What could be worse for a family historian than to discover that none of those photographs are labeled?
I’ve been seeking every way I know to figure out that one near branch of the more recent descendants of my Davis line—the one descending from my maternal grandfather’s oldest sister, Lummie Davis Moore. While I’ve done my due diligence to locate records online—and while, sadly, I don’t have the liberty to travel to Tennessee, Maryland, and most definitely not to Honduras to do hands-on research—I haven’t found what I’ve been seeking.
Meanwhile, thoughts of that family keep spiraling through my mind like some hypnotic computer screen saver from the nineties. Every unlabeled photograph from my aunt’s collection makes me jump to the conclusion that it must be them.
One of the few recollections passed down to me of my mother’s aunt Lummie was that she and her sister, Mabel, were tall women. If I could believe my family, they’d have me know the sisters were each six feet tall—quite a striking appearance back in their day, just after the turn of the century, when these women would have come of age.
As it turns out, I did find one document that served to set that family tradition aside: Lummie’s passport application in 1922. On the second page, the “Description of Applicant” plainly revealed her height to be five feet nine inches.
Close. But not exactly six feet. Perhaps, when I get to that point, I will discover her sister Mabel also wasn’t as towering a giant as family legend held her to be.
Whether truth or tall tale, I still can’t help myself, though, when it comes to these blank backings to family photographs. If only they contained labels. Every time I see a family picture of a tall, slender woman, I wonder if it might be Lummie. Or her sister. But I’ll likely never know.
Take this old picture—a little slip of a thing measuring just over two inches square. Faded now to a lighter shade of brown, it did brighten up a bit when I used a little Photoshop magic on it. Thankfully.
While the background of the composition offers no clues—not even a recognizable detail which could serve to provide some scale—my mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that this must be my missing relative, Lummie Davis Moore. Surely it is. Look how tall and slender the young woman looks. I’m convinced it is Lummie, so starved am I for search results. I struggle to rein in my racing imagination.
My mind fights back and tries to reason with me. “See,” I tell myself, “She has dark hair, just like the passport application indicated. And her face looks to be an oval. Doesn’t it seem to match the one included with the passport application?” (If you are an Ancestry.com subscriber, you can take a look through Lummie’s passport pages here, and see what you think about the comparison.)
Then I look again at the photograph in my hand, and wonder who the young man is, standing so close to her. At first, I presume it is her husband, Wallace Moore. But then, something about the eyes, the forehead and the unmistakable ears reminds me of my own grandfather, Lummie’s baby brother. I’ve never seen a picture of him in his younger days. Could this be him?
I’d really like to know. Just thinking that makes me resent the unfairness of being deprived of anyone who could fill in the blanks for me! But it is what it is, and I have to relinquish these flights of fancy and unreasonable conclusions and get back to reality: it’s a photograph of someone. Standing next to someone else. Who each one is, I’ll likely never know.
Unless some distant cousin comes to my rescue. That I would always welcome.