As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
There are some things we "know" as researchers—but then go right on, acting as if we had forgotten what we know. That's when it helps to have a fellow researcher gently remind us to reach back into that store of what we need to remember.
That's how it was when I first connected with Lee in Minnesota, the Hopkins researcher who shared the old photograph of William Hopkins' drug store with us yesterday. In piecing together the possible story of how William and Kate Hopkins' photograph ended up in northern California, Lee offered a reasonable hypothesis: look for the connection one generation up and on the other side of the family.
As Lee explained,
We inherited a good deal of info on [the Hopkins family] from Alice Sharp Greer who was the family genealogist. She was the daughter of Adelia Hopkins Sharp who was William Bernard Hopkins' sister. Alice's last known residence was in Concord, Contra Costa County.
The minute Lee mentioned looking at William's siblings, I saw the error of my ways. I had presumed that the only family members who might have passed down a photograph of William and Kate would be relatives from Kate's side of the family. After all, Kate had died young, and William went on to raise a family with his second wife. While I should have known better than to remove anyone from my "suspects" list, I had prematurely narrowed my search—and thus, my results.
If, the minute you saw Lee's explanation that the Hopkins family genealogist Alice Sharp Greer had moved to Contra Costa County, bells went off in your mind, you are on the right track. However, we need not rush to conclusions on just whom the recipient of the Hopkins photograph was; as it turned out, there were other descendants who headed west to the same neighborhood, as well.
I was careful to heed that prompt by Lee, and built out a Hopkins family tree which provided a few other possibilities. Not only had Alice Sharp Greer moved to northern California, but so did her older sister Ruth and their brother William. Admittedly, these were descendants of only one of William Hopkins' siblings, but those nieces and nephew of William Hopkins introduced enough possibilities to explain how a photograph of a Kentucky couple would have made its way to California.
There is only one glitch in that assumption, though: Alice Sharp Greer had no children of her own. If she was the recipient of William and Kate Hopkins' photograph, who kept it between the time of Alice's passing in 1966 and the date, decades later, at which it ended up in the antique shop where I found it in Lodi, California?