Wednesday, December 20, 2017
On its Way Home
Now that we've learned the story behind the photograph of Kansas resident John Blain and how it likely came to be found in an antique store in Lodi, California, you might assume that it would be a simple matter to find family still living in the same city where his widow, Harriet, took up residence in Stockton, California.
That, in fact, was the next step in my process of discovery: to locate a direct descendant who might be interested in receiving that old photograph back into the family.
There were four possible trails to pursue in seeking living descendants: I could look for the children of Emma, Rozella, Vera or Vida, the four daughters of Harriet and John Blain. And this very task I certainly began to tackle.
But just like the trail of the photograph itself bringing me to a place that was right under my own nose, the paper trail of the family's genealogy did almost the same thing.
It's no secret that the best place to find others who are researching a particular family's history is on a website featuring genealogical resources, like Ancestry.com. It turns out that not only am I one of their subscribers, but so were several others who happened to have a keen interest in John and Harriet Blain. Among them was one woman whose tree consistently included several reliable resources to back up each genealogical assertion. It was this researcher, in fact, whose work alerted me to the fact of Harriet's lawsuit against the Missouri Pacific Railway, including her link to The Southwestern Reporter summary on the state Supreme Court decision on her appeal.
On her Ancestry Profile page, this particular member noted for "Family History Experience" that she considered herself a beginner, even though she has been researching for several years. Not only was she modest in that assessment, but it turns out—thankfully!—that she was understated in her commentary, for under the section asking "how often" she did genealogical research, she answered, "Twice a year."
Keeping that rare occurrence in mind, I decided that, rather than wait until I was good and ready to return John Blain's photograph, I better start up that first volley of contacts early. After all, with a profile like that, I might end up waiting six months before this researcher had time to check in once again. I wasn't sure I wanted to wait another half year before I could close out this chapter on reuniting lost photographs with their family, so using the Ancestry messaging system, I sent her a note.
Within hours, her almost instantaneous reply relieved me of such trepidation. "As I read your message I got chills down my spine," the message began, and concluded with profound thanks for my having gotten in touch with her. "All the monthly fees to Ancestry have been worth it to have had you find us."
I am now, yet again, happy to report that a once-forsaken family photograph from a past century is now reunited with descendants of that family who are delighted to reclaim it. Having gone through this experience again, I can certainly understand why people like "Far Side," my mentor, could be devoted to such an unusual service.
Even in this relatively straightforward recounting of the photo's return, though, there may be yet another twist. For that episode of the rest of the story, however, I'll have to wait to receive word from the recipient.