Friday, August 19, 2011

Found Faces, Lost Names

I found a great blog. I am truly humbled. It calls me to task over a matter I’ve struggled with, and I do remember my faults this day.

True confessions: I’ve been swamped with the boxes and boxes of nameless faces framed prettily in decades-old photographs. When I go through stacks and stacks of pictures of the same scenes through umpteen iterations, I lose my resolve to serve faithfully as the family historian. And yes, regretfully, I’ve chucked more than my fair share.

What’s a two-to-three-generation-removed gal to do? I have no resources left—no great aunts or great grandfathers to ply with those endless questions to get it just so. So the fifteenth-billion picture of Lassie and company finds its way to the bottom of the trash can.

So sad. But I’m sure at this point, you are excusing me. At least I’ve been doing penance.

Yet today, I found confirmation that there is a way to resolve the issue. I found someone who has made one simple gesture her mission: to serve as matchmaker between subjects of antique photographs and their long-lost relatives. Such a simple goal, yet so elegant a pursuit.

I wish I had her platform. I mean, what do you do with a photo like this one?

Central California Farm? From Bill Bean collection

Or even this?

Possibly same California location - Bill Bean front row, far right, 1939
But “Far Side of Fifty” has an audience of over 1500 followers serving as fellow sleuths as she posts antique pictures, one shot a day, on her blog, Forgotten Old Photos.

Not all the photos remain forgotten. There are at least thirty endearing stories of The Reunited—this blogger calls them “Full Circles.”

Somehow, I wish I could ship my entire collection of the unnamed and unclaimed to her for one grand feature story.

It would do my conscience good.


  1. Never throw them away, start a blog about them, give them a chance. If you know any names their relatives will find them and you! Thanks for the comment over on my blog, I just read it this morning. Working part time puts a real kink in my blog reading and commenting. In six weeks I will be off for the winter!! :)

  2. In the upper lefthand corner -

    - there is a brief article on "Sam and Will" (that should have been Bill).

    This could place the first picture - the "blokes" look military to me... and place looks like a barracks in the background with a PX or Cafeteria in the foreground as opposed to a farm.

  3. It doesn't "help" with Bill Bean and his friends - but here is a website with Bill Bean's bother Sam's "story". It explains why he wasn't in the service during WW1.

  4. I've another theory about the buildings in picture 1. Bill Bean's father was a general contractor and apparently built the Carnegie Library in Palo Alto around the time of the San Francisco earthquake (1906). The men hanging around this building look like workmen with canvas tool belts and such.

    While the building in the picture isn't the library - it could have been one that Leon S Bean built or worked on.


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