Party
Reminisce Charm Digital Kit by Creative Memories/Storybook Legacy
Secret Garden Sampler by Forever
Font – Baskerville Old Face