If the subjects of that photograph I found in a northern California antique store lived and died in Kentucky, how did their picture get here? Before I can find an appropriate (and unsuspecting) candidate upon whom to bestow the rescued photograph, I need to figure out just how William and Kate Hopkins' relatives—or maybe friends—had come to be its recipient.
There are, I have noticed, several Ancestry.com subscribers who include either William Bernard Hopkins or his wife, Kate Seegar Smith-Allen Hopkins, in their family tree. Some, however, use that company's less-than-helpful device of affixing other tree entries into their own, thus preventing me from discovering the true source of their information. I prefer to look for someone who has done their own homework—thus, someone whose paper trail helps me see the documented connection from the present to the past.
Barring enough leads from these other trees to see the connection from Kentucky to California, the next best thing is to build out a tree of our own.
Looking at the Hopkins family from the point of their marriage—in Louisville in 1899—through the rest of their brief lives, one thing was clear: according to census records, they moved at least once every decade. A wedding announcement in a business publication—brought to my attention through the research prowess of one of our readers, "Intense Guy"—mentioned briefly that
William Berbard [sic] Hopkins, a well-known young druggist of Louisville, and Miss Katie Smith Allen, of Lagrange, were recently married at the home of the bride's parents. Mr. Hopkins has opened a store at Smithland, Ky., and the young people will go there to live.
That was according to Merck's Report for December, 1899, one month after the Hopkins wedding. Less than a year later, however, the 1900 census counted them as residents of New Albany, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, a good two hundred miles from Smithland.
Another interesting detail emerged. William, whose report in the 1900 census appeared on the page preceding his wife's entry, was indeed shown as a "druggist." However, by the time of the subsequent enumeration, William and Kate were living farther away from Kentucky in a boarding home in Seymour, Indiana, where he was shown as merely a clerk in a drug store. Another ten years later, the couple was finally back home in Louisville, where things seemed to be looking up: William was now listed as a pharmacist in a drug store, and Kate was working alongside him as a "sales lady," presumably at the same establishment.
By the time of the 1940 census, neither William nor Kate showed in the records. Kate was long gone by that point, having died in 1928. William, married again by the time of the 1930 census, subsequently passed away in 1935.
There was one more detail about that sprint through the decades of census records: in none of those reports did the Hopkins couple report any dependents. Scratch that chance to trace any children from Kentucky to California. If the picture arrived in my hands via a family member, it would have to be through a more distant relationship.