I’m with Liz—I’m just not in the mood to talk about writing and her blog yesterday reminded me of something interesting I thought I’d share with you guys. This will connect, I promise.
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my cousin, Kay, and as it always
does, our conversation turned to genealogy and family history—that happens to
us a lot because Kay is genealogist and I’m a huge history buff. We got around
to “the wedding photo,” which we both have saved on our phones because this photo is
a huge mystery in our family. See? There’s the connection—marriage in Liz’s
post; wedding in mine. I told you it would work.
Back to the photo . . .
In 1982, when my Great-Aunt Alice died, the few personal belongings she had
in the nursing home came to me. Among them were a couple of pieces of costume jewelry,
a photo album and some larger loose photos, her art portfolio from when she was
drawing in the 1940s and 50s, and her father’s collection of writings. Her
father was a writer and a sports reporter in Chicago during the post-Civil War
days through the late 1800s. The story of her father and mother I’ll save for
another blog, but I’ll tease you with this: His writings included several semi-pornographic
poems circa 1877. Yup, there’s really nothing new under the sun, is there?
When we had our first Cousins Reunion, I dug out the photos from Aunt Alice
and brought them with me. They were a treasure trove of family history, except
that many of them were unlabeled. Unless someone recognized the folks in the
pictures, we had no idea who we were seeing. After looking at dozens of old
pictures, dating back as far the 1860s, I began to understand how some family
pictures end up in antiques stores. When you’re cleaning out your grandmother’s
house of fifty or sixty years of clutter, and there are no names to attach to
photos, perhaps it is easier to just abandon them. Thankfully, we didn’t do
We have no clue who the others in the photo are or what the event is–we’ve
considered that it might be a wedding since they’re all dressed in fancy
clothes and carrying flowers. But whose wedding? Which young woman is the
bride? The one sitting on the settee on the right seems to have a fancier dress
and her flowers look more like a bouquet and not a basket like the others–is
she the bride? If so, why isn’t she front and center? The ancestor she
looks most like is Kay’s grandmother, Emma, but she got married in someone’s
house. This appears to be a really extravagant affair with four bridesmaids in
pretty snazzy dresses. Honestly, no one in our family could’ve afforded a
big fancy wedding. Besides Kay’s sister swears the woman is not Emma and gave
us several good reasons why not, so there you go.
Last week, I tried a new tack—I laid the photo on my dining room table and
set several photos of ancestors who could possibly be in the wedding photo
around it. All the photos were from about the same era as the wedding picture.
Then I showed the display to my friend Dee and asked her, “Are any of these women in that wedding photo?” She gave it serious consideration, used a
magnifying glass to examine all the photos, and finally handed me the verifying
picture we had of Great-Aunt Alice. “This one,” she announced. “She’s right
there. But none of the others are in the picture.”
So . . . there we have it. Apparently, my Great-Aunt Alice was in the
wedding of some well-to-do friend or relative. This theory does work because
when she was about the age she appears to be in the photo, she did spend a year
with her Uncle Billy and Aunt Agnes, who were pretty wealthy. That would
explain the fancy dresses, Alice being in the picture, and Alice having the
picture among her things. How I wish I'd seen the picture before she died, because now I really want to know whose
wedding this was . . .